Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 18 – Debuted Thursday, December 15, 2022
Written by Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Directed by Sung Shin
A delightfully lighthearted episode still delivers emotional punches and perfectly sets up the two-part season finale.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“I am the Admiral, obviously.”
Picking up after last week’s cliffhanger, the prodigies find themselves facing off with the USS Dauntless and locked out of the controls by the Vau N’Akat construct. Holo Janeway is in anguish over being manipulated and beams herself away so she can’t cause any more trouble. As the Protostar warps off, there is even more confusion on the bridge of the Dauntless, where Admiral Janeway is nowhere to be found; elsewhere, the Vau N’Akat conspirators debate the merits of throwing her out the closest airlock but instead tuck her away in a closet and move her badge to her quarters, because apparently Starfleet ships still fall for that trick. Tysess orders the Dauntless to pursue, taking the advice of the re-Trilled Asencia to merge their warp fields in a move that is so cool Zero dubs the looming ship within the warp tunnel “interesting.” Then the Dauntless starts firing at them, and if it gets through the ship’s shields, they will take the ship and it’s game over for Starfleet.
Out of options (Rok had a great technosolve far beyond Pog’s percussive engineering capabilities), they move on to the weird: The plan is to communicate directly with Admiral Janeway telepathically via a hivemind of Zero and Dal (who has some telepath DNA in his genomic soup). Zero guides Dal’s connection, but right at the key moment, the Dauntless fires phasers and he blacks out, only to awaken screaming in confusion about where he is and what’s wrong with his voice. Zero figures it out: “This is not Dal.” Indeed, it’s Janeway, the real deal, heroic pose and all… which must mean, oh dear, Dal is in the admiral’s body and he’s even more freaked out as he works his way through the Dauntless with the grace of a drunk Pakled. His first challenge is being greeted by an officer, so he replies with “Hello, Starfleet person.” Nailed it! Admiral Dalway is beamed to the bridge and keeps the cover going, ordering Tysess to “quit it!” with the phasers, assuring the confused crew that he (as the Admiral) has changed her mind, but “not in a weird way.” Yep, totally nailing it.
“Still the Admiral”
Things are now calmer on the Protostar as JaneDal gets briefed on the Vau N’Akat living construct and the crew’s good intentions. She is a big enough admiral to admit she made a few assumptions about the kids “and they were all wrong.” Now on #TeamProdigies, she’s ready to help. With the reveal to Janeway that Dal is an Augment (file that for later) with telepathic abilities, the gang just needs to figure out how to reverse the swap to get her back into her own body, which Dal is currently driving worse than an alien in an Edgar suit. Asencia, who last saw the Admiral tucked in a closet, is especially confused but starts sorting out that Janeway has lost her memory. After the admiral violently rejects his coffee prescription, a rightfully suspicious Dr. Noum wants to run tests. Assuring him her “brains are fine,” Dalway makes a hasty exit, leaving “Antennas” (Tysess) in command. With the Protostar (and its mystery weapon) headed to the heart of Federation space, the commander tells Starfleet to send every ship they have to rendezvous. So actually, everything is coming up Vindicator!
JaneDal looks to the person on the Protostar who knows the ship best… herself, leading to a meeting of the Janeways, where the first order of business is to convince Holo Janeway that Dal really is possessed by her original recipe. Using her admiral superpowers, Janeway fully restores her hologram counterpart, removing the construct corruption and filling in all those gaps that have plagued her since episode one. In a pivotal touching scene, they review the logs of what happened to Captain Chakotay… who she is assured was still alive when the Protostar left him behind in the future. Together the Janeways go to the bridge, where the kids are ready with an even crazier plan: She is going to have to go on a spacewalk to try to touch Dal because he is part Organian. And she is totally in, assuring them she has done weirder.
“The Admiral’s on the hull”
To get the crazy idea to work, they have to communicate it to Admiral Dalway up on the Dauntless, which actually turns out to be super easy via a game of charades through the windows using Pog as a demonstration puppet. But the Dauntless crew has caught up to the “admiral” and have had enough of her obvious imposter weirdness, so they sedate her and lock her down in sickbay. Luckily for her, The Diviner is still feeling conflicted—Starfleet is his “sworn enemy,” but Janeway’s “kindness was unexpected.” Showing some needed nuance, he cuts her loose, a bit of payback for saving his life. So Admiral Dalway is back in action and soon enough suited up and outside the ship. The Dauntless bridge crew spots her but can’t beam her back because [technobabble], raising the irritation level with their commanding officer to its limit.
It’s time for JaneDal to say goodbye to the kids and it’s a sweet moment, as she praises Rok’s scientific ability and promises to help them in their quests to join Starfleet… except for the regular occupant of the body she is in. She heartbreakingly informs Gwyn that Starfleet is still strictly a No Augments Allowed club. Dal and Janeway (with help from Murf) both spacewalk their way to each other with Admiral Dalway taking a leap of faith towards the Protostar only to be yanked back by the tractor beam, and JaneDal hitting Murf’s stretch limit. But she improvises, shooting her phaser at herself to recreate that crazy swap… and it works! Dal and his crew celebrate his return to his own body and ship, but the good vibes end when Protostar reaches its destination to find a system filling with Starfleet ships. Admiral Janeway is back in her own body and ship too… but in the brig.
Janeway’s Freaky Friday
After pausing a bit for a couple of episodes, Prodigy gets busy with a surprisingly whimsical episode that still packs some big emotional punches. Body swap and possession are another time-honored Trek and sci-fi trope (seen most recently in an episode of Strange New Worlds), but this animated series was able to elevate the concept with sharp writing, subtle (and broad) animation, and truly outstanding vocal performances from Kate Mulgrew and Brett Grey. The Janeway and Dal reversals presented a series of hilarious hijinks accompanied by just the right kind of cartoony music to make this the funniest episode in the series, but at the same time, we are learning a lot about both characters and moving their stories forward in a big way that included the beautiful meeting of the two Janeways and some exploration of Dal’s complex background, which is likely setting something up for the finale.
It might have been dragged out just a bit too long, but it was great to finally get Admiral Janeway up to speed on the truth about the kids and the construct. This plot momentum also allowed for some sweet moments on the Protostar, which are likely telegraphing what could be the beginning of a whole new dynamic for the show. “Mindwalk” was a showcase for how well Prodigy has developed the main characters, with earned moments like Rok spewing off technobabble about reconfiguring the deflector dish setting up Pog’s priceless “beep boop!” reaction. And Murf’s evolution continues to pay dividends as he can now apparently be part of the plan and respond to specific dialogue, so could blob boy be destined for Starfleet Academy too? This episode was also a big pivot for The Diviner, with a nuanced performance from John Noble showing us the inner turmoil he is going through, possibly setting up a redemption arc for a character that has spent too much of this series as a one-note villain. That role appears to be moving to The Vindicator, with Jameela Jamil truly relishing it.
If there is a fault in this episode, it’s that it takes a few shortcuts to allow for all the fun. This includes conveniently forgetting that they fixed the Protodrive two episodes previously and making it plausible to play charades through a couple of windows of ships at warp. It was good to see how the Starfleet crew caught on to Janeway not being Janeway, perhaps confirmed by her rejection of coffee to seal the deal. But like with all Star Trek nitpicks, a great episode can wash them away with headcanon, or viewers can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Let’s face it, just getting the “I was once transformed into a salamander” callback to “Threshold” makes it all worth it.
Prodigy surprises again by using humor to move the plot and characters forward and deliver just as many laughs as a solid episode of the animated Star Trek comedy Lower Decks. After a couple of episodes that slowed things down, the pacing is back on point setting up what appears to be a huge two-part finale confrontation, on many, many levels.
- “Mindwalk” is also the name of a 1990 film exploring themes of viewing different perspectives of philosophy, politics, and physics.
- Dee Bradley Baker (Murf) and Angus Imrie (Zero) also voice unnamed Dauntless crewmembers.
- Merging warp fields was first done by the NX-01 Enterprise in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Divergence.”
- Janeway unscientifically calls the bodyswap “impossible” even though such things have precedent and she famously said “weird is part of the job” on Voyager.
- In Janeway’s quarters, Dal played with a model of the USS Voyager.
- Dal’s “pew pew pew” was a callback to the two-part series premiere.
- Dal calling Tysess “Antennas” surely must be a Starfleet HR violation.
- How is it that Starships can’t tell when com badges aren’t attached to anyone over three centuries after the invention of the Fitbit?
- Gamma Serpentis is a real star about 37 light years from the Sol system which also appears in Star Trek: Star Charts.
- To prove she was genuine, Janeway talked about Phoebe, which was the name of her younger sister as established in the novel Mosaic, written by Voyager co-creator Jeri Taylor.
- The Starfleet armada was made up of Sovereign-class, Akira-class, Defiant-class, and Centaur-type ships.
More to come
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New episodes of Prodigy debut on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., and on Fridays in Latin America and select countries in Europe. The series is also carried on SkyShowtime in the rest of Europe with the second half of season one expected to arrive in 2023.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.