Recap/Review: ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Finds Its True Nature In “Masquerade”

“Masquerade”

Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 15 – Debuted Thursday, November 24, 2022
Written by Nikhil S. Jayaram
Directed by Sung Shin

Another fun episode brings twists, big character moments, and more Trek lore.

You know that apple is blue, right?

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“They are doing things here that the Federation can’t, or won’t”

The prodigies are hiding out in the Neutral Zone and going nowhere fast after the battle with the Dauntless. Dal struggles with captain envy seeing the crew fawn over Okona, who is even flirting with Hologram Janeway. Lost in jealous fantasies of his rival getting pushed out of an airlock and lamenting over his own unknown origins, Dal forgets to find them a safe harbor to fix the ship. No problem, as the annoyingly helpful Okona suggests they head to Noble Isle, a port known for pushing the boundaries of unregulated science, which Rok finds exciting but Janeway warns can be “too good to be true.” Zero and Jankom are left to work on the ship as the rest (with new Murf safely in a big hamster ball thing) take the space elevator down to the port.  They soon meet Okona’s client, the geneticist Dr. Jago, who isn’t happy he lost his cargo to Federation meddling last week but is really happy to meet the “beautiful specimen” he brought along… Dal.

Dal’s excitement over finding his true origins is quickly dashed as the mad glad scientist (analyzing his DNA) informs him he is the product of genetic engineering, a human augment mixed with the dormant DNA of 26 species. The kid is crushed to learn he has no parents but a “petri dish” instead, and calls himself a “failed experiment.” Jago offers solace, saying she can “fix” him and make him “better” via an implant that will activate all those genes. Dal’s friends assure him he doesn’t need “fixing” and remind him they are there to fix the ship, so they all head off to the salvage yard… except that Dal doubles back, asking just how fast the doctor could do her thing.

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!

“Your request is denied, Vice Admiral.”

The USS Dauntless remains outside the Neutral Zone in a face-off with Romulan warbirds. Vice Admiral Janeway wants to go after the Protostar, but her boss (Admiral By-The-Book Jellico) is not having it. Janeway is risking the peace, and he even accuses her of acting emotionally over Captain Chakotay and not focusing on her “professional obligations.” She is ordered to maintain position and if it looks like the Romulans are going to capture the Protostar, she must destroy it.

As for the Diviner, he continues to grasp at the straws of his memory, struggling to recall the “greater purpose” related to his daughter. Ensign Asencia continues to take a totally not suspicious keen interest in helping him remember his mission related to the Protostar. She even volunteers to covertly enter the Neutral Zone to get the ship, but Admiral Janeway isn’t ready to defy orders. However, she knows the Romulans aren’t such sticklers for the rule of space law; her instincts are on point as a Tal Shiar hit squad has shown up on Noble Isle and boarded the Protostar. They quickly disable Jankom and Zero, but they need the ship’s captain to get control.

I agree, Admiral Janeway, Jellico is where fun goes to die.

“It’s our imperfections that make us who we are.”

As Okona regales Rok and Gwyn with tales of the good old days, Dal catches up and starts showing off with some light mind-reading, Olympic gymnast-level balancing, and a suspiciously loquacious vernacular. When the Rommies arrive to capture the Protostar captain, Dal scoffs at their mistaking Okona for the top job, which gives the smuggler his chance to slink away and leave the kids in the tender care of the Tal Shiar. To the surprise of everyone, Dal goes full Keanu on the baddies. The warrior’s cry “the battle is in my blood”, a new beard and forehead ridges, are the final clues that Dal has Dr. Jago’s implant cheat and his dormant DNA is coming to life… all at the same time. Ouch.

With a plan to take the new and not really improved Dal to sickbay, they soon find themselves in an exciting space elevator battle. After their elevator car is exposed to the elements, Rok sees an opportunity, telling Gwyn to disengage her heirloom right before a massive lighting strike takes out a bunch of Romulans holding their (metal) weapons… way to science, Rok! The Dauntless is monitoring the fight and Janeway makes the hard call, firing a salvo of torpedoes at the Protostar to keep the Romulans from capturing it — over the loud objection of Ensign Asencia… hmm. But Janeway doesn’t know the kids have a secret weapon… Murf. That’s right, you heard me. The blobby one leaps into action with his own brand of Murf Fu, dispatching the remaining Romulans and saving the day. Seeing that the Romulans have failed, Janeway diverts the torpedoes at the very last second. Back on the ship, Zero and Rok remove Jago’s implant along with Dal’s new beard, tusks, antennae, and other “improvements.” Everything is back to normal with the gang happy to have their real captain back, who’s better than any cowardly smuggler who abandons them.

Now you’ve done it, you made the blob angry.

Back on the Dauntless, Asencia returns to the Diviner, now out of patience for his loopiness. And things start adding up as she says “Drednok, activate!” transforming the coffee table into the evil robot from Tars Lamora. Asencia transforms herself too: The actually-not-a-Trill reveals the Diviner wasn’t the only Vau N’Akat sent back in time to find the Protostar. Dun Dun Duunn!

Stop whining.

ANALYSIS

Taking off the masks

The second half of the season continues to ramp up the excitement and character drama. “Masquerade” packs so much in its short run time you really need to watch it twice to take it all in, and it’s just as enjoyable on replay. Even with all the action and lore, Prodigy still keeps the focus on our characters with some major developments for a few of them this week, especially Dal. Brett Grey shines as Dal is taken through a roller coaster of emotions leading to the big reveal about his origins, which has been a long time coming. This show isn’t satisfied to just offer up some exposition, turning the reveal into another lesson with the theme of things that seem too good to be true usually are. It always pays to listen to Holo Janeway in act one as she is prone to telegraph the story and emotional beats. However, with so much packed into this episode, some of these character moments didn’t get enough time, and there was a missed opportunity to bookend Dal’s episode arc with Holo Janeway at the end.

This is my chair.

Thadiun Okona wasn’t just a fun legacy cameo; he provided a perfect foil to draw out some of these questions within Dal, along with a hint of jealousy regarding his feelings for Gwyn. Billy Campbell may not have redeemed the character after abandoning the kids, but his performance was fun and helped sell Dal’s story. Dr. Jago was  also fascinating part of this storyline with Amy Hill’s delightful performance giving off misguided Maz Kanata vibes. Speaking of legacy characters, we finally got the return of Ronny Cox as Admiral Jellico, who is showing himself to be a capable yet challenging commander for Kate Mulgrew’s Vice Admiral Janeway.

Even I get boarded sometimes.

While Dal had the big reveal, the episode still found time to move along the other character stories, especially Rok-Tahk’s as she officially settles into her role as science officer, giving up her reluctant security officer duties to whatever dangerous thing Murf has become. Her continued exploration of the various sciences is both educational and entertaining, and her lesson of “science rules and science needs rules” perfectly tied into episode (and franchise) themes. And who saw the twist coming over on the USS Dauntless with Asencia turning out to be another Vau N’Akat time traveler? … yet the clues are all there if you think back. This opens up all sorts of intriguing questions, including if there is a real Asencia. Jameela Jamil did great work switching from the sweet Trill Starfleet officer into this much more dangerous character who will surely be a big part of the unfolding story. Seeing the Protostar crew—and their opponents—come together step-by-step shows how meticulously designed this first season of Prodigy has been as it heads into the final five.

I wanted to keep the pointed ears.

A better Dal

The biggest twist of the episode was the revelation that Dal is a genetically modified human, chock full of dormant DNA from a grab bag of the galaxy’s various species. According to Dr. Jago, he is “the handiwork of the protégées of Dr. Arik Soong,” referencing the 22nd-century genetic engineer from Star Trek: Enterprise—one of the many, many Soongs played by Brent Spiner. As with many answers on this show, it only sets up more fascinating questions, like was the alarm Dal set off in episode 11 just due to being genetically modified, or is the Federation specifically looking for him? It’s likely there will be much more to this storyline, which is what we have come to expect from Prodigy.

Being an Augment opens up the potential to explore what Brett Grey said was “one of the last prejudices of the whole Star Trek universe” in his TrekMovie NYCC interview. This is a debate worth having, opened up by Dr. Julian Bashir of Deep Space Nine, and still unresolved. This is yet another way the show is slowly but surely weaving itself into the lore of the franchise. However, dragging the Soong family into the mix wasn’t really necessary, as we may have hit our limit on Soongs. Plus, Arik was last seen in prison for life, and switching his focus to robotics a decade before the Federation was formed, making the comment about him being a “geneticist who defected from the Federation” a bit confusing.

Which Soong did you say? There are too many to keep track of.

Final thoughts

Prodigy continues to be much more than anyone could expect from “the kids’ show.” Not a second is wasted, always leaving you wanting more. There isn’t a frame or moment that isn’t full of crisp writing creatively woven into franchise lore along with beautiful visuals accentuated with compelling music and sound. It feels like this episode completes a five-episode mini-arc, setting up the big events for the final episodes of the season. Can’t wait.

Who’s a cute little security officer?

RANDOM BITS AND CANON CONNECTIONS

  • Stardate: “uh, ah, who cares?”
  • A partial list of Dal’s genetic makeup includes Human, “proto Organian,” Vulcan, Ferengi, Romulan, Cardassian, Risian, Species 8472, Xindi, Tellarite, Klingon, Andorian, and Suliban (who were known for their genetic manipulations).
  • Dr. Jago’s DNA breakdown of Dal also curiously included symbols for the Dominion and the Maquis, which are political organizations made up of multiple species, so it’s unclear what to make of that.
  • This is the first appearance of Jimmi Simpson’s Drednok since episode 10, leaving how he got onto the USS Dauntless a mystery… possibly replicated by Asencia, or ordered from evil IKEA and assembled after arrival.
  • Admiral Janeway pointed out how her situation on the edge of the neutral zone was playing out like the famed Kobayashi Maru scenario.
  • Okona tells the story of Jewel of Thesia and being trapped between “two angry fathers,” which are the events of his TNG episode “The Outrageous Okona.”
  • The Tal Shiar hit squad used the same disruptor rifles and pistols as the Tal Shiar assassins from the first season of Star Trek: Picard.
  • This is the second episode of the year featuring space elevators (and space jumps), following Lower DecksThe Least Dangerous Game.”
  • Did the two Romulan warbirds do nothing after the Dauntless fired torpedoes into the Neutral Zone?
  • Jago’s commercial as the elevator descends into Noble Isle was like the ads transmitted to ships visiting Freecloud as seen in Star Trek: Picard.
  • Gwyn’s heirloom sword/shield can block a disruptor blast.
  • There are multiple educational references to real science, including DNA nucleobases, hybrid speciation, putrescine, and epigenetics.
  • Zero line of the week: I’m sensing our captain is… What is the expression? Utterly clueless.
  • Happy Thanksgiving!

I make this look good.

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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Dal transforming so quickly was definitely intriguing. Perhaps a parody of what we find when we use DNA/Genealogy services to find out “who we really are.”

Possibly, but we have seen in previous episodes that characters can respond to genetic alterations quickly. Archer, for example, grew ridges shortly after being infected with the augment virus.

In universe that makes total sene, but for kids or parents, I wonder if they saw Dals’ stats and thought about their “23 and me” subscriptions. If it was Twilight Zone or Dr. Who, or if the pace was perhaps a bit slower, maybe they would have played that a bit harder.

Last week I said I hate the new Murf. I take that back. While he’s much less cute now, he’s still great!

All I can say is “Wow” Prodigy continues to surprise and awe me at the same time.

Rok-Tahk fitting into the smallest suits and helmets is getting kinda ridiculous. At first I was like: “Okay it happened once”, but by now they should address it in show imo.

I grew up watching Transformers in the 80’s. If I can believe a robot can transform from a handheld cassette player to a 30’ robot, I can handle magic space suits.

I’m impressed at how much is packed into a half hour “kids show”.

Hmm, Admiral Janeway is searching for Captain Chakotay… could he be hiding in plain sight!?!

As who?

Gesundheit!

Ha ha.

I think there was just a little too much squeezed into this episode, but it was still incredibly entertaining.

Never considered that the Neutral Zones would be good bases for illegal activity.

Why not? I mean neither of the two major powers has jurisdiction there.

Indeed! I guess maybe I figured, not consciously, there were no habitable worlds there.

And if either side enters into it it’s considered an act of war. Although given that one might think it is being monitored rather extensively.

Another amazing episode!

Prodigy just always manages to thrill and surprise me. I love everything about it. So many fun surprises and ties into the lore. The highlights for me:

-Dal being a human augment based on Arik Soong’s work.
-Romulans returning but also Tal Shiar being part of the story (and said a nice tie in to Picard)
-Jellicoe’s big return (and being a hardass as ever lol).
-Murf going from adorable pet to a indestructible Odo
-Ensign Asencia secretly being another time traveling Vau N’Akat.

As it’s always pointed out, for a ‘kid’s show’, this is some of the best Star Trek in decades. The amount of detail, canon connections and (clearly) well thought out mythology they done for this show is beyond impressive. I’m starting to feel this is my favorite show in the modern shows and easily one of the best first season shows Star Trek has ever done.

Interestingly the subtitles identified Ascencia after the reveal as Gwyn when I first watched.

Wow really? That’s interesting. I was planning to watch it again but I guess I missed that the first time. And I had seen other people suggest that as a theory but I kind it ruled it out myself personally but I guess I may be wrong after all lol.

I’m amazed at how much they managed to squeeze into 22 minutes! The writing on this show is just excellent.

How did Dal pay the shady doctor for his implant? He didn’t even have a phaser.

Trek, particularly post TOS Trek, has played very fast and loose with the concept of currency. It’s been both something they don’t use and something they must use at the same time. At this point I just tend to ignore it and just conclude that commerce happens and the mechanics of it don’t matter that much.

Love the episode! But why is Soong popping up in all the nu-trek shows? I feel the show runners have Soong fever. He was mentioned in Disco, Picard has gone Soong crazy, and now Prodigy. I bet a Soong will show up in Prodigy soon. Nathan Ariel Soong, the brother from another family….

They are getting into small world syndrome.

I like the rich tapestry of callbacks in this show, but Soong didn’t need to be part of the legacy – I suspect the pressure to tie one of the characters back to TNG was intense however.

We agree here. Callbacks are fun for fans but I really feel like they ought to be more limited at the very least to show what a big universe this is.

It’s been done to death. Well I think it’s only been Picard and Prodigy, but Picard they did the multiple Soongs to death. They should have just had Data transferred to a golem body and not bothered with all the other Soongs.

And Strange New Worlds, now that they’ve tied Soong to Khan.

Enterprise tied Soong to Khan first. (Or, from another point of view, Gene Roddenberry tied Soong to Khan by giving them both his lost friend’s name, and then Enterprise explained the coincidence in-universe.)

See below, but I thought Enterprise was more like “Soong jumps on the bandwagon.” Picard actually tied it together. SNW just has a Khan-related character.

By the way, I looked it up. People have actually done a lot of research into where Roddenberry’s friend could be. Long story short: There were too many armies involved in World War II and Roddenberry may not have gotten the spelling right, so we might never know. One guess is that it might have been an Indian contract worker, possibly himself from a more East Asian/Chinese country, who was working on a project in some Pacific Island, and thus not on official records.

Strange New Worlds didn’t tie Soong to Khan. That was established decades ago.

See below- I just meant that with a Khan-related character, SNW is one more show with a connection.

I also have to disagree, SNW has no connection between Soong and Khan (so far at least). Unless you mean Picard which DID tie Adam Soong and Khan directly together in the season 2 finale (sigh).

No, you misunderstood me. Picard already tied Soong to Khan (I thought of Enterprise, but that was more like “Soong jumps on the augment bandwagon”), but with there being a descendant of Khan on SNW, that’s one more show that references the greater Soong influence.

OK yeah it’s all sort of the same thing lol. Personally I wished they avoided ALL of it. I was OK with Adam Soong’s connection with Augments, but I wish they didn’t have to take it a step farther and suggest the Soongs were now part of Augments from the very beginning. It does make the universe feel smaller.

Since the writers insisted on a reference, I would have preferred it be Keniculus.

I really liked the Arik Soong reveal but I can’t disagree with anyone these shows have become Soong obsessed lol. It is a little too much. To me, the Soong family and Khan are really overdone since Khan is brought up in all the new shows now and we have one of his descendants on SNW. I don’t understand the focus for these characters. I understood with Picard they wanted to bring Spiner back but the guy didn’t have to play TWO new Soongs either. They could’ve kept Alton Soong and made him part of season 2 somehow IF they wanted Spiner on the show that badly.

Hopefully they realize now that people are getting tired of all the new Soongs, And they could’ve just introduced a new Soong that was responsible for Dal, so I think it was just more of a way to tie into fan service instead of introducing more of them. Hopefully we won’t see anymore news ones.

obsession aside … it seems to me that there is a mistake. Arik Soong cannot have created Dal, or he would be 200 years old. Unless it’s another Arik Soong born in the twenty-fourth century. Among other things Arik in the twenty-second century could not know the Maquis and even less the Dominion. However I still think that all Soongs are clones of the first one, which was called Adam, in fact.

Did they say Arik himself or Arik’s legacy?

He didn’t create Dal. They said it was people AFTER him who basically followed his work who did. Which also goes against the other argument I seen made that it makes no sense he was responsible since he shifted his interests to cybernetics. But as Archer said in that episode, they didn’t destroy any more of his work, so that maybe one day others can benefit from it. So it wouldn’t have mattered even if he himself moved on from Augments.

These guys really do pay attention and follow canon in an impressive way.

*Noble* Isle? Pun on the Diviner’s voice actor?

Maybe I’ve missed something. Can someone explain why these kids can’t contact Starfleet when they are off the ship and explain that the protostar is a trap? I know they said any communication from their ship can trigger the self-destruction of the Federation but a phone call while in any of the ports won’t work??

This was discussed last week when the kids encountered Janeway and her landing party away from the Protostar. Dal panicked when the station keeper threw the kids under the bus and he bolted. I found it to be a bit on the unreasonable side but others felt it worked given the kids history.

Perhaps somebody can help me out here. When in the lab, the doctor says that Dal is the product of the work of Arik Soong, who was working during the time of Archer. The mention of the “Proto-Organians” seems out of place as Starfleet was not aware of the Organians themselves until Kirk’s tenure. I can ‘head-canon’ my way through this, but perhaps somebody has a better understanding?

Dal was the product of followers of Arik Soong, not of Soong himself. He was probably created much later.

Thank you!

This show is starting to look a lot more like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Dal = Peter Quill (both part human part alien, unknown past, the leader of the group but also big ego and impulsive)
Gywn = Gamora (both was bad now good, father is the main bad guy, sleek fighter with a sword)
Murph = Groot (both barely talk, indestructible, starts cute, is the main muscle)
Jankom Pog = Rocket (both small, uncouth, main tech-guy, tinkerer)

Anyone else see this?

I didn’t until right now lol. But I actually been jokingly calling them GOTG (in my head) since they decided to make it their mission just to help other planets.

Things are moving along. A little bothered that the show is turning a little more to the more simplistic and predictable side of things. Until recently they have been better than that. Since they have generated a little “good will” over the last season I feel they have earned a little benefit of the doubt. So hopefully they will return to be a little more of what they were like last year.