Star Trek: Prodigy is an animated series set in the Star Trek universe. Because it doesn’t use real-life actors, there’s a lot of opportunities to delve into Star Trek history and blend old characters and new.
The show’s sixth episode is called “Kobayashi,” after the incredibly difficult Kobayashi Maru training scenario (Trekkies know that James T. Kirk is the only cadet ever to beat it).
In the episode, Dal wants to try out a modern-day (24th century) version of the famous test, and the show’s producers used the opportunity to bring along some super famous Star Trek characters along for the ride. Producer Aaron J. Waltke wrote the episode and told Comicbook.com how he brought in classic characters (in holographic form) and used their real voices.
Spock, Odo (from Deep Space 9), Mr. Scott, and others appear in the storied episode. The feat is even more impressive when you consider that actors Leonard Nimoy, René Auberjonois, and James Doohan have all passed away. Waltke said he wanted to use the opportunity to honor them as well as use it as a way to push Dal forward narratively.
“We wanted to use the Kobayashi Maru scenario as a functioning metaphor for how our characters, but in this particular scenario, Dal, how they react to a hopeless situation, but specifically, Dal hanging onto this idea that he has to be in control in order to be a good captain. Not only a good captain but a good leader or a good crewmate to his friends. Because I think Dal is so not used to being in a family, a found family or whatnot, that it’s uncomfortable for him, and so he tends to act out a little bit. In our minds, the Kobayashi Maru was the perfect chance for Dal to finally just brass tacks, all the cards on the table, here’s a computer simulation telling you that you aren’t what you want to think you are as a captain.”
Obviously, the hardest part of putting the scene together was cataloging the dialogue. Waltke said he had access to reams of Star Trek audio from the last half-century, and finding the right lines for the right scenario was fairly tricky.
Yeah, it was extremely challenging, is the short answer. We had the Star Trek archives, which obviously have the audio from the last half-century of Star Trek shows and movies. But ultimately, it did come down to how were the lines delivered? Were they the right intonation? Was the audio clean enough? Could it be cleaned up? Ultimately, what it came down to is I had all of the scripts, and I wound up creating a computer algorithm. I used a lot of Boolean searches, searching the scripts to see if I could find the right lines to fill in the blanks. Because there were a few key ones like, “In your own way, you are as stubborn as another Captain of the Enterprise I once knew.” I knew I wanted to use that.
He said his background as a documentarian certainly helped.
“It was kind of interesting because you get used to working with sound bites, and sometimes you have a perfect sound bite, and you want it to be answered by another talking head giving a different sound bite that sounds like they’re having a conversation. So in a way, my brain reverted back to that, and I was using these basic storytelling units of, “Okay, here’s a bunch of great lines from Odo that kind of sound like he’s upset, and here’s some great lines from Uhura where she is alerting people to go to battle stations.” And then it was a lot of shuffling around, but also catering a few specific lines to make it seem like they were really in the room talking to each other. It was a lot of finagling, but I think we finally got to a place where it works.”
Star Trek: Prodigy is currently streaming on Paramount +.