In Defense of Star Trek: Prodigy
It turns out that Star Trek: Prodigy is and could again be something unique in the collective consciousness that fills the vacuum of genre television. It served a distinct purpose that may have been missed by the powers that be, and there is a chance that you may have missed it as well.
The show was cancelled, dumped, and jettisoned (if you will), somewhat unceremoniously. The clamoring to revive the show began the moment the removal was announced. Not only would they be taking it down soon (within days), but to add insult to injury, the second season (already announced and almost completed) would not be released this year as promised.
Doing their level best to placate the faithful, Paramount+ made sure to spread the news that the show would ultimately be shopped around to other streamers. This was similar to how Warners Bros. Discovery decided to license the rights to HBO shows like Insecure, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Six Feet Under, and Ballers, which are all now heading over to Netflix.
The problem with the sudden cancellation of Star Trek: Prodigy partly relates to the marketing. Firstly, Paramount+ let all their external licensing deals lapse, so it could claw back all the theatrical Star Trek films and television shows from various and assorted online portals. This was done in a concerted effort to state conclusively that “every series, every episode” would be available in one place. The company then proceeded to dismantle that claim, doing two things simultaneously.
For one, Paramount+ has created a sense of foreboding that sudden cancellation similar to Prodigy‘s could happen to other shows in the Trek pantheon. With the recent faux pas of Enterprise ‘s fourth season disappearing without notice to US subscribers (yes, it quietly disappeared for a day and magically reappeared a day later), we are all kind of waiting for the other show to drop. Which show will go next?
Secondly, Paramount+ diminished exactly what the show itself was all about. Star Trek: Prodigy is a show about doing the right thing, no matter the consequences. A quick primer, if you haven’t seen it: a group of slave workers in the harshest conditions, unable to communicate with one another, discover an opportunity to band together when they find an abandoned Starfleet prototype vessel called the Protostar. Fleeing from their captors, they strive to learn what it means to be part of the Federation. With the help of a holographic Captain Janeway, they are determined to return the ship to its rightful owners and join Starfleet.
Produced as a joint venture with Nickelodeon, the grand plan was to bring in a newer (and hopefully younger) audience that could learn the mythology along with the intrepid crew of the Protostar without having to watch through the hundreds of episodes of existing Star Trek. The audience would have a chance to learn about Star Trek in a unique and fulfilling way.
Ultimately, the one thing we had hoped for with Paramount+ was a permanent home for all things Trek. But why take my word for it? Instead, hear it from Janeway herself — the actress Kate Mulgrew — as she discussed, with Movieweb, the idea behind Prodigy, just before its launch:
“I think there was a moment’s hesitation, because live-action Janeway — bringing that character into the culture was huge, and has had reverberation of unending significance — I could not have known or anticipated the phenomenal nature of the thing. I’m feeling it again with Prodigy, albeit in an animated form. It is reaching these kids, and these kids are sitting next to their mothers, who are very familiar with Star Trek: Voyager. So, the children are learning, through these characters, and through Hologram Janeway, what it is to talk Star Trek. And then, of course, they’ve got the cross-generational conversation with their parents, and with their grandparents.”
That cross-generational conversation is now a bit harder to come by. That said, the show’s second Blu-ray volume of episodes from the first season is currently listed with a preliminary release date of 26 September 2023. Might this indicate increased chances of the show’s renewal?
The trials and tribulations of the multi-species crew of the Protostar, their lives, and the way they created a found family that worked together towards a common goal is uniquely Star Trek. Their destiny to stand up for the values and morals of the Federation is something that should be shared, to friends, family, and those that we love. We may have missed it, but maybe, just maybe, it is not too late.
The petition to save Star Trek: Prodigy has so far reached over 27k signatures. Please help the project by signing the petition at https://www.change.org/p/save-star-trek-prodigy.
A California-based Trek aficionado, Sinohui Hinojosa can be found hosting sci-fi trivia and moderating panels at conventions. He is a lifelong fan of everything Trek and is the co-founder of the San Jose International Short Film Festival.