Jason Alexander Knew Dr. Noum Couldn’t Sound Like George or Duckman
Thanks to Star Trek: Prodigy, Jason Alexander is back in a world he loves.
The Star Trek fan first appeared in the franchise in a Voyager episode in 1999 as Kurros, the leader of the enigmatic Think Tank, opposite Kate Mulgrew (as Captain Kathryn Janeway). Now, he’s on a Star Trek show with her again, voicing the Tellarite Dr. Noum — and he’ll be back for Season 2!
Alexander tells us about returning to the world of Star Trek.
How did you joining Prodigy come about? Talk about the conversations for you to return to Star Trek in an animated series.
Jason Alexander: No conversation. They called — the real interesting question would be how they came to me. If you look at the character I’m playing, you don’t go, “Oh, you know who this guy reminds me of?” [Laughs] There’s a little bit of a disconnect. But they came to me and said we’ve got this really interesting recurring character. The minute they said Star Trek, I went, “Yes, that’s fine. I’m in.”
Usually, when someone comes to me for animation, historically, they’re looking for a variation of either George [from Seinfeld] or Duckman [from Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man]. That’s the voice that they most equate with me. And I was looking at this character going, “I don’t think that’s the sound that you want coming out of this guy.” So we played and what was so lovely is they allowed me to present a vocal character that I’m not normally asked to do and then they have embraced it so fully that not only is it a joy to be back in the Star Trek world, but it’s a joy to be doing something in voiceover that I don’t normally get invited to do.
How much did you know about the character when you first signed on?
I had seen a rendering of him, and I had a little bit of a logline talking point about the Tellarites and what they represent and what his basic demeanor was. But other than that, there was nothing. So it really came about, for the most part, in a 15-minute conversation at our first session. The inspiration for it, as we were chatting, was I was remembering a character, a Klingon character in the Tribble episode of the Original Series who made this mocking statement about the Enterprise. He basically sounded like [demonstrates], “I didn’t mean the Enterprise should be hauling garbage.” And I said, “I feel like it sounds like that guy.” And they went, “yes, that’s the guy!” So I’m doing my best impression of that Klingon guy from 1967.
It’s a bit of a reunion for you with Kate from Voyager, although voice work is very different.
Of all the shows in the Star Trek world that I could have been invited to do on camera, I was really happy to do Voyager because I’m a fan of all the spinoff series. But there was something for me, especially about Kate and the character of Janeway that felt like Kirk’s missing stepchild. [Laughs] She had the same swag that Kirk had, and she was a tough captain. You knew she could hold her own in a fight. You knew that she could be the compassionate one, and she was a shoot from the hip character, making it up as she goes. And I liked the whole vibe of that show. So when they said, “Hey, we’ve never found a slot for you on Next Generation, what about Voyager?” I was like, “Yes! Thank you.”
And then being in the middle of those two ladies, between Seven of Nine [Jeri Ryan] and Janeway, it was lovely. Jeri was great. Kate was great. Kate and I have not chatted or worked together on this one, but I’m such a fan of hers and I’m so happy that she’s recreating Janeway in this way. I love that character. We’re allies this time.
Looking at Prodigy, you’re coming back for Season 2.
That’s what they tell me, yeah.
What can you say about that? Do you know how much more we’re going to be learning about your character now because of that?
I do not. It’s interesting. I’m not downplaying it by saying he’s one of the more peripheral characters in some ways, but he is such a strong color that there’s only two ways they can go: Either they sort of keep him in that same mode or they elevate him to being much more of an abrasive or surprising element in the show. And either way they go is fine with me.
But what’s interesting about what this show is doing already is there’s a lot of characters and they are really balancing them very well. I have never yet gotten tired of a character or a storyline or an arc. They have spread the love very beautifully amongst the entire cast, and they’ve got all these splendid guest artists that come in and everybody is a wonderful flavor and a wonderful color. I don’t know what they’re gonna do, but I’ve always been really thrilled; even when I have two lines in an episode, I go, that’s a really fun little color right there.
What can you tease about what’s coming up on Prodigy?
The cat and mouse thing between [the two ships] is going to continue in a very exciting way. Let me put it this way: Mulgrew is gonna have a lot more to do than she even does now. There’s going to be something interesting in the Janeway universe that makes her even more prominent a figure than she already is.
Is there another Star Trek show you’d like to appear on, and do you have any idea on the kind of character you’d want to play?
I thought there was a rumor about a show in development about the Starfleet Academy. I thought that’s interesting. The last couple years when I was thinking about what would I want to play in a television series, I thought playing a teacher of some kind could be very interesting and having the interaction with the next generation coming through their education. That could be an interesting thing to do, either a human or an alien teacher of some kind in an academy setting. I think that could be kind of a wonderful little gig. I have no idea what they’re gonna do with that series or if they’re doing that series, but that sounds really exciting. There was a time when I wanted to be Steven Kirk. [Laughs] But I can’t do the jumping double leg kick anymore, so I might as well settle down for a little more cerebral role.
Being a Star Trek fan, why do you think the franchise is so beloved by generations, both for what it’s done in the past and what’s going on now? Because there are quite a few shows now on Paramount+, which is great to see.
There are a couple reasons. One is, as old as the show may be going back to the ‘60s, when you look at that show, they set the bar and the standard for so much sci-fi to come. The transporter effect, the sound effects, the kind of storytelling, the idea of a multi-race crew — all of these things were revolutionary when Star Trek came on the air. And they have become sort of the mandates trickling through all of the subsequent series.
To me, Star Trek at its best is looking at something that is a social issue or a climate issue or a political issue happening right now and putting it through a different lens so that we can look at it without judgment. And I think even young people pick up on that. I was intrigued when I was a kid.
I started watching Star Trek when I was less than 10 years old, and I still remember vividly the episode where there were two people left from one race and they were half black and half white on each side. One side of their bodies was clown white, and the other side was jet black. And they hated each other because the colors were on different sides. And that symbol of the inanity of racism based on the color of someone’s skin, we would hear that and go, well, that’s stupid. And you go, so why is it not stupid if somebody’s all white or all black? That just shook me to my core, even as a kid.
And I think that kind of understanding, that kind of teaching coupled with action, coupled with sci-fi, coupled with battles, coupled with comedy, coupled with romance, coupled with imagination, the holodeck, you go anywhere you want to go, I think that is just stimulating and exciting and funny and fun and escapist and underneath all that we start to play with or talk about or think about how we deal with our own humanity in our world, in this world, and in a way that is different from Star Wars, different from the other franchises. And I think that is key to its staying power.
Star Trek: Prodigy, Thursdays, Paramount+