Interview: ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Producers On USS Protostar, Holo-Janeway And How The Show Is “Big”

On Star Trek Day, TrekMovie had a chance to speak exclusively with Star Trek: Prodigy executive producers Kevin and Dan Hageman and co-executive producer/director Ben Hibon about what to expect for the upcoming animated kids show.

Ben Hibon, Bret Gray, Dee Bradley Baker, Kevin Hageman and Dan Hageman at Star Trek Day (Photo: Paramount+)

Paramount Plus promotes Prodigy as the first Trek show made specifically for kids. Who do you see as the ideal audience, who is the real target?  

Kevin Hageman: People who are new to Trek. That is what we’re trying to do. While these are kids in our show, they’re in the adult world of Trek. And they’re gonna slowly discover it, and have their falls, and their and their victories and stuff. It really is a show for people who have not experienced Trek before. And it’s an entry point in, and hopefully, people find the wonder and the magic of it all.

Can you give a status update on where you are with prepping the show for launch?

Dan Hageman: It’s coming out on October 28th. The pilot will be the first two episodes.

Kevin Hageman: It’s like a 44-minute pilot. Ben and the team have done spectacularly with it.

What kind of tone are you looking for? What’s the balance? Is all the humor coming from Jason Mantzoukas? 

Dan Hageman: We’ve always kind of looked at screenwriting as a balance of action, comedy, and heart. And, and I think every character should have nuances of that. While there are some characters that are funnier than others, they’re all going through an experience that’s a fish out of water. And I think there’s inherent comedy in that. And there’s also inherent heart in that.

Jankom Pog holds up a golden Starfleet insignia badge.

Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) from Star Trek Day trailer

Ben, regarding the visual style of the show, can you talk about your influences? How much of Star Trek did you know before starting? And how did you go about creating the look?

Ben Hibon: Star Trek is in the Zeitgeist. I’ve always known and always had exposure to Trek. I’ve never had a specific go-to series, but I’ve always been interested and intrigued about the overall aesthetic, the UI, the ship design, the creatures, and the species. So all of that has always been in the conversation that I had as a sci-fi fan. So being able to kind re-approach it and figuring out a fresh direction to take in considering animation and breaking some of those limitations potentially other shows had and just really go with the imagination and having a slightly different perspective on that because of the tools that we’re using.

Trek has gone through many different aesthetic eras, from The Original Series and movies to the TNG era, to the Abrams era ,to now the Kurtzman era. So, do you draw more from any one of those?

Dan Hageman: I think a little bit of all of them.

Ben Hibon: It’s kind of a blender.

Dan Hageman: I don’t think these kids are going on an adventure through one era. These kids are going to go through an adventure with dabs of a lot of it.

In the Prime Universe…

Kevin Hageman: Yes, in the Prime Universe. When we started, we wanted to have a very big cinematic scope. And part of that was for Dan and I, our introduction to Star Trek was through the movies. Wrath of Khan was our first way in. And so I think you’ll see big drama, big scope in our animated series. I would say it’s very influenced by the movies, if anything.

Ben Hibon: With the kids, it’s really a rediscovery of Trek. They’re discovering Trek, so we’re discovering Trek with them, or doing it again. And so we wanted to start from a place where we could imagine a mysterious corner of the universe and then just drawback and travel back to Trek.

So they start in the Delta Quadrant on the mining asteroid, and they immediately make a beeline to the Alpha Quadrant. That sounds familiar. Are we traveling the same route as Voyager?

Dan Hageman: We won’t be traveling the same route as Voyager. But obviously, they’re going to get a lot of help from the Emergency Training Hologram Janeway. So she has some ideas of where to where to go.

Kevin Hageman: And I think in the Delta Quadrant, they might come across some familiar faces that maybe Voyager came across. Or, as they get closer to the Alpha and Beta quadrant, there might be other familiar faces.

Ben Hibon: And it’s never a straight line, right?

Kevin Hageman: It’s never a straight line now with a bunch of kids behind the wheel, come on.

The Captain Janeway hologram aboard the USS Protostar

Hologram Janeway in Star Trek Day trailer

So does Hologram Janeway have all the knowledge of the Janeway that arrived back on Earth in “Endgame?”

Kevin Hageman: She’s based off the historical records and personality records.

Dan Hageman: But I don’t think every little detail would be in her logs.

But the Protostar was launched after or before Voyager returned home?

Dan Hageman: Oh, it would be after Voyager returned home, I can say that. I can’t get much more detailed about

Kevin Hageman: Because it’s a big secret.

There is something special about this ship, right?

Dan Hageman: Yes, there’s something mysterious about the ship of why it’s there on [the mining asteroid] Tars Lamora. We’ve seen some fan theories out there, but no one’s really got it.

Kevin Hageman: She’s a part of the ship, right?

Does this tie into why there are so many Alpha Quadrant species on Tars Lamora?  

Dan Hageman: Not related to the ship, no.

Kevin Hageman: But there are well thought out reasons why they are in our show, and why they’re in the Delta Quadrant.

The USS Protostar brought to life

The USS Protostar in Star Trek Day trailer

ICYMI – Star Trek Day trailer

Coming Soon

Star Trek: Prodigy arrives on Paramount+ October 28, 2021. In Canada it will air on CTV Sci-Fi and stream on Crave. It will be made available in parts of Europe in 2022 via the new Paramount+/Sky partnership.

 

More to come

There is still a bit more from Star Trek Day, including more red carpet interviews and another trailer analysis. So keep reading TrekMovie for our full Star Trek Day coverage.


Find more Star Trek: Prodigy news and analysis.

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I may not be a kid but I can’t wait for this show. I’m dying to know what that ship and what those alpha quadrant species are doing out there.

As someone who has been rewatching Voyager for the last two months and currently on season 7 (and sad the journey is almost over) I am super psyched for this show! Having to relive the Delta quadrant this whole time, it’s surreal we are going back to it! It never occurred to me they would ever go back there, at least any time soon. I can’t wait to see (or hope to see) the past aliens, planets and probably a few familiar Voyager characters as well.

I know there are a lot of people who still considers Kutzman Satan when it comes to Star Trek, but the guy IS trying. I think this is such a great idea to get kids and other beginners into the franchise. I love the fact they said the show will represent all facets of the franchise and will be a big stepping stone to check out Voyager obviously but all the other shows in time as well.

And to have Janeway back as the representative and the gateway to the rest of the franchise was inspired casting. I’m always happy to see these characters I loved and adored for decades coming back into the fold again. I really hope this show is good!

He’s trying, yes. But he’s trying and failing.

If you call up a new outfielder who keeps trying but goes 0-54, when do you decide to send him back down? How long do you keep that guy in the line up? Sure, he has good ideas. But he has been a complete failure in the execution of those ideas.

In your opinion of course.

I’m not in love with everything Kurtzman is doing either, but I been enjoying the shows more than not enjoying them lately, especially LDS. I had issues with season 3 of Discovery but I mostly liked it. There were only a few episodes I had issue with and yes thought the Burn was stupid along with a pretty bad finale but on a whole it was a good season for me. I would say it’s on par to Voyager season 3, not amazing but decent (but still prefer Voyager).. So willing to see where season 4 goes, actually excited about Picard season 2 and feel positive about PRO and SNW so far, but yes still cautious.

For me right now the most positive looking thing to look forward to is Prodigy. But then before I saw Lower Decks I thought THAT show had the best chance to break the skid. Boy was I ever wrong on that one.

I wonder if this show is filling in a gap in the lead up to Disco S3 and the USS Protostar has been sent to the Delta quadrant to find new sources of Dilithium?

I like this theory! Great interview.

“Star Trek is in the Zeitgeist. I’ve always known and always had exposure to Trek. I’ve never had a specific go-to series, but I’ve always been interested and intrigued about the overall aesthetic.” Translation: “Eh, not a fan.”

Hmmmm

So, none of us have got it quite right yet.

Could it be that the name of the ship is the clue?

Protostar?

Are we talking about a new, prototype power source?

We know that Dr Erin MacDonald was very involved in the background work for the show.

What kind of cool physics will she have dreamt up the ship to use?

10 episodes are too few for a kids cartoon.

They really should make more per season.

The Hageman’s did this with Trollhunters.

The quality was very high and each season worked as a serialized arc.

Since this was greenlit with a two season order and the voice recording started on season two some months ago, the second season may be less than a year away.

I agree. I would love more episodes, but I’ll take quality over quantity. I also thought it was even stranger that they would be overlapping with season 4 of Discovery, but if they are already working on season two, we may have new episodes coming early next year.

I don’t know but that is not a trade that is even remotely possible. If the show was good, it stands to reason that if there were more episodes many of them would also be good.

So this just supports what I’ve always said… Bad shows always have too many episodes and good ones often don’t seem to have enough.

I wouldn’t call “Trollhunters” a kids cartoon though.

If this can be kind of a Star Trek version of “Clone Wars” cartoon in terms of popularity and accessibility to youngsters then it will be an excellent gateway to get younger people on board Star Trek and this is necessary for the future of Star Trek.

I may be a grown man, but I’m looking forward to Prodigy, whether it would rule or drool.

Why do I get the feeling that this “kids” show will end up being more “adult” than Lower Decks?

I’m looking forward to seeing this so I can see Janeway again. It would be great if Admiral Janeway made an appearance on Picard too.