Some if not most of my earliest memories as a child are not of playgrounds or family excursions. No, those memories in my hippocampus are occupied by viewings of The Next Generation and countless VHS viewings of The Undiscovered Country. To say that Star Trek had a profound impact on my childhood would be a massive understatement. The crew of the Enterprise was my family, and their stories and adventures were my escape.
So when CBS and Paramount announced a new animated series on Nickelodeon, one that was geared and created for the next generation of Trek fans, AKA, my children, my heart filled with joy. But I won't lie; it was also filled with a bit of trepidation. Unlike my rough upbringing, my kids, two and five, have never had to deal with a parent with an addiction. They've never had to wonder just where they were going to end up. They've never had to experience the loss of their mom and dad like I had. No, they've had a relatively, calm normal suburban upbringing, without the need for escapism in the way that I needed it.
Therein lies the problem. My eldest, Cecily, has not been quick to jump on the transporter pad. To be fair, why would she? She has everything a girl obsessed with unicorns and rainbows needs when it comes to entertainment. When Discovery has been on, she has sat down with us and casually watched, but even for a brilliant (what can I say, she is) five-year-old, the stories of Michael Burnham and her crew are advanced for her age. She's sat down and watched back episodes of TNG and Voyager with us, but it's never been with any vesting interest.
Lower Decks is another story. She's watched every single episode (yes, even those) with us. She laughs when she should laugh and asks questions when she doesn't understand something. When I ask her who her favorite character is, she responds quickly: "Mariner and Boimler." This is what gives me some hope. Cecily is still at the age where she prefers animation over live-action. She's dabbled in feature-length films like Black Widow, Cruella, and Jungle Cruise and enjoyed those, but it's still the new My Little Pony film on Netflix that she asks for on the iPad. Lower Decks also fills that love of animation for her, and hopefully soon, Prodigy will be the transwarp conduit into all that is Star Trek.
What kid isn't going to absolutely LOVE Murph?
Judging by her reaction to the first couple of trailers, the excitement seems to be there. Now and then, on a car ride, she'll ask me, " Daddy, when does the new kids Star Trek show come on?" She wants to talk about it with me, and she wants to come on the pod to do so as well. So, if suddenly she's watching Prodigy, and these kids have this starship they have no idea what to do with, and characters like Janeway and Chakotay appear? All this Trekkie dad can hope is that the next question she asks is, "who are they?" And I'll reply, "Well, little one, let me tell you the story of Captain Janeway and the starship Voyager."
For Caleb, who is two weeks away from his third birthday at the time of this writing, Prodigy couldn't have come at a better time. He has not really watched Lower Decks with us, and what little he has probably went right over his little blond head. And that's okay. The television geared towards him right now, like Paw Patrol and Team Umizoomi, is precisely where Prodigy fits in. Having this show available at this point in his development is a nerd dad's dream. Just wait until he starts humming that awesome theme song from Michael Giacchino.
You might be asking the question while reading this, "Well, Julian, what if Star Trek just isn't for them?" Then I say send a Borg cube over this way and assimilate my children into loving it. In all seriousness, that's perfectly fine. I'm a nerd of many flavors. If they ended up loving Star Wars, that would be fine too. I've even resigned myself to the fact that I may be that dad made fun of by their kids, but I genuinely don't believe that will happen.
And maybe you're also wondering if I only want my kids to love Star Trek because I love Star Trek. That's probably partly true, but it's not my primary intent. As someone who has watched this franchise for as long as I can remember, I truly believe that Star Trek is for everyone. Every single human being can find something they love in Star Trek if they give it a chance. You don't even have to like sci-fi, just pick an episode and watch.
Paramount and CBS see this too, finally leaping into the market with a Trek series truly meant for young children. You can argue that we all watched Trek as kids and that those shows were made for us too, but the 80-90s were a very different time. Kids have so many more options than we ever did, and the powers that be clearly have noticed this.
Dan & Kevin Hageman aren't just creating Prodigy for the here and now. They're using the series to discover and create a whole new crop of lower deckers who will seek out those new lifeforms and new civilizations, who'll boldly go where no kid has gone before. That's enough to make this papa bear truly excited for his little cadets.