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.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“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.
“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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Decks “The 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!
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 Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher 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.