Mild spoilers ahead for the Star Trek: Prodigy premiere, “Lost and Found.”
The creators of Star Trek: Prodigy cannot promise Tribbles. They’re not saying you won’t see Tribbles, but they can’t promise them, either. The new series — which just debuted on Paramount+ — is the first Star Trek series explicitly aimed at children. But the creators, Kevin and Dan Hageman know that even the big kids in the Trek audience are curious about what to expect for this new series. When does it take place? Will we see any familiar faces? And, since it’s for kids, will there be tribbles?
“Though you don’t see it yet in the pilot, our show is trying to hit some of the greatest hits right away,” Kevin Hageman says. “What makes Star Trek? Tribbles are high up there.” But, his brother and collaborator Dan Hageman adds: “There could be anything in this galaxy. There could be tribbles. We can neither confirm nor deny.” One thing the creators of Prodigy can confirm is that this animated Trek doesn’t take place in a canon vacuum. Here’s when Prodigy happens relative to the other shows, and how the Hagemans are working with the creatives at Picard and Lower Decks to make the Final Frontier boldly consistent…
First, some general background: For the intended audience of Prodigy — kids 7 years old and up — the universe of this series won’t seem particularly confusing. The action follows an alien named Dal (Brett Gray) and his quest to escape a forced-mining operation run by a baddie called The Diviner (John Noble.) Imagine the Guardians of the Galaxy breaking out of prison, but for kids, and you’ve pretty much got your set-up. Dal recruits a friendly rock alien named Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), a talkative Tellarite named Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) a blob named Murf (Dee Bradley Baker) and a Medusan called Zero (Angus Imrie). Along with the Diviner’s daughter Gwyn (Ella Purnell), the gang finds an abandoned experimental Starfleet ship called the USS Protostar, and, by the end of the first episode, escape on that starship to freedom. But here’s the catch, none of these kids have known a life outside of the mining prison, and because this all takes place in the Delta Quadrant, they’re kind of out in the wilderness. Yes, that’s the same distant Delta Quadrant where the USS Voyager was once stranded, far from Federation space.
This is by design. The Hagemans want the characters to learn about the Federation and Starfleet organically, which starts to happen in the second episode. Still, if you’re a longtime fan of the franchise, there are actually some Easter eggs hiding in plain sight in the pilot. Zero the Medusan and Jankom the Tellarite are both from alien species that were first featured in the TOS. Though we’ve seen the Tellarites a decent amount on Discovery, the Medusans only appeared in one TOS episode, the famous third season banger, “Is There In Truth, No Beauty,” in which Spock rocks the IDIC pin, and those red space shades.
“We combed through the entire universe and found things that were really interesting, that we thought were being underutilized,” Kevin Hageman says. “Because you know, Trek has covered Klingons, let’s say, really well. So we weren’t going to make Klingons our main villain. But on the flipside, Klingons are an important species, so we definitely want to introduce our young audience to Klingons. Without saying too much!”
One thing the pilot of Prodigy does introduce to all viewers is a training hologram version of Captain Kathryn Janeway, voiced by Kate Mulgrew, reprising her role for the first time since Voyager ended in 2001, and since her brief cameo as Admiral Janeway in Star Trek Nemesis in 2002. But, if Janeway has been turned into a training hologram when does this zany new Trek even take place? Physically the show is set in the Delta Quadrant, but what year is it? The answer is, Prodigy happens in the year 2383; five years after the end of Voyager, roughly a year after the most recent season of Lower Decks, and very close to the earliest flashback in Picard, in 2385. Meaning, Prodigy is wedged into a very specific part of the canon. And, apparently, five years after bringing Voyager home, and accepting the promotion to Admiral in Nemesis, it seems Janeway agreed to have her personality and likeness be turned into a training hologram. This means that our Janeway is still out there. The hologram Janeway hasn’t replaced her, there are now (at least) two of her. The precedent for this is pretty simple. In the DS9 episode, “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?” we met Doctor Zimmerman, the human upon which the Emergency Medical Hologram was based. Now, it seems the same is true of a training hologram based on Janeway.
Bottom line: In Prodigy, all of these Star Trek rules matter. “We wanted to make sure our show wasn’t in some cartoon Mirror Universe,” Kevin Hageman says. “We know we are right around Picard. We’ve been talking with their showrunners about what they’re doing. Making sure it all works together. There are events in Picard that will drastically affect our young characters.”
Although it’s unclear how the events on the other side of the galaxy will impact the characters on the Protostar, it has been made clear that Robert Beltran is also reprising his role as Chakotay from Voyager. Interestingly, this is also around the same time Seven of Nine is probably joining the Fenris Rangers in Picard. As Prodigy expands it could shed new light onto what is becoming perhaps the interesting decade of the 24th century, the 2380s. Why are so many events clustered here? What else could be happening? For the first time, Star Trek will answer these questions from a new perspective. For the first time in Trek history, the crew of a new starship knows less about Star Trek than the Trekkies.
Star Trek: Prodigy airs new episodes on Thursdays on Paramount+.