Interview: ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Producers On Seeing The Characters Grow Up To Become Starfleet Officers

At New York Comic Con, TrekMovie joined a group press interview with members of the cast and producers from Star Trek: Prodigy, which returns with the second half of season 1 on October 27. The interview with executive producers and co-creators Dan and Kevin Hageman along with co-executive producer/director Ben Hibon  focused on the future of the show and what we can expect for the core characters, more legacy characters, merchandise, and more.

Note: The interview contains some minor spoilers and has been edited for brevity and clarity.  

What made you decide to bring Okona into Prodigy?

Dan Hageman: I think we had a laugh about that episode, “Outrageous Okona,” in the writer’s room. And we love that he was like this like two-bit Han Solo. We just thought, ‘Can we?’ And then we found out that we could get him we were like, “Let’s do it!” Billy Campbell was great, too. I remember the first artist’s renditions that we did of him were more tasteful and he said, “No, no! You should really let him go! Give him an eye patch!” And then that rippled to when he was on Lower Decks, we were like “Got to get an eyepatch on him.” Got to keep this canon.

Kevin Hageman: When we were recording Billy, he loved bringing the character back because he looked back and said, “I didn’t do a very good job.” And I think the script was going through changes and so he said, “I would love what you guys could do to give him a second chance.”

At San Diego Comic-Con they announced the crossover between Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds. Do you see the potential for a Prodigy crossover?

Kevin Hageman: You guys just love your crossovers! You want your mash-ups. Oh, my gosh, I know, I’m constantly looking at Brett [Gray] as Dal and Ella [Purnell] as Gwyn. They could easily play their parts in real life if they wanted. I would love that. We have we don’t have anything officially planned yet.

Dan Hageman: I don’t know if Rylee [Alazraqui] could wear the Rok suit! [laughs]

Kevin Hageman: We’d love that. We just haven’t done that yet. This is season 1 and we’re doing a season 2. We’re still in that place. Lower Decks is for the adult fans. They’re instantly going into the Easter eggs. We want to do the greatest hits right now. It was fun to do the “Kobayashi” episode. And I do love those episodes like DS9’s “Trials and Tribulations,” those clever crossovers. Hopefully more.

There’s all this Star Trek history with over 800 episodes and so many characters. Is there a vault somewhere that you guys can pick characters out of?

Kevin Hageman: We do these calls with the other showrunners and everyone would pitch, “Here’s what we’re doing with season 2,” or whatever, and hope that no one else is picking the same actors.

Dan Hageman: We all play nice. Like again with Okona and Lower Decks we’re like, “The more Okona the better!”

Kevin Hageman: We’ve got some fun surprise characters coming out in the back ten episodes [of season 1] and in season 2 especially. So we’ve been talking very closely with other shows to make sure it all works.

Dan Hageman: Yeah, we can say there are two new legacy characters in season 2. Not counting Chakotay.

Kevin Hageman: We’re getting closer to the Federation and we want to be in the same world. I don’t want our show to be the little kid’s show that’s on a totally different plane of existence.

Ben Hibon: It’s the same way for the species because we have Klingons, Romulans, and Borg. It’s about how much cooperation you want between all the different shows. You don’t want too much of one thing so there’s definitely a lot of conversation between the shows.

Okona in Prodigy clip released on Star Trek Day clip

Both Lower Decks and Prodigy have returned to the classic Klingon design. Is that something the studio decided or did you guys decide on that?

Ben Hibon: I think the way we’ve been looking at the Prodigy style is to really embrace what was there, rather than completely reinventing just to stylize to fit within that visual reality. Because these designs are great. They are really fulsome. And they have been created a certain way for a reason and they are very recognizable to the fans and they mean something. And for us to just start shaking that—that’s not the intention of Prodigy.

Kevin Hageman: And we’re introducing people to Star Trek for the first time. These episodes are the greatest hits and I want to sell it to you guys.

With creating shows that are for a younger audience, how do you stay cognizant of teaching lessons without feeling like you’re looking down upon kids and trying to dumb things down?

Kevin Hageman: We’re trying to teach and remind ourselves of the same lessons.

Dan Hageman: I think the best way to learn lessons is through failure. I think that’s what makes it difficult for these kids. They have not gone through Starfleet. They have a lot to learn. And that’s okay. And they have Hologram Janeway there.

Kevin Hageman: It’ll be beautiful… You’ll get to see them start forming and being a real crew and calling things out like they should. You’re like, “These kids are starting to get it.”

You have already had forty episodes ordered with potentially more. How does that kind of longevity impact how you are developing the show? Is there a challenge to grow the characters from kids into adults?

Kevin Hageman: Our hope is the show goes on forever. I would love for it to just keep going. We’ve told Rylee, “We’re not going to replace you.” I don’t want Rok to stay the same age season after season. If her voice changes, we’re going to continue to have her grow up and I want these characters to become young adults and someday adult crew members.

Dan Hageman: But if Brett’s voice drops, he’s out! [laughs] I just love listening to his voice.

Still from episode 11, premiering October 27

What kind of merchandise would you like to see for Prodigy?

Dan Hageman: The Protostar ship! And we’ve seen it. It’s lived up to our expectations… And it was a really good price point too.

Kevin Hageman: It went above our expectations! Ben helps and give them notes. He loves toys.

Ben Hibon: I do like toys. And we’ll have more than one vehicle. I won’t say what it is but it’s really great… It’s really exciting. Seeing the blank page, inventing designs, all working together towards this one look and into a tangible thing.

Dan Hageman: The figures are really beautiful.

Kevin Hageman: We are just ten episodes in. My hope is that we are going to get more kids so that we can have more toys. We will be having our action figures. When I grew up, I had the Star Wars action figures. When there was a new movie there would be 30 different action figures, even the smallest characters… I know we’re going have our main cast as action figures but I would love to see a lot of our smaller [characters] like an Okona action figure.

Dan Hageman: When we worked on Ninjago, even now, there’s people who are just starting to watch Ninjago and they’re loving it. That show has been on for 15 seasons now. So it’s amazing that you have kids grow up and then another set of kids come in.

What do you think it is about Star Trek that has allowed it to endure for decades?

Dan Hageman: I think it just opens your imagination in an adult way. People have grown up with Star Wars, and with Star Trek there’s something a little bit more cerebral about it, a little bit of wishful thinking of where we could go as humanity carries on. I think it’s very powerful.

Kevin Hageman: I love the wish fulfillment … You never know what you’re going get in every episode. So while we do keep a serialized story, we’re always trying to push ourselves. Like, you got a Borg episode, a haunted house episode. Then we will do a comedic one. All the world’s a stage and so we’re always trying to keep you coming back.

Ben Hibon: I think it also has so many different faces, Trek, as an idea, as a universe. But it’s just endless. It’s the story of “many” not a story of “one.” With every iteration, with every new crew, it has that very colorful, very diverse, just hopeful set of experiences that keeps it always relevant to the time.

Dan Hageman: This isn’t a dig at Star Wars, but Star Wars is the same aesthetic throughout. Star Trek has always been “you never know.” It’s a new planet, brand-new rules. It really is like an open playground. Anything can happen.

Starting the show with a group of kids who are unaware of the Federation, but then become aware of it and Starfleet and how important it is to understand that there is a political world that does vastly affect you… how does that propel your writing toward this generation for learning about the world around them?

Dan Hageman: I think in today’s time there’s a lot of stuff that feels like it’s falling apart and I think we need Starfleet more than anything right now. We want to make sure that kids today can dream about the day that we can get our stuff together, hopefully down the line. That’s what empowers us, wanting to tell their stories.

Embed from Getty Images

More Star Trek from NYCC

For more on Prodigy, check out our interview with Kate Mulgrew. We have some more interviews from New York Comic Con to come so keep coming back to TrekMovie.com for all the latest from NYCC 2022. See more of our NYCC coverage here.

Prodigy mid-season trailer

In case you missed it, here again, is the mid-season trailer released at NYCC. [international version at startrek.com]

Prodigy will return on Thursday, Oct. 27 exclusively for Paramount+ subscribers in the U.S., and on Friday, Oct. 28 in Latin America, Australia, Italy and the U.K. Following the premiere, new episodes of the 10-episode-long second half will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. The series will air later in the year in South Korea, Germany, Italy, France, Austria and Switzerland.


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Everyone associated with the production of this show seems absolutely wonderful. And we got a good tease for what I assume are Playmates figures and a Protostar toy ship. Very good!

Wow! I’m more hyped about the return of Star Trek: Prodigy than of Picard and Discovery, to be honest. Can’t wait till the 27th!

Wow another great interview! There are so many things to unpack here and all positive. The best thing for me reading it is that the show is designed to go as long as possible. I mean I assumed that but a small part of me was starting to think maybe the show was just designed to do 40 episodes and then call it a day. They seem to have a very specific game plan unlike the other shows where it basically changes season to season. I was thinking maybe by the 40th episode it would end with them saving the Federation and officially joining Starfleet Academy or something. But its great to know they plan to go as many seasons as they can get.

And happy we will be seeing more legacy characters of course. And I think for Prodigy the more the merrier because the point is for young kids new to Star Trek to actually learn about Star Trek and the more characters they get introduced to the better. I would love to see more characters from TOS, TNG, DS9, ENT and so on in the future. The Kobayashi episode is still probably my favorite so far and a great example of introducing legacy characters for a new audience without it feeling forced. But now that we learn they will eventually make it to Federation space then they can just bring in whoever they want like the other shows are doing. Also great news to hear Chakotay will be part of season 2 as well! And soooo thankful they have the traditional Klingons again. Best decision both it and Lower Decks made IMO!

I know there are still a lot of fans out there that are still not sold on all these new shows but for me, I’m more excited about the future than ever. I’m not super happy with all of them for sure, and have no problem saying so, but they all have the potential to be great. There was a time I (and many others) wasn’t happy with all the classic shows either and today I love them all. Modern Trek is still very young but shows like Prodigy is Star Trek at its best IMO. A show I thought I would be bored by the fifth episode.

I really can’t wait to see where this show is going. I’m loving all the characters and the twisty story line so far!

This show, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds leave Discovery and especially Picard in the dust. It’s too bad CBS couldn’t be more consistent with the quality of its Star Trek writing. The writers behind Discovery and Picard are being entirely outclassed by cartoons.

I’m still holding out next season of Picard will be great. But yeah it will be very disappointing if season 3 is as bad as the first two seasons.

It is crazy that the animated shows are really outdoing some of these live action shows.

Animation is art.

I’m always taken aback when I see sneering against animated series or shorts as if they’re a lesser thing.

What we can say is that Discovery and Picard were the earliest in of the new era and they’ve suffered for it. Not least because both shows had too many big ego EPs and showrunners trying to pull them in different directions.

What’s noticeable about LDS, Prodigy and SNW is the coherence that comes from a vision for the shows that’s championed by one or two Creator EP/Showrunners.

It doesn’t matter how much an actor or the fans want to have a show that includes certain characters or eras, there has to be someone with suffice experience and enthusiasm who can make the vision stick. Which is likely why the S31 and Academy shows have languished in development hell.

Kurtzman’s said several times recently that the most important thing in greenlighting a show is that there is someone with a clear vision they can articulate and champion. So, it sound like he sees the difference and will be prioritizing new series on that basis.

Well said. Another thing I think the animated Treks have going for them is that the point where things just have to be finalized and locked down comes relatively early on compared to live action productions. You don’t get a lot of “we started filming the story before we’d finished the script” in animation. And that planning shows. LDS and Prodigy, imo, have a much stronger sense of what they’re supposed to be than PIC or DISCO.

Yes definitely, the lingering expectation that good live-action shows can be made with seat-of-the pants writing in tandem with production is something that the suits have to let go of.

Why do I say the suits? Because it seems to be deep in the way the cash flow is allocated.

It’s not possible with animation, but despite moving away from broadcast television and drastically reducing the number of episodes per season, there seems to be an unwillingness by the content executives greenlighting the series to really put enough time and money into preproduction.

I’ve been hopeful that the move to the use of virtual vfx with the AR walls might shift the equation.

But it seems to be a deeply rooted practice on the live action side of the Star Trek franchise, even if others (e.g. Marvel) can produce coherent live action seasons.

Picard had more than a year to lock down a coherent season two and it was a mess. Instead of locking it down, by all accounts season two was reworked more than once after a complete set of script outlines were done. More, by the time it was in production, all three showrunners (Chabon, Goldsman and Matalas) had moved on to do other things. Definitely, shows something deeply wrong with the model.

That’s because in animation they are allowed to have fun.

What a refreshing concept — an animated Star Trek series where the characters actually mature and grow up!