Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2020 by Fred Topel
CBS All Access presented a Television Critics Association panel for Star Trek: Picard. The long-awaited streaming series features Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard again. Co-stars Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis have been confirmed, along with Jeri Ryan and Jonathan Del Arco too.
Executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Heather Kadin and showrunner Michael Chabon sat behind Stewart and his new co-stars during the panel. Much of the panel focused on how each iteration of Star Trek on CBS All Access will be a unique experience, with Picard as the most demonstrative example. Star Trek: Picard premieres January 23 on CBS All Access.
This isn’t syndication anymore
When Star Trek was at its syndicated height in the ‘90s, there was The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space Nine. Each one had its unique aspects, but they shared a consistent aesthetic. Kurtman wanted Picard to be an example of how different concurrent Star Trek streaming series could be.
“I think the proposition is that every time you watch a Star Trek show, it has to feel and look totally very different from every other show,” Kurtzman said. “What you get from Discovery is not what you’re going to get from Picard, and certainly not what you’re going to get from Lower Decks. That’s the beauty of what we’re trying to build. If you’re looking at the show and you’re thinking, well, I could just get that on another show, then we’ve failed.”
Some of the differences Kurtzman promises include spending more time on Earth, and focusing on Picard’s private life.
“The look of this feels more grounded,” Kurtzman said. “If you look at the season, you’ll see kind of functions and chapters. The first chapter is really earthbound. It’s very rare that you see a lot of time spent on the planet Earth in the world of Star Trek, and we did not want to rush that. We wanted to take the time to show the condition of Picard’s life, and to watch him evolve to taking off into the stars, and we were not in a hurry to do that. So I think the look and the tone and the feel of the show is different by design.”
Some aspects will always be consistent in Star Trek shows
The beauty of the world that Gene Roddenberry created is that it has room for several different approaches and tones. However, you’ll still always know you’re watching Star Trek.
“All the shows are connected because they are ultimately Trek,” Kadin said. “They’re all coming from the point of view of hope for a better future, a quality for a better future, and those same tenets apply across the board. But I think what’s been so special about building up the franchise is we have these amazing different voices focused on each one. We have Michael Chabon and Akiva on this show, and then we have Mike McMahan doing a comedy on Lower Decks, and then we have the Hageman brothers doing a show for Nickelodeon. So all of the shows on one hand on face value feel very different, but you should be able to watch any of them and all of them and feel like, wow, that’s a Star Trek show told from a specific point of view.”
That makes Star Trek more like a movie franchise like Mission: Impossible or Alien, where different directors would come in with their own stamp.
All Star Trek shows have to address a timeline now
Thanks to Kurtzman’s own 2009 Star Trek movie, there are now multiple timelines in Star Trek. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) tried to use red matter to save the Romulan sun, but ended up going back in time and starting the separate “Kelvin timeline.” Like Discovery, Picard is back in the Prime timeline.
“We are in the Prime timeline,” Kurtzman said.
That makes sense. Picard never existed (at least not yet) in the Kelvin timeline, so this series would follow The Next Generation in the Prime timeline. However, it also follows the events of the Romulan sun explosion. Picard deals with the aftermath of the event.
“Events from the Kelvin timeline impacted Picard, but if you look at that movie, the destruction of Romulus was in the Prime timeline,” Kurtzman said. “It is what enabled the Kelvin timeline jump to happen. So that is very consistent with canon.”
This Star Trek is more for new Trekkers
If every Star Trek show can be different, there could conceivably be the ultimate die hard Trekker show that’s completely impenetrable to anyone who hasn’t seen every episode of every series. That’s not Picard though. Although it will be rewarding to Next Generation fans, they want new Trekkers to enjoy it too.
“Many of us have very deep, longstanding relationships to Star Trek,” Goldsman said. “Our storytelling came from watching Star Trek, the original series or the original series in syndication or later iterations. So that’s really important to us. We are Star Trek fans. We also believe that Star Trek is a universal communication. We admire it the way fans admire it with those kinds of aspirations for it. So we wanted to show, and you’ll tell us whether we succeeded or not, to be equally enjoyable for us if we were to watch it and for you who had never seen an episode. So we relied on the things that we think made good storytelling: drama, character, conflict, loss, yearning, the things that move us through our days. And those things are not unique to Star Trek by any means. So given the gift of Patrick Stewart and this cast, we would tell a story that we hoped would resonate with anyone, and Star Trek became the vehicle for which we could do that.”
That’s not to say Chabon didn’t try to get some uber nerdy Trek terminology in there.
“Sometimes I might try to slip a little in, and usually I was encouraged to take it back out, because it’s not meted very often,” Chabon said. “This series is very much character based and character driven. The technology that is represented in the show, we tried to make things as self-evident as we could, or as self-explanatory as we could. There is a huge storehouse of Star Trek technology already established that we could draw on, and I think in terms of actual technobabble, we didn’t really do it very often. Pretty light.”
Goldsman called out one of Chabon’s attempts. “Somebody says, ‘Engage the inertial dampers’ somewhere.”
Chabon denied it. “No, we didn’t shoot that,” he said.
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