Family Guy‘s executive producer David Goodman is no stranger to deep space – he served as a consulting producer on Star Trek: Enterprise, and of course has previously sent the Griffin clan to a plot twist far, far away via a Star Wars spoof in which Stewie’s affinity for the dark side lent itself a little too well to Vader’s villainy. That’s in addition to the dozens or so of fleeting sci-fi-centric gags within any given FG episode.
In Sunday’s episode, “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation encounters the wrath of Stewie after the tiny tyrant is snubbed at a Trek convention. Goodman fielded questions from the press about the star-studded episode, plus discussed what other upcoming spoofs, both obvious (like completion of the Star Wars triology) and obscure (say, Tootsie) are in the works for the Griffin gang.
What’s your favorite scene in the whole episode?
D. 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.
Is there a best line of dialogue in it?
D. Goodman: Best line of dialogue? 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.
You’re here to talk about the Trekkie episode, but can you say anything about the Bones crossover episode? Because we’re dying for that one, too.
D. Goodman: Well, the Bones crossover episode is Bones – that’s their episode. I think you’d probably have to talk to Hart and Steve Nathan over there. But we were really thrilled that they wanted to do something with us. It’s a fun couple of scenes, and I’m not giving away their secrets, but you should get them on the phone. We were really thrilled to do it and I think it’s a fun scene that we did with them.
Why do an episode with The Next Generation cast now? Is it sort of a tie-in to the film or no?
D. 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…..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, and I think we only get like 8 million, so it was a popular show. We make references to—we’re not necessarily going to reference the most current [shows], although we do that. Our stock and trade is our own memories of shows we watched when we were younger.
You guys did Blue Harvest and now you did Star Trek. Is there any talk of doing something about Terminator?
D. Goodman: We’ve done occasional Terminator gags. We got one, I think, coming up. Our big movie things coming [is] The Empire Strikes Back. Eventually down the road, that [has] 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 movie parodies within the course of an episode. We have a episode that’s very reminiscent of Tootsie coming up next year, but no plans at the moment to do the Terminator.
Can you do some more Facts of Life references?
D. Goodman: Sure. It’s a favorite show of Seth’s and I think eventually you’ll be seeing some more Facts of Life coverage. Although we’ve done two or three at least, right?
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The title is “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” Does Brian have a particularly large role in this episode?
D. Goodman: There’s 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.
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. And we’ve always said Brian is an atheist, so it seemed a natural.
When the Star Trek, the Next Generation actors’ voice on the show, do they come over more as themselves or as their characters on Star Trek?
D. Goodman: They’re playing themselves. All the characters are playing themselves. Although I will say that we definitely— they were all very game. We had fun playing with who they really are, and 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.
What is it about science fiction that, on the one hand, inspires such incredible devotion among its fan base and yet, seems to be so open for mockery? What is it about sci-fi that makes it so easy to mock?
D. Goodman: I think it’s easy to mock things that take themselves too seriously. I think again, 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. And so I can’t answer the first question. If I could, I’d be a lot more successful than I am. And in fact, any kind of science fiction 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.
Any chance of a Battlestar Galactica episode in the future?
D. Goodman: I don’t know if we’d do a whole episode, but there may be a gag.
How hard or easy was it to get the cast all to sign on and to beam aboard for this thing?
D. Goodman: They were wonderful. Many of them had already done the show. 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.
Did you get to interact with anybody? Were you there for each person as they came in?
D. Goodman: I was there for many of them, and they were delightful. 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.
If you to had name one of your favorite characters on the show, who would it be?
D. Goodman: I don’t know that I have a favorite character. I think they all are at different times, they all make me laugh and that really is a function of how talented the writers are, and Seth is, and the actors who voice them. I honestly don’t have a favorite character. They’re all great and fun to write and fun to watch. I’m a huge fan of this show as well, which makes coming to work a joy.
As a Trekkie fan, were there any jokes, like maybe a Tasha Yar joke or a Jordi joke that you as a writer had to or wanted to tell?
D. 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, 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.
What’s the argument?
D. Goodman: I’m going to sound like a real Star Trek fan. In the episode, “Relics” in Star Trek Next Generation, the character of Scotty is pulled out of suspended animation and he says, “Did Captain Kirk come to pick me up?” And then we find out after the Next Generation ended that Captain Kirk died and Scotty was there. So why in that episode did he think Captain Kirk was going to pick him up if he saw him die later? And, of course, the answer is just from a production standpoint, that they hadn’t made the movie yet and made that decision. But there is actually a possible explanation, which I offer in the guise of a cartoon character. So I was very pleased to do that!
The “All Dogs Go To Heaven” episode of Family Guy airs this Sunday, March 29th at 9 p.m. on FOX. In the interim, enjoy your past Family Guy faves right here on Fancast!