Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 8 – Debuted Thursday, January 20, 2022
Written by Nikhil S. Jayaram
Directed by Olga Ulanova & Sung Shin
Star Trek: Prodigy delivers one of its best episodes by using a classic Star Trek sci-fi narrative to tell a touching story about character.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“It’s time to come clean”
Following last week’s disastrous attempt at first contact, Janeway has the kids doing a teambuilding exercise in the holodeck, but they fail to solve the riddle, which results in chicken-chasing chaos and Rok-Tahk’s frustrated insistence that she is NOT the security officer no matter what Gwyn and the others think. Dal shuts it down, and in an act of contrition born from frustration, finally admits to Janeway the crew has been lying to her from the beginning about being Starfleet cadets, “Who are we kidding? We are a bunch of strangers who stole a ship.” With that mic drop he exits, leaving Zero behind to fill Janeway in on the full story. A dejected Jankom turns to Gwyn for solace, but there is no time for that as the ship is headed towards a tachyon storm sending him to the engine room in a panic discovering his worst fear: The storm is destabilizing the Protodrive, which pulses with purple energy, briefly splitting Holo Janeway into 5 parts as she talks about “temporal settings.” Yep, it’s time anomaly time as Jankom believes he has 10 minutes before a core breach… except the ship explodes 10 seconds later. Boom.
But through the magic science of time anomalies, Janeway finds herself back on the ship, where the only one onboard is Rok-Tahk: Each member of the crew is “stuck in their own temporal phases” and each is moving at a different speed, with Jankom going much faster than Rok’s slow phase. Janeway tries to talk Rok into taking on the task of fixing the core but it’s too much for the big little girl, who shuts the hologram down… literally. Jumping to the next time phase, Janeway finds Zero is already on top of things, designing a thingie (okay, a “warp matrix”) to solve the exploding core problem that will also reset the “oscillating time” problem. Hooray! Except they literally run out of time, so Janeway is left to carry the idea forward to the next phase as “although we are divided by time, we can work together.” What’s more Star Trek than that?
“The crew believes in you”
After an abrupt but amusing visit to Murf’s time phase, Janeway breaks Dal out of his petulant funk through a mix of straight talk about the “temporal catastrophe” and some old-school inspirational storytelling. The kid’s on board to make Zero’s thingie, and after noticing the replicator is on the fritz, he taps into his Tars Lamora scrounger past to slap something together that isn’t pretty but will do the job. But just as he is about to hook it all up they realize they are missing a critical doohickey (sorry, “dilithium coupler”). Before his time phase winks out in yet another explosion repeat, Janeway assures the would-be captain that he didn’t fail, he “added a piece to the puzzle.” Now it’s up to Gwyn to find that last needed critical component, but she is derailed by Drednok, or more specifically a Drednok copy The Diviner uploaded to the ship’s replicator after getting the Protostar’s coordinates from Nandi the nasty Ferengi. It turns out to be a blessing, as the bad robot knows just where to find the missing part, and right before he uses it to steal the ship Gwyn pulls a Ripley and ejects him… Yay! But the warp matrix is lost too… Boo! Out of time and out of parts, she is left to record one last log before it’s her turn to go boom.
Looping back to the slowest time phase, Rok-Tahk tries in vain to call up Janeway, but Drednok deleted the hologram as an evil parting gift. As time moves very slowly in this phase, our hearts break as we watch a lonely Rok try to recreate her friends by leaving icons of each around their bunks to talk to. Her melancholy is interrupted via a transphasic message from Gwyn, apologizing for pressuring Rok to play the unwanted part of security officer, telling her she can be much more—and she is going to have to dig deep into this potential to save them all. It takes a beat, but Rok finds her inner cadet and gets to work, eventually rebooting Janeway… after 276 tries. Quite a bit of time has passed and Rok has been busy building the warp matrix and finding that dilithium coupler, but Gwyn forgot to tell her where it all goes. D’oh! Once installed, the timelines and crew are lovingly reunited. Rok used her slow phase to find her true calling: teaching herself “quantum science, computer engineering, and SO much math!” So yeah, not security officer. Things wrap up with some well-earned hugging, more Janeway teambuilding boosterism, and an ominous red glowing eye reminder the ship has also been reunited with that Drednok copy… or at least part of him.
They grow up so fast
“Time Amok” is a perfect example of how Prodigy can take a Star Trek science fiction story and tell it in a unique way, all in service of a bigger character story. As the title telegraphs, this is another in Trek’s long line of time anomaly episodes that includes “Shattered,” and various episodes with “time” in the title (“Timescape,” “Timeless,” “Time Squared,” etc.). But Prodigy refreshed the subgenre with a focused version that can work for brand-new audiences, was still rich, and didn’t even skimp on the technobabble. This sci-fi story was in service of the larger themes of the episode (and Star Trek in general) of teamwork and family, with the fractured phases being an apt metaphor for the state of the crew following their failures in “First Con-tact.” Sure, there are nitpicky questions like aren’t there more replicators on the ship and why did they blindly fly into the tachyon storm in the first place, but these are easily solved by head canon and eclipsed by the emotional storytelling, effective pacing, and elegant production design.
The episode has lots of nice little moments of character-building: Jankom showed Gwyn his regrets , Zero wished they could have let the crew know how they really felt about them, Dal admitted to lying and finding a way to reconnect with Janeway, and Gwyn got some payback on Drednok. But it is Rok-Tahk who provided the emotional core, with an outstanding, nuanced performance from Rylee Alazraqui. Just like the last few episodes have seen Dal and Gwyn grow into their crew roles, “Time Amok” revealed a whole new Rok, and it all started with a beautifully subtle moment of doubt-turned-determination, inspired by looking down at the ship’s Starfleet emblem no less… and punctuated with a sting from the Star Trek theme. In a fine (and acceptable) example of the Plot-Relevant Age-Up trope, Rok grew up (exactly how long she was alone remains a mystery) to reveal her true self… a Science Officer (which was how the character was described in pre-show publicity; remember her line in the series opener, “I’m big, not dumb”?). There is also some grey area to this, with Gwyn and Janeway discussing how Rok spent “too long” alone, which could (and should) have future consequences.
What makes Prodigy work so well is how grounded all of this is. From Janeway trying to pry Dal away from his PADD game to Gwyn bonding with Rok over feeling pressure to fit into an unwanted role, new audiences (and their parents) can relate, and more importantly, be inspired. And that is Star Trek at its best.
There must be more to this
If there is a frustration with “Time Amok,” it is the way the show handwaves how the crew has been lying to Janeway. Her comment about still considering them her crew and being “programmed to help” even if they stole the ship just doesn’t add up, or indicates Starfleet needs better programmers. While locking the kids out of control of the ship and turning for the Federation might not suit the goals of the show, allowing a group of what are essentially pirates (cute, relatable, adorable pirates to be sure) play around with an important Starfleet ship just can’t be the end of this conceit.
It could be that Janeway is playing the long game here and she plans to recruit these kids to become actual cadets, with a mention of wearing uniforms in the previous episode a possible bit of foreshadowing. The hologram is going to need their help if she is going to get to the bottom of the mystery of what happened to Captain Chakotay and her original crew. Drednok offered up some new morsels this episode, saying he was “surprised” she remembered him and telling Janeway she was “close, but not quite” when she assumed he was the one who corrupted her files. While that isn’t a lot, this and referring to The Diviner as the “rightful master” of the Protostar was a good bit of lore-building for the short time available, squeezed in between all the timey-wimey stuff going on.
“Time Amok” was a fun revisit to classic Star Trek storytelling with the combined emotional punch making this one of the best of the series so far. With only three episodes left in the show’s first 10-episode story arc, the anticipation for next week only grows stronger.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- “Time Amok” is another play on a classic episode title, in this case TOS “Amok Time.”
- Episode begins with Holo Janeway’s first “Training Officer’s Log,” with Stardate given as 607125.6.
- The duplicate Drednok is listed in the credits as “Dred 2,” also voiced by Jimmi Simpson.
- Robert Beltran returns to (briefly) voice Captain Chakotay, although via Dred 2 simulating his voice.
- Chakotay’s authorization code was: Chakotay, Zulu, X-ray, X-ray, Dash, Four, Seven, Five (ZXX-475), another use of 47 in Star Trek.
- The time anomaly was triggered by a “tachyon storm” which is new to Star Trek, but tachyons have been mentioned quite a bit, often associated with temporal phenomena. Tachyons are based on theoretical particles that travel faster than light.
- The Diviner’s ship (Rev-12) is “months” away from the Protostar due to it jumping 4,000 ahead with the Protodrive.
- The Protostar core requires artificial gravity to maintain stability, which proved to be a bit of a vulnerability.
- The Apollo 13 mission mentioned by Janeway (popularized by the film of the same name) is cited by NASA as a “successful failure” which all ties into her goal of inspiring the crew to learn from their failure.
- The mission motto of Apollo 13 was “Ex Luna, Scientia” (“From the Moon, knowledge”) which was the inspiration for the motto of Starfleet Academy—”Ex Astris, Scientia” (“From the stars, knowledge”), which ties into how Dal finally revealed the crew aren’t genuine Starfleet cadets.
- A screw on Dal’s warp matrix device had a Starfleet delta screw head.
- Rok saying goodnight to each of her friends (who weren’t there) was a nice homage to The Waltons.
- Even with all the time she had, Rok continues to just eat the same gruel from Tars Lamora.
- The simulation to solve the riddle with the fox, chicken, and grain is based on a classic riddle with many variations that dates back to the 9th century.
- Pog line of the week: “Jankom distinctly remembers not being alive.”
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.