Review: ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Finds The Light In “Terror Firma”

“Terror Firma”

Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 5 – Debuted Thursday, November 18, 2021
Written by Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Directed by Olga Ulanova

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

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!

RECAP

“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.

“Something’s happening”

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.

ANALYSIS

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.

Final thoughts

“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

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 PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher 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.

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A nice mid season wrap. It was satisfying. Onto Discovery than back for more Prodigy in January.

The season is 20 eps, correct?

That’s what they’re saying, though they’re also counting the double-length premiere “Lost and Found” as two episodes; if we count it as one, then the season is nineteen episodes. Also, the mid-season break (not the one we just entered, but the one that will come after the next five episodes) will apparently be over five months long – long enough that for us viewers the ten episodes after that (which will make up the last half of the season) might as well be another season in and of themselves, as far as our wait is concerned.

But yeah, the official word is twenty episodes this season (again, counting the premiere as two), to be followed by at least one more season as it’s already been renewed for another.

This is how Nick does their shows and why i’m glad Power Rangers is moving to Netflix ( going on 6 month hiatus after 9 or less eps is annoying). I know Prodigy is on Paramount + but it is still a Nick show.

I think this was my favorite episode since the premiere. Not that that’s saying a lot since it’s only the fourth episode, but it’s a good one to go out on and wait until we pick up after the break. I’m very much enjoying this show.

This show continues to be the best that Secret Hideout has made. Leave it to a show that was supposed to be for kids to be the one that has been the most adult of all of them. I was wondering how long it would take for the chick to turn on her father and join the crew. This was a little early so expect some wavering from her on that before she is fully joined with them.

I was wondering about the transporters. It’s either a plot mistake (like the one with the shields in the premier) or the hologram doesn’t have access. Either way the show is better so small plot holes aren’t something I’m going to rant on about.

Really annoyed at the extremely long break. Still think this was to reduce churn. Something that I think they have gotten a lot of.

Oh well. Tonight I guess I’ll catch Star Trek Discovery. Fully expecting it to suck. Sorry to go in with such an attitude but they kinda did it to themselves….

I don’t think it’s a mistake or plot hole. How were the shields a mistake in the premier?

Either the hologram doesn’t have access or, weirdly, the ship might not have them (which, I know — seems unlikely).

I’d be fine if it didn’t have them (something, something energy drain — or something, something smaller laudable ship) since it would save them having to come up with convoluted reasons why they’re not working to raise plot stakes.

In a post on the first episode I questioned the weird way the shields functioned. Two characters on the surface of the ship but only one of them protected by the shields for some bizzaro reason.

I believe the shields protected Dal in the premiere because he was inside the shields, and Drednok outside – it looks like Drednok takes a huge leap across a section of hull, and the shields are activated after he leaps, while he’s still arcing towards Dal.

Last night’s episode showed why it’s not a bad idea that the transporters haven’t entered the story yet — without them, rescues have to take place the old-fashioned way, much as we saw in the climax to the episode. Without the ability to beam Gwyn out, the crew was forced to not only work together, but to risk themselves in order to save Gwyn — who just recently had tried to betray them. This made a powerful statement about the crew’s growth as a team and as individuals.

Transporters allow for rescues with no risk to the rescuers. Take them away, though, and you have a great way of adding to the danger in the service of enhancing the story and character development.

It’s a truly great show. Kudos to everyone who has a hand in it.

Transporters were a gimick to save production costs. Now with CGI they aren’t needed any they open the door for shuttle/fighter dogfights, no easy beam outs, etc.
ENTERPRISE should never have had transporters, that was a huge mistake. They didn’t see no transporters = more drama, action and adventure.
Prodigy seems to get it, but you are left wondering why they don’t just use the transporters all the time. Lol

Enterprise didn’t feature the transporter all that much, I was rather impressed by how well the budget stretched to all those shuttle missions.

But sometimes the transporter is more than a budget saver. It expedites storytelling and lets you just get down to business. It’s a little silly on Discovery now that people basically use it to skip to the front of a short line, but it’s been a handy invention.

Agreed. They spent probably 80-90% of the time using the shuttles to get to planets.

And I honestly feel the main reason the show had transporters is because that’s what is Star Trek and the network probably said it had to be there. But they actually used it pretty sporadically, especially the first two seasons.

Making it just bad writing to have transporters in the pilot.

It’s not ‘bad writing’ if it’s never been established when the transporters were actually made. But if you don’t like it, that’s understandable.

I’m sure it will be explained, but the Klingon ship being on this planet, and Gwyn’s familiarity with them, begs the question of how they got to the Delta quadrant and how they are presumably well known. Same question applies to Medusans and Tellarites, but now we have multiple Alpha Quadrant aliens a long way from home. I seem to recall the Caretaker brought a lot of ships over before Voyager, right? Maybe that is where they come from?

Jankom mentioned a Tellar sleeper ship in the last episode, which seems to explain his presence in the DQ. But yes, the Caretaker did indeed pull a number of ships from elsewhere into the DQ; Voyager was the last of dozens, IIRC. I could see Zero having arrived “here” that way. Presumably they all got here different ways (note Rok is apparently too young to have been grabbed by the Caretaker). Some of them could be DQ-native.

The things I’m most curious about are how Gwyn, the Diviner and Drednok know so much about the AQ, its peoples, the Federation / Starfleet, and the Protostar, and why the Diviner is so interested in them.

It also is set some time after voyager.

Indeed. Voyager’s “Endgame” ended the show in 2378, and this show begins five years later, in 2383. Nemesis and the two seasons we’ve gotten of Lower Decks are in between those two years, in that order.

Maybe the Klingons encountered by Voyager in Season 7 had a Bird of Prey along for the ride as a support vessel that got lost on a mission? The star system was the Hirogen System so, presumably, it may have been nearby.

Solid episode. It’s a shame we have to wait until January for more.

Wow lack of posts here kind of proves which show has the bigger focus right now but I loved this episode! It was great to see Janeway in the Captain’s chair and doing her thing like the real Janeway. That alone made me smile. But everything on the planet was great including finding the Klingon ship and the neat twist of the Diviner thinking he found the ship and Gwyn basically turning on her father. Yeah it was a little fast but so what. And yes we finally got to see the Protostar in real action and watch that sucker take off at the end! Sucks we have a break but can’t wait for it to return.

Lack of posts? They just posted the review a little while ago.

It’s been hours since they posted it and its still less than 10 posts on a brand new episode and last episode of the year. Not a big deal of course but that is definitely a lack of posts lol. I was just surprised.

That’s too bad; I think the show is delightful and warrants more attention. I know there’s a certain portion of the fandom out there, though, that just flat-out isn’t interested in an animated series, especially one that’s specifically and openly targeted at younger viewers. IIRC, it’s also the show with the lowest availability up to now.

The other review threads on the show has gotten a bit more posts but honestly still not that many. I chalk it up to being animated as you said, but also because most of the planet still haven’t seen this show. It’s currently only in America and Canada right now (like Discovery has become sadly). So that might have a lot to do with it too.

Anyway, it was just an observation, not a huge deal. But I thought everyone who saw Discovery and posted about that would naturally do the same here and not as many so far. And considering there are only now 15 posts as I type this 12 hours after my OP, my point sort of stands. And four of them are just a response discussing this lol. Maybe a lot more will come today though.

For me, I posted here because I WANTED to watch Prodigy. That is less the case with Star Trek Discovery. That show can wait because I’m just less interested. But I did catch it late last night.

I also think some of it might be the audience. Discovery’s audience is probably limited to die hards like us all now, where as Prodigy can have fans that don’t even know crazy people like us talk Trek on the internet for hours on end. lol

Yeah Prodigy is a show that is suppose to be open for kids and newbies and not just die hards. And unfortunately with TM, there only seems to be hardcore fans, which is good for people who want to talk about Trek in a deep dive way, but I wish had newer and more casual fans as well. It’s why I enjoy talking to people on Reddit because you get a mixture of both old and new fans discussing all the shows. It’s sometimes a very different perspective on the franchise as a whole.

Of course, the people who frequent this site are mostly going to be devoted fans of the franchise in general, many of them having been fans for decades.

I wonder how effective Prodigy will be at reaching the new young viewers it’s seeking.

The usual level of vitriol on the S4 opener of Discovery seems to be missing from that review thread as well.

Agreed Phil. Although there isn’t a ton of love or hate about the episode. It does seem to be more of a mixed bag overall. Few people seem to outright hate it but not a lot of excitement over it either. But that’s not a bad thing, I think the reality is people are still divided on the show for the most part but most seem to like it than not. At least from what I can tell online. And there was a lot of people expressing they weren’t very excited about season 4 due to the trailers either (so many seem a bit tired over the threatening the galaxy story lines) but it might have passed some people’s expectations; at least the first episode. It did mine a bit and it was low lol.

Yeah I agree, the lack of posts might demostrate that there are simply those who do not want to watch a CGI animated show aimed at children, young adults and newcomers to Trek.
Personally, based on the first few episodes, I like the show – more so than LDs, but that is simply because it is a bit more serious and lacks the “over the top” comedy.
Not every new show has to be everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but IMO so far so good with Prodigy. Most of all I hope it is reaching that new target audience that it is aimed at.

Well, in our case, I waited until I could watch it and discuss with the family today (Friday).

One show for a watch party with post discussion seems to be our limit for an evening.

Prodigy seems to really be interesting to one of our teens. Dal’s growth and different ways the kids have learned to cope with trauma and lack of parents ( or a parent who doesn’t put priority on her in Gwynn’s case) was a point of interest and discussion.

However, Gwynn’s rescue came in for some practical physics criticism too: one of ours was convinced that all of the kids should have slid down the ramp rather than pulling up Gwynn. When my spouse and I noted that Rok had a lot of mass and may have been able to grip on something, it was pointed out that Gwynn’s arm should have been dislocated.

All to say that the kids that they are trying to reach may be more critical of the science than the EPs expect. It’s not just the big things like the FTL but also things that kids get in school science such as the basics of levers and mechanics.

Haven’t seen it, because I can’t see it. This is for US Star Trek fans only. All other fans are not able to watch this, so…this is crap!

psst, ever heard of the internet?

You’ll get it eventually.

I too immediately thought of the Lord of the Rings scene when I saw them hide under a tree!

Slight and very trivial correction: the scene in Peter Jackson’s film is itself an homage to the 1978 animated film that contains a similar scene.

Fun show. Interesting how it doesn’t dumb anything down at all — in fact, it might even be more technical than some other Trek shows.

My only real gripe so far is the Diviner — I love John Noble, but between his voice work here and the character design, he’s just a really hammy yet generic villain, so far.

I think that’s fantastic that it is a kids show adults can watch and enjoy, plus I think the kids respect they are watching “real Trek”.
I find that this show is x 10000 more adult than say, Lower Decks and on par with Discovery.
Being on the frontier and involving the unknown this show also feels more Trek than Discovery to me.

Here’s a theory – the way the Diviner seems to have knowledge of the Alpha quadrant and was able to instruct Gwyn in how the Protostar’s systems work, along with his claim that the Protostar is “his” ship makes me wonder if he was actually an officer onboard the ship during it’s flight to the Delta quadrant, or even its captain, and his search for it has actually been to reclaim it, and we’ll eventually see how something disastrous happened, he was forced to abandon ship and became increasingly amoral-slash-outright mad over time in his obsesssive need to find it?

I’m still thinking the Diviner is somehow affiliated with Arcturus species.

I find the Arcturus hypothesis more likely.

missed the commentary from the young ones this time…

tis intersting to see how Trek relates to the younger generation

There’s a Troma movie called “Terror Firmer.” Do not show it to children.

Good episode, wish I didn’t have to wait until ’22 for the next!

This is a great show. Right up there with Star Wars Rebels. Yeah I know. But the universe is big enough for each franchise. I am a great aunt, like your Granddad’s sister, who was 13 when the original Star Trek premiered. This show and Lower Decks are so much fun! All the crews are just ripe with stories. And Discovery. What a gem. I am waiting for the next episode of ST: Prodigy.