This post contains moderate spoilers for the first episode and slight spoilers for the second episode of ‘Star Trek: Child Prodigy. ‘
How do you make a series that attracts newbies and still appeals to long-time fans? In the case of the Star Trek: Child Prodigy, put it in a place where the United Federation of Planets has little to no presence – in the Delta Quadrant – and make your cast a group of misfits who have never heard of the Federation or Starfleet. That puts them on the same level as the kids this show seeks to attract, while also providing just enough tidbits to mesmerize their Trekkie parents.
The pilot “Lost and Found” is a full-length episode that debuted on today Parent + (that means it’s technically two parts). It was originally slated to air first on Nickelodeon but has been converted to streaming exclusive for 2021, with the cable channel later broadcasting it on a date as yet unknown. The animated show fills the content gap between the end of the Lower decks Earlier this month and the premiere of discovery Season four in November – which, in turn, the fans until the beginning of the second season of Picard in February. The idea is to discourage Star Trek fans from canceling their Paramount + subscriptions during the downtime, which was pretty common during the time discovery‘s first three seasons.
But that assumes that wonder has something to offer these adult fans. And this is where the deeper connections to Trek lore come into play. Although the Voyager spent seven years in the Delta Quadrant, the ship’s mission to return to Federation space meant it couldn’t stay in one place too long or return to previous locations. There’s still a lot to discover – and plenty of room for Prodigy creators, Dan and Kevin Hageman, to populate their own corner of the universe.
First they have to introduce their main characters, and that is what Lost and Found is mainly about. Our group of misfits, led by Dal (voiced by Brett Gray), lives in a mining colony inhabited by prisoners and orphans. It’s the last place everyone wants to be, especially a Star Trek character, which is why the main drive is just to get off this desolate rock. But the series immediately makes it clear that it is far from the space and technology of the Federation, as residents cannot even speak to each other due to a lack of universal translators. With this system, Star Trek has managed to populate its cast with aliens, all of whom speak English, for over 55 years. It is the future! Different languages are no problem!
Except here they are. It prevents the characters from knowing each other’s names leading to the discovery of the USS Protostar and its built-in translator is the perfect opportunity for everyone to re-introduce themselves to each other and thus to the audience. And when Dal and Rocktok discover a lost Starfleet ship buried beneath the surface of the planet, the ship itself may awe them, but it is the translator who really gets the most enthusiastic response: Rocktok calls it “magic”. It’s a pretty fitting introduction to a “seeking new life and new civilizations” franchise as it emphasizes the connection between these different aliens.
When I saw the pilot at New York Comic Con a few weeks ago, I compared it to series like Clone wars and Rebels. The Star Wars influence that JJ Abrams brought to the Star Trek franchise is still there wonder, especially in its action sequences and the score, the latter composed by the frequent Michael Giacchino collaborator Nami Melumad. Giacchino is best known for his work on various Pixar and Star Trek films and also provides the main theme for wonder. You can hear his influence on Melumad’s score, which perfectly blends a whimsical style with the signature Trek leitmotifs.
The final action sequence feels like pure Star Wars because the USS Protostar leaves the planet and Dal is trapped on his shell and fights against the villainous Drednok. The villain’s insect-like cyborg body reminds me of General Grievous – if the general could turn into a giant weapon. It’s the kind of thing that works best in CG and how Lower decks before, wonder seems more than ready to take advantage of the additional freedom offered by the medium of animation. We were long past the clunky microfiche displays and Cosplay dogs the original series.
This freedom is probably best exemplified in the character of the Captain Janeway hologram voiced (of course) by Kate Mulgrew. That was over 20 years ago Voyager Finally, the small screen graced, and Mulgrew got into shows like Department store 13 and Orange is the new black. But it was only six years ago in the Star Trek universe (although an exact date is never given on-screen in wonder). Animation means they can easily erase Janeway’s decades without resorting to the creepy live-action simulacrums found in. you can see Villain one by Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia.
Hologram Janeway makes her debut at the end of today’s pilot episode, but she’ll make a much fuller appearance on Starstruck next week. There the new “cadets” can explore the ship and learn more about the distant “Federation”. While there is still a lot of banter and conflict between characters, the real star of the second episode is the ship itself – what it looks like and what it’s capable of. While there is a storyline – I’m not going to reveal any details about it – it serves as a showcase for all the different functions of this new prototype ship. Janeway can almost be imagined as a car saleswoman clapping the hood Protostar and said, “This baby’s warp core can travel to so many planets.”
Star Trek has always been a humanistic franchise dedicated to exploring social issues and dilemmas. It also tends to take its technology and the “post-scarcity utopia” for granted. wonder goes against the grain by showing right from the start how technology can change lives.