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Star Trek: Prodigy will explain the franchise to total newcomers

‘We wanted a bunch of new characters that knew nothing about Star Trek, just like our young audience’

A character from Star Trek: Prodigy in a frame featuring illustrated icons from New York City Graphic: Sonny Ross for Polygon

The holographic Captain Janeway who serves as a guide to the motley crew on Nickelodeon’s animated series Star Trek: Prodigy is so much more than an easter egg. Voiced by Kate Mulgrew, who is reprising the role she played as the lead of Star Trek Voyager, the character is also there to help usher in younger audiences less familiar with Star Trek. That’s the goal of Star Trek: Prodigy, according to the cast and crew who appeared at 2021 New York Comic Con and debuted the first episode along with some other first looks and details.

The characters may find themselves piloting a Federation ship, but they’re learning about the Federation from episode to episode. While Star Trek has delved into the animated space on more than one occasion, recently with Lower Decks, this is one of the first times that a Star Trek series has been specifically geared towards kids. “We have overlooked, in all of prescience, a very important demographic,” Mulgrew said of the Star Trek franchise. “Children, who in many ways are far more astute than their elders.”

In the pilot episode we meet our protagonist Dal (Brett Gray), a prisoner on a mining colony in the Delta Quadrant who’s always looking for an escape. Without giving too much away, he finds the abandoned USS Protostar and high tails it into deep space with a crew made up of new friends and old enemies. There’s the engineer, Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas); a minor miner named Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui); Dal’s former friend with whom he shares a kind of screwball comedy dynamic and budding antihero, Gwyn (Ella Purnell); a noncorporeal genderless telepath named Zero (Angus Imrie); and a blob named Murf voiced by none other than Dee Bradley Baker.

Dal and his crew may live in the Star Trek universe, but they don’t know the Prime Directive from the Kobayashi Maru. “We wanted a way in,” executive producer Kevin Hageman explained at the panel. “We wanted a bunch of new characters that knew nothing about Star Trek just like our young audience.” They meet Janeway via hologram at the end of the first episode. “We get to have so much fun taking our time and introducing everything we love about Star Trek.”

Kevin and his brother, Dan Hageman, also announced at the panel four upcoming guest stars that will appeal more to the adults in the audience: Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), Daveed Diggs (Hamilton), Jameela Jamil (The Good Place), as well as Robert Beltran as an animated version of Captain Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager.

But here’s nothing stopping older audience members from dropping in on Star Trek: Prodigy — especially if you’re new to the franchise and its breadth. “It’s not just for young people,” said Dan Hageman. “There are a lot of people out there who are curious about Star Trek but they may be intimidated. There’s a lot of Star Trek out there. Where do we start? How do we know the difference between a Romulan and a Vulcan? This is a show that’s going to help anyone. Not only a new generation but people are curious about Star Trek and want to jump in. This will guide ‘em right into the franchise.”

Mulgrew recounted during the panel that she herself was new to the Star Trek franchise when she first signed on to become the first female captain. “The philosophy behind [Star Trek: Prodigy] will reverberate in infinity,” said Mulgrew. “It is a wonderful idea that [Gene] Roddenberry had about the human spirit, about transcendence of all kinds of obstacles.”

Star Trek: Prodigy premieres Oct. 28 on Paramount+.

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