The third animated Star Trek collection, Star Trek: Prodigy, has arrived! The third episode of the brand new collection, which is aimed to be palatable and interesting to youthful audiences, is obtainable for streaming on Paramount+ starting as we speak, Thursday, November 11th, 2021 (with the episode additionally airing on Nickelodeon, if that’s the place you favor to look at your animated Sci-Fi).
With some excellent animation and a well-considered philosophical place that integrates effectively with the present state of the Trek universe, Trek followers of all ages will need to contemplate testing Prodigy.
The Second Renaissance
After Star Trek: The Original Series was cancelled in 1969 after simply three seasons, the tv airwaves had been devastatingly devoid of latest Trek adventures for practically 20 years.
Fortunately, in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation arrived. Thanks to the success of TNG, it was adopted by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which started in 1993. And in 1995, the third pillar of Trek’s second Renaissance arrived: Star Trek: Voyager.
For many, that is thought-about to be a golden age of Trek, and with good cause: all three reveals stay examples of extremely affecting and clever serialized tv storytelling. But it’s essential to notice that one of many causes they every succeed so effectively is that they every take a markedly completely different method to their thematic material.
TNG represents the flagship collection, and reveals humanity as we could possibly be at our greatest. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) serves because the mannequin of a near-perfect chief, being each succesful and conscientious whereas remaining commanding and uncompromising. The D is a beacon of what humanity might accomplish if we might put apart petty issues and work collectively for the nice of everybody.
Meanwhile, underneath the command of the deeply emotionally wounded Commander Sisko (Avery Brooks), DS9 took the house station’s stationary spinning actually, and allowed for deep inside exploration of every member of the crew. This additionally served to show the philosophy of the Federation inwards, questioning the way it may be used to navigate tough ethical quandaries, resembling those who arose from the continuing (and more and more sophisticated) battle between the Bajorans and the Cardassians.
And VOY provided a distinct perspective on Starfleet as soon as once more, taking Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), who had a deep private dedication to the Federation’s philosophies, and seeing what occurred when she and her crew had been tossed over to the Delta Quadrant, a location seventy years faraway from Earth.
In some ways, Prodigy is a direct sequel to VOY. This could be seen within the setting (again to the Delta Quadrant) and even the aliens we meet (trace: consider the current expertise Robert Duncan McNeill‘s Tom Paris had on-board the Cerritos).
Obviously, the presence of Hologram Janeway goes a good distance in direction of explaining this connection… however the reasoning for utilizing Captain Janeway for this position (as a substitute of Picard, the Sisko, and even Sulu) could be seen all through VOY.
When Voyager was stranded within the Delta Quadrant, Janeway turned to the philosophies and pointers of the Federation in an effort to information her crew dwelling. Time and time once more, we noticed their Starfleet beliefs challenged by the wild and untamed components of the Delta Quadrant, and repeatedly, we noticed Janeway prevail.
This is clearly mirrored by the themes of Prodigy, albeit by way of a mirror: as a substitute of counting on the Federation’s philosophies in an effort to return to their dwelling, there’s a query of whether or not or not the “cadets” could make their solution to the (literal and metaphorical) territory of the Federation once they originate from exterior it.
Again, this calls to thoughts a number of subplots that happened over the course of VOY’s seven-season run. We repeatedly noticed Janeway combine people from exterior of Starfleet – generally even people who had by no means earlier than heard of Starfleet – into the fold.
Does Hologram Janeway truly consider the crew of youngsters who’ve laid declare to the Protostar are Starfleet Cadets? It probably doesn’t matter, as one in every of Janeway’s defining character traits is to convey outsiders into Starfleet.
Her propensity to convey extra folks into Starfleet could be glimpsed very early on in VOY, with one of many first examples being Neelix (Ethan Philips), the Talaxian who the crew met early on within the collection. Neelix went on to turned the ship’s Morale Officer and cooked for the crew for many of their journey to Earth.
We noticed it once more in a while within the collection when Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), who had been assimilated into the Borg, was built-in into VOY’s crew. Furthermore, due to Picard, we are able to see how this resolution – thought-about inadvisable on the time by Janeway’s second-in-command, Chakotay (Robert Beltran) – continues to have very far-reaching penalties within the bigger Trek narrative. It’s a robust ongoing demonstration of how one particular person’s kindness in direction of one other can echo throughout the generations.
Janeway even went to nice lengths to permit The Doctor (Robert Picardo) to self-actualize, listening and responding to his arguments about his personal sentience and ultimately allowing him to grow to be a full-fledged member of VOY’s crew. Significantly, it appears onerous to argue that there’s not a straight line between the in depth growth of The Doctor’s hologram matrix and the presence of Hologram Janeway on-board the Protostar.
But simply as Janeway is making first contact with these “cadets,” it’s clear Prodigy has making first contact with younger viewers in thoughts, as effectively.
Not solely does Hologram Janeway function a superb expositional software, permitting the younger cadets to function viewers surrogates and ask any urgent questions concerning the backstory and set-up, however every episode consists of introductions to the “classic genre elements” that make up a Trek story.
For instance, within the second episode, “Starstruck,” Janeway explains to Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) and Jankom Pog (Jason Mantazoukas) how the replicator features. This is a primary aspect of the bigger Trek universe (and one that I consider to be foundational)… and Prodigy manages to clarify the way it works to the uninitiated viewers in a pure and plausible method.
Another instance of this technique could be discovered within the third episode, “Dreamcatcher,” which opens with Dal (Brett Gray) recording his first Captain’s Log. If you weren’t conversant in the long-standing Trek conference of opening with a voice-over log earlier than this episode, you’ll higher perceive why you open with Picard or Burnham’s voice once you’re watching TNG or Discovery once you meet up with these reveals in a while.
All of those heady issues are effectively and good, however an essential query stays for an animated present geared at youthful audiences: is it pleasurable to look at?
The reply is a convincing sure. In addition to the aforementioned Protostar crewmembers, there’s additionally Zero (Angus Imrie), the at present antagonistic Gwynala (Ella Purnell), and the irresistibly lovely blob, Murf (the always-incredible Dee Bradley Baker). Each of the cadets are attention-grabbing and interesting characters. They will shortly both make you snigger or elicit sympathy (or extra probably, each). Meanwhile, John Noble and Jimmi Simpson function efficient antagonists.
The present seems attractive, with improbable space-bound settings, unbelievable colour, and a ship that nearly rivals the Cerritos by way of awesomeness (I stated nearly – I don’t suppose the Protostar has a Cetacean Ops). And talking of Lower Decks, similar to that animated collection, Prodigy is dedicated to bringing in as a lot of the bigger Trek lore as attainable, with loads of references to the whole lot from Trek prose novels to deep cuts from episodes of TOS crammed into the primary few episodes.
Prodigy additionally sounds superb: with a theme by Michael Giacchino and a collection rating composed by Nami Melumad, the soundtrack is one other strong sonic entry into Trek‘s musical parthenon.
Although it’s clear the Protostar’s journey is just in its most nascent levels – we’ve but to see how promised visitor stars like Beltran, Jason Alexander, and Daveed Diggs will play into this season’s story – the animated collection is already dwelling as much as its title.
Fortunately, a second season of Prodigy has already been confirmed, so we are able to sit up for getting the possibility to see this charismatic crew absolutely fleshed out because the collection continues.
The Third Renaissance
Are we coming into a Third Renaissance for Trek? It actually seems that manner. Each of the present, ongoing reveals – Disco, Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and shortly, Strange New Worlds – occupies its personal distinct nook of the Trek universe. Furthermore, just like the three reveals that served because the pillars of Trek’s Second Renaissance, every of those new reveals approaches the thematic issues on the coronary heart of the franchise from a distinct perspective.
For some, this will likely imply that sure reveals are way more interesting than others. But the very best half about Trek’s Third Renaissance is that there appears to be no menace of any single method changing into the dominant storytelling technique: the franchise appears dedicated to the philosophy of infinite variety in infinite mixtures.
For that cause, Trek’s future is trying vibrant.
New episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy air on Nickelodeon and are made obtainable for streaming on Paramount+ on Thursdays.