In addition to speaking to Kate Mulgrew, TrekMovie also participated in an NYCC group interview with Star Trek: Prodigy executive producers/co-creators Kevin and Dan Hageman and executive producer/director Ben Hibon. The producers talked to us and a handful of other outlets about how the animated show isn’t just for kids, how it fits in with other Trek, and even about the likelihood that we’ll see some legacy characters on the show.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Was Prodigy an idea you brought to CBS Paramount and Nickelodeon or were you asked to develop a Star Trek show for kids by them, and Prodigy came from that?
Dan Hageman: The latter. Secret Hideout came to us and said, ‘We would love to figure out an entry point for the Star Trek universe for a younger audience.’ And then Kevin and I kind of went away and then we came back and said we’d like to make this show, and they were enthusiastic about it, and the rest is on the screen.
Kevin Hageman: At first we were really nervous about doing a Trek show because I don’t think I could write an episode of, let’s say, Voyager. But when we left that meeting, we’re like, ‘Well, what would we do?’ And we decided, ‘Wait a minute, if these main characters are outside of everything Starfleet and they start to discover it and learn it and stuff like that.’ That’s really relatable and it’s a wonderful jumping-off point for kids, right? For most shows, it’s always these fully formed officers who just know everything. The best of the best. What kid is the best of the best?
Dan Hageman: I think the first thing we would say very early on is: ‘We don’t want to work on little Kirk and little Spock.’
Kevin Hageman: That sounds like it sounds like a terrible show.
Dan Hageman: I’m sure it has an audience, but we don’t want to write that.
What was the most difficult thing to adapt from Star Trek for a kids’ show?
Dan Hageman: Well we always try to blur the line. We never really view it as a kid show. We view it as a show for people who don’t know Star Trek, which could be young or old. And so we always had that perspective of the outsider and that freed us up. We wanted to keep the stakes real for an older audience. We never want to dumb things down for kids. Kids are really smart. They may have a learning curve in the show, but they’ll get there.
Kevin Hageman: I think the hardest part is the balancing of the tone. It’s really hard as a writer to get that tone that will hit everyone. The comedy needs to be smart. The storytelling needs to be really clever. It’s got to work for both kids and adults. That’s always the challenge
Dan Hageman: A lot of Star Trek is already is great for all ages. But there’s always a few episodes that might not be appropriate for kids and for our show I’m sure we’ll all avoid those episodes.
What were some of the challenges of translating the live-action world of Star Trek into your 3D animation style?
Ben Hibon: I don’t I don’t think we necessarily try to carry through a certain or specific style from something else as much as trying to create something new that would capture all the elements that we’re looking for. So it’s kind of looking at the page, looking at the intentions of the character and the ambition of the show as a character-driven story. And then how do we best capture this with animation. Therefore, we decided to go very cinematic in terms of the scale of the adventure.
We wanted to have something that would fit really nicely within other Trek shows because we’re canon. It is a continuation. So we wanted that realism of the world itself to feel as realized as other Trek shows. That also dictated how we would design the world itself, the background, how lived-in it is, how tangible in texture it is. Those are the different pieces that we’ve been looking at doing.
For character design, we wanted to have something that had a sufficient amount of facial detail, being able to emote very much so we could really focus on close-ups and emotion as much as the danger, the stakes, the fun, the adventure, all of these elements. We wanted to be able to shoot it at any distance for it to look good.
For Ben, how does directing for Star Trek compare with your other work like Heavenly Sword and Harry Potter?
Ben Hibon: Thanks to Kevin and Dan and Nickelodeon and Paramount, there was a lot of excitement, enthusiasm, and freedom in terms of really creating something that did not necessarily need to mirror anything prior to it. Aside from tone, respecting rules in terms of what was established. But in terms of visually creating imageries, it was very flexible, very organic, and therefore very creative.
I can say the same for the Harry Potter animation; for example, where we made an animated version of a fantastical world. But that piece of content did not exist in that mythology yet. And I think it’s the same here. We’re adding a piece of the puzzle without duplicating it. We’re just creating an addition to it. And by doing that, and using a different medium, it just gives us a lot of lateral movement. We can go back to the known, we can explore the unknown, and hopefully just marry the two in an interesting way.
Is Captain Janeway the only hologram that you guys actually considered?
Kevin Hageman: One hundred percent we knew it was Kate right away.
Dan Hageman: We knew it right after it was like, ‘In case you don’t know anything about Star Trek.’ And then Kate Mulgrew. It went in that order.
Kevin Hageman: She’s loving but disciplined. She just fit that perfect mentor for a bunch of wayward kids. ‘
And are there going to be other appearances of other hologram characters from Star Trek?
Kevin Hageman: Let’s just say yes, there will be other holograms. But I don’t want to make it sound like legacy characters who might show up in our show are going to be holograms. Our kids are starting in the Delta Quadrant and they’re venturing into Federation space, the Federation space of all the other shows at that time period. So we might see real characters coming in, not as holograms.
Since the USS Protostar is an NX experimental ship with a cadet training program, are there going to be new surprises for Trek fans?
Dan Hageman: There’s some big secrets about the ship that will be explored. And the season revolves around some of those secrets.
Kevin Hageman: Even though you guys have seen the ads and you knew Janeway would show up, when we first wrote the pilot, no one had any idea until you get to that last page and all of a sudden Janeway shows up and it was really, really shocking. We love mystery. We love moments like that. And there will be many more.
You just announced four new characters including Captain Chakotay, which sounds like the crew of a starship. Can you say anything more about them, and are they the original crew of the Protostar?
Kevin Hageman: [Laughs] Nice question, but we can’t tell you anything, except you are wrong on [them being former Protostar crew].
Dan Hageman: We have to keep our details tight on that one.
Kevin Hageman: Oh yeah. Top secret.
Prodigy arrives next week
The Prodigy debut will be available to stream on Paramount+ in the United States on October 28. The series is also coming to Paramount+ in Latin America, the Nordics, and Australia, and CTV Sci-Fi in Canada. It will debut in 2022 in parts of Europe with the launch of the Paramouint+ Sky partnership.
Keep up with the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.