The fourth of the New Trek shows have dropped on Paramount Plus, with the Nickelodeon airing yet to be announced. The new shows have been…not well received with the classic Trek fandom. Star Trek: Discovery seems to only be about how awesome Michael Burnam is, changing the iconography of the franchise right down to the design of the Klingons, and introducing concepts but un-Trek and stolen from someone else. Yes, we still remember the Tardigrade incident. Meanwhile, Star Trek: Lower Decks took a concept from a fan-favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation of the same name and basically popped out something that both loves referencing and spitting on the classic timeline. I’m not saying there aren’t classic fans who like these shows, but they are not necessarily the representation from what I can tell. Alternate continuity or not, they haven’t really captured what made Star Trek popular. Let’s not even discuss Star Trek: Picard.
Star Trek: Prodigy is the third animated series, produced in association with Nickelodeon. Nick isn’t ignorant of space exploration shows. The just-barely-qualifies-as-campy Space Cases and the more recent co-production The Astronauts were pretty good. The question about this show is not only the quality of the work itself but the quality of the adaptation, which is where so many shows and movies using classic names and trappings are miserable failures. Well, I do more than talk about it. Paramount Plus’ YouTube channel has the first episode, the two-part “Lost And Found”, available for viewing so I’m going to post it below. Come up with your own opinion (before it comes down, which is why I didn’t wait for Saturday Night Showcase because I don’t know how long they leave these previews up) and then check out mine. I wish I got to do this with pilots more often.
In case it goes down or you didn’t bother to watch it, Star Trek: Prodigy features a group of kids, unwanted types, forced to work in a mine. Secretly the goal of the “Diviner” is to find a Federation starship, which Memory Alpha refers to as the USS Protostar. When it’s found by Dal, a kid whose species is unknown and the bad guys want to use to find a Medusan named Zero (who also joins the team), and the Brikar girl Rok-Tahk. (Yes, the big orange rock person is a little girl, even voiced rather well by one. I think the species actually comes from the novels.) Joined by a Tellarite engineer who is also a prisoner and using the Diviner’s daughter (who is sort of friends with Dal or at least isn’t the jerk to him the Diviner’s enforcer Drednok is) as a hostage the group escape along with local animal Merth (the blue slimy guy is just a pet). They also learn that the ship has a holographic trainer modeled after Captain Janeway, not that they know who she is. This is the start of their adventures.
As of this writing the next episode is available on Paramount Plus but I don’t have access to it. My review is therefore based on the pilot alone.
As I said earlier there are two ways to judge this show: the work itself and its place in the franchise. On its own the show is actually rather good. The animation is certainly the best of the three animated Treks (not that Lower Decks appears to have that much effort), there’s some good action, the villains are dummies so our heroes have to actually work to escape, and the heroes are all pretty well thought out. Rok-Tahk and Merth are the biggest surprises as the former is a little girl, or at least sounds like and is voiced by one, and the other is not even a sentient creature, at least not that we can tell.
All the young heroes are given a chance to show off their individual personalities and abilities. None of them are annoying. Dal had the best chance to be but based on this first episode while he wants to get off of the mining prison (where criminals and orphans are forced into labor) he knows he needs help. He seems to be able to formulate decent plans, though he doesn’t think them out very far. Gwyn shows concern for the orphans (aka “the Unwanted”) as we see with a young Caitian girl who I hope we get to see freed if not joining the group at a later date and with Dal himself. Dal at least respects her and it’s possible the “hostage” situation was just to bring her along. Whether or not this turns into anything we can’t determine now but they’re at least set to be best friends.
Ro-Tahk is a kid but not obnoxiously so. She seems nice enough but this franchise’s history with children, even in the classic series, is…debatable. If they aren’t turning evil they’re young geniuses the writers are unable to write. I fear for her. Making Merth a pet may ruffle a few feathers among the anti-mascot crowd but he may prove useful, which is my benchmark. Zero I’ll come back to while Jankom Pog, our Tellarite, is certainly an interesting character. The villains’ motivations and the threat they’ll serve later we’ll have to see. I can assume at least that the Diviner and Drednok will be a recurring threat. Holo-Janeway we don’t get to see much of but I’m guessing she was chosen because of the four captains she’s the most nurturing…in theory and with the proper writing. I mean, there’s a reason SF Debris makes fun of her.
This of course leads us to the second issue: how does this fare as a Star Trek series. While this does seem to be heavy on the action there is some decent character moments but it will take a while longer to see how it does following the tone, messaging, and themes of Classic Trek…although I suspect this is about turning the next generation over to Alex Kurtzman’s ideal for Star Trek rather than the franchise itself. It’s probably easier to reach a generation with no actual opinion, especially in a time where anything older than the viewer is ignored, so I suspect they’re trying to make sure the next generation of Trekkies are on his side.
However, this is one of those times I have to ask if it needs to be a Star Trek show at all. If this was set in the universe of Space Cases would we even notice without the Starfleet ship? The Tellarite looks wrong, the Caitian is closer to the Prime design than M’Ress from Star Trek: The Animated Series but I guess that’s to be expected (again, look at the Klingons in the Prime timeline), and the Kazon not only doesn’t look like a Kazon but shouldn’t even be in this quadrant…that or the Tellarite, Caitain, and Medusan shouldn’t be in this quadrant as the Kazon are from the Delta Quadrant while the others are Alpha Quadrant natives, where the show takes place. The idea of using Zero to torture enemies makes a lot of sense and giving it a robotic body (if you’re going to have a non-binary alien, the one without an actual body shouldn’t tick anyone off) allows it to take part in the stories, but how did any of them end up in the Delta Quadrant? Is it ties to the ship and Dal’s mystery origins? Knowing that these aliens do have some connection to the shows and novels does add a bit more familiarity than I was seeing but there’s still a lot unanswered and we’ll have to see how well it uses the Trek aliens and iconography. It still seems better than the other New Trek show pilots.
Overall I’m not sure I can give it a final judgement until it hits Nickelodeon unless someone gives me access to the Paramount Plus shows. So I can only judge by this first episode (again, only one more up anyway as of this writing but not on the YouTube channel) and I’m probably more interested in this version than I was when I saw the first episodes of the other New Trek shows, which I was ready to ignore right out of the gate. As much as I would love to see the original timeline return these are creators who couldn’t care less for numerous reasons so the classic timeline is probably dead. Whether or not this show can finally give New Trek a chance to being as great as the original remains to be seen. This is one of the franchises I thought could benefit from animation so maybe there’s still a chance. I’m not holding my breath but I want to see some sign of giving a @#$% out of modern creators. i’m done “taking what I can get” at this point but at least show me you care about the franchise you’re using the cheap marketing to get out ideas you don’t have enough faith in out there.