REVIEW: Star Trek Prodigy – Season 1 (2021)

An Animated Series on Paramount+

Being a big Star Trek fan is rough right now because all of the new Star Trek productions are paywalled behind paramount+ rather than airing on CBS. However, I’ve been hearing good things about the topic of today’s review, the new Nickelodeon produced children’s series Star Trek prodigy. Prodigy is a new animated show designed to hook children into the Star Trek fandom which I assume has a median age upwards of the 60s at this point. Something like this is a great idea, and I’m not sure why CBS or Paramount had avoided anything like this since the 1970s animated series.

Paramount+ is yet another streaming app that I really don’t want to have on top of the multiple other ones I currently pay for. For the purposes of watching both Star Trek Discovery season one and Star Trek Picard season one, I signed up for its precursor CBS All Access and absolutely hated the interface and the glitches that I continuously got. Realizing that I’m woefully behind on all things trek, I have decided to begrudgingly sign up for a free trial of Paramount+ in order to get caught up on some of these shows and get ready for Picard season 2 which is coming soon. With this in mind don’t be surprised if I post a lot of Star Trek reviews in the upcoming weeks. I won’t sway I enjoyed this version of this streaming service any better, and I had it crash numerous times when trying to watch this show. Get your act together guys!

“In 2383, five years after the USS Voyager returned to Earth at the end of Star Trek: Voyager, a motley crew of young aliens find an abandoned Starfleet ship, the USS Protostar, in the Tars Lamora prison colony. Taking control of the ship, they must learn to work together as they make their way from the Delta Quadrant to the Alpha Quadrant.”

Initially, I felt that this show felt far more like Star Wars than Star Trek for many reasons. It was dark, somewhat depressing (main characters are all child slave laborers on a planet), very action oriented, and everyone talked in quips. I was ready for the worst, but luckily it gets way better as it moves on. A lot of this uncomfortable feeling one gets is due to seeing the show through the eyes of characters that have literally no idea what Starfleet is, and have had to scrape things together to survive in a lawless Hellscape. Having the show start out in the far reaches of the Delta Quadrant, outside of the boundaries of where Starfleet has any sort of power, was very ambitious and somewhat risky considering how fickle Star Trek fans can be sometimes. Towards the middle of episode one, we get some small glimpses of what makes Star Trek the show that it is, and it’s a gradual build from there.

At its core, the the start of the show is your typical “escaped prisoners commandeer a ship” plot seen in such shows as Blakes 7 and Farscape. It takes a while but once the typical Star Trek tropes start to trickle in it makes the big moment when the cast becomes a star fleet crew that much more satisfying. This helped along by the inclusion of a holographic version of Captain Janeway, installed onboard the ship to guide a group of trainees that she assumes is the crew. Then again, we are led to believe that the hologram if far smarter than she lets on, and pretty much knows exactly what’s happening from the get-go. Using Janeway, formerly flung deep into the Delta Quadrant herself, as the bridge between these characters and their eventual arrival in Starfleet proper was cool, and a nice send-off of Star Trek Voyager. Of course, there are far more cameos, but I will let you experience that yourselves.

With this show being an animated CGI production, we all know those are hit or miss many times. Thankfully, Star Trek Prodigy seems to have very good production values and looks pretty awesome. Facial expressions are rendered in very well, as if they did some sort of face tracking to get realistic human faces, and the show has dynamic shots normally only seen in high budget film productions. There are many times when you see a bit of cinematography that would look awesome in any movie, much less an animated television show designed to get a new audience into the Star Trek fandom. I honestly think that it even looks better than a lot of the recent Star Wars cartoons including Star Wars Rebels, Bad Batch, and Clone Wars. Granted, a lot of that is up to the fact that they have different art styles and this one has decided to do a little bit more on the cinematic side of things.

The cast of characters is pretty well fleshed out, and have really grown on me these last few episodes. I initially felt that Dal R’El was pretty insufferable, but one can understand his hot-headedness and poor decision making skills are a by-product of his upbringing as an orphan originally raised by a Ferengi that eventually sold him into slavery. Once in the possession of “The Diviner” as one of “The Unwanted”, he mined chimerium at the Tars Lamora prison colony. He acts as acting Captain of the USS Protostar. He is joined by Chief engineer Jankom Pog, Security Chief Rok-Tahk, Flight control officer Zero, and Communications Officer Gwyndala who is the daughter of the series “Big Bad” The Diviner. There’s also Murf, the gelatinous mascot character.

I thought it was interesting to have a Medusan in the cast considering they are a non-corporeal being that can drive anyone mad by simply having a person look at them, last seen in the original series. Zero has a containment suit that both protects them and anyone else from that sort of issue. My favorite character is the hulking Rok-Tahk, that despite looking similar to The Thing of Fantastic 4 fame, is actually a young girl around the age of eight or nine. She’s into cute things and is worried people are scared of her due to mistreatment from her appearance. She’s the underdog character I can wait to see grow up in the show and become an unstoppable badass.

I am extremely glad that this show takes place AFTER Star Trek: Voyager, after years of trying to go back and do remakes, prequels, and fill-ins that either re-tell similar stories for no reason, I am glad that this, Picard and Lower Decks are moving the franchise forward. Hell, even Discovery time-jumped into the “future” finally. While this doesn’t really do much for establishing the state of things five years after Voyager considering how far out the crew are, it was still cool to see.

Most of my issues with this show were already mentioned and were rectified by the characters growing and the show not trying to be Star Wars for very long. Honestly, my only complaint is how much using Paramount+ raises my blood pressure at almost every turn. The constant errors and crashes are embarrassing for such a big company and I honestly have to wonder why these companies don’t just stay partnered with a better service like Netflix and Hulu and work out some kind of profit sharing agreement. One of these days all of these streaming services will start merging, so there’s always hope.

Overall, I liked this show quite a bit. It has some tonal issues early on, but they are by design and are basically there to show how the hope and stability of Starfleet is a guiding light of the universe. The interesting thing will be to see where this show goes after season one, because the sky’s the limit on the potential for the narrative. I’m sure we’ll see tons of cameos (even more than here) and some familiar foes eventually, and I’m all ready for it. If you are a Star Trek fan, you should check this out, and especially if you have kids that might have a passing interest.

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