Star Trek: Prodigy's Creators Hint at Chakotay's Role and Explain What It Means to Make All-Ages Star Trek

The first Star Trek series aimed at kids, Star Trek: Prodigy, debuted on Paramount+ this week, though that label may not tell the whole story of what Prodigy is about. After all, for 55 years, Star Trek has been a franchise that families have enjoyed together. Parents who watched The Original Series passed their appreciation on to children who grew up with The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Now those Star Trek lovers get to watch a new generation come aboard with Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and now, Prodigy. But Prodigy is meant to be a welcoming starting point for any Star Trek neophyte, regardless of age, as creators Kevin and Dan Hageman told after the show's NYCC premiere earlier this month.

"The Trek universe is so big, right?" Kevin says. "It's getting deeper and deeper and deeper and I think it gets more and more intimidating, whether it's a kid or an adult. Where do I start? Where do I jump in on this?

Dan jumps in, "I mean, you could tell the kids start with The Original Series, but they may be like, 'I don't know, this looks like old-timey stuff.' You don't want them to reject it before they get into it. So in essence, this is like putting sugar on your medicine. It's like, let's make a show that's going to dazzle them, that's going to pique their curiosity, that's going to create characters that they're going to care about, and then once they care about those characters take that new audience into the world of Gene Roddenberry. And from the pilot, you're starting from the outside, that's why it doesn't look so much like Star Trek, but we will get there, I promise you that"

To that end, the first episode of Star Trek: Prodigy is light on familiar Star Trek lore and tropes. But the Hagemans have a plan in place that goes beyond the show's current setting, the Delta Quadrant. As the kids get closer to Federation space, they closer to Star Trek, and that all has to do with the mysterious ship they've commandeered, the USS Protostar.

"You know very little about the ship," Kevin says. "She's a big mystery, right? There's a lot of surprises to this ship. Our goal for the season is can we get them home? Can we get them to Federation space? And so by doing that, that starts to open up familiar species or classic elements to Trek that they can now come across."

Guiding them along the way is training Hologram modeled on Captain Kathryn Janeway, voiced by Kate Mulgrew, who played the character in Star Trek: Voyager. The Hagemans say Janeway's was integral to their pitch for Star Trek: Prodigy, and they didn't have a backup character in mind for if Mulgrew declined to return. 

"It was always the ambition," Dan says of getting Mulgrew to return as Janeway. "It went from Secret Hideout saying, 'Would you like to work on an entry point show?' Our first thought was that's really intimidating. I don't think we can do that. Then we walk and go, but but but, if you make it about a group of aliens who don't know anything about it, interesting, and in that same breath it is Captain Janeway, she's the perfect person. And then ultimately we go, oh crap, I think we're gonna be working on a Star Trek show because we feel like this is something that excites us and we feel like it will excite a new audience."

"Before she signed, we were scared, " Kevin admits. "We're like, I really hope she signs because watching Picard look after a bunch of children on the bridge, that doesn't sound like a good show to me."

But Mulgrew isn't the only Voyager star returning to Star Trek in Prodigy. Robert Beltran will return to voice Chakotay, Janeway's former first officer aboard the Voyager. The Hagemans remain guarded about hat role Chakotay and the other Starfleet officers announced for the series will play.

"All we can tell you is that obviously Chakotay plays a big part in hologram Janeway's memory banks, so to speak," Dan explains. "And so there's a relationship there um that I think all fans want to see more of, they want to see how it evolves. So I think that's something that is interesting."

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. The first episode of Star Trek: Prodigy is streaming now on Paramount+. New episodes will debut on Thursdays on Paramount+.

Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images/Paramount+