Star Trek Prodigy

While reports of Samuel Clemens’ death may have been as overstated as whether or not he ever said the famous quote, the evidence would suggest that the ongoing pioneer of near-death experiences and posthumous revivals would be Star Trek, a television show whose 1964 pilot episode was rejected necessitating an unprecedented second pilot to be shot before it was accepted by a network who were hesitant to confirm a second series until it was demonstrated that there was sufficient regard for the series, the third requiring an enormous and well-organised fan campaign before cancellation in 1969.

The arrival of The Next Generation in 1987 having heralded an eighteen year period in which it and its immediate successors were continuously in production or airing, each was governed by the same long-serving team, leading to diminishing returns of repeated themes, “franchise fatigue,” as it was termed, which is possibly why with three shows again in simultaneous production – Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks – a fourth, Prodigy, launching, and a fifth, Strange New Worlds preparing for next year, each has carved out a different territory, style and creative team.

The tenth series to fly under the Starfleet pennant and the third animated, following the 1974 Filmation revival of the original series and Lower Decks, currently preparing its third season, Prodigy is a departure from either of those with the visual polish of Pixar and the dynamism of anime, consciously aimed at a younger audience to introduce them to what is now termed “the Star Trek universe” but careful not to alienate existing fans.

Created by brothers Kevin and Dan Hageman who also wrote the opening two-part episode Lost and Found, directed by Ben Hibon, Prodigy is set in the Delta Quadrant in the year 2383, five years after the return of the USS Voyager from that area of space and concurrent with the timeframe which Lower Decks will soon occupy, opening on Tars Lamora, an asteroid mined by slave labour ruled by “the Diviner,” hidden but commanding total loyalty through fear.

His teenage daughter Gwyn a linguist whom he uses to liaise with outsiders while never permitting her to leave herself, she dreams of the stars and is possessed of a kindness alien to her father and his enforcer, Drednok, and she has taken a particular interest in one of “the Unwanted,” Dal R’El, the same age as her but the only one of his kind of an unknown species.

The Diviner seeking something hidden within the planet, his immediate concern is the recapture of “fugitive Zero,” Drednok at first believing that Dal may be able to provide insight then punishing him by sending him on a deep mining expedition in the company of another inmate, the intimidating bulk of Rok-Tahk. What Dal wants is a chance to escape; what they find following a cave-in is a reason for hope, a starship abandoned but apparently ready to fly with only minor preparation.

Where the functional animation of Lower Decks is suited to the rough attitudes of the crew of the Cerritos, Prodigy is of another order in design, texture, lighting and motion, a top-notch production which dazzles in every scene, each of the leads individual in appearance and character, Dal, Gwyn, Rok-Tahk, the Medusan Zero and Tellarite engineer Jankom Pog, voiced by Brett Gray, Ella Purnell, Jason Mantzoukas, Angus Imrie and Rylee Alazraqui.

Central to the show will be the USS Protostar, a Starfleet vessel of an unknown class, its registration NX-76884 marking it as an experimental vessel but with no crew aboard or survivors apparent within the ranks held on Tars Lamora; how did it come to be within the asteroid, and while it is indicated that the Diviner knew of its existence, why with his resources has it taken so long to locate it and is the ship itself all that was sought?

Communication and cooperation the principal themes of Lost and Found, the Unwanted are unable to organise an uprising or coordinate any action because they have no common language, a situation remedied by the discovery of the Protostar and the universal translator, leading Dal to revise his assumptions about his associates and making his ambition of escape practical.

Unity the strength which allows the Borg to overwhelm, this is different, individuals united with a common goal in which they all bring something, supporting and surprising each other, even the gelatinous Murf (Dee Bradley Baker); they may not be Starfleet trained, but working as a team comes naturally to them, as does their aptitude for fixing and flying starships.

Proud to embrace its position in the constellations of the Star Trek Universe and with possibly the most beautiful title sequence of any of the many iterations exploring it, there is also an undeniable influence of the Star Wars animations in the cloaked robotic Drednok and his swarming Watchers, overwhelming in number and firepower yet apparently unable to aim, and in Nami Melumad’s soundtrack, foregrounding twinkling embellishments of horns and woodwind favoured by John Williams over the strings and synthesisers more traditionally orchestrating the final frontier.

The second escape of Dal and his new friends more successful than the brave and audacious but short-lived attempt of the opening scene, Star Trek Prodigy is so far bold, optimistic and entertaining for newcomers and established fans, determined to push hard and reach farther for the stars, and commissioned upon inception for two seasons of ten episodes each it is to be hoped that is has the ability and support to fulfil its obvious potential.

Star Trek Prodigy is currently broadcasting on Paramount+



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