Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 11 – Debuted Thursday, October 27, 2022
Written by Kevin & Dan Hageman
Directed by Steve In Chang Ahn & Sung Shin
A welcome return for this delightful series is full of fun, action, and heart as the big mystery begins to unfold.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“We want to join Starfleet!”
It’s been a few weeks since the Prodigies rescued the Unwanted from Tars Lamora and set sail to the Federation. On their way, they are stopping off to do good deeds to balance out the whole stealing the Protostar thing. We catch up with our crew on a beautiful water world trying to literally save a space whale (sorry, Aquathawn) from the native primitive sea-hunters who don’t realize they are wiping out a vital part of their own ecosystem. The action is driven by Gwyn piloting a cool new mini-sub, but she gets distracted by flashbacks of her disjointed memory—an aftereffect of a glimpse of Zero’s mind-scrambling Medusan form in the mid-season finale. So the whale swallows them, naturally. Cue Zero to get all cinematic and swoop down in the Protostar to beam in the whale, which unceremoniously expels our heroes onto the deck just in time to hear Janeway’s Prime Directive scolding. After finding a safe space for the nice whale mom, the crew refocuses on connecting with Starfleet, and the big moment arrives as they roll up on a remote Federation communications relay station. The kids get back into their custom Starfleet uniforms to make a good impression.
Janeway gives Dal the nurturing pep talk he needs to lead the nervous group onto the station, but their worries are abated by a welcoming—yet frazzled—lone Denobulan officer named Barniss Frex, who accepts their request for asylum (episode title!) as refugees even after they admit they stole (sorry, borrowed) a Starfleet ship. Perhaps he is just lonely, and just wants more opportunities to call his outpost “the final frontier,” but he assures them “Starfleet welcomes all kinds.” Things get fun as he starts to check them in through his DNA scanner. Jankom learns Tellarites are founding members of the Federation, or “royalty” from his POV, and Frex drops another dad joke, calling Rok the Brikkar, a “rock star.” The Starfleet officer is surprised to find Gwyn’s species isn’t in the database, while Dal is even more surprised when the system gets a hit on him. There’s no species name, just a note to report to Starfleet Command. Ominous, sure, but he’s excited “Starfleet does have the answer.” Oh, and the scanner also (finally) identifies Murf. OMG.
“If you’re out there Chakotay, I’ll find you.”
While the kids are checking out the station, Admiral Janeway (the OG Janeway) is still on the hunt for the Protostar. She takes a moment to reminisce with a holodeck replay of the Protostar’s launch when she last said goodbye to her friend Chakotay. The sweet moment shows that the newly minted captain of the Protostar was ready to return to the Delta Quadrant, knowing his ship could get him home much MUCH quicker than the ol’ USS Voyager. He promised to call if he ever got into trouble. But he never did, and Janeway won’t give up until she finds out why. She may get some answers soon; her first officer pops in to tell her that they have tracked the Protostar’s warp signature. The USS Dauntless sets course for a planetoid and hopefully the next clue to Chakotay’s fate.
“Sometimes the hardest thing is to take a leap of faith”
The kids pair up to explore. Rok and Murf find a science station to ponder all the many different choices Rok has for a potential career. Zero takes Gwyn to sickbay to try to unlock her scrambled memory. And Pog, naturally, finds the mess and discovers the wonders of hot dogs (“cylindrical meat” from “Earf”). But when Frex starts downloading the Protostar’s logs, we are reminded of the Diviner’s little evil red-glowing secret, which comes to life deep inside the ship. All hell breaks loose as the station starts destroying itself, dislodging the Protostar. Not only does the replicator start rapid-firing burnt dogs, but Gwyn is now trapped inside a water-filled med tube, only able to free herself with her heirloom sword at the last minute. The kids try to get off the station but they are thwarted by a now much less friendly Frex who assumes they are “saboteurs” and takes the only escape pod. The Protostar’s transporters are down too. This first contact with Starfleet isn’t exactly going as planned.
But Captain Dal has an idea, taking something Janeway said to him literally as he suggests they “leap” their way to the Protostar. After a lot of grumbling, the crew is convinced by the growing chorus of explosions. Suited up and on the surface of the station, they make their way to the edge, and Dal looks to his science officer to “science it,” so Rok goes all Beautiful Mind to calculate their trajectory. They jump right as the station goes boom, and it looks like they’re going to make it… yet not quite. Before they are relegated to “float forever in the infinity of space until we run out of air” (thanks for the visual, Jankom) Holo Janeway reels them in with the tractor beam. Cue the music! Safely in the ship’s glowing embrace, they wonder what the heck just happened… and now Gwyn remembers everything: Bad Dad left “a weapon” on the ship that will cause Starfleet to “tear itself apart from within.” They just got their first taste of what it can do. Gulp.
Speaking of Gwyn’s sire, the USS Dauntless rolls up on that planetoid—it’s Tars Lamora. Admiral Janeway leads the away team and finds the remnants of the battle from episode 10, including a still-alive (but in stasis) Diviner. Not knowing she is looking at the time traveler who has caused all this mayhem, the admiral is pleased to find someone who can finally give her some answers.
It’s a delight to have Prodigy back, and the return hits like a bang with a fun cinematic rescue sequence that has callbacks to both the classic Star Trek film franchise (including a pregnant space whale) and the Kelvin era, with a little bit of Star Wars prequel action thrown in. Even if you don’t get any of the references, the open works to reintroduce you to the characters and their world and catch you up on the show without the need of a “previously on” intro. Jumping the story forward a few weeks allows the midseason premiere “Asylum” to reset the show for a new 10-episode arc, and even with the limited time, it sets up all the key elements from the kids’ desire to join Starfleet to the risk presented by the weapon inside the ship and the potential conflict with Admiral Janeway, along with more personal arcs like Dal’s search for his origins, Rok’s quest for a specialty (apparently not celestial mechanics), Zero getting over their guilt, and Gwyn coming to grips with her family’s future past.
The cast all put in good performances, and Brett Gray continues to impress as we see subtle changes in the growth of Dal as a character and a leader, even improving his captain’s logs. Kate Mulgrew has also found a way to create a clear distinction between her two roles, with Hologram Janeway becoming more human all the time and Admiral Janeway coming in with the steely determination we would expect from the veteran officer. We can now see how she can play both sides off this coming conflict between the ships without either coming off as the bad guy. The new character of Barniss Frex was fun, although it seems unusually cruel for Starfleet to leave someone all alone on “the final frontier.” There is even some nuance to him abandoning the kids, since from his perspective, they were attacking the station. Presumably, that pod is going somewhere, so this Denobulan will probably be back.
And even with all this going on, Prodigy never forgets its genre. There’s a lot of fun along the way, from Pog discovering the wonders of hot dogs—what kid can’t relate to that?—and Murf living his best life like a family pet as careening across the ship’s hull. You don’t need to be a Trek fan to laugh at the replicator hot dog gag, but if you are, the homage to similar gags from The Animated Series, Short Treks and Lower Decks makes it all the more fun. “Asylum” also tugs on the heart, from little moments like Holo Janeway fussing over Dal’s uniform like a good mom to the kid’s working together to save Gwyn and using teamwork to get off the station. There are even some real-world allegories here, with the kids presenting themselves as “refugees” and getting welcomed with open arms by the Federation that accepts “all kinds.” Again, Prodigy shows how it can teach its life and Star Trek lessons without a boring lecture.
Answers and questions
“Asylum” moved the show’s own lore forward in a big way, and provided some answers to key mysteries, the biggest of which is Murf’s origins. This is a very deep cut to a line of dialogue from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Coming of Age,” when a Zaldan insulted Wesley by calling him a “Mellanoid slime worm.” How something so adorable can be an insult is a mystery, but this is another example of how the show works on a number of layers. The show has teased a coming “metamurfosis,” so there is more to the Mellanoid mystery to come. The Starfleet alert clue on Dal’s origins is intriguing and helps add some context to actor Brett Gray’s recent comments about this storyline exploring “one of the last prejudices.” The episode also gave us more backstory on Captain Chakotay and the launch of the Protostar, making it even clearer that Janeway’s mission is more personal than just finding Starfleet’s lost prototype. Her finding The Diviner also sets up some interesting potential, which will likely be part of this season’s main plot arc of the Dauntless’ mission.
The station’s dramatic self-destruction definitely set the stakes well as to why the Protostar crew now has to avoid Starfleet at all costs, although there is much to learn about the nature of the “weapon.” It’s curious that it didn’t appear to attempt to use the station to try to infect the rest of Starfleet, but perhaps this remote station is only in periodic communication and it just destroyed what it could.
Prodigy returns as strong as ever, delivering a fun, intriguing story that is subtly filled with Trek lore and life lessons, doing so with gorgeous cinematic style and music to match. Anyone skipping this as just a show for kids is missing out, and this is a great opportunity to catch up and get on board the USS Protostar… a Star Trek ship that actually is landing.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- Stardate is 61209.5. (episode 10 was 61103.1)
- Jankom indicated this wasn’t the first time he’d been eaten alive.
- The mini-sub didn’t have a name but it was designated “07” and was presumably constructed by the ship’s vehicle replicator.
- The station’s designation was CR-721, and it could be part of the Pathfinder Project.
- The Protostar can extend an energy barrier that works as an airlock bridge.
- Lt. JG Barniss Frex is the first time we’ve seen a Denobulan in Starfleet.
- Frex was worried the ship arriving meant he was being transferred to the Gamma Quadrant or Nimbus III.
- When guessing Dal’s species, he first suggested Sakari, then settled on Talaxian (which was a popular fan theory).
- While Commander Tysess, voiced by Daveed Diggs, was seen in episode 10, this is the first episode in which he speaks.
- Did the Protostar replicator not have a pattern for hot dogs?
- The Dauntless located Tars Lamora inside the Carinae Nebula in the Delta Quadrant.
- Nitpick of the week: Janeway says they “almost” broke the Prime Directive on the Aquathawn planet, but even if the natives didn’t see the Protostar, they did see the min-sub.
- Line of the week (Zero): “Your rebuttal is correct, but nonsense.”
More to come
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New episodes of Prodigy debut exclusively on Thursdays for Paramount+ subscribers in the U.S., and on Fridays in Latin America, Australia, Italy and the U.K. The series will air later in the year in South Korea, Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland. Prodigy is also available on SkyShowtime in the Nordic countries, Portugal, and the Netherlands and will launch in Spain and central and eastern Europe in 2023.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.