Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner discuss their return to the Star Trek franchise at Birmingham's Destination Star Trek
The frosty Halloween season is not just a time when pumpkins and premature fireworks light up the night in the West Midlands; it’s also a time when science fiction fans dust off their Star Trek uniforms and get their butts down to the NEC for Destination Star Trek Birmingham, one of the largest three-day conventions in Europe.
Last year Baz Greenland provided extensive coverage of the opening day of the convention, which was celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This year we’re looking back at the past and towards the future with Amazon Prime’s brand new series Star Trek: Picard just a few months away from airing, and with stars Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart attending the second day of the 2019 convention, we just had to get our butts down to the NEC to report on their exclusive fan panel discussions.
Now, we’d love to drop some serious breaking exclusives on news about the new show, but the fans were warned that “CBS snipers” were in attendance ready to take down any guest that reveals anything more substantial than a basic morsel on what to expect. So with your expectations lowered, here’s what we gleaned from the convention...
The first talker of the day was the legendary Patrick Stewart, who obviously had to be very careful what to say, given his role was by far the most extensive of the upcoming show. He was in fine form at the convention, regaling the crowd with anecdotes on how he got into acting and then into Star Trek, and then how he was roped into Picard before playing a brief trailer for the new show. When the lights came back on he talked a little about his time on the new show and how impressed he was with his supporting cast, most of whom are complete newcomers to the world of Star Trek.
When asked how it felt reuniting Picard with Riker after more than a decade he expressed the ease with which they settled back into things and how familiar it was with Jonathan Frakes behind the camera for two episodes of the show. Stewart did reveal that Riker is only going to appear in one episode of the first season, but it will be a pretty Riker-centric episode. When further pressed on whether more Star Trek: The Next Generation alumni will be appearing beyond the trio of Riker/Troi/Data feratured in the trailers, he told the crowd to expect more faces from his old show. One face we probably won’t be seeing though is Beverly Crusher, with Stewart stating that it would be great if they could get her on the show in the future. When asked about the lingering “did they/didn’t they?” debate over Picard and Crusher’s possible past dalliances, he said he always considered them as very close friends.
Other comments made by Stewart at the show suggested that Data’s involvement in the show might be minimal; he’s at the centre of the entire storyline but he referred to the various Data appearances during the season as “relatively brief”.Other comments by Stewart touched on his relatively recent discovery that Captain Picard is actually 12yrs older than Stewart’s actual age, making him 91yrs old at the start of the new show. When asked about his involvement in the creative process of the show, he revealed that he did sit in on some of the writer’s room sessions, but he wasn’t nearly qualified enough to take significant part when award-winning writers like Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon were in the room.
Later in the day, Brent Spiner took to the stage for a rather brief and highly entertaining panel that was largely just a personal audience Q+A session, so he spent significantly less time on Star Trek: Picard than he did amusing the crowd with his Patrick Stewart impressions and comic interplay.
He was asked whether there was any extensive CGI applied to de-age his face in the upcoming show and he responded that there was actually very little. He explained that his appearance wasn’t a high priority when finished the trailer in the rush to get it ready for New York Comic-Con, and so it was left deliberately unfinished and he should look a little better in the finished show, but their goal was only to make him look just a little older than how he did in Star Trek: Nemesis because Data actually has an aging program built in that can externally age him.
Fan questions were mostly focused on his career and inspirations: How did he feel about playing The Joker (loved it), how did he feel about The Orville adopting an Android science officer (Never seen it, but hears it’s great and he’s friends with Macfarlane) and what where his thoughts on Data becoming a source of inspiration for Autistic viewers (deeply honoured by it).
Overall both these acting legends lived up to their top billing as speakers on the day, they were both generous with their time and extremely entertaining as raconteurs. It’s almost as if they’ve been doing this for decades! Hopefully we’ll see them return at future Birmingham events.