If you are looking at Star Trek: Prodigy and thinking a Trek series for kids will be boring, you are dead wrong, and the cast list is all you need for proof. In a first for Trek, the entire main cast, excluding a training hologram of Captain Janeway herself, is made up of aliens, ranging from the humanoid to a an amorphous blob and a Medusan—an energy-based life-form wearing a containment suit.
Since 1966, Star Trek has been a pioneer in science fiction. In a galaxy filled with futuristic mystery and alien cultures, explorers boldly go where no one has gone before, and that narrative has dazzled fans for 55 years. However, one of Trek’s biggest criticisms has always been that, despite being set in a universe where millions of different intelligent species exist, the vast majority that viewers are presented with are humanoid.
Very few uniquely shaped beings show up in Roddenberry’s universe, and even worse than that, most of those species only show up in a “monster of the week” context and never appear again. Every Trek cast has only had a handful of aliens, preferring to have a majority of human characters. While it makes sense that production budgets and time constraints can only handle so many unique characters, it does make the fabric of Trek’s galaxy seem a bit … limited.
Over the years, Star Trek writers have created over 300 species and counting, and yet, their main casts have only included roughly 18 different species and 30 alien main characters. That doesn’t seem too bad, until you compare it to the fact that, across all current series, there have been 46 main cast humans (and that excludes minor characters on the ship, which are often exclusively human). The ratio gets much worse if you take out newer Trek entries like Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks (16/29).
Much like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “The Chase” waved a hand over the humanoid problem, focusing every single series on the Earth-based Starfleet has been the excuse for making the majority of starship crews human, despite the vastness and variety of beings in the galaxy.
That is, until Star Trek: Prodigy.
With Alex Kurtzman at the helm, CBS’ Star Trek franchise has grown with each coming year, and animated series Prodigy is the next to join the modern Trek lineup. This is a story about a group of young aliens who find an abandoned Starfleet starship and use it to adventure the Delta Quadrant. While the entire show looks like a fascinating, starstruck way to introduce children to Trek, the cast really shines. Finally, Prodigy will showcase the wide, unique galaxy in a way that fans have never seen before.
Prodigy’s exclusively alien cast isn’t just riveting because aliens are exciting; it’s because the aliens of Trek have always been the most compelling parts of Trek.
Many of the best and most beloved Trek episodes have focused on alien peoples and cultures: “Amok Time,” “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “The Measure of a Man,” “The Balance of Terror,” “Chain of Command,” “The Inner Light,” and “Darmok,” to name a few.
The best example of Trek’s compelling aliens has always been Spock. While the fandom loved the entire original series cast, Spock was the rallying fan favorite that made Trek, well, Trek. He looked enough like a human, but his mannerisms were alien. He didn’t act like people expected, and the stories the Roddenberry crew told about his planet and people made him a complex, dynamic character. He had family pressures and disagreements. He bonded with people in his own, unique way. He had beliefs and ideals and he wasn’t afraid to voice them. The original series made Spock, the Vulcan alien, so lovable and relatable that it set the tone for the rest of the series.
It’s no surprise that Worf, Data, Major Kira, Odo, Dax, Quark, Seven of Nine, and other aliens became fan favorites right after him.
New Trek series like Picard and Lower Decks have a great handle on how much the fandom loves aliens. Picard’s cast consisted of six humans and eleven aliens, giving a new perspective on the once-hyper secretive Romulan culture.
Lower Decks has constantly been adding alien guest stars and cast members. They’ve included Klingons, Pakleds, Ferengi, Trill, and many others, including an amazing Salt Vampire cameo. They’ve played at exploring old favorites and flipping in-universe stereotypes on their head. One of its main cast members, Tendi, is an Orion trying to prove her planet isn’t just for entertainment. This season, they also added a Tamarian security officer, poking fun at the complex problems of Tamarian translations.
Fans love the nuanced alien worlds of Roddenberry’s vision. Many of them are inspired by real-world struggles or historical mythos, drawing on humanity itself to populate a galaxy of complex characters. The human characters are expected to be some sort of understood human archetype, but the aliens get to have unique and complex cultures to back up their personalities.
Despite being the only alien in his series, Spock is still the most iconic member of the original series crew and has spawned so much expanded lore. After all, the root of Michael Burnham’s character in Discovery is the fact that she is Spock’s adopted sister, and it informs a lot of her personality. His popularity clearly bleeds into so much Star Trek media to this day.
So, that’s what makes Prodigy so exciting. There is not a single traditional human among the crew. Even better, only a few of these species are ones that fans already know: a Tellerite (TOS), a Medusan (TOS), and a Brikar (which has only been mentioned in non-canon novelizations).
The status quo in Trek has been a Starfleet-centric narrative that kept humanity at the forefront. Prodigy is finally changing the script by creating a story where aliens can thrive, instead focusing on a diverse group of kids who didn’t grow up in the privileged utopia of The Federation. Much like Picard giving fans new insight into Romulans, Prodigy will let kids see what it’s like to feel alien and still find a place in the galaxy. That’s something that modern children can relate to far better than a handful of cadets living their picturesque Starfleet dreams.
Let’s hope that Prodigy means that there’ll be more alien casts coming in the future, because there’s a whole universe of stories out in the Trek galaxy just waiting to be told.
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