Where are the Prodigy toys?

Sometimes it feels as though ViacomCBS doesn’t know how to manage a major international franchise like Star Trek. The amateurish rollout of Paramount+ internationally is a great example, as is the streaming service losing all of the Star Trek films for several months. I’ve covered these topics before, and without retreading too much old ground let’s just say that ViacomCBS and Paramount+ need to get a grip, otherwise fans – especially fans from outside of the United States – are going to run out of patience with the corporation, and the casual viewers who make up the majority of any television audience won’t even find out about the latest shows and films.

Today, though, I wanted to tackle a different way in which ViacomCBS is mismanaging the Star Trek brand: toys and merchandise.

Maybe it’s true that action figures for a show like Star Trek: Picard wouldn’t sell particularly well. That series primarily targetted an adult audience – fans of The Next Generation (or at least folks who remember that series) and who are primarily 35+. There was at least some attempt to sell Picard merchandise both before and during the show’s first season, though, with things like T-shirts and even “Château Picard” wine available via the official Star Trek shop.

Château Picard hoodie, anyone?

In the 1980s and ’90s, Star Trek gave even the venerable Star Wars a run for its money in the merchandising and toy departments. Not only were there action figures of practically every minor character to ever make an appearance on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, but there were video games, pinball machines, pretend-play toys, playsets, model kits, dress-up outfits, and much more besides. In the ’90s I managed to assemble a modest Star Trek collection of my own, primarily the Playmates line of action figures as well as a few model kits – I was a big model builder back then!

But since the franchise returned to the small screen in 2017, there hasn’t been any noticeable effort on the part of ViacomCBS to merchandise the Star Trek brand – meaning that the corporation is missing out on a significant additional revenue stream from its biggest brand, one that would supplement the income it makes from streaming the various shows and films. Just look at Star Wars: sales of merchandise long ago eclipsed the box office receipts for all of the films combined.

Star Wars has so much merchandise that Disney can literally make merchandise-themed Star Wars films and games.

As I said, it’s possible that not every Star Trek project would warrant the same level of merchandise and toys. But even then, ViacomCBS has been lacking. Look at the Eaglemoss collection of Star Trek starships as a prime example: Star Trek: Picard Season 1 debuted in January 2020, but it took until June 2021 – almost eighteen months later – to release a single model starship from the series.

A corporation the size of ViacomCBS shouldn’t need to be told that the prime time to cash in on a show is while it’s being broadcast. That’s merchandising 101. Waiting eighteen months is pathetic and ridiculous – and it isn’t the fault of collectibles company Eaglemoss. The fault lies with ViacomCBS for not securing these merchandising agreements sooner.

The same is true of Discovery, which only started getting significant merchandise well after Season 1 had come and gone. And even now we’ve passed the second season of Lower Decks, Star Trek’s official shop still carries precious little by way of products from the series.

It took ViacomCBS more than eighteen months to release this model of Picard’s La Sirena.

That brings us to Star Trek: Prodigy, which premiered a couple of weeks ago – for those viewers whom ViacomCBS deemed worthy of being permitted to watch the series. The rest of us outside of North America are still waiting to know if and when we’ll be allowed to watch it (lawfully). But that’s beside the point right now.

Prodigy is a show made for kids. It has more going on, things that adults will enjoy, but its main focus is on the younger audience – making it a prime candidate for selling toys, games, and other merchandise. So… where are all the Prodigy toys?

There are a mere ten Prodigy items for sale from the official Star Trek shop, most of which are the show’s basic logo slapped on mugs and T-shirts.

It’s no good launching a line of Prodigy toys next year. Kids who are streaming the show now want those toys now – and with the holidays approaching it’s literally the best time of the year to be in the toy business. I can understand why ViacomCBS might’ve felt a Soji action figure or an Admiral Picard doll wouldn’t sell like hot-cakes, but Prodigy should be absolutely perfect for all sorts of tie-in products.

Many cartoons and television shows made for kids are little more than twenty-minute toy advertisements. Whole franchises like Transformers and My Little Pony have been created as toys first, cartoons second, and they make a lot of money for their respective companies that way. I’m not suggesting Prodigy should go to that extreme, but even nowadays with kids spending more time with smartphones, tablets, and other electronic gadgets there’s still room for toys and games.

Kids do still play with toys…

For a television show aimed at kids to be broadcast with no kid-friendly tie-in products strikes me as profoundly strange in the current commercial climate. And some folks might be thinking “hey, that’s actually a good thing!” because it means ViacomCBS isn’t doggedly chasing every last dollar. But to me it’s yet another indication of the truly amateurish way that the corporation is handling its biggest franchise.

One of the earliest memories that I have of Star Trek isn’t a television episode or film, it’s a product. My uncle – who boasts a fabulous collection of Star Trek merchandise – showed me a toy phaser from The Original Series that must’ve been made in the ’70s or possibly the early ’80s, which lit up and made a sound when the trigger was pushed. I don’t think seeing that toy was what pushed young me to become a Trekkie, but good quality toys that look like fun absolutely can be the way kids first get interested in a franchise like Star Trek.

I think this was the toy phaser I’m remembering…

Prodigy is full of fun, unique, and colourful designs that would make for amazing toys, dolls, playsets, and pretend-play scenarios. The series is aimed at children, and from the point of view of a longstanding Trekkie, I want it to be successful at converting at least some of those kids into fans of Star Trek as a whole. The entire reason for creating a show like this is to bring new, younger fans into the fandom – and to lay the groundwork for Star Trek’s continued success. As I’ve said before: if Star Trek remains the sole preserve of fans who loved the franchise in the ’60s and/or the ’80s and ’90s then it won’t survive – and it won’t deserve to survive. New fans are the lifeblood of any fandom.

So when I see ViacomCBS mishandling the brand and not taking full advantage of it I feel truly disappointed with a corporation that doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing. Before Prodigy had aired a single episode there should’ve been the following basic tie-in products at a bare minimum: action figures and/or dolls of each of the main characters, at least one playset of the USS Protostar, dress-up costumes of the main characters – including a Starfleet uniform – and pretend-play toys of things like phasers and tricorders. These items should’ve been available worldwide at a reasonable price so that kids who like the show could remain engaged with Star Trek outside of the half-hour per week where they’re watching the episodes.

The USS Protostar from Prodigy.

Some of ViacomCBS’ other failures when it comes to Star Trek actually feel less significant than this massive missed opportunity. It isn’t just about making money on each product sold – and in the short term, while the show and Paramount+ build up their reputations, it’s even possible that the corporation would make a moderate loss. But the longer-term prospects of merchandising a show like Prodigy are significant. As kids who don’t watch the show see the toys at their friends’ houses they’ll ask what Star Trek is and maybe get into the series for themselves. With Star Trek toys on the shelves of every major supermarket and toy shop, people who weren’t aware of the franchise’s return will realise that Star Trek is back. This kind of word-of-mouth advertising pays for itself, and that’s something very difficult to pull off on social media (especially given the truly crap way ViacomCBS manages Star Trek on social media – but one battle at a time, eh?)

I’ve made no secret over the past couple of years that I have issues with the way ViacomCBS has handled the Star Trek brand. And I don’t raise these points out of spite – I want them to manage Star Trek better because I care about Star Trek’s future success. Right now, decisions like these make it seem as though Star Trek is very much a lesser brand even in the minds of the people who are supposed to be running it. When you can turn up at any supermarket or toy shop and see dozens of Star Wars toys, yet nothing at all from Star Trek, it’s disappointing.

The premiere of Prodigy, a series aimed at kids, should have come with at least some toys and games to go along with the show. Making money from that kind of merchandising arrangement is one reason why, but another far more important reason is engagement – making sure that kids remain engaged with Prodigy, its world, and its characters when they aren’t watching the show is key to keeping them coming back. In 2021, practically every kids show has some kind of tie-in product – and it’s a damning indictment of the sloppy, amateurish way that ViacomCBS has handled the Star Trek brand that Prodigy doesn’t.

Star Trek: Prodigy is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States. No international broadcast has been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Prodigy and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

It’s morally justifiable to pirate all of Star Trek.

I like Star Trek. I’ve been a Trekkie since I first watched The Next Generation in the early 1990s, and watching that series kicked off a lifelong love of the franchise that continues to this day. Over a span of three decades I’ve watched every single film and episode – practically all of them several times over – and in addition I’ve spent a lot of money on plenty of merchandise, ranging from action figures and coffee table books to artwork and stationery. My house is decorated with Star Trek posters and action figures in display cases, and if you ever stop by for a coffee you’ll almost certainly drink it out of a Star Trek mug. But Star Trek, it seems, doesn’t reciprocate.

At the very least, the suits in charge of the franchise at ViacomCBS do not care one iota about any Star Trek fan outside of North America – as evidenced by the fact that, for the second year in a row, a brand-new Star Trek series is not going to be made available to fans across the world.

Logo for ViacomCBS – the corporation that owns Star Trek.

Star Trek: Prodigy premieres in a couple of days’ time, and just as happened with Lower Decks in August 2020, the series is going to be kept away from fans outside of North America. This decision re-emphasises ViacomCBS’ disgusting attitude to the franchise’s non-American fans, but in one significant way it’s an even worse and more egregious insult than the Lower Decks debacle was.

Why do I say that? Because Prodigy is a co-production between CBS Studios and Nickelodeon – both of which are ViacomCBS subsidiaries. Nickelodeon, as I’m sure you know, is a children’s television channel that is broadcast across the world – in more than 70 countries from New Zealand to Ukraine and South Africa to Pakistan. In order to make Prodigy available to a worldwide audience, all ViacomCBS would have needed to do was put the series on Nickelodeon – something incredibly easy to do as Nickelodeon is a channel it already owns and operates. It wouldn’t have even cost the corporation any money, as there would have been no expensive rights agreements or broadcast licenses to negotiate.

ViacomCBS literally owns Nickelodeon and all of its international channels.

The decision not to broadcast the show on Nickelodeon can only be taken one way: it’s an insult. ViacomCBS is once again throwing up a middle finger to Star Trek’s international fanbase – a sizeable fanbase that must at the very least equal the number of Trekkies in the United States.

At first I thought I was okay with it. Prodigy is a show for kids, after all, and most kids won’t care. But the more I thought about it the more I kept returning to the argument I made in the run-up to Lower Decks’ premiere last year: that this is not an acceptable way for ViacomCBS to behave.

Star Trek became a global brand at the behest of ViacomCBS and its predecessors. The corporation adores globalism because it wants to make more and more profit – like a greedy Ferengi – from people who don’t live in the United States. But creating a global brand comes with a responsibility that doesn’t stop at international borders, and for seemingly no reason at all ViacomCBS is abdicating its responsibility to Trekkies.

Photo from the ViacomCBS boardroom.

I get it – ViacomCBS wants people to sign up for its mediocre second-tier streaming platform: Paramount+. The future is digital, and the corporation wants Paramount+ to be a success as more people around the world stop tuning in to broadcast television. But if that’s the case, ViacomCBS needs to make Paramount+ available internationally – the platform’s international rollout has been painfully slow and incredibly patchy, with films and shows the corporation owns not being available on the platform even after Paramount+ arrives in some regions.

ViacomCBS is trying to tie Star Trek to Paramount+, using the franchise to hook Trekkies in and convince us to subscribe. There’s a profit motive here – but that doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility they have to fans of their programmes and franchises. Star Trek only exists and was only able to be revived in 2017 because of its international fanbase – a deal with Netflix reportedly paid for almost the entire cost of Discovery’s first season. Yet time and again, ViacomCBS is content to ignore its international fans and leave us in the cold.

Prodigy will only be available to American audiences via Paramount+.

This isn’t just about one series – or two series now, counting Lower Decks last year. The Star Trek franchise is constantly prioritising fans in North America over us out here in the rest of the world. Trailers and clips for upcoming shows or even marketing material will be quite literally gated off on social media, with fans outside North America being told that “this content is not available in your location.” Star Trek’s official shop offers a paltry range of products internationally when compared to its North American offerings, and ViacomCBS is quite happy to ignore any and all questions on the subject of international availability.

Look at any recent social media post promoting Prodigy and you’ll see a slew of messages and comments from fans overseas. Most are polite, simply enquiring about if and when the series will be made available in their neck of the woods. And Star Trek’s social media team ignores every last one of them – just as they did last year when fans were clamouring for information about Lower Decks.

A handful of comments from social media directed at the official Star Trek pages and channels – all of which were ignored. Names redacted.

There has been no official word from ViacomCBS or the Star Trek social media teams about Prodigy’s international debut – and there won’t be. They simply do not care enough to even give a non-answer like “coming soon.” Instead, fans are left to shout into the void, bang our heads against a wall of silence, and whatever other metaphor you can think of for trying to get information from an uncaring corporation.

Last year there was an excuse – a piss-poor one, but an excuse nevertheless: the pandemic. Disruption to production and broadcast schedules – especially post-production work on Discovery Season 3 – meant that last-minute changes were necessary. Lower Decks was bumped up to be broadcast ahead of Discovery, and there wasn’t time to sort out the international rights. That excuse is bullshit, of course, because as I said last year it’s still up to ViacomCBS to broadcast or delay the series, meaning they could have waited to ensure fans everywhere could watch it together. But this year even that paltry excuse no longer applies.

There are two reasons why: Prodigy’s production hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic to anywhere near the same extent, and as already discussed, ViacomCBS owns Nickelodeon and has the option to broadcast the series on a channel that they own in 70+ countries around the world.

Prodigy is a Nickelodeon and CBS Studios co-production.

I want ViacomCBS and Paramount+ to succeed because I want Star Trek to succeed and continue to be produced. But if the corporation is so callous and uncaring when it comes to fans like me, what am I supposed to do? It’s a toxic relationship right now; a one-way relationship with no reciprocity. Prodigy is supposed to be a series that will bring in new fans to Star Trek – but it’s also supposed to be a show with a lot to offer to Star Trek’s existing fans. For “business reasons,” though, only certain fans that ViacomCBS deems important enough or worthy will be permitted the privilege of watching the series.

In 2021, with the global interconnected fandom that ViacomCBS pushed to create, segregating a series or film geographically is indefensible. A delay of a day or two between regional broadcasts might be acceptable – though there’s no technical reason why, given the technologies involved. But to broadcast a new show in one location and not even give lip service to when it might be available anywhere else? It’s wrong – and more than that, it’s stupid and self-defeating from a business perspective.

A map of the world according to ViacomCBS.

ViacomCBS wants as many people as possible to tune in to Star Trek. They want as many kids as possible to watch Prodigy, and I would assume they’re planning to sell merchandise based on the show as well – though the lack of any obvious Prodigy merchandise so far is yet another indication of the moronic and amateurish way the corporation is handling its biggest brand. But if the goal is to get fans excited and talking about the show, hyping it up in the run-up to its premiere and generating the kind of online buzz that makes television shows a success, cutting off at least half the fanbase is the dumbest and most idiotic thing the corporation could possibly do.

From Game of Thrones to Squid Game, online chatter is what drives people to check out a new television series. People who love something and who are passionate about it tell their friends and their social media followers, and that engagement drives people to the show – and the platform that hosts it. By deliberately and intentionally preventing many Trekkies from accessing Prodigy, ViacomCBS has killed a lot of the hype and excitement that the show could have generated.

Who knows how much bigger Prodigy could have been if the corporation in charge had handled its broadcast better?

The corporation has evidently learned nothing from the muted and lacklustre response to Lower Decks last year – a response that, sadly, has seen the show fail to hit the heights it could have in terms of viewership. Even when Lower Decks did arrive internationally and even when its second season did get the simultaneous broadcast it needed, a lot of damage had already been done, and the opportunity to make the series bigger than it ultimately became was missed.

Lower Decks and Prodigy are the two most unique and different offerings that the Star Trek franchise has arguably ever produced. Out of everything the franchise has on the horizon, it’s these two shows more than any others that had the potential to bring in hordes of new fans and to take the Star Trek franchise as a whole to the next level in terms of audience numbers and the scale of the fanbase. These opportunities have been pissed away by a corporation that clearly has no idea how to run an international franchise.

Fans outside North America might as well stare out of the window – because Prodigy won’t be hitting our screens any time soon.

When a corporation deliberately and wilfully treats a large section of its fanbase with such blatant disrespect, what can we do?

Since ViacomCBS clearly doesn’t care about anyone outside of North America, it seems to me that there’s no point in continuing to engage with the corporation or support it. They don’t care about us, so why should we care about them? And why should any non-American Trekkie consider spending a single penny on any ViacomCBS product in future? It seems like it’s only a matter of time until the next Star Trek show or film isn’t made available to us either.

If ViacomCBS chooses not to make Star Trek available to fans, we might as well pirate it. They clearly place no value on the money we could pay them or the passion we could have when talking about upcoming shows and films, so why bother? We might as well pirate all of Star Trek – and everything else ViacomCBS does, too. If they’ve chosen not to make Prodigy available internationally, and won’t even have the basic decency to answer repeated questions from fans, piracy is the default option – quite literally the only way to watch the series. It didn’t have to be, but this is a choice ViacomCBS willingly made.

When a corporation chooses to place no value on its biggest and most passionate fans, and takes increasingly stupid business decisions that almost seem intended to harm their franchise, they’ve made their decision. The lack of a response to these basic questions from fans about Prodigy’s availability or about the Paramount+ rollout is in itself an answer. And that answer is: “go fuck yourself, we don’t give a shit about you.”

In most jurisdictions around the world, piracy – defined above as the sharing of copyrighted material over the internet – is not legal. This essay was an examination of the moral and ethical implications of piracy only, and was categorically not an endorsement or encouragement to download any individual film or television series, nor should anything written above be interpreted in that manner. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek Day 2021 predictions

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for upcoming Star Trek productions, including: Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Just a short one today! Star Trek Day is coming up in a couple of days’ time, and we’re promised news and discussion of all things Trek straight from the horse’s mouth! Why is September the 8th designated as “Star Trek Day?” Good question, and here’s the answer: it was on that day in 1966 that The Man Trap premiered, kicking off Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 and laying the groundwork for a franchise that’s still going strong today.

As an aside, last year I wrote a piece looking at the villainous creature at the heart of The Man Trap’s story, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here. Worth a read at this time of year – if I do say so myself!

The Man Trap is where the franchise began – almost fifty-five years ago.

As much as Star Trek Day is an opportunity to look back at the franchise’s fifty-five years of history, this digital event hosted by Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton is also an excuse to look ahead to some of the Star Trek projects that are coming up over the next few months and years. There will undoubtedly be some news – and keep your fingers crossed because it’s even possible that we could get a big, unexpected announcement!

I’ve got a few ideas for what might be coming our way when Star Trek Day kicks off. Please keep in mind, as always, that I don’t have any “sources” nor any “insider information.” This is just a little educated guesswork – and a reminder, in case you’d forgotten, that Star Trek Day is imminent! All of the panels will be available to watch online on the official Star Trek website, so be sure to check in on the 8th to see what they have to say. Or just come back here a day or so later because I daresay I’ll summarise what I consider to be the most important points!

Let’s jump into the list!

Number 1: Official confirmation of Star Trek: Picard Season 3.

A third season is already being worked on!

This one is a bit of a cheat, as we’ve already heard from a number of reliable sources that Season 3 was in development alongside Season 2, and the two seasons are being filmed back-to-back. In fact, it seems as though some Season 3 scenes may have already been filmed – but that’s not confirmed at this stage.

What’s also unconfirmed, at least from ViacomCBS and Star Trek officially, is the existence of Season 3 at all. Though in the past we’ve seen the company wait until a season is almost being broadcast to confirm that the next one is in development, on this occasion it would make sense to announce Picard Season 3 way ahead of time. It’s already an open secret, so why not? It seems like a great way to drum up even more excitement!

Number 2: A trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Anson Mount recently appeared as Captain Pike in a series of trailers for Paramount+.

Since Strange New Worlds introduced us to five members of its main cast in mid-March, there really hasn’t been a lot of news about the series. We heard last month that production was drawing down on Season 1, only to later learn that some scenes outside of Toronto (where the show is based) were still being worked on. If it’s true that the season is finished, though, the time could be right for a trailer!

Along with Picard Season 2, Strange New Worlds has to be the series that I’m most curious about. Not only will it be fantastic to welcome back Anson Mount as Captain Pike, but the semi-episodic format that has been suggested feels like it could really be the best of both worlds – a return to Star Trek’s past without entirely stepping away from the modern feel of recent productions.

There is a Strange New Worlds panel that will be taking place during Star Trek Day, and a trailer would be a great way to wrap it up!

Number 3: A premiere date for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.

The USS Discovery is ready to warp away to her next adventure!

At time of writing, all we know about Discovery’s impending fourth season is that it’s due before the end of the year. Maybe that’ll change and we’ll see the show fall back to early 2022, or maybe Discovery is still on track for a broadcast kicking off in mid-October after Lower Decks Season 2 has concluded. (That was what happened last year.)

Either way, I think Star Trek Day would be a great opportunity for ViacomCBS to drop the date of the new season’s premiere with a lot of attention on the franchise.

Number 4: A teaser trailer for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 featuring the Borg.

The Borg Queen is returning to Star Trek!

Soon we’re going to talk and theorise about the Borg in Picard Season 2. If you missed this, there’s been a casting announcement for the upcoming second season that caught me off-guard: the Borg Queen is returning! Not only that, but she may appear in as many as six of the season’s ten episodes, indicating that the Borg may play a significant role in the story.

It’s been more than eighteen years since the last Star Trek story featuring the Borg: Enterprise’s second-season episode Regeneration. After such a long time it’ll be fantastic to bring the faction back into play in a big way – assuming that’s even the plan! For all we know the Borg Queen may play an altogether different role in flashbacks or in an alternate timeline!

Regardless, following this casting announcement I’d think ViacomCBS would want to tease something about the Borg – without giving away too many potential spoilers.

Number 5: A second trailer for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.

Captain Burnham in the first Discovery Season 4 teaser.

We got our first look at Season 4 of Discovery back in April, where a trailer showed Captain Burnham and the crew facing down a “gravitational anomaly” – whatever that could be! With the season coming up before the end of the year – all being well, that is – it would be a good time for a second trailer to get fans excited.

It can be hard to get the balance right when it comes to producing a trailer for a brand-new season, especially when a series has a mystery at its core like Discovery does. Show too little and it’ll be hard for fans and prospective viewers to get excited, but show too much and you risk spoiling major plotlines. Cutting the perfect trailer under such circumstances is a real skill!

Number 6: A release date for Star Trek: Prodigy.

Prodigy is coming soon… but how soon?

As I mentioned in a recent episode of the DenPod (my unscripted podcast), I’ve all but given up on Prodigy getting an international broadcast when it premieres this autumn – at least outside of countries and territories where Paramount+ already exists. Though the series has been co-developed alongside Nickelodeon, it seems as though ViacomCBS is intent on keeping the show exclusively on its streaming service, so it seems unlikely to arrive here in the UK until Paramount+ does some time next year.

For everyone who’s lucky enough to live somewhere with Paramount+ already, though, keep an eye out for a release date for Prodigy. Earlier in the year the series was officially announced for “Fall 2021” – and the beginning of September basically marks the start of autumn, as I recently noted! So we could see Prodigy literally any time from now until the end of November, and I think the Prodigy panel at Star Trek Day would be a great place to announce the specific date.

Number 7: A big, surprising announcement!

I’m always up for a surprise!

What could it be? Is the untitled Section 31 series finally on the verge of entering production? Has ViacomCBS backed down after years of being pestered by Michael Dorn and decided to greenlight a Captain Worf series after all? What about the live-action series that Alex Kurtzman had previously said was in development – could we finally learn more about that?

Though I don’t think we should get too excited about this one, there’s always the possibility for a surprise announcement of some kind. One thing we know for certain is that more Star Trek is in development – so it’s not impossible to think we could see something announced this week.

So that’s it!

All of the panels for 2021’s Star Trek Day!

Star Trek Day will be upon us before you know it, so stay tuned here on the website for coverage and analysis of any major announcements, as well as for a review/roundup of the event itself. I’m looking forward to Star Trek Day very much; it’ll be a great excuse to geek out for hours on end!

I hope this list of predictions has got you suitably excited for the main event!

Star Trek Day panels will be available to watch on Paramount+ and on the official Star Trek website on the 8th of September 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties and titles mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Lower Decks and Prodigy at Comic-Con

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy, including for upcoming episodes.

For this year’s Comic-Con @Home digital event the Star Trek franchise was more streamlined than last year, with panels for only two upcoming productions: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 and Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1. Though it would’ve been nice to see something from some of the live-action productions as well – not least Strange New Worlds, about which we’ve seen very little – the two panels were interesting! There’s more than enough to get stuck into as we look ahead to August and the autumn.

With Discovery Season 4 also scheduled to begin airing before the end of 2021, it seems like Star Trek will hardly be away from our screens starting in less than three weeks’ time, which is fantastic news. Prodigy doesn’t yet have a definite broadcast date, but the Comic-Con panel confirmed that the series will debut this autumn. If ViacomCBS wants to stick to one Star Trek show at a time, perhaps that’ll put it in late October, but watch this space!

Star Trek: Prodigy is coming soon!

In addition to the panels we also got a new trailer for both shows, which was great to see. This is the first time we’ve seen Prodigy in action, and I have to say that the show looks amazing. The animation is visually impressive, easily on par with the best offerings from the likes of Disney and others, and the spirit of exploration and adventure that’s been at the core of past Star Trek shows for so long seems to be present in the series in a huge way.

As I’ve said before, the best children’s shows manage to have things to offer to adults as well, and it seems like Prodigy will absolutely be that kind of series. The main characters appear to come together on some kind of junkyard or shipbreaking planet, which is where they encounter the USS Protostar – a pretty neat name for a ship! This setup could mean that the kids are orphans or even slaves, and the idea of escaping to a better life via Starfleet is a surprisingly grown-up theme for a series targeting a younger audience.

The USS Protostar will be the kids’ home in Prodigy.

The inclusion of a couple of familiar Alpha Quadrant races (a Medusan character and a Tellarite character) is also interesting. How did these individuals come to be so far from home? Perhaps they were kidnapped or taken by slavers, though this would be a very dark starting place for a kid-friendly show! I’m curious to learn more about the characters and in particular their backgrounds – were they simply born on this world with no idea how they came to be there? The original premise of Prodigy stated that none of the kids had ever heard of the Federation or Starfleet – but considering the Tellarites are Federation members and the Medusans had contact with the Federation at least a century earlier, the reason why could be interesting. Or I could be getting over-excited about minor points of canon again!

Zero, a Medusan character.

On the design of the USS Protostar, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Obviously there’s a degree of canon-bending taking place; this starship design is new and the ship itself looks too large to have been docked aboard Voyager during the latter’s journey through the Delta Quadrant. I had wondered if we might’ve got something like a runabout or even a Delta Flyer, but now that I think about it, a “classic” Star Trek design with a clear bridge, saucer section, and dual warp nacelles makes a lot of sense from an aesthetic point of view. It’s obviously ViacomCBS’ aim that fans of Prodigy will go on to check out other parts of the Star Trek franchise and become long-term fans, so keeping things relatively simple and consistent in terms of the basic designs and visual styles makes a lot of sense.

Though we only saw the Protostar’s bridge very briefly, I got the impression that it was a mix of Kelvin-timeline and Discovery-era styles, giving the ship’s command centre perhaps more of a modern look than one directly inspired by Voyager and other Star Trek shows of that era. Again this is something that probably makes sense; some younger viewers may feel that, compared to more modern offerings, ’90s Star Trek (and other sci-fi) doesn’t look quite as flashy and futuristic as it could!

The bridge of the USS Protostar.

Both internally and externally I like the ship’s design, and I’m looking forward to seeing more and really getting to grips with the show and its characters. The Prodigy panel told us a little more about some of the characters, and we got to meet several of the voice actors as well. I liked what Kate Mulgrew had to say about the show, and I’m really feeling positive about Prodigy now. It’s something that feels like it has the potential to really inspire a new generation of Trekkies, and that inspirational aspect of Star Trek is something that has been present since the beginning.

We learned a little more about some of the main characters from the panel, too. Rok-Tahk, the large rock-like alien, is in fact the youngest member of the crew (something we knew already when the cast was announced). But this seems like it will play exceptionally well into a fairly typical children’s show theme: don’t judge a book by its cover! The co-creators of Prodigy talked about how she’s a character who looks tough, as though she could be a security officer, but is in fact much more of a scientist and doesn’t like fighting. These kinds of story beats can work beautifully, and can often be teaching moments for adults just as much as for children!

A closer look at Rok-Tahk.

Let’s move on to Lower Decks now. There was a panel and trailer for the show’s upcoming second season, and we got a lot of new information! Firstly, perhaps the biggest reveal from the Lower Decks trailer is the return of another Voyager star – Tom Paris. It seems as though Paris isn’t exactly going to make an appearance in the show, but rather will be a figment of Boimler’s imagination. It looks like a fun scene, though, and there’s already a prop replica that’s been announced of the “Tom Paris plate” that Boimler talks to!

Boimler and his Paris plate.

There’s a lot to unpack from the trailer, but here’s a rundown of the things I noticed having seen it a few times now:

  • The Pakleds are back! The Pakleds were responsible for the attack on the Cerritos and her sister ship in the Season 1 finale.
  • Riker and Troi are also back, as is the USS Titan.
  • Boimler is an ensign again. How that will happen is still unclear, but there were more than enough scenes with him in his ensign’s uniform to confirm he’s been demoted and reassigned to the Cerritos. That seemed inevitable!
  • The Cardassians and Ferengi will make an appearance, with the latter looking set to be antagonists.
  • Mariner and Tendi seem to get into a bar fight with a group of Nausicaans – in what looks like a callback to Picard getting into a similar situation in The Next Generation Season 6 episode Tapestry.
  • Shaxs’ replacement is a Tamarian! Also known as the Children of Tama, this race appeared in The Next Generation Season 5 episode Darmok. Their distinguishing characteristic is the way in which they talk exclusively through the use of metaphors. I think this could go on to be a significant point of humour across the season!
  • The ensigns appear to visit Freecloud – a planet first seen in the Picard Season 1 episode Stardust City Rag.
  • A possible visit to Deep Space Nine is on the cards – though this could be a different Cardassian ship or facility. I love that Lower Decks is unapologetic in its re-use of the aesthetic of ’90s Star Trek, though! The Cardassian hallway with its panels and buttons was instantly recognisable.
  • Promotion was mentioned – perhaps for Tendi and/or Rutherford? Having seen Boimler promoted at the end of last season, it would be funny to see the other three all get promoted (and him to not be) this time!
  • Is Mariner in the brig?
  • Boimler was briefly depicted as a Locutus-style Borg – but does he really get assimilated or might that be a nightmare?
  • The Cerritos appeared to encounter the Crystalline Entity!

Phew! That was a lot, and I have no doubt I missed just as many things!

The ensigns watch as the USS Cerritos warps away!

In the panel that accompanied the trailer, creator Mike McMahan explained that the second season will be “funnier and bigger” than Season 1, which lines up with what I said last time! Having found its feet last year and definitively proved its concept, Lower Decks is now free to really go all-in, let its hair down, and crank everything up to eleven!

A Tamarian character could make for some great moments of humour.

Lower Decks managed to retain much of what makes Star Trek “Star Trek” while at the same time having a lot of fun. It used so many different elements from Star Trek’s past as a source of humour without ever coming across as mean-spirited or laughing at the franchise and its fans. Not every aspect worked and not every single joke landed in Season 1, but everything I heard from the panel and saw in the trailer has got me genuinely hyped up to see more of the same in Season 2.

The four ensigns, reunited!

One character arc that worked extremely well in the latter part of Season 1 was Mariner coming to terms with her role in Starfleet and her relationship with her mother – Captain Freeman. Tawny Newsome, who voices Mariner, had something to say about their relationship during the panel, and I like the fact that Season 2 hasn’t simply abandoned or reset this dynamic. Watching some of these characters continuing to grow and embrace their roles is something I’m genuinely looking forward to.

Ensign Mariner in the new trailer.

Lower Decks Season 2 is now less than three weeks away, and I cannot wait!

The panels and trailers are available to watch on YouTube and the official Star Trek website at time of writing, but just before we go I need to have a little rant. ViacomCBS and the Star Trek social media teams make it far more difficult than they should to access some of these things. For example, the official Star Trek Twitter account put out the trailer for Lower Decks Season 2… but if you’re in the UK at least it was unavailable to watch! And the official Paramount+ YouTube channel doesn’t have either trailer at time of writing, nor does the official Star Trek YouTube channel, despite the panels and trailers debuting more than 48 hours ago.

What the heck is this? ViacomCBS, this is no way to run a social media marketing campaign.

Big brands in 2021 need social media followers, and making it difficult for your fans to find something as basic as a trailer (which I can only access via third-parties that re-uploaded it) is beyond poor. It’s shocking, and ViacomCBS needs to work on this and get serious about the way it publishes marketing material. If you’re trying to bring in fans and viewers, this is not the way to go about it.

Rant over! And now the article is over too. I hope this was a bit of fun and brought you up to speed if you missed the panels and trailers.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 will debut on the 12th of August on Paramount+ in the United States, and within 24 hours on Amazon Prime Video in other countries and territories. Season 1 is available to stream now. Star Trek: Prodigy is due to be broadcast on Paramount+ in autumn 2021 and may be broadcast internationally on Nickelodeon. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks, Prodigy, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

We’re halfway through 2021!

It’s the last day of June, and as we bid goodbye to the month we also mark the halfway point of 2021. I think that makes it a good opportunity to take stock and look ahead to the entertainment experiences that lie before us between now and Christmas.

Pandemic-related disruptions continue across the entertainment industry, but after more than a year of evolving working practices due to coronavirus, I think it’s not unfair to say that many more projects have managed to enter or remain in production over the last few months than were able to at this point last year. This bodes well for upcoming titles across film, television, and video games, and today I’m going to pick out a small selection of each that I’m looking forward to before the end of the year.

Television:

It’s probably television that has the most to offer – at least for me personally – in the second half of 2021. There are several big shows coming up that I can’t wait to get stuck into, and I’m sure you can probably guess what some of them are!

Number 1: Star Trek: Discovery Season 4

Discovery’s third season was an entertaining ride, and succeeded at establishing the 32nd Century and the Federation’s place in it. In the aftermath of the Burn – the galaxy-wide catastrophe which devastated known space – and the shortage of dilithium, Season 4 will hopefully see the crew beginning to pick up the pieces.

The trailer for Season 4, which was shown off in April as part of Star Trek’s First Contact Day digital event, also showed Captain Burnham and the crew facing off against a “gravitational anomaly” which seemed to be wreaking havoc with the ship and the Federation at large. What is the “gravitational anomaly?” I don’t know – though I have a few theories! We’ll find out more when Discovery Season 4 premieres on Paramount+ (and on Netflix internationally) in the autumn.

Number 2: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2

After a hilarious first season, Lower Decks is returning to our screens in August – and this time Star Trek fans the world over should be able to watch the show together. Season 1 had the difficult task of taking Star Trek into the realm of animated comedy for the first time. Having proven to be a success with that concept, Season 2 can let its hair down and really double down on what fans loved last year.

There are a couple of lingering storylines left over from the Season 1 finale that I’m genuinely interested in seeing resolved. But beyond that, I can’t wait for more wacky Star Trek-themed hijinks with Mariner, Boimler, Rutherford, and Tendi! Luckily we won’t have to wait too long for this one; Lower Decks Season 2 will debut on Paramount+ (and on Amazon Prime Video internationally) on the 12th of August – barely six weeks away!

Number 3: Star Trek: Prodigy

This one has to be tentative. Upcoming children’s show Star Trek: Prodigy has been suggested for a 2021 broadcast, but with no date confirmed as of yet, and with the aforementioned Lower Decks and Discovery taking up the Star Trek broadcast slots for much of the rest of the year, I don’t know where ViacomCBS plans to fit Prodigy in.

Despite that, as we continue to learn more details about the series, it sounds genuinely interesting and looks set to be a lot of fun. The best kids’ shows manage to have something to offer adults as well, and I hope Prodigy can manage to do that while retaining an atmosphere that’s fun for children. Out of all the recent Star Trek projects, Prodigy feels like it has the most potential to introduce the franchise to a new generation of fans. There’s currently no date on the calendar, so watch this space.

Number 4: Rick & Morty Season 5

We’ve already had two episodes of the fifth season of Rick & Morty, but there are eight more to come over the next few weeks! The trademark brand of wacky, non-sequitur humour that the show is known for is still present, and it continues to be a barrel of laughs! Rick & Morty paved the way in some respects for Star Trek: Lower Decks, and there are similarities between the two shows in terms of sense of humour and animation style.

Rick & Morty’s largely episodic nature keeps the show fresh, and while there are some jokes and storylines that perhaps take things too far, on the whole the show has largely avoided the trap of going over-the-top or falling into being offensive for the sake of it. You know the formula and main characters by now, and Season 5 seems like it’s shaping up to offer more of the same – and that’s a compliment. Rick & Morty Season 5 is ongoing on Adult Swim in the United States (and on E4 in the UK).

Number 5: Foundation

Isaac Asimov’s genre-defining epic is being adapted for the small screen by Apple, and it will star Jared Harris. Harris was fantastic in Chernobyl and also put in a stellar performance in The Terror, so I can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the role of Hari Seldon. Foundation is an incredibly ambitious project; the seven-book series spans hundreds of years of galactic history and deals with some very deep and complex themes.

Apple TV+ is very much a second-tier streaming service. This is its first big push to change that; Apple’s first real foray into big-budget scripted television. I hope the company can use its phenomenal financial resources to do justice to one of the seminal works of science fiction.

Number 6: Dexter

I watched several seasons of Dexter in the mid/late-2000s, but eventually the series started to feel repetitive so I switched off. I’m curious, however, to see what the passage of time will do for the show and its titular anti-hero when it returns in what has been variously billed as both a “reboot” and a “continuation” depending on who you ask! The concept of Dexter was interesting when it kicked off in 2006, and hopefully the new season can recapture the magic of those early years of the show.

The idea of a show about a serial killer where the killer is known to us as the audience, and not only that but is the protagonist was genuinely different. Dexter’s work with the forensic team was a big part of what gave the show its unique mix of police/detective series along with gritty, violent drama, and I’ll be curious to see where the new season has taken the character – as that will be the key to its success.

Number 7: The Dropout

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, it’s one that’s simultaneously riveting and frightening. Holmes and her startup Theranos promised to revolutionise the way blood testing works, enabling people to take blood tests without needing to visit a doctor and in a less-painful way. But it was a fraud: the technology didn’t work and Holmes and her team covered it up.

There have been several great documentaries and news broadcasts going into detail on the Theranos case, and with Holmes and others still awaiting trial it remains unresolved. This adaptation of an ABC News podcast will be the first dramatisation of the events of the Theranos scam, and despite some production setbacks it looks like it has the potential to be truly interesting when its broadcast on Hulu (and on Disney+ internationally) before the end of the year.

Number 8: Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series (full title unknown)

I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll see the first season of this incredibly expensive television show this year. With half the year gone, there hasn’t been much news about Amazon’s Game of Thrones-killer. That aside, a return to Middle-earth sounds incredible, and by taking the action away from most of the characters we’re familiar with from the films, hopefully what will result will be a genuinely different experience that doesn’t try to mimic the films too heavily.

Amazon has thrown cinema-level money at its Lord of the Rings adaptation, so I’m expecting to see something incredibly impressive for that investment.

Number 9: The Witcher Season 2

I’ve never played The Witcher 3 or any of the other games in the series. But the first season of Netflix’s adaptation of the original novels was great, and it’s always nice to see a high-budget fantasy project make it to screen! The first season debuted in late 2019, and I had half-hoped to see Season 2 before now. It’s still possible it won’t happen before the end of the year, but a recent teaser from Netflix suggests that Season 2 is in post-production and progressing nicely.

After such a long break, I feel like I should probably re-watch Season 1 before sitting down to see any new episodes! Henry Cavill will reprise his role as Geralt, and all being well Season 2 will be just as good as Season 1.

Number 10: Tokyo Vice

This true-crime series is based on the memoir of an American journalist, Jake Adelstein, who spent several years in Tokyo. In short, he documented a lot of police corruption during his tenure as a newspaper reporter in the 1990s, and given HBO’s pedigree at making high-budget series, I think there’s a lot of potential here.

Speaking as a westerner, Japan can be somewhat of a mystery. Romanticised by some, ignored by others, the truth is that many folks who’ve never set foot in Japan don’t know the first thing about Japanese life – and Tokyo Vice may just blow the lid off the seedier underbelly of Japan’s capital city in a big way. I’m calling it right now: this show could be 2021’s Chernobyl.

Film:

An increasing number of films are coming straight to streaming platforms – or being released digitally at the same time as heading to the box office. This is great news for me personally, as I’m not able to go to the cinema in person. There are some interesting titles coming up in the second half of the year.

Number 1: Jungle Cruise

In 2003 I felt that making a film based on the Disneyland/Disney World ride Pirates of the Caribbean was a stupid idea. Shows what I know, eh? Pirates of the Caribbean was great fun, so I’m hopeful that Disney’s latest ride adaptation will be as well. The Jungle Cruise ride takes theme park guests on a riverboat through – you guessed it – a jungle!

Hopefully the excitement that the ride offers will translate well to the screen. Parts of the trailer looked very CGI-heavy, and I hope that won’t be too offputting or problematic. Otherwise all I can really say is I’m looking forward to seeing what the film has to offer.

Number 2: Free Guy

Ryan Reynolds stars as a video game character who becomes sentient. I don’t know what else to say other than that sounds like a hilarious premise, one well-suited to Reynolds’ comedic style.

Video games have been the subject of many different films over the years, both as plot points and as direct video game adaptations. But no film so far has taken this approach; Free Guy looks set to be a unique experience when it arrives on the 13th of August.

Number 3: No Time To Die

This is the third or fourth time I’ve put No Time To Die on a list of “upcoming” titles. But this time it really is going to be released! Right?! Delayed by almost two years at this point, Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 looks set to be an explosive and action-packed experience, and hopefully will bring down the curtain on his tenure in the role in suitable fashion.

The film will feature Academy Award-winner Rami Malek as its main villain, and I’m very interested to see what he’ll bring to the table. All being well, No Time To Die will be released at the end of September – and I’m curious to see whether it’ll be released on Amazon Prime Video as well, following Amazon’s acquisition of MGM.

Number 4: Encanto

We don’t know too much right now about Disney’s next big animated film. It’s set in Colombia, so there’ll be a Latin/South American feel. The film will focus on a girl who’s the only one in her family unable to use magic. I think we can expect an uplifting story of someone learning to be themselves and discover their own talents!

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who composed the soundtrack to 2016’s Moana (as well as Hamilton, In The Heights, and many others) is collaborating with Disney for a second time on the soundtrack to Encanto. That alone makes the film very exciting and worth checking out. Currently Disney aims to release Encanto in cinemas with no word on a Disney+ premiere.

Number 5: The Green Knight

I’ve long had an interest in the legends of King Arthur, and this film adaptation of one of the lesser-known Arthurian works looks set to be interesting at the very least. I got almost a horror or supernatural vibe from the trailer for The Green Knight, and while I’m not a big horror fan personally, I think the film has potential.

I’m not familiar with the director or most of the cast, so I can’t comment on the film’s pedigree. But with a decent budget and solid source material, this could be an interesting one to watch when it arrives at the end of July.

Number 6: Space Jam: A New Legacy

I don’t think I’ve re-watched the original Space Jam since it was released in 1996. But despite that, the idea of a sequel to the fun basketball-meets-Looney Tunes flick seems like it’ll be a lot of fun! Starring Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green alongside basketball legend LeBron James, the film looks set to follow a similar formula to its famous ’90s predecessor.

Nostalgia is a big deal in entertainment at the moment, so I’m not surprised to see ’90s hits like Space Jam being brought back. Hopefully A New Legacy can live up to the original film when it’s released in just a couple of weeks’ time.

Number 7: Dune

As with Foundation above, Dune is an adaptation of an absolutely iconic work of science-fiction. Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel has been notoriously difficult to bring to the screen, and while this version is the first part of a duology, in many respects the complicated story might be better served as a television series than in the cinema.

Despite that, however, I’m looking forward to Dune’s November premiere. A huge budget, visual effects that look outstanding, and a star-studded cast will hopefully all come together to make this latest adaptation a success.

Number 8: Top Gun: Maverick

It’s been a long time since I saw Top Gun, the film which propelled Tom Cruise to superstardom. To produce a sequel 35 years after the original film is, in some respects, a risk. But as already mentioned, nostalgia is a huge driving force in the modern entertainment industry, and with Cruise stepping back into the shoes of fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, there’s already been a huge amount of interest.

Top Gun: Maverick will come to Paramount+ shortly after its theatrical release, which will hopefully give the streaming platform – Star Trek’s digital home – a nice boost.

Number 9: The Matrix 4

Although The Matrix 4 remains on the schedule for 2021, with so little information about the production – not even a name – I think we have to call this one tentative. 2003’s Reloaded and Revolutions seemed to bring the story to a pretty definitive end, so I’ll be interested to see where a new instalment takes the sci-fi/action series.

Most of the original cast are reprising their roles, and Lana Wachowski is set to direct. After the Wachowskis came out as transgender and completed their transitions, many critics have re-evaluated The Matrix and its “red pill, blue pill” analogy through the lens of trans experiences. As someone who’s recently been exploring my own gender identity, I’ll be very curious to see what the fourth film in the series has to say about the subject.

Number 10: Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

The Resident Evil film series, which ran from 2002 to 2016, is a rare example of a successful video game adaptation on the big screen. Following 2016’s The Final Chapter, Welcome to Raccoon City aims to reboot the film franchise, and bring it closer in line with the video games that originally inspired it.

The video game Resident Evil 2 was recently remade, and that game’s success may have inspired some of the choices made for the film, including the decision to incorporate several major characters from the video game series. Even though horror isn’t really my thing, the Resident Evil films always managed to be the right mix of frightening and action-packed, and I’m hopeful for something similar from this reboot.

Video Games:

Some folks felt that this year’s E3 was a disappointment because of how many games have been pushed back to 2022. That’s another consequence of the pandemic, unfortunately! But there are still a number of exciting games coming before the end of the year.

Number 1: Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Kena: Bridge of Spirits has been on my radar for a while. Its Disney-inspired art style looks utterly adorable, and I can’t wait to give the game a try. There’s always room for this kind of single-player action-adventure title, and the premise of being a “spirit guide” who helps the newly-deceased sounds unique and fun.

I’m hopeful that developers Ember Lab, working on their first game after transitioning from digital animation, will succeed at creating an enjoyable, perhaps somewhat different experience.

Number 2: Bear and Breakfast

One of the indie highlights of E3 in my opinion, the adorable-looking, vaguely Stardew Valley-esque Bear and Breakfast is scheduled to launch before the end of the year. The premise, in case you didn’t get it, is that you run a bed & breakfast in a forest, and you’re a bear. What’s not to love about that?!

The game’s cartoony visual style looks cute, the premise sounds unique and just the right kind of silly, and I’m just really looking forward to giving Bear and Breakfast a shot.

Number 3: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

This one has to be tentative, as there’s been very little movement on the game all year. Its absence at E3 was noticeable, and we may learn that it’s going to be delayed until next year. However, Gollum is a very interesting project. What could a game where this vile, villainous character is the star possibly have to offer? There have been antiheroes in gaming before, but few characters are as repulsive as Gollum!

And I think that’s what’s so fascinating about this title. Taking on the role of Gollum, and experiencing an adventure in Middle-earth from his perspective is almost certainly going to make for a game that’s one-of-a-kind.

Number 4: Mario Party: Superstars

Though its price seems rather steep, Mario Party: Superstars is bringing back classic boards and mini-games from the original Nintendo 64 Mario Party games. I had great fun with the first Mario Party in particular, and being able to play remastered versions sounds like a blast of nostalgia and potentially a lot of fun.

I can’t escape the feeling that Superstars might’ve been better value were it half the price, or an expansion pack for Super Mario Party instead of being a full-price standalone title. But despite that, it sounds like fun.

Number 5: Halo Infinite

After a disappointing trailer last year, Halo Infinite was delayed and reworked, ultimately meaning it didn’t launch alongside the Xbox Series X last November. Following a year-long delay, the game is now set to launch in time for Christmas, alongside a free multiplayer mode.

Since Halo Infinite will be coming to Game Pass I daresay I’ll give it a go when it comes out. After a six-year gap – the longest in the history of the series – fans will be clamouring for more from the Master Chief, as well as looking to see whether 343 Industries have finally managed to get the elusive Halo formula right. With a television series also in the works, Microsoft is investing heavily in the Halo brand.

Number 6: Age of Empires IV

Sticking with Microsoft, the next big brand they’re bringing back is Age of Empires! After the first three games were successfully remade over the last few years, the launch of Age of Empires IV is the series’ real test. Can Xbox Game Studios craft a title that successfully brings the classic real-time strategy series firmly into the modern day?

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition in particular has built up a solid fanbase, with plenty of folks playing the game competitively online. A lot of them will be interested to try Age of Empires IV, so the game has the potential to be a success. The original Age of Empires was my first real introduction to the world of real-time strategy, so I’m rooting for the success of the latest entry in the series.

Number 7: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

This is another one we’ll have to call tentative. There’s been radio silence from Traveller’s Tales and Warner Bros. since the game was delayed back in April – having already been delayed twice previously. However, I’m still hopeful that we’ll see it before the end of the year – it would be a great stocking stuffer were it to launch in time for Christmas!

2006’s Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga was absolutely brilliant; a comedic, light-hearted take on Star Wars. I’m hoping this new game can live up to that legacy and bring a dose of fun to Star Wars. Maybe it’ll even make the dire Rise of Skywalker bearable!

Number 8: Road 96

I can’t actually remember where I first saw indie title Road 96. But the idea sounds great: a procedurally-generated game in which your character has to escape from a dangerous country. Some of the landscapes shown off in the trailer looked similar to the American Southwest, and I love the visual style.

Road 96 promises “thousands” of routes and non-player characters to interact with, and it sounds like this could be a game with a huge amount of replay value. I’m looking forward to trying it out for myself.

Number 9: Shredders

There have been some classic snowboarding games in years past: 1080° Snowboarding on the Nintendo 64 and SSX Tricky on the Xbox/PlayStation 2, just to give two examples. Shredders, which was announced at E3, looks like it’ll pick up the baton and offer a fun snowboarding experience.

Any game set in a wintry environment has to get its snow texture just right, and it looks as though Shredders has – at least based on pre-release trailers. I’m hopeful for a fun time when this lands on Game Pass in the run-up to Christmas.

Number 10: Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 4 was great fun, and I’m hoping for more of the same from its sequel. The semi-arcade racing hops across the Atlantic to Mexico for this iteration, with promises of more cars, a bigger map, and diverse environments to race through. All of that sounds great!

Racing games often manage to look visually stunning, and Forza Horizon 5 is no exception. The game looks fantastic, and if it plays well too it could be a huge time-sink heading into the autumn!

So that’s it!

We’ve looked at ten television shows, films, and video games that I think will be fun as we cross into the second half of 2021. Summer is always my least-favourite season, with early sunrises making it harder to sleep than usual, annoying insects buzzing around, and heatwaves that make me wish I could afford air conditioning! But there are plenty of things to look forward to even as we roll through my least-favourite part of the year.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 has to be my highlight; if I could only choose one thing to be excited about it would be that! But Tokyo Vice is incredibly interesting too, a series which I think could blow up and become the next Chernobyl. Film-wise, Encanto looks great; any project with a soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda is worth paying attention to! Dune I’m hopeful for, and The Green Knight could sneak in and become something more than I’m expecting. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is such an interesting and cute-looking video game, and a rare new IP in an entertainment landscape where sequels and franchises dominate.

2021 still has a lot left to offer, even though we’re already halfway through! I hope you found something here to get excited about – or maybe something you hadn’t heard of that you can add to your list.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective owner, studio, developer, broadcaster, distributor, publisher, etc. Some promotional video game screenshots courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

More details about Star Trek: Prodigy revealed

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Prodigy.

A few weeks ago we got to see a first glimpse of upcoming kids show Star Trek: Prodigy, showing off the main cast of characters. Today, ViacomCBS revealed a little more information about who these folks are – as well as the voice actors who will bring them to life! In addition, we got four brand-new teaser images. I thought it would be fun to take a look at what’s been revealed as we start to get excited for Prodigy.

It’s worth saying at this stage that no broadcast date was revealed. In fact, we weren’t given so much as a hint as to when Prodigy might hit our screens. I’d definitely seen 2021 talked about as being likely, but given we’re going to get Lower Decks in less than two months, with Discovery following hot on its heels before the end of the year, I’m beginning to think that Prodigy will arrive next year instead. Stay tuned, because if and when we get a proper release date – or a trailer – I’ll try to cover it here on the website!

Meet the cast!

We’d learned during Star Trek’s First Contact Day digital event a couple of months ago that Prodigy is set in the Delta Quadrant, and that the characters mostly belong to races we haven’t met before. Despite that, however, there are two characters who actually are from familiar races – presumably we’ll learn more about how they came to be in the Delta Quadrant when the show airs!

First up we have a Tellarite named Jankom Pog. The Tellarites were founding members of the Federation – so perhaps we’ll get a different perspective from this character, who may know a little more about Starfleet and the Federation than the others. And secondly we have a Medusan character named Zero. The Medusans were seen in The Original Series Season 3 episode Is There In Truth No Beauty? These aliens are noncorporeal and unable to be looked upon by humans (and presumably others) as the sight of their appearance can drive people insane!

The first of two images featuring Dal.

Modern Star Trek has enjoyed bringing back characters and races from The Original Series era, and this feels like a continuation of that trend in some ways. Both Tellarites and Medusans are known but have never been explored in depth, and making main characters out of each feels like it has the potential to expand our understanding of both races.

I don’t want to pre-empt some of the storylines that Prodigy could explore, but in the Medusan character in particular I wonder if we’re going to see stories about things like overcoming insecurities about one’s physical appearance. There’s also the potential for an analogy about having to hide one’s true self and never feeling able to be truly “seen.” The Medusan character was very pointedly described as “genderless” in the press release, and I wonder if that means we’ll get storylines considering gender identity in a comparable way to how Discovery’s third season introduced the non-binary character Adira.

Dal again – perhaps on the Starfleet vessel the kids encounter?

Let’s look at the remaining characters and see if there’s anything else we can gleam!

The character I felt bore superficial similarities to Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond is called Gwyn, described as a Vau N’Akat – a new race that we haven’t met before – who grew up on a bleak mining world. Sounds interesting, and there’s potential for Gwyn to perhaps be a point-of-view character, allowing for things to be explained to us as the audience because she’s less familiar with the wider galaxy and its inhabitants.

Dal is next, the same age as Gwyn but from an unknown race. A couple of the characters have this description; I don’t know if it means their races will be revealed during the series or if the characters themselves don’t know their own origin and identity. If it’s the latter, perhaps there’s scope for Dal to learn more about his people and his home as the series progresses. Otherwise, this character was described as a “maverick,” but also full of hope.

A new teaser image of Gwyn.

The very large alien that I thought might’ve been a Horta is actually the youngest member of the group. Rok-Tahk is described as shy and an animal-lover. Aside from the unconventional size, this kind of feels like Rok-Tahk has been given generic “little girl” attributes by the creators… but maybe she’ll surprise me and bring something more to the table.

Finally we have Murf, the adorable blob-alien who immediately became a fan-favourite. Murf is the second character whose species is described as being “unknown,” so we’ll have to see what happens there. Otherwise Murf was described as “indestructible,” which certainly seems like an attribute that could come in handy.

Rok-Tahk seems to be hard at work!

There were a couple of known names among the voice cast. Jason Mantzoukas will voice Jankom Pog (the Tellarite character) and is an actor and comedian who’s been in films like The Dictator and The Lego Batman Movie, as well as television shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Big Mouth. Dee Bradley Baker will voice Murf, and you might know his name from his prolific voice acting in television shows like Star Wars Rebels, SpongeBob SquarePants, and as the “voice” of Perry the Platypus in Phineas and Ferb.

So now we have names to go with the faces we first saw a few months ago! Prodigy is definitely taking shape, and the more we learn about the series, the more interesting it seems to get. I know it’s a show primarily aimed at kids, but the best children’s shows have something to offer adults as well. Not to mention that Star Trek has long been a child-friendly franchise.

It was great to get another glimpse at the new series. Prodigy will be the fourth brand-new Star Trek project to premiere since ViacomCBS brought the franchise back to the small screen less than four years ago. It’s an absolutely amazing time to be a fan of Star Trek – as I keep saying! – and I can only hope that the new show is as entertaining and enjoyable as the others. It’s a departure for the franchise to make a deliberately child-oriented show, and to have a cast of characters which primarily consists of teens and kids, but as Lower Decks proved last year – albeit in a very different way – Star Trek is adaptable. The franchise is capable of branching out and going in different directions. For a lot of kids, Prodigy is about to become their first contact with Star Trek, and I hope many of them will explore the franchise, watch its other iterations, and become lifelong fans.

You can find more information about the cast and characters of Star Trek: Prodigy by following this link to the official Star Trek website. Star Trek: Prodigy will premiere on Paramount+ in the United States soon. International distribution has not yet been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Prodigy and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek’s “First Contact Day” event – roundup and impressions

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, and most importantly, there are spoilers (including images) from the teaser trailers for Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, and Discovery Season 4. There are also spoilers for Prodigy.

Yesterday was “First Contact Day” – the 5th of April is the day in 2063 when humans made first contact with the Vulcans, as depicted in Star Trek: First Contact. We’ve seen the event celebrated within Star Trek on a few occasions, and apparently one dish often served is salmon! But we’re off-topic already.

The creative team in charge of Star Trek set up First Contact Day as a digital event, somewhat akin to last year’s Comic-Con @Home presentations, and other similar events that they’ve done periodically. It was marketed on social media, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. But it wasn’t 100% clear how fans were supposed to access the virtual panels – whether they were just going to be available on the website, on social media directly, or even via Paramount+. Even navigating to the right part of the Star Trek website took clicking through several links.

It wasn’t exactly clear how to get to this web page.

That confusion was entirely self-inflicted and clarifying it would have been easy to do. It was almost as if the social media/website teams were making watching the panels “live” – they were actually pre-recorded – as difficult as possible. Thankfully all five of the panels were later made available on YouTube (vital for me, so I could go back and take screenshots!) But while we’re complaining about Star Trek/Paramount+/ViacomCBS’ social media, if you want to watch the full panels on YouTube I advise you to do so fast – in the past, some Star Trek videos, including one of the trailers for the first season of Picard and last year’s Comic-Con panel I mentioned earlier, were taken down by YouTube’s copyright protection algorithm. Hopefully that won’t happen this time, but it’s worth keeping in mind the possibility.

One of the pre-event social media posts was really tantalising and very well put-together. A “teaser” clip of a viewscreen which briefly flashed up two numbers – that looked like map coordinates – got a number of Trekkies talking and speculating, successfully building up a degree of hype for the First Contact Day event. In 2021, this kind of audience engagement via social media is vital for any franchise, and I’m glad to see Star Trek at least making an attempt!

What looked like the bridge of the USS Discovery…
…and the mysterious numbers!

So let’s start with the big news!

We got teaser trailers for Lower Decks Season 2, Picard Season 2, and Discovery Season 4! In addition, we got to see the design for Captain Janeway in Prodigy. Each of the panels gave us a few clues and tidbits of information about these upcoming Star Trek projects, which was fantastic.

The mysterious numbers mentioned above did in fact turn out to be coordinates – for a convention centre in Chicago! Star Trek: Mission Chicago is going to take place in April 2022, and will be the first in-person convention since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Perhaps it’s because I was never going to be in attendance, but I’m not sure the convention was the strongest way to end the First Contact Day event. It was saved for the last moment by co-hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton, and it just felt a tad anticlimactic after an event that had seen so much other exciting news.

For me at least, this wasn’t the strongest way to end the entire broadcast.

With so much going on, and so many amazing reveals, it’s hard to know what to talk about first! Let’s start with Prodigy, since the newly-revealed image of Captain Janeway is probably going to be seen as First Contact Day’s most iconic takeaway. While there was no trailer or teaser for the series, which I admit I had been half-hoping for, we did get a bit more information.

The series is set several years after Voyager, at roughly the same time as Lower Decks, in the 2380s. And the reason why none of the aliens we saw in the first teaser image a few weeks ago look familiar is because the show is set in the Delta Quadrant. The aliens are (presumably) all Delta Quadrant natives who are, according to the show’s creators, totally unaware of Starfleet or the Federation.

The new Captain Janeway design for Prodigy.

The version of Captain Janeway that they encounter is a “training hologram” that has been left behind on some kind of training vessel, presumably by the USS Voyager as it passed through the Delta Quadrant. This is the abandoned Starfleet vessel that had been mentioned in the show’s original description.

The design of Janeway is just fantastic. Modern Star Trek has not been shy about changing up classic designs, but Janeway retains her Voyager-era uniform and combadge, and the design manages to blend the way she looked in the show with a CGI-cartoon aesthetic just perfectly. Looking at her, you know immediately who she is! I honestly cannot fault the design, and I can’t wait to see her in action along with the new crew.

The rest of the Prodigy crew.

The premise of Prodigy has now fully taken shape. The setting has been laid out and the crew assembled. Now all we’re missing is the ship itself! Could that be the Delta Flyer?

The creators of Prodigy talked about how the new series will be great fun for kids, stimulating their imaginations and creativity. Both words, “imagination” and “creativity,” came up several times during the panel, and it sounds as though they’re really pushing hard for Prodigy to be something more than just background noise or brainless entertainment. The best kids’ shows do this, and as a result have a lot to offer kids and adults. There was a mention that Prodigy is for “all ages,” which is great!

Finally, Prodigy promised a number of surprises and connections to Star Trek’s broader canon, both of which I like the sound of! There was a hint that one of the characters we saw in the teaser image has a connection to The Original Series; my first guess was the rock-like alien perhaps being a Horta, as that was something I guessed at when I first saw the image. But we’ll have to wait and see on that!

Could this character be related to the iconic Horta?

So that was Prodigy. Since we’re looking at animation, let’s move on to Lower Decks next.

Creator Mike McMahan was involved in a panel that looked at Star Trek’s sense of humour. Considering how many “critics” attacked Lower Decks before it was broadcast for being an un-serious take on Star Trek, I think it was worthwhile to remind people that humour has been a huge part of the franchise going all the way back to The Original Series. McMahan in particular noted the interactions between Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy as being a great example of this.

The panel concluded with the aforementioned Lower Decks Season 2 teaser, and in a scant few seconds there was a lot going on! Here are just a few of the things I noticed: Rutherford’s implant is back, meaning his design remains unchanged despite the events of the Season 1 finale. Boimler, as promised, remains aboard the USS Titan, though his posting doesn’t seem to be going well!

Lieutenant Boimler doesn’t seem to be having “the time of his life” on board the USS Titan!

Jonathan Frakes will return as Riker, which we had assumed but hadn’t been confirmed. At one point, Mariner wore what looked like the anbo-jyutsu armour from Season 2 of The Next Generation – something Riker wore once in that show. A Miranda-class ship was briefly shown. And finally, there was a sequence in which Mariner appeared to be fighting several Cardassians!

There’s a lot to digest in just those few seconds, and taken out-of-context it’s hard to be sure of what’s going on! What we didn’t see was Boimler interacting with the other three main characters, and perhaps that’s to keep his fate a secret. Or perhaps it’s indicative of the fact that he will remain aboard the USS Titan for several episodes!

Ensigns Tendi, Rutherford, and Mariner in the Lower Decks Season 2 teaser.

Lower Decks Season 2 looks to be coming together nicely, and there was a lot shown off in the teaser that seems to be from quite a few different episodes. We now know that Lower Decks Season 2 will premiere on the 12th of August, which is pretty much one year after Season 1’s debut! So that’s fantastic news, and it means we’ll get at least some Star Trek this year!

Discovery’s fourth season is also scheduled for 2021, though no date was confirmed. After an interesting panel which focused on Nichelle Nichols and a documentary that has been made about her and her work and influence over women at NASA called Women In Motion, Sonequa Martin-Green introduced the first Season 4 teaser trailer.

The Women In Motion panel.

Before we look at the teaser in depth, I enjoyed the Women In Motion panel. One point that came up is the value of representation, which was something Michelle Hurd (Star Trek: Picard’s Raffi) discussed at length. Representation matters in entertainment, and I’ve had an essay in the pipeline on that very subject for a while. One of these days I’ll get it finished!

On to the teaser trailer. The first thing to note is that Discovery’s uniforms have been changed. The grey design appears to have been retired in favour of a more colourful look – the basic layout of the uniforms appears to be very similar, but the colours have changed. This is something I predicted a few weeks ago, and I look forward to seeing more of the new uniforms at some point soon; it’s difficult to assess them fairly from a few short scenes in a teaser!

Owosekun and Burnham sporting the redesigned, more colourful uniforms in the Season 4 teaser.

After the Burn in Season 3, it seems as though Discovery is returning to another “natural disaster” concept in Season 4. An “anomaly” described as being five light-years in diameter seems to be threatening both the Federation and other worlds, perhaps meaning there will need to be some working together to figure out a solution.

After Seasons 1 and 2 both ended up being about fighting and had major villains to defeat, it was a nice break for Discovery to largely have to deal with a scientific problem in Season 3, so I think the same concept could work well again. I just hope that it doesn’t end up feeling either repetitive, as though copying the Burn, or anticlimactic, coming after the galaxy-wide catastrophe and simply not being as impactful.

Damage to the USS Discovery in the Season 4 teaser.

When I heard talk of a gravitational anomaly that was several light-years wide, my first thought was the Nexus, as seen in the film Generations. That “energy ribbon” was known to be able to damage starships and even planets, and though we didn’t see any evidence of the Nexus, perhaps it could be the cause of this strange anomaly?

It looks as though the USS Discovery takes a beating in Season 4, and may even end up destroyed or irretrievably damaged! At one point, Burnham was the sole figure on the bridge and had to wear a helmet, presumably because of the extent of the damage suffered by the ship. Though the uniforms have been redesigned, I didn’t see any significant changes to the internal design of the USS Discovery itself, which is something I think would be nice to see now they’re established in the 32nd Century.

Burnham in some kind of armour or space suit in the Season 4 teaser.

It was great to see Cleveland Booker back, and it seems as though David Ajala will be back as a regular cast member for the show. Book was such a fun character in Season 3 that I’m thrilled he’s back. He wasn’t in a Starfleet uniform, so it seems as though he’s keeping his status as an outsider. That worked well in Season 3, so why change what works?

Lieutenant Detmer appears to have upgraded her cybernetic implant! We saw at least one glimpse of a scene in which the USS Discovery appeared to lose artificial gravity, which is something rarely seen in Star Trek. We saw the return of the President of Ni’Var, who appeared in Season 3, as well as the debut of a new character who seems to be a Federation official.

At one point, the ship appears to lose its artificial gravity!

Saru was shown briefly, and looks to be in some kind of diplomatic or ambassadorial role based on the few seconds he was on screen. We also saw one other Kelpien, a couple of unknown aliens, and Burnham once again talking about togetherness and unity as ways to tackle the threat they all face – presumably this anomaly. And most importantly: Grudge is back!

So all I can think to say is “wow!” Discovery Season 4 looks action-packed to say the least! We didn’t see either Admiral Vance or Kovich; the latter we know is returning but I certainly hope Admiral Vance will be back as well. Oded Fehr’s performance in Season 3 was fantastic, and it’s wonderful to have a Star Trek admiral who does what’s right and isn’t an adversary; it makes a nice change!

The USS Discovery was also briefly glimpsed in the Season 4 teaser.

Based on what we saw, Discovery Season 4 looks fantastic, and getting confirmation that it’s aiming for a 2021 release is great news as well. Though no date was given, at this stage I would assume (alright, guess) that we’ll see something of a repeat of last year, with Lower Decks running from August to October, and Discovery Season 4 picking up sometime in mid-October; certainly before Halloween. It would then run through the autumn and winter before concluding sometime in the New Year. That was 2020’s pattern, and with Lower Decks scheduled for August, I think we can reasonably guesstimate that the same thing will happen this year as well.

That brings us to Picard, which was one of the first things we saw! The Picard Season 2 teaser was totally unlike the Lower Decks and Discovery teasers, being comprised of no filmed scenes and featuring no characters – which makes sense, given how early in production the season is! Despite that, however, in the short teaser we actually got a lot of information – or possible information – about what might be going on!

A model of the USS Stargazer in the Season 2 teaser.

Firstly, time travel appears to be involved. Specifically, travelling backwards in time. This was represented by an hourglass running in reverse. We also saw the teaser linger very prominently over a model of the USS Stargazer – Picard’s first command. There was also a glimpse of Paradise Lost, an epic poem about falling from grace and the rejection of God. I’m sure that’s a tease at something… but what? Then we got the biggest bombshell of the entire teaser: Q is returning!

John De Lancie, who plays Q (and who recently appeared in Lower Decks) joined Wil Wheaton and Sir Patrick Stewart to confirm Q’s return, and it was great to see him back! The combination of time travel plus Q seems to make for an interesting setup to the new season!

John De Lancie will reprise his role as Q in Picard Season 2!

The USS Stargazer was under Picard’s command for more than twenty years, seemingly from the 2330s to the 2350s. Having spent so much of his life aboard the ship, revisiting it makes a lot of sense for the show! It’s also an almost-blank slate, as aside from a few references and lines here and there across The Next Generation, the Stargazer’s exploits are largely unknown. We do know that the ship was involved in the Cardassian Border Wars, and that Jack Crusher served aboard the ship before being killed. In voiceover, Picard talked about time being the real “final frontier,” and about the desire to do things differently.

A couple more hints about the storyline and Q’s involvement came in the panel which followed. Sir Patrick Stewart made a couple of references to Q appearing in an “episode” using the singular, so perhaps Q will be back for just one appearance! It doesn’t sound as though Q caused whatever time-related event is happening, which is also a point of note.

The very creative way Q’s involvement was announced!

Q’s arrival was said to come at a “shattering moment” – perhaps the moment that time shattered? Or perhaps a moment in which Picard feels traumatised, as Sir Patrick Stewart and others made reference to Picard being “traumatised” both by his past and whatever is going on in the new season.

There seemed to be a hint that Picard may visit more than one time period, as well as Jonathan Frakes’ inclusion suggesting that Riker may make a reappearance in Season 2 as well. My first thought, putting all of these elements together, is some kind of follow-up to the events of All Good Things, the finale of The Next Generation. In that story, Q allowed Picard to move between three time periods in order to solve a puzzle – events in the future were having a causal effect on events in the past! Perhaps some kind of similar “anti-time” story is on the cards?

An hourglass running backwards was one of the key visuals in the teaser.

Q appeared in the first episode in which we met Picard – Encounter at Farpoint right at the beginning of The Next Generation’s run. As I said once, it would be poetic if he were also to appear in the episode – or at least the season – which marks Picard’s end as a Star Trek character as well. Though a third or even fourth season of Picard was said to be there for the taking if Sir Patrick Stewart wanted to do it, I wonder if Q’s inclusion in Season 2 may mean that it will be the last season of the show – and may even see Picard killed off.

That’s pure speculation on my part, though!

With production having only been going on since late February, I’m not surprised that Picard didn’t have more to show at this stage. It seems certain we won’t see Season 2 before next year, and that’s actually okay! As excited as I am to continue the journey, we’ll have plenty of Star Trek to get stuck into later this year.

What relationship will Paradise Lost have to the plot?

So that wraps up my thoughts on the three teasers (plus one image) that we got during yesterday’s First Contact Day event. Before we go, though, I want to talk briefly about the other panels.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: First Contact (gosh I feel old now, as I remember seeing it at the cinema!) There was a panel hosted by Wil Wheaton that featured Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and Alice Krige – the actress who played the Borg Queen in that film. It was a very sweet panel, as all the participants had fond memories of working on the film.

Krige in particular spoke very highly of working with the cast of The Next Generation, and being welcomed aboard by a team that had been working together for almost a decade at that point. There were some lighthearted moments too, as Frakes was quizzed over his “Two Takes Frakes” nickname! It was a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see that, even after so many years, the cast still enjoy one another’s company.

The Star Trek: First Contact 25th Anniversary panel.

The only panel I haven’t touched on yet was that hosted by Mica Burton in which several designers and artists participated. It reminded me of a book I own called Aliens and Artifacts which similarly looks at makeup, uniform design, prosthetics, and so on, and how all of those things are created by artists behind the scenes.

It’s always interesting to learn a little more about how these things work, and it was neat to hear from some of the folks who have been involved with designing new aliens, new uniforms, and other aesthetic elements that go on to be iconic and emblematic of Star Trek.

The artists’ panel was interesting.

So that’s it! First Contact Day was interesting, and we got to learn a lot about upcoming Star Trek projects! The return of Q in Picard Season 2, as well as a time travel story, sounds interesting. Discovery Season 4 looks to be playing up the strengths of Season 3. And Lower Decks looks like another wacky good time! It was great to see Captain Janeway’s design in Prodigy, as well as learn a little more about that series. Though I hoped to find out when it will debut or even see a trailer, I’m content to wait and let the creators get it ready first!

I had fun with First Contact Day, and I encourage you to check out all of the panels in full if you haven’t already. At the very least, watch the teasers for yourself! You can find all of the First Contact Day panels by clicking or tapping here to go to the Paramount+ YouTube channel.

The Star Trek franchise, including all properties mentioned above, is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some Star Trek updates for 2021-22

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3.

In addition to the first teaser image for Star Trek: Prodigy, a recent update from ViacomCBS (that was primarily directed at their investors) has given us a couple of interesting bits of news regarding both current and future Star Trek projects. Today I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at what was said and try to figure out what may or may not be coming our way in 2021 and the first half of 2022.

The most significant piece of news was that ViacomCBS plans to have something from the Star Trek franchise on Paramount+ every quarter. Since it’s already almost March I think we can rule out anything in Q1 this year! But that still potentially leaves us with three Star Trek projects before the end of 2021.

The teaser image for Prodigy, in case you missed it!

I said just after New Year that I believed we’d see both Prodigy Season 1 and Lower Decks Season 2 this year, and those will almost certainly be two of the three. With Discovery Season 4 having been in production since November, I have to assume that will be the third series planned for this year – perhaps targeting a Q4 broadcast like Season 3 received in 2020. That’s ambitious in my opinion – post-production work on Discovery Season 3 took over nine months to complete – but if ViacomCBS and Paramount+ can manage it, it will be a fantastic achievement! And it will mean one extra Star Trek show in 2021 that I wasn’t expecting!

If that’s the plan, that would then open up Q1 and Q2 of 2022, and it seems certain that we’d get Picard Season 2 (which has just started filming) and Strange New Worlds Season 1 in the first half of next year – probably in that order. So this current quarter could be the longest we’ll have to go without any new Star Trek for quite some time!

Picard and his new crew are coming back soon.

What will happen after that is in question, and this is where the other interesting bit of news comes in: ViacomCBS has no plans to produce any other Star Trek shows until those currently in production have concluded.

This seems to mean that the Section 31 series, which originally had a premiere date suggested for this year, is going to be delayed yet further, and I interpret comments by some of its writers and producers to mean that the series going ahead at all is less certain now than ever. Strange New Worlds completely stole the Section 31 show’s thunder, both before and after it was announced, and as I said a while ago, I never really got the impression that there was much excitement for Section 31. Many Discovery fans were clamouring for a Pike series almost from the first episode of the show’s second season, but Georgiou and Section 31, while not badly received, were very much the lesser part of that story overall.

Anson Mount recently cropped up in his Starfleet uniform in the ad campaign for Paramount+.

Georgiou’s recent departure from Discovery has set the stage for Section 31 – but it also left things very open as to where (and when) she will end up. Perhaps behind the scenes what’s going on is some major retooling of the Section 31 show’s premise; it had been suggested by Alex Kurtzman and others fairly recently that the scripts were still being worked on, and this feels like another indication of changes to the upcoming series.

So this unfortunately raises the question of the Section 31 show’s ultimate fate. Is this the first step to it being cancelled… or “un-announced?” It feels like it could be, sadly. Despite not being as interested in Section 31 when it was announced, I’ve recently come around to the idea of this kind of spy thriller. If done well I think it could be something really fun and different within Star Trek, and with it having been announced I kind of want to see it come into being. Even if it only runs for a single season, or gets cut down to a miniseries or television movie I still think it could be worthwhile.

Michelle Yeoh is set to return as Mirror Georgiou in the Section 31 series some time soon.

The longer-term futures of other Star Trek projects are less clear. No future seasons of any in-production shows were announced – though it seems likely, according to the rumour mill, that we’ll see Discovery Season 5, and Picard Season 3 was said to be there for the taking if Sir Patrick Stewart wanted it. Beyond the halfway point of 2022, though, Star Trek’s future gets a little harder to predict. We could see Lower Decks Season 3, Prodigy Season 2, or perhaps a new set of Short Treks mini-episodes.

What is clear, though, is that Section 31, the potential Ceti Alpha V miniseries that I covered a few weeks ago, and the still-unannounced live-action series that is in pre-production won’t be coming imminently.

ViacomCBS has “plans” for expanding Star Trek beyond the projects that we know about, though, and there was talk of ideas and concepts being worked on behind the scenes. Paramount+ is being established with a view to a widespread international rollout, which will begin next month with the USA, Canada, and Australia, before heading to Scandinavia and Latin America later in the year. Hopefully it’ll come to the UK soon!

Paramount+ launches next week.

Other recently-announced projects for Paramount+ include a Halo television series, a prequel to Western drama Yellowstone, a reboot of Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats, and more. CBS All Access has grown its subscriber base since it was launched, passing the 8 million mark last year. The relaunch of the service as Paramount+, with its promised live sport and varied mix of films and television shows will surely bring in a lot of viewers – keeping Star Trek on the air for a long time to come.

These announcements were interesting, and I feel reasonably confident now that we’ll see three Star Trek shows this year instead of the two I had been expecting, so that’s fantastic! And I cannot wait for both Season 2 of Picard and the debut of Strange New Worlds next year. It’s a wonderful time to be a Star Trek fan right now – we have literally never had so many different projects all on the go at once. Someone pinch me… I must be dreaming!

The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Prodigy – First Look!

Yesterday ViacomCBS showed off the first piece of promotional artwork for the upcoming child-friendly series Star Trek: Prodigy. And it looks good… or at least, I think it does. I’m not completely sure!

Let’s take a closer look at the teaser image and try to break it down:

The first and most obvious thing to me is that none of the characters look like anything we’ve seen before in Star Trek. My first thought was that it looked rather Disney-esque due to the art style, so that was a positive. But then the more I looked at it I couldn’t get away from one word in particular: “generic.”

These characters don’t exhibit any Star Trek visual traits, and thus they feel like they could be part of any sci-fi universe. You could tell me these are characters from a Star Wars show, a show set in the world of Mass Effect, Avatar, Marvel or DC Comics… you get the picture. Nothing about it screams “Star Trek” to me, and as a result the characters feel very generic; fun and well-designed sci-fi characters for sure, and with a cute art style, but not necessarily from Star Trek. The only character who could possibly be from an established Star Trek race is the tall figure in the middle (third from the left). They could be from the same race as Jaylah – the character from Star Trek Beyond.

This character is giving me Jaylah vibes.

I suppose it’s possible that the large scaly or mineral-encrusted alien on the right is supposed to be something like a Horta (from The Original Series Season 1 episode Devil in the Dark). That feels like a stretch, though, as it would be a significant departure from the only previous depiction of a Horta.

We also have three other aliens of unknown races, including one second-right who appears to be comprised of some kind of liquid or gel. This blue alien is perhaps my favourite design, and one of the great things about animation is that it allows for more “alien-looking” aliens than live-action. That’s something we saw in Lower Decks as well. This character is cute, and perhaps because of the colour scheme I’m getting kind of a Moana vibe.

My favourite!

The far left seems to show a sentient robot, and this is the character who feels most like they’ve been imported from Star Wars! I’m also curious what kind of character a synth or robot could be in a show that’s supposedly primarily about kids – we’ve never really seen a child robot before. They look friendly, though, so that’s a plus!

Notable by her absence is Captain Janeway – the only named character we know of in Prodigy at this stage. I was surprised not to see her depicted in this first piece of promotional artwork given the big announcement made a few months ago that she was joining the series. Janeway is potentially one of Prodigy’s biggest draws – especially for long-time Trekkies – so giving her some kind of role in pre-release marketing would make a lot of sense.

Captain Janeway wasn’t part of this teaser image.

We didn’t get any character names to go with this image, so we don’t know who’s who or what roles they might end up playing on the series. I would guess that the tall figure in the centre is the leader of this gang of kids, and the apparel of the figure second-left suggests he could be an engineer of some kind. Those are just guesses, though, and I have no idea about the others!

What the release of this little teaser may mean is that Prodigy is well underway. The image was revealed at a promotional event for investors in the run-up to the launch of Paramount+ next week, and while it doesn’t seem like Prodigy will arrive on the day the service officially launches, all being well we’ll see it later this year.

Star Trek: Prodigy is coming to Paramount+.

I like the art style chosen for this project. 3D computer animation can look great, and these characters have a style that’s in line with other modern projects aimed at kids. Perhaps we can say it isn’t unique – as mentioned I think it feels rather generic for a Star Trek production – but there’s plenty of positives to take away from the visual style. I’ve already picked a favourite character – the blue liquid one! I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t an obvious Star Trek race included, nor any other significant Star Trek elements in the image. There are no combadges, for example, nor phasers, tricorders, etc. So while the characters look great and the art style is cute and fun… I’m left feeling that something important is missing.

I know it’s a show for kids, but the best kids shows have something to offer adults too, and this is something ViacomCBS has been promising since this project was announced. I’m sure as we get to see more of these characters, learn who they are, and see the ship that they’re going to “commandeer” for their adventures that the elusive sense of “Star Trek-ness” will come into focus. Maybe it was too much to ask from a single teaser image!

A robot and an alien.

So this was an interesting first look – a glimpse, really – at Prodigy. The art style looks to be cute and fun, and while I wasn’t hit with a strong sense that the characters are part of the Star Trek franchise, and I’m curious as to why Janeway was left out, it was certainly interesting to see. From the point of view of producing a show for kids, I think there’s a lot for kids to get excited about with these characters. Though not necessarily “Star Trek,” the characters are visually interesting and would convert well to toys, dolls, and playsets. The diversity present in these designs should help each character establish a personality and on-screen presence, and that’s a positive thing.

Hopefully we’ll get to know more about these folks soon!

Star Trek: Prodigy is currently in production and will debut on Paramount+ in the United States and other territories where the service is available. Further international distribution has not yet been announced. Star Trek: Prodigy is the copyright of ViacomCBS and Nickelodeon. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 finally enters production!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and Star Trek: Discovery Season 3.

Just a short one today. It seems as though the long-delayed second season of Star Trek: Picard has officially entered production, with filming commencing in California. Raffi actress Michelle Hurd posted on social media that she was “back to work.”

Details of the season are otherwise hard to come by; ViacomCBS is keeping a tight lid on production. Partly that will be due to coronavirus-related concerns, but also to avoid leaks or spoilers. Sir Patrick Stewart has been back in California for a while, and from what he’s said has been raring to go! Stewart recently appeared during the ad campaign for Paramount+ – the new name for the rebranded CBS All Access, and the future home of Star Trek: Picard.

Aside from Stewart and Hurd, the Season 2 cast will comprise Isa Briones as Dahj, Santiago Cabrera as Chris Rios, Evan Evagora as Elnor, Alison Pill as Dr Jurati, and Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine in a “special guest star” capacity. The only main character from Season 1 who isn’t returning (as far as we know, anyway) is Harry Treadaway’s Narek. I’m still hopeful, however, that Season 2 will somehow make note of Narek’s fate, as the Season 1 finale left things unclear.

Will we at least learn what happened to Narek?

The timeframe for Season 2’s production and release is still up in the air. If we use Season 1 as a baseline for comparison, we can expect filming to last approximately four months (Season 1 filmed from late April to the end of August 2019). However, it goes without saying that coronavirus-related safety protocols could delay things. Four months of filming would put the end of production somewhere in late June or early July, and again if we use Season 1 as a baseline, where post-production work took approximately four-and-a-half months, we could potentially see Season 2 being wrapped up and ready to go before Christmas.

However, Discovery’s third season took closer to nine months in post-production due to coronavirus and the teams all having to work from home, so I’d be surprised to see Picard Season 2 before next year. There’s also Discovery Season 4 to consider – it began filming back in November, so will likely conclude first. I’m not sure how much crossover there is of post-production staff between the two shows, but it stands to reason that if work on Discovery Season 4 is already underway, Picard Season 2 may have to wait longer.

Production on Discovery Season 4 has been underway for weeks.

So let’s assume, for now, that sometime in the first half of 2022 seems like a reasonable guesstimate for when we could see the season air! If we get any significant news regarding character crossovers, plot details, or a trailer, be sure to check back as I’ll almost certainly have something to say.

Speaking of character crossovers, have you heard the news that Thadiun Okona (from The Next Generation Season 2 episode The Outrageous Okona) may be appearing in Star Trek: Prodigy?! What an odd choice. But actor William O. Campbell confirmed on a recent podcast that he’s already been in the recording studio, so I guess we’ll see what he brings to the series when it arrives later this year! I had suggested Okona as a possible character for Picard Season 2 months ago, but I would never have guessed he’d crop up in Prodigy!

So that’s all I have to say, really. Picard Season 2 felt in danger for a while there, so I’m very glad indeed to hear that filming is underway. A few weeks ago I wrote up some preliminary predictions for what Season 2 may contain, so be sure not to miss that article if you’re interested in my pre-season musings!

Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on CBS All Access (soon to be rebranded as Paramount+) in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – remains the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

What might we watch and play in 2021?

Happy New Year! As we put the calamitous 2020 behind us, let’s look ahead to some of the entertainment experiences we might enjoy between now and Christmas. There’s only 51 weeks till the big day, you know. Better start your Christmas shopping!

The effects of 2020’s disruption are still being felt, and while we should hopefully see a return to normalcy slowly building over the next few months, there will undoubtedly be changes to come. From my point of view as a Trekkie, the big question is this: how much Star Trek will we get this year? After 2020 saw the release of three different Star Trek projects, it’s not inconceivable that the only episode we’ll see in 2021 will be next week’s finale of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3!

We do know, at least, that some big projects still intend to release this year. Let’s look at a few – in no particular order.

Cinema

The pandemic has not magically gone away with the arrival of the new year, and many cinemas look set to remain closed in the weeks ahead. The distribution of vaccines will be key to their re-opening, and thus to the release of at least some big films. However, there have been plans announced to bring some of 2021’s big releases to streaming platforms – either instead of or in addition to a theatrical release. How well this will work, and whether many of these plans go ahead if the pandemic is brought under control is up in the air right now – but it remains a possibility.

Number 1:
Dune

The latest adaptation of Dune is the first part of a duology, and was originally supposed to be released in 2020. Of course that couldn’t happen, and Dune is now set for a December release, and will supposedly come to HBO Max at the same time. Though the story has been notoriously difficult to adapt, this version has a huge budget, a stellar cast, and what look like wonderful visual effects based on the trailer. It feels like a film with great potential, and I’m eagerly awaiting its release.

Number 2:
No Time To Die

The latest Bond film – which is set to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 – has been delayed by over a year. It was originally scheduled for an April 2020 release, but that has been pushed back to April 2021. There are no current plans to bring the film to streaming, and as it’s supposedly the most expensive Bond film of all time, perhaps that makes sense. April feels optimistic, but we’ll see how things go! Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed the Bond franchise, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens as this chapter of the 007 cinematic saga draws to a close.

Number 3:
Jungle Cruise

I love Disney World and the other Disney theme parks! When I heard that the House of Mouse was planning to make a film based on their Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the early 2000s I thought it sounded like a terrible idea – yet Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was an incredibly fun film with heart. Jungle Cruise is likewise based on a Disney World/Disneyland ride, one which, if memory serves, is cute and action-packed! The film adaptation will have to try hard to retain at least some elements of what makes the ride enjoyable, but if it can succeed it could grow to become an ongoing series like Pirates of the Caribbean.

Number 4:
The Matrix 4

As I said last time, I really don’t know where The Matrix 4 could possibly take the story of the series. However, I’m still fascinated to find out! This will be our first time back in this setting since 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, and I’m sure a lot of fans are excited and nervous in equal measure. The idea of the world being artificial was somewhat of a novelty for the big screen when The Matrix did it in 1999, but we’ve since seen other takes on the concept. Will it stick to the late-90s/early-00s aesthetic for scenes set in the simulated world? Will there even be a simulated world if humanity broke free? We’ll soon find out.

Number 5:
Raya and the Last Dragon

After Disney saw success with the Polynesian-themed Moana, they have turned to Southeast Asia for inspiration for Raya and the Last Dragon. Kelly Marie Tran will voice the titular Raya, and Disney animated films have always been worth watching so I’m expecting an enjoyable film. Disney appears to be going through somewhat of a second renaissance in the aftermath of Frozen’s huge success in 2013, and hopefully this will be a continuation of that. I’m also rooting for Kelly Marie Tran after the awful treatment she had to endure at the hands of some so-called “fans” of Star Wars. Raya and the Last Dragon will take the approach pioneered by Mulan and be released on Disney+ for a fee.

Number 6:
The Suicide Squad

2016’s Suicide Squad won an Academy Award. Just in case you forgot! Was it an outstanding cinematic triumph that I’m happy to rewatch time and again? Not exactly, but it was a decent action-packed blockbuster that was an okay way to kill a couple of hours. And that’s what I expect from this direct sequel – nothing groundbreaking, but a solid film with some cute comic book elements.

Number 7:
The King’s Man

Kingsman was a surprisingly fun film when it was released in 2014, and the third entry in the series is a prequel. The King’s Man looks set to examine the outlandish spy organisation’s past and possibly its origins, as well as throw together another action-comedy that takes inspiration from the likes of James Bond. I think that sounds like fun! The King’s Man will feature some pretty big names, including Ralph Finnes, Charles Dance, and Rhys Ifans.

Number 8:
Uncharted

Films based on video games have not often performed well. Though some have become cult classics in their own right, most films adapted from video games have not been successful. Will Uncharted be any different? The project has been in development for a long time and seen many behind-the-scenes changes, but having settled on a script and director, Tom Holland was cast in the role of Nathan Drake. At the very least there’s potential for a summer popcorn flick; a blockbuster adventure film. Whether it will succeed at becoming “the new Indiana Jones” is up for debate – but maybe!

Number 9:
Death on the Nile

2017’s Murder on the Orient Express was great fun, and Death on the Nile is a sequel of sorts. Adapted from a 1937 novel by famed murder-mystery author Agatha Christie, Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars in the picture as detective Hercule Poirot. The cast list reads like a who’s who of British and international stars, including Jennifer Saunders, Rose Leslie, Russell Brand, and Gal Gadot. If you’re familiar with the book or one of the two earlier adaptations the ending will no doubt be known – but that doesn’t mean the journey there won’t be mysterious and thrilling!

Number 10:
Free Guy

Free Guy is about a non-player character in an open world video game who becomes sentient and tries to escape the game. And he’s played by Ryan Reynolds. Are you sold yet? Because that premise (and casting choice) was all it took to hook me in and decide that Free Guy would be worth a look! It sounds like fun, and Reynolds has great comedic timing as we’ve seen with titles like Deadpool. At the very least it’s a unique premise for a film, and one that seems like it could be really funny.

Gaming

With two new consoles barely a month old, both Sony and Microsoft will surely make moves to shore up their player bases this year. There are some titles on the schedule that look absolutely fantastic, and while the release of many of these on what is now last generation’s hardware will mean we won’t see the full power of the next-gen machines just yet, we should begin to see some improvements in what games are capable of. I better get on with upgrading my PC!

Number 1:
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

Rumours swirled for much of last year of an impending Mass Effect trilogy remaster, and the project was finally announced a few weeks ago. Despite its controversial ending, the three games tell a deep and engaging story in a unique sci-fi setting, and were great fun during the Xbox 360 era. Has enough time passed to make updating the trilogy worthwhile? Mass Effect 3 was only released eight years ago, after all. And will the remaster do everything needed to bring these games up-to-date? With Mass Effect 4 on the distant horizon, it will have to! I’m cautiously interested in this one – it could be wonderful to replay these games, but as we’ve seen with some recent remasters, not every company manages to hit a home run when it comes to updating a beloved title.

Number 2:
Hogwarts Legacy

I wrote about this game when it was first announced, but suffice to say I’m truly interested to see what Hogwarts Legacy delivers. It promises to be an “action role-playing game set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the 1800s,” meaning it’s set decades before any of the Harry Potter books. That basic premise worked well for games like Knights of the Old Republic over in the Star Wars franchise, and should allow Hogwarts Legacy to tell a standalone story. The only games set in Harry Potter’s world so far have been straight adaptations of the films, so this is something genuinely different. Hopefully it can tell a fun story!

Number 3:
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Though I didn’t have time to review it before Christmas, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special was great fun over on Disney+. I had hoped to see Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga last year, but it got pushed back and is currently due for release in “early 2021” – whatever that may mean! The first couple of Lego Star Wars games, which were released in the mid-2000s, were really great fun, and I’ve been looking forward to the latest bricky reimagining of the Star Wars saga since it was announced. Lego games have never tried to take themselves seriously, and the end result has always been titles which are just a lot of fun.

Number 4:
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

What could a game starring Gollum possibly bring to the table? I have absolutely no idea! But games – and stories in general – focusing on an antihero can be wonderful, so I’m very curious to find out. It’s also great to see another big single-player title given the glut of live services and always-online multiplayer games. I’m a fan of Middle-earth and the world Tolkien built, so hopefully this game will be a fun return to that setting. Taking on the role of Gollum will offer a different look at Middle-earth, and whether it focuses on the main story from the books or not, has the potential to be fascinating.

Number 5:
Skull & Bones

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag demonstrated that there’s still a lot of appeal in pirate-themed titles. Skull & Bones wasn’t something I was especially interested in at first, but upon learning it will feature a single-player campaign I was happy to add it to the list. It seems to be a game that will deal with the naval combat side of things, and as long as it can really nail ship-to-ship combat within its game engine it should at least be a solid title. Naval games are relatively rare in the combat/strategy/action genres, so perhaps Skull & Bones will offer something a little different.

Number 6:
Outriders

Outriders was one of the first next-gen games that reviewers really had a chance to get to grips with before the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The consensus was that it seems like a fun third-person shooter, even if it wasn’t quite as “next-gen feeling” as some had hoped. Regardless, Outriders has continued its development and will be released this year. The basic premise feels like a mix of sci-fi and superhero comics, and at the very least it’s a brand-new setting at a time when a lot of studios are focused on sequels and franchises.

Number 7:
GhostWire: Tokyo

I honestly don’t know what to expect from GhostWire: Tokyo. It’s a game shrouded in mystery! One thing we know for sure is that it will feature a supernatural storyline, and that alone sounds like it has potential. A teaser trailer released last year didn’t show much, but we know that the game will draw on Japanese mythology and will be a first-person action-adventure game with some supernatural horror elements. It might be wonderful… or it might not be my thing! We’ll have to wait and see.

Number 8:
Diablo IV

After disappointing fans with Diablo Immortal, and then messing up with the controversy around their decision to censor a professional player who supported the protests in Hong Kong, it’s not unfair to say that there’s a lot riding on Diablo IV for Blizzard’s reputation. Early indications are that the dungeon-crawler looks good, and could be a return to form. Diablo III had issues at launch, so this is very much one to take a “wait-and-see” approach with, but if the studio can recreate the magic of older titles then Diablo IV should offer a fun experience.

Number 9:
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

My most recent foray into Mario’s 3D adventures was underwhelming, as Super Mario 3D All-Stars was not actually all that great. However, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury might be! The base game was released on the Wii U, but Bowser’s Fury is something altogether new. How substantial it will be remains to be seen, but taken as a whole the package seems to offer good value. I love the cat suits introduced in Super Mario 3D World, they’re cute and add a different element to Mario and the gang’s 3D adventures.

Number 10:
Humankind

Humankind initially attracted me because of how similar it looks to Civilization VI – one of my most-played games of the 2010s. But there’s more to it than that, and the concept of creating a unique civilisation by combining different historical empires and cultures is, at the very least, innovative. I love a good strategy game, and Humankind could be a big time-sink for me this year – if it can deliver on some pretty big ambitions!

Television

After 2020 saw major disruption to cinema, 2021 could be television’s turn. Though shielded from the brunt of the pandemic, a number of television shows planned for 2021 have seen major delays to production. Despite that, there are still plenty of options on the horizon, including some that look absolutely phenomenal.

Number 1:
Zack Snyder’s Justice League

I can’t actually remember if Justice League is one of the DC films I’ve seen or not. If you’re a regular around here, you’ll know I’m not a big comic book fan generally speaking. And it’s not unfair to say that DC is the lesser of the two comic book powerhouses right now! I honestly did not expect the so-called “Snyder cut” of Justice League to ever see the light of day, but after a campaign by fans the film will be released – as a four-part miniseries on HBO Max. I’m at least somewhat interested to see what all the fuss is about!

Number 2:
Star Trek: Prodigy

After Lower Decks took the Star Trek franchise in a different – and very funny – direction in 2020, I’m curious to see what Prodigy will bring to the table. Some shows made for kids can actually tell very meaningful and interesting stories, and it’s my hope that Prodigy will manage to offer at least something to Trekkies beyond its target audience. The addition of Kate Mulgrew to the cast – reprising her role as Captain/Admiral Janeway – is tantalising too, and although that’s about all we know at this stage, the series aims to have a 2021 release. That could be pushed back, but fingers crossed we’ll see Prodigy some time soon.

Number 3:
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series

Despite not having so much as a title, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series has been targeting a 2021 release. It seems certain that, if this is to happen, it will have to be later in the year; filming is still ongoing at time of writing. However, a return to the land of Middle-earth is truly an exciting prospect, as is a look at the setting away from most of the characters we remember. The series will take place thousands of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so there’s the potential to tell some very different fantasy stories in Tolkien’s world.

Number 4:
Station Eleven

Based on a 2014 novel of the same name, Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic drama set after the world has been devastated by a pandemic. Timely, right? Though filming began in early 2020 the series is still being worked on, but could finally see the light of day on HBO Max at some point this year. It feels like a project that, simply due to bad timing, may be controversial – but that could simply increase its appeal! Regardless, I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

Number 5:
Foundation

Isaac Asimov is one of the grandfathers of science fiction. Whether his work will translate well from page to screen is an open question… but one I’m very curious to see answered. This adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation series will star Jared Harris, an absolutely incredible actor you might recall from 2019’s Chernobyl. It’s being produced for Apple TV+ as one of their first big-budget productions – or at least, the first one I’ve come to care about. 2021 looks set to be a big year for some of these second-tier streaming services!

Number 6:
Star Trek: Lower Decks

Lower Decks has finally secured an international broadcast agreement, more than five months after its first season premiered for viewers in North America. That’s good news, because a second season is already in development and will be able to be shared by fans around the world when it’s ready. Season 1 ended with some surprising twists for an animated comedy, and it remains to be seen what the end result of those storylines will be for our young ensigns aboard the USS Cerritos. Lower Decks took a few episodes to really hit its stride – and there were some missteps along the way – but for my money it’s up there with the best animated comedies of recent years, and I hope that the combination of its international debut and second season will see the show get the admiration it warrants.

Number 7:
The Expanse

I haven’t yet sat down to watch Season 5 of The Expanse, which premiered last month on Amazon Prime Video. However, the first four seasons were outstanding, and Season 6 is set to be the show’s last. Hopefully it will go out on a high! The Expanse is a wonderful science fiction series, one which has tried to take a more realistic look at the dangers of space travel and alien life. Many sci-fi stories treat these elements almost as mundane, yet The Expanse approached them with wide-eyed wonder, making things like accelerating a spacecraft integral parts of its story. It’s a wonderful series, and its final season should be explosive, entertaining, and ever so slightly sad as we bid it a fond farewell.

Number 8:
The Witcher

I half-expected to see the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher last year, but for whatever reason the streaming powerhouse is taking its time. Henry Cavill was great in the title role in Season 1, and hopefully the second season will keep up the high quality. I always appreciate a new fantasy series, and while the show owes its existence to the popular video games, it’s distinct from them at the same time, drawing more on the original book series for inspiration. Its return to our screens – which may not be until later in the year – is highly anticipated!

Number 9:
Star Wars: Andor

I wasn’t exactly wild about the recent announcements of upcoming Star Wars projects. As I wrote at the time: “spin-offs to spin-offs and the increasingly minor characters given starring roles is indicative of a franchise out of ideas.” Part of that criticism was aimed at Andor, the series which will focus on Rogue One’s Cassian Andor. However, on its own merit the show – which bills itself as a “spy thriller” – may very well be decent, and I’m cautiously interested to see what Disney and Lucasfilm bring to the table. Rogue One was certainly one of the better offerings since Disney began producing Star Wars projects, so maybe Andor will surprise me and tell some genuinely different stories in the Star Wars galaxy.

Number 10:
Clarice

Alex Kurtzman’s latest project for ViacomCBS will focus on Clarice Starling – the FBI agent introduced in Silence of the Lambs. How well will a show about Clarice work without Hannibal Lecter? Well that’s an open question, quite frankly, because as far as we know, complicated licensing and rights agreements mean Dr Lecter can’t appear. The show is being pitched as horror, though, following Agent Starling as she investigates sexual crimes in the aftermath of the events of Silence of the Lambs. It certainly has potential!

So that’s it.

You may have noticed some exclusions – notably Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. While all three are in pre-production for their upcoming seasons, none have been confirmed for 2021 at this juncture. Given the state of the world and how badly production has been impacted, while I remain hopeful that at least one live-action Star Trek show will make it to air, it’s entirely plausible that none will. That’s why they didn’t feature on the list.

If all goes well, 2021 should be a good year for entertainment. I see a lot of projects in film, gaming, and television that have the potential to tell wonderful, engaging stories. If lockdowns and quarantines remain in place – where I live in the UK restrictions just got a lot tougher – then we’ll need all the distractions we can get!

Mark your diary for some upcoming releases!

The year ahead is unpredictable, and it’s possible that some of the projects I’m excited for won’t make it to release – or will end up being less enjoyable than expected. But on the flip side, there are undoubtedly films, games, and television shows waiting in the wings to surprise me; titles that didn’t make this list that I will come to greatly enjoy as the year rolls on. There were several wonderful surprises in 2020 that, had you asked me in January of last year, were not even on my radar. The same will perhaps happen this year too!

With everything going on in the world, having something to look forward to is important. Even if all you can think of that excites or interests you is a television show or video game, that’s okay. It gives you something to hang on to; light at the end of the tunnel. I wish you a very Happy New Year, and all the best for 2021.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective company, studio, developer, publisher, broadcaster, distributor, etc. Some promotional artwork and images courtesy of IGDB. Stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Captain Janeway is back!

Just a short one this evening. I was surprised – no, positively shocked – to learn that Kate Mulgrew is going to reprise her role as Captain Kathryn Janeway! That actually isn’t the shocking part, as Captain Janeway was one of many characters who could’ve potentially appeared in Star Trek: Picard or future productions set in or around the dawn of the 25th Century. The real surprise was that she’s going to be reprising the role for the upcoming animated series Star Trek: Prodigy!

Prodigy, if you didn’t know, is a joint venture between ViacomCBS (owners of Star Trek) and children’s broadcaster Nickelodeon. The show was announced a while ago, and will be the first Star Trek production to be aimed primarily at kids. The pitch for the series says its target audience is the 5-15 demographic, but Alex Kurtzman and other producers promise that there will be plenty for older fans to enjoy as well.

Star Trek: Prodigy had been announced earlier, but with no details of its cast.

Kate Mulgrew spoke during a digital panel for Comic-Con, and expressed her happiness to return to the franchise. Playing Captain Janeway in voiceover, she said, has allowed her to give the character more nuance within the privacy of a recording studio. She had apparently been reluctant at first, but after hearing the pitch of the series and speaking to Alex Kurtzman she was convinced.

Captain Janeway was groundbreaking, not just for Star Trek but for science fiction and the wider world of entertainment. She was Star Trek’s first woman captain, and now, as she says, she will be Star Trek’s first children’s captain too. Even twenty-five years after Voyager premiered, the character – and actress – are still breaking new ground.

Captain Janeway is returning to Star Trek!

So far we haven’t seen what Captain Janeway’s animated form will look like. Prodigy hasn’t released any teaser images as of yet; all we have is the show’s logo. But as we edge closer to the release of the series I’m sure we’ll get to see more!

Prodigy is going to be something different in the Star Trek universe. As we’ve seen with Lower Decks, different doesn’t mean “bad.” While Prodigy and Lower Decks are completely different productions, both have tried to push the boat out and expand Star Trek, bringing in new fans. If Prodigy succeeds, we’re likely to see a whole new generation of Trekkies, many of whom will jump over to watch the likes of Discovery and Strange New Worlds, and will hopefully go back to watch Voyager and other Star Trek shows too.

With Kathryn Janeway back in the captain’s chair, Star Trek: Prodigy is lining up to be a winner. I was looking forward the show before. But now I cannot wait!

Star Trek: Prodigy is due for release in 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Prodigy – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Comic-Con @Home – my thoughts on the Star Trek panel

You can watch the full panel by clicking or tapping this video.

The coronavirus pandemic cancelled a number of events, but one of the biggest from the point of view of ViacomCBS and the team behind Star Trek has been Comic-Con. In the past the company has used events like this – as well as Star Trek: Las Vegas, which has been postponed to the winter – to make big announcements. Star Trek participated in Comic-Con @Home – the online socially-distanced version of the event which is taking place this week.

Obviously a glorified Zoom call isn’t going to be the same as an in-person event. But overall, I think most of the participants from actors to behind-the-scenes crew did the best they could, and I don’t have any major criticisms on that front. I’m not someone who would be able to attend Comic-Con or any other similar convention due to disability, so in that sense I don’t feel I personally lost out in any way from Comic-Con going digital this year – I’d have watched recordings of the panels anyway.

Sir Patrick Stewart speaking during the Star Trek: Picard panel.

In terms of news, the biggest has to be the official announcement of the animated series Star Trek: Prodigy, which looks set for a 2021 release. This kid-friendly show is being produced in collaboration with Nickelodeon, and though we knew it was in the works the title hadn’t been officially revealed. So it’s nice to know it has a name and that we can expect it on our screens within the next eighteen months or so. Many shows aimed at kids can still have a lot to offer for adults – I enjoy Phineas and Ferb, for example – so I’m not at all concerned that it’s the first Star Trek show to take this approach. I would note that Star Wars has been successful with this format with two shows – Clone Wars and Rebels – both of which had appeal outside of their target audience of kids and young people.

Star Trek: Prodigy had its official announcement – complete with logo.

The second bit of news is that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds seems to be getting along well in production. They have ten “stories” that they’re working on – note that they said “stories”, not “episodes”, which may mean some are multi-episode arcs. This would fit in with the show following Discovery’s model of having anywhere between 10-15 episodes in its first season. While I still don’t think we’ll see Strange New Worlds before 2022, due to a combination of the pandemic and Star Trek’s already-crowded production and release schedules, it’s nice to know that the show is being worked on and that pre-production is continuing despite the massive disruption across the industry.

On the more technical side, I felt that the moderator of the discussion, Dominic Patten, did a good job. It won’t have been an easy task to manage a series of discussions with such a large number of participants who are all dialling in remotely, but there were no major problems that resulted and he asked interesting questions and was pleasant to listen to. There was a major technical screw-up on the part of ViacomCBS/YouTube, however, as the video was blocked at least here in the UK for quite a while when it premiered. This seems to have been done automatically by YouTube’s copyright protection algorithm, but it shouldn’t have happened – between ViacomCBS, Comic-Con, and YouTube that problem should really have been anticipated and prevented.

The Star Trek: Discovery panel.

So now we come to no-shows. There was no international release date for Star Trek: Lower Decks, nor any discussion of any international broadcast at all. I’m incredibly disappointed by this, and at this stage now that we’re less than two weeks away from its US/Canada premiere I have to assume that it won’t be getting a simultaneous release internationally. We could speculate about why that is – perhaps ViacomCBS were charging too much for the broadcast rights, perhaps other Star Trek series haven’t performed as well on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other channels meaning those companies weren’t interested, etc. But we don’t know the real reason why yet. I’m sure Lower Decks will eventually get an international release, but as I wrote when I looked at this issue recently, in 2020 I don’t think companies can really get away with splitting up the releases of their biggest shows. Lower Decks will end up not being talked about by millions of potential viewers, and will undoubtedly end up being pirated. ViacomCBS needs to do better – there are millions of Trekkies outside of the United States who are excited to see this show, and not giving it to us is a self-inflicted wound. If Star Trek is to survive in the long term it will require a collaborative effort on the part of fans in the US and elsewhere to support it and keep it going; decisions like this one – and the lack of any news or discussion at all from the company – show a huge part of Star Trek’s audience that ViacomCBS thinks we don’t matter.

The sad thing is that Lower Decks looks like so much fun. Mike McMahan, who created the show, participated in the panel; he’s clearly a huge Star Trek fan and someone who’s very passionate about the franchise and what it represents. Lower Decks feels like it’s a show that will celebrate my favourite era of Star Trek – the mid/late 24th Century seen in the three shows and four films set in those years. I greatly enjoyed listening to McMahan speak, as well as others involved with Lower Decks. The event even showed an extended scene from the trailer which was absolutely hilarious. The show is lining up to be amazing, as I said when I looked at the trailer a few days ago – but how are people like me meant to watch it?

Lower Decks may not be coming to the UK and other countries next month.

Also missing was any discussion of a release window for Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. I’d been expecting an announcement for this, I have to be honest. With Lower Decks running weekly from August through to early October, the earliest we could expect to see Discovery Season 3 would be the middle of October – leaving it any later would probably mean the season being split in two with a break around Christmas and New Year, which I suppose they could do as that happened during the first season. With post-production work having been ongoing since filming wrapped in February, it’s very odd to me that ViacomCBS considers the show so unfinished as to not even set a tentative release window – they couldn’t even say “coming in the autumn” or “coming in the winter”. Partly this is a result of the pandemic, which we know has been very disruptive. But partly it’s just bad planning and bad time management on ViacomCBS’ part – Discovery’s third season was nowhere near ready when the pandemic hit, which seems to suggest it was always the plan to make fans wait.

There had been rumours in the online Trekkie community that there would be an announcement of Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth season imminently. When nothing significant was discussed for Season 3 I was sure this wouldn’t happen, and I was right – no Season 4 announcement. I don’t think that the absence of an announcement is indicative of there being no fourth season at all, as I feel sure that it will be announced either alongside the release date for Season 3 or during the run-up to Season 3’s premiere; this is what ViacomCBS did for both Discovery’s third season and Picard’s second season, so it would fit the pattern. Some folks have been digging into production job listings, industry journals, and the like and found evidence that Season 4 could well be happening – it’s just a question of making an official announcement.

This image was released after the finale of Star Trek: Picard in March – there’s been nothing since for Discovery’s third season.

The still-untitled Section 31 series was nowhere to be seen during the panel. In many ways, Strange New Worlds stole the Section 31 series’ thunder from almost the first episode of Discovery’s second season. Where Section 31 had been met with a very muted response, even from many of Discovery’s biggest fans, Trekkies were clamouring for a Pike-led show. The announcement of Strange New Worlds a few weeks ago was a big deal, and Section 31 seems to have dropped down the priority list as a result. It was said to have officially entered production late last year, presumably targeting a 2021 release, but we’ve had precious little information since. I wasn’t expecting to hear much about it at this event, but that in itself says a lot!

Finally, there was no mention of a fourth Kelvin-timeline film, despite rumours swirling in the last few weeks that there are several feature film projects in consideration. Again, this wasn’t something I was necessarily expecting from this panel, but it’s worth noting the absence. Personally, I feel that the Kelvin-timeline films have probably run their course. We’re now over a decade out from the release of Star Trek in 2009, so the idea of seeing “young” Kirk and Spock in their cadet days or fresh out of the Academy has come and gone. While the alternate reality setting gives producers a lot of leeway compared to productions in the prime timeline, since Discovery’s premiere Star Trek’s producers have been more than willing to shake things up. I would still be interested to watch a fourth film in that series, but I’m not expecting one to be made at this point.

The cast of Star Trek Beyond – the third Kelvin-timeline film released in 2016.

To get back to the panel discussions themselves, I felt that Discovery’s “table read” of the second-season finale was pretty dull and really seemed to be there purely to pad out the event. Most of the actors did a good job delivering their lines, but watching it on a conference call wasn’t very exciting, and the constant switching between screens and zooming in and out created a rather nauseating effect. The Picard panel was more of a friendly chat, but nothing major really came from it regarding the show’s second season – which is of course on hold at the moment due to the pandemic.

So I think that’s really all I have to say. Star Trek: Prodigy is probably the biggest announcement, but aside from a few smaller tidbits of news there wasn’t really a great deal going on. The event seems noteworthy more for what wasn’t present than what was, and while some of that is due to the pandemic situation, other important aspects – like the release of Star Trek: Lower Decks outside of the United States – are decisions taken by ViacomCBS. As enjoyable as it was to spend time with some of the cast and crew of Star Trek, my general impression of the panel is that it was underwhelming.

The Star Trek franchise – including all films and series discussed above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.