Comic-Con: 'Star Trek' Gets Political as It Celebrates 50 Years

star trek - comic con panel H 2016

The world of Star Trek may be centuries in the future, but the people behind it are concerned about the here and now.

Trekkies of all ages and species (Starfleet uniforms and Vulcan ears were everywhere you looked) piled into Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday to celebrate 50 years of the beloved sci-fi franchise — and the panel quickly turned political, as Trek stars compared creator Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of the future to the unrest and negativity we’re living through today.

Moderator Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies), who’s the showrunner of the new Star Trek TV series debuting on CBS All Access in January, set the tone by saying the franchise could serve as an antidote to the current political upheaval: “Think about what’s happening in America, and think about the promise of Star Trek, and what we can all do to get there.”

The Comic-Con panel featured a constellation of Trek all-stars, led by William Shatner (Captain Kirk in the original Trek series), Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn (Data and Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine from Voyager) and Scott Bakula (Captain Archer on Star Trek: Enterprise). And each of them took turns, at Fuller’s urging, to make a statement about what Star Trek can teach us about how we can coexist and explore the stars together.

Star Trek, in general, has been about individual rights, about respecting everyone, no matter who and what they are,” Spiner says. “We’re living in a world right now where that respect is being challenged. It’s disturbing. I think a lot of our politicians and a lot of our fellow citizens could take a page from Star Trek, and have more respect for humanity.”

Dorn played a Klingon, a war-like species who were the villains on the original Star Trek series, and then became allies in later incarnations. And Dorn thinks there’s a lesson there from Roddenberry to the rest of us: “He wanted to show that we had moved on, that the characters had evolved…. There were a lot of guys who didn’t like Klingons, still. But they learned a lot about each other.”

Bakula sees Star Trek as a beacon of hope, even at our lowest points: “I continue to be hopeful that, even when it gets dark, we as a species will figure things out.” And Shatner revealed deep concerns he has about the environment, saying he asked an ecologist: “Is it too late? Has the tipping point been reached?” But the ecologist told him about a Canadian river that had a badly depleted salmon population, but then bounced back the following year. “There are things and mysteries in nature that will surprise us,” Shatner concluded.

Fuller even ended the panel by asking all the fans in attendance to take each other’s hands and “make a promise to leave this room with love, to leave this room with hope, to leave this room and take responsibility to craft a path to Gene Roddenberry’s vision.”

The overall theme of love and inclusion even extended to the most passionate rivalry of all: Star Trek vs. Star Wars. When a fan in a Star Wars T-shirt came up to ask a question, the Trek panelists didn’t push him away, but instead welcomed him with open arms. As Ryan put it, “We can like both!”

The panel concluded with the reveal of the title and first look at the ship on Fuller's forthcoming CBS All Access Star Trek series. Click here for more info on that.

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