Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, January 6, 2022
Written by Aaron Waltke
Directed by Alan Wan
A fantastic, fun episode surprisingly steeped in lore and mythology keeps the focus on our characters and their journeys.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“I can handle some little Starfleet test”
Picking up right where we left off, the USS Protostar and crew come screaming out of protowarp to find themselves 4,000 light years from where they started—and not even Janeway knows how the secret engine did it, or why it’s now “inoperable.” They may have lost the Diviner for now, so the kids return to the idea of heading to the Federation, but Captain Dal (“self-appointed,” notes Jankom Pog) still prefers to relish in their newfound “freedom.” Searching the ship for Murf, Jankom and Dal find the blue blob shivering in what they learn is the holodeck simulator. Sorting through the program options, Dal stumbles upon the Kobayashi Maru scenario. While Janeway points out it is too “advanced” for him, Dal seizes on this test of a captain’s capabilities as a chance to prove himself and get the crew to listen to him and drop all this Federation nonsense.
Booting up the simulation reveals the bridge of the USS Enterprise-D, and after Dal tells the computer he wants “some of the best you got” as his bridge crew, he selects the all-star team of Uhura, Odo, Dr. Crusher, and Mr. Spock, all in their original uniforms, and all (but Crusher) voiced using clips from their respective classic series. Wow. Dal remains cocky that this will be “easy,” but when he first faces the problem of the Kobayashi Maru freighter trapped in the Klingon Neutral Zone, his question of “does anyone know these people?” and choice to leave them to their fate rightfully prompts the all-stars to mutiny. Trying to save the Maru doesn’t improve things, with the Enterprise quickly dispatched by three Birds of Prey and a Judgement Score of 0.1%. Ouch. Determined to beat the test, Dal frantically runs it over and over, and after dozens of failures kicks the mocking Tellarite out, replacing him with Scotty. Pog nails it with his parting shot, telling the would-be captain: “Maybe if you listened to your crew once in a while you would do better.“
“Answers may lie within”
Meanwhile, Zero has fixed up Gwyn’s injured leg, but after going up against her father she is sullen, feeling she doesn’t “belong anywhere.” Ever helpful, Zero rallies her to find a new purpose as part of the Protostar crew, insisting her abilities can transcend Starfleet’s universal translator. The first task they set themselves to is addressing the mystery of why her father wants the ship so badly. This triggers a flashback to 17 years ago, with the Diviner curiously already on the hunt for the USS Protostar. His health failing, he convinces a reluctant Dreadnok to help create a “progeny,” revealed to be Gwyn herself. “You are my blood. You are my spirit’s soul. And when I fall, you will rise to replace me.” No pressure, right? Back in the present, the plot gets even thicker as Zero and Gwyn have discovered key information like the fact that the ship’s true mission is classified even from Janeway. Sorting through the code, Gwyn finds parts of it encrypted in her native language, which should be “impossible.” Proving Zero right, she uses her ability of “interpretation” to unlock the code with a Vau N’Akat phrase of her father’s. Access granted!
Back on the holodeck, Dal feels like he has cracked it or, or has he just cracked? With a mix of Chris Pine Kirk and a bit of the Joker, he now sees “the only way out is chaos.” Cranking up the rock and roll to distract the Klingons, he and his veteran team run the ship through a series of crazy maneuvers ending with ejecting and blowing up the warp core. And it works! When another Klingon ship shows up, Dal learns about the transporter as he and Spock quickly beam over to dispatch the Klingon crew… only to accidentally blow up the Enterprise with a Klingon torpedo. Spock’s “super pinch” was helpful, but it’s what he tells the despondent would-be captain that matters, teaching Dal the true lesson of the scenario through some of Spock’s greatest dialogue hits, most importantly, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Dal finally gets it… he needs to start listening to his crew if he ever wants to lead them. Learning that the whole thing was a test to see how captains face a no-win situation was the icing on the lesson cake.
Before he can offer his mea culpa to the crew he finds them all on the bridge, awestruck by all the unlocked data floating around them. Rok-Tahk is there too, after a bit of a silly side adventure with Murf that involved him eating photon grenades, which led to an epic burp, some minor flatulence, and the revelation that the cute blob is indestructible. And it’s she who triggers yet another mystery as her curiosity unlocks one of the new files, revealing a hologram recording of the original captain of the USS Protostar… Captain Chakotay. This episode just doesn’t quit. The brief garbled distress call snippet shows Chakotay talking about the Delta Quadrant, an anomaly, and the ship being boarded. Oh, and Holo Janeway is there at his side, much to the surprise of present-day Holo Janeway. We end with her bombshell: “I’m suddenly realizing, you aren’t my first crew.”
And we’re back!
Star Trek: Prodigy roared back from hiatus with an episode full of fan-friendly lore but without forgetting the fun, mystery, and heart that make the show so welcoming to new audiences. Bringing in the famed Kobayashi Maru scenario from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was more than just fan service, as it served as an organic pivot point for Dal’s arc this season. How better to learn a leadership lesson than with Starfleet’s ultimate test, and with Star Trek’s ultimate authority, Mr. Spock? Brett Gray delivered his best performance of the series so far, showing range as Dal went through all the highs and lows of his holodeck adventure.
The usage of archival audio for Spock, Uhura, Scotty, and Odo was quite clever, and surely time-consuming for writer Aaron Waltke to craft along with the team who had to put it all together. For the most part, it worked; however, sometimes the pasting together of snippets from across the years, and even decades with Spock, was a bit distracting. Surely this is due to the quality of source material available, and the team still deserves praise for the effort. Bringing in Gates McFadden to voice new dialogue was also a delight and helped bring it all together.
While Dal was exploring this love letter to the Trek franchise, Gwyn’s storyline was just as impactful in terms of growth for her character as well as laying out the show’s own lore related to her father and the mystery of the ship. Angus Imrie’s endlessly curious Zero was the perfect guide to help take Gwyn that final step towards being an important part of the crew. And while brief, John Noble and Jimmi Simpson finally got a chance to show off their talents as their Diviner and Dreadnok start to become more fully realized characters and not just cartoonish villains. And finally, bringing in the previously announced Robert Beltran as Chakotay showed he, like his Voyager co-star Kate Mulgrew, was ready to slip back into character with ease.
So. Much. Going. On.
After laying down a lot of mysteries in the previous five episodes, Prodigy had expanded on them and is even starting to pay some off. Gwyn is now confirmed to be some kind of clone of the Diviner. We learned a lot more about him and his backstory, with his obsession over the Protostar dating back at least two decades and indications that it actually goes back much further. Being that this was before the ship was ever launched, it’s likely we are dealing with some timey-wimey stuff, full details still to be revealed. But it doesn’t feel like the show is stringing us along, as it gives us just enough to keep these mysteries going and adds new wrinkles like the mention of something called “The Order” and the fate of Captain Chakotay and the original crew.
The Murf and Rok-Tahk storyline may appear to be just a bit of slapstick fun, but this issue of his indestructibility definitely feels like a Chekhov’s Gun. We even got a little bit of nuance to Zero, revealing how they feel the pain of loneliness since the Diviner took them away “from the Medusan hivemind,” promising some future exploration into the lore of the enigmatic Medusans. If there is a problem with “Kobayashi Maru,” it is that there is so much going on that it can feel like there is too much for the allotted 24 minutes.
The kids are alright
I had a chance to share the episode with niece Ani and nephew David, who were excited to get back to Prodigy and both very much enjoyed the episode. As Star Trek newbies, they focused more on the character stories and the lore of the show’s mystery. After voicing his concern over Dal’s selfishness in the previous five episodes, David “loved” how Dal “finally realized he has to listen to his crew more,” and how Gwyn “became part of the crew.” He was also excited that “Janeway finally figured out they weren’t her first crew,” demonstrating how the show has been telegraphing some of these storylines nicely. However, he was a bit confused by elements of the flashback and how “the dad created her, but she still looks the same 17 years ago.”
Ani really liked seeing Dal taking the test “over and over again… making the same mistakes” as a way to learn that being a captain is not “all about him” but being “part of the team.” For the most part, the familiar Trek elements were new to both kids, although Spock was vaguely familiar. David actually theorized that the crew Dal used for his test could be “the real crew” of the USS Protostar who all died. Ani also sees some possible dark motivation, suggesting the Federation classified knowledge of the fate of the original Protostar crew because something happened “that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
As for the introduction of the holodeck as a piece of Trek technology, Ani thought it was an “interesting concept,” but insightfully asked, “How does it really help them if they are doing missions and stuff? Is it just for when they’re bored?” The mysteries of the ship itself and the Protostar core continue to intrigue, with David showing an impressive attention to detail, noting “I can’t believe they went 4,000 light years.” The pair continues to believe that the crew will head towards the Federation, with David wisely pointing out “they can’t hide from the dad forever.” As expected, they found Murf’s grenade swallowing “really funny,” but they see potential, suggesting he could “morph into a shield” to protect the crew. So all in all, they remain engaged in the show and like the character arcs and mysteries while learning new things about Star Trek along the way. After six episodes they can talk about exploring, light years, holograms, and more with ease.
It’s great to have Prodigy back and the promised trajectory of the show getting closer to the Federation is now becoming realized in a wonderful way.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- The episode title is from the famed “Kobayashi Maru” Starfleet simulation first seen in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and updated for this episode.
- The first episode of the current season of Star Trek: Discovery was titled “Kobayashi Maru.”
- Through protowarp, the ship traveled 4,000 light years through the Miky Way’s Delta Quadrant in the direction of the Gamma Quadrant, which actually brings it closer to the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation as Tars Lamora lies on the border between the Beta and Delta Quadrants.
- For some context, Voyager was catapulted 70,000 light years into the Delta Quadrant in the series opener, with an original estimation it would take 70 years to return home at warp (without any shortcuts).
- Dal played the Ktarian Game from the TNG episode “The Game.” Later, Janeway suggested instead of running the Kobayashi Maru, he should play with the “silly little cone and disc game instead.”
- Janeway revealed the frozen planet Murf found himself on in was “holodeck program Andoria 4,” which she called a “classic.”
- Holodeck programs demonstrated by Janeway include…
- Also listed were programs based on Deadwood, South Dakota (as seen in TNG “A Fistful of Datas”) and one for Paxau Resort, one of Neelix’s favorites from his homeworld.
- The crew selection interface showed a number of insignia and combadges through Starfleet history, including one from potential future timelines.
- As they looked over their crew options, Jankom suggested, “What about this J. T. Kirk guy” for James T. Kirk, famously known for winning the no-win Kobyashi Maru scenario.
- Dal gave his selected crew nicknames…Uhura: earpiece, Scotty: mustache, Odo: Jelly man, Spock: Pointy Ears, and Dr. Crusher: Big Red.
- The captain’s audio and onscreen ship details for the Kobayashi Maru freighter were exactly the same as in Star Trek II.
- The freighter was never actually seen in the film, but the one depicted on Prodigy appears like the Kobayashi Maru seen in Star Trek Online.
- The Kobayashi Maru holodeck simulation was updated to use the bridge of the USS Enterprise-D; however, that ship was actually destroyed around a decade before the launch of the USS Protostar, so Starfleet may be slow on updates. It’s unclear why the updated scenario set in the later 24th century would still involve the pre-Khitomer 23rd century Klingon/Federation neutral zone.
- At some point likely during his many runs through the scenario, Dal learned the Klingon proverb that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”
- However, he has not yet learned the proper response to the Vulcan salute, as he returned Spock’s with a high five.
- Jankom estimates the ship’s speed during protowarp was “warp nine point… Pog’s going to puke.”
- The flashback with the Diviner 17 years prior was on Stardate 43929.9.
- In the flashback, The Diviner used a neuroflux cane, which could be Gwyn’s morphing bracelet/sword, which she previously said was an “heirloom” given to her by her father.
- Before Zero and Gwyn started analyzing Holo Janeway’s code she said: “If you are going to go poke around in my head, I am going to need some coffee first,” producing a holographic cup of coffee, famously Janeway’s favorite beverage.
- The episode ended with a text tribute to the late actors René Auberjonois, James Doohan, and Leonard Nimoy, the original actors who played Odo, Scotty, and Spock respectively.
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.