For today’s Trek Tuesday entry, Geek Girl Authority focuses on a Star Trek series whose future is currently in question: Star Trek: Prodigy. In myriad ways, the all-ages animated series goes where no Trek has gone before.
Star Trek: Prodigy
One of the ways that Prodigy broke new ground for the Franchise was to be geared toward all ages. While everyone can enjoy Prodigy, it is specifically designed to be welcoming to younger viewers. To this end, the episodes were released on both Nickelodeon and Paramount+. Younger fans who have yet to be introduced to Trek will find plenty to enjoy in Prodigy. The earliest episodes of the series, like the two-part pilot, “Lost & Found,” are geared towards the broadest audience possible. This means it’s easy to get into the story, even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Trek before.
However, as Prodigy Season 1 continues, the crew of the USS Protostar under Captain Dal R’el (Brett Gray) moves closer to Starfleet — literally and figuratively. As the Protostar crew literally worked out how to reach Starfleet, Prodigy teaches viewers “how to watch Star Trek,” exploring the established conventions of Trek. This could constitute dull exposition. But the fact that Prodigy is about characters who have yet to be initiated into Starfleet affords the narrative a natural method of dispensing information.
For example, in Prodigy Season 1 Episode 4, “Dreamcatcher,” the Protostar crew learns what the classification “Class M planet” entails. This is a key building block for understanding the larger Trek narrative. The crews of any Trek series will encounter Class M planets. However, on other Star Trek shows, it is presumed that the crew members know what the designation means. But Prodigy teaches audiences, and that can be applied to other Trek shows. In other words, Prodigy gives new audience members (of all ages) the tools and language they need to get the most enjoyment out of the Franchise as a whole.
Something for the Whole Crew
However, it isn’t just younger or uninitiated Trekkies who will find something to enjoy in Prodigy. Even the most entrenched Trekkies will be enchanted by Prodigy. In part, this is simply because of the perspective of the Protostar crew. As children who have never heard of Starfleet at the opening of the series, the Protostar crew brings a unique vantage point when it comes to their perception of the Federation. This fresh frame of reference allows those of us who have been watching Trek for decades to see the Franchise through a brand-new lens.
Furthermore, the new characters who make up the cast of Prodigy are extremely charming. By the conclusion of Prodigy Season 1, the viewer will have been won over by Dal, Gwyn (Ella Purnell), Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), Zero (Angus Imrie), Murf (Dee Bradley Baker), and Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas). This is in part thanks to the fact that each character has a compelling connection to Trek canon.
But it’s also just because the characters are extremely well-written and engaging. This is also true of the antagonists, Dreadnok (Jimmi Simpson) and The Diviner (John Noble). And eventually, we meet interesting Starfleet officers like Doctor Noum (Jason Alexander), Commander Tysess (Daveed Diggs), and “Ensign Asencia” (Jameela Jamil).
Trekkies Take Note
In addition to being an excellent entry point, Prodigy is also a continuation of Star Trek: Voyager.
On Prodigy, Trekkies get both a hologram of Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the original Janeway, now a Vice Admiral. For Trekkies who were fully brought into the Franchise by Voyager (like yours truly), this is especially exciting. And it isn’t just Janeway: other important Voyager storylines, like the evolution of hologram sentience and that whole thing with the USS Dauntless, are continued in Prodigy as well.
However, there are plenty of other connections to earlier shows beyond Voyager. These include the presence of Admiral Jellico (Ronny Cox) and the outrageous Okona (Billy Campbell), both from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Furthermore, the series involves many of the most significant ongoing Franchise-wide subplots and themes. These include the legality of genetic augments and the importance of radical inclusion.
DVD, Blu-ray and Digital
There was some significant news regarding Prodigy Season 1 announced during San Diego Comic-Con 2022. Just one very long month ago, Prodigy Season 1 was removed from Paramount+. Devoted Trekkies who had already purchased the episodes on physical media still had some Prodigy to enjoy. However, the second half of the season had yet to be made available for purchase.
Fortunately, as announced during the Star Trek Animation Celebration panel, the DVD and Blu-ray sets for the second half of Prodigy Season 1 are on the way. Episodes 11 – 20 will be released on September 26, 2023, in the United States. Trekkies in the United Kingdom will be able to purchase the set on September 25, 2023, and Trekkies in Germany can get it on October 5, 2023. Just like Prodigy Season 1 Part 1, this set will include bonus features. Furthermore, early purchasers can get their hands on a set that includes fun character cards. Plus, as of September 21, 2023, the episodes are also available for purchase digitally.
Purchasing any of these sets (or buying the episodes digitally) can help demonstrate the viability of Prodigy as an ongoing property. Plus, there’s the possibility the episodes are again removed from whatever streaming service they end up at next. With the physical sets, devoted Trekkies can ensure they’ll still be able to enjoy the episodes regardless of digital shenanigans.
While Trek shows viewers a “no-money socialist utopia,” the shows are produced by a studio that is a product of our current late-capitalist system. In order to be able to afford to make the series under the current circumstances, Trek must not only function as a window into our possible post-capitalist world. However, it must also function within the system as it stands. To put it another way, it must also be a profitable product for Paramount.
In the Star Trek: Lower Decks episode “Mugato, Gumato,” the Franchise’s other ongoing animated series examines this intrinsic contradiction. Over the course of the episode, Ensigns Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Corder0) convince a group of throwback Ferengi they can earn more money by sustaining the lives of Mugato that they might otherwise kill and sell. No one involved is completely happy with the arrangement. However, as stated in the episode, when both parties are unhappy, that’s a compromise.
There is a reason Prodigy was removed from streaming on Paramount+. The reason is that it was determined that the series could be more profitable once removed. This is a little frustrating, considering viewer requests for merch (like a widely-available plush Murf) went unheard. In other words, obvious revenue streams for Prodigy were inexplicably never utilized by Paramount.
However, this intrinsic earning potential may make the show more likely to be purchased by another streaming service. While it was fantastic to have every Trek series streaming on Paramount+, the highest priority should be a continuation of the series, no matter where we have to stream it.
Save Star Trek: Prodigy
In the Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” Bender Bending Rodriguez (John DiMaggio) laments that Star Trek: The Original Series constituted “[a]nother classic science fiction show canceled before its time.” In this sense, Prodigy is part of a proud tradition.
Another Futurama character, Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal), shared her perspective on cancelation in “Yo Leela Leela.” In that episode, Leela stated, “All the best shows get canceled — sometimes two or three times.” This was a meta-reference to Futurama’s own repeated cancelation. However, Futurama returned to Hulu on July 24, 2023, with brand-new episodes.
Prodigy may no longer be on Paramount+, but there’s still a chance for it to continue. In fact, Prodigy Season 2 is already completed (or very near to complete). So long as Trekkies don’t give up hope and keep demanding the return of the series, we can save Star Trek: Prodigy.
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