The CG-animated series Star Trek: Prodigy arrives later in 2021. And apparently, this show made explicitly for kids is a big deal with the higher-ups at ViacomCBS.
ViacomCBS sees Prodigy as “critical”
The story of Star Trek: Prodigy actually began back in April 2019 when CBS announced they were working with Nickelodeon (part of Viacom) to develop a new show for the kids-oriented cable network. The re-merger of Viacom CBS followed, and earlier this year it was announced that Prodigy would debut first on the rebranded Paramount+ streaming service, to sit alongside the rest of the new Star Trek Universe of TV shows. While this appeared to be just smart corporate synergy, Variety is reporting there was a lot more going on behind the scenes:
[T]he company set up committees of executives designed to find ways to exploit existing IP across multiple business sectors. A number of them are said to have engaged in a prolonged debate over whether the animated series “Star Trek: Prodigy,” originally ordered by Nickelodeon, would premiere first on the cabler’s linear channels or on the Nickelodeon-branded portion of Paramount Plus. It is now set to debut on the streamer, then air later on cable. “Prodigy” was viewed by many as critical to the fate of the “Trek” franchise, as it’s the first bid to engage families — a path that can lead to ancillary products such as toys and theme park rides.
Prodigy’s position as the first Star Trek series explicitly designed to appeal to kids and families has been emphasized frequently in official press releases and via the producers and star Kate Mulgrew, who will be reprising her Star Trek: Voyager role of Kathryn Janeway (as an “Emergency Training Hologram”). Apparently, this appeal to families is seen as important for Star Trek, which makes sense as new and younger fans can help to ensure longevity.
Trek returning to kids toys and theme parks?
The comment about Prodigy leading to more toys aimed at kids is backed up by something ViacomCBS Consumer Products President Pam Kaufman told Toy Book Magazine earlier this year. When asked about goals for 2021, she included ” expanding the Star Trek universe to the kids’ space with Star Trek: Prodigy.” No tie-in merchandise for Prodigy has been announced so far, but with the show set to debut later this year, it sounds like there are plans in place, with some releases likely before the important holiday season.
Starting with the original Star Trek series in the 1960s and through to the 1990s when there were multiple Trek shows on TV you could find Star Trek toys aimed at younger audiences. There were some releases around the 2009 Star Trek movie as well, but for the most part, the last decade or so has seen Star Trek merchandise more focused on adults and the collectors market.
As for theme park attractions, that would be a welcome return for the Star Trek franchise. Currently, the only Star Trek attraction at a theme park is the Operation Enterprise roller coaster at Movie Park Germany. Fans can also still visit the Star Trek: Original Set Tour in Ticonderoga New York. In the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s there were a number of Star Trek theme park attractions around the world including Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas, Star Trek Adventure at Universal Parks, and the Borg Assimilator roller coaster at Paramount Carowinds Parks.
So it appears that Prodigy is more than just another Star Trek series coming to Paramount+. Hopefully, this new series can deliver on its potential and bring in new fans and maybe some former fans who want to introduce their kids to Star Trek.
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