While Star Trek certainly has its share of young fans, it’s never been specifically for the kids. Sure, there was the animated show back in the ‘70s, but that was basically a continuation of the original 1966 series. The newest program, Prodigy, is designed with kids in mind — especially those who might know nothing about Star Trek.
Though the show won’t show up on Paramount+ until the end of the month, fans got a sneak peek at the first episode, “Lost & Found,” during this past weekend’s New York Comic Con. It introduces to our core cast of characters, a diverse group of aliens trapped on a distant mining colony and forced to dig in search of a mysterious prize. It’s a pretty grim scenario for a kid’s show, but one that won’t stick for long — this is Star Trek, after all, and part of the franchise’s ethos is exploration.
To keep the series as newbie-friendly as possible, the connections to the wider Trek universe are kept to a minimum. We don’t even know what species our protagonist, Dal, is. The rest of the cast is filled out by aliens that are either new to us or haven’t gotten a lot of screen time in the past. And the Federation is largely unknown here. Not that it isn’t mentioned a few times, but that our group of former prisoners have no idea what that means. Long-time fans will be excited to watch them learn all about it, while new fans will get to take that journey of discovery with them.
It’s that sense of wonder that will keep the show firmly in tone with the franchise, even as its new setting and animation style evoke prior science fiction programs like Star Wars: Rebels and Farscape. Star Wars: Rebels was also intended as a kid’s show, but its role in filling in details about the rise of the Rebel Alliance and sense of pathos also made it an enjoyable watch for adults. While older Trekkies will probably want to keep up with Prodigy for those ties to the greater continuity, the action sequences are solid and the initial plot line is serious enough to keep newcomer adults engaged. It’s a good introduction to the franchise for both kids and grownups alike, something sorely needed when there’s over 800 episodes to trawl through.
Prodigy is computer-animated by Eye Animation Productions, part of CBS Television Studios. According to Nickelodeon and Paramount Animation president Ramsey Naito, CG was chosen for being the “most immersive approach,” and that director Ben Hibon’s vision for it had a lot of soul. The show adopts a blocky angular style similar to Rebels but the edges are smoother and the color palette is more expansive. Even when things are grim, it’s still a visual treat in terms of how things are shaded. The planet is a full spectrum of browns and reds, while space isn’t just black and white; it’s purple and blue and pink with an array of glittering stars. It’s a cinematic place you want to explore.
And, of course, our tool for exploration is the USS Protostar, a lost Starfleet vessel that the characters unearth in their digging. What exactly is the ship, and how did it end up on this depressing mining colony? Those are questions for the long haul. Some may however be answered by the vessel’s “help desk,” a hologram of Kathryn Janeway. She doesn’t have a huge part to play in the series premiere, which is good because it means she can’t draw attention away from the introduction of the main cast. Paramount+ did, at least, release a short clip starring Janeway to quench your thirst for the coffee-swilling captain.
During the New York Comic Con panel executive producers Dan and Kevin Hageman did share a few casting announcements. Voyager fans will be pleased to hear that Robert Beltran will be reprising Chakotay. It’s unknown if he’ll appear in the flesh or as another hologram, but we do know that he’s been promoted to captain in the time since his last appearance. Kids will probably be more excited by some of the other guest voices, like Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs as Tysess and The Good Place’s Jameela Jamil as Ascensia. These additional announcements also feel like a tip of the hat to Voyager fans, a show that saw its share of guest stars like The Rock. Prodigy will even bring back Jason Alexander, an actor who also appeared on Voyager, but will now appear in the new role of Doctor Noum.
There’s a lot about the show to be excited about, and what’s been revealed about Prodigy thus far is extremely promising. But as a middle-aged and long-time Star Trek fan, what got me the most in this premiere was when you get to see the Protostar finally fly. Its ascent from the planet was thrilling, but watching the characters react to seeing the stars for the first time… I might have shed a few tears. Star Trek is about exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations. Now we get to watch a whole new cast, one that had previously been abused and downtrodden, live out that dream. Even if we’ve left the confines of the Federation, the show’s heart is still firmly in place with its past.