Inside the ‘Star Trek’ Universe of New Shows and Kids’ Fare on Paramount Plus

Adam B. Vary
·4-min read

The “Star Trek” Universe is making its permanent home on Paramount Plus, including the premiere of the latest “Trek” iteration, the animated kids series “Star Trek: Prodigy,” ViacomCBS announced during its Investors Day presentation on Wednesday.

Originally conceived for Nickelodeon, “Prodigy,” from Kevin and Dan Hageman (Netflix’s “Trollhunters”), will now premiere on the streamer later in 2021. After its 10-episode run has concluded there, the show — about a coterie of alien kids who commander a seemingly abandoned Starfleet vessel — will air again on the linear Nickelodeon channel. The network also released a first look at the bridge crew from the show, highlighting that none of the main characters on “Prodigy” will be human, a first for a “Trek” series.

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The move is part of a wider official strategy of placing every current and former “Trek” TV series on Paramount Plus, including new seasons of “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Star Trek: Lower Decks” which are also set to premiere in 2021.

“It does speak to having a franchise that is unique to Paramount Plus, and we’re very excited about that,” Paramount Plus programming chief Julie McNamara tells Variety. “There is a kind of franchise strategy, which is the notion that if you execute new versions of this really strong IP that you have well, you’re going to drive people across the paywall.”

Along with “Prodigy,” “Discovery” and “Lower Decks,” Paramount Plus is also in active production on the second season of “Star Trek: Picard,” and the new series “Star Trek: Brave New Worlds.” It’s the largest expansion of the “Trek” franchise since its inception in 1966, but unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and recent plans for the expansion of the “Star Wars” franchise on Disney Plus, don’t expect these “Trek” series to be unfolding within a closely knit storytelling universe.

“We’re aiming to have our shows feel unique and different from each other,” Alex Kurtzman, the overall executive producer for the “Star Trek” Universe, tells Variety. “We want to give everybody a reason to watch each show.”

While fans will see “interconnectedness” within the shows, Kurtzman says, there aren’t plans to tell a single cohesive story. “That’s a lot of fun, but our goal is not to make it so insular that if you haven’t seen the show you’re lost when you watch another show,” he says.

Kurtzman and McNamara say there are still “conversations” about a new “Star Trek” series around Michelle Yeoh’s Philippa Georgiou and the mysterious Section 31, and there are other “Trek” shows in development that haven’t been previously announced. But they emphasized that the current five-series slate will likely not expand further until at least one of the shows runs its course.

“We’re very careful about curating the pacing — the number of shows at any given time — and what those shows are, so that we make sure that it’s always exciting when there’s a new track show coming out,” says McNamara. The rough schedule, she says, is to debut “a new ‘Trek’ a quarter” on Paramount Plus.

“Whether there’s a show that comes up that feels additive and we should add that into the mix, or waiting for attrition of another ‘Trek’ show, we feel good about where we are,” she says. McNamara said that by “attrition,” she means either a “Trek” show “aging out” naturally, or — in an allusion to 80-year-old “Picard” star Patrick Steward, “perhaps an older lead is only committed to a certain number of seasons and and therefore we move on from that.”

Specifically with “Prodigy,” McNamara says another factor that contributed to the decision to move the show to streaming involved data from Paramount Plus’s predecessor, CBS All Access, that showed subscribers who watched “Trek” shows also watched Nickelodeon’s animated series “The Legend of Korra.”

“It seemed very wise for us to access both the ‘Star Trek’ fan base that’s already on the platform and also kids,” she says. “Those are the two groups that you want to reach.”

At the same time, ViacomCBS didn’t want to lose the opportunity to use “Prodigy” to entice a new generation to become “Star Trek” fans, which drove the decision to re-air the show on Nick.

“It’s a great way to expose children to ‘Star Trek,’ who may be on Nickelodeon to watch other franchises,” said McNamara.

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