Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 7 – Debuted Thursday, January 13, 2022
Written by Diandra Pendleton-Thompson
Directed by Steve Ahn & Sung Shin
“First Con-tact” is a solid, simple cautionary tale that introduces some core elements of Star Trek mythology with a mix of mirth and melancholy.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Nice to meet you?”
As Holo Janeway obsesses over the Chakotay recording revealed at the end of the previous episode, the crew remembers that they are kids by leaving messes around the ship and playing with a new “welcome distraction”… the transporter. When beaming dessert around the ship gets boring, Murf gets volunteered as a live test subject only to be sent to the wrong side of the bridge window. Good thing we just learned he is indestructible. A distress call shakes up the transporter tomfoolery but there is something off about the hooded figure talking about a ship full of threatened sick orphans. Turns out it was all a con, and one recognized immediately by Dal, who reveals to the gang they have discovered the captain that raised him… a Ferengi. That explains a lot.
On the Ferengi ship (oddly called “The Damsel”), Dal has an awkward yet touching reunion with DaiMon Nandi, who claims to have been searching for him for years. Nandi is impressed with Dal’s stolen Federation ship, which has her lobes twitching with opportunity, and when Dal spots an unused cloaking device, his inner Ferengi has him ready to deal. The pair hammers out a scheme involving the Protostar doing a “diplomatic exchange” of a useless Ferengi “spit pan” (gross) for a priceless crystal from an advanced civilization that has never met any aliens. Sounds like fun, right? Not so fast, says Holo-buzzkill Janeway, who starts talking about something called the “Prime Directive” and “disastrous consequences” and “altering the fate” of a civilization… blah, blah, blah… let’s go do a first contact! The hologram is left to her research, which reveals that back under Chakotay’s command, the Protostar was boarded by Dreadnok! But more on that big tidbit will have to be left for a future episode.
“This is not a good first impression”
After landing on the stunning desert planet in the Sheralyx system, it doesn’t take long for the kids to find themselves in a dangerous sandstorm generated by the locals, seen off in the distance. The indispensable Gwyn works out the alien harmonic communication and through some impressive tricorder teamwork, they respond in kind, ending the storm and revealing a newly built and remarkable sand embassy awaiting their arrival. Nice. As the gang debates alien technology and terminology, Nandi stays phaser-focused on her goal of getting some crystals. Soon enough they find themselves in a chamber full of them, and Gwyn quickly determines that each is essential to the technology of the Cymari (Rok’s suggested name for their new friends’ species). The aliens reveal themselves as dazzling, graceful creatures of light whose enchanting chorus even brings a tear to Pog’s jaded eye. Unfazed, Nandi forges ahead with her scheme just as Dal finally starts to have second thoughts, but it’s too late before the Ferengi nabs some crystals and sand hell breaks loose.
Realizing Dal lied about this being a diplomatic visit, the gang scrambles to stop Nandi, recovering all but one crystal. Dal catches up to the Ferengi, who drops the bomb: He wasn’t kidnapped, she sold him to the mine on Tars Lamora. Oh, and she just stole their chimerium, so her ship can cloak now. This was all a long con. After one last struggle, Nandi and her precious crystal fly off, leaving Dal to be beamed up from the growing desert chaos. But back on the ship, the chastened would-be captain reveals he was paying attention during their transporter play, as he tagged that last crystal with his com badge and uses that to beam it back to the aliens. So no fuss, no muss, right? Wrong again: Janeway is super pissed. Their little misadventure caused just the kind of damage she warned them about. “You broke the Prime Directive. You didn’t even go in with good intentions.” Dal and the crew have lost her trust. Oh and if that wasn’t bad enough, back on the Damsel, Nandi has found there is a bounty for the Protostar, and she is ready to cash in with The Diviner.
Star Trek 101
“First Con-tact” is a solid half-hour of Star Trek entertainment that may best be summed up by my little nephew David describing it as “more of a learning episode.” The fairly straightforward story effectively introduced some important elements of Star Trek, but also taught an important lesson on trust via the proxy of Dal, who is still struggling to figure out how to be a captain. Stunning visuals and hypnotic alien sounds along with some fun gags helped all of those lessons go down. The visit with the fascinating Cymari was all too brief, but still one of Star Trek’s better introductions, really taking advantage of the animation format to create genuinely alien aliens. The classic Star Trek first contact scenario effectively revealed why the Prime Directive is Starfleet’s golden rule, with the kids learning that lesson the hard way.
The introduction of Nandi was a great opportunity to weave a bit of Star Trek lore through a classic race with some important backstory for Dal. For much of the season, one could have reasonably asked the selfish scheming character, “What’s wrong with you, were you raised by a Ferengi?” Veteran voice actress Grey Griffin (Grey DeLisle) relished the role designed from the outset to be duplicitous, and young nephew David immediately spotted her as bad news. Nandi exuded the stereotypical dark side of the Ferengi seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation; if this is going to be a recurring character, it would be nice to have a little more of the nuanced Ferengi seen in Deep Space Nine. And hopefully, we can find out more about how she ended up in the Delta Quadrant alone on a huge ship, and if wearing clothes is an act of defiance or a result of reforms introduced by Grand Naguses Zek and Rom.
After getting a lesson last week in how to care for his crew from Mr. Spock himself, Dal still has much to learn about being a captain. This week, Dal’s heart was in the right place, seeing a cloaking device as a great way to protect his crew from The Diviner, but every other decision he made showed he still doesn’t get the thing about trusting his crew. His arc to becoming a true captain still has a long way to go, which is good for a show only seven episodes into its first season. But “First Con-tact” still showed a lot of growth for this crew, who demonstrated expertise and teamwork approaching Starfleet-ready. And using some of the best tropes of the grifter genre with cons and double-crosses, Dal was revealed to have that ability to bluff, which we know is a key element to being a captain.
Since the introduction of Holo Janeway at the outset of the series, there has been a conceit that the Emergency Training Hologram believed this group of alien kids who effectively stole the USS Protostar were actually cadets. This explained why she went along with their adventures and even misadventures. However, as things have progressed, that premise has worn a bit thin and this episode is the breaking point. It is hard to imagine how Janeway could still believe these kids are genuine Starfleet cadets.
Janeway was rightfully appalled by their actions violating the Prime Directive; this episode raises the recurring question of what exactly she can do about it. If she truly has control over the ship’s basic functions, would she not lock the kids out at this point and steer the ship towards the Federation, even if she can’t control the Protodrive? And with the reveal of Captain Chakotay and the original crew of the Protostar, Janeway may now see she has a more important objective: finding out what happened to them and possibly saving them. Spotting Dreadnok in that Chakotay recording may be a clue once she puts all the pieces together. Bottom line: This ship needs a real mission, and watching these kids blunder around the Delta Quadrant isn’t going to cut it anymore.
“First Con-tact” was a strong episode, but some of the simplicity of the characterizations and lessons on display reminded us that at its core, Prodigy is a show for new, younger audiences. While that isn’t a bad thing for a series originally intended for Nickelodeon, at its best, Prodigy has been able to transcend some of these kid’s show tropes. That said, the effort was reinforced by exceptional visuals, haunting audio design, and some snappy fun dialogue as well, elevating it to be a solid piece of Trek entertainment for all audiences.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- The episode opens with Dal giving a routine captain’s log, showing he is getting the hang of it, but he didn’t include a stardate.
- The episode title “First Con-tact” is a play on the Federation’s “first contact” protocol, but emphasizes the “con” for the Ferengi con artist Nandi.
- “First Contact” was also the title of an episode of The Next Generation and one of the TNG films.
- The messy USS Protostar indicates they haven’t built any more cleaning bots since Gwyn sliced the last one in half in an earlier episode.
- The gag of chasing pie around the ship and Pog’s line about “floor pie” was an homage to The Simpsons episode “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood.”
- Nandi’s initial con was sending out a distress call about a ship with orphans suffering from The Phage, the disease that impacted the Vidiians on Star Trek: Voyager, even though the Think Tank claimed to have cured it in 2375 (eight years prior).
- Nandi’s ship, the Damsel, appears on the outside to be a Ferengi D’Kora-class Maurader; however, that is a very large ship with a crew of 450, which didn’t really match the interior we saw or lack of crew beyond Nandi and her cube robot.
- Nandi’s name could be a reference to the Star Trek Online Ferengi ship of the same name.
- Nandi and Dal mentioned three previously revealed Ferengi Rules of Acquisition (1, 21, and 208).
- Among the items seen on Nandi’s ship was a Risian Horga’hn. She also ate tube grubs, a favorite of Ferengis, and carried a Klingon disruptor pistol.
- Nandi said she lost money playing Dabo, indicating the popular Ferengi game has made it into the Delta Quadrant.
- The Klingon cloaking device was a match for the one seen in the Deep Space Nine episode “The Emperor’s New Cloak.”
- Gwyn’s technobabble of “cymatic transmutation” (aka “acoustic terra-molding”) is based on the real acoustics phenomenon of cymatics.
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. 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.