Prodigy tries to reintroduce old ideas

Star Trek: Prodigy

Star Trek: Prodigy
Picture: Nickelodeon / Paramount Plus

Given the current trajectory of pop culture, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which we someday turn on our televisions to see a version of the USS Enterprise Break out of warp speed to take on a Borg-ified Death Star. Obviously, the delays in the universe and the studio ownership of various intellectual properties would make this difficult, but as we live in a world where Space jams continue, for some reason, to exist, some conclusions seem inevitable.

If so, we could certainly do worse for a mash-up than Star Trek: Prodigy, a computer-animated children’s show that drops the fantasy hack-and-slash space adventure of Star wars in Trek’s Delta Quadrant, with a Kathryn Janeway hologram voiced by Kate Mulgrew to guide us on our way.

This does not mean Prodigy is a crossover in every official sense of the word. It’s more of a vibration, the ever-lingering effect of JJ Abrams reboot of the film series that continues to shape every new modern TV iteration of the franchise. “Lost & Found”, the first in two parts, draws on kinetic and fluid action sequences, a motley band of misfits coming together to fight for a common cause, a surprising variety of alien species and two Major villains: a controlling elder with mysterious plans, and his menacing, masked, robotic executor. No one uses the Force, but there are psychic powers involved, and if a lightsaber had appeared, it wouldn’t have looked out of place.

None of this is workable, of course, and it’s not even really a criticism; but it raises the question, nowadays, of what it really means to be a “Star Trek show ”at all. For most of its execution, “Lost & Found” is a perfectly acceptable, albeit at times boring, space-action spectacle with a fast-paced, nifty visuals, and a (mostly) likable cast of characters, and if not. is not the case do not walk with the classic ideas of what Trek can and can’t be – not a Vulcan to see, no red shirts, no one is teleported anywhere – well, maybe it’s just a function of needing a name to sell a local , and Disney already has the most apparently relevant.

Yet this lack of immediate signifiers can also be an intentional attempt to subvert expectations. Or Star Trek: Discovery looked into Abrams’ big high stakes / high emotions swings, and The lower decks offered an affectionate parody of familiar Trek tropes before learning how to use these tropes to one’s advantage, Prodigy seems genuinely interested in bringing a new kind of story to the Trek-verse.

While the “new” is largely contextual – the beats here should be familiar to anyone who has watched similar things in the past – there’s an interesting tension that arises when the series finally deigns to be ready to start delivering. the first part of its namesake. There have been Trek shows about new crews, new worlds, new civilizations, but there never was one from outside. What do Starfleet and the Federation mean to a group of orphans looking for a home?

It’s not a bad pitch: a new angle to give an old idea a fresh air. The biggest problem, at least in the first three episodes shown to critics (in two parts “Lost & Found” and “Starstruck”) is how long it takes to come up with this idea, and how much time is spent establishing but not to develop the aforementioned orphans who, at least initially, range from “predictably charming” to “please stop talking before all hope dies”. It’s doubly unfortunate that the latter applies directly to the show’s apparent protagonist, a spiky-haired, purple-skinned “maverick” named Dal (Brett Gray) who spends most of his screen time at being sarcastic, getting in trouble, and believing himself to be smarter than he actually is.

“Lost & Found” opens with Dal trapped on Tars Lamora, a penal colony where he is forced to extract valuable crystals alongside hundreds of other misfits, all under the watchful eye of the mysterious diviner (John Noble, always welcome even if there is not much to do here). When Dal discovers a ship buried deep underground, he believes he has found his ticket to freedom, but he will have to assemble a crew of eccentrics like himself to get there, while the Soothsayer and his main henchman Drednok ( Jimmi Simpson) tighten the noose.

Dal will likely become a more reasonable and less aggressively Poochie-esque figure over time. For now, however, he’s the only real bad apple in an otherwise pleasant crew of Zero (Angus Imrie), a genderless energy being in a self-made metal suit; to Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), an 8-ans whose tall stature and prickly exterior belies an inherently sweet personality; to Murf (Dee Bradley Baker), a tongueless blob who eats things.

Image of article titled Star Trek: Prodigy offers a more visceral version of Trek's utopian ideals

Picture: Nickelodeon / Paramount Plus

Jason Mantzoukas is on hand to do a G-rated version of his wild man shtick, this time as Jankom Pog, an engineer with the annoying twist of constantly repeating his own name. The set is completed by Gwynn (Ella Purnell), the diviner’s daughter and the colony’s main translator; sympathetic to the rebel cause (heh), she’s trained for the ride, presumably to soften and develop child-friendly willpower with Dal as the show goes on.

Then there’s Mulgrew, voicing a holographic teaching aid designed to educate new cadets on their journey to become Starfleet officers. Holo-Janeway doesn’t arrive until towards the end of “Lost & Found,” and while her presence becomes more of an integral part of the show’s second episode, it’s still unclear just how self-aware and self-aware the character is. how a ship with Federation technology ended up buried in a rock in the Delta Quadrant a decade after Travelerof his adventures through the region. Mulgrew clearly relishes the chance to revisit the role even on an artificial basis, and Janeway, as the character, had enough no-frills elementary school teachers, even in her original iteration, which makes her the mentor of a group of unruly teenagers feel surprisingly appropriate.

We do not yet know what all this adds up to. The first three episodes are so heavily serialized that it’s hard to determine what kind of show Prodigy intends to be; “Starstruck” is more stand-alone but serves primarily as an extension of the first, establishing the final pieces of the puzzle before the actual story begins. There is potential here, albeit moderate – the character joke, with a set featuring not one but four different versions of comedic relief, is passable, and John Noble could (and perhaps is) play that sort of role. in his sleep. The series is aimed at children, but in a cheerful way for all ages that avoids insulting its audience even if it never quite manages to impress them. Star Trek has always been a more flexible franchise than you might think, and it’s nice to see a new entry trying to take advantage of that fact, even if it means pulling someone else’s notes a bit.