SAN DIEGO – CBS All Access’ “Star Trek” universe is expanding, with another season of “Discovery,” the animated “Lower Decks” series and the anticipated “Picard” show starring Sir Patrick Stewart and a dog – though not necessarily in that order.
Yes, Stewart’s aspirational captain Jean-Luc Picard is back and he’s got a pooch named Number One, but Stewart apologized to the Comic-Con crowd that he couldn’t make it. “He is a wonderful creature and I hope he has an ongoing role in the series,” he said.
Coming in early 2020, “Picard” finds the good captain retired from Starfleet but pulled back in action when a mysterious woman (Isa Briones) appears needing his help.
“We never know, do we, when our last moment will be,” Stewart said. “I can twist that a little now and say we never know when our best moment will be. And that is now.”
For a long time, Stewart had said, “Thank you but no,” to bringing back his character from “The Next Generation” and “Star Trek” movies, but it wasn’t until “the subject matter became clearer” and he met the writing team when “I knew something very unusual was going to happen and I wanted to be part of it.”
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman said Stewart “challenged us beautifully” in the handling of his character. “Picard is at a point where is questioning a lot of choices he’s made yet certain about choices he’s made.”
And one of his lines “has to represent a philosophy or an ideal or an idealism,” Kurtzman added. “We live in a much more complicated and dark time now, and ‘Trek’ has always reflected the time we live in. Picard is still the one standing up for what matters and what we believe in. Age hasn’t changed his resolve - it’s just changed the circumstances of his life.”
The first “Picard” trailer showed the return of two other “Trek” stalwarts, Jeri Ryan’s Kathryn Janeway and Brent Spiner’s Data, and Stewart also teased the involvement of Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes. The new crew features Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora and Harry Treadaway. “Everybody in the cast is pretty broken in terms of their character,” Pill said. “There are a lot of lonely sad sacks.”
Executive producer Akiva Goldsman calls “Picard” a “new kind of ‘Star Trek’ show made by people who watched all the old ‘Star Trek’ shows,” and one that’s “slower, more genteel, more lyrical and certainly more character-based” like “Discovery.”
The third season of “Discovery” makes a radical jump 1,000 years into the future, “further than any ‘Trek’ series has gone before,” said executive producer Alex Kurtzman. Everything will still be put through the lens of original creator Gene Roddenberry’s optimism - “It is the spirit and the soul of ‘Trek’ for all of us” - and will honor canon “but shake it up quite a bit.”
The crew became a family at end of Season 2, but after Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Co. enter a wormhole to save the day, they find problems on the other side. “We go to the deepest level of discovery,” Martin-Green said. “Everybody is really unfolding in these really compelling ways.”
Fans will have to wait to figure out who exactly the captain of the Discovery now is, but the show is bringing aboard a new player in Cleveland Booker, aka Book (David Ajala). “He’s a character who’s gonna break the rules a little bit,” said Ajala.
“Discovery” is also bringing back the “Short Treks” shorts series. There will be six episodes, including the return of Tribbles, Spock (Ethan Peck) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) getting stuck in an elevator, and a teaser for “Picard” that takes place 15 years before the new series.
All Access is also launching “Lower Decks,” a series premiering next year geared to get kids and newbies into “Star Trek” created by “Rick and Morty” writer Mike McMahan.
Set in 2380 after “Star Trek: Nemesis,” the comedy “focuses on four ensigns who are serving on a not-important ship in Starfleet,” said McMahan. The ship is from a new “California” class.
“It’s like the ‘Downton Abbey’ of ‘Star Trek,’ “ said Jerry O’Connelll who voices Commander Ransom. McMahan describes his character as “like Ryker if you gave him a little bit of speed and less shame.”
Tawny Newsome plays the irreverent Ensign Mariner who’s “very good at all things Starfleet (but) she just doesn’t care,” Newsome said. “She’s a weirdo rock and roll party queen who just wants to eat her pizza in peace, man.” (Newsome was also announced as the host of a new official “Star Trek” podcast called “Prime Directive.”)
Jack Quaid, star of Amazon’s “The Boys” and the rom-con “Plus One,” is also on board as Ensign Boimler, a very by-the-book and “pearl-clutchy” guy wants to be a captain. “He would nail the written portion of the driving test,” Quaid said. “When it came to getting in the car, it’d be a disaster.”
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