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William Shatner, Brent Spiner and more celebrate the legacy of ‘Star Trek’ during 50th anniversary panel at Comic-Con

William Shatner, from left, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn and Jeri Ryan attend the "Star Trek" panel on day 3 of Comic-Con International on July 23 in San Diego.
(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“Who was your favorite captain?” When this question was posed by a Comic-Con attendee to the members of the The 50th anniversary “Star Trek” panel — with Capt. James Tiberius Kirk himself seated at the head of the table onstage in Hall H — there was only one way for the panelists to answer.

One among multiple celebrations around the seminal series, the panel brought together representatives from all five iterations of the television show: William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Brent Spiner (the android Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), Michael Dorn (the Klingon Worf from “The Next Generation,” and also holding it down for “Deep Space Nine”), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine from “Star Trek: Voyager”) and Scott Bakula (Capt. Jonathan Archer from “Star Trek: Enterprise”).

“Is anyone legitimately not going to say Kirk,” asked Ryan with a laugh when the favorite captain question emerged. To which Shatner retorted, “I can’t imagine that either.”

Shatner was the belle of the ball, but all of the actors spoke fondly of their time on their respective shows and living in the “Trek” world created by Gene Roddenberry.

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Moderator by Bryan Fuller, executive producer of the upcoming series “Star Trek: Discovery” coming to CBS All Access in 2017, placed great emphasis on Roddenberry’s original humanist, inclusive vision for the show.

The panelists talked at length about examining that vision through the prism of current events. “I think ‘Star Trek’ in general has been about individual rights and about respecting everyone no matter who or what they are,” said Spiner. “And we’re living in a world right now where that sort of respect is being challenged, not just all over the world, but in our country too, and it’s disturbing. And I think a lot of our politicians and a lot of our fellow citizens could take a page from ‘Star Trek’ at this point and have a bit more respect.” (In what ended up being a very socially conscious discussion, hunger, pet adoption, ecological concerns also came up.)

There were also lighter moments, including both Dorn and Spiner doing spot-on impressions of Patrick Stewart as Capt. Picard. The panelists weighed in on their favorite species — Andorians and Ferengis were popular — but Shatner chose tribbles. (The trouble they cause notwithstanding.) Shatner also did a little flirting with one superfan who ended up saying “You may do with me what you will, Mr. Shatner.” And when some in the crowd began murmuring when they spotted a questioner’s “Star Wars” T-shirt and he insisted you could like both franchises, the panelists reminded the crowd about the inclusive vision.

Fuller also asked a question many fans have asked: “If we were to undo Kirk’s death, wouldn’t it be wonderful to continue telling stories about Capt. Kirk with you in that role,” asked Fuller. “Hell, yes!” answered Shatner.

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Prompted by Shatner, Fuller fielded a question about what the new series would bring to the legacy of the franchise. “I think what the new series has to do is remind the audience about the message of ‘Star Trek’ … to continue to be progressive, push boundaries and continue telling stories in the legacy that Gene Roddenberry promised, which is giving us hope for a future,” he said.

At the conclusion of the panel, Fuller shared a brief sneak peek at “Star Trek: Discovery” coming in 2017. He then asked the crowd to join hands and pledge to work toward a future that resembled Roddenberry’s ideals. He closed by asking for a moment of silence for Leonard Nimoy, Anton Yelchin and other members of the “Trek” family who have passed on to the “great beyond.”

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