There were a lot of announcements about the Paramount+ Star Trek Universe TV shows during Monday’s First Contact Day event. In between the new trailers and official press releases, there were lots of panels featuring the stars and creatives from Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Prodigy, where the panelists revealed even more about the upcoming seasons for their shows. After watching all the panels closely, we have put together a list of the highlights.
Picard season 2 has something never seen before on TNG… also maybe time travel
The virtual First Contact Day event kicked off with Sir Patrick Stewart talking to host Wil Wheaton about the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Picard. The actor tried to avoid spoilers, but in doing so said something intriguing that could indicate time travel will be a part of the new season:
“I wish I could sit here and blurt out all the new storylines, and situations, and times that you are going to be seeing in this second season.”
Stewart also promised something new:
Despite 178 episodes of The Next Generation and four feature films, there are events coming up in season two that have never been seen before. And I am excited just as the thought of putting it on camera. It’s so far very, VERY satisfying.”
Q’s arrival comes at a critical moment for Picard
The big news out of the opening panel of the day was the release of the Star Trek: Picard teaser trailer and the revelation that John de Lancie will be reprising his role as Q in season two. During the panel discussion, Patrick Stewart gave a bit more detail on Q’s appearance:
“Q’s arrival is – as it often was – utterly unexpected, but also comes at a shattering moment in the episode. And I do mean a shattering moment. Whether it is connected to Q or not, I am not actually quite sure, but there is significant trauma. And in fact at the moment I am working on working on how the trauma of this moment hangs around Picard for quite a substantial part of the episode. And then, there he is.”
No repeat of the Picard facepalm for Q this time
After crashing the panel, John de Lancie promised Sir Patrick, “I am here to make your life as annoying as possible.” He told host Wil Wheaton that getting back into character isn’t difficult, saying, “He is deliciously naughty… marvelously annoying… terribly self-involved, so as my wife says, ‘It’s not much of a stretch!’” de Lancie also recalled the famous moment in the TNG episode “Deja Q” when Q arrives and Picard puts his face in his hand, launching the iconic facepalm meme. Indicating that they have yet to film their scene, Stewart replied:
“I promise you John, that will not be repeated this time. But there will be a reaction.”
Picard’s Borg assimilation will come up again in season 2
Later during the Star Trek: First Contact 25th anniversary panel the subject of Picard’s past assimilation by the Borg came up. Wil Wheaton asked Stewart about revisiting that trauma on Picard, prompting an exchange between Stewart and Jonathan Frakes indicating an upcoming episode potentially directed by Frakes will pick up this storyline:
Stewart: “There is a lot of reference of Picard as a Borg character [in Picard], and there is enough evidence in that to show he is still profoundly disturbed by that experience. So [to Frakes] Johnny. we might find some way that we could to introduce these elements again into Picard.”
Frakes: “That is exactly what was spinning in my head as you were suggesting it. Because one of the great successes of the first season of Picard—one of the great moments—was the moment you shared with Jeri, with Seven of Nine [in “Stardust City Rag,” directed by Frakes], about your shared experience with the Borg. It was brief, but it was so powerful and pithy and loaded for both of you.
Discovery uniforms were changed in season 4 for better contrast
One of the most noticeable changes spotted in the Star Trek: Discovery season four teaser trailer released yesterday was the new 32nd-century Starfleet uniforms. They were very similar in design to the Starfleet uniforms seen in season three, which were mainly grey with a stripe of color for each division (command, ops, science, medical). We saw the Discovery crew adopt these uniforms in the final moments of season three.
In season four, the uniforms are the same style, but now the division color is prominent, with a dark grey stripe. Costume designer Gersha Phillips participated in a panel before the trailer was released, so without spoiling the change, she revealed the issue that sparked the change:
“Designing for the 32nd century is something. It’s been an interesting experience. We’ve captured something that feels more futuristic and a little sleeker and luckily for us, the sets work really well with what we have done right, especially the Federation HQ set. The Discovery ship is a little more challenging because we end up finding out our uniforms matched the walls, so that is a little more of an interesting journey.” [laughs]
One of the Prodigy aliens ties into TOS
Even though it was announced two years ago, there have been few details on the CG-animated kids show Star Trek: Prodigy. On First Contact Day, co-creator Kevin Hageman gave the most detailed synopsis yet:
“Star Trek: Prodigy is all about this motley crew of aliens who know nothing about the Federation. And after they come across and commander this mysterious lost Starfleet ship they have to figure things out really quickly as they learn to work together while navigating the greater universe in search of a greater future.”
His brother Dan confirmed the series is set in the Delta Quadrant in the year 2383, and teased that the series will tie into Trek canon:
“It’s a story about a bunch of new characters voyaging into the Trek universe. Are there going to be tie-ins to canon? Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of really fun surprises.”
And regarding the alien crew (first revealed in February), Kevin offered up another clue:
“Not all of them are canon species, but we can hint that one of them has a tie-in to The Original Series.”
Kate Mulgrew got hologram Janeway’s beauty toned down on Prodigy
One of the big Prodigy reveals was the confirmation of the theory Kate Mulgrew’s Janeway will be a hologram. Dan and Kevin offered some more detail on how this crew discovers the hologram Janeway:
Dan: “This crew has never heard of Starfleet… they discover something on the ship that will not only guide them as they navigate the greater galaxy, but it will also be a representative to the shared values that the Federation holds dear.”
Kevin: “And this something isn’t a captain, per se, or even an admiral, but Janeway, the ship’s built-in Emergency Training Hologram, designed to assist maybe a wayward crew that may have strayed too far off course.”
We also got our first look at the Janeway hologram. According to Kate Mulgrew, the character initially needed some tweaking:
“When the Hagemans insisted on making her so beautiful I said, ‘I think you have to modify her beauty.’ It just can’t be that [much]. We had this argument that went on for months. And then I said, ‘let’s just modify the chin,’ and they did. We talked a little bit about her face, her hair—which has a little bit of a mythology of its own, and her being. But they are terrifically generous. It was collaborative and it was fun. Everything about this has been fun!”
The “heart” of Lower Decks characters is improvisation
Traditionally, Star Trek shows are known for keeping very strictly to the script during production. However, during a panel on humor in Star Trek, Lower Decks creator and showrunner Mike McMahan revealed takes a different approach:
“We highly encourage [improvisation]. There is some stuff nobody wants to improvise on which is the technical jargon that makes it feel like Star Trek… But at the same time, we usually get a couple of takes as written, and then we get even more takes improvised takes than scripted takes. I think the first person we cast was Tawny Newsome and she is an amazing improviser. We instantly knew this is a show where we are going to adjust the show to fit their performances. We are going to let the heart of the characters be coming from what’s getting the actors excited.”
Lower Decks season 2 seeks new balance with references to past Trek
Mike McMahan also discussed how he has developed the second season differently:
“First season was very much like we have to prove that we belong here and that love the thing that you love and we are going making fun of Star Trek. We actually love it… Once people got used to that, for second season, the balance was: how much of our show is reflective on past Star Trek and how much will be new Star Trek? When you find that balance… I say the word “balance” more than anything else these days.
Mike McMahan has a story pitch for Wesley
Mike McMahan’s first attempt at writing for Star Trek was his very popular @tng_s8 account on Twitter, where he posted short funny story concepts from his imagined 8th season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. On request from panel moderator Wil Wheaton, Mike pitched a Wesley story for TNG S8:
“In TNG season 8, Wesley—first off, we have to get you back from The Traveler. So maybe we find a beefier Traveler to go find your Traveler’s ass to bring you back. A bit of a Reverse Traveler. Once are back on the ship people would be pretty upset there hadn’t been enough nanobot incidents recently. When Wes was on the ship there were a lot nanobots getting out. It was almost like bedbugs, you couldn’t get away from them. So your TNG Season 8 would be along the lines of: In order to try to get back to The Traveler, Wesley repeatedly “accidentally” unleashes a series of increasing in size nanobots until they are just regular bots, to try to turn back into energy and get back to Traveler business.
Wheaton said he was “100 percent into that,” adding it was “now canonical” in his head. Maybe we will see this storyline play out on Lower Decks.
New VFX tool lets Trek actors see the strange new world they are on
One of the new tools the visual effects team behind the Star Trek Universe added in 2021 was an AR Wall, technology used to create realistic virtual sets on stage with the actors. This new tech is now part of the production for both Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, both of which are shot in Toronto, Canada. Visual Effects Supervisor Jason Zimmerman talked about how it is changing the way they produce the shows:
“It’s a 270-degree stage made up of LED panels that display an image. And that image can be whatever we want. It leverages game engine technology. It has cameras and sensors, which basically allow us to put fully immersive 3-D environments on this stage so that it appears as if our actors or our action is taking place in a faraway place. It’s really, really helpful in that rather than shooting something on a blue screen where you put it in later, it allows for the actors to see where they are. They see what planet they’re at. The lighting for the [directors of photography] allows the light to actually bounce off of the actors. So the integration of it and the way it looks physically is really good because you’re actually shooting it through real lenses at the time.”
Designers and showrunners are inspired by (and hiring) cosplayers
During a panel on what it takes to make Star Trek, Lead Creature Designer Neville Page talked about collaborating with Makeup Department Head James MacKinnon about ensuring his designs are practical to actually make. This led to a conversation about how this also helps out cosplayers, with MacKinnon saying, “It’s expensive stuff and cosplayers go through a lot of it. I am impressed with what they can recreate… you guys are innovative.” Page responded, “I keep an eye on cosplay more now than ever because I am learning things.” He then suggested to Costume Designer Gersha Phillips that she should start hiring cosplayers, to which she replied, “We do, we do, actually.”
The subject of cosplay came up again during the Prodigy panel, where Kevin Hageman talked about how he didn’t expect it to happen so soon:
There are some already doing cosplay in one of our new characters already. For us we have done a few different projects in the past where we have had cosplay, but [Prodigy] is not even out yet. No one even knows what it is. And to start seeing his cosplay makes our hearts burst.
Watch all the First Contact Day panels
Paramount+ has uploaded all the panels and clips from First Contact Day as a YouTube playlist. You can watch them all below.
Find more news and analysis about the Star Trek Universe TV shows at TrekMovie.com.