Time for Day 2 of Star Trek: Mission Chicago! I returned to the McCormack Place West Building. First up was going to the Main Stage Skyline Ballroom for the “Star Trek: Lower Decks Panel.” Everyone was given a raffle ticket that could be exchanged for an 11×17 mini-poster at the Merch booth after the panel. It was a wonderful panel, with the following stars introduced: creator Mike McMahan, Jerry O’Connell (“Commander Jack Ransom”), Noel Wells (“Ensign D’Vana Tendi”), Jack Quaid (“Ensign Brad Boimler” wearing a crazy purple hair piece like his character!) and Tawny Newsome (“Ensign Beckett Mariner”). They were all wearing the uniforms of their characters! Highlights:
- Everyone said it was their first “Star Trek” convention, and they showed a long clip from Season 3 Episode 2 featuring J. G. Hertzler that included the opening credits.
- The actors said they try to hang out together but are never together when recording lines for the show.
- Jack Quaid showed everyone the “Boimler spread” onstage, in real life!
- Both Noel and Tawny have singing talent, and Mike said he’d get those onto the show somehow. Tawny loves “Les Miserables,” and Jerry broke out signing “Jean Valjean.”
- Mike announced that “Season 3 rules.” No spoilers, but there’s a bat’leth game, some classic faces, interesting ships and a little bit about Boimler’s heritage in the first episode. He loves having week-to-week surprises but hates tidbits. Then he presented Jack with a “Tom Paris” plate!
- A fan asked who they’d each want to bring with them to a scary planet: Mike said “Data’s Day” Data; Jerry would bring his wife Una (Rebecca Romijn); Noel would bring Spock; and Jack would bring Dr. T’Ana. Tawny said she needs a “hater,” so she’d bring Kai Winn but also include Deep Roy because she’d kiss anyone cosplaying his Keenser character!
- It was time for some giveaways, so they shouted for anyone in the audience dressed as Ransom. Two guys hurried to the stage and got a cast-signed Tom Paris plate and painted Ransom 5-pound weights! Then they all started throwing Geordi teddy bears into the audience. One of the Ransom winners was the guy sitting in front of me, so I got a photo of him and his prize plate after the panel!
- A fan from Cerritos, CA, asked if Mike got the name of the ship from her city and noted the Cerritos Auto Square commercial. They all sang the jingle! Mike said he’s from Chicago but that Starfleet is so California. Maybe it’s the unseen city in Star Trek!
- Another fan wondered if we’d see the Tom Paris salamander children that we got a sneak peek of in Season 1 with “Anthony.” Mike said we will see them!
- When recording lines, Jerry said he looks at Mike’s face for how to deliver them! Tawny laughed, saying she wants to go to Mike’s face acting school. Jerry does like 58 takes per line! Tawny said her weirdest direction from Mike was to do it like an uncle! They record all of their lines before the episode is drawn.
- After writing the Season 1 “Veritas” episode, the fake trial episode, Mike said the execs were like, “what are you talking about?” Mike said the theme was having no context like catching a syndicated “Star Trek” episode in the middle!
- Mike closed the panel saying the world feels like a worse place if “Star Trek” isn’t in it. When we’re making the show, we know people who love “Star Trek” are watching it.
After this energetic and fun panel, the big announcement was that the next convention is Star Trek: Mission Seattle, coming May 26-28, 2023. Next, in a panel room I caught some of the “James Cromwell Spotlight” with the 82-year-old Academy Award-winner. He had the iconic role of Zefram Cochrane in “Star Trek: First Contact.” James was also in three episodes of “ST-TNG” and one episode of “ST-DS9,” often in full prosthetics. He said it took six hours, after getting a death mask made, then fitting this to his face completely enclosed and with contact lenses. It was sensory oppression. One good thing that happened was that when he was practicing jumping hay bales on his bike, he broke his collarbone; he was supposed to shoot the next day, but because of the prosthetic, they could put it on anyone, so someone else did his role! James said that make-up maestro Michael Westmore was brilliant and fun to watch, unique and wonderful. Around 1pm I had a photo opp with actor Anson Mount, “Captain Pike” in “Star Trek Discovery” and the upcoming “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” Anson did request plexiglass between himself and the fans because they are still filming “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” and he’s back on set Monday. I chatted with Annie Wersching next in the Celebrity Autograph Area, and she was so excited to be at her first “Star Trek” convention! She wore a green crown, as she’s the current “Borg Queen”! I told her third time was a charm because she’s the best Borg Queen, and I enjoyed her in “24” and “The Rookie,” too. I mentioned that her serial killer role on “The Rookie” must have prepared her for the Borg Queen, and she wondered why she’s constantly being cast as villains now! I returned to the Main Stage for the 2:30-3:15pm “Star Trek: Discovery Cast Panel” with Noah Averbach-Katz (“Ryn”), Anthony Rapp (“Stamets”), Ian Alexander (“Gray”), Kenneth Mitchell (“Kol”, “Aurellio”, “Tenavik”) in wheelchair, Mary Chieffo (“L’Rell”), David Ajala (“Cleveland Booker”) and Doug Jones (“Saru”). All attendees received 11×17 mini-posters, too. Highlights:
- Doug Jones was pleased when Stacey Abrams’ first words on set were “Doug Jones, you’re amazing!” He noted that Stacey did go to acting school.
- Ken, who suffers from ALS, has been in a wheelchair since 2019 and speaks similarly to Dr. Stephen Hawking, said that the guest star he wants to see on the show is Jeffrey Combs. Ken got to voice an alien on “Star Trek: Lower Decks.” His character Aurellio on “Star Trek Discovery” was created for him to be in a hoverchair due to his ALS. The custom wheelchair was created in props, and it was an honor for him to represent a disabled person.
- Ian said it is an honor to represent the trans community. They came out at 13 years old, and “it means everything for me and Blu to be on the show!” Ian told the crowd that they were born female and are taking testosterone now to transition to male but prefer to dress female.
- Mary said that Doug was an incredible help to her regarding prosthetics. She also needed a dialect coach for a month for speaking Klingon.
- Noah said the unifying message about prosthetics: you’re all f*cked!
- Doug said it is down to just two hours a day for make-up. The pieces are already created; it’s just a matter of fusing them to his head while in the chair. Doug admitted that he has fear and anxiety himself, so he relates to Saru. He was shocked when he first saw his “Kelpian hoof boots,” saying he was told that Lady Gaga wears shoes like that! At his first costume fitting, the plan was to make each character different, and he had a very watery, deer/antelope kind of character. With the boots on, he was told to push his hips forward and it’ll be easier. Doug demonstrated the Kelpian walk!
- Anthony said the writers are leaning into character growth and change thanks to season arcs. They have rich relationships to play off of each other. He and Wilson (“Dr. Culber”) enjoy being the queer, older statesmen and parents to Gray and Adira.
- Noah said that he is a Type 1 diabetic, and Anthony is directing a short film about T1 for the diabetic community.
- When a fan asked them about their auditions, Doug said he got a phone call saying, “Do you wanna do it?” Ian first auditioned for the role of Adira, and they were sweating because of the beginning of testosterone treatment. Ian thought they’d messed up so bad, but instead a new part was created for Ian because of their work on “The OA.” The original name of the character was “Grace,” but it was changed to “Gray.” Anthony said the role was just offered to him, like Doug.
- David ran into the audience to hug a fan who recently lost a best friend due to cancer.
- A fan asked what the impact of jumping so far into the future has been. Anthony offered that it is dealing with the loss of the past. Doug said Saru knew how to handle it, having said his goodbyes before on Kelpia.
- Finally, a fan asked about any fun moments on the set. Anthony said they had an impromptu fashion show, when they had a meeting with chairs lined up like a runway. Doug confessed during the scene where David hologramed in to have a moment with Michael Burnham to say he’s gonna go rogue, Saru is sitting there quiet in her quarters and after she turns it off, Doug farted out loud! When the director called “cut,” everyone busted up. “I never farted on my own set before, 36 years I made it!”
Day 2 of Star Trek: Mission Chicago continued in the Main Stage room for me, with the 4pm “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Panel” with Ethan Peck (“Spock”), Anson Mount (“Captain Pike”), Rebecca Romijn (“Una Chin-Riley”), Celia Rose Gooding (“Cadet Uhura”) and Executive Producer Henry Alonso Myers. Everyone received 11×17 mini-posters, too. Highlights:
- Anson began the panel saying that we were going to be the first people in the world to see the first bridge scene! And wow, was it thrilling! Every episode will be episodic, as in individual episodes, making it different from “Star Trek Discovery.” The only serialization is some character arcs. There will be a lot of humor in the new show, so get ready for it to start streaming on Paramount+ May 5th!
- Celia (pronounced “Sell-ee-ah”) said that Uhura is a little snarky but funny. When she got the part, she called her mom cause she’s a big Trekkie. Her mom told her you have no idea what you’re getting into!
- Rebecca announced she was thrilled to have a name! The name came from a novel. She just recently learned that the reason we have “Star Trek” today is because of Lucille Ball and Desilu Studios. And she said Lucille was the reason she herself went into acting! Her character had only 14 minutes of prior screen time, so she gets to build the character from scratch. She’s been a “Star Trek” fan since the age of 8, thanks to her mom. She lost her mom five years ago but noted her mother brought her to this moment. Rebecca said, “I walk around the set and say, Mom, look where I am!”
- Anson said that he was aware of Jeffrey Hunter’s “Captain Pike.” He has been a “Star Trek” fan since he was 8 years old. His mom instilled a sense of wonder and ethics in him. Anson does not go off script because “the material is king.” He views his Pike as “Act 2 Pike.” He hopes to go though “Act 3 Pike”! Pike loves horses, and he is on Earth when you see him on a horse.
- Ethan said he focused the most on Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock because that’s his timeline. But he does like the J. J. Abrams movies. Ethan teased Henry by starting to say, “There’s this upcoming great episode where…,” and Henry freaked out!
- “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” is post-Discovery but pre-TOS. There will be new worlds, time travel, superior beings, and the color scheme of TOS. Rebecca noted that the Enterprise is a sexy, beautiful character all her own.
- An Augmented Reality (AR) wall is being used for the series. It is the next level of environment-building. The stage walls portray the actual environment scene. The artists work four months building a single environment! The engineering set is in the AR wall stage, too.
- Anson said that their Production Designer Jonathan Lee did an exceptional job mirroring TOS and even built a working starship! Every screen is operational. Celia said it is a “candy shop for actors”! Rebecca noted that the PADDs are so heavy! She said that she and Celia wanted dresses as part of their costumes.
- They are still finishing Season 1, which has taken 3 years. They’ve shot 15 episodes so far, and episode 16 starts filming on Monday.
- Henry said that Gene Roddenberry was ahead of his time, so that is what they are trying to do today with having a non-binary character and a blind Chief Engineer, an Aenar named Hemmer. They are trying to be true to canon but will introduce new prosthetic aliens and CGI aliens every week!
- Ethan said he’s a fan of the “Star Trek” movies and science fiction in general. Recently, Jonathan Frakes texted him to say “your show is so good, I just saw it!”
- Rebecca noted that “Star Trek” is all about working together, so that’s what this cast does. Anson added that the first season was tough due to the pandemic lockdown. He said that Rebecca has twin daughters and really missed them while filming, but she did get to go home a couple of weeks early. Anson said he teased her by calling her once she was home to say they added another episode!
After this thoroughly entertaining panel, which had me in a “can’t wait for this show” mode, I ran into “Star Trek: Lower Decks” creator Mike McMahan in the hallway and couldn’t resist asking for a photo with him! Back in the Exhibit Hall I checked out the really cool “Star Trek: Picard Season 2” skull collection, seeing the following on display:
- Cardassian: Gul Dukat
- Ferengi: Grand Nagus Zek
- Klingon: General Martok
- Vulcan: Director Sarek
- Borg Sentinel: One of Two
- Saurian: Commodore Y’Shi
- Lihn Zhee: Chieftan M’Talas
I ended my Day 2 of Star Trek: Mission Chicago attending the 6pm panel “Designing Costumes with Bernadette Croft.” She had a fascinating slideshow of everything she and her team have been doing for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”! So now I am even more excited for this new “Star Trek” series!
By Bret Smith