Geek Exclusive: ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Creators Kevin & Dan Hageman On Keeping Canon, Recruiting Kate Mulgrew And Creating The First-Ever All-Alien Cast

Kevin and Dan Hageman, otherwise known as the Hageman brothers, are no strangers to making beloved animated movies and TV series. From The Lego Movie, Trollhunters to the Ninjago series, the brothers have left their animated signature across a variety of popular shows and are now on their biggest project yet, in a galaxy filled with human lessons, strange alien species and a starship that takes our protagonists on numerous adventures, with Star Trek: Prodigy

Having grown up on Star Trek, the creators wanted their series, which takes place after the events of Star Trek: Voyager, to pay homage to the original Star Trek shows and movies, as well as blockbuster movies and popular fantasy franchises that shaped their childhood. 

“The movies shaped us! We grew up on the Wrath of Khan, The Motion Picture, Search for Spock. They were so big and exciting, cinematic, and when you look at Wrath of Khan, the end is so emotional. I think that’s what lends to our storytelling,” said Kevin Hageman in an exclusive interview with Geek Culture. 

“We love, we grew up on the Spielberg movies of the 80s that were very emotional and fantastical and so I think you’ll see a lot of that DNA in our show compared to some of the others.” 

“To me, Star Trek is like Tolkien where there’s this great you know, spread over many different showrunners and many different writers telling a larger story, it’s a wonderful tapestry. That’s what I love most about our show – it seems like candy on the outside but the bigger you dig deep into it, like the science is true and we take a lot of respect in that,” added Dan Hageman. 

Star Trek: Prodigy follows a motley crew of young aliens who must figure out how to work together while navigating a greater galaxy, in search of a better future. These six young outcasts know nothing about the experimental U.S.S. Protostar ship they have commandeered – a first in the history of the Star Trek franchise – but over the course of their adventures together, they each get introduced to Starfleet and the ideals it represents. The series has plenty of Star Trek easter eggs, and even sees actress Kate Mulgrew, of Star Trek: Voyager fame, reprise her role as Captain Kathryn Janeway, except in hologram form this time. 

Kate Mulgrew as Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager.

Hologram Janeway was something the creators had planned to have in the series right from the start and it made absolute sense for Mulgrew to reprise her role. The only fear was – would she? 

“Literally when it came to the concept, we’re like, it’s about kids outside Federation space. You don’t know anything about it, and they’re led by hologram Janeway. We felt like she was the perfect fit. But in terms of approaching her, I mean, we were intimidated. This is an iconic person, someone who if we didn’t have her, we weren’t sure how the show would work,” expressed Dan about inviting Mulgrew onto the Star Trek: Prodigy.

“There’s a lot of different cartoon animated shows out there right? So I imagine she might have been a little hesitant at first because we didn’t have anything to show. We didn’t have any artwork yet. It was just like, “Hey, we’re doing an animated Star Trek show,” and she’s like, “Okay, what does that mean?” added Kevin. 

“We never imagined doing this without her!” 

Aside from Mulgrew, Robert Beltran briefly reprised his role as Captain Chakotay too. Whilst it’s easy for long time fans to request for a Star Trek: Voyager reunion, creators Kevin and Dan would like the Prodigy story to progress naturally. Should characters from previous shows appear, it would do so organically. The creators expressed that they would love and are open to previous popular characters to pop up and appear, but it’s not their main focus. 

An example of which is seen in episode 6 of Prodigy, ‘Kobayashi’. The episode, as the title suggests, presents the famous no-win scenario, Kobayashi Maru test. It’s basically a scenario that cadets at Starfleet Academy are run through, to test their readiness for command. First introduced in Wrath of Khan, this marks the TV series debut of the iconic test and in that episode, numerous character cameos appear, including some legacy characters such as Spock and Odo. And choosing the cameos was certainly no easy task for our creators. 

“There was a discussion in the writers room,” said Dan before being interrupted by Kevin. 

“It was like, what would be your dream crew all coming together? It was hard. We first wanted to pay homage to you know, Leonard Nimoy and as some of our other legacy characters who might have passed we thought.” said Kevin. 

“We had written Rene (Auberjonois) who plays Odo into it and then he actually passed away and it created a fire in us, like we have to bring Odo back to the series,” interrupted Dan. 

“But it was really hard because there’s so many characters that we wished we could have put in but we had to pick only a few!” cut Kevin. 

It is so evident that the Hageman brothers are major fans of the franchise, so it was imminent that their ideas are brought to life – well technically, animation – by the best of the best. So in comes Ben Hibon.

Hibon is a Swiss animation director who serves as creative lead and producer in Star Trek: Prodigy. Hibon has worked on numerous projects such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Sucker Punch: The Trenches, Mirror Mirror and more. Bringing Star Trek: Prodigy to life was both an interesting yet challenging process for the creative, who wanted the science-fiction fantastical aspect of Star Trek to match with all the other canon series and movies that came before it, but also keep it grounded in reality. 

star trek: prodigy

“We always wanted the show to feel and look, to have a natural space with all of the other shows because it is canon, and it is a continuation of the cinematic aspects and cinematic quality of the other shows and the movies – that’s something we really wanted to retain as much as possible, the scale and the scope of the world,” explained Hibbon in the same exclusive interview with Geek Culture. 

“In terms of characters, we had the freedom because it’s animation to really have shapes and colours, species, aliens, that would potentially kind of break the mold of what we’d seen in previous shows, right? But at the same time, we had to keep them within the same reality. Meaning that if suddenly, we had a character coming from another show, or Janeway, who’s obviously a humanoid character, those rules would actually still work.” 

He continued, “I think the biggest challenge for us is just to make sure that we have the fun and the excitements of using the tools of animation to just run our imagination wild but at the same time, stay within a grounded reality that you know, we can still think science and logic is key and the driving force of the world itself.” 

star trek: prodigy

Speaking of aliens, Prodigy features an all alien-cast as primary characters, which is another first in the world of Star Trek thus far. The cast were also of different alien species – none were alike. Creating multiple species and its entirely own cultures and languages was a creative joyride for our creators who wanted to push the boundaries in terms of art. 

However, the characters still needed to be relatable. End of the day, Prodigy is a series for children, and in some way, the audience will still have to be able to identify themselves in a character – no matter how different they look. 

Kevin used episode six, aka Prodigy’s First Contact episode, to explain this importance. 

star trek: prodigy

“Without spoiling anything, it’s our First Contact episode where we wanted to introduce our new audience to what first contact really means for someone in Starfleet. We took huge inspiration not just from Star Trek, but from other films – for us, it was the movie Arrival – and while Star Trek has done some wonderful first contact episodes, they’re typically actors who walk on stage with their prosthetics on their faces, and they speak English and it’s a little more straightforward. We wanted to really push it! A true alien design of a creature that you’ve never seen before, and they speak a language that you have no idea how to communicate, your translators are not going to work,” shared Kevin. 

Dan adds, “In terms of our cast… you know, we are big kids at heart so we’re like, what are these characters going to look like on the toy show? We’ve had experience with other shows like Ninjago, where different segments of your audience will relate to certain characters. We wanted to make sure that we had a wide variety of shapes and sizes and personalities that people could relate to so that was something that’s very important!” 

“We love the idea of going “This is an all alien cast! They’re all different colors.” We wanted to show true diversity in the alien world.” 

star trek: prodigy

When viewers first meet the all-alien cast, they’re each in their own individual ordinary outfits. They only don the uniform later on and began looking like a Starfleet Crew towards the half end of the series. This build up was done intentionally because the creators wanted to make sure that when the characters do wear the uniform, both the characters and the audience can truly understand what the uniform really means. Of which, it is worth noting is a completely new design than seen in previous Star Trek shows and series.

The uniforms aren’t the only thing that’s new as Prodigy introduced an entirely new starship to viewers. 

“With all the other shows and everything that came before us, we were obviously finding the lineage in terms of “What’s classic? What’s new? What can we do with the Protostar?” We were having this endless conversation about what is right, what is wrong, what is possible, what is not possible, what could have been, and then it just starts to form a visual identity for the show,” explained Hibon. “The Protostar being an experimental ship gave us a little bit of leeway in some of the shape but at the same time, we really wanted to retain, you know, the classic Star Trek silhouettes.” 

“I love that like a younger audience may view it and go, “Oh, it’s a fast ship,” whilst other people will be like, “Oh, my gosh, this ship happens after Voyager came, so the technologies are void, like, you start understanding that there’s a lot of thought put into the world of the canon of this world.” 

Star Trek: Prodigy is without a doubt an exciting new addition into the Star Trek canon that will not only be a great entry way for new viewers, but also kid viewers who are looking for a brand new adventure in space. When asked to describe the making of the show, Dan only had one word to say: Ambitious. 

“We just had a very ambitious idea to do and we wanted to fit in with the canon of the rest of Star Trek. I remember we told Brian Robinson (President of Nickelodeon) “This is going to be an ambitious show,” and he’s like, “Nring it!”,” shared Dan. 

“And then Nickelodeon introduced us to Ben Hibon and he came in and created such a luscious look that took our ambitions and brought them all to life, and above and beyond that.” 

Star Trek: Prodigy premieres 18 April in Singapore and Thailand, and 25 April in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The series is available on Nickelodeon. 

Drop a Facebook comment below!