Beam Me Up Stewie: Star Trek: TNG Cast Guests on Family Guy

Beam Me Up Stewie

Watching any given episode of Family Guy is akin to pigging out on a smorgasbord of pop culture treats. The show’s dedicated fans know that nothing is sacred when it comes to Seth MacFarland and his writers as they skewer everything from the recent Christian Bale on-set meltdown to the entire George Lucas oeuvre. You always hurt the ones you love and there’s nothing funnier to the Family Guy crew than to tease the hell out of the properties they love most. So after the success of their Blue Harvest one-hour special which lovingly lampooned Star Wars: A New Hope, fans have been asking what’s next.

The answer is here with the March 29th special episode “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven” which reunites (by way of animation) the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast for some unexpected hijinks. Family Guy executive producer and writer David Goodman, an avowed Trek fan, says this convergence of Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Denise Cosby, Gates McFadden and Wil Wheaton was a sci-fi nerd’s dream come true.

Goodman recently talked with Newsarama and some other press to talk about tackling the sacred Trek cow with their particular brand of comedy.

Newsarama: So David why do an episode with The Next Generation cast now? Is it a tie-in to the film or no?

Goodman: Actually, you could ask last week why did we do a Back to the Future reference when the movie is 30 years old. I think we’re fans, especially Seth and I are huge fans of Star Trek and we realize that although there had been plenty of episodic 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,” where we reunited the original cast. But Seth and I realized that nobody had really reunited the Next Generation cast and many of them had already appeared on our show. 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. And our stock and trade is our own memories of shows we watched when we were younger.

NRAMA: What’s the story that brings the cast back together 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 to get his question answered, so he finds plans for a transporter and beams the cast into his room.

NRAMA: Do the Next Generation actors’ come over more as themselves or as their characters on Star Trek?

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.

NRAMA: How hard or easy was it to get the cast all to sign on and to beam aboard for this?

Goodman: They were wonderful. Many of them had already done the show. I think we had, Patrick Stewart is in the family in a way, he does a recurring role on American Dad, and he’s been on Family Guy more than one once. We had 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.

NRAMA: Were any of them worried about any of the dialogue you wanted them to do or were they all open to whatever you handed them?

Goodman: They all were very open — I don’t think we were particularly cruel to anybody. It was sort of a lighthearted jesting about them and they as a group could not have had a better sense of humor, which you don’t always find with actors. A lot of actors don’t like to play themselves, don’t like to spoof themselves, but this group is just the opposite. They were all just terrific.

NRAMA: Did you get all of the actors to come in to record at one time?

Goodman: A few of them 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 with them. But everybody else, I think actually we recorded Patrick Stewart remotely. He was in London when he recorded his role.

NRAMA: As a Trek fan, did you get over to the recording sessions to meet them all?

Goodman: I was there for many of them and they were delightful. It was fun hanging around with – and 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 [laughs].

NRAMA: What’s your favorite scene in the episode?

Goodman: I think probably my favorite scene is 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, some might say fan, some might say geek, and asking a question at the convention. And then I have a little bit of a run-in later with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes, so that’s probably my favorite scene.

NRAMA: As a Trekker, were there any jokes, like maybe a Tasha Yar joke or a Geordie joke that you were dying to do in this script?

Goodman: Well, there is a Tasha Yar joke in the episode. It’s pretty obvious from the minute she opens her mouth. And Denise was very game about it and anybody who is familiar with the series will get it right away. Anybody who’s not, it just plays as a joke on its own. And then for me, in fact, the scene that I’m in, it was the second scene that my character is in, I am pontificating about a piece of Star Trek, I’m having an argument with another Star Trek fan about a piece of what they call Star Trek cannon. And the argument is actually a real argument that Star Trek fans have, so I was very pleased with that.

NRAMA: With the success of this is there a sequel planned? Did they all seem amenable that if you had another idea that that all liked, that they would do it again? Or are you guys thinking let’s not repeat ourselves with this one?

Goodman: We repeat ourselves when it’s funny, so if the response to this episode is good, we absolutely would bring them back. We enjoyed working with them, but it would really depend on finding an idea that doesn’t just repeat the same story over again.

NRAMA: Family Guy is known for its killer jokes, so is there a particular line in this episode that raises the bar?

Goodman: Actually to me the best line of dialogue in the whole episode is what Stewie says to the cast at the end of the episode, and I’m not going to give it away, but his attitude towards the cast, he didn’t get to ask his question at the Star Trek conventions, so he kidnaps all of them and he has a little bit of journey with them. His final words to them, I think, are very funny, but I’m not going to give them away.


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