Star Trek fans were shocked this past week when Paramount unexpectedly announced the immediate cancelation of the animated STAR TREK: PRODIGY series prior to the release of any episodes of season 2…and then quickly removed the show entirely from its Paramount+ streaming service.
The announcement included additional details that production of the second season of Prodigy was nearly complete, and that the property would be shopped around by CBS Studios as a 2-season package to other streaming services and networks. And so the reason for taking down the 20 completed episodes from Paramount+ was to make Prodigy a more attractive and valuable commodity for purchase.
And if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon…
Anyway, Prodigy was always the “great experiment” at Paramount. One of the first and only series to simultaneously debut on a regular broadcast network (Paramount-owned Nickelodeon) as well as streaming on Paramount+, the idea behind Prodigy was to attract a new generation of young Star Trek fans, introducing them to the five-decade-old franchise a little at a time through the eyes of a crew of kids who, themselves, slowly discover what Starfleet is and the fascinating history of the United Federation of Planets.
The plan (hope?) was that these young viewers would get so curious about Star Trek that they would beg their parents to subscribe to Paramount+ so the kids could watch more of the shows. (Someone might have wanted to explain that strategy to everyone who inserted F-bombs into DISCOVERY and PICARD…just sayin’.)
Perhaps ironically, in trying to present a window into Star Trek‘s long history for new viewers, the creators of Prodigy inadvertently created a fan-favorite series that, more than any of the other CBS-produced new series, hewed much more closely to established canon. Older fans (lime me!) loved the new show.
Apparently, however, the numbers weren’t quite as strong when it came to the kids (or else the show wouldn’t have been canceled). And can you blame the younglings for not jumping on board after an airing schedule of five weekly episodes, followed by 2 months of nothing, then another five weekly episodes, then 9 months of nothing, followed by ten weekly episodes? Kids tend to have short attention spans to begin with!
Many fans were frustrated and angry—furious actually!—and moved quickly to set up #SaveStarTrekProdigy. Petitions are circulating, memes are meming, and one fan filmmaker rushed to produce the first-ever Star Trek: Prodigy live-action fan film!
SAMUEL COCKINGS, the Brit with Grit and co-host of the TREKYARDS podcast, has been passionately producing a parade of phenomenal fan films with eye-raisingly accurate CGI-generated digital backgrounds and jaw-dropping VFX animations under the banner TREK SHORTS. (You can view those fan films here on this playlist.) This past Friday, after a week of sleepless nights, Sam released FLIGHT OF THE PROTOSTAR, a love-letter to the show and (hopefully) a salient message to the suits at Paramount that there is more support for this series then they might suspect…
Will fans’ efforts to rescue this beloved series work? “Save Star Trek” campaigns have been a mixed bag of results over the years. Back in the 1960s, BJO TRIMBLE’s “great Star Trek letter-writing campaign” was able to spare the original series from cancellation by mailing hundreds of thousands of letters to NBC and its advertisers. On the other hand, 2005’s grass-roots campaign following the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise was pretty much ignored by the studio, and Star Trek spent four-plus years in limbo.
But as I said, my friends, Prodigy has always been “the great experiment.” And perhaps the #SaveStarTrekProdigy campaign will be, too. Even if Paramount itself (desperate to cut costs after its stock price plummeted from an all-time high of just over $100 a share in March of 2021 to $15.91 as of Friday’s market close) doesn’t resurrect the series, the Prodigy production team is hopeful that this show of support by a motivated and enthusiastic fanbase will ensure a faster purchase of the rights to this disenfranchised franchise spinoff. Keep your fingers crossed!
In the meantime, I asked Sam Cockings how such an ambitious fan project can go from not-even-conceived-yet to fully-completed in LESS THAN A WEEK…!
The story began when we first heard the news late Friday night. I was legit angry about it—Paramount was really doing an unprecedented disservice to the fans.
Within just a few moments, I said to myself: “I should make a fan film. This weekend. Prodigy themed. Hopefully make something to go viral and show Paramount that the fans care.”
After my Trekyards Live podcast on last week’s SNW, I started scripting. I knew I had to start previz and get rendering that night if I had any chance to get it done in time.
The idea just…came to me. At 10-ish, I texted NICK COOK and EMMA THORNE and both got back to me saying that they could move their plans to record for me. I got writing and had 7 of the 9 pages done that first night. I left the end until the next day, as I didn’t know how much of it i could make and how quickly. I also started working on space CGI at 12:30am and got, I think, it was seven shots designed that night. Went to sleep at 5am .
I directed Emma’s voice-over via Skype on Saturday. And Nick, who owns his own Prodigy-era uniform, worked together with me recording his live action green screen footage on Sunday…again live-directed via Skype.
I used digital sets that I’d had built over the last two years, including the bridge of the Protostar. The Dauntless, however, was not even remotely finished. So between setting up the space shots to render at all times and setting up and textuting both the bridge and the exteriors, I was going almost non-stop for the entire week!
In fact, it was already daylight on five of the six “nights” when I would finally go to bed. I remember that saw 6:45am one morning because i just had to keep going to complete a a shot in order that it could render out while I slept.
This was my life all day every day Saturday through Wednesday when I filmed my green screen segment and started editing the footage. Thursday I finished it all and finally uploaded it to YouTube at 6am again…scheduled to release Friday morning.
It was a really grueling week. I cancelled any paid work I had and was only able to do about two hours of my Trekyards work in that week so…not good for my finances. But the fans need this. Prodigy needs this. And I was the only one that had custom-tailored uniforms, which were purchased with donations from my last GoFundMe!
So that was my week. I’m actually excited for some time away from the PC this weekend until Monday when i need to catch up on real work…HA!