Jordan Hoffman is a man on fire in the Star Trek universe. He is the host of the all new Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast (the first of its kind) and was just announced as the emcee of CBS and ReedPop’s Mission New York convention this September. TrekMovie sat down with Jordan to talk Trek, get the skinny on his plans for the podcast, and more.
It’s hard to listen to Jordan Hoffman’s podcast without getting a little bit jealous. This guy gets paid to talk about Star Trek with other experts, fans, stars, and pundits, something the rest of us love doing but don’t get paid for. But that’s part of what makes his podcast so fun; he approaches it all with a sense of humor, some context, and a fierce nerdy love of the franchise.
Already an established writer and film critic, he started writing a regular column on Startrek.com called One Trek Mind in late 2011, when the site was badly in need of a fan point of view. From there he started doing appearances at conventions, creating a space where fans could interact as he talked about things like the “Best Spock Moments”, or “Best Use of the Vulcan Nerve Pinch”. At first, they’d get a handful of guests, but eventually, the rooms would start to fill up.
So when the 50th anniversary started looming, Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast came to be. So far, guests have included George Takei, astronaut Mike Massimino, Adam Nimoy, Weird Al Yankovic, and author Robb Pearlman, among others.
When we met, the news about Sulu being gay had just broken, so I had to bring that up first.
Jordan Hoffman: I had heard that rumor that they were going to do it, but I’d also heard other rumors that turned out to be not true, so I kinda wasn’t getting my hopes up. And then it turned out to be true.
Everyone in America has gay co-workers whether they admit it or not. SO if you’re on the Enterprise, some of your co-workers are gay. That’s life. It’s great. And the way they’re going to do it …
TrekMovie: Wait! I don’t want spoilers.
JH: No, it’s not a thing at all. From what I was told before, they dock at a station, and Sulu goes, and his partner is there, and his daughter is there.
TM: Husband, I assume.
JH: And the daughter goes, “Daddy!” and he goes “Demora!” and there’s a guy there, and maybe they hug. I don’t know, it’s a two-second thing. Which is perfect.
TM: Because it should be not a thing, not a thing anybody cares about.
JH: Unless it wants to be a thing. But I don’t think this wants to be a thing.
TM: I’m hoping that in general, there’s a stronger story in this movie than the others. But the casting has been so great, they’ve really stuck to the spirit of Star Trek.
JH: One can lob a lot of complaints against the Bad Robot organization, but casting is not one of them. They’re always perfect casting, and everybody has been great. I’m looking forward to this new gal Jaylah, the French Algerian dancer with the .. she was in Kingsmen. Sophie Boutella. She didn’t do much acting in it, but she was very funny, and she has swords attached to her legs, in place of her legs. She’s an acrobat. So hopefully she’s going to be a nice addition.
The best member of the new crew, of course, is Keenser. I think we can all agree. He makes me laugh every time.
TM: Okay, so let’s talk podcast. What are your goals for it?
JH: Number one, I was really glad when we came up with the title. I just really want to interact with the fans. I don’t necessarily want the show to have a set structure where we know what we’re doing every week.
But in terms of the goal, it really is just to have a spot where if you’re a Star Trek fan, you’re doing the dishes, you’re in the car, if you’re on the subway, you want to listen to something about Star Trek that isn’t too slavishly nerdy. I want to make it approachable for someone who’s getting into it new. My dream would be that somebody who starts watching the show next January finds the show on iTunes and starts listening to it, and we’re analyzing episode three of the new show, but we make a reference to the Tholians, and we go off on a tangent about “The Tholian Web,” and how the Tholians worked into Enterprise, and how the Tholians were in that one really cool book that Dayton Ward wrote, they’re writing that down. That’s inspiring them to go back. And they’ve already got CBS All Access, because they’re watching the new show, they can just hit the button and watch the original series and we can help guide them. That’s the dream for them.
For fans that have already seen it all a hundred times, hearing somebody new talk about it hopefully is entertaining. And we try to make it funny.
TM: So what are your plans for new episodes?
JH: Next week we’re back in the studio. The new movie’s coming out soon, and a friend of mine, who’s a writer, we’ll do a deep dive piece about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, just because he’s like, “I haven’t watched this movie in a while.”
I’m going to be seeing the new movie next week, so the following day, we’re going to record and then hold until the movie comes out. I’m going to do a roundtable with some of my film critic friends, some of whom are hardcore nerds, like me, some of whom are not. But they’re pretty respected film critics. And we’re just going to talk about the movie as a movie.
We were going to have the editor from IDW publishing on, and then we had that thing with the fan films, with John Van Citters, so we had to put that on pause. The things that are happening in the comics now are really cool.
Knock wood, somebody cool from the new movie is going to come into the studio while they’re doing promotion, we’ll do an hour with that person.
In a couple of months, it’s going to be the 50th anniversary of “The Corbomite Maneuver,” which is the perfect episode, maybe we’ll do an entire episode just on “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
When the [new] show is actually on, that’s prime time for us. We’re going to be analyzing, scrutinizing, discussing each episode. What I want to have in my dream of it is hopefully I’ll be able to see the shows before they air, so that if the show is on at 9:00, at 10:00 (snaps fingers) we push a button, our show is already on iTunes.
And also, when the new show starts, although this hasn’t been formalized in any way, I would imagine that the people at CBS would recognize that we are a good spot to have talent from the show coming on. I would love a weekly call from Bryan Fuller! I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it would be great to contact him, it would be great to speak to the directors of the individual shows, the writers, and certainly the cast. And without promising too much, logic would dictate that the show would want us to do that.
TM: Who are some of your dream guests? Besides Bryan Fuller, which is a really great idea.
JH: Shatner in a good mood would be great. He’s terrific. I have been very lucky that I have met some of the people from Trek before. Not all of them, and we haven’t gone out for cocktails, but I have met them, and I can say that Ethan Phillips, Neelix, is the greatest person in the world, and I really want to have him on because I know he will be hilarious. Same with Bob Picardo, he’s really cool.
TM: Jonathan Frakes is lovely. I interviewed him, and he was amazing.
JH: And it would be great to have Jonathan and Marina on together, right? That would be really fun. I’d love to speak to Alexander Siddig. He’s a charming gent. But also the behind-the-scenes people, like the writers, you know? Bryan Fuller would be a really cool guest! He’s written some great episodes. And Joe Menosky also, he’s on the new writing staff. He’s got some great episodes under his belt.
I’m glad George Takei was kind of the first official Star Trek person we’ve had on the show. I’m sure that we’re going to have a lot more. We’re going to speak to a lot of people at the conventions, we’re going to snag them for a few minutes.
I met Jeri Ryan at the London convention. I was doing a lot of hosting duties, and for whatever reason, I ended up on the talent list, which I’m like, “No, I’m not the talent, I’m interviewing the talent.” So I did a lot of hanging out with the talent. And I didn’t want to intrude. You know, “Mr. Shatner sir, very good to see you, thank you,” you know, leave the guy alone. But people get bored, and they want to start chatting. And Jeri Ryan was just as bored as I was in that room. Chatty, and really fun.
Terry Farrell also is marvelous. Very funny, very smart.
I think Seven of Nine, by the way, is in some ways a misunderstood character because from an audience point of view, there’s a lot of comedy in that character. And she is really really funny, in her deep voice, and part of the comedy stems from the fact that she’s wearing a …
JH: (laughs) A kind of ridiculous outfit. It’s kind of absurd, it’s kind of like, “Oh, the ratings are good, but it could be better, let’s find the most zaftig blonde we can find and then we choke her to death in this costume.” But she sells it and obviously she’s very appealing to look at. And then the cast has to deal with that. And she’s saying these incredibly long lines of technobabble with kind of a sardonic, sarcastic voice. I’m a big fan of hers. So yes, I would love to have her on.
TM: And to have Bryan Fuller call you every week.
JH: I think it should be a thing: Ten Minutes With Bry, while he’s in the car, during the show, in those 13 weeks, if I could somehow convince him that just a quick phone call for ten minutes each week, just to check in with the guy, that would be pretty cool.
TM: So you record the podcast where? What’s the space like?
JH: It’s half the size of this room. It’s a division of a division of a division of CBS. If I go in there at ten, I go out and then somebody else goes on. There’s a wrestling podcast that’s in there that’s very popular, that goes in there every day, called “The Taz Show.” There are some rappers, I think that’s the #1 podcast they have. And there’s a reality TV star, and Michael Rappaport has a podcast. The company is called play.it and they’re a network of podcasts.
TM: And you have a little control panel with your sounds on it?
JH: I do.
TM: Have you labeled them yet? Do you know what you’re going to get? Because sometimes you seem surprised.
JH: Well, it’s funny. It’s like a big box. It’s like the size of an old Commodore 64 keyboard. And it’s the same machine that Taz, who does the wrestling show, uses. I haven’t met him, I don’t know much about him, but Taz has a zillion listeners. And he uses the board. So when he hits F5, it’s the sound of a bell or whatever, but there’s another channel on it. It’s kind of old school.
This is not designed by Apple, this is an old piece of junk. But it works. So Taz, because he’d been on the play.it network for quite some time and is very popular, the device has Taz’s things on it. So I can read bell, whistle, sound of a jet taking off. So when I do it, I have a little piece of paper that says F5 is Spock saying, “That is illogical.” So I have the box, and I have this paper here, and I’m trying to do two things at once, so that’s why I hit the wrong button sometimes. I’m trying to go easy on that device, and not use it quite so much, only when very necessary.
TM: So I know you’ve already ranked all the episodes. We don’t have to talk about those because you’ve already laid it all out.
JH: Needless to say, I disagree with myself. Whenever you make a list, the next day you think, “Who is this drunk guy who came up with this list?” But yes, I have made a list, and at the time, I put a lot of thought into it.
TM: So I’m going to ask you some other favorites. Favorite series?
JH: (deep breath) Okay. My favorite series is the original series. The BEST series is Deep Space 9.
TM: Now why Deep Space 9?
JH: Because of the Dominion War arc, and the depth of the characters, and the moral gray area, and just the thorough storytelling. It’s very rewarding and very rich. But when it’s twelve o’clock at night and my wife’s already gone to bed, and I just pick up the remote control and go to Netflix, I put on an episode of the original series.
TM: Favorite movie.
JH: Uh … I guess Star Trek IV. I guess. Personally, it really connected with me. Wrath of Khan is tremendous also, having just watched The Motion Picture last night, it’s fascinating, looks gorgeous. So they’re all great. I’m going to say my favorite one is Star Trek IV. I’m just going to say it. Done.
TM: Favorite captain.
JH: Picard. Picard is the best captain. He is the best leader. He is the greatest man to have ever lived.
TM: He is the person I emulate when I am running a team of people.
JH: Yeah. He’s brilliant. He’s intelligent, but when he needs to throw the hammer down, he’s great. He picks the best advisors, and when he doesn’t want to listen to them, he doesn’t. He has his passions, he has his interests, he is the best captain. And I love all the captains. I think second place is a tie between Kirk and Janeway.
TM: Oh good! Because my husband and I disagree about Janeway. He does not understand her, and I love her.
JH: She is an amazing leader who was able to fuse two warring parties, Maquis and Federation, and managed to get them to work together. She had a wonderful sense of humor, and I also care deeply for her. I want her to be happy. Maybe that is trace elements of male chauvinism on my part, but I care for her in a “hope she’s okay” way.
Same with Kira. I think about Kira a lot, like I have a deep personal connection to Major Kira. I just want her to be happy. She suffered so much. And I just want Major Kira to be okay. I get very emotional thinking about her. (laughs)
But my favorite captain is Picard. Come at me, world.
Read Part 2, which covers the moment Hoffman became a Star Trek fan, his thoughts on the new series, and more of his favorites (including favorite villain)!
Listen to Engage: The Official Podcast on iTunes
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Follow @jhoffman on Twitter