Just as I was thankful to my Paramount+ subscription for last Thursday’s sensational episode of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” ( “Ad Astra Per Aspera” ), I was abruptly blindsided the next day by news that the streaming service was cancelling—and removing—the entirety of “Star Trek: Prodigy” from its platform, despite the fact the series is currently in post-production on its second season (for which it was recently renewed).
Along with “Prodigy”, other series cancelled/removed from Paramount+, include the “Grease” spinoff, “Rise of the Pink Ladies,” the drag singing competition “Queen of the Universe,” and the football comedy-drama, “The Game.” As of June 26th—less than a week after the announcement—these series are no longer listed on the site’s lineup of shows. “Prodigy” was also cancelled and pulled from the Paramount-run kid-friendly Nickelodeon network, as well.
While “Prodigy” was geared towards younger viewers, it was never dumbed-down or condescending. It was as legitimately thoughtful and entertaining for all age groups as any other Star Trek series, of which only two are currently not on the chopping block; the aforementioned “Strange New Worlds” and the other, more risqué animated series, “Lower Decks,” of which I’m not a fan (nothing against the many fans who enjoy the show, it’s just not my cup of raktajino).
What makes this abrupt termination even more heartbreaking is that “Prodigy” found its groove fairly early on, unlike “Star Trek: Discovery” which struggled with its serialized storytelling format throughout its soon-ending 5 season run. “Prodigy” featured an easy blend of serialization and standalone adventures—the likes of which we Trekkies haven’t experienced since the heyday of “Deep Space Nine.”
Star Trek: Prodigy’s Characters
The first 20-episode season of “Prodigy”, split into two 10-episode runs, ended with the makeshift alien crew of the, ahem, ‘appropriated’ Federation starship, USS Protostar finally reaching Federation space, after a season in space learning to work as a Starfleet crew, thanks to their holographic Captain Kathryn Janeway mentor (voiced by Kate Mulgrew). Upon reaching Starfleet Command, they were ultimately permitted to join Starfleet, in recognition for their deeds of heroism by the real Admiral Kathryn Janeway.
The following character summaries are from an earlier column I did on the series in January of this year; the extended versions of which (including notes on the voice actors) can be found in this link to the original article.
Holo-Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)
After the young escapees steal the Protostar, they begin to access its files and summon the Janeway holographic training program (Kate Mulgrew), patterned after the legendary captain (now admiral) who once commanded the USS Voyager. With all of Janeway’s habits, inflections, even personal tastes and memories, Holo-Janeway is essentially guide and mentor to the young runaways aboard the Protostar; a ship originally commanded by the real Janeway’s former first officer, Chakotay (Robert Beltran), who’s since gone missing, along with the Protostar‘s crew. Holo-Janeway is, by design, slightly more deferential to the new ‘crew’ of the ship, but she retains Janeway’s firm hand and compassion as well. The finale of season 1 (“Supernova”, Parts 1, 2) sees holographic Janeway volunteering to stay behind and manually destroy the Protostar, after its infectious malware-weapon causes Starfleet to involuntarily attack itself. Unable to copy her complex program in time, she is forced to lie to her escaping wards—leaving them a data rod with a goodbye message, instead.
Dal R’Ell (Brett Gray)
The young leader of the Tars Lamora escape is Dal R’Ell (Brett Gray), and despite his earlier wish to simply take the stolen Protostar for parts unknown (“Starstruck”), Dal soon decides that life in the inclusive Federation would be ideal for he and his runaway friends. To that end, he decides to learn the ways of Starfleet (“Kobayashi”). With Holo-Janeway’s guidance, as well as his own mental dexterity and experience, Dal begins to earn his assumed leadership role (“All the World’s a Stage”). He later learns he was the result of a genetics experiment which combined the DNA of multiple Federation species (“Masquerade”), and that Starfleet forbids any such genetic augments from serving in its ranks. After saving Starfleet by having the Protostar and its irremovable weapon destroyed, Admiral Janeway makes a heartfelt appeal on Dal’s behalf that allows him to become a Starfleet recruit (“Supernova,” Part 2). Dal has come a long way in just 20 episodes.
Gwyndala (Ella Purnell)
Gwyndala (Ella Purnell) is the privileged daughter of “the Diviner” (John Noble), who is the evil ruler of the Tars Lamora prison colony. Despite her father’s best manipulations, Gwyndala begins to see evidence that her father’s power is built upon cruelty. After being kidnapped by Dal and his escapees (“Lost and Found,” Part 2), Gwyndala (aka Gwyn) comes to sympathize with the Protostar‘s found family of refugees. With her own intellect and breeding, she settles in as acting first officer to Dal’s acting captain. Trouble arises when her pursuing father makes contact, and reveals that he’s seeking to destroy Starfleet with a secret weapon secured aboard the Protostar, in retaliation for a botched first contact which caused a deadly civil war among their people. That knowledge is blocked, however, after the Diviner sees Medusan crew member Zero’s true form, which causes traumatic amnesia and madness. Gwyn is also afflicted with amnesia, after viewing Zero’s reflection in a mirror (“A Moral Star,” Part 2). She eventually recovers, and continues with her found family aboard the Protostar. The season 1 finale sees a conflicted Gwyn choosing to rejoin her people, after her friends find new lives in Starfleet (“Supernova” Part 2).
Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas)
Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) is a blustering but lovable Tellarite (a formerly pig-faced species introduced in TOS’ “Journey to Babel”) with a mechanical right arm that offers a variety of conveniences for a ship’s mechanic. Escaping from the prison colony with Dal and the others, he quickly assumes the position of chief engineer aboard the Protostar, often making life-saving repairs with a combination of sheer will and blind luck. After many episodes as the ship’s reigning comic relief, we later learn the orphaned Tellarite was living on a mining ship when his cryogenics pod malfunctioned, causing him to awaken before the rest of the crew (“Preludes”). Alone on the transport ship, Jankom formed a frustrating relationship with the ship’s computer, which often failed to recognize his voice, prompting Pog to speak his name in the third person whenever they interacted—a habit which has since become permanent. After repairing the decaying ship, he chose to conserve oxygen by jettisoning himself in an escape pod, where he was captured by hostile Kazons. The sometimes blustery mechanic also joins Starfleet with his friends, after they receive a hero’s due at Starfleet Headquarters (“Supernova,” Part 2).
Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui)
Rok-Tahk helped Dal escape from the prison colony after being sent to kill him. Despite Rok-Tahk’s rock monster-appearance and grunting vocalizations, the Protostar‘s onboard universal translator revealed Rok-Tahk to be a sweet-natured child (Rylee Alazraqui), with great sensitivity and compassion for others. In the episode “Time Amok,” the Protostar falls into a tachyon anomaly which traps the crew in different pockets of time—each moving at different speeds. Rok-Tahk was trapped in a pocket that moved the slowest, allowing her to take all the time needed to understand and reverse the phenomenon by herself, spending months in isolation to save her then-newfound friends. In the process, she learned she had a knack for science, with xenobiologybeing her chosen field of study at Starfleet when she arrives (“Supernova,” Parts 1, 2). Rok-Tahk also has a deep affinity with and empathy for the indestructible gelatinous blob, Murf (Dee Bradley Baker).
Zero (Angus Imrie)
Like the Tellarite Jankom Pog, Zero (Angus Imrie) is a ‘Medusan’; another legacy species from TOS Star Trek. As established in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” Medusans are sublimely intelligent, non-corporeal beings with an unparalleled ability for interstellar navigation. Unfortunately, Medusans’ true, unfiltered appearance drives most beings insane. By the late 24th century, technology had advanced to the point where Medusans could live among corporeal beings through mechanical exo-suits, which they use to interact with the corporeal world. When we meet the genderless Zero in the Diviner’s labor camp (“Lost and Found,” Parts 1, 2), they are not exactly being a model prisoner. Zero’s good trouble creates a diversion that affords Dal and the others a window of opportunity in which to escape. Once in space (“Starstruck”), Zero has to rely on their innate, yet untested knack for navigation to pilot the Protostar. We also see Zero employing their species telepathic sense as well, which helps Gwen to recover her memory (“Asylum”) after she accidentally glimpses Zero’s unfiltered reflection in a mirror (“A Moral Star,” Part 2). The episode “Supernova” Part 2 sees a Starfleet-bound Zero getting a new, state-of-the-art exo-suit, as well.
Murf (Dee Bradley Baker)
Murf (Dee Bradley Baker) is an amorphous and indestructible gelatinous being who forms a deep attachment with Rok-Tahk. Murf can survive in the vacuum of space (“First Con-tact”), and can ingest things that would easily kill other life forms, such as swallowing the protostar that is the drive core of the escapees’ new ride (“A Moral Star,” Part 1). In “Asylum,” we learn through medical scans that the previously unknown Murf is, in fact, a Mellinoidslime worm; a species known to Federation science (TNG’s “Coming of Age”). When Murf appears stricken by illness (“All the World’s a Stage”), we learn that he’s actually undergoing a metamorphosis common to his species. When Murf emerges (“Crossroads”), he is now in a slightly more humanoid shape, though retaining his indestructible nature. After saving the ship from Romulan intruders (“Masquerade”), Murf is given a new role as ship’s security chief. Following the destruction of the Protostar (“Supernova,” Part 2), we see Murf joining his friends in Starfleet.
The Future of Star Trek: Prodigy?
Rumors are already flying about the fate of “Prodigy” going forward; the series’ showrunners, Dan and Kevin Hageman, seem publicly optimistic about the series finding a new home on another streaming platform, such as Netflix or Amazon PrimeVideo. There is precedence for such optimism. The SyFy Channel cancelled the sophisticated space colonization drama, “The Expanse” in 2018, only for the series to find a new home on PrimeVideo, allowing it to complete its final two seasons in 2022. Hell, Star Trek’s entire franchise history stems from one prematurely cancelled TV show way back in the late 1960s.
As Mr. Spock says, “There are always possibilities…”
However, given that other streaming platforms are also removing shows from their streaming inventories (with even Disney+ set to follow suit soon), I’m not optimistic that any new home “Prodigy” finds wills be stable for very long. This newfound uncertainty with streaming makes me yearn for the days of physical media, such as DVDs and BluRays. Once you bought a movie or series, it was yours. No one could cancel it, digitally alter it, or remove it from your film library.
Granted, buying movies is, admittedly, an expensive hobby (after nearly 40+ years of buying CED videodiscs, laserdiscs, VHS tapes, DVDs and BluRays, I can vouch), but so is paying for a jumble of monthly streaming services—prices for which are only expected to rise—in order to watch only a handful of shows or movies. Paying $7.99 a month here, $14.99 a month there versus a $15-$40 one-time price to own a season of a show on a permanent format.
For my money, I’m planning to hit Amazon and buy “Star Trek: Prodigy” Season One Parts 1 & 2 on BluRay as soon as I can (it’s currently sold out; no surprise). Even if we never see that almost-completed second season, no capricious streaming platform will ever be able to get their mitts on my BluRay copies of this surprisingly strong Star Trek series.
As an old coot, this streaming situation feels all too familiar to me, and that’s because I’ve seen it before with the rise of cable TV over 40 years ago. Customers added HBO for a few shows and movies, then Showtime for a couple more, then Cinemax for one more, et al, until their monthly cable bills began to rival or surpass their monthly grocery tabs or rent. When the streaming revolution began, I hoped it would somehow be different this time. Unfortunately, it’s the same sad (expensive) song we reluctantly danced to back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
In the meantime, a social media campaign has begun in earnest, under the hashtag #SaveStarTrekProdigy, and I truly hope it succeds. If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other large social media platform, I would recommend voicing your displeasure (politely) to the powers that be (@paramountplus) under that hashtag. “Star Trek: Prodigy” is too good and promising a show to die so young.
Live long and prosper, everyone.