Star Trek and Aliens cast members try to launch nostalgic space trip at Comic Con

Panels hint at new material thats still relevant Star Trek continues to push boundaries, to tell stories in the way Gene Roddenberry promised

Saturdays Hall H programming at San Diego Comic-Con was a curious mix of looking forward and casting an eye backwards.

The Warner Bros and Marvel panels took the convention by storm, with bombastic panels previewing forward-looking cinematic slates. Justice League, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Spider-Man and the rest all have quite a few months (or years) before theyre released.

Mixed in with those bold snippets of big-budget tentpole features were two panels dedicated to brands that exist mostly through the hazy glance of nostalgia: Star Trek and Aliens, two franchises celebrating anniversaries their respective studios hope will continue to translate into the social media era.

The Star Trek panel, hosted by Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Bryan Fuller, presented representatives from the previous five Star Trek TV series: William Shatner for the original, Brent Spiner for The Next Generation, Michael Dorn for Deep Space Nine, Jeri Ryan for Voyager, and Scott Bakula for Enterprise. The ostensible topic was the 50 years of Star Trek and the continued relevance of Gene Roddenberrys hopeful vision for the future of humanity.

Two hundred and fifty years into the future, think about where we are today, think about where we are as America, and think about the promise of Star Trek and what we can do to get there, Fuller said.

Much of the panel was focused on his idea of what Star Trek can mean to a world consumed by conflict a noble cause, but one that made for a peculiar event. Comic-Con audience members are often more concerned with revealed secrets and special footage than they are with philosophy.

The reserved nature of the crowd didnt stop the group advocating for social justice and a renewed focus on tolerance, the guiding principle of Star Trek for half a century.

The time is coming to figure [our problems] out. We need to figure it out, Shatner said. The original Captain Kirk was especially passionate about his desire for our planet to overcome the many obstacles environmental, social, and political that consume us. Star Trek has always been a liberal, inclusive voice in entertainment.

Pressed for details on the new series, which premieres in January 2017, Fuller said: [It] has to continue to be progressive, to push boundaries, to tell stories in the way Gene Roddenberry promised.

The big reveal of the title and the name of the spaceship, Discovery, ended up being the highlight of the panel. The vessel bears a rather uncanny resemblance to an unused design from the mind of Ralph McQuarrie for the aborted first Star Trek feature, Star Trek: Planet of Titans. Reusing that design is an interesting choice, especially for a project that is being promoted as projecting a fresh future. But that is the line classic franchises must walk in this modern age new content, with a taste of the familiar.

The writer and director James Cameron, from left, the producer Gale Anne Hurd, and the actors Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and Paul Reiser attend the Aliens: 30th Anniversary event on Saturday. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
The 30th anniversary panel for Aliens aimed for a similar note. The main cast and creative team for the seminal sci-fi/horror film assembled to pay homage to one of the great works of the genre, with the director James Cameron, the producer Gale Anne Hurd and the stars
Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henrikson, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser and Carrie Hein in attendance. Hein, who played the young orphan Newt, is now a fourth-grade teacher, and had some of the more fascinating anecdotes. In particular, she related a story about going back to her hotel covered in alien slime and being mistaken for a Dickensian street urchin during Christmas in England.

Again, the Hall H crowd hoped for some new material. Its common knowledge among the geek set that Ridley Scott is filming the prequel Alien: Covenant. Sadly, no footage was shown, though Weaver teased the potential Aliens sequel to be written and directed by District 9s Neill Blomkamp, whom she worked with on the film Chappie.

That whole first day [on Chappie] we started talking about it. Four months later, I got a script. It gives fans everything theyre looking for, Weaver said of the in-development project. He has work to do, I have work to do. Im hoping when we finish those jobs, well circle back.

As pleasing as it can be to reminisce about the films and TV shows of the past, there is an appetite for further stories in both universes. Some stories never die; they just get renewed and refreshed for the present.

In the case of Star Trek, that story has never been more necessary. Toward the end of the panel, Fuller requested the audience turn to the person next to them and take their hand.

Lets make a promise to everyone in this room. Look at each other and leave this room with love, he said.

Everyone did as he asked, because if there is one thing that defines the Star Trek fan, its their belief in the inherent goodness of the human race and their undying optimism that even as we gratify the years behind us, we never forget that the great project given to us by Gene Roddenberry was one defined by a never-ending passion for making the world better each and every day that we have on this planet.

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