Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 3 – Debuted Thursday, November 4, 2021
Written by Chad Quandt
Directed by Alan Wan
With a solid follow-up to a strong series premiere, Star Trek: Prodigy set the stage for the show to come, featuring key dynamics within the characters and setting the baseline for their arcs for the season.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“It’s our ship”
Picking up immediately after the premiere, the new “crew” of the USS Protostar gets briefed by Hologram Janeway, who makes it clear she is “only here to offer advice,” leaving self-appointed captain Dal to make the big decisions. Janeway accepts the alien kids who just found the ship, believing them to be Starfleet cadets, a convenient—yet plausible—conceit that will prove to be the foundation of the show. After Janeway gives a powerful sales pitch on the wonders of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet, a defiant Dal—much to everyone’s chagrin—dismisses her as a “holo-nanny” and orders the ship to a random red dot on the star chart, away from Federation space and what he sees as just more lying authority figures. “It’s just another name for someone else in charge,” he says.
As the ship heads towards the red dot (haven’t they learned red means “bad”?) the kids have some time to check out their new home. Jankom Pog reveals his porcine nature when he finds out the mess hall replicator will make anything in any quantity he wants, and heartbreakingly, Rok-Tahk orders the prison “nutrigoop” because that’s all she knows. Dal calls dibs on the luxurious captain’s quarters, with Zero telepathically fact-checking kid captain’s bluffs and bravado, revealing Dal is actually “reeling with pure terror” over The Diviner. In the brig awaiting rescue from her father, Gwyn finally shows some remorse for the role she played helping imprison all of the kids on Tars Lamora, with Rok-Tahk’s “the only crime we ever committed was getting caught” cutting deep. Zero also reminds us it is “quite the mystery” as to why The Diviner is so obsessed with the ship, but they also may have a clue in the engine room, which comes with two warp cores and a third mysterious engine core glowing with energy that has engineer Jankom Pog scratching his head.
“We’ve only just begun”
The calm of the ship tour is interrupted by a red alert when the red dot is revealed to be a dying star pulling the ship in. Zero is intrigued: “What a rare and exciting way to meet our doom.” Decreeing the Protostar “my ship” (eye rolls all around), Dal continues to ignore Janeway’s warnings and diverts all power to the engines, not realizing this cuts power to everything else—including shields and brig forcefields, freeing Gwyn. Oops. Dal orders an unhappy Rok-Tahk (deemed “the muscle”) to track down Gwyn, leading to an emotional conflict in the cool “vehicle replicator.” With all the anger a little girl can muster, Rok hits Gwyn with “You never helped us. You are a bad lady!” countered with Gwyn’s lame “I was only doing what I was told. Just like you are doing now.” No excuse, but a good point about how Rok is following the orders of someone who maybe shouldn’t be giving them. Facing almost certain death, Dal finally relents and asks Janeway for help. After deploying critical holographic coffee, she helps guide them but leaves it to Zero to come up with the final solution to “ride the shockwave” out, leading to another beautiful hero moment for the ship. Lesson learned, Dal and the crew are ready for Janeway to begin teaching them how to use the ship. For her part, Janeway sees potential in this ragtag alien crew, reminiscent of a young Federation struggling through their differences with a common purpose.
But they’d better learn quickly because The Diviner has been busy. Back on Tars Lamora, he and Drednok have put down a rebellion, revealing “the Unwanted” were inspired by the season premiere escape. The prisoners are being worked harder than ever, including the Caitian kitten out on the dangerous surface. Oh no! Out of his tank, the big bad reveals that his mining operation was actually a gigantic ship (the “REV-12”) that launches from the asteroid, and they have the Protostar’s location. “I am coming for you, my progeny!” Uh oh.
Setting the stage
The second episode (technically third because the premiere was a two-parter) was a bit of a utility player for the show. It was good but didn’t really hit it out of the park like the series opener, which is to be expected. “Starstruck” did get a lot of exposition and setup out of the way, especially with the full introduction of Hologram Janeway. While Kate Mulgrew’s return to the role is a delight, it’s now been made clear she is not in command of this ship. However, Hologram Janeway is not just a fancy piece of education software, as she demonstrated some personality, a bit of sass, and even some empathy and compassion for this crew of cadets under her watchful eye. And while it isn’t entirely clear how much of a leash she will give to this crew to endanger themselves and the ship, it seems to be a pretty long one. The tour of the ship was fun but also served the function of giving us a better sense of the USS Protostar, which will be the main home for this show as well as the driving mystery for the first season.
One highlight of the episode is the real science driving the crisis of the week when the ship fell into a binary star system with a white dwarf tearing apart a red giant. Prodigy is not dumbing down the science, demonstrating how this show can inspire and educate at the same time. This is a great opportunity for a show aimed at younger audiences and something you don’t see on other shows like the often-compared Star Wars animated series; it leans into a core competency and differentiator of Star Trek. This is a real future based on (mostly) real science. The solution to push through instead of fight the gravity may have felt a bit familiar, but likely not with the target audience. The key here was again letting the kids come up with the solution instead of relying on Hologram Janeway to solve all their problems—even problems they created themselves.
Speaking of creating problems, “Starstruck” took some risks with lead character Dal. His inspirational optimism from the opener can now be seen as an obstinate, selfish, and even reckless attitude that quite frankly almost got them all killed. While he learned how to ask for help by the end, there is clearly a long way to go for Dal to get the respect as the captain he has declared himself to be, and hopefully, the audience will stick around for that ride. Gwyn also has a long way to go, seen here trying the old “I was only taking orders” routine to explain her participation in the exploitation of the prisoners on Tars Lamora; it’s a bit hard to buy that she didn’t know the kids forced into child labor were innocent of any crimes. The scenes with Gwyn and Rok-Tahk were surprisingly nuanced, helped by some strong acting by Ella Purnell and Rylee Alazraqui. And Rok-Tahk is clearly not happy being used as security “muscle” and being bossed around in general by Dal, so she is going to have to work on that. The episode featured good character development but mostly set a starting point for all of the character arcs of the season to come.
Let’s learn about the Frederation
With so much emphasis on the introduction of Janeway and setup of character arcs, there wasn’t much carrying on of the season’s big story. Janeway’s summary of the Federation was a clever way to start introducing Star Trek elements to the show, as well as showing how far away all those things are. The exposition also deepened some mysteries. How is it that Jankom Pog is aware of the kind of food you can get outside of the prison, but had never heard of the Federation and didn’t even have questions when shown it included Tellarites? It was clear neither he, nor anyone else, had ever seen a “smooth head” human before the Janeway hologram. If they had all been isolated on Tars Lamora as it appears Rok-Tahk was, it would make sense. But there are clear indications that Dal, Zero, and Jankom are aware of elements of life outside of the prison.
That new glowing core also gave us a clue as to the special nature of the USS Protostar. Another clue comes from Janeway’s casual suggestion to chart a course to the Federation, with no mention that it would take them decades to get there, unlike the USS Voyager when it found itself lost in the Delta Quadrant. This all adds up to some kind of unique drive that can move the ship at incredible speed. It also helps to explain why The Diviner is set to pursue them, although he and Drednok still come off as one-dimensional villains.
The kids have some thoughts on Dal and Janeway
Prodigy continues to be a fun shared viewing experience with younger viewers. Niece Ani (12) and nephew David (9) continue to enjoy the show, comparing it favorably to the Trollhunters series, without knowing many of the writers/producers also worked on that series. Both had thoughts about Dal: While David thought he was really cool in the series opener, in this episode he had was a concern he was being “selfish” and “taking all the credit,” but still praised Dal for learning to ask for Janeway’s help, even if it was “at the last second when they were about to die.” Ani diagnosed Dal’s problems, saying “he has trust issues,” which is why he was reluctant to seek help from Janeway.
As for the hologram, both were a bit surprised how far Janeway let the kids go and thought she should’ve intervened more “because they’re going to get killed.” Ani and David are aware of the stakes of the show and see how it has been set up so the kids are driving it forward, with the “adult” Janeway not in command. Ani quipped that even if this freedom allows them to learn lessons, “how would they learn from their mistakes if they’re dead?” Ani was also particularly drawn into the stories of Rok-Tahk and Gwyn, feeling like Rok needs to work on “not letting people push her around.” And Gwyn needs to start thinking for herself and “not following in her dad’s footsteps.” As for Zero, Murf, and Jankom, since they all seem happy, she thinks they are “fine how they are.”
“Starstruck” was an entertaining outing, but a bit long on the exposition and setup side for a show aimed at younger audiences. The character development and emotional beats, especially with Rok-Tahk and Gwyn, were a highlight, all driven home by the stellar production and music. Together with the pilot, we can now get a sense of the show Prodigy can be, combining action, adventure, heart, and even some education. Can’t wait to learn more.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- Janeway’s introduction to the Federation showed images of founding members: Vulcan, Human, Tellarite, and Andorian. Symbols for each society were also shown.
- For the first time, Kate Mulgrew as Janeway gave a version of the classic Star Trek “to boldly go” narration as she outlined the mission of Starfleet.
- After saying Gwyn has “space flu,” Dal says she has “space madness,” a disease once described by Spock, and Ren & Stimpy.
- Janeway’s presentation also showed the main ships (or ship classes) from each of the live-action Star Trek series (set before Prodigy): USS Enterprise (Star Trek), USS Enterprise-D (The Next Generation), USS Defiant (Deep Space Nine), USS Voyager (Voyager), Enterprise NX-01 (Enterprise), and USS Discovery (Discovery).
- Gwyn trying to find an escape pod as each is being launched was reminiscent of President Skroob doing the same in Spaceballs.
- Frustrated over no escape pods, Gwyn uses the Klingon expletive “Qu’vatlh.”
- The vehicle replicator feels like a nod to the large number of shuttles seen on the USS Voyager, even though the ship was lost in the Delta Quadrant and had no way of getting new ones.
- The Protostar’s escape by diving towards the dying star paid homage to the opening sequence of Star Trek: Voyager and possibly the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home slingshot-around-the-sun maneuver.
- The Diviner deployed a “chimerium cloak” around the entire Tars Lamora asteroid, indicating why the chimerium being mined there is so valuable. It isn’t clear if the REV-12 also has a cloak.
More to come
Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.
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.