Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Nickelodeon’s ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Aims to Introduce Franchise to a Younger Audience

The Star Trek franchise is among the most venerable of all 20th century entertainment properties. Having already birthed nine TV series and 13 feature films since its initially short-lived debut run in the 1960s, the thinking person’s space opera has mapped out the furthest reaches of the galaxy and all points in between. But now, it is prepared to boldly breach a demographic that it has not specifically attempted to tap before: kids.

Driven by showrunners Kevin Hageman and Dan Hageman, as well as director Ben Hibon, Nickelodeon’s animated Star Trek: Prodigy will introduce a fresh cast of protagonists, as well as animated versions of legacy characters, in particular the Star Trek: Voyager fan favorite Kathryn Janeway, voiced by returning actor Kate Mulgrew. Star Trek: Prodigy will first roll out on Paramount+ later this month, before heading into Nickelodeon’s regular programming.

Centered around an entirely non-human primary cast of characters, Prodigy features the voices of Ella Purnell, Jason Mantzoukas, Brett Gray, Rylee Alazraqui and Dee Bradley Baker as a band of young misfits who stumble upon an abandoned Starfleet ship and take off into the final frontier, learning how to function as a proper crew along the way.

This will certainly not be Star Trek’s maiden voyage into animation; most recently, Star Trek: Lower Decks launched on CBS All Access in 2020, and Filmation produced Star Trek: The Animated Series in the mid-1970s. It will, however, be the first to specifically target a younger audience, and the Hagemans were circumspect about making the new show kid-friendly without losing the heady appeal of the original series.

“It was just about the perspective [of the characters], which kind of stems from our own fears about doing a Star Trek show,” Dan Hageman told Variety. Hageman, who, along with his brother, has written for everything from The Lego Movie to Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia. “I would think, ‘I could never write what they say on the bridge, these characters have all been through Starfleet, they’re the best of the best.’ So the very first thing was, what if we just take kids who don’t know any of this? You give them a ship, and they learn about the ship, they learn about the procedures. It felt like a totally new way into Star Trek that would be relatable.”

The brothers trace their own love of Star Trek back to the original set of films, particularly The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, and look to the epic sweep of those films as a model for their own serialized storylines.

“You look at the entire Trek universe, all the series and films, and those two have some of the most emotional moments,” says Kevin Hageman. “They take big story swings, and those are the types of stories we like to tell: very cinematic stories that have both brains and heart.”

Per Nickelodeon president of animation Ramsey Naito, “I was never skeptical” that Prodigy could manage to appeal to both young newcomers and adult fans of the series, crediting director Hibon for “bringing a visual style and a level of sophistication to the show that exceeded all expectations.”

“It’s an aspirational show,” she continues. “Nickelodeon’s core audience is 6 to 11, but the show’s serialized storytelling and character relationships are so sophisticated, the stakes are high, and it really stretches to the older end of our audience.”

Originally published: October 13, 2021.

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