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‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ takes off in too-familiar animated directions

<i>Nickelodeon/Paramount+</i><br/>Paramount has already sought to grow the
Paramount has already sought to grow the "Star Trek" brand via animation with the comedy subtitled "Lower Decks

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

Paramount has already sought to grow the “Star Trek” brand via animation with the comedy subtitled “Lower Decks,” but takes another stab that feels conspicuously like a “Star Wars Rebels” wannabe with “Star Trek: Prodigy.” Paramount+ obviously has ample shelf space, but this Nickelodeon series (where it will play later) doesn’t exactly blaze memorable trails.

The presence of Kate Mulgrew from “Star Trek: Voyager” as the voice of a hologram version of Captain Kathryn Janeway provides a peripheral connection to the “Trek” universe for those greybeards who might tune in with (and possibly without) their kids and grandkids. Beyond that, the show mostly just transparently trades off the “Trek” title without feeling like it’s going anywhere, boldly or otherwise.

That leaves the program’s stand-alone merits, which based on the first few episodes appear fairly weak. The characters are colorful, with a group of misfit teenagers escaping from a mining colony outside of Federation jurisdiction aboard a Starfleet ship, under the sort-of leadership of the resourceful Dal (Brett Gray).

Dal is being sought by the villainous Diviner (John Noble), who believes he possesses knowledge that will help identify “fugitive Zero,” with various adventures presumably in the group’s future as they voyage across the galaxy.

There’s plenty of action, and the animation is appropriately slick. There’s even what plays like an homage to the movie “Galaxy Quest,” an affectionate “Star Trek” sendup, one of those meta moments likely to sail over the heads of kids.

While there’s obviously a space-faring aspect to all that, the relationship to “Star Trek” — with its martial qualities involving starships, captains and their crews — is especially tenuous. Indeed, the tone represents such a significant departure the “Trek” label becomes somewhat arbitrary, with composer Michael Giacchino’s score representing the best part of the whole exercise.

“Star Trek” has continued its mission through multiple incarnations over the last 55 years, but catering to kids hasn’t traditionally been among the strengths of Gene Roddenberry’s creation.

While it’s understandable why Paramount would want to expand the footprint to attract a younger audience, the search for synergy has come at the expense of prized commodity in “Trek” lore — namely, logic. And in terms of showing abilities beyond its years, a prodigy this isn’t.

“Star Trek: Prodigy” premieres Oct. 28 on Paramount+.

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