Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Nickelodeon's 'Star Trek' Series Won't Talk Down to Its Younger Audience

When it was first announced that a new Star Trek animated series would be heading to Nickelodeon, a certain subsection of Star Trek fans began wringing their hands that this might be the point the franchise “dumbs itself down” to attract kids. Well, good news: that’s not going to be the case.


Speaking to Trek Core at New York Comic Con this past weekend, producer and Star Trek franchise head Heather Kadin briefly touched on the upcoming 3D animated Nick series, being helmed by Trollhunters and Lego Ninjago’s Kevin and Dan Hageman. The series sees a bunch of “lawless” teens coming across a derelict Starfleet vessel, taking it as their own and charting a course for adventure across the galaxy.

Although it’s a long way away yet—in the same interview, Kadin suggested to not expect to see the show air until even after 2021—it’s going to be the first Star Trek series explicitly aimed at a younger audience since, well...the original Star Trek animated series. Some fans came out of the announcement concerned that kids these days should just get into Trek the way they did—by watching a mainline show like Discovery as it airs, or watching one of the classic series through repeats, streaming, or home releases—instead of getting a new series aimed at them and them alone that could dilute the “maturity” of the franchise. But Kadin took the time to stress not just how the new series won’t look down on the younger audience it’s chasing, but why it’s important to give that audience their own way into Star Trek as a franchise.

“The reason we went to the Hagemans is because if you’ve seen their work, you know that they’re not writing Muppet Babies. It’s not ‘Little Spock and Little Kirk. It’s not playing down [to viewers] that way,” she said. “Even [with] their characters in Ninjago—they are teenagers—I was able to watch that with my kids and they write with a very epic quality. They tell stories the way we tell stories in live action: serialized, turning over cards...I think it will be a great way for fans to introduce the franchise to their kids, and for new fans to be formed, because it’s such a big franchise, [it can be hard] to get into as a kid.”

In an age where kid’s animation is more varied and way more mature than adults will often give it credit for—look at everything from The Loud House, The Legend of Korra to Clone Wars and She-Ra, and especially to, as Kadin notes, shows like Ninjago and Trollhunters that the Hagemans worked on before starting this new series—the thought that a Star Trek show would have to be “lowered” in some capacity to cater to kids was already ridiculous gatekeeping in the first place.

But Kadin is right in that, as Star Trek enters this new phase of expansion and revival on the TV side of things, it needs to reach out beyond audiences that are already fans. It needs to create new fanbases, young fanbases, that can then grow into shows like Picard or Discovery or whatever else is being cooked up.

You can’t really do that by expecting a pre-teen to sit down in front of a TV or PC, load up CBS All Access, and get stuck into an episode of Discovery—a show that is decidedly aimed at a mature audience more so than any other prior Trek series in the first place, with f-bombs and violence (and the occasional Klingon sexual assault). And sitting them in front of Netflix or a DVD box set and punching up an episode of Deep Space 9 or The New Generation might work, but it’s not exactly giving them their own in-road in the series, but instead expecting them to bend to the same in-road old fans already took.

Star Trek can’t grow the audience it reaches with an attitude like that. It needs the variety of perspectives on the series, the variety of viewpoints, if it’s to survive in this age of rapid expansion—and it’ll get that by bringing new audiences in beyond the diehards who are already invested.

Star Trek will be alright. So will the kids. Let them have their show.

Below are the parts of Trek Core's exclusive interview with Star Trek franchise heads Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin at NYCC 2019 in which they talk about Nickelodeon's upcoming animated Star Trek series. The full interview can be read at TrekCore.com.

TREKCORE: How about the Nickelodeon animated series that was announced back in April? The writers room was revealed on social media a while back… is that something to look for, maybe, in 2021?

KADIN: Looooonger. I was surprised! As someone who makes big, live-action shows, I heard how long it was going to take and I was like, “What?!” Because it’s 3D animation, so just takes that much longer…

TREKCORE: Oh, so it will be more of a digital look, compared to the “cartoon” animation in Lower Decks?

KADIN: Exactly.

KURTZMAN: (Nods) Very different animation style.

KADIN: But the Hageman brothers [come from] Ninjago and TrollHunters, they’re doing it, so it’s definitely going to be more in that visual look.

TREKCORE: Lower Decks was picked up to series with a two-season order, due to the animation work, I believe.

KURTZMAN: Yes.

TREKCORE: Is that the same for the Nickelodeon show?

KADIN: Yes.

TREKCORE: When do think there might be a title for that series?

KURTZMAN: We have a title. We’re just not going to tell you what it is! (Laughs)

TREKCORE: The other Star Trek shows are accessible, mostly, to younger viewers, but some fans have expressed a bit of apprehension about a Trek show that’s aimed to be specifically for a younger audience.

What are your thoughts on that reaction, for those who think it might not be the right move for Star Trek?

KADIN: The reason we went to the Hagemans is because if you’ve seen their work, you know that they’re not writing “Muppet Babies.” It’s not “Little Spock and Little Kirk.” It’s not playing down [to viewers] that way.

Even [with] their characters in Ninjago — they are teenagers — I was able to watch that with my kids and they write with a very epic quality. They tell stories the way we tell stories in live action: serialized, turning over cards…

I think it will be a great way for fans to introduce the franchise to their kids, and for new fans to be formed, because it’s such a big franchise, [it can be hard] to get into as a kid.

TREKCORE: So you expect it to have some ongoing storylines, and not just be an ‘episode of the week’ kids show?

KADIN: (Nods) A hundred percent, yeah.

TREKCORE: Speaking of the “big franchise,” I’m sure you’ve seen the speculation from fans — and in the trades — about the CBS / Viacom merger and how it might impact Trek. Has that affected your plans, or have you been thinking about what opportunities the merger might make available to you?

KURTZMAN: (Shakes head) No, it’s very business-as-usual for us. It has not impacted our plans at all. We have a slate of shows that’s going to take us easily through the next five years. So that’s the plan looking forward, and if movies come into play then we’ll be ready.

More Nick: Nickelodeon and Imagine Kids+Family Developing Original Live-Action Space Series!

Originally published: Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 19:43 BST.

Original source: io9.
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