Kate Mulgrew Wanted to Return to Star Trek to Bring in the Next Generation of Fans

Captain Janeway and her most important crewmember aboard the U.S.S. Voyager.
Captain Janeway and her most important crewmember aboard the U.S.S. Voyager.
Screenshot: CBS

She wants to take them on a voyage, of course.

Kate Mulgrew’s surprising return to Trek is coming in the form of a major appearance on the upcoming Star Trek: Prodigy. Unlike her predecessor in the captain’s chair, Sir Patrick Stewart, whose return for Star Trek: Picard was billed as a darker, mature drama beyond its nostalgic indulgence—jury’s out on whether or not that was the case!—Mulgrew’s return to Starfleet is aimed at a much different audience than Voyager fans.

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Prodigy is Star Trek’s third animated series, and its first foray into explicitly targeting younger audiences since the classic The Animated Series—and that was the reason Mulgrew was so willing to make a comeback. That said, it wasn’t without a moment of confusion, at first. “She’s always present in my life. Not a day goes by where I don’t have some reminder or request about Janeway or something to do with the future of Janeway,” Mulgrew recently told CBR. “And when [executive producer] Alex Kurtzman approached me—when I was doing Mr. Mercedes, that’s when he called me—I was curious about it; slightly bewildered about it being an animated series, I didn’t quite understand it.”

But according to the actress, it didn’t take long for her to find the spark of intrigue that drew her back like the promise of coffee in a nebula. “It was explained to me in detail and I thought to myself ‘Wow, this will be terrific to bring this to young people who may be watching this with their mothers who watched me as Captain Janeway in live-action,’” the actor continued, “and it will bring the entire family into the orbit of Star Trek and this is something that I very much want to do.”

There’s already been much said by fans of the necessity of giving young audiences their own “in” on Star Trek. After all, why can’t they get into it like we did, watching the classic shows, intended for older and family audiences—but watching anyway because that’s what Trek was? In part, there’s an element of gatekeeping, in that Prodigy is not necessarily strictly for people who are already fans of Star Trek, and therefore those people aren’t being catered to like they have been with literally every other iteration of the franchise. Or the idea that, if you ignore the ongoing children’s animation renaissance and simply believe all cartoons are inherently “dumbed down” for those gosh darn stupid babies, you won’t get something in Prodigy that speaks to Trek’s moralistic, scientific, and progressive cultural ideals.

But it’s clear to the people making Prodigy, Mulgrew included, that making a space that is specifically for young audiences to find a potential in-road to Star Trek is one of the most exciting things about the entire endeavor. After all, we’re living in an age of all-Trek, all the time right now. Why not let the kids meet the Delta Quadrant’s finest captain on their own terms?

Star Trek: Prodigy is set to launch on Paramount+ later this year, before airing on Nickelodeon.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

DISCUSSION

That’s something that’s underappreciated with franchises that span generations. The younger generation wants something OF THEIR OWN. It’s often cool to share the same thing as your dad, but, sometimes...you want some cool of your own that the grown ups don’t necessarily get.