star trek

By Laurie Ulster

Star Trek fans are living in a new renaissance! There are five (yes, FIVE) series on Paramount+ right now, each with its own distinct identity, and at least two more in development, according to executive producer Alex Kurtzman. Out of the five, only one—Star Trek: Prodigy—was created specifically for kids.

When Prodigy premiered in October 2021, the hope was that kids would find it on their own or be introduced to it by their Trek-loving parents and then fall in love with the Star Trek universe. But does that mean the show is only for kids? Absolutely not. Here’s why.

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It's Real Sci-Fi

A purple and blue starry sky with galaxies and mountains with two figures sitting with their backs to us on a wrecked piece of space equipment.

Explore otherworldly environments as you travel through space and time.

Nickelodeon/Paramount+

At New York Comic Con this year, Rod Roddenberry—son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and executive producer on all the new shows—said this about Prodigy: “This is not a kids’ show, people. This is Star Trek through and through.”

He’s right. The Prodigy characters go to strange new worlds and explore, wrestle with moral challenges, wrap their heads around big ideas, and encounter much of what you’ve come to expect from good sci-fi and Star Trek: time travel, space travel, new alien species, and even in the darkest of times, hope.

It’s also gorgeous. Filmed in 3D animation and truly cinematic, both the show’s visuals and the score will make you feel like you’re watching a feature film.

The Villains Are ... Complicated

The Diviner makes a sinister expression against a background of bright yellow and red rings.

John Noble voices the villainous Diviner.

Nickelodeon/Paramount+

Back in the day, villains on kids’ shows were sometimes comical, often one-dimensional, usually fun, but not, you know… deep.

Not so The Diviner (voiced by John Noble), who runs Tars Lamora, the slave labor colony where our good guys first meet each other. Prodigy’s main villain will have you intrigued as you try to unravel the history behind his cruelty. You might even feel some empathy for his motivation, if not his methods. His henchman Drednok (Jimmi Simpson)—a relentless, menacing robot with something of a Transformer vibe—will leave you wanting to know his origin story. No word yet on whether we’ve seen the last of him.

The Characters Are Endearing and the Dialogue Snaps

The team stands in a line on the holodeck of their ship.

A hologram of Janeway stands on the holodeck with Jankom Pog, Zero, Gwyn, and Dal.

Nickelodeon/Paramount+

In addition to Kate Mulgrew’s maternal hologram version of Janeway (a huge treat for all the Voyager fans), there are six kids on the starship Protostar:

Dal (Brett Gray), who arrogantly declares himself captain of the ship as soon as they find it. He still doesn’t know where he’s from or even what his species is, and he can’t resist a joyride or a sassy comeback, but he’s doing his best to live up to the role of captain now that he has crewmates depending on him.

Zero (August Imrie), a Medusan (a species introduced on The Original Series) housed inside a robot body because their appearance can drive people mad. They find wonder in everything, often to the point of distraction, and have a bad habit of reading people’s minds (especially Dal’s) and telling everyone what they’re thinking. Oops.

Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas), a Tellarite engineer who’s coarse, hilarious, and loves to refer to himself in the third person … loudly.

Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), built like a brick house on the outside, but inside that brawn is an eight-year-old girl with a huge heart, an affinity for cute animals, and—surprise—a top-notch scientific brain.

Murf (Dee Bradley Baker), a we-still-don’t-know-what squishy, pliable, sweet pet-like character who speaks a language only Rok-Tahk comes close to understanding.

Gwyn (Elle Purnell), the daughter of The Diviner artificially created for a secret purpose, whose compassion emerges after confronting her own complicity in her father’s plans.

They all have laugh-out-loud lines, and they’re all scene-stealers who will break your heart.

They're Adding Some Exciting New Cast Members

A spaceship hurtles through space toward a bright mass.

Continue your journey on the final frontier with familiar faces—and meet some new characters.

Nickelodeon/Paramount+

When the second half of Season 1 arrives, it brings with it four new additions to the cast: Jameela Jamil (The Good Place, She-Hulk: Attorney At Law), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, plus a memorable turn on Star Trek: Voyager), Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, The Little Mermaid), and Robert Beltran, returning as Chakotay, the character he played on Voyager.

And for all you Star Trek: The Next Generation fans, look for the appearance of two legacy characters, both voiced by the original actors: Billy Campbell as the “outrageous” Okona (last seen silently on Star Trek: Lower Decks), and Ronny Cox as Edward Jellico, now an admiral. Jellico will be a foil for the real Admiral Janeway, who’s in pursuit of the ship where her holographic doppelganger resides.

And Speaking of Star Trek Fans ...

A close-up of Janeway with a slight smile on her face, against a dark, starry background.

Come for the sci-fi adventure. Stay for the cameos, callbacks, and nostalgia.

Nickelodeon/Paramount+

If you’ve never watched a Star Trek series before, this show is still glorious, but if you have, you’re in for an extra treat: References, cameos, and callbacks are all woven into the episodes and pop up in the most delightful ways. There are little gems sprinkled throughout Prodigy. If you’re ready for a pile-on, there’s an extraordinary episode called “Kobayashi,” which somehow manages to dig into the show’s main characters and make room for a nostalgia-fest that will put a grin on your face. Producers promise there’s plenty more where that came from.

Prodigy returns for the second half of Season 1 on October 27 on Paramount+. The first 10 episodes are also available to stream on Paramount+.

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Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Stacey Abrams as United Earth President

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

By Laurie Ulster

Legions of celebrity guests have made their way into one Star Trek series or another. Some were already A-listers, while others made it big later.

Among the well-known actors who have beamed up are Kirsten Dunst, Joel Grey, Kelsey Grammer, Ashley Judd, The Rock, Jason Alexander, Christian Slater, Kim Cattrall, Gabrielle Union, Joan Collins, Dean Stockwell, Michael McKean, Adam Scott, Christopher Plummer, Daniel Dae Kim, Tom Hardy, Vanessa Williams, Ed Begley, Jr., and Starsky and Hutch’s David Soul.

In addition, a number of standouts from other fields have donned a Starfleet uniform or alien makeup for a coveted guest spot on a Star Trek series. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of the most surprising.

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The Prince (now King) of Jordan—Abdullah II

Back when he was merely the Prince of Jordan, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein got his much-wanted cameo during a visit to the U.S. on the set of Star Trek: Voyager. Not being a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he couldn’t have a speaking part, but he did get a uniform and pointy sideburns! Afterwards, he threw a party for the cast and invited them all to visit him in Jordan. Ethan Phillips (Neelix) took him up on it.

Politician, Writer, and Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams in long black robes stands next to Sonequa-Martin Green in a purple uniform.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Stacey Abrams as United Earth President

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

In a bold move, Star Trek: Discovery wrapped up its fourth season with a visit from the President of United Earth, who showed up to thank Captain Burnham and her crew for saving the entire galaxy, so they hired none other than longtime fan Stacey Abrams to take on the role. Well played.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos

Bezos begged Paramount for a guest role in a Star Trek movie, offering to put on any amount of makeup as long as he got a speaking role and didn’t end up on the cutting room floor. He finally got an eight-second cameo as an alien Starfleet official in 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. Chris Pine (Kirk) reported that Bezos showed up with nine bodyguards and three limos—and no one in the cast had any idea who he was.

Screenwriter and Director David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg shown from the shoulders up in a black suit jacket with a Star Trek pin.

David Cronenberg as Kovich

Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Alex Kurtzman, the man in charge of the Star Trek franchise, is a Cronenberg fan, and since Star Trek: Discovery is filmed in Toronto, he seized the opportunity to ask the famous Canadian director to make a guest appearance on the show. Cronenberg played Kovich in Discovery’s third and fourth seasons and is likely to show up in the fifth, now that he’s one of the gang. He says part of the appeal for the Trek team is that he’s “cheap” as well as local.

Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood

Fleetwood’s very first acting role (in 1987’s The Running Man) saw him speaking the line, “Mr. Spock, you have the conn,” and it was apt: He was a longtime fan who asked the Star Trek: The Next Generation producers if he could appear on their show. He played an Antedian dignitary in the episode “Manhunt,” which required hours of makeup—he’s unrecognizable inside his fishy prosthetic head—and even shaved off his famous beard to do it.

Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking

A navy blue jumpsuit clad Stephen Hawking floats in Zero Gravity while three people in uniform hold him.

Physicist Stephen Hawking in Zero Gravity NASA

en.wikipedia.org

Hawking has the distinction of being the only person to ever play themselves in an episode of Star Trek. He was a huge fan, famous in Trek lore for saying, “I’m working on that” about the warp core during a tour of TNG’s engineering set. In “Descent,” he played a holodeck version of himself, enjoying a poker game with Data, Albert Einstein, and Sir Isaac Newton.

NASA Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the First Woman of Color in Space

Mae Jemison wears a black outfit and stands at the podium smiling and making a fist of her right hand to make a point.

Dr. Mae Jemison during the New York Comic-Con 2017 panel for Star Trek: Discovery

Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Jemison is a huge Star Trek fan who cites The Original Series’ Nichelle Nichols as one of her inspirations for applying for the space program. Nichols visited her on set during the filming of her guest appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Second Chances.” Other astronauts have turned up in the franchise since, but trailblazer Jemison was the first.

Cooking Show Host Padma Lakshmi

Over a decade before she became famous for sending chefs home with the phrase, “Please pack up your knives and go” on Top Chef, Lakshmi appeared on Enterprise as Kaitaama, a princess, in the episode “Precious Cargo”—and yes, she was the cargo.

Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello

A closeup of Tom Morello in a black baseball cap with a gray T shirt and a silver chain around his neck.

Tom Morello

Photo credit: PARAMOUNT+/MTV 2021 Paramount+, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Grammy-winning guitarist and huge Trek fan got his first Star Trek role as a Son’a officer in the movie Star Trek: Insurrection, but since he was almost impossible to spot under the makeup, he was invited to appear as a regular old human on Voyager, where he played Crewman Mitchell in “Good Shepard.” He even got a line to speak this time!

Saturday Night Live’s Joe Piscopo

In one of Next Gen’s most unusual choices, Joe Piscopo turned up in the episode “The Outrageous Okona” as a holographic comedian who tried to teach Data how to tell jokes. The producers’ first choice was Jerry Lewis, but he was unavailable, so in came Piscopo. Despite his best efforts, Data still didn’t learn how to tell jokes, but you can’t blame him for that.

Singer/Songwriter Iggy Pop

Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr is a huge Iggy Pop fan and was determined to get him on the show. After a few failed attempts due to scheduling conflicts (it’s hard to do a guest appearance when you’re on tour), he finally got his wish. Punk rock icon Iggy played a Vorta clone named Yelgrun in the sixth-season episode “The Magnificent Ferengi.”

Writer/Comedian Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman stands in the doorway of a dressing room at The Late Late Show with an open-mouthed expression of surprise as a camera operator films her.

Sarah Silverman

Photo: Terence Patrick/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

In her first dramatic role, Silverman played Rain Robinson, an astronomer who helped Voyager’s crew save the future in the two-parter “Future’s End.” Her character was a hit with the producers, who considered making her a regular. While on set, Silverman stuck around in her off-time just to watch Kate Mulgrew do her Captain Janeway thing. Can you blame her?

NBA All-Star James Worthy

At six feet nine inches tall, Worthy was an obvious choice for a Klingon—so when he met actor Robert O’Reilly (who was playing one on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine) on a flight and told him what a fan he was, O’Reilly convinced him to make a call. Hence his appearance as Koral in Next Gen’s “Gambit, Part II.”

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Pictured: Anson Mount as Pike
Photo Cr: James Dimmock/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

By Laurie Ulster

You don't have to be a Trekker to enjoy Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+. Even if you’ve never seen an episode of any of the 12 (yes, 12!) existing Star Trek series, you can dive right into the newest addition of the famous franchise.

However, if you crave a little background on who’s who, or you enjoy digging into the context behind some of the storylines with deep ties to the rest of the Star Trek multiverse, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some tidbits to give you a deeper understanding of the story, along with recommended episodes to watch.

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Rebecca Romijn as Una, Anson Mount as Pike and Ethan Peck as Spock of the Paramount+ original series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 ViacomCBS. All Rights Reserved.

By Carrie Berk

Star Trek is making a comeback. Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Science Officer Spock (Ethan Peck), Number One (Rebecca Romijn), and more characters from the original series return for new adventures in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

The Paramount+ adaptation takes place in the 23rd century, the decade before Star Trek: The Original Series. It follows the crew aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise—including new additions La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) and Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia)—as they explore new worlds throughout the galaxy.

Beyond its exciting sci-fi setting and intriguing plots, the new series offers a surprising amount of practical wisdom for modern audiences. The characters learn important lessons from their explorations that not only apply in the far reaches of the galaxy, but also in everyday life on earth. (Spoilers ahead.)

Catch the last two episodes of the debut season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds—on June 30th and July 7th on Paramount+.

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