A Review of Star Trek: Prodigy
Introducing My Son to Trek
“We’ve only just begun.” – Janeway Hologram to Dal, “Starstruck”
Star Trek: Prodigy, the new animated series for Nickelodeon, has at long last made it possible for me to share my love of Star Trek with my kids, ages six and five. Prodigy has been everything I hoped it would be. But I didn’t always feel that way!
When the series was first announced, I had mixed feelings. I’m a big fan of Star Trek: The Animated Series, which I consider to be season four of TOS. So, I absolutely believed there was historical precedent for an animated Star Trek series created with children in mind. I also had hopes that Lower Decks was something I could share with my children, only to find that it was inappropriate for their ages. I hoped the same thing would not be true of Prodigy.
When I heard that Janeway was coming back, I was sold. Janeway is my favorite captain and a hero and role model of mine, and she has been since Voyager first aired. I fell in love with her, her quest, and her indomitable spirit through the tie-in novels. I didn’t get to see the shows when they aired because I was restricted from watching television. No matter if I enjoyed Prodigy or not, it would be wonderful to see Janeway again.
When the long-awaited premiere finally aired, I watched it alone first, to make sure it would be suitable for my children. I didn’t want to risk them experiencing nightmares, the way I had when I first saw The Wrath of Khan at age eleven. I still can’t watch that movie without shuddering. I wanted them to love Star Trek like I do and not associate it with terrifying images. Modern Star Trek, for that reason, has been impossible to share with them.
I had concerns about the premiere episode of Prodigy. The beginning was dark, violent and gritty. Would my sensitive, intuitive six-year-old be scared by the scenes in the mines, Dal’s attempted escape, the terrifying Diviner, or the enigmatic Zero?
Finally, I decided to give it a chance. Although I thought Prodigy was too old for my five-year-old, I reckoned my six-year-old son was perhaps ready for it. I took him onto my lap and held him close. He put his head on my shoulder, and I held his hand through the scary bits. And he was enthralled! He loved it!
There are certainly some dark elements in Prodigy, so I made sure to talk everything over with him. The scar in Dal’s ear worried him, so we talked about how some wounds leave permanent scars. We talked about how Dal wanted to be free. How some people, like Rok-Tahk, look scary but are gentle and shy inside. How Zero was neither he nor she, in the hopes of more easily accepting non-binary persons. How Gwyn was forced to imprison Dal because she had to do what her Dad said. In short, if it was on his mind as we watched, we talked about it.
His response to the first look at the Protostar was absolutely magical. He burst out excitedly, “That’s Star Trek!” The Enterprise-D was my “Star Trek” ship, growing up; it brought tears to my eyes to think that this new generation of kids will have a ship to call their own.
Almost as archetypal as the ships are the themes for each show. I still feel the old thrill of delight when the TNG or DS9 theme music comes on. And the theme music and opening sequence to Prodigy thrill me just as much. I hope that, when my son hears that theme in the future, it will transport him to childhood and sitting in his mother’s arms, being nerds together.
My six-year-old was enchanted with Murf from the very beginning. Endearing, frustrating, and misunderstood Murf became an instant favorite, doing his goofy things (“Is he eating a chair?! Did he just throw up on Zero?!”).
My son was also fascinated by Zero the Medusan. I heard him talking to Zero during his pretend play time and knew that enigmatic character had made an impression!
I cheered when Janeway showed up. The thought that this role model of my own coming-of-age would be playing a part in teaching my own children the ideals of Starfleet, of working together to form a gestalt, of assuming responsibility for one’s crew, and taking care of one another, brought a lump to my throat. That this hero of mine would be teaching the next generation vital lessons of humble servant leadership, self sacrifice, courage, and knowing when to ask for help, made my heart sing.
I know that Janeway’s appearance didn’t have the meaning to my kid that it did to me. He was, typically, much more taken with Jankom Pog’s tomfoolery than he was anything Janeway had to say. He was very pleased to learn the name of Jankom Pog’s species, Tellarite, and for days went around quoting, “I thought I was going to get away from you dumdums!” and giggling about the “hold onto your butt” handles. Kids are deeply impressionable, though, and I haven’t a doubt that those gentle lessons distilled into kid-friendly language by Janeway will stay with him and pop out of his mouth to surprise me one day.
I was deeply moved by Janeway’s observations that compared the very beginning of the Federation to the motley crew assembled on the Protostar. As I look around at my motley crew of wild, active, goofy boys, I know our beginnings, like the Federation’s, aren’t always pretty, but that we, too, have a lot of potential. And Janeway’s going to be there for us as we learn and grow.
I am so grateful for Prodigy. Some of my most precious memories growing up are of nerding out with my Mom about all things Star Trek. I am so thankful that there is now a modern Star Trek that I can share with my kids.
Ruth Anne Amsden has been a Trekkie since she was a ten-year-old reader voraciously devouring Star Trek novels (her family did not allow television in the home). She is working toward her first BA and aspiring to professionally write Star Trek novels as love letters to the novels she loved growing up.