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Say you’ve never seen a single episode of Star Trek. Or any of the movies, but you want to boldly go. Where should you begin your voyage?
Say you’re a long time Trekker, but you have children and you want to share your passion with them. Where do you begin their voyage? Star Trek: Prodigy, which recently premiered on Paramount Plus, is the ideal series for adults and children alike to beam onboard with.
Opinions vary as to where newcomers should start trekking; every fan has a different origin story and they’ll definitely tell you where they think you should start. It’s trickier than it seems. The charms of The Original Series may seem clunky and dated at first. Season 1 of The Next Generation is quite weird. For the uninitiated, Voyager will make you wonder what a prime directive actually is. Start with Enterprise and you’ll check out when that opening titles song starts. Good luck with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
For long time fans who embrace every corner of Trek, all of these entry points are beloved and somewhat sacred, but that usually takes time. The Motion Picture is an acquired taste for many. Star Trek: The Next Generation's two-hour premiere episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” is similar. Our usual refrain of “just watch Deep Space Nine and learn as you go” may not be wholly wise.
For first timers, there has been no true crash course in all things Starfleet — until now. Star Trek: Prodigy, created by Dan and Kevin Hageman (Trollhunters), could prove to be a literal crash course in everything Trek, because the main characters don’t know anything about it either. They’ve found an experimental Starfleet vessel in the Delta Quadrant, and they’ve never heard of the Federation. They don’t know what the Prime Directive is, they don’t know what Starfleet is, and they’ve never learned the lyrics to “Faith of the Heart.” They don’t know a Vulcan from a Romulan, and they wouldn’t care if whether Sokath has his eyes open or closed.
The motley crew who have flown away on the USS Protostar are about to learn all of this thanks to a holographic mentor who takes the form of Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), and if there’s anyone who knows all of the ins and outs about Trek ethics, it’s her. She also knows which nebulas have coffee, as well as when it’s time to just punch your way through.
Prodigy is an animated series and is definitely geared towards younger audiences, but it will still function very well for adults who want to have fun and learn the basics. All of the other series and movies are still going to be there, so after some Prodigy missions, newcomers will likely have a baseline. Though it’s set in the Delta Quadrant (for now), we might get more of the cabbage-head Kazons than we get Klingons or Vulcans, but Janeway can always catch the crew up on them.
If you’re a parent Trekker who has been trying to indoctrinate your child while they’re young (for lack of a better way to put it), then look no further. Most children won’t want to sit through TOS's “Charlie X.” They’re far more likely to be swept up in the escapades of Dal, Gwyn, and the Protostar crew.
The riveting action, comedy, and visual style of the show will capture their attention, and it bears repeating that they’ll be learning all about what Starfleet is (and what it stands for) from Captain Janeway. They’ll feel just like the young crew on the show does, and they will learn alongside them. Most important of all, the heart and spirit of Trek (which this show definitely has) will be the true takeaway. Once that space seed takes root, there's no way back.
Aside from all of that, the bespoke mysteries of this new series are interesting. Why is the Protostar in the Delta Quadrant at all? Who is the Diviner who talks with the voice of John Noble? How did a Tellarite get all the way out there, and who/what is Murf? We don’t know, but we want to know. The show isn’t only going to function as Trek 101, it has mysteries of its own to explore.
We’d wager that nothing here is going to be on the same level as “The Inner Light” from TNG or “In the Pale Moonlight” from DS9. It’s not that show, and it’s not trying to be. It’s an adventure series with heart and a big sense of fun. Whether you’re a curious adult, a child who is terrified of V’Ger sounds, or a family made up of both, this could be your perfect wormhole into the world of Trek.
With Prodigy and Janeway as their guide, newcomers will be in a much better position to dictate terms. The sky will be the limit. If not, they can just throw on “Spock’s Brain” and hope for the best.
Star Trek: Prodigy is now streaming on Paramount+