SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for Star Trek: Prodigy — Season 1, Episode 14 "Crossroads" to follow!
Welcome to Warp Five, StarTrek.com's five question post-mortem with your favorite featured talent from the latest Star Trek episodes.
In the latest episode of Star Trek: Prodigy, "Crossroads," the real Vice Admiral Janeway and her Dauntless starship are in hot pursuit of the Protostar. As they're employing evasive maneuvers, Murf decides it's the ideal time for him to hatch from his egg — metamorphosis complete!
However, as he's adjusting to his new limbs, he accidentally launches a torpedo at the Dauntless, which does not take too kindly to the direct assault. With their nacelle down after the Dauntless returns fire, the Protostar, with no other option, heads to the Neutral Zone where Starfleet cannot follow, lest they seek out war with the Romulan.
StarTrek.com had the opportunity to speak prolific voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, who voices the fan-favorite Murf, on his introduction to the franchise, approach to voice acting, and the recent metamurfosis!
On First Contact and Becoming Part of Its Tapestry
Dee Bradley Baker is no stranger to franchises; you've definitely heard his voice on Phineas and Ferb, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, SpongeBob Squarepants, Young Justice, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Big Hero 6, Adventure Time, and countless more.
Reflecting on his first contact with Star Trek, Baker's exposure to the final frontier began early. "Star Trek, I've loved since I was a kid," shared Baker. "I watched that as a kid. I religiously, I hungrily, devoured the book on the making of Star Trek. I was very much into special effects, monsters and aliens, astronomy, and science. It brought all of these things together in one delicious little show that I was quite fascinated with."
"I bought the manual for the blueprints of the Enterprise," added Baker. "I had asked my dad if I could have my ears modified to be Vulcan, which he said no. But I was very much into it. These are all things that have fascinated me throughout my life, from science and astronomy to monsters, space travel, science fiction and fantasy. That was mostly the kind of literature that I read when I was a kid — Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Robert Heinlein. These are the guys that I read that really sparked my imagination and woke up my brain. And that was very much a part of the tradition of writing that became Star Trek."
On joining the Star Trek family, Baker shared, "It's very exciting to be asked to be a part of it and to be a part of such a successful and beautiful rendering of this legacy. It's a really a remarkable legacy. The Original Series was such an outstandingly original show and quite groundbreaking in so many really important ways, politically and in terms of how we look at ourselves. It's still alive and still thriving and maybe it's better than ever."
As for Star Trek: Prodigy specifically, Baker stated, "It's beautifully produced, courageously in a creative way that takes it in all these different directions. And it's very exciting and really interesting to watch it unfold. I'm very excited for the fans to see what is coming because there's lots more."
On Star Trek's DNA
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) earlier this month recognized Star Trek: Prodigy with an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Series for their first annual Children's & Family Emmy Awards. Speaking on Prodigy's nomination, Baker commented, "It's very well deserved, and I'm very proud of it. It's a marvelous show. It's a standout show that's really more of a weekly movie than anything."
"It really holds close to the old Star Trek ethic and the feel of that show, while it seems to point to a younger audience," said Baker on its universal appeal. "But I feel like it plays to all ages. It's intelligently written, it's interesting, and it's also fun. It's a spectacular show. It deserves any award that you could throw at it."
In its mid-season return episode, "Asylum," fans discovered Murf's species — a mellanoid slime worm — a deep-cut insult that was hurled at Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Reflecting on how Trek reclaimed the 'mellanoid slime worm" and made it into a lovable, fan-favorite character, Baker expressed, "That's a nice thing about Star Trek, isn't it? Part of the DNA of that storytelling is one of inclusiveness and of flipping a preconceived notion about a people or an alien to find some kind of coming together or a change that leads to a collaboration and an understanding."
"Where you start out with the original Star Trek, there's a Russian guy on board that ship," Baker explained. "Now back in the '60s that meant something very different from what it may mean now. That idea is that other people that we may see as different than ourselves or incompatible with ourselves, we indeed have something in common and that we have a common interest in getting along together, to understanding each other, and then to move forward in a collaborative nature. That's very much the heart of the brilliant and good hopeful idea that is at the core of Star Trek."
On Giving Voice to a Mellanoid Slime Worm
Over the past few episodes, viewers watched as Rok-Tahk nursed Murf as he was feeling quite ill. As it turned out, Murf was preparing for a transformation, culminating in an egg-type cocoon in "All the World's a Stage."
"The Easter egg is hatched, so to speak," quipped Baker. "Part of what we were trying to paint, at least initially with the vocal performance, which then the animators work their magic from there, is a creature who previously would slide and glide and didn't really have vocals."
"Murf wasn't really human in any aspect of its appearance other than eyes and a mouth, apparently," shared Baker. "But now that it can move around, it's a bit of a linguistic upgrade as well. There's an evolving that's happening. There's a revealing of a metamorphosis, or metamurfosis."
"It's interesting to see that, as with a child, with the growth and the expansion and the development of limbs, the body, the head, the feet, and the ambulatory abilities, comes an upgrade with language and an upgrade and a change in the capacity to problem solve and to engage and communicate. These things are all in play, as we can see now very, very visually."
On Murf 2.0 and the Prodigy Crew's Transformation
With this new stage of Murf's development, can we expect to see a personality change to match his physical changes? Coy on the matter, Baker expressed his vocal changes to the character, "I bend the vocals and evolve the vocals as the writers and the directors develop the unfolding of what Murf is to be. That's clearly something that's going to be playing out."
There are key elements to Murf that remain. "He's almost like a puppy or this happy little child that is always optimistic and open in an improvisational way," noted Baker. "Clearly, Murf's aware and engaged with what they're dealing with because he's often helping to solve the matter at hand. Although, it seems like he's just kind of oblivious and just kind of babbling in a happy way. There's actually more involved here, and he seems to be more connected."
StarTrek.com also had the opportunity to speak to executive producers Dan and Kevin Hageman on Murf's metamurfosis and what it means for the crew. "Well, who among us have stopped metamurfosizing? This is a show in which characters evolve," posited Dan Hageman. "And so, Murf is a literal embodiment of this crew. He's going to continue to grow just like these kids are."
"They're all, each and every one, are just slowly falling into their places," explained Kevin Hageman. "We really wanted them to start off being — well, what's the worst of the worst? The worst security officer would be a giant child who doesn't like to fight. Right? But now they're learning. And they're finding their places."
On Bonding with Rok-Tahk
Actress Rylee Alazraqui, who voices Rok-Tahk, previously expressed her character's interpretation of Murf's metamurfosis, "Rok and Murf have very close together. After seeing Murf change into something else, Rok is going to have to accept that he's going to become more independent by himself now. It's like a parent-child relationship with them. It's a parent watching their child grow up; Rok's watching Murf grow up."
"As the episodes go by, what Murf changes into, she's going to develop a whole new love for that type of Murf," continued Alazraqui. "We're going to love him and Rok is going to continue to adore him and learn how to deal with this new type of Murf."
Baker expressed Murf's reciprocation of Rok-Tahk's sentiments, which he extends to his co-star. "There's a real affection there with Rok-Tahk, which Rylee Alazraqui so brilliantly portrays," praised Baker. "She's a remarkable little voice actor. She really is; she's just top notch. There's a real bond there, clearly a real affection as you would have maybe with a puppy dog."
"There's definite affection and openness like you would find with a child where their basic stance towards the universe starts out as one that is welcoming and with open arms," Baker added. "And so it's very affectionate and very familiar."
With six more episodes of the season remaining, Baker teased, "There's a lot more fun to come."
Christine Dinh (she/her) is the managing editor for StarTrek.com. She’s traded the Multiverse for helming this Federation Starship.
Star Trek: Prodigy currently streams exclusively on Paramount+ in U.S., Latin America, Australia, South Korea, Italy and the U.K. and is coming soon to Paramount+ in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France as well as to Nickelodeon international channels, which are available in 180 countries globally. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Prodigy is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.
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