The energy was high in San Diego and in cyberspace on Saturday, as the main Star Trek panels at Comic-Con 2019 brought a wealth of details and a flood of new questions to Trek fans everywhere.
Sir Patrick Stewart headlined the cast of Star Trek: Picard in attendance at this year’s con, with the main cast in tow. The energy of the creative team was on full display, though most of the energy was on Sir Patrick and some special guests he introduced later in the panel. As readers may well know by now, Comic-Con became the official introduction of Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan, and Jonathan del Arco as members of the Picard cast; as well as Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis who, while not in attendance, were greeted as warmly as the trio who were.
Many long-term fans of the series are sure to resonate with Sir Patrick’s opening reflection on a line from an upcoming episode, “We never know, do we, when our last moment will be?” For him, the new series has become a best moment for the Trek team.
This comes, however, from a long term scepticism about returning to the role. Stewart described himself as someone who had been “…for a long time saying “No, thank you. But no, thank you. But no.” That all changed, he revealed, as “…the subject matter of this new proposed series became clearer and clearer to me…” He confesses that his view of what was proposed left him feeling that “…something very unusual was going to happen, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
The production team noted that there is a significant difference in tone between Picard and Discovery, and emphasized that Stewart’s input holds significant sway over how the material of the series evolves. He didn’t want to repeat the past, so he challenged the development team to push the borders.
One major push is sure to be how fans are invited to view Picard’s state of mind in this new series. As we know, he is no longer in Starfleet; at Comic-Con we learned that he is questioning many of his past choices, though he does remain certain of many others is certain of many choices. “It’s allowed us to shake the character up,” Stewart shared.
One solid point the development team shared was that nobody wanted to do what was done on Discovery. Instead, the series is described as ‘lyrical and grounded’. It’s important to note that this wasn’t presented as a repudiation of any kind concerning Discovery’s approach, instead, it came across as an acknowledgement that two series cut from the same cloth of storytelling in the same universe at the same time would ultimately be unhelpful.
Michael Chabon, as showrunner, shared his appreciation and amazement about the writing process for the series, and made clear that Stewart and other cast members have been active in providing feedback in the writer’s room.
Remaining spoiler-free with regards to the series means that we learned little more than we knew before about the backgrounds of the new cast members. Allison Pill says her character, Dr Agnes Jurati is a researcher who is “deeply confused as to her place in the world.” This will place her in good stead with many Trek fans who have found identity through the inspiration of the show. A general consensus presented is that there is a lot of brokenness among characters in the series. Santiago Cabrera shared that his alter ego, Cristobal Rios, is a former Starfleet officer who is reluctant, at least at first, to help Picard.
Michelle Hurd’s Raffi Musiker is described as having ‘a previous relationship of some type’ with Picard, while Isa Briones shares that Dahj is at a transitional moment in life, but that a horrible tragedy has compelled her to reach out to Picard.
As far as the returning cast, Ryan, Del Arco, and Spiner clearly indicated that their involvement had been contemplated for some time, with Ryan and Del Arco approached a year ago about reprising their roles. This clearly indicates a deep connection with the Borg throughout the storyline, a connection made all the more prominent through the trailer, in which a Borg cube and personal alcoves are prominently featured, as well as a mocking ‘safety first’ style sign counting the number of days since an assimilation. (The sign claims 5843 days, which works out to about 16 years.)
Spiner shares that he was approached early on about participating and his initial sarcastic humour about being drawn back to Trek by Sir Patrick gave way to an emotional admission that he couldn’t refuse the role when he started considering the fans.
Significant aspirational intent was expressed by the team. Star Trek: Picard is looking to tell stories of hope for a future that is in many ways better than the world we live in today. Kurtzman reflected on the philosophical nature of Picard, asking “…how does the message come to life in the times we live in, which could use an optimistic look at the future?” He also called Picard “…the leader we all want, and we need him more than ever.”
Star Trek: Picard is its own series… this was the clear message flowing from Saturday’s panel. Not a mere sequel, not a reinvention, not a dark version of TNG. In this time, some twenty years after we last saw him, Picard has had to enter into something of a ‘dark night of the soul’. The theme is reinforced by the trailer reference to spending two years on the vineyard in France, yet not feeling right about life.
Stewart himself shared that he is ‘astonished and grateful’ for the speed at which the new ensemble has become a cohesive unit working together. With three episodes to film in season one, the cast is already cemented together.
The joy and enthusiasm for the new series was evident on the faces of the cast and crew gathered at San Diego… and if all goes well, we have about seven months to wait until we see the fruit of their labours.
Star Trek: Picard releases in early 2020 on CBS All Access in the United States, on Space in Canada, and on Amazon Prime Video throughout the rest of the world.
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