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How Dune inspired the new big bad in animated series 'Star Trek: Prodigy'

Star Trek: Prodigy's creators reveal how Frank Herbert's classic novel influenced a key character in their show.

Dune Still

Star Trek's newest trip to the Final Frontier literally took a page from Dune to help it get there.

In SYFY WIRE's exclusive interview with Star Trek: Prodigy showrunners Dan and Kevin Hageman, the brothers and writing duo revealed how Frank Herbert's classic novel (and current Film Twitter obsession, thanks to Denis Villeneuve's recent big-screen adaptation) inspired Prodigy's villain, The Diviner, voiced by Fringe's John Noble. On the new Paramount+ show, fans are introduced to the ruthless, alien tyrant who rules over an asteroid while he is inside a large (and kinda scary) cylindrical tank filled with an amber-y fluid. Which may give Dune fans a sense of deja vu. 

"[The Diviner] is definitely a nod to the floating alien in Dune that they bring in, who can mentally fold space and time for travel," Dan Hageman explained.

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That "floating alien" is the Guild Navigator Edric, which the book describes as a "humanoid fish" floating in a tank filled with spice gas. The visual representation of Edric in David Lynch's Dune, along with the way audiences are first introduced to this character, was something the writers and the designers tried to bring to their Big Bad. 

"In Lynch's movie," Kevin explains, "when they bring in this character and the tank, that reveal when they show the tank — where you're like, 'whoa, what is this?!' — that's what we were going for. It was just one of those things from sci-fi when we were kids that inspired us, where we thought: 'Yeah, that's cool,' so how can we bring something like that to Star Trek?"

Another thing they brought to Star Trek with this design in mind was an updating of the usual Trek villain trope, in that it's not just a bad guy with a MacGuffin space weapon or galaxy-threatening device. While the Diviner does covet the Protostar starship that Prodigy's young crew of Goonies-like heroes currently occupy, there's more to this villain than just what he's after, which audiences get a sense of in the relationship between the Diviner and his loyal robotic enforcer, Drednok (voiced by Westworld's Jimmi Simpson). 

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"We were very focused on the relationship between these two characters and how that conflict clashes with the one that exists between them and our heroes," Kevin said. "If you look at Drednok, compared to the Diviner, Drednok is very still, and silent, and soft-spoken. And with the Diviner, we wanted him to be filled with like a vocation and drive in contrast and you're not quite sure where this relationship is going. Who is leading who." 

Kevin also shared that, like previous big-screen Trek villains in the recent, JJ Abrams-era, there was also a Mystery Box component. 

"Early one, we wanted them to be a Mystery Box. We wanted some mystery. Like, why does he want this ship? Why is this ship buried on [The Diviner's] asteroid? Who put it there?"

Fans will hopefully discover the answers to these questions soon. 

New episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy air Thursdays on Paramount+.

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