Star Trek: Prodigy almost seems to have left us again as quickly as it returned at the start of the year, but that doesn’t mean that the latest animated series in the franchise is made of lighter stuff. If anything, it just went out having finally delivered a truly fascinating premise for the series... and some very stiff competition.
“A Moral Star, Part II,” this week’s mid-season finale—Prodigy is set to return later this year for the rest of season one, after literally every other Trek show currently streaming has aired between now and summer—finally put a cap on the young kids aboard the Protostar truly becoming a crew together. Sure they’ve been flying the ship around, but so far it’s mostly been about them winging it, unsure of where they want to go and if they really have what it takes to command a Starfleet vessel.
That’s been proven now, after the Diviner (John Noble) caught up with the Protostar and made Dal (Brett Gray), Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), Jankom (Jason Mantzoukas), and Zero (Angus Imrie) face a terrible choice: return the vessel to Tars Lamora, the mining outpost they’d all escaped from when Prodigy began, or the Diviner would kill every being enslaved there. With the Protostar and even Gwyn (Ella Purnell) back in the Diviner’s hands, all seemed lost, but some quick thinking by the crew managed to not only re-wrest the Protostar from the Diviner’s clutches, but save Tars Lamora’s people and whisk them away to their own freedom.
There was quite a price to that victory—Gwyn, briefly re-united with her sinister father, learned that the Diviner has a plan to get vengeance for the Vau N’Kat homeworld’s post-first-contact devastation by using the Protostar as a trojan horse, filling it with a hostile code that will destroy any Starfleet vessel it is passed on to. As desperate as Dal and the rest of the crew are to prove themselves to the Federation now, they can seemingly never return without accidentally laying all of Starfleet low. Matters are further complicated when Gwyn’s recollection of this important fact is lost to her when she sustains a head injury in Zero’s clash with the Diviner (neatly using his original form as a Medusan, just as they did when they were introduced in Star Trek, to drive the Diviner mad) during the rescue mission. So now the Protostar, seemingly happily back on track, is slowly warping its way back to potential disaster...
But not if they’re caught by a new pursuer. “A Moral Star, Part II” ends by setting up a new antagonist for the Protostar crew—one very different to the Diviner, in that they don’t really know they’re an antagonist yet. The climax of the episode sees the Protostar’s latest jump with its experimental protostar-powered engine tracked by a Starfleet vessel, which it turns out has been trying to hunt down the ship for some time. And it’s not just any vessel... it’s Admiral Kathryn Janeway’s vessel. Kate Mulgrew has been back in action since Prodigy began, but here she is in the “flesh,” as much as an animated character can be. Desperate to find out what happened to her former first officer Chakotay, Admiral Janeway races off in another somewhat familiar Voyager face: her latest ship is the U.S.S. Dauntless, one hell of a deep cut.
In the fourth-season Voyager episode “Hope and Fear,” Janeway and her crew decoded a long-awaited message from Starfleet guiding them to a nearby star system holding a Dauntless-Class Federation ship, an alleged new experimental vessel that will get them back to the Alpha Quadrant significantly faster than the 70-year journey Voyager was facing. It turned out, of course, that this was all a trap, and the Dauntless was actually a facsimile of Federation design over an alien vessel that was set as a trap for the Voyager crew. It now seems that decades later, Janeway liked the design so much she told Starfleet about the Dauntless and they went and built her the damn thing for real.
If the real Dauntless is like the Dauntless of “Hope and Fear,” we’ve now got an unseemly chase going on between not one, but two experimentally driven Starfleet ships—and the Protostar kids might be about to meet the real face behind their holo-teacher. But with the now-unknown threat of the Diviner’s secret weapon putting any encounter with Starfleet in great peril, only time will tell just how our young heroes will get around this if and when Admiral Janeway catches up to them. When she does though, she’s in for another unlikely Delta Quadrant surprise: this time quite a pleasant one, when she sees just what a fine young crew the Protostar has developed in Prodigy’s first batch of episodes... with a bit of help from some form of herself along the way.
Star Trek: Prodigy is now streaming its first 10 episodes on Paramount+.
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