Fun fact: did you know that in 825 episodes and 13 films of Star Trek, the only individual to play themself was Cambridge’s own Stephen Hawking? It was (The Next Generation Season Six, Episode 26, ‘Decent part One’).
I bring that up because Star Trek is full of fascinating tidbits. For instance, in its over half-century-long run, there has never been an animated show for children.
Well, there was Star Trek: The Animated Series in the 1970s. It’s debatable whether that is a true kid’s show and the animation quality is, well it has its ups and downs. Also in all its episodes, it arguably produced one great one (‘Yesteryear’ which is recommended here: https://www.robot-republic.com/post/star-trek-s-shining-lights along with one or two episodes from each chapter of the Star Trek franchise). Although sadly in that show’s case, I would think it has limited appeal to audiences today if they didn’t grow up with it.
In late 2021, magic struck. The animated arm of Star Trek once again flexed its muscles. This time the result was Star Trek: Prodigy. Starring Brett Gray and Ella Purnell (not to mention Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek: Voyager continuing her role but this time as hologram Janeway). It is a Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) made show, distinguishing it from fellow Animated current spin-off Star Trek: Lower Decks. Additionally, while Lower Decks has its tongue planted so far in its cheek that it can taste the wallpaper, Prodigy metaphorically wears its status as a children’s show on its sleeve.
The CGI will never give the work of Industrial Light and Magic a sleepless night (that could be due to a major motion picture having a slightly bigger budget than a series on Nickelodeon) but it is much more than simply adequate. The characters are all well realised (and unlike the live-action shows, aliens actually look alien rather than some bloke wearing a prosthetic) and the same for the vistas. Janeway looks as photo-realistic as she did in Star Trek: Voyager. I often find the eyes on CGI characters let the side down somewhat, but here they were as convincing as the rest of each character. You’ll probably forget the CGI nature of the show by the time of episode two in a binge.
Speaking of the CGI of the show, the opening credits are something to behold. I don’t know if they were created completely separately to the episodes, but I urge you that when this show hits streaming platforms, you’ll get the option to skip the intro, in one word: don’t. Trust me, you’re in for a real treat.
Speaking merely as a Trekkie, it makes sense that a kid’s show will be fronted by a cast of kid characters (and Kathryn Janeway who is admittedly an adult. And definitely a role model). But don’t think the episodes are basically old episodes reduced for kids. Good grief, that’s not the case.
I had initial apprehension going in to see its UK Premiere at Destination Star Trek 2021. I thought ‘well, I’ll watch but it is not made with me in mind, I probably will let others do the judging’. I was so very wrong. The show manages to walk the line where it doesn’t talk down to kids, it does at times make the whole ethos of the Star Trek franchise (‘Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations’) into smaller and more bite-size chunks. But sacrifices exactly none of this behemoth franchise’s overall message.
An astounding feat to be sure. In its mere ten-episode first season, I’d say it gives us a good snap-shot of Star Trek since 1966, no mean feat. It is already confirmed to us that while season one has concluded with (I’m not saying in case of spoilers. I urge you to see it) that it will get a follow-up season (https://www.robot-republic.com/post/star-trek-is-55-years-and-is-entering-it-s-prime-again).
For older Trekkies like me, there are like in Lower Decks, just a myriad of references to previous Star Trek shows (and some current ones) which owes a lot no doubt to the fact the sky’s the limit in terms of the budget when it comes to Animated shows (well, realistically there is a financial budget, but it is so freeing to not have to physically build anything to create a show). Also seeing actors from the series; run for 1966 - 1999 was ultimately just an early Valentine’s Day gift for me and I bet not only will it be too for other long time Trekkies, but also serve as a lovely introduction to the other shows for new fans boarding with this show.
My biggest worry right now with all Star Trek shows is it will compete with 4 other shows to vey for. Survival in a very crowded Trek market, and especially in a time where there have never been so many methods for entertainment at our very fingertips (my personal preference being playing Kabbadi). For my dollar, they are complementing rather than competing Star Trek shows. They have broad similarities yes, but dramas, adult comedy and kid’s animation and come May 5th, a ‘planet of the week’ format show in Strange New Worlds.
What we have in Prodigy is an ‘on ramp’ for kids to get into the long-running franchise. One which will be happily watched by adults too. A very welcome addition and some would say, much needed one to the overall great cannon.
In the criminally underrated Star Trek Enterprise, first officer T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) states that a fundamental tenet for the Vulcan people is to challenge your preconceptions before they challenge you. I freely admit I pre-judged what my reception to this show would be. I’m so glad those preconceptions were challenged. I will metaphorically beg you to do the same.
I for one, hope Prodigy will boldly go where no one has ever gone before.
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