“A Moral Star, Part 1”
Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 9 – Debuted Thursday, January 27, 2022
Written by Kevin & Dan Hageman, Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Lisa Schultz Boyd, Nikhil S. Jayaram, Diandra Pendleton-Thompson, Chad Quandt, and Aaron J. Waltke
Directed by Ben Hibon
The initial entry in the two-part mid-season finale is a finely-tuned character-focused adventure which expertly weaves in elements that have been building all season long, with the only downside being the weeklong wait for part 2.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“You are not in this alone”
As the Protostar crew hangs out recalling the time-twisting events of the previous episode, they stumble upon a recording embedded in what’s left over from Dred 2’s broken robot body. Their revelry is rudely interrupted by an ultimatum: The Diviner gives them one day to return the USS Protostar or he will kill all the “unwanted” miners. What a &*#!… sorry “monster,” as Rok sums up. Assembled in the ship’s conference room TNG-style, they debate their two options… protowarp to the Federation with the vague hope Starfleet can help in time, or head back to Tars Lamora to try (somehow) to save their former enslaved compatriots. Janeway makes it clear, the choice is Dal’s, and Gwyn drives home the point: He wanted to be in charge, now he has to make the tough call. But the kid captain has learned from his mistakes; he is not willing to dive into what looks like a no-win scenario with one of his “half-baked” plans and risk losing his friends and everything they’ve fought for.
With a “catboots” callback to the series premiere, Gwyn gets Dal on #TeamSaveEveryone by reminding him that the crew he is worrying about is actually his strength. Cue the montage as the friends hatch a (hopefully fully baked) plan which involves jet packs, phasers, blueprints, Murf… and lots of coffee. Janeway is really rubbing off on these guys. With this buzz of activity, Dal reflects on how far he and they have come since escaping Tars Lamora and realizes it’s time to put away the last trappings of that past. And it just so happens there is a shiny new Starfleet uniform that fits him perfectly in his quarters, and the rest of the crew follow suit. Janeway beams with pride as she looks at this newly minted, fully uniformed crew and upgrades her outfit to match, along with giving them one more Starfleet pep talk. Now in full serious captain mode, Dal starts issuing orders like a pro and soon enough it’s time to “engage the protodrive” and “go fast”… okay, he’s still got a bit of kid in him.
“No turning back now”
Once back at Tars Lamora, the ship gets towed in by the Rev-12 as the miserable miners, including that adorable Caitian kitten, look on with a new spark of hope. Dal assures himself and the team they all “know what to do,”—with their final prep involving the cargo transporter and Murf playing “dress-up”—and they disembark to face the Diviner and his ominous henchman Drednok. The worst dad ever sneers at the new uniforms, but a defiant Gwyn channels her inner Picard to proudly clap back about “a commitment to strive for a better future.” Riled up, The Diviner changes the deal because of course he does… so he wants his daughter back too. Determined to make up for her past, Gwyn makes this sacrifice willingly, albeit with some tearful goodbyes and even a hug with Dal, and trades herself for the Rev-12 and a way for her friends to get off that desolate rock. With his progeny at his side, The Diviner makes good on his pledge, frees the slaves, boards his precious Protostar, and takes off.
The Vau N’Akat patriarch makes himself at home on the bridge, quickly dismissing the “Starfleet nuisance” Janeway, who Drednok quickly reboots into a goth more compliant and sinister form. And to prove just how much of a big bad he is, The Diviner destroys the power generators on the Rev-12, leaving everyone on Tars Lamora without gravity and a ticking clock until the shield (holding in all the air) gives out. “I promised them a ship, not their lives.” Wow, does this guy have some kind of evil villain handbook for all these lines? Gwyn uses the time to try to get The Diviner to finally explain his obsession with the ship, but he soon figures out she is hiding something—and the ship is missing something important. Back on Tars, the gang stops pretending to be in distress and gathers to reveal they have the Protocore, hidden inside the indestructible Murf, hidden inside a fake Zero. Genius! Gwyn baiting her dad to trade herself for the ship was all part of the plan too. The real Zero emerges with those handy jet packs—hoot hoot! They immediately get to work to “save everyone,” ominously hoping “Gwyn can buy us enough time for this crazy plan to work.” Cliffhanger!
It’s all been leading up to this
While it is just the first half of the mid-season finale, “A Moral Star, Part 1” shows just how well-crafted this first season of Prodigy has been since it started strong with the two-part “Lost & Found.” Everything has been leading up to this moment, with every character beat and element—including those uniforms—well earned. That said, the abrupt cliffhanger makes it feel very much like the first half of a two-part episode meant to be seen all at once, just like that series premiere. But even with that, “A Moral Star, Part 1” contained all the elements that have made this one of the strongest Star Trek debut seasons since 1966, with action, humor, lore, heart, and a strong sense of the themes at the core of Star Trek: teamwork, hope, and family.
The whole season has been building up to this crew finally donning their own Starfleet uniforms, a staple of all Star Trek series. The quiet moment where Dal puts aside his old Tars Lamora goggles before reaching for his uniform was perfect. The design was nice and fitting with the series, appearing to call back to the provisional ensign uniform worn by Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And while the outfit itself may have been too conveniently located in the captain’s quarters, it could be yet another indication that the ever-observant (and clearly evolving beyond her programming) Janeway put it there, knowing it was time. As Zero nicely put it, the USS Protostar was designed to “do more than joyride across the galaxy,” and they finally look like a crew on a mission instead of some kids who stole a ship.
All the characters had their fun little moments, yet this was a particularly strong outing for the primary leads of Gwyn and Dal, with both Ella Purnell and Brett Grey rising to the occasion. Both characters built on the progress seen all season, with each now feeling fully realized in their respective roles but still having plenty of room to grow. While sometimes The Diviner ventures too far into the cliché, John Noble imbues him with a malevolence mixed with melancholy that keeps you wanting to know more. And what more can be said about Kate Mulgrew who both shines as the guiding light of the best of the Federation while having some fun chewing up the scene as her own sinister counterpart?
Even with lots—and lots—of teases and lead-up, Prodigy is (presumably) leaving the big mystery behind The Diviner’s connection to the USS Protostar to the back half of the mid-season finale. We do see how he knows the ship well and it’s indicated he and Drednok are well-aware of the Solum code built into Janeway, making it a snap to turn her to their whim. It has also become even more clear The Diviner has a particular brand of hate for Starfleet, hinting that Captain Chakotay (who was nowhere to be found this episode) really pissed The Diviner off sometime in the past (likely due to the miracle of time travel). But all this extra bit of teasing and repeating of finally revealing “the truth” how the ship is his “salvation” was part of the frustration of the cliffhanger and the one-week wait.
Speaking of Chakotay and waiting, there isn’t much time left for Robert Beltran and the three other guest actors playing Starfleet roles to squeeze into the first 10-episode arc of season one, making one wonder if they are mostly for the second part of season one due later in 2022.
Next week can’t come soon enough to wrap up this excellent (so far) mid-season finale. From the music to the production design to the writing and performances, this episode and season are all working together in almost perfect precision. Let’s just hope they can stick the landing after leaving us to wait for seven long days.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- “A Moral Star” is an anagram for Tars Lamora.
- This is the second two-part episode, following the series premiere, also directed by executive producer and creative lead Ben Hibon.
- The entire season one writers’ room gets script credit, setting a Star Trek record with nine total writers.
- Dal’s head tail can be used to hold tools.
- Zero has insecurity over the harm their “true appearance could afflict,” as being a Medusan they can drive people mad if they weren’t inside his robot body or other protective enclosure.
- Is “Hoot, hoot!” Zero’s catchphrase now?
- Same question for Dal and “Go fast.”
- Dal describes his choice as a “Kobayashi Maru” calling back to when he ran himself through the famed no-win scenario in the episode “Kobayashi.”
- The USS Protostar’s maximum warp factor is 9.97, making it the second-fastest known Starfleet ship (without its Protodrive engaged), following the Intrepid class at 9.975.
- Kate Mulgrew is credited as both Hologram Janeway and “Corrupted Janeway.”
- While likely coincidental, Mulgrew also made her debut this week voicing Mirror Janeway (and Admiral Janeway) for Star Trek Online.
- Pog line of the week: “Jankom takes to acting like a pus hog takes to phlegm.”
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.
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