Until last week’s New York Comic Con, there wasn’t a lot of solid news on the Star Trek front, beyond rumors floated on “Star Trek Day,” (September 8th). Then, suddenly, we got three new trailers for upcoming Star Trek. While two of the trailers are little more than teasers, the trailer for season 3 of Picard tells us a lot about what to expect in that series’ final season (or, as Jonathan Frakes recently teased on Twitter, perhaps not so final…). For this column, I’ll try not to wade too deeply in the minutiae of each trailer (technical details, iconography, cameos by actors X, Y and Z). There are entire YouTube channels for that stuff. Instead, I’d prefer to give my overall impressions of each trailer, noting details only if and when they’re significant.
Let’s take a look…
Star Trek: Discovery (DSC).
I’ve had a complicated relationship with DSC. I love the show’s characters and actors, as well as the cinematic look and feel of the show. But the show’s struggled with its stubborn insistence on drawn-out, arc-based storytelling; a trend with Star Trek that seems to be running its course, as newer Trek series have returned to standalone stories, with only minor arcs throughout (“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”, “Prodigy”, “Lower Decks,”). To clarify, I don’t dislike DSC, and I want the series to succeed, but it hasn’t been easy at times.
DSC’s trailer for season 5 is brief (53 seconds), and it gives little indication of whether DSC will continue with seasonal arcs or embrace standalone storytelling.
We see the enigmatic character of “Dr. Kovich” (played by equally enigmatic film director David Cronenberg) offering a battered Captain Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green) a mission seeking “the greatest treasure in the known galaxy,” which suggests an Indiana Jones-style quest… and most likely another seasonal arc. Or perhaps merely a singular thread within an episodic format. At the very least, I hope for something more in keeping with Star Trek’s traditionally optimistic spirit of adventure and exploration, not another universe-ending apocalypse. Those annual armageddons are officially tiresome now. As a friend of mine noted, DSC isn’t telling stories so much as presenting weekly pieces to an apocalyptic puzzle. Some may like those puzzle pieces, but I prefer self-contained stories.
We then see the crew toasting each other, with last season’s departees Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Adira (Blu del Barrio) returning to active duty, hopefully to stay. As I said earlier, I love the characters (and actors) in this show. How exciting it would be to see them chart new adventures into parts unknown… exploration for its own sake, rather than immediate survival. Something in keeping with the ship and series’ name. Yes, there can (and should) be danger too, but as a spice to the adventure, not a main course. I was also a bit concerned by the appearance of what looks like an ancient, alien Rubik’s cube slowly aligning during the course of the trailer—please tell me this isn’t some “Westworld”-style puzzle needed to save the galaxy. Just hoping that cube’s importance is misleading, as trailers sometimes are…
Note: Longtime series’ director Olatunde Osunsanmi has also hinted that time travel might play a role in season 5, as it had in DSC’s third season, and in PIC’s hot mess of a second season.
Also in the trailer is a moment of tender friendship between Saru (the amazing Doug Jones) and Burnham. We also catch glimpses of their respective paramours, T’Rina (Tara Rosling) and Book (David Ajala). Last we saw, things were heating up between Kelpien Saru and Ni’Varan (nee: Vulcan/Romulan) leader, T’Rina. However, Burnham’s faith in Book was sorely tested when he defied her and the (newly-reformed) Federation Council in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy a galactic menace (10-C) without establishing first contact. Book allowed his personal need for vengeance to overshadow his loyalties to Michael and the Federation. I wonder if Michael’s trust in Book has fully recovered?
Note: While we don’t see the character’s return in the trailer, I’m very curious about the progress of Adira’s lover, the newly-reintegrated Trill, Gray Tal (Ian Alexander). Last season’s “Choose To Live” saw Tal having his consciousness downloaded into a new synthetic body—an elegant metaphor for a trans-person achieving gender affirmation. It was very Star Trek. Here’s hoping that story is explored further.
And, of course, the trailer emphasized a lot of action, as most trailers do. We see shipboard explosions, characters in sleek-looking (face-obscuring) spacesuits, a hover-bike, some whooping/shouting, and lots of running around on a desert planet with characters dressed in Bedouin-style desert garb—once again, deliberately evoking an Indiana Jones-style quest. I’m hoping we’ll see this ‘treasure hunt’ quest threading through standalone stories. I’m also hoping it’s not another armageddon-apocalypse.
I’m cautiously optimistic.
No solid date has been given for DSC season 5’s return, other than it will arrive on Paramount+ in “early 2023” for a 10 episode run.
Star Trek: Picard (PIC).
The longest trailer of the trio was for PIC season 3 (2:34), which was shot back-to-back with the less-than-successfully executed season 2. Last season’s jumbled, meandering time traveling arc into 2024 Los Angeles hopefully left the show’s production team with some valuable lessons learned in how not to squander golden opportunities. With two of PIC’s previously established characters (Cristobal Rios, Agnes Jurati) not returning this year, the gate was left wide open for the return of the cast from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TNG); a return which many fans have clamored for since the debut of PIC in early 2020. With this being the stated final season of PIC, the time for a full-on TNG reunion story certainly seems right (costar/director Jonathan Frakes has tweeted/hinted that this may not be the final appearance of these characters). While it was not the original intention of PIC to continue TNG’s story or characters, season 1’s “Nepenthe” (with its return of the Riker family) proved very popular with fans.
So, as ‘Jack Skellington’ from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” might say, “May as well give them what they want…”
The trailer begins with reinstated Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) having his dinner interrupted by a call to duty. His former Chief Medical Officer, Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) has gone missing, along with her new ship and crew (that old “this ship/person has gone missing” hook; it works every time). We see a shot of what is, presumably, Beverly’s deserted starship drifting among a field of space debris. We then hear of a threatening alien character named Vadic (Amanda Plummer) who poses a grave threat to the Federation in her quest for vengeance. She also flies around the galaxy in another massive, pointy-pronged spaceship, very similar to Shinzon’s “Scimitar” and Nero’s “Narada.”
Oh, boy. Another villain with a super-spaceship in Kurtzman-era Star Trek is seeking revenge on the Federation.
Don’t get me wrong; Amanda Plummer (“Pulp Fiction”) is a quirky and fascinating actress, and I look forward to seeing what she’ll bring to the mix, but the implicit revenge angle already feels tired. Ever since 1982’s “The Wrath of Khan” we’ve seen multiple variations of this ‘crazed villain with a super-weapon seeking revenge‘ plot. After Khan came Shinzon, then Nero, then Khan version 2.0, then Krall/Captain Edison, and now, we have Vadic. This revenge-story seems to be the default template for Kurtzman-era Star Trek movies and stories; a powerful, half-crazed mad-person, righting a perceived wrong unwittingly committed by our heroes. From how it appears in the trailer, we’ve seen this story done many times before.
Of course, I’d love to be wrong.
Note: Interesting casting choice with Amanda Plummer; her father, the late Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) played the ‘big bad’ Klingon General “Chang” in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991). Now his daughter is menacing TNG’s cast, just as her father menaced TOS’s cast in their final movie together.
As the trailer unfolds, we see shots of the scar-faced Vadic menacingly staring down Picard on the main viewer of a starship. She seems to be responsible for the complete obliteration of Starfleet Command Headquarters, just as Khan 2.0 (Benedict Cumberbatch) did with London’s top-secret Section 31 headquarters in “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013), one of my least favorite Star Trek movies. Speaking of Starfleet, we also get a glimpse of the USS Titan-A, a Constitution II-class starship; a 25th century updating of the original Constitution class starship commanded by Captain Christopher Pike and later on by Captain James T. Kirk. The USS Titan, or rather, a previous version of it, was Captain Riker’s former starship. It appears that Riker, along with other members of the old TNG crew, including Deanna Riker (Marina Sirtis) and Commodore Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) are also pressed back into service to find the missing Beverly Crusher. Crusher, from the trailer, appears to be held captive in a cryogenic capsule, similar to the tubes used to freeze Khan and his crew in TOS “Space Seed” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
Note: Speaking of ships, we also catch a near-subliminal appearance of the new Enterprise-F; another sleek, arrowhead-shaped Federation starship which looks very much like the Sovereign class Enterprise-E from the last three Star Trek TNG feature films.
Despite my deep disappointment with PIC season 2, the sight of the TNG gang working together again does give me a certain 1980s/1990s nostalgia, and the cast’s chemistry together (as I’ve witnessed in person at conventions) is still very potent. Their reunion also has some unexpected surprises. Preparing to beam down on an away mission with Riker, the now white-haired Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) tells Starfleet officer Seven of Nine (a returning Jeri Ryan) that he now embraces pacifism, renouncing his former life of violence. Riker’s resigned response to Worf’s new ways gets the trailer’s biggest laugh; “We’re all gonna die.”
Note: Despite his newfound pacifism, we still see a Klingon weapon slung over Worf’s shoulder as he beams down. I also found it interesting that Worf sees much of his earlier self in the short-tempered character of Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), the former first officer of Admiral Picard before his falling out with Starfleet over the Romulan resettlement crisis in the late 2380s. To those who find Worf’s newfound pacifism uncharacteristic, I’d say that Worf has always been a character of extremes, and that this, in fact, feels oddly true to his being.
Another surprise comes in the form of Brent Spiner’s return—not as a human relative of Dr. Soong’s (he’s played waaay too many of those, of late) but as the returning android Lore, Data’s ‘evil twin brother’ from the TNG episodes “Datalore,” “Brothers,” and “Descent, Part 1 and 2.” Along with a nasty grimace, Lore is wearing a Starfleet uniform, and he’s altered his formerly gold/white android skin to appear more human. Despite the upgrade, he is easily recognized by La Forge, the late Data’s best friend. The trailer offers no hint as to how Lore was reassembled from the Daystrom institute, where we last saw him in pieces (or perhaps that was his brother B-4; not sure which), but I’m guessing it has something to do with Vadic…
Note: Lore’s reveal was, to me, one of the more intriguing moments of the trailer; not because I’m eager to see Spiner play another bad guy in the franchise, but because he no longer has to wear that gold hued-whiteface makeup to play an android character. Soong-type androids, like Soji and Daj (Isa Briones), no longer have to stand out like sore thumbs in public. They can even be programmed to believe they’re human themselves (something we already saw with Julianna Soong in TNG’s “Inheritance”).
One more big surprise is saved for the very end, when we see the reappearance of actor Daniel Davis as “Moriarty”, the holographic version of Sherlock Holmes’ arch nemesis who was accidentally summoned into consciousness on the Enterprise-D’s holodeck in TNG’s “Elementary, Dear Data.” The character also returned in TNG’s sixth season episode “Ship in a Bottle,” where he was tricked into living out his life in a small, hologram-generating memory cube, along with the great love of his life, the countess Regina Barthalomew (Stephanie Beacham). The exact circumstances of Moriarty’s return are left a mystery, but his shadowy, smoke-filled, backlit appearance suggests he’s up to his dastardly old tricks once again.
The Picard season 3 trailer certainly generated strong feelings of nostalgia and anticipation, which I’m tempering with my recent disappointment in season 2. Season 2 also featured a strong and promising opening episode, only to stumble as the season wore on.
PIC season 3 has a firm release date set for February 16th, 2023 on Paramount+.
Star Trek: Prodigy (PRO).
Next comes the short trailer for the second half of PRO’s inaugural season. After my personal disappointment with Star Trek: Lower Decks, I have to admit my expectations for this series were somewhat lowered. But after a first episode that felt more like animated Star Wars than Star Trek, the show found its Starfleet footing very quickly. Once the show’s group of young runaway slaves found the lost Federation starship USS Protostar, the show quickly took off–literally and figuratively. As they acclimated to life on a starship, each young character found their voice. Headstrong Dal R’Ell (voiced by Brett Gray) quickly established himself as the group’s ‘captain’, and he has an energy similar to the young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), as seen in “Star Trek” (2009). The escapees’ kidnapped hostage, Gwyndala (Ella Purnell) soon became a willing ally, as she is betrayed by her own father, the sinister “Diviner” (John Noble), in his feverish quest to acquire the advanced technology of the USS Protostar at all costs—including his daughter.
As the trailer begins, we hear a captain’s log from Dal, as he tells us it’s been months since their escape from the Diviner’s mining colony. In addition to Gwyndala, Dal’s crew consists of the Tellarite ‘Jankom Pog’ (Jason Mantzoukas), the Medusan ‘Zero’ (Angus Imrie), the lovable gelatinous blob, Murf, and a large, brutish-looking being named Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), who, despite her formidable appearance, is actually a very sensitive and intelligent young girl.
Note: The animation of PRO is absolutely stunning; nearly on a par with the work seen in bigger budgeted fare from Pixar or other top animation studios. A part of me wishes Paramount+ would someday revisit Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973) and update its crude, early-1970s animation with the same opulence afforded to PRO, yet preserving the original TOS/TAS actor’s voice tracks. Just a pipe dream of mine…
This crew has formed a family aboard their stolen vessel, which they’ve learned to operate over the past few months with the aid of a holographic Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), the former captain of the starship Voyager (VGR) who acts as den mother and life-coach to these young “recruits.” The trailer shows the young ‘crew’ of the USS Protostar trying on cadet uniforms as they seek to learn the ways of real Starfleet officers who would normally be running a ship like theirs. With holographic-Janeway as their mentor, things appear to be going along swimmingly, until…
… the real Admiral Kathryn Janeway (Mulgrew) takes the USS Dauntless out to the Delta quadrant in the hope of locating the missing Federation starship USS Protostar. As we see in the trailer, the admiral does indeed learn the location of the missing ship—and also that it’s been commandeered by a group of young aliens, who are eager to adopt Starfleet protocols and ethics toward exploring the universe around them. As the holographic version of Janeway tells her young ‘cadets’, “The real me is hunting us… good luck with that!”
Note: The USS Dauntless appears to be a real-life counterpart to a fake starship once created as a trap for the crew of the USS Voyager in the VGR episode “Hope and Fear.” While that faux starship featured the experimental registry number of NX-01A, its real-life counterpart’s registry is NCC-80816.
PRO returns October 27th, 2022; right around the corner. The series will be uniquely available to both Paramount+ and the more kid-friendly Nickelodeon cable network.
Hailing Frequencies Open.
A reminder that Star Trek can be streamed on Paramount+ in many markets, including the US and much of Western Europe; it is also available to stream on CTV Sci-Fi and Crave in Canada.