Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 16 – Debuted Thursday, December 1, 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 Steve In Chang Ahn & Sung Shin
The show slows things down to spend some time exploring a few backstories.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Our salvation, lost in the past.”
With the prodigies stuck in the Neutral Zone fixing the protodrive, Admiral Janeway lurks just outside, biding her time. She is also learning more about kids—including their names, thanks to being briefed about the bounty issued for the “Unwanted.” Meanwhile, the guy who issued that bounty is being briefed by his surprise Vau N’Akat compatriot, the former Asencia. His conflict rises as he starts to remember his mission to destroy Starfleet while also understanding that it was Starfleet that saved him. Not-Asencia takes The Diviner down memory lane with an exposition dump AV presentation about Starfleet’s ill-fated (future) first contact with their homeworld of Solum.
She begins by blowing his mind that the two of them were actually contemporaries and he was once drawn to Starfleet’s promise of “bold new worlds.” Divisions led to a devastating civil war, with the blame placed on Starfleet for doing nothing to help. Salvation came decades later, when the USS Protostar arrived after some accidental time travel through a wormhole, landing on a devastated planet hungry for retribution. This was some seriously bad luck for Chakotay and his crew, who were quickly captured by a squad of Drednoks. The Vau N’Akat planned to send the Protostar back with a crew and the living construct, but Chakotay escaped, cleverly sending his ship back in time without any Vau N’Akat to attack the Feds. It’s now all coming back to the Diviner: “The Order” of 100 were sent back through the wormhole to find the Protostar, each with their own ship, a Drednok, and a 1% chance of success. “The Vindicator” arrived just 3 years ago (17 years after The Diviner) and joined Janeway’s search for the Protostar as Asencia. Did you get all that? There will be a quiz later.
“You aren’t the only one on the ship with a sob story.”
As they fix the Protostar, the kids decide to do their own bit of reflecting with a backstory-off to catch up with Dal, who’s still coping with the revelation he was born in a petri dish. Rok kicks things off with the delightfully surprising story of her days in the Delta Quadrant’s equivalent of the WWE, where she played “The Monster” in regular matches against “The Hero.” Even without any shared language, this pair had fun playing to the crowds and sharing post-match “nutrigoop” meals—until one day, Rok decided she didn’t want to play the scary monster anymore and turned the fight into slapstick with pratfalls for the Hero to match. He had fun, but the evil guy who ran the joint was not amused, so he sold her off to the Kazon who did recruitment slave trading for Tars Lamora. Wow, that started kind of fun but got dark, didn’t it?
Zero is up next with the beautiful tragedy of a young Medusan and their companions on an extended journey of frolicking exploration. They were exo-suit-less and free, full of curiosity and the song of their shared mind when they landed on the wrong planet where a group of Kazon (yeah, these guys again) were waiting. One extra curious Medusan was lured into a trap while the rest fled the Kazon. Zero was left behind, captured and then sold on Tars Lamora. As the story catches up to her former complicity, Gwyn is filled with guilt as she learns more about Zero’s past and apologizes for her role in it. Yeah, that one went from sublime to sad… a pattern is forming.
Wrapping up Backstorypalooza is Jankom Pog’s wacky adventure, ending up in the Delta Quadrant on a pre-UFP Tellarite sleeper ship which was crewed entirely by orphans, jeez. Awoken as an engineering trainee, Pog was tasked to fix an emergency by a glitching robot. After discovering his trademark skill of percussive maintenance, the funny little robot sends him on a series of escalating fixit tasks resulting in Pog getting comically burnt, electrocuted, drowned, and arms-deep in a tragically clogged toilet, while his “Jankom Pog can fix it” becomes a coping mantra. Turns out all his exertions depleted the oxygen supplies, so there isn’t enough for all 30 crew members to make it to their destination… leading to his heartbreaking question: What if there were 29? Yeah, you knew something like that was coming. Pog sacrifices his spot, leaving the ship on an escape pod after one more unsatisfying goodbye to “Boxy”… leading to being picked up by (you guessed it) some Kazon.
“It’s time we get to the bottom of this.”
All the tragic stories succeed in cheering Dal up, who now understands that everyone has a past, and Gwyn chimes in to point out that together, they have a brighter future. Go friendship! The only one who hasn’t shared is Murf, who simply offers an epic belch. The more blobs change, the more blobs stay the same. As the protodrive charges, all that is left is to do is wait as Holo Janeway joins the group and we are left with her beginning to tell her pre-hologram life story, starting with a dog.
Back on the Dauntless, real Janeway is starting to put the pieces together. The gang who took the Protostar aren’t hardened criminals, they are just “some kids who found themselves way in over their heads.” First officer Tyses wisely suggests if they want real answers they should find out more about this “Diviner” guy who issued those bounties. Oh, if they only knew how close this “serious individual” was. The admiral decides it’s time to go talk to her guest to see what he knows, only to walk in on the Vau N’Akat reunion going down in Asencia’s quarters. Awkward. Finding Asencia out of uniform, so to speak, and before the giant evil robot can take her out, Diviner karate chops Janeway unconscious, declaring to his confused time-traveling compatriot he did it to ensure the mission. Hang on that cliff.
From the opening moment with melancholic Chopin, you can tell this episode is a change of pace from the frenetic action of recent episodes, with the title “Preludes” having many layers and meanings. As the show heads towards the final episodes and the two-part season finale, things slow down for a bit of calm before the storm. However, this pause-to-reflect episode can feel a bit forced and some of these backstories could have been woven into other episodes more organically. The huge amount of exposition, especially in the Vau N’Akat first contact and Chakotay’s subsequent visit to Solum was welcome, but a lot to take in one sitting, requiring a second viewing to fully appreciate.
The structure of the episode was a welcome diversion, with composer Nami Melumad stepping up to help craft what is a “tone poem,” or perhaps series of tone poems, as much of the storytelling was done without dialogue. The team effort is exemplified with the entire Prodigy writers’ room being credited, clearly dividing up the duties for the various stories. There was also some interesting variation on the animation style within the different stories, most effectively with The Vindicator’s history lesson using elements of Soviet design to show an element of propaganda and hint she isn’t a reliable narrator—there is clearly more to this story of Starfleet sparking a civil war. The are other hints of this variety (which could have been taken further) to reflect the different tones, like a bit of anime for Rok’s story and Looney Tunes for Jankom’s.
We are also finally getting some welcome dimension to The Diviner himself, who’s moved beyond being the mustache-twirling villain as we see him torn between his mission and a new understanding and appreciation for Starfleet. John Noble beautifully plays the conflict of this more nuanced character, hinting a potential difference of opinion with The Vindicator in upcoming episodes.
Most welcome was the character development for Pog and Zero, who have been getting the least attention in the back half of the season so far. Along with Zero, each of their stories not only showed us more about the character’s pasts, but nicely explored what motivates them, like why Rok doesn’t like to fight, how much Zero misses their hive mind, and why Pog speaks in the third person so much. Each character now feels richer and this crew feels even tighter as they head into their biggest test. But there is still plenty more to explore with all of the characters, like how did Rok end up playing heel to Maximilian’s face, why does Jankom have a robot hand, how did Zero make that suit, and more. And of course, Murf’s story remains an intriguing open book.
After ramping up the action Prodigy takes a nice little moment for some character development with excellent music and design to help tell some needed stories. As part of a binge-watch, “Preludes” will certainly flow perfectly well heading into the final episodes of season 1. However, with weekly episode releases, you can consider that maybe the show could use some more balance, considering last week’s entry as too long on plot and too short on character moments and then to this week with the exact opposite result. But again, taken as a whole, Prodigy continues to impress on every level.
RANDOM BITS AND CANON CONNECTIONS
- This is the third episode credited to the entire writers’ room, following “A Moral Star” (Parts 1 and 2)
- Admiral Janeway was listening to Prelude No. 4 by 19th century composer Frédéric François Chopin which has been used often in film and television, including in the TNG episode “The Masterpiece Society” as well as the Picard episode “The Star Gazer,” and it was also chosen by the composer to be played at his own funeral.
- This is the fourth appearance of Robert Beltran as Chakotay and the first since episode 11.
- Chakotay’s USS Protostar first officer is an Aurelian named Adreek-Hu.
- The crowd at Rok-Tahk’s fights included a Klingon, a Caitian, and more Kazon.
- The fight owner was a rare Bolian with hair.
- The Kazon that captured Zero used the same design protective goggles Spock wore in the TOS episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?,” along with the same containment system, which we also saw in the Prodigy series premiere.
- The Kazon likely got the designs from the USS Voyager database during one of their encounters from Star Trek: Voyager, assisted by Seska.
- Of course, the Kazon remain the absolute worst.
- The Medusan ship was of the same design as the one introduced in the remastered version of “Is There in Truth No Beauty.”
- The Starfleet ship that makes first contact with Vau N’Akat on Solum appears to be a Prometheus-class.
- Jankom’s sleeper ship shares design characteristics of Tellarite cruisers seen in Star Trek: Enterprise.
- The Kazon ship that captured Pog’s pod was somewhat similar to Kazon shuttles seen in Star Trek: Voyager.
- Drednoks vary in design. The Vindicator’s Drednok is equipped with a holo projector.
- Even though The Vindicator’s Drednok wasn’t present during the events of episode 10, it still knew The Diviner’s mind had been “shattered” by a Medusan. Perhaps he had the same new info as Tyses regarding the Protostar crew (which includes a Medusan).
- Holo Janeway mentioned real Janeway’s dog Mollie, noting “she was the runt of the litter.”
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.