One of the more popular panels at Star Trek: Mission Chicago was for the upcoming series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. On hand were stars Anson Mount (Captain Pike), Rebecca Romijn (Number One), Ethan Peck (Spock), and Celia Rose Gooding (Uhura), along with executive producer and co-showrunner Henry Alonso Myers. The series debuts on May 5th, but they took time out of production on season two (where they’re currently shooting episode 6) to come to Chicago to preview the series. TrekMovie was there to capture the highlights.
An episodic show with lots of new aliens, time travel, and humor too
Henry Alonso Meyers explained that Strange New Worlds will be structured more like classic Star Trek series:
Henry: The show is episodic. Every episode is a new adventure, it’s a new planet, it’s a new genre. One of the wonderful things about Trek is that sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s horrific, sometimes it’s dramatic, and sometimes it’s sad. And we really try to hit that with each individual episode so that they really have a different feel – to the point where we even encourage our directors to really bring a different look to each episode so that you’ll feel it. The only thing we hold on to is we serialized some of the character stories so that if say someone were to—like in TOS—lose the love of their life one week, they’re not completely fine the next week.
He went on to say that the show will have many familiar elements, but they’ll be done differently:
I think we go on adventures that are very similar to but also uniquely different from the events that they went on at TOS and TNG. That means new worlds, that means time travel, that means sometimes there are superior beings that come in and do crazy things to us. That means all kinds of things.
Later he talked about how this is an opportunity to introduce new aliens:
We’re trying to be true to canon but also to introduce some interesting new creatures you’ve never seen before. We’ve been working with Legacy Effects to do a bunch of really cool prosthetic creatures as well as some CG stuff. You will be meeting new aliens. There’s new aliens almost every week.
When the moderator noted the trailers showed some of the humor of the show, Myers said, “We are blessed with an extremely funny cast.” He explained how they have tried to ensure the show includes some humor, but this is also part of Trek tradition:
Look, life is dramatic and it’s also funny. And we were trying to mirror that. Some of my favorite episodes from The Original Series and from TNG and from Deep Space Nine are the funny episodes. And we wanted to return to those sometimes.
A fresh take on the characters
Myers also talked about how the writers approach each of the characters, including those who appeared before in Star Trek canon:
We approach every character fresh. Every character is a real human being, and sometimes not a human being. And we try to start with who were they? Where did they come from? What do they want? They have to be imbued with a life. And so we try not to let the pressure of all the past kind into it, because if you do, then you just can’t live. You can’t actually be a person because Uhura has some real feelings that she goes through every day if she thinks about all the pressure of the history of that. That’s going to change who the character is. So we started with, who are they right now?
Anson Mount explained how his version of Captain Pike differs from the Jeffrey Hunter’s from “The Cage”:
I was aware of that performance, obviously. I was a Trek fan since I was eight. I knew there was a departure, but I have to go off in the material that’s in front of me because the script is king. What I said to myself was, ‘Jeffrey Hunter’s Pike was act one Pike. My Pike is act two Pike.’ Everybody changes, right? Hopefully I’ll get to take it all the way through act three Pike.
Rebecca Romijn noted how there were plenty of opportunities to develop Number One:
She didn’t have a name [in “The Cage”]. She was Number One. She was a she’s a blank slate as far as characters are concerned. She only had about 14 minutes of screen time. You only saw her doing the tasks at hand, so you don’t know anything about her character until now. So it’s been really fun for us to develop this character and get to know her. Yeah, it’s great, it’s a dream come true.
Celia Rose Gooding talked about how she saw some of herself in Uhura’s journey:
I did a lot of soul searching for Celia to figure out where she was in that life. Because a lot of Cadet Uhura’s life and Celia’s life sort of blend in different places. We’re both very young people in the industries that we work in, I’ll call Starfleet an industry for now. [laughs] But both are very young, both very excited to be a part of something. And the beauty about where Nyota is right now, she is figuring out what she wants to do. And she doesn’t know her future like we do… She’s just taking it all in day by day and that is something that I am also trying to do. And so I try not to jump the gun and think about, ‘Oh, well, we know 10, 20 years in the future, this is where she’s going to be.’ I try not to think about that. Because that’s not what’s on her mind. What’s on her mind is getting through today. And then figuring out each and every day as I am, as we all are as people.
Of all the canon characters on the show, Spock is the most developed. Ethan Peck talked about how he has studied Leonard Nimoy’s performance to make sure he gets it right:
I focused on Nimoy Spock, of course, because that’s our timeline. I myself, was a fan of the Kelvin movies, but I tend more towards Nimoy because that’s who I become. I spent a lot of time with The Original Series and with Leonard Nimoy. When I prep my work, I hear his voice ringing in my head. And I say, ‘Is that right?’ I hope that he’s with me as I do it. But at a certain point I stopped watching so that I can kind of find it for myself.
But there is more to explore in Strange New Worlds for Spock, as Peck explained:
I think there’s a lot more nuance to explore in this series. We see deeper into his personal life and into him which is such a privilege and terrifying as well, because we want to do it properly, do it correctly. But yeah, it’s been very exciting, and very challenging.
The Enterprise is a growing character too
There was a lot of talk about the production design. Myers and Mount both talked about the approach to updating the look from The Original Series:
Myers: For all of our craftspeople and incredible VFX artists and our designer and our costumers, the things that we would talk about were, ‘Alright, how would they do it in TOS? And how would they do it if TOS were today?’ Doing it with today’s sensibilities, today’s VFX, today’s money, today’s ideas. And that’s how we’ve been trying to approach it.
Mount: Just aesthetically, our production designer Jonathan Lee did an amazing job marrying the original mid-century modern aesthetic that you saw on the Original Series with the updated Enterprise. You still get that sense that you’re in the original 1701.
Myers: The craziest thing about that set is, we built a working starship… Every screen operates. Every screen you can touch works. It’s really stunning.
Rebecca chimed in (with Anson backing her up) to talk about how the Enterprise sets continue to expand:
Rebecca: The sets are gorgeous. Sometimes I just walk around and visit them and imagine that this is one cohesive ship. We’re spread out over several different stages, but it’s just their jaw-dropping. They’re so beautiful. And let’s not forget the Enterprise herself is a major character of this show. The Enterprise is sexy, and groovy, and fun. They just built a set last week that is so beautiful, I can’t say what it is.
Anson: That’s the other thing, it keeps growing. The other day Ethan and I walked into a set and we were like, ‘Woah!’ I can’t tell you what it is but we were like, ‘WOAH!’
AR Wall for alien worlds… and engineering
Like Star Trek: Discovery in season four, Strange New Worlds is using AR Wall technology where the actors can perform inside of a virtual set. The actors and showrunner talked about what this technology has brought to the show:
Celia: It’s incredible what they have this working on, especially stuff with the AR wall. That is the spectacle. That’s the thing that just blows my mind.
Anson: We have a stage where the walls are basically made of high definition screens. So when we go in, the CG environment is already done and we’re in that environment. And so it’s really just allowed us to blow open the scope of the planets that we’re going to. You’ll see.
Henry: Our artists spent a minimum of four months building all of those environments for the day that everyone arrives. The incredible thing about it is, you see it on a screen for months and months and months, and you get in there and it literally moves with you. I will spoil that is where engineering is set. And it has allowed us to create an engineering set that looks like no engineering set on Star Trek before. It’s really incredible.
Captain on the bridge
The panel started with a special surprise for the audience when Anson Mount introduced a clip of the first USS Enterprise bridge scene from the pilot episode. Snippets from this scene were featured in the various character promos released earlier this month, but this was the full scene, which starts off with Pike and Spock in the turbolift going over the bridge crew assignments, noting that Una (Number One) is absent, with Spock explaining “command believes I will best serve the mission as Chief Science Officer.” This leads to them entering the bridge with Pike saying he is going to have a “new number one,” as he meets Lt. La’an Noonien Singh who explains she has been assigned as acting first officer. He welcomes her aboard, saying she has “some pretty big boots to fill.” He tells Ortegas to lay in a course for their destination and then meets Cadet Uhura at communications, calling her “the prodigy.” The ship then exits the space dock and warps off.
After the scene played, Mount noted that fans shouldn’t start rumors on Twitter and that even though she is absent from the scene, “Rebecca is still on the show.”
More to come from Chicago
There is still more coverage from the convention, including reports from other Star Trek Universe panels. Stay tuned to TrekMovie in the coming days for more Star Trek: Mission Chicago. Click here for all our Mission Chicago coverage so far.