The Star Trek family energized Comic-Con with a Hall H panel steeped in nostalgia that also looked to the future.
The panel felt like a potential Comic-Con swan song for Patrick Stewart, who earned a warm welcome to discuss the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard. At the end of the panel, Stewart shared heartfelt gratitude to Comic-Con for supporting him over the years, saying he wanted to thank the con now because he might not have the opportunity to in the future. In addition to playing Trek icon Jean-Luc Picard, he has been a Comic-Con fixture with the X-Men films, in which he played Prof. X.
Picard season three will find Jean-Luc get a little help from his friends. The main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the beloved series that ran from 1987-1994, will be returning. That includes Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner — whose will not play Data, but rather a new character, it was revealed. Wil Wheaton appeared as a new character in season two, and it is assumed he will return in season three.
The team showed off a first-look teaser of the actors back in character, with Dorn’s Worf getting the biggest applause. Of the crew, only Stewart and McFadden were in attendance at Comic-Con.
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman said at the beginning of season three, the crew is at different places around the galaxy. “Slowly we see them come together. We wanted to take the time to get to see where they are now,” said Kurtzman. He added that Wrath of Khan, the 1982 film considered to be the greatest Trek movie, is a major touchstone for this season, which will focus on the mental games between Picard and a singular villain. “She is amazing,” said Kurtzman of the villain, not revealing more details. Khan was teased in season two of Picard when it was revealed Adam Soong (Spiner) was the creator of the superhuman project, code-named “Khan.”
McFadden noted it’s been 20-25 years since the Next Gen cast has played these characters. “Crusher has been all around the universe,” said the actor of her character. “It’s amazing to have a chance to return to a character … and plunge in again. We are different. We’ve evolved as characters. It was really a gift.”
Added the actor: “There are a lot of unresolved issues between Picard and Crusher. Even with the ensemble, there are some of us who haven’t seen each other for years, and others who have been in contact all the time.”
Stewart noted that Picard was a risk. “We embraced it boldly, and passionately, and with belief — and that is what made all the difference.”
He went on to say, “We carve out new territory in Picard … that is the most essential thing to remember. We are breaking boundaries all the time and reflecting life as it might possibly be.”
Back to the Future star Lea Thompson, who is in the Trek family as a Picard director, emceed the proceedings.
With no big screen offering since 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, streaming has been the home to the storied franchise years, with Paramount+ building a stable of shows akin to what Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm are doing over at Disney+. While Chris Pine’s Trek crew is plotting a return to the big screen, could there be a Next Generation film in the future?
Stewart said he would be enthusiastic about it.
“Yes, is the answer to that, bluntly. That would be an interesting and exciting and worthwhile thing to achieve,” said Stewart, who previously starred in four Trek films.
Kurtzman, who previously worked on J.J. Abrams’ Trek movie, was more circumspect. “In some ways, season three is that. But, of course. If you guys love it — let’s see what happens.”
With Pine playing a younger Kirk on film, and Ethan Peck playing a young Spock on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Stewart was asked who he might like to see play a younger Picard. After a long pause, he offered this: “I find it difficult to answer that question. It would mean stepping outside who I am … he is in here, inside me.” Quipped the actor, who lost his hair young, “I don’t think it has to necessarily be somebody who lost their hair at 19.”
Next up, the team behind the animated Lower Deck brought out a new trailer, which revealed the series will go to Deep Space Nine, the space station at the center of the ’90s TV series of the same name.
“You might see some friendly faces in there,” said creator Mike McMahan of the episode. The new season debuts Aug. 25.
Season two ended with the cliffhanger of the arrest of Capt. Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), providing fertile ground for season three to tackle.
“We start season three full tilt looking for her. Trying to fix it, trying to make it right,” said Tawny Newsome, who voices Beckett Mariner. “It feels like a movie.”
Few Trek shows have received as much acclaim out of the gate as Strange New Worlds, which wrapped season one earlier this month. And as the Strange New Worlds team came out for its panel, Lower Decks stars Jack Quaid and Newsome crashed the panel, in a comedy bit asking why they weren’t included.
That’s when Strange New Worlds star Anson Mount revealed there will be a crossover episode with Lower Decks, with Quaid and Newsome’s characters appearing in live-action.
Strange New Worlds, which chronicles the early days of the Enterprise before James T. Kirk helmed the ship, became an instant fan favorite when it aired earlier this year.
“I did not expect this level of appreciation,” said Mount, of the strong response to the show.
Both Mount and Ethan Peck (Spock) started out on Discovery, and executive producer Rod Roddenberry noted the fan response prompted their own shoe to get greenlit. “You did it,” Roddenberry told the crowd.
Mount stars as Capt. Pike. The season finale featured a surprise, with Paul Wesley appearing as the new Kirk. As it happened, the Hall H panel corresponded with the actor’s birthday, and the cast surprised Wesley with a Kirk-themed cake. They also led the 6,500-strong crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to a slightly embarrassed actor, who said he made his co-stars promise not to do something in front of the fans.
For Wesley, joining Trek has been a surreal experience, one that involved getting the blessing from original Kirk actor William Shatner on Twitter.
“He didn’t have to do that … I thought that was such a classy move,” said Wesley, who saw Shatner just two days ago. “His support means so much to me.”
As for season two, Wesley says of Kirk: “I’m looking forward to viewers seeing a different side of Kirk. Certainly not an alternate timeline Kirk. But a Lt. on the Farragut. He’s a younger Kirk. He hasn’t developed into the Kirk we know.”
While the panel began with Picard, one fan wanted to know if there had been talk of continuing Deep Space Nine in a similar way. Kurtzman hedged, acknowledging conversations are always happening and that Capt. Sisko (Avery Brooks) is a “critical, critical figure.”
“Conversations definitely have been had,” he said — but they don’t want to do anything without a strong reason.