April 5th marks Star Trek’s “First Contact Day”—the fictional future holiday marking the creation of warp drive and ‘first contact’ with the Vulcans in 2063 (42 years away). Not unlike that tumultuous time in Star Trek’s imaginary future, the past year has seen some tremendous challenges as well (a deadly global pandemic, an attempted coup in the United States). However, the original Star Trek (TOS) was born during the height of the Vietnam War, as well as massive civil unrest. Perhaps, like Zefram Cochrane’s Phoenix rising from a post-atomic holocaust Earth, these uncertain times will be when Star Trek shines brightest. April 5th 2021 was also a great day to be a Star Trek fan because it brought lots of information on new Star Treks beaming our way…
Celebrating both the fictional “First Contact” date of April 5th, as well as the 25th anniversary of the movie “Star Trek: First Contact”, a few new trailers and panels from Paramount Plus have dropped some exciting new info on future Star Trek productions. Let’s dig in…
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.
The ending of Star Trek: Discovery season 3 saw the the slow rebuilding of a 32nd century United Federation of Planets after a 120 year estrangement caused by “the Burn.” The Burn’s origin was found, its cause dealt with (in a wonderfully “Star Trek”, non-violent way) and we saw Captain Michael Burnham proudly assuming command of the USS Discovery NCC-1031-A after her captain, Saru (Doug Jones) took an unspecified sabbatical on his home world to help a troubled, godlike member of his own species. With Federation member worlds slowly coming together after a rich new source of dilithium was discovered, things seemed to be coming up roses for the rebirth of the Federation…
Note: Season 3 showrunner Michelle Paradise has reenergized the third season of this once coltish Star Trek series. Paradise has delivered the same emphasis on character and familial cohesion (over plot mechanics) that former Star Trek showrunner Michael Piller (1948-2005) brought to TNG in its third year.
However, the good times don’t seem to last, as the trailer indicates. A mysterious galaxy-traversing “gravitational anomaly” wreaks havoc wherever it randomly appears, causing mass destruction in its wake. One of the casualties of this anomaly is Discovery herself. We see Burnham pacing though the corridors in a 32nd century spacesuit, as her starship seems to have taken a massive beating. We see Burnham’s shipmate (and presumed First Officer) Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) nearly in tears, as the scale and scope of this new danger is literally brought home. We also see what appears to be a new Federation president (a human-Cardassian) negotiating a reunification with the president of “Ni’Var” (the new name of Vulcan, after it repatriated its refugee Romulan cousins). Hope amid the chaos…
The crew of Discovery also sport new uniforms for season 4 which appear to have opposite color values of their predecessors (seen at the end of last season). We see uniform tops with dominant department colors of red, gold and blue, along with a single common dark gray stripe; there are new black pants as well. Season 4’s short trailer also teases the appearance of Saru on his home planet of Kaminar, which suggests that Saru will be a recurring character (much like James Frain’s Sarek in season 1). I can’t imagine Saru staying on the sidelines following the thrashing of his old ship. Blu del Barrio also returns as Adira, sporting a closer haircut than last season. We also see a slimmer, less obtrusive cybernetic implant worn on the helm officer, Lt. Detmer (Emily Coutts).
Note: The dominance of the department colors on the new uniforms, along with the black pants, suggests a return to the bolder color schemes of TOS and TNG Star Trek. The dominantly gray uniforms seen last season in 32nd century Starfleet had a subtle “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” vibe about them. Personally, I find the bolder colors are much more visually interesting. In particular, Michael looks amazing in red. It’s no surprise that TOS Star Trek’s wild color palette was encouraged by the network (and its sponsors) to help sell the then-novelty of color TV sets…
While a traveling ‘gravitational anomaly’ might not seem like the most original idea in Star Trek (gravitational anomalies had become a cliche in TNG), I’m withholding any and all judgment until I see the new episodes. After 800 episodes and a dozen movies, there aren’t too many ‘new’ ideas left in Star Trek anymore, but that doesn’t mean the franchise can’t explore ways to make older ideas fresh and interesting again. Remember, TOS Star Trek aired “Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before” back-to-back in broadcast order, and both episodes were about ordinary humans corrupted by godlike powers (same device; very different stories). For me, the trick of Discovery Season 4 will be how this seemingly random and deadly anomaly affects the core characters and the rebuilding of the Federation—that’s what will make it interesting.
The fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery will debut later this year on Paramount Plus, on an (as yet) unspecified date.
Star Trek: Picard, Season 2.
Under showrunner Michael Chabon, season one of Star Trek: Picard produced a satisfying story arc. Picard (Patrick Stewart), once a staunch advocate of android rights (see: TNG’s “Measure of a Man,” “The Offspring”) will now be spending the remainder of his lifespan in a newly developed, highly advanced android body—his mind and personality wholly intact. Ironically, such continuance of human beings in android form was once thought to be the work of ‘mad’ scientists back in the days of TOS (see: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” “I, Mudd”). By the end of the 24th century, the concept of meta-humanity is finally accepted, after a last bigoted stand by both the Romulans (who have a cultural taboo against androids) and a newly reactionary Starfleet (following a planned android labor revolt on Mars that left 90,000 dead and a planet in flames). Picard’s first season spoke perfectly to our current times, as we see the renewed resurgence of old prejudices and reactionary thinking once again. The ending of season 1 saw a newly android-bodied Jean-Luc Picard, on the private starship La Sirena, bound for home…
Note: Season one ended so well that it could’ve marked the end of Picard’s story, as far as I was concerned.
The trailer for season 2 consists of a slow pan of Jean-Luc’s study at Chateau Picard (or its holographic facsimile on La Sirena?) in which we hear Picard narrating about new opportunities offered in life, while lamenting a dearth of ‘second chances.’ The camera pans over many familiar objects, including the gifted Mintakan tapestry (TNG’s “Who Watches the Watchers?”), a model of the USS Stargazer (Picard’s first command), the painting of the USS Enterprise-D (which hung in that ship’s ready room), and unexpectedly, the cracked tablet last seen in Deep Space Nine’s 6th Season episode “The Reckoning,” which saw a final conflict between a godlike “Prophet” and an evil “Pah Wraith.” The last image is of a deck of cards, with the focus on a Queen of Hearts which dissolves into dust, leaving but a single corner—the letter “Q.” We then hear the familiar voice of Q himself (John de Lancie) in an audio clip from TNG (the series’ finale “All Good Things…”) promising Picard that “the trial never ends.” So—Q is returning to Star Trek! This makes a lot of sense, since the character of Q bookended TNG from its pilot to its finale, with many memorable appearances in-between. Q is unquestionably Picard’s chief antagonist, but more importantly, he’s also been a capricious teacher and conscience as well. Q’s relationship to Picard is complex, with Star Trek fanfic suggesting an even deeper relationship between the characters (a perfectly valid suggestion, in my opinion).
Note: To those who worry about the ‘immortal’ Q being played by 70-something actor John de Lancie? Remember that to Q always appears in forms that are relatable to Picard. In the TNG series finale (“All Good Things…”) Q even appeared as a frail old man to match Picard’s appearance in the ‘flash-forward’ sequences. If Picard were a Vulcan or an Andorian, I’m sure Q’s appearance would’ve matched either of those forms as well. Humanity and the appearance of mortality are merely choices for Q’s endless parade of cosplays.
Star Trek: Picard, unlike other Star Trek series, isn’t necessarily about ‘boldly going’ to optimistically explore strange new worlds, etc. This series is about a man preparing for the winter of his life, closing old accounts and reconciling with his past. It also reflects on that universally desired tranquility that comes with a life well spent. Star Trek: Picard is this franchise’s equivalent of the 2017 X-Men feature film “Logan” (which also costarred Stewart as Xavier), chronicling a hero in his golden years, without his former friends, making new connections while facing one final crisis (or crises). As a man In my mid-50s, I relate to Star Trek: Picard perhaps a bit better than I do some of the more youth-oriented Star Treks. I also appreciate that there is a Star Trek series so specifically tailored to the mindset of older fans. There truly is a Star Trek for everyone, isn’t there? The beauty of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations)…
Star Trek: Picard’s second season is set to debut on Paramount Plus sometime in 2022.
Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season 2.
I have to be honest; Star Trek: Lower Decks, which debuted last year on CBS-All Access (now Paramount Plus) is not my cup of Earl Grey. I watched the first four or five episodes and I watched the season finale, but it just didn’t click for me at all. For those who enjoy this show? I will keep the bulk of my negative feelings about it to myself, sufficing to say that its frenetic pacing, annoyingly capricious characters and style of ‘humor’ just doesn’t work for me. I’m not a fan of producer Mike McMahan’s “Rick & Morty” either, so I willingly accept that the fault might lie more with my own tastes rather than the show itself. The junior officers of the USS Cerritos, part of the “California-class” of ships (named after California suburbs) certainly have their share of Star Trek fandom and I totally respect that.
In the season 2 trailer, a lot of stuff happens—too much for me, in fact. The only images I could clearly make out in the montage were of captain’s daughter (and series lead) Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) breaking out of a Cardassian interrogation room (TNG’s “Chain of Command”) and Ensign Boimler (Jack Quaid) being assigned to the bridge (and seemingly under a lot of stress). I’m sure there’s a lot of other noteworthy things that I missed, but as I said, I’m not a fan. I can’t honestly cite which things were significant or not. Despite my own lack of interest in Lower Decks, I wish the series and its fans well. Once again, the beauty of IDIC is also that there’s something out there for everyone.
Star Trek: Lower Decks second season is set to debut later this year on Paramount Plus.
Interview with Kate Mulgrew & First Look at animated Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Prodigy.
Kate Mulgrew reveals the animated Captain Janeway for Star Trek: Prodigy:
This is the first new series in the “First Contact Day” offerings, and it has a very unique premise; set in Star Trek’s calendar year of 2383 (after the USS Voyager returns to Earth), a crew of young misfit aliens commandeer an abandoned Federation vessel found in the Delta Quadrant and use it to go on their own voyages of adventure and self-discovery. While this series is admittedly aimed for a younger audience, I have to admit it sounds (to quote Data) “intriguing.”
Note: Prodigy’s approach is proof that it’s always possible to retool Star Trek enough to make it fresh again.
For those wondering exactly how Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) can appear as herself when she is safely back seated in her admiral’s desk at Starfleet HQ? The answer is simple: Janeway’s presence on the ship is in the form of an instructional hologram (simply called “Janeway”). Janeway is a command teacher device to help the young crew out with their newfound ship—she’s a combination user manual and den mother. Once again, the notion of a crew of curious young aliens benignly acquiring a Starfleet ship for their own has a lot of potential. I have a feeling that, if done well, this series might soon be very popular with Star Trek fans. Personally, I don’t care if it’s marketed as a “kid’s show”; I look forward to Star Trek: Prodigy, just as I enjoyed Star Wars: Rebels.
Note: I’m also an unapologetic fan of Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-5) as well.
Created by Kevin and Dan Hageman, Star Trek: Prodigy is set to debut later this year on both Nickelodeon and Paramount Plus.
Oh, yeah, and there’s also…
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
I’ve been both advocating for and anticipating this show’s arrival since the stellar reintroduction of 23rd century Starfleet captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. Anson Mount won over many Star Trek fans’ hearts with his charismatic interpretation of Chris Pike—homaging the original character as played by Jeffrey Hunter in the 1964 TOS Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” while adding new elements as well (including foreknowledge of his eventual fate, as seen in TOS’ “The Menagerie”).
Note: Originated by Jeffrey Hunter in “The Cage”, Captain Christopher Pike has been played by multiple actors over the years, including Sean Kenney as the crippled, mute version of Pike seen in TOS’ “The Menagerie,” as well as actor Bruce Greenwood in two of the Bad Robot Kelvinverse Star Trek movies (“Star Trek” (2009) and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013) ).
If one considers “The Cage” as a pilot for this show? That means it’s been nearly 57 years between the production of the pilot and the green-lighting of the series! Several members of the new cast have been announced, with returning cast members Rebecca Romijn (“Number One”) and Ethan Peck (“Spock”) beaming onboard as well. For those fans who seek a return to Star Trek’s standalone story roots? This might be just the hypo spray for you. Personally, I can’t wait!
Expect to see Star Trek: Strange New Worlds at either the end of 2021 or (more likely) sometime in 2022 on Paramount Plus. Keep your splayed Vulcan fingers crossed!
Along with the trailers, there were other panels featuring the casts and crews of these Star Trek series as well. For a single grouping of all Star Trek “First Contact Day” panels, I left a link to a one-stop place to shop page at trekcore.com HERE!
Star Trek is, of course, available to stream on Paramount Plus, with some of the series still streamable on Netflix as well. To my readers, I once again wish you and all of your loved ones good health and strength during the current coronavirus pandemic. The current number of COVID-related deaths in the United States are around 555,000 as of this writing. Meanwhile, several vaccines have been developed and inoculations have began in earnest (I myself have received my second shot of the Moderna vaccine only last week ), but it will take time for herd immunity. Even with vaccines, the overall situation is far from safe. Many questions remain regarding the coronavirus variants, or if vaccines fully prevent unwitting transmission from an asymptomatic carrier. So for the time being, please continue to practice social safe-distancing as often as you can, wear masks in public, and avoid overly crowded outings as much as possible, even if inoculated (small gatherings of fully inoculated friends and family is safe, of course).
Live long and prosper!