“Lost and Found” (Parts 1 & 2)
Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2 – Debuted Thursday, October 28, 2021
Written by Kevin and Dan Hageman
Directed by Ben Hibon
This two-part debut successfully launches a new kind of family-friendly Star Trek series, full of alien wonders, fun personalities, and situations, with a nice balance of cinematic action and emotional beats.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Hope has no purpose here”
The intro to Prodigy reveals Dal, an alien boy dreaming of escape from the Tars Lamora prison colony. In short order, this wisecracking kid encounters most of the main characters on the show, although he doesn’t know that yet because none of the variety pack of aliens on this hellish mining asteroid can understand each other. An exception to this is Drednok, an evil robot working for the guy who runs the prison, who seems to think Dal can help him track down a fugitive named Zero, a more friendly-looking robot-like thing who gives Dal an escape assist. The ensuing chase has Dal running into a playful blue blob, a giant rock monster, and a cantankerous Tellarite, or as we will later learn: Murf, Rok-Tahk, and Jankom Pog. While this first attempt ends in failure, his exciting opening chase really kicks off the series with a bang (including some slapstick gags) and shows both the cinematic scale and the savage stakes involved with the mission to find a ticket out.
The tone shifts to a reticent tension with the introduction of Gwyn, the hesitant progeny of The Diviner, the mysterious ailing overlord of this prison. While she is working alongside the clearly nefarious Drednok, she shows subtle compassion over a new (and adorable kitten) Caitian girl and steers her dad away from torturing Dal, who is having a nice chat with an unseen friendly fellow prisoner who can mysteriously speak his language. As an expert in language herself, Gwyn has some history talking to Dal, and together they agree to give him a day to find Zero… or it’s evil robot torture time. We also learn that The Diviner is keeping secrets from his daughter, who dreams of seeing stars, especially knowledge of something called “The Federation,” which starts the slow-burn reveals of Star Trek lore for this show aimed at the uninitiated.
The scheme has Dal sent deep into the asteroid where only the big miners work. Just his luck, after watching some delightfully gruesome safety videos, Dal’s handed a laser bigger than himself and gets paired up with that rock monster who just wants to get to work, rebuffing his escape plan recruitment attempt (via finger painting). The impasse escalates until Dal clumsily lasers down the whole ceiling, and the big growling creature actually ends up saving him. The scuffle also reveals a treasure trove of Chimerium ore… oh, and a starship! After boarding the ship, Dal finally meets Rok-Tahk for real thanks to the Universal Translator combadge, and she turns out to be a little girl… well “little” for a Brikarian. She is now totally on Team Escape, as is a surprise last-minute entry, the enigmatic Zero. The emotion soars as the ship lights up and Dal has found his ticket out, but for fans, seeing Starfleet’s USS Protostar come to life is on a whole different level.
“A reason for hope”
As it turns out, Zero has their own big reveal: “Not a robot, nor a he or she. I am Medusan.” Somehow this energy being built a mobile robotic suit, quite the accomplishment without any hands if they do say so themselves. After being brought to the asteroid to be used as a telepathic weapon by The Diviner, Zero escaped, spotting Dal as a possible ally to get out of the prison. The team realizes they are going to need an engineer, and Dal remembers that tinkering Tellarite who just needs a bit of reverse psychology to get him interested, and now they are stuck with him and his unique brand of “percussive maintenance”… aka hitting things with his cool multi-tool prosthetic hand. Rok-Tahk also brings on that cute little blue blob and names him Murf, but the Universal Translator has no idea how to deal with his adorable squeaks and squeals.
This loose band of uncertain alien allies has a day to get the ship working before Dal is expected to hand over Zero. Dal tries to buy some time by revealing all that Chimerium ore, but Drednok isn’t buying it, sending him up to the surface, and “no one comes back from there.” Gulp. Gwyn again appears torn, talking to Dal as he toils on the surface of their shared love of the stars and a “window of dreams.” An explosion gives Dal another chance to get away and back to the hidden Protostar, but it was all a ruse orchestrated by Team Bad Guys. As they are discovered, Dal gives Gwyn one more chance to switch teams, imploring her with “Now, we can save each other,” but she is still heartbreakingly in too deep. The Diviner’s daughter watches with anguish as Drednok and an army of “Watcher” spider robots capture Dal, Zero, and the USS Protostar, now revealed to be the true thing her father has been seeking.
All seems lost, but then Dal telepathically sends a crazy plan to Zero. The Medusan isn’t buying it, but Jankom Pog loves it and goes all Leeroy Jenkins, initiating a relentless action sequence that escalates until the episode’s conclusion. After scrapping some little nasty bots, the escape team grabs Gwyn as a hostage and starts up the not-so-ready ship. Through a lot of trial and error—and the random smashing of consoles—the ship begins an epic escape, with Zero “I’m flattered you think I know what I am doing” the Medusan at the helm. Dal envisions himself as captain and does a good job of showing the right heroics as he clings onto the hull, battles Drednok, and fixes the shields. He even has a one-liner, telling the giant evil spider bot to “bug off” as he cartoonishly slips off the ship’s shield barrier. Even Murf comes into play when he plops onto a console, (accidentally?) activating the “pew pew pew” (this is a show for younger audiences, remember) phasers, desperately needed to blow a hole out of the asteroid and into the beautiful freedom of space, which even brings wonder to the eyes of the tied-up Gwyn.
But now what? Dal can’t decide with so many options, but after Rok-Tahk mentions he has help from his new team of friends, they are all surprised with the activation of a familiar-looking projection. “Did someone ask for help? I am Hologram Janeway.” OMG! Sure, we knew this was coming, but with a sting of the Voyager theme, it’s still pretty cool. At least to us fans, to Dal and the crew–and the target audience–this new entry is another intriguing mystery left for future episodes.
A new way to Trek
The stated goal of Star Trek: Prodigy was to introduce Star Trek to a younger generation and to people not familiar with Star Trek. This is a daunting task as the show cannot rely on nostalgia or franchise tropes that can entice a built-in audience, and yet the Hageman Brothers were able to deliver an entertaining hour of entertainment that should be enjoyable for families and children of all ages. Like a good Pixar film, Prodigy offers a well-balanced mix of action, comedy, and heart, starting with a set of diverse and accessible characters, all well-cast. Brett Gray (Dal) and Ella Purnell (Gwyn) were up to the challenge, showing a lot of range for their pivotal characters. While the characters quickly coalesced behind the shared goal of escape, they are by no means a crew. Each has unique strengths and weaknesses that can and should be ironed out with arcs of growth as the season progresses.
Not trying to be a full-on comedy like Lower Decks and with some jokes falling flat like the “cat boots” play on words, Prodigy still offered plenty of fun gags including some slapstick, which should entertain the younger viewers. Angus Imrie was a delight, bringing a surprising amount of nuanced humor to his enigmatic Zero. Gray’s Dal and other characters also had lighter moments, spreading out the comic relief so as to not rely entirely on the dependable Jason Mantzoukas (Jankom Pog).
The series opener was—by design—light on the Star Trek nods, but it still exuded the themes of Star Trek, including a sense of optimism and hope. And with the USS Protostar standing in as a proxy for the franchise, there was a strong message of how the ship brought this disparate team together through its ability to help them understand each other and work together. The franchise’s long history of diversity took a new step with a crew made up entirely of aliens, and again there was a message, with each showing there was more to these individuals than what you imagined, exemplified by Rok-Tahk revealed as a young girl who is “big, not dumb.”
The strong story, action, and themes come through thanks to impressive CG animation and a cinematic style that is truly awesome. Director Ben Hibon elevates Prodigy well beyond just a kids’ show to something that feels like it should be seen on the big screen. There is an obvious influence from Star Trek movies, especially of the Kelvin era. Even though the show is firmly set in the Prime Universe, the pacing, style, and Starfleet aesthetics would fit well in that alternative universe. This J.J.-Trek sensibility is really driven home by a majestic score by Nami Melumad, who has clearly learned a lot from her mentor Michael Giacchino, who scored all three Kelvin movies and provides Prodigy’s main theme.
Room to Trek
While the overall plot of the two-part opener was a fairly straightforward prison breakout scenario, it set up a lot of mysteries for the remaining eight episodes of the first season. Exploring these mysteries should offer the show many of the opportunities to slowly introduce more elements of Star Trek to the audience, especially through the USS Protostar, and of course, Janeway. The Diviner is obsessed with the ship, so there is definitely something special about it and some real mystery about how it ended up abandoned on Tars Lamora. One clue could be a bridge console that indicated it is equipped with a Transwarp drive.
There is also the mystery of the Vau N’Akat, . The Diviner and Gwyn are said to be the last of the race, which seems to explain why he has some secret “dark purpose” for his progeny. We don’t learn a lot about them in the pilot, but there appears to be something special about Vau N’Akat; clues include Zero’s inability to read The Diviner’s mind, Gwyn’s amazing language abilities and her control over a sort of liquid metal device that can be used as a weapon, and those glowing lines on their skin.
And there’s the curiosity of how none of the other characters know anything of the Federation or Starfleet, even though Medusans, Brikarians, and Tellarites are all native to the Alpha Quadrant. How did they and the other Alpha Quadrant aliens end up at Tars Lamora? Surely it will not be the end of the story for that adorable kitten Caitian and the rest of the prisoners left behind. And even though Dal doesn’t even know what race he is, he appears aware of elements of the outside galaxy, including how Tellarites argue and that Medusans are telepathic, and he seems to speak Federation Standard. As for Murf, is there a method to the madness?
Hopefully these and other questions—like why is Hologram Janeway so welcoming to a group of non-Starfleet aliens?—will be explored in the upcoming episodes. More importantly, all of these mysteries offer opportunities for an extra layer of enjoyment for Star Trek fans, and a way to introduce more elements of franchise lore to those new to the franchise.
Watch it with kids
To help get a younger perspective, I showed the Prodigy premiere to my niece Ani (12) and nephew David (9). Both were vaguely familiar with Star Trek, but had yet to watch any of it. The pair were intrigued but a bit wary, with David asking, “Does it have any lightsabers?” Watching the show with kids is a lot of fun, especially when they laugh or gasp at certain moments, like David thinking it was hilarious how the Watcher bots cut the chain sending Dal plummeting down, or saying “That’s so cool!” as the USS Protostar plunges through the waterfall. Surprisingly, they had few questions during the watch, with the exception of not understanding why the kids were in the prison and asking “What did they do wrong?”
Some of the phrases heard in this mini-focus group were “good story,” “a lot of action,” “great animation,” and “really funny.” While still a bit fuzzy on all of the character names, David was drawn to Dal, describing him as “funny” and “kind of dramatic.” Ani liked Gwyn, saying she “has some good in her,” predicting she will join Dal’s crew because “she wants to see the stars.” Both loved the reveal of Rok-Tahk: “That was funny when the big guy turned out to be a girl!” Murf got a few laughs too. “He was really funny, he likes to eat things.”
As for Janeway, she was “surprising” because she “appeared out of nowhere.” Both claimed to “sort of” recognize her, mostly due to her outfit being associated with Star Trek. Ani expects Janeway will remain and “not do anything major,” but “help them navigate around the galaxy because they don’t know what they are doing.”
In the end, David gave the show an “A,” with Ani grading it as “B+.” Both felt their peers would like Prodigy, comparing it favorably to other shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Even without lightsabers, David actually says Prodigy was “cooler.” Ani was surprised that the kids managed to escape by the end of the premiere, expecting the show would feature multiple escape attempts in early episodes. Both were ready to see more and disappointed I didn’t have additional episodes to share.
With Star Trek: Prodigy, the Hageman brothers have found a way to introduce new people to the franchise while staying true to its core ideals. While the story was simple, it wasn’t dumbed down, and it was made compelling and fun by a group of inviting and intriguing characters. And the whole thing was elevated by a world-class production. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy Prodigy, but it may make you feel young again like when you first discovered Star Trek.
MORE BITS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- No Stardate was given; however, producers have revealed the show is set in the year 2383, five years after the USS Voyager returned to Earth.
- The series begins in the Delta Quadrant, as evidenced by the Kazon freighter captain who also mentions “…this side of the Delta.”
- While the Kazon were the initial main adversaries on Star Trek: Voyager, this is the first time we hear their language.
- Also the first time hearing Caitian language.
- Dal’s attempt to escape through the “rubble crusher outlet” appears to be a nod to the “chompers” scene in Galaxy Quest.
- Zero was brought to Tars Lamora in the same kind of container as Medusan Ambassador Kollos in the TOS episode “Is There in Truth no Beauty.”
- Zero’s flashback shows they were revealed unshielded to a poor Lurian.
- Gwyn was seen studying the Klingon language.
- The USS Protostar has the registry NX-76884, with NX indicating it is an experimental ship.
- Zero estimates the minimum crew for the ship should be around 20 (or 37 appendages).
- In addition to the Transwarp Drive, other Protostar systems indicated on bridge consoles include:
- Type 6 Photon Torpedoes (same as USS Voyager)
- Something called a “Pulse Cannon.”
- Polarized Hull Plating.
More to come
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New episodes of Prodigy premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It is available on Paramount+ in Latin American, the Nordic Countries, and Australia. Amazon Prime Video internationally on Fridays. It will debut in 2022 in parts of Europe with the launch of the Paramouint+ Sky partnership.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.