'Star Trek: Prodigy' sends the franchise back into the animation universe

"Star Trek" has had its younger fans, but rarely has the direct appeal of "Star Trek: Prodigy" been made to them.

The enduring sci-fi franchise goes where it hasn't often gone before with the debut of the animated series Thursday, Oct. 28, on Paramount+. Produced by the animation arms of Nickelodeon (which will run the program later) and CBS Studios, the saga brings back Kate Mulgrew to voice a hologram version of her "Star Trek: Voyager" character Capt. Kathryn Janeway. However, the show centers around her new trainees, six young aliens who learn about working together - and the workings of Starfleet - while traveling aboard an abandoned ship.

"Janeway defined an era for me and, as it turns out, the rest of my life," Mulgrew reflects. "To play a hologram is probably the most clever way to introduce this character to children. To introduce 'Hologram Janeway' to 10-year-olds, 15-year-olds is an exciting approach, and very smart. From there, of course, the sky is the limit ... but I am delighted to be back playing her. I love her. When a character defines a part of your life, you are in turn deeply grateful, which I am. And she has never left me."

"Star Trek: Prodigy" executive producer Alex Kurtman has been a major keeper of the flame, having co-created and overseen the Paramount+ series "Star Trek: Discovery" and "Star Trek: Picard," and also having a hand in the streaming service's animated but more-adult "Star Trek: Lower Decks." He maintains "Star Trek" has "always been a family show, the show that parents watched with their children - and those children become parents, and they pass it on to their children. I think that legacy is important."

"Star Trek" also yielded a 1973-74 Saturday-morning NBC cartoon show (with the voices of the original series' cast), but Kurtzman credits sibling "Star Trek: Prodigy" creators Dan and Kevin Hageman with bringing "such a wonderful objectivity, just based on their own experience doing kids' shows ('Trollhunters,' etc.), about an area in 'Star Trek' that felt like a really wonderful place to look at. It was great. And obviously, having Kate back to play Janeway is everything, because that blessing allowed us to tell this story in a way that I think we otherwise would not have been able to tell."

With a second season already ordered, "Star Trek: Prodigy" also features in its voice cast Brett Gray, Jason Mantzoukas, Ella Purnell and - as the tyrannical Diviner and his enforcer Drednok - John Noble ("Fringe") and Jimmi Simpson ("Westworld").

"The 'Star Trek' world has been pervasive for a lot of my life, and I'm 73," Noble notes. "I'm really thrilled to do (this)."

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