Recap/Review: ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Makes Contact In Midseason Premiere “Asylum”

“Asylum”

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.

Weeeeee!

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“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.

Why didn’t anyone tell me Starfleet updated the uniforms again?

“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.

This one’s for the J/C shippers.

“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.

Tractor beams can be fun too

ANALYSIS

Welcome back

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.

Can I call you Holo-Mommy?

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.

Pog is going to love Earf

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.

I’m back!

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.

This is going to be hard to explain

Final thoughts

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.

Holo Janeway wonders if the com station has new blends of holo coffee.

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.”

Everybody remember where we parked!

More to come

Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.


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.

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I watched it just to hear Beltran voice Chakotay again. Was nice, but felt phoned in and likely was, but I’m still OK with it. I’m more interested in the Admiral’s search for Chakotay and less about the kids with the ship though.

Every Beltran performance is phoned in, though. The guy’s a block of wood.

Bugsy. Really magnetic energetic performance. Was also 30 years ago.

Same, just watching for the Voyager characters and maybe the ship.

Really great episode! Gives a small adventure on a water planet, got to FINALLY see a bit of Janeway and Chakotay together even just in holodeck form and loved all the scenes on the Starfleet station. And I loved the ending with Admiral Janeway picking up the Diviner. They are setting up some fun stuff and building on the mystery well. This show really gets Star Trek like Lower Decks does, but both do things in a completely different way.

It’s great to see this show back and see Star Trek really thriving lately! Next week according to the episode titles they dropped recently it will be the Borg episode (YAAAAAAY)! So really can’t wait for that one too!

Came here to write this exact comment, so I’ll just wholeheartedly agree with yours!

Nice to see Jason Alexander getting a little Trek work in.

Can’t help but love the show and the crew.

Dal’s growing on me.

a Star Trek ship that actually is landing.” Nice dig. The Inglorious Treksperts had a whole episode about that silly Paramount marketing tagline.

Anyway, I loved this episode so much. I also thought that a “relay station” was designed to relay Starfleet communications on subspace, as like a signal booster. So I was worried when the Protostar’s computer virus could infect the rest of Starfleet. But maybe it was down? Anyway, the whole episode was great!

However, as a physics teacher, while I enjoyed the fact that the equations that Rok-Tok was envisioning were correct (I saw kinetic energy, Newton’s gravity law, and more), it would have been much more cool to see how she envisioned them with substitutions, diagrams, and algebraic workings. Anything for kids that watch the show to see a direct application of math! But, still, it was neat to see how the physics knowledge could help her!

This is such a great kids show AND a great Star Trek show.

Dal is still the weakest character, but that was a solid return for Prodigy.

Wow, you really have to adjust from Lower Decks to Prodigy. It’s so much more serious! A good one.

After such a long hiatus in the middle of Season 1, my interest had waned quite a bit. But seeing this show again reminded me how fun and delightful it is.

If Dal is supposedly a part of one of the Federation’s “last prejudices”, then I’m going to say that he’s an Illyrian or something similar.

My thought is that he’s either a clone or a genetically engineered sentient being.

Both of which are banned in the Federation.

That was not hard to watch. Unlike the rest of the Secret Hideout fare. I had forgotten how much more interesting and well rounded these characters are especially so when compared to the wooden and dull characters on the rest of the shows. That is the big difference between this show and the others. I’m actually caring about this group.

Main complaint… No recap! As decent as the show is I don’t want to rewatch episodes to catch up. Its been nearly a year. I actually forgot much of what went down in season 1.

And speaking of season 1… Why is this still called season 1? The gap between ep 10 and 11 is the same gap for full on seasons of other shows. This makes no sense.

At any rate, based on this episode the show is still decent. Although it is possible it might look better than it is…. I just watched the first 2 episodes of season 3 of Lower Decks before this. Wow… That show is still amazingly joyless and the characters are still awful people.

Nickelodeon appears to have a policy or at least a strong preference for 20-episode seasons. It’s done some weird things with several other shows’ schedules over the years.

OK… But shouldn’t a full season be produced, I don’t know, less than a year apart?

You seem to be an expert on joyless

No, Secret Hideout is the real expert. There is a different adjective for people who post just to make inane comments about the poster….

I’m guessing that Dal is an augment. I can’t think of anything else that would set off all those alerts like that.

I got caught up with this series and this show is a curious attempt to appeal to small children, tweens, and adult Trekkies. So there’s cutesy stuff for tots but plenty of sci-fi dialogue and concepts that will be incoherent to moppets. I notice the Star Wars cartoons seem intended more for middle schoolers which might be the sensible approach. Time will tell– we’ll see how many Treksters this show produces by the year 2027 by counting the Rokky costumes at conventions.

I like this new series and my daughter and partner were anxiously waiting for the new episodes! However, I do feel that the pacing is a bit too much, especially for kids. I either wish they were 45 minute episodes with essentially the same amount of content, or they slowed things down to a TNG pace and simply made more episodes (who doesn’t want more episodes?) For experienced Trekkies like us, we don’t need the background, but for my daughter, this is her first taste of trek and she wants a bit of background on everything that’s happening. She’s only 3.5, but she makes me pause it and explain things to her and her questions are really good, but I feel like with a bit of a different pace, things could be different and actually more engaging. Also, not gonna lie, the 3 Janeway’s in this episode was a bit much for her😂