Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 5 – Debuted Thursday, November 18, 2021
Written by Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Directed by Olga Ulanova
Thrills and chills highlight the second half of the story that began with last week’s cliffhanger but also ties together nicely with themes and elements that have been building since the series premiere.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“If this planet eats our ship, we’re next”
Picking right where “Dreamcatcher” left off, the Proto-crew debate Gwyn’s fate with Dal still blaming her for their predicament, but the rest warmed by how she saved Murf. A quick call from Janeway informs them the ship is in good shape and only 10 kilometers away, but with the Evil Plant Planet swallowing up the Runaway buggy, they are going to have to leg it, which is even harder for the injured Gwyn, transforming her magical bracelet into a leg brace. Things get spooky as they traverse a dark forest that is literally out to get them with the land transforming around them, making finding landmarks impossible. Although using Zero as a flashlight was a genius move by Dal.
Debating what to name this planet Rok-Tahk’s suggestion of “Larry” is hilarious, but Jankom Pog’s “Murder Planet” is the real winner, especially after it manifests a giant Watcher robot. Phasers seem to have no effect on the scary bot, but Gwyn sorts out what would actually hurt a plant: fire. “Great idea, Gwyn” quickly turns into “Terrible idea, Gwyn” as the whole forest lights up trapping the crew on a cliff’s edge with no other choice but to jump. After surviving the slide down the cliff they greeted with a rainstorm of digestive acid, which Zero, of course, finds fascinating.
Over on the Protostar, Hologram Janeway has her own problems. The ship is being attacked by vines but she only has access to minor systems. Drawing inspiration from “the real Janeway” she cleans house, using some “photonic ship scrubbers.” However as she is trying to prep the ship to depart she finds power being drained by something her program was not aware of, something called “Gravimetrical Protostar Containment.” Things are getting interesting, and just in time as the Rev-12 with Dreadnok and The Diviner show up above the planet, drawn to their Protostar prize.
The kids find shelter in of all things a crashed Klingon Bird of Prey, giving them a moment to have a snack and reflect. Each now sees how the planet tried to trick them in the previous episode, learning a little bit about themselves, although Dal struggles with admitting the desire he has to find his parents and who he is. As he and Gwyn bond over their different but related dad issues, Dal has an epiphany. They can use the stars to guide their way to the Protostar. When Drednok shows up to block their path they think it is another Murder Planet ruse until he starts shooting.
Gwyn now makes the first in a series of key choices, putting herself between the killer robot and the Tars Lamora escapees who get away again thanks to her and the planet, which makes move on Drednok. The kids scatter, leaving Gwyn behind, but she finds her way to her father and the Protostar. Pleading for help as she is engulfed by the planet, The Diviner makes a choice of his own: leaving her for the ship he calls his “salvation.” Thankfully this turns out to be another illusion as Dal and the kids find the real Protostar and take off, only to double back to save Gwyn with a daring dangling rope rescue. Once in space and warping away they still are not out of the woods as The Diviner’s ship catches up. Here Gwyn makes her most crucial decision yet, ignoring her father’s pleas, she activates the Protostar–yes, the core drive of the ship is an actual protostar – and they “Proto-Warp” out of the Diviner’s grasp to parts unknown.
A crew comes together
“Terror Firma” is a nice conclusion to the “Dreamcatcher” cliffhanger, but it also surprises by advancing some of the character and story arcs that could have been dragged out through the season. The episode brought forward Gwyn’s redemption, along with a nice message about forgiveness. You could track this minute by minute through Dal who began by dismissing her and ended up reaching out again as he did in the series premiere, but this time (with the help of Gwyn’s arm thing) she took his hand, symbolically joining the crew. Janeway put a bow on it, commenting she was happy the crew was all finally together, showing a surprising amount of empathy for Gwyn.
While Gwyn and Dal got most of the attention, each of the others showed elements of growth as they came to understand how the planet deceived them using their heart’s desires. Although in Jankom Pog’s case, all it took was some old Klingon rations for him to find closure. Rok-Tahk voices her issues with how people see her, but that’s not stopping her from stepping up in a big way to help out, proving crucial at key moments like the dramatic rope rescue. Zero also gets some closure when they are the one to put the pieces together to realize the ship’s mysterious central engine is actually a protostar, or “baby star!” according to Rok-Tahk.
It’s all coming together
Another surprise was how much this episode unveiled about the season’s big mystery. Not only was the ship’s core revealed, but we learned a lot about Janeway herself. Even though she shows a lot of independence and personality, the ship is still limiting her to “non-essential systems” and she had no record of the true nature of the Protostar. It also seems pretty clear she has no control over the transporters. Yes, Prodigy is trying to keep the introduction to new bits of Trek tech to a slow drip, but who doesn’t know “beam me up, Scotty?” Okay, maybe little kids don’t but that rope rescue dangling out of the landing ramp thing was kind of ridiculous.
Perhaps the most intriguing morsel was a single word from The Diviner. Calling the ship his “salvation” seems significant and could be linked to how he and Gwyn are the last of their kind. He later justified choosing the ship over her as having “no choice.” It was clear he knew all about the Proto Drive and his educating of Gwyn gave her the “command level authorization” to deploy it. What is truly driving him is still unclear, but we can now see how it isn’t just a thirst for power.
“Terror Firma” was a lively, spooky adventure that not only finished up a two-episode arc, but nicely tied up the first five episodes into their own package, bringing together this crew, in command of a ship, now fully realized (short of those transporters). The overall production continues to impress with the art and score doing a lot of storytelling, helping to fill out these all-too-short episodes. While it’s sad to have to wait until January for more, this episode was satisfying enough to make that wait worth it.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- “Terror Firma” is a play on the latin phrase “terra firma,” meaning solid ground. Discovery had a two part episode named “Terra Firma” in season three.
- One of a small handful of Star Trek episodes written and directed entirely by women. (and scored too)
- After Dal attempted his first Captain’s Log in the last episode, this time he recorded his first “supplemental.”
- Does Dal have “command level authorization” too?
- The partially built shuttle and Runaway buggy were left behind on the planet, but luckily the Protostar has a vehicle replicator to make more.
- Dal finds a Mek’leth on the Klingon ship, which Gwyn was able to identify.
- The scene with the Protostar being chased within the warp tunnel by the Rev-12 looks like an homage to the Enterprise being chased by the Vengence in Star Trek Into Darkness.
- A shot of Drednok hunting for the kids paid homage to an iconic moment from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when a group of Hobbits hides in a tree from a Ringwraith.
- Lower Decks also paid homage to this scene in “Mugato Gumato“
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.