A dramatic live table read, a hilarious preview of a new series, and a look back on one show’s stellar first season. This year’s Star Trek Universe panel gave fans a chance to catch up with the casts of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard, as well as meet the voices behind the scenes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. We’re recapping all the best moments and quotes from the panel, hosted by Deadline’s Dominic Patten.
Boldly Going Where the Franchise Has Not Gone Before
The Star Trek universe keeps expanding, with new shows and new characters to love. In the opening remarks led by executive producers and architects of the Star Trek universe Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin, Kadin officially revealed that the franchise would be warping into the realm of kids’ entertainment with their newest title, Star Trek: Prodigy. The series has been rumored to have been in development, but this confirms the title for the first time, as well as revealing the logo for the series.
This marks the first time that the franchise has made a show designed for a younger audience that can introduce them to Star Trek, and we couldn’t be more excited for it!
Star Trek: Discovery
After kicking things off with a live read of the first act of “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” - the season 2 finale - the cast, director Olatunde Osunsanmi, and co-showrunner Michelle Paradise did a virtual Q&A, breaking down the characters’ journeys and teasing what was ahead in season three.
Michael Burnham’s search for salvation — Series star Sonequa Martin-Green talked about Burnham’s hopes, saying that she was looking for “salvation of sorts. We, the crew of Star Trek: Discovery, are deciding to sacrifice everything we have for the future, and so there’s the obvious hope that that works.” She added that “there’s the hope of continuing to discover myself as Burnham. That will always be there. That hope of continual unveiling and finding that perfect, sweet, sweet balance between all the forces that wage within me.”
Saru’s sacrifices — Doug Jones, who’s character Saru saw the Kelpians being freed, spoke about how “the hardest thing Saru’s ever had to do, to leave his homeworld and his sister twice.” After Saru liberated his people from the Ba'ul, “he’s [now] made the decision to follow Burnham through the wormhole… and have to leave everything behind once again.”
Where does Georgiou belong? — Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou has been ripped out of two different worlds now, first the mirror universe and now being sent into the future. What does that mean for the former emperor? “She is really pissed off,” said Michelle Yeoh. “She is one that always finds a way into adapting, because she is a survivor… and a formidable ally or enemy.” She added “power is something inherently that she has.”
Stamets and Culber’s future — Discovery’s fan favorite couple, Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, reunited at the end of season two. Going forward, Anthony Rapp (Stamets) teased that the theme of family — beyond the couple, but including the whole crew — would be explored in season three. Wilson Cruz (Culber) said that what was great about season three is that in season two, Culber “chooses to stay on the Discovery, and because of that choice he gets to save Paul’s life. I think in that moment he realizes that everything he has ever wanted and everything that he needs is right here between these two people.” Rapp and Cruz then joked that it took him long enough. Cruz also teased Culber’s new responsibilities in season three, and said that the relationship would be more on equal footing. “I love the new Culber.”
Tilly’s ambitions — Tilly has always had an eye on a captain’s chair, and Mary Wiseman assured fans that Tilly’s goal is still there. “There are some pretty big speed bumps in season two on that road,” she said. “You’ll get to see more of that journey in season three, but we’re also on the edge of the unknown.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
We don’t know much about the recently announced series centering on Pike, Spock, and Number One, but Anson Mount and Ethan Peck did tease a little bit about the characters’ journeys in their upcoming spin-off.
Even though Burnham has been sent into the future, Ethan Peck said that “Spock’s interaction with Michael Burnham has been essential in transforming Spock from someone who has been born on Vulcan and who is half human and taught to be Vulcan, and I think Michael Burnham gives him the permission to be human… It’s a huge character point for me.”
With Pike having seen his future, Mount said that “when you see how it’s all going to end, and it’s not so pretty, what do you do with that?” He continued “how do you move forward? I think he’s probably going to wrestle with how he can best utilize the rest of his life for the good of the world, the universe.”
Rebecca Romjin added, “a lot of it is surrendering to the unknown, together.”
Star Trek: Lower Decks
Exclusive clip — Mike McMahan kicked off the Lower Decks section of the panel with an exclusive clip involving Ensign Mariner, Ensign Boimler, and a bat'leth. Please, viewers, don’t try this stunt at home.
Where in the timeline does this take place? — McMahan clarified when in the Star Trek timeline this series took place for fans who are still curious. The show takes place after Star Trek: Nemesis, but long before Star Trek: Picard. McMahan refers to it as being in the TNG era.
Meet the Lower Decks crew — We got to hear from the voice actors who star in the show, starting with the ensigns who occupy the lower decks of the U.S.S. Cerritos. Tawny Newsome, who plays Mariner, joked that her character is not very different from her own personality. “She doesn’t always play by the rules, even though she could ‘cause she’s good at things.”
Jack Quaid, who plays Boimler, calls the character “the ultimate Starfleet nerd. He wants to be like [the bridge crew] so bad… and he figures the best way to do that is to go as by the book as possible. He follows every Starfleet rule to a T.”
Noël Wells, who plays Tendi, described the character as being “the fresh eyes on the Cerritos. She’s excited by everything, she’s unflappable. Even if there’s weird things happening, she turns it into this optimistic point of view. She’s just very excited.”
Eugene Cordero’s Rutherford is a cyborg, but “he loves the fact that he’s half mechanics because he loves the mechanics... He’s the guy you want on your trivia team talking about every single ship that’s ever been in the galaxy.”
Don’t forget about the bridge crew too — Fans also got to meet the bridge crew of the Cerritos, starting with Dr. T’Ana. Actress Gillian Vigman described her as saying “she has extreme responsibility.” McMahan described her as also being a “scary, crusty alley cat, which is why we love her.”
Lt. Shaxs, played by Fred Tatasciore, is a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of guy, and a “Bajoran with a chip on his shoulder.” Tatasciore described him as being a problem with security due to his desire to start a fight, but he “kicks ass and gets the job done.”
Ransom, the first officer on the Cerritos, has a short fuse according to actor Jerry O’Connell. “He does deeply care about Starfleet, he just does and says things that I’m not sure we could get away with on other Star Trek franchises.”
Of course, there’s Captain Freeman, played by Dawnn Lewis. “Captain Freeman is vital, she’s important, and she’s in control and in charge… and she’s gonna make everyone know that she’s in charge.”
Why fans (and non-fans) should watch — McMahan asked if people who aren’t Trekkies would watch the series, and Wells answered, “what’s so great about the show is obviously it’s going to be exciting for people who are Trekkies, but the show is a totally different perspective and has this comedic bent that we haven’t seen before. If you’re into animation, if you like dark comedic comedies, there’s enough for everybody!”
Star Trek: Picard
Coming off a critically acclaimed first season, the cast of Star Trek: Picard digitally reunited to talk about the journey so far as Jean-Luc Picard and his new crew aboard the La Sirena, along with some old friends, head into the unknown.
Bringing the Crew Back — When asked by the moderator how it felt to bring the iconic character back to life, Sir Patrick Stewart replied that “we haven’t brought it back, it actually never went away. It was at first very challenging, because thanks to our brilliant team of writers we are living in a very different world, a very complex world, a profoundly troubled world, which might just be appropriate for the time we’re living in.”
Brent Spiner, who made a return as Lt. Commander Data, teased that producers Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Alex Kurtzman “wept” as they convinced him to return, and said that he was excited to play a different role beyond just Data. Jeri Ryan expressed her joy at returning, saying she “couldn’t be more thrilled with the way they developed her.”
“I was just happy, to be honest, that I didn’t have to wear the space suit,” said Marina Sirtis, before saying that it was “lovely” to be back. Jonathan Frakes added that he “was a nervous wreck to return as Wild Bill Riker, space cowboy.”
Jonathan Del Arco, who made us all cry as xB Hugh, “I was honestly surprised at the amount of love I got, and how the fans really craved to know how that adolescent character had evolved into a man. So, that was surprising, and really gratifying.”
New Kids on the Starship — Fans also got a chance to catch up with the new characters from the series who’ve already left their impression on fans. Alison Pill, who played Jurati, cited Stewart (“don’t let him know I said that”) and Chabon as reasons for joining the series. “Having a showrunner who both appreciates Star Trek and taking it in a new direction… that combination was very exciting to me.”
Evan Evagora, who starred as Elnor, shared his first meeting with Stewart, saying “I just said ‘good thanks.’ It took me a day to get over that entire embarrassment. But then the cast… made everything so easy and comfortable.” Isa Briones, who played Dahj, Soji, and multiple roles, revealed she hadn’t known she was auditioning for multiple roles at first.
Michelle Hurd (Raffi) talked about creating backstory for her character with Picard and sharing scenes with Stewart. “The truth is, he is one of the most generous, human, empathetic individuals I’ve had the honor to work with.” Meanwhile, “space cowboy” Santiago Cabrera, who played Rios, “it was like discovering how different [Picard and Rios] were, you start to see the similarities. The background of being in Starfleet… at the end of the day, Rios sees him for the man he is.”
SPS vs. PStew — The cast joked around about nicknames for Stewart, with many of the new cast members sharing that they’ve nicknamed him SPS. Stewart shared that when he was with Second City, he was called PStew, which is the nickname he prefers. It’s clear the cast views each other as a family, something key to any Star Trek series.
Closure for Data — When asked an emotional question from a fan about the final scene between Data and Picard, Spiner said of Data’s goodbye in both Nemesis and Picard that “it’s a wonderful gift… we’ve had some of the greatest writers in the world write these two closures for us. I’m utterly grateful for it.”
Stewart added “Working with someone I’ve known for 35 years, and whom I love, and discussing aspects of living that apply to both of us… and most importantly learning from Data that his desire to be human had to include the knowledge and certainty that life was terminal, that it would end. It is the fact that it will end that makes living so important, and living well, and properly, and appropriately, and for society as much as for yourself.”
“A mirror to society” — To wrap up the panel, Ryan and Hurd were asked what from the Star Trek universe they would bring into our universe.
“Acceptance,” Ryan said. “Inclusion,” Hurd added. “Literally what Patrick just said, that the understanding of how valuable life is. Can we all look out for our brothers and sisters? Can we all just take the moment to understand that our differences are actually our strengths, and its what makes us a strong species? That we have all these different thoughts, these different looks, these difference of opinions, these different ways of handling ourselves in the world… I’m so thankful that I’m part of an organization that gets it. We always talk about Star Trek holding a mirror up to society, perhaps society needs to look at us and start replicating what we’re doing.”
To close out the panel, Hurd and Newsome shared that CBS had made a donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and urged fans to do the same should they have the means. Please visit the site www.naacpldf.org/startrekunited to donate today.
Star Trek: Discovery streams exclusively on CBS All Access in the United States and is distributed concurrently by CBS Studios International on Netflix in 188 countries and in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.
Star Trek: Lower Decks will stream exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access and in Canada, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.
Star Trek: Picard streams on CBS All Access in the United States, in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave, and on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.