• Michael Ruscoe

If Star Trek is our future, then we're in good hands

The franchise's ComicCon@Home panels envision "new life and new civilization" for humanity

No Comic Con would be complete without Star Trek, so it should come as no surprise that a series of Star Trek panels would be among the strongest and most talked-about presentations on the ComicCon@Home lineup.

And while these panels had their share of news (Star Trek: Prodigy is coming!), fun (the awesome Star Trek: Discovery table read and the Star Trek: Lower Decks clip), and time to visit with old friends (don’t we all wish that we had relationships as loving as those between the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast?), those may not have been the best things to come out of the Trek session. The absolute best things to come from the Star Trek panels might have been the passion and devotion the creators of modern Trek have towards the franchise’s central theme: a message of a better future for a more enlightened humankind.

“What’s great when you’re working on genre is that you often get to say things about current events and mask them so that they don’t feel like medicine, or your feel like you’re being taught something,” said Discovery executive producer Heather Kadin. “And I think in the case of Star Trek, thematically, that’s just been baked into what Star Trek is. It’s about a better hope, about equality, about gender equality, racial equality, sexual equality. That’s what it is.”

And in the history of the franchise, there may have never been a more dire need for that hope than today. Sir Patrick Stewart acknowledged that need when talking about his experience on Star Trek: Picard. “Thanks to our brilliant team of writers, (the series is set in) a very different world, a very complex world, a profoundly troubled world, which might just be appropriate for the times we’re living in, as well.”

“Star Trek, of course, is fiction,” said Anthony Rapp, who play Star Trek: Discovery’s Paul Stamets, one half of the franchise’s first openly gay recurring couples. “It’s science fiction, but it’s always meant to imagine a future and a world in which people are valued for who they are, the content of their character, and not the color of their skin, not their gender, not their gender expression, not their age. And in this explosive time, it seems more relevant than ever.

“Star Trek helps shine a light on all of those issues,” Rapp said. “Not by shining a light all the time, but it’s just the fabric of it, and that by itself is leading the way.”

“I think what I’m grateful for is the fact that Star Trek has always been this aspiration for our society, and for our country. It’s always set a goal, and it’s been our job not only to imagine that future, but to create it,” said Wilson Cruz, who plays Dr. Hugh Culburt, Stamets’s partner. “So I think going into Season Three, we have an opportunity to have a conversation about the world we want to create, and how each of us has a responsibility to create it together.

“I’m grateful for the history that Star Trek has created in terms of giving us a future to aspire to,” Cruz said.

“Acceptance. Inclusion. The understanding of how valuable life is,” was what Michelle Hurd (Star Trek Picard’s Raffi Musiker), would like to bring from the Star Trek world to the real world.

“Can we all look out for our brothers and sisters?” she said. “Can we all just take a moment and understand that our differences are actually our strengths? It’s what makes us a strong species, that we have all these different thoughts, these different looks, these different ways of handling ourselves in the world when we’re walking down the street.”

“I’m so thankful that I’m part of an organization that gets it,” Hurd said. “We always talk about Star Trek holding a mirror up to society. Perhaps society needs to look at us and begin replicating what we’re doing, because we’re trying to tell the stories to heal.”

“That tradition is just part of our DNA,” said Michelle Yeoh (Phillipa Georgiou of Star Trek: Discovery). “And we just have to continue to strive together for what we believe in and for what’s right. We know what is right or wrong, and we have to do it together.”

As he did recently on Twitter, Jonathan Frakes went back to the original vision of Star Trek’s creator to highlight the franchise’s philosophical foundation. “Gene Roddenberry said that in the 23rd century, there’d be no sexism and no racism, and no hunger and no greed,” Frakes said. “And every child would know how to read,”

To that end, Star Trek’s creators are using a very 21st century tool to help spread the message: the #StarTrekUnited campaign. The initiative helps bring attention to groups that are striving for racial equality.

#StarTrekUnited is an effort to bring awareness to many of the organizations that are critical right now, such as Black Lives Matter and the NAACP,” said Alex Kurtzman, producer for Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, and the upcoming Prodigy and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. “The goal is not really to promote Star Trek, but to promote these organizations, and to use our platform to be able to bring greater awareness to these very, very important messages and place.

“Star Trek, really since its inception, has always endeavored to speak to the vision that we (the cast and crew) are all fortunate enough to live in every day,” said Kurtzman. “A perfect world where everybody really is united, and a lot of the differences that are dividing us these days are gone.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not the vision that the rest of the world is living in,” he said.

It may have been Sonequa Martin-Green, Star Trek Discovery’s Michael Burnham, who spoke most passionately about Star Trek’s message and the ongoing mission of the franchise’s casts and crews. “We stand by the truth that Black Lives Matter,” she said. “This moment and this movement will be forever remembered, and change is now.

“A story like (Star Trek), one that can give us an example of what that future can look like—I think, or at least I hope, it can really hold us accountable,” she said. “And it shows us that the work is not done, and that it’s about confronting ourselves and confronting each other. And we see all of that in this story, and within the legacy of this franchise.

“That’s really what’s going to propel us forward,” Martin-Green said. “Confronting ourselves truthfully, and confronting each other. Exposing ourselves in a way that we haven’t before. I hope that we contribute to the moment in that way.”

Michael Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery will explore the future starting October 15 on CBS All Access.

BLACK LIVES MATTER. Click here for ways to donate to and support the cause.

Photos property of their copyright holder, ViacomCBS

This article also appears on SuperheroRoundup.com.

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