In what is becoming a new tradition for the annual Star Trek Las Vegas Convention, Manny Coto and Brannon Braga held a well-attended panel in the main ballroom to talk to the fans about their time as writers and producers on Star Trek, with a focus on Star Trek Enterprise, but also some discussion of the new movie, and their current series.
Coto and Braga at Vegas Con 2009
The panel started with an extended trailer for FlashForward (coming to ABC this Fall). The new genre show (loosely based on the book of the same name by Robert J. Sawyer) was created by Braga and David Goyer and is about everyone in the world suddenly ‘flashing forward’ with visions from six months in the future. Braga told the audience that if they liked his Star Trek episodes involving time travel, they would like FlashForward. Coto joked "isn’t FlashFoward a prequel to the temporal cold war?" After that, the pair, who work together on FOX’s 24, showed the Comic Con clip from season eight of 24, where we saw Jack Bauer in New York and out of the biz, but being pulled back in to stop a assassination attempt on the President of Iran amidst peace talks. The clip also featured BSG’s Katee Sackhoff, a new regular for the show.
The pair then opened it up to Q&A, making it clear they were there to answer questions about Trek and Braga noted he was ready for anything:
It is deeply moving and gratifying to actually interact with people, good and bad. I am happy to take the lumps.
Most of the questions were about Trek, but there were some on Flashfoward and 24, including how they used the names Rick Berman and Bob Justman as possible Secretary of State nominees on the show. Apparently the idea came after Justman passed away and it was an homage, they needed a second name and chose Rick Berman. Manny noted "it was quite surreal to watch it on film and have Rick Berman suggested as Secretary of State" with Brannon noting "I loved the line about how ‘Rick has too plenty of money, why would he want to take the job’ which is true in real life."
Much of the talk of the day focused on Star Trek Enterprise, which was co-created by Braga, who acted as show-runner for the first three seasons. Coto joined the show in the third season and became show-runner for the fourth. Although a Coto dismissed a fan’s comment that he "saved the show", with the writer noting "I didn’t think it needed saving, I liked the show." But Braga was not so kind to himself, saying to Coto "I did think your season was the best season" and going on to say "that is what Enterprise should have been from the beginning."
The topic of "The Are The Voyages", the controversial TNG tie-in finale of Enterprise, came up, and Braga again was very candid, saying:
Braga: I will take full blame for that episode, for those that didn’t like it. In retrospect, it was a very cool idea, that in the end was a mistake. The concept was was to have Manny do a final two-part finale, but then have a final final episode send a valentine to all of Star Trek over the last eighteen years. We just thought it would be a cool concept to show the Next Generation’s crew looking back, though the holodeck, at Archer’s crew. It is a high concept, but I am not sure it came together.
Here are some more Enterprise highlights gleaned from the Q&A
- Berman and Braga had not considered anyone else besides the studio choice of Scott Bakula as Archer for Enterprise, and he was the first role cast
- One of the "people we couldn’t get" prototypes in mind for Archer was Harrison Ford
- Coto suggested bringing in Judy and Gar Reeves-Season for season four to help pick up threads from TOS, which they had shown they could do with their novels. Originally as possibly story consultants, but turned out they could "do everything" and write screenplays as well
And specific highlights on what Season 5 could have brought
- Coto wanted to revisit the Mirror Universe on a regular basis with four or five episodes spread through the season as a "mini-series within a series." Mike Sussman and Coto had discussed places to go with it and it was "big regret" not getting chance
- The two main things they wanted to do with S5 was the "origins of the Federation" and the "begin whispers of the Romulan War", and tying those two together
- No other major villains were planned to be introduced, the Romulans were going to be the big villain, but would have new ones within new ‘mini-arcs’
- Rick and Brannon thought Future Guy was "probably going to be a Romulan" and would tie into the Romulan War with a future Romulan trying to "instigate" things
- They wanted to make Shran a regular character on the bridge of the NX-01 as an "auxiliary or an advisor…get Jeffrey [Combs] Somehow"
Star Trek 2009
The pair were asked how they would have approached ‘rebooting’ Star Trek in comparison to how the JJ Abrams team did with the new Star Trek movie.
Braga: To me that is an impossible question to answer because I did fifteen years on Star Trek and I don’t know if I would have done anything different because I had done everything I thought I would have done. And I loved the movie and I don’t think I would have changed anything, personally. I thought it was an incredible exciting re-exploration of the universe.
Coto: I think the right choice was made about where to start, with Kirk and Spock. I always thought thing to do. I would have probably taken it more towards a three-part Lord of the Rings style trilogy, more epic. The same general choices that were made, but I probably wouldn’t have had Kirk’s roommate be an Orion slavegirl. How does an Orion Slavegirl get into Starfleet….I think it is being set up for an epic run of films, and it is beautifully made, just spectacular. And the cast is great.
The pair closed out by saying how much they appreciated people showing up for their panel, saying they were worried no one would show up.
It is great to see behind the camera people interacting with the fans. There is a lot of emphasis on celebrities and autographs and photos at these cons. One look at the lines and there is clearly a desire for this, but this Coto/Braga panel, the STO meet and greet (article coming later) and the Star Trek panel bring a little of the Comic Con style of getting into details on these shows.
More to come
The convention is over, but TrekMovie’s coverage continues. Coming up we have reports on:
Sunday with 3 Spocks & Shatner
Star Trek Online Preview
So check back for updates