With the approaching Star Trek very much on our mind at the moment - check out next issue of the mag - we revealed on Wednesday that the Family Guy team were planning an episode with The Next Generation crew . We love a bit of Family Guy, so when executive producer David Goodman chatted about it with journalists at a conference earlier this week, we were happy to grab the Q and A highlights to share...
Why do an episode with The Next Generation cast right now? Is it because of the forthcoming film?
Goodman: That was actually the intention. Actually, you could ask last week why did we do a Back to the Future reference when the movie is 30 years old! Seth and I are huge fans of Star Trek and we realize that although there had been plenty of television that brought back the cast of the original series (in fact I wrote one of them for Futurama, "Where No Fan Has Gone Before"), nobody had really reunited the Next Generation cast. Next Generation was a hugely popular show in its day, I think they got 10 million or 12 million a week - I think we only get like 8 million, so it was a popular show! Our stock and trade is our own memories of shows we watched when we were younger.
You guys did the Star Wars-themed Blue Harvest, and now Star Trek. Is there any talk of doing something about Terminator?
Goodman: We've done occasional Terminator gags. But, no; our big movie things coming are The Empire Strikes Back. Eventually down the road, just gone into production, is Return of the Jedi. So we're doing all three of the Star Wars films and then we occasionally do other movie parodies within the course of an episode.
The title of the episode is apparently "All Dogs Go To Heaven." Do does Brian have a particularly large role in this episode?
Goodman: There are two stories going on in the episode. One story involves Meg and Brian. Meg finds God and she finds religion and is giving Brian a hard time for his atheism. So that's one story. When we developed that story, we sort of saw that Stewie didn't have a big role to play in that story, so we then also developed a story to go with it. And the two stories tie together at the beginning when the family goes to the Star Trek convention and Stewie doesn't get question answered, so he finds the plans for a transporter and beams the cast into his room.
But the other story that's going on is Meg and Brian, and it's them finding religion and it's a subject we've done before in different ways, but this one has a new twist on it. We were struck by the fact that in America atheism is considered worse by some people than Muslim extremism so that was an interesting subject for us, we thought. And we've always said Brian is an atheist, so it seemed natural.
What's your favourite scene in the whole episode?
Goodman: The one that I'm in! I'm a huge Star Trek fan, so the artists do a version of me and then I voice the character dressed as a Star Trek fan (some might say geek), asking a question at the convention. And then I have a little bit of a run-in later with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes...
When the Star Trek actors provide their voices, do they come over as themselves or as their familiar on-screen characters?
Goodman: They're playing themselves. All the characters are playing themselves. Although I will say that they were all very game. We had fun playing with who they really are, and that Stewie discovers what it's like to hang out with them. It's a different Family Guy twist on your expectations, so I'm very pleased with the surprises in the episode in terms of the journey that Stewie takes with these people.
How hard or easy was it to get the cast all to sign on and to beam aboard for this thing?
Goodman: They were wonderful. Many of them had already done the show. Patrick Stewart is in the family, he does a recurring role on American Dad, and he's been on Family Guy more than one once. Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn had already done the show. And the rest, Denise Cosby and Gates McFadden and Wil Wheaton were very game. They were fans of the show. Wil, when he came and did his voice, stayed for hours talking to the artists. It was not hard at all and they couldn't have been nicer or more game to spoof themselves and have fun with this episode. We had a great time working with them. They were terrific.
Did they come in separately and record or did you have them all in a room at the same time recording with the rest of the regulars?
Goodman: Just given people's schedules and given how animation works, you almost never have people in at the same time. I think people were in on the same day. But their schedules were scattered and so we were amenable to working around their schedules.
Most of them came in separately. I think Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby came in around the same time and got some pictures taken. I think actually we recorded Patrick Stewart remotely - he was in London when he recorded his role. I was there for many of them and they were delightful. It was fun hanging around with.
Denise Crosby, it turns out, lives a block away from me, so I see her in the neighborhood now all the time. Before this, I knew who she was. She didn't know who I was. Now she knows who I am. I was just a geek staring at her across the street...!
Sci-fi inspires such incredible devotion among its fan base and yet it seems to be so open for mockery. Why is that do you think?
Goodman: I think it's easy to mock things that take themselves too seriously. Star Trek, it's both wonderful and pompous at the same time. I really am a die-hard Trekkie, but there are moments in Star Trek where it takes itself very seriously. Star Trek projects a positive theme of the future and it's always easy to make fun of something that takes itself seriously. And also… any kind of show where you have somebody in makeup playing an alien, that's going to be easy to make fun of, even if it's done perfectly.
This episode of Family Guy airs this Sunday 29 March in the US a 9pm on FOX. The second part of this interview will be available on the SFX site tomorrow.