First Look At How Mark Altman’s ‘Pandora’ Is Even More Inspired By Star Trek In Season 2

Last year, the CW launched the sci-fi series Pandora, created by Free Enterprise writer/producer and certified Trekspert Mark A. Altman. Season two of Pandora debuts on October 4 and according to the CW it “boldly goes beyond the final frontier” for the sophomore season, with a move to more space-based adventures. With all the evoking of Star Trek, TrekMovie decided to have a chat with Altman about season two, plus we have an exclusive look at that new spaceship (the Dauntless) too.

Warning, the article contains big season one spoilers and minor season two spoilers.

Inspired by Star Trek

Pandora is set in the year 2199 and focuses on the story of a young woman named Jax (Priscilla Quintana) who, after having lost everything, goes on a mission to find answers. She ends up enrolling at the Space Training Academy, making the first season a sort of sci-fi mashup of Harry Potter and The Paper Chase.

“The Academy was our Hogwarts. Instead of magic, we used spaceships and slycers (our equivalent of phasers and laser guns) to save the universe,” explains executive producer and showrunner Mark A. Altman. Season one wasn’t just about the cadets. “I wanted Pandora to also be about their teachers that helped them become who they were as adults. We were lucky enough to have a great triumvirate first season in Professor Osborn played by the wonderful Noah Huntley, Ellison Pevney, played by Tommie Earl Jenkins and, of course, the marvelous Vikash Bhai who plays Shral who really was our Professor Kingsfield/Severus Snape.”

Priscilla Quintana as Jax and Oliver Dench as Xander inside the new Dauntless from Pandora season 2

Like Star Trek has throughout the franchise, Pandora also deals with contemporary issues. Season one looked at such issues as free speech on campus, xenophobia, racism, date rape, slavery, and much more. However, even though the show deals with some serious issues, Altman emphasizes that Pandora isn’t dystopian and has “an inherent optimism and hope that the future”—which is also at the core of the Trek franchise.

He went into more detail on how Star Trek (and other sci-fi classics) has influenced Pandora:

Obviously, I’m a huge fan of original Star Trek as well as Next Generation and Deep Space Nine so there’s was no way I could do a space show without those series being important touchstones, but I have to say that season two of Pandora evokes even more the spirit of the classic genre series and movies I grew up on. There’s a little Battlestar Galactica, a little Firefly, a lot of TOS and even a little Buck Rogers and Logan’s Run. You can’t avoid the giants, but you also don’t want to just pay homage, you want to use what you’ve learned from these shows as a jumping off point to create something new and fresh. You can’t just remake TOS which was a product of the sixties, you need to speak to today which is what I think we do every week.

Of course, the show is also full of Easter eggs and Trek references, which will continue in season two, and some familiar faces (and voices) are part of the show as well. Season one had an appearance from perennial Trek guest star Jeffrey Combs, and Deep Space Nine’s Chase Masterson provides the voice of the computer, in an homage to Majel Barrett who did the same in the Trek franchise for decades. And there have been some Trek vets behind the camera, including designer Michael Okuda, who designed the emblem for “EarthCom” (the military arm of the Earth Confederacy).

Tegen Short as Matta, Priscilla Quintana as Jax, and Oliver Dench as Xander in Pandora episode 202 “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”

Season 2 jumps into space

Season one was mostly about introducing the main characters; if you didn’t catch it, you can still jump in with the start of season two. Altman describes the October 4 premiere “Things Have Changed” (all Pandora episodes are named for Bob Dylan songs) as a “re-pilot.” It is set about six months after the season one finale. According to the showrunner, “We basically completely bring new viewers up to speed with where the characters are and the mythology of the series, but there will be lots of rewards for our existing fans, or Boxers, as they call themselves which I love.”

Altman also draws a comparison to growth and evolution seen in his second season with season 3  of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He explained how Pandora‘s second season feels even closer to Trek:

I think tonally it’s much more in the spirit of classic Trek than first season. It really becomes a space based adventure series in the second year and mission-oriented. Now that Xander has been promoted to Captain and has his own ship and been given the center seat, it’s hard not to draw the parallels with Star Trek in that sense. Of course, we have no center seat. On the bridge of the Dauntless we have what we jokingly refer to as the treadmill which is the equivalent of a standing desk, an operations station from which the captain controls the ship which was conceived by Christian Gossett, the creator of the two-bladed light saber.

You can get a taste of what is coming in the new season two trailer for Pandora.

Say hello to Dauntless

While there were some space adventures during the first season, they usually involved Jax and the cadets having to borrow or steal a ship for their missions. In season one, Jax also befriended teacher’s assistant Xander Duvall (Oliver Dench), but it was revealed he was actually at the Academy undercover and was really an operative in the Earth Confederacy Intelligence Services. In order to not repeat the ship-stealing, the creative team came up with the Dauntless. “We knew we needed to give Xander a portfolio this year and a ship. As such, he’s given the Dauntless by the CIS, the Earth intelligence services, and Jax is given an official capacity as well,” explains Mark Altman.

The Dauntless in season two of Pandora

Altman explains what the addition of the Dauntless does for Pandora:

Under the aegis of our new production designer, Alexei Karaghiaur, we built a ton of great new sets including all the Dauntless interiors like the bridge, corridors, captain’s office, personal quarters, etc. and it just opens up the show in a big way. When we first started designing the Dauntless my marching orders to the concept designers were I wanted a ship that was iconic in the way the original and refit Enterprise and the original Battlestar Galactica or a Star Destroyer is, but could look nothing like any of them. And then I said it also has to be a great toy that would look awesome on the desk of my office. And, of course, even though I was joking that actually become an important plot point.

The Dauntless in season two of Pandora

Season 2 starts this Sunday

Production on the 10-episode second season is wrapping up this week in Europe, after having to take a break due to COVID. The production team returned to work following the development of a “very aggressive mitigation plan,” which included fewer interior location days, a shorter shooting schedule, and more reliance on local and U.K. actors due to travel restrictions.

All ten episodes will air this fall on the CW. The second season of Pandora debuts on Sunday, October 4 at 8 PM on the CW. Pandora is also available anytime on the free CW app. The Unboxing Pandora podcast drops every Sunday and is available wherever you listen to podcasts. The Original Pandora Television Soundtrack is available from LaLa Land Records.

Season two poster

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I’d never even heard of this series! Does anybody know who the conceptual illustrators were, because they aren’t listed on the imdb site.

Interesting.

I hadn’t heard of it either.

I just looked it up, and I see that the CTV Sci-fi channel has it in Canada.

It’s odd that the kids didn’t find it and ask to watch it last season. However, they haven’t been likely to ask for shows that are 14+ here up until recently.

Another thought…

One has to wonder whether this show contributed to CBSAA taking a pause on the development of an Academy series.

What are you saying? The Starfleet Academy series shouldn’t be made right now. We have enough Star Trek shows on our plate already.

CBSAA wants year round Trek, so they disagree.

I seriously doubt that a minor show on the CW would deter CBS from developing a Trek show about Starfleet Academy if that is the way they wanted to go. It seems that their youth oriented show for now is Prodigy.

Prodigy is for kids, not teens and college-aged young adults.

I don’t think that this show would deter them from having their own Academy show for this market niche, but they would need to really work out a viable concept.

Considerations would be:
– the CW is part owned by ViacomCBS so they won’t want to directly compete with themselves
– this show wasn’t able to manage even a single season without a ship so there’s a question of how interesting a show set in an Academy could be (unless they follow the cadets on their graduating year assignments)
– this show is a kind of “proof-of-concept”:
low budget and production values notwithstanding, if this show can’t build an audience on CW, it will take some deep marketing analysis to figure out a concept that will work, if it’s successful, it will point to options for a Trek show in the niche.

By the way, I’d say that this show has been morphing from an Academy-concept series to an S31 type series. Perhaps people think spy stuff and intrigue will appeal to younger viewers.

True.

I think the advantage of star trek academy is that we do know the cadets do a lot of space stuff, for example the red cadets got a tour around the Federation in a defiant class starship nonetheless. An Nova Squadron being the academy flight school.

Kobayashi Maru
An the psych exams.

So there some pretty exciting stuff in there. I could imagine 10 x 3 seasons working out. With the 3rd season being the tour of the Federation. Any longer than three seasons and thing would start to drag out.

Prodigy is about teenagers from what little information we know, so it is aimed at that demographic to some degree.

Perhaps not but if they did watch the show they would learn of some of the pitfalls they would face when creating star trek academy.

Doing a series about starfleet academy is going to be hard to pull off. The current star trek creatives don’t have the skills to pull it off.

Wow this looks bad. Second Season? Had no idea the show existed.

Yes, does not look convincing beside this paid ad article. But it looks also completely in line to any other CW production.

What is this show?

Pandora looks really weird. You guys should do a review before I watch it.

I watch a lot of sci-fi but this is not something I would get into immediately. Pandora looks like a show from the Syfy channel.

There have been some great shows on Syfy: unfortunately, most have been cancelled and cut short after 3 seasons. This makes it difficult for me to invest in any show that has Syfy as it’s American partner.

The Expanse is an exception.

Farscape, Firefly and Continuum all had to negotiate for some kind of conclusion through a miniseries, cinematic feature or a short fourth season.

Hopefully, the CW will be kinder to shows targeted to its younger market niche.

Like (apparently) numerous other people, I’d never heard of this. If a guy like me isn’t aware of your space show, you’ve done something wrong in marketing.

Yes because the world of television revolves are you

Bryan’s right. I’m always looking for (among other things) space-based shows to pitch production articles about. This is the sort of thing that would have been covered in Cinefantastique (and odds are Altman would have been writing about it back then) and STARLOG well before it arrived in the pre-internet era, let alone a year after debuting, so the fact I’ve not seen anything about it on any of the many many sites I check daily or weekly is frankly astounding. When his SCREAM QUEENS came out, there was pre-release press, and press later as well. Is it just that they didn’t fly anybody over to east Europe to watch the shooting that it translated to zero coverage?

Georgiou’s Sass, I have savvy kids in the target market who are always looking for new shows to watch, as well as premium cable channels in Canada that carry shows targeted to teens and middle-graders.

None of them had heard of this show, which turns out to be carried on the CTV Sci-fi channel here. Meanwhile, they recently discovered Supergirl and a few other shows that they’ve grown into.

We’ve now set the PVR to record this, but sincerely, it’s just had no profile in the world where either sci-fi fans or its target age market get their information.

Thanks TrekMovie for the profile.

That interpretation of Bryant’s comment is one heck of a stretch.

Look, kids! It’s pointless and unearned antagonism from somebody who was recently accusing me of not being able to put up with other peoples’ opinions! Isn’t the internet a garden of delights?

My point — which didn’t seem to require much explanation, but apparently does — was that I’m somebody who’s been watching space-based shows since the late seventies. I haven’t seen all of them, by any means, but I feel as if I’ve probably at least heard of the vast majority of the ones produced in North America. I visit the types of websites where people talk about them. So if you make one and get to a second season and I haven’t heard about it, yeah, your show has been marketed poorly. I didn’t realize this was a controversial stance.

Has anybody watched this show, and if so, do you recommend it? The reviews on IMDB are brutally negative, but would be curious in other opinions too.

It’s literally the worst scifi show i have ever watched.
Its just bad. Bad story, bad setup, bad actors, cringeworthy dialogues, completly illogical
(e.g for some reason the whole universe in this show revolve around some cadets that tackle the mysteries and plots that threaten everything ?? Are you kidding me ? )

E.g in the pilot: Girl comes to academy, meets some people on her first day, they become friends, literally within 10 minutes…. a few hours later that group of friends help her steal a spaceship … “because friends help friends” and risk getting expelled or probably courtmarshalled… all for the girl they have known for a day…

And that girl let me tell you … never seen a more annoyingly goody goody person that does everything right… Generally all the characters are so “gooood” that it makes me cringe.

I can get behind the idea for example in TNG that humanity has evolved from their basic nature and everybody is a lot more ethical etc… But here everybody is still an a****** just the main characters have no flaws whatsoever.

And the general plot line for each episode are complelty rehashed ( zombies anyone ? ) but without any new material added.

Really looking forward to it! Loved the first season, and can’t wait for more. Lots of good Star Trek vibes to it.

Interesting ideas posed with this series. Not the highest budget, but you can tell the creatives behind the scenes have lots of cool sci-fi stuff going around. Very glad the second season went forward even through the COVID crisis!

I quite like it! Lots of interesting ideas floating around, and nothing like seeing ships flying around the galaxy that are from original IP

Quite interesting. The designs look like something between Enterprise and TOS (the Cage era) with updated visuals. So, this is what a possible Star Trek show set in 2199 could look like?

Bring on the new sci-fi! Miss the days where you could tune into a fun sci-fi show that doesn’t bog you down with all it’s dark overtones and existential despair. Give me some good philosophy, don’t get me wrong — but “adventure” is part of the equation too. This show has it!

It already looks from the trailer like a bad attempt to clone Star Trek Discovery,

Literally using the word “discover” in the trailer doesn’t help.

I didn’t watch this show yet, but I hope it isn’t one of those Syfy type shows where they film almost everything in a warehouse down in Canada. I’ve had enough warehouses for my science-fiction, come on guys give me something much more creative and original. Surely a low budget mustn’t always equal to a warehouse set. This actually looks like it may decent sets and production design so I might check it out.

….or where each planets looks like a canadian forrest…. ;-)

That was very true from the mid 90s to the 2000s. These days it seems like every other science-fiction show is filmed in a warehouse somewhere. Just doesn’t make too much of a sense.

Got to say that by the end of 90s Trek, I was beyond tired of seeing the entire galaxy looking like SoCal, and southwestern/puebloish architecture as the universal design for all alien species.

All to say that you don’t see how uniform things are when they are around you all the time.

Canada does have a lot of diverse geography though: in fact, that’s mostly what we have. The West coast rainforest, the interior semi-desert and the shield and boreal forests don’t look much alike. However if production stays near Vancouver and Toronto, it falls into the same trap of uniformity as 90s SoCal Trek. Just a different uniformity.

Surprised though about the warehouse comment. When I think of Continuum or other Canadian sci-fi series, I think of the office towers and skylines. When I think of overused locations, I think of the Britannia Mine and Cleveland Dam in BC, and in the Toronto area: Ontario Place, Casa Loma, and the old Hearne Power Station.

I was trying to point out the shows Killjoys and Dark Matter, those shows had their share of warehouse scenes or perhaps the warehouse sets were just too obvious for me.

The CW? Oh I’m sure this is a wonderful show :/

Thanks so much for spoiling season one without ANY warning. Real smart !

Never heard of this show until now. Is it any good ?

I will watch if Daren Dochterman guest-stars as an alien groppler.

I just took a gander and they even use middling and obscure Bob Dylan songs as episode titles (“Under the Red Sky”, “What Was It You Wanted”). This is now my favorite TV show, (after Discovery Season 3, of course).

When is the uk release date? As I wish to continue watching the series

I’m more excited for season season 2 now if they are going to do a little more pro-active space exploration. I thought the first season was almost too low budget in appearance, but still managed to pull of an intriguing story. Maybe they will have a slightly better budget this year or at least an accumulation of reusable assets that gives the same effect.

I’m not sure about those light stripes on the ship though. I wonder if they have an in-universe technical purpose or if they are purely for frivolous looks.

Last edited 27 days ago by Jeff

I tried it. I got through about 3 1/2 episodes before I got bored and decided to let it go. It wasn’t horrible, but I wasn’t entertained enough. I did like the lead though.