Star Trek Prodigy is the franchise’s first attempt in 50 years to make a show geared towards children. But will you or kids like it? Read on to find out…
In the year 2383, in a far off corner of our galaxy (the Delta quadrant to be exact), the Tars Lamora prison colony subjects a diverse array of aliens to work as miners. Some of these aliens dutifully go about their jobs, while others sabotage the operation, and others still plot escape. But, when a mischievous young alien uncovers a starship buried within the colony, he and his friends become the target of said colony’s mysterious overseer. Their daring decisions take them on adventures through space which they could hardly have dreamed possible.
I’ve got to mention this right off the bat: Prodigy is welcoming to Star Trek fans of any age or investment in the franchise. Prodigy‘s plot should easily make sense for new viewers because its characters learn about ST’s world with each new episode. You need not have seen a single iteration Star Trek in your life to understand this series– though a passing knowledge of Voyager does give some of the plots more meaning.
Also– every character (except Janeway) is an alien, which is a cool change of pace from most Star Trek! For a franchise about new life and new civilizations, there’s an unbalanced amount of humans. Though the live shows are admittedly limited by CGI and makeup effects. Animation has no such problem. Hence Prodigy is free to get ambitious with their creatures and characters.
As a long-time fan of ST, I believe Prodigy carries the right spirit. These characters grew up oppressed and alone, yet it’s only with exposure to the Federation’s ideals that they may grow into their best selves. They meet ideas like freedom, equality, and teamwork with suspicion because they’ve never been exposed to such things. Yet they quickly learn how these concepts may help them survive and thrive in a big galaxy where they may only rely on each other.
I enjoyed watching the Protostar’s crew discover “new” technologies like matter transporters, universal translators, holo-decks, food and material replicators, etc. Of course all these things have been ST staples for decades, but it’s refreshing to follow characters who don’t immediately know how to use them. And their newfound knowledge is even meaningful to the plot!
For example: The Diviner (John Noble) keeps his prisoners in line, largely by making sure they can’t communicate amongst themselves. The absence of translators ensures few of the alien species will speak the same language. And this means they cannot co-ordinate escape. It’s only once the main characters gain access to universal translators that they learn to understand one another, which in turn leads to team-building and friendships. It’s great for kids to learn the power of communication– especially with people who are, on the surface, completely different to them.
And it’s here I can admit: Prodigy is nowhere near as dumb as I thought it might be. Maybe I’m just a cynical old man, but it seems to me modern kids shows have all but lost nuance. They certainly aren’t known for respecting the intelligence of children. But I’m pleased to report that Prodigy features legitimate emotional depth to its characters and situations!
Prodigy even delves into some fun sci-fi concepts, such as living planets and the strange realities of relative time! The series also features moral philosophy with solid ethical dilemmas (such as the crew’s messy First Contact situation). All of the above is presented with enough light-heartedness to stay entertaining, yet with enough serious consequences that the show earns points for gravitas.
Characters are allowed to fail, sometimes repeatedly– and their best isn’t always enough to overcome certain situations (ala the Kobayashi Maru). Yet each experience teaches the crew something new. And each mistake makes the Protostar crew more well-rounded beings, as well as better teammates.
Another important lesson Prodigy offers: be loyal to those people who truly support you, not thoe who merely claim they do. Actions speak loudly and you ought to listen to what they’re saying. This is especially evident in the strained relationship between Gwyn and her father. He claims to love and want the best for Gwyn (Ella Purnell), whilst all his actions only hurt and isolate her. But Gwyn’s friends make genuine sacrifices on her behalf and offer a sense of community.
Throughout Prodigy runs the ongoing mystery of what happened to the Protostar’s crew. Said mystery turns the series into more of a Voyager sequel than I expected. And that makes me happy because I’m a bigger fan of Voyager than many Star Trek fans seem to be! They don’t get very far into it with these first 10 episodes but I’m excited to see where this plotline goes.
Prodigy’s action wasn’t particularly memorable, but some bits were intense. It’s definitely not too much for kids, but there is a more serious sense of danger than I’m used to seeing in modern children’s entertainment. Any sequence involving that robot henchman thing was particularly unnerving (though, once again, not TOO much).
This show’s characters are more nuanced than I expected (except, perhaps, for Jankom Pog– played by Jason Mantzoukas–). These first 10 episodes offered good deal of character work for the main cast. And I ultimately grew invested in most of their stories!
Dal R’El (Brett Gray) is an arrogant, self absorbed jerk– though a charming one. Main characters aren’t usually so tough to like (at first). But his abundance of flaws mean he has the most growing to do. Dal hails from a mysterious species even he knows nothing about. I’m sure this plot-point will be more relevant later but, for now, we don’t know much more than that.
Dal self-appoints himself Captain, which everyone sorta just agrees to for some reason. And his selfish streak hurts his friends on a consistent basis. That said– he grows into a more sympathetic person throughout these first 10 episodes. And his leadership improves with time, once he learns to be a team-player. Dal has a long way to go but I warmed up to the character with each new installment.
Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) is a giant stone-creature with the mind of a child. So she’s physically powerful but naive, and ironically the crew’s biggest coward. She’s adorable! Her character arc is one of gaining self-confidence. Though her trajectory was more tragic than I expected. Like– she only grew as a character after facing this season’s biggest trial-by-fire! ‘Twas a harsh but effective way to drive her character arc.
Murf (Dee Bradley Baker) is the crew’s most indispensable member! OK– that’s a lie. He basically just hangs around the ship, looks cute, and eats machinery. Murf is Prodigy‘s most effective comic relief. I became a quick fan of the character. Although I’m still not sure if he’s a dumb sentient creature, or more like a pet. In any case he’s (thankfully) indestructible and a great team mascot.
Zero (Angus Imrie) is a being made of pure energy. Their “body” is so overwhelming to the eyes of most beings, that it will drive mad anyone who sees them. So Zero wears a custom-built suit to protect others. They are the most tech-savvy member of the crew and arguably the smartest being on the Protostar. Yet they occasionally made naive or dumb moves out of nowhere, which I felt was strange. Zero was perhaps the most inconsistent character for this reason.
Jankom Pog is the ship’s engineer. He maintains a penchant for speaking about himself in the third person, and coming up with practical solutions to problems. He’s a decent character on paper. I just wish he’d received more character development. Seems to me he was sidelined these first 10 episodes while Prodigy focused on Rok, Gwyn, and Dal.
The Diviner is a good villain. He’s intimidating, powerful, and resourceful. Every character has a meaningful grudge against him too– and he with them. And much of Prodigy‘s intrigue revolves around his mysterious plans for the Protostar. I was certainly curious what he wanted with that ship! Also, his backstory becomes cooler as more about him is revealed.
Gwyn is my favourite. She’s the level-headed and mature one of the group. And her abilities as a linguist helped pick up the team’s slack when communication was an issue. I found it a fun touch that she gets common phrases wrong as translation mistakes. Gwyn carries the most emotional stakes, seeing as much of this season’s conflict concerns the relationship between her and her father. She desperately wants his affection (at first). Gwyn’s conflicted loyalties make for some tense moments. There’s times you’re left unsure whether she’ll betray her new friends to get back in her father’s good graces.
Last but not least there’s a hologram of some random human woman named Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)… Janeway helps run systems on the Protostar. She begins the series convinced that the main characters are Starfleet cadets on a training mission. Her job is to teach them what the Federation stands for. Mulgrew’s return is welcome and Janeway is personable (yet commanding) as ever! Hologram Janeway must discover what happened to her missing memories. I’ll bet this ends up a great plot-line going forward!
The camaraderie between characters was entertaining and heartwarming. Their relationships and crew dynamic felt earned after these first 10 episodes! And I’m excited to see how they continue to grow from here.
To be frank: my opinions on Prodigy were mixed until the fifth episode. That’s where the plot got going in earnest. And it turns out the last five episodes were a marked improvement over the first five. I began to care about the characters and the plotlines got genuinely cool. The stakes became more real too. Though the tone was relatively light, these stories would have been at home on Voyager (or any of the other old series, I guess). To top it off, they ended episode 10 with a fantastic cliffhanger!
My only few criticisms: I’m still not a big fan of the animation style. 3-D animation has been around a long time and, though it technically looks good, it’s not always appealing to the eye (my eye). It’s more of a personal preference thing. Maybe it’ll grow on me though. I also found Prodigy‘s broad humour didn’t always appeal to me. But it’s inoffensive, and I’m sure kids would enjoy the jokes more than I did.
Prodigy is meant for a slightly younger audience anyways. That said– this series reminds me a lot of The Clone Wars and Rebels in that it’s got potential to grow more complex with time. But, as it stands, I believe kids and adults can and will enjoy Star Trek’s latest offering. The positive themes and lessons will resonate, the characters will grow on you, and your intelligence won’t be insulted.
Star Trek: Prodigy is off to a Pretty Darn Good start!
Which Star Trek series would you first show your kids to get them invested in the franchise? What did you think of Prodigy‘s first 10 episodes? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,