A quarter-century ago Kate Mulgrew strode into TV history, shielded by semi-ignorance.
Yes, she knew that her character, Kathryn Janeway, would be the first female “Star Trek” captain. There was a fuss about that; the producers even lured Sally Ride (the first woman in space) to the premiere.
But what she didn’t know about was “Star Trek” itself. “I didn’t watch it …. My introduction was when I walked onto that bridge at about 7 o’clock in the morning.”
Hey, a lot of people don’t know “Trek” – including the young actors who star with Mulgrew in “Star Trek: Prodigy” (shown here), the computer-animated series that debuts Thursday (Oct. 28) on Paramount+. The actors had a virtual press conference with the Television Critics Association.
“I’d known it exists,” said Ella Purnell, 25. “It’s hard not to. But I didn’t watch it or anything.”
Neither did Brett Gray, also 25. “Maybe, whenever I would be like in a hotel or something, late night, I would see it on,” he said.
Now they star in a show aimed directly at young viewers. Sometime between the first two seasons (each 10 weeks) on Paramount+, the first season will air on Nickelodeon.
Purnell voices Gwyn, who grew up on a bleak mining planet. “She was a 17-year-old adult who had been forced to sort of be older than her years,” she said.
Gray plays Dal, also 17, but with a hopeful, maverick spirit. Those characters link with four others – another teen-ager, an 8-year-old, an indestructible blob and a non-corporeal, genderless, energy-based life form. Then, as luck would have it, they find an abandoned Starfleet ship.
They have no idea how to fly it, but the have something better than Alexa, Siri or OnStar – a hologram of Janeway, to mentor them.
“She’s delighted and a little taken aback that these kids are (having) a difficult time with this ship,” Mulgrew said. “It is her great pleasure to be able to teach them …. She’s going to love them, whether they like it or not.”
Love is something Gwyn didn’t get at home. Her father is The Diviner, a cruel dictator; with his robot Drednok, he’s obsessed with getting this Starfleet ship, as a step toward a bigger prize.
They’re voiced by John Noble and Jimmi Simpson, respectively, in a relationship that co-creator Dan Hageman says is “a little bit like Kirk and Spock. Where John Noble’s character spills emotion, Jimmi Simpson’s is attuned to precision and softness.”
But Kirk and Spock rarely had real arguments; these two might. “Having a conflict with them is always great,” Noble said. “That’s the nature of drama.”
Noble is a fantasy-fan favorite; he starred in “Fringe,” was Ichabod’s malevolent son in “Sleepy Hollow” and was Denethor in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Simpson has done occasional fantasy; he drew award nominations for his work as a human who falls for an android in “Westworld” and as a spaceship lieutenant in a “Black Mirror” episode.
He also brings something else to the cast – a “Trek” passion.
Simpson, 45, was born six years after the original “Star Trek” ended. But reruns were everywhere; he saw “The Menagerie,” a first-season two-parter in which a mutinous Spock kidnaps his former captain.
“Those two episodes of television blew my mind,” he said. “I was kind of hooked from then forward.”
Maybe sometime he can conduct a seminar for his “Prodigy” colleagues.