The U.S.S. Protostar is heading into warp speed for the mid season return of Star Trek: Prodigy on Paramount+. When we last left our young crew of misfits and outcasts they had barely escaped a heart-racing, near-death experience with the series big bad, The Diviner (John Noble). The latest episode, ‘Asylum,’ (which premiered this week) promises that was just the beginning of the adventures for Dal (Brett Gray), Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), Gwyn (Ella Purnell), Jankom Pog (Jason Mantazoukas), and Murf (Dee Bradley Baker). The crew are headed to try to join Starfleet, unknowingly carrying a powerful weapon that could potentially cause the destruction of the United Federation of Planets.
At this month’s New York Comic Con, Awards Radar had a chance to sit down with cast members and the creative team behind the hit animated Star Trek series. We spoke with co-creators, Kevin and Dan Hageman, Kate Mulgrew (Janeway), Gray and series newcomer Jameela Jamil. Her character, Ascencia, will make her first appearance a few episodes into the midseason return. We do know Ascencia is a Trill who serves under Kate Mulgrew’s Vice Admiral Janeway.
During our conversation, Jamil carefully teased a little more of what fans could expect from her character. “I can’t tell you very much. I have an extremely exciting and fun arcs and I have a lot of screen time with Captain Janeway. It’s going to be a ride that I think no one sees coming,” Jamil explained. “I’ve never had a role like this. I get to explore a lot of my different skills within it. But that’s all I can say.” In other words, expect some serious surprises in these upcoming episodes.
Another big change to the series going forward is now there are now two versions of one beloved Star Trek character – Janeway. There’s Hologram Janeway, who has been guiding the inexperienced crew of the U.S.S. Protostar and now Vice Admiral Janeway (last seen on Star Trek: Voyager) who will in turn be hunting them down as she believes they had stolen the Starfleet vessel.
Mulgrew knows how significant her character, and Star Trek as a whole, is to many people, which explains why she takes on her new dual role so seriously. During our conversation Mulgrew explained her approach to the two Janeways, “I have to establish this distinction and stick to it. And having done that, I have to deepen both. So with Hologram Janeway, I would say that there’s a modulation. In Admiral Janeway and Captain Janeway, I could do anything I like – as a voice that has a real power and a richness I try to give it a real texture. I mean, the Admiral is at it – she knows exactly ‘What the hell is going on in its red alert?’ And Hologram Janeway has to just maintain a sense of real groundedness and empathy. The kids have to listen, but she doesn’t ever strongarm.”
The first half of this season laid the groundwork, introducing the characters and storylines, while also connecting them to the bigger Star Trek universe. This allows Prodigy to take viewers on exciting, and perhaps familiar, new adventures, particularly when it comes to Janeway’s increased storyline. “These next 10 episodes were heavily inspired by the movie The Fugitive and how we loved Tommy Lee Jones hunting down Richard Kimble. It’s a cat and mouse game – it’s a chase,” said an excited Kevin Hageman. “It’s fun because you’re gonna love both sides. You’re gonna love Janeway hunting them down because she doesn’t know who’s piloting the ship.
One thing that separates Prodigy from the rest of the Star Trek universe is that these characters are young and still have a lot to learn about Starfleet, themselves, and each other. As touched upon in ‘Asylum’ the series will continue to dive into Dal’s background, something which has been a mystery to this point.
Gray, who plays Dal, mentioned how this factors into the series’ unique approach to each characters’ self-worth, “I think that’s one of my favorite messages about Prodigy, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, who you are, what your relationship is to your parents, what your relationship is to your species, or whatever you can, through trial and learning and the connection of others and your tribe, you can sort of transcend the sort of negative things that you might attach to yourself. “
As fans know, right beneath its science fiction surface Star Trek has always actually been about so much more. This was something that was not lost on Jamil. She finds Prodigy to feel like old school Star Trek and a chance to introduce a younger audience to this universe. “They told a very human story. I think it’s very important to point out that Star Trek has an amazing legacy of talking about race, and class. It tells all these different stories that are hugely relatable, but just in this very unrelatable environment, so you don’t know that you’re learning when you’re learning. Fans don’t feel like they’re being preached to.”
It is surprising that before Prodigy, Star Trek’s offerings were solely targeting an older audience, even though the positive messaging and adventure aspects are perfect for a developing younger audience. Mulgrew calls reaching out to today’s youth a no-brainer. ”This is the one demographic they should have approached 50 years ago,” says Mulgrew. “The cross-generational conversation is so important. I hope that it becomes a globally sort of passionate conversation between children and their parents and their parents. That’s the point.”
According to co-creator Kevin Hageman, Prodigy was never just going to be a kids show. The goal was always to reach fans young and old – familiar enough for returning fans while also serving as a way for new fans to learn about Star Trek. “We wanted to bring adults,” Kevin said. “We knew that this could be the introductory show into the greater universe of Star Trek we wanted, even back to the Original Series, we wanted to keep that spirit.”
“We discussed how Star Trek has a dense canon that can be intimidating for someone who’s curious about Star Trek,” added co-creator and brother Dan Hageman.”It feels like there’s a barrier of entry. ‘I don’t know the difference between a Romulan and a Vulcan.’ We wanted our show to answer those questions. To hold their hand a little bit, to introduce it.”
Prodigy is proving to tell human stories that transcend audiences no matter how much history viewers have with the Star Trek lore. The series offers a little something for just about everyone, gorgeous animation, heart-pounding sci-fi action, friendship and family drama. It that’s not enough, it also has an all-star cast including names such as Daveed Diggs, Jason Alexander, and Jimmi Simpson. Established Trekkies, will find some familiar Star Trek names like as Robert Beltran as Captain Chakotay and Billy Campbell as Thadiun Okona.
As Brett Gray explained the upcoming Prodigy episodes are “going to be epic.” You can find Star Trek: Prodigy is now streaming on Paramount+ with new episodes dropping each Thursday.