Star Trek: Prodigy – Season 1 Episode 14

Nov 17, 2022 | Posted by in TV
Prodigy

“Crossroads”

Star Trek: Prodigy delivers a long-awaited meeting when Admiral Janeway and the crew of the Dauntless catch up with the crew of the Protostar.

The introduction of the real Kathryn Janeway was perhaps an inevitability in hindsight but no less a welcome surprise when it happened. In some ways, Prodigy is a loose sequel to Voyager in that Janeway is involved, Chakotay is the former Captain of the Protostar and the show -sometimes- takes place in the Delta Quadrant. In most ways, Prodigy is its own show with characters who hold a perspective never seen in the franchise and a sharp focus on those characters as they learn and grow. The challenge facing the writers and producers of this was integrating the familiar elements into the story being told in a way that feels organic and doesn’t alienate the viewers using this as a jumping-on point for the franchise.

Prodigy

Is someone a little too invested?

It’s a mission that has entirely succeeded as the real Janeway comes with no assumptions as to her prior exploits with skilful exposition catching the viewer up on exactly what they need to know. Framing her as a threat to the Protostar operating on assumptions created through not knowing the full story is a masterstroke as it furthers the lingering doubts many of the characters have about the Federation. Dal in particular wonders if it’s too good to be true and there’s enough misunderstanding to add fuel to those doubts.

Following the lessons learned in the previous episode, the crew decides that it would be worth hiding the Protostar somewhere while they make contact with the Federation to explain the situation. It’s a good idea as they can make contact without risking doing damage while they do so. Being without a ship means that they have to find alternative transport which means finding someone willing to take them on as passengers. Why they don’t simply use the vehicle replicator to build a shuttle and use that to get around isn’t explained but the setup is logical and allows the scenario that is presented to play out.

The outpost that they end up in will bring to mind Mos Eisley from the Star Wars franchise. Gwyn’s description of it even evokes Obi Wan Kenobi’s famous introduction to the “wretched hive of scum and villainy”. The comparison isn’t a criticism as it comes from the location being a believably well-established outpost with its own rules. There’s a lived-in quality to it and the strong suggestion that a lot of legally dubious things go on there. The Protostar crew themselves are hiding the fact they know the location of a stolen Federation starship so it’s very much a good place to hide before making the next move unnoticed by those looking to prevent such illegalities.

Prodigy

It was nice when we had a warm starship

As is consistent with Prodigy, the episode moves quickly but that doesn’t prevent most of the characters from having a memorable moment as they look for someone to take them to the Federation. Rok-Tahk experiences fear prompted by her size and Jankom has a wonderful exchange with Doctor Noum (Jason Alexander) where he is made to feel inadequate. It’s a wonderfully written and performed Tellarite exchange in keeping with how they are characterised in Enterprise particularly. It highlights how isolated the Protostar crew are through the example of Jankom not understanding how Tellarites communicate.

Gwyn speaks Klingon to an actual Klingon which references her affinity for languages that periodically comes up and also has a puzzling exchange with Ascensia (Jameela Jamil). There’s an element of desperation in Ascencia’s voice as she tells Gwyn that her father is looking for her. On its own, it might not seem all that suspicious but when considered alongside the opening scene where Ascensia talks to the Diviner in such a way that suggests a personal interest in making him remember. Jameela Jamil’s delivery of the lines in both conversations points towards her being more invested than a Starfleet ensign eager to help a wounded alien that they found.

Dal is the one who stumbles onto Janeway and refers to her as Captain which is followed by the excellently spoken “I prefer Vice Admiral Janeway”. In Voyager, there was a confident bordering on arrogant quality to Janeway that is perfectly encapsulated in both the chosen words and Kate Mulgrew’s delivery of them. It isn’t just a reference to entice fans of Voyager as it leads to a teachable moment for Dal who is almost starstruck meeting the inspiration for the training hologram he has come to know and value. He asks a question about the fear of failure overwhelming a desire to act and Janeway advises him that it’s best to take action in spite of that fear and punctuates it with “in Starfleet you make it so”. It’s a short yet excellent exchange that provides a neat reminder that Dal still has a lot to learn despite all he has achieved so far. He still needs a lot of guidance to reach his full potential and the manifesting self-doubt upon meeting the real Kathryn Janeway is an excellent reminder of that.

Prodigy

Don’t mess with Admiral Janeway

Janeway’s encounter with Dal is cut short when Barnus Frex appears mouthing off about the savages that attacked his outpost. It immediately sours the situation and causes Dal’s self-preservation instincts to kick in. His belief is that Janeway will take the word of another Starfleet officer over his and arrest him on that basis so he decides to run away. It’s a situation that could be resolved with a simple conversation but Dal and the others jump to conclusions which renders that impossible for now. This makes sense when considering what the characters have been through and the fact that they are still young so don’t always behave in the most reasonable ways. It’s a well-crafted misunderstanding on both sides and organically creates the antagonistic scenario that follows.

The ensuing chase sequence is brilliantly crafted. Highlighting the size difference between the two ships makes the Dauntless terrifying as it towers over the much smaller Protostar. It brings to mind the Borg Cube or the REV-12. Every time the Protostar encounters something that dwarfs it the crew are in a lot of danger. The terror experienced by the crew is palpable and reinforced in subtle ways such as Zero commenting that they aren’t swaying the ship on purpose. In theory this is the ultimate test of everything they have learned as they have to evade a much larger ship with a far more experienced crew though that doesn’t quite come across as the resource utilised to keep them ahead of the Dauntless comes from Okana (Billy Campbell) telling them what they need to hear at the right moment. The solution doesn’t come from the characters so there’s a contrived quality to it but it doesn’t devalue the effectiveness of the overall sequence.

Another contrivance is Murf’s evolution and the accidental launch of a torpedo. Allowances have to be made for this being a show aimed at young viewers and a slapstick gag is a proven way to reduce tension in content aimed at young audiences but it was at odds with everything that surrounded it. The questions created by Murf’s evolution are interesting and whether his inclusion in the show is the slow burn development towards him having a voice as the others on the crew do is something compelling to ponder. Up until this point he has been largely used for comedy or to accidentally stumble onto the solution that saves them. In this case he endangers them by presenting the crew as hostile.

The Protostar sneaking into the Neutral Zone and Janeway driven to follow them due to being obsessed with catching them so that she can learn what happened to Chakotay makes for an exciting conclusion. Commander Tysess (Davved Diggs) calling Janeway out on her obsession and that her emotions are dictating her decisions is a really powerful exchange that highlights Janeway’s weaknesses and her predisposition towards reckless behaviour when she has an emotional stake in the situation. For new viewers, this acts as a reinforcement of how close a relationship she has with Chakotay and for fans of Voyager it’s a reminder of the numerous examples of her making questionable decisions in pursuit of a particular goal. Commander Tysess being on her crew suggests that she is aware of her shortcomings and surrounds herself with people who will challenge her in order to overcome them. It also shows how difficult it is to maintain emotional distance even when someone is as experienced as Janeway is. The arrival of the Romulans wound up by the proximity to the Neutral Zone further ramps up the tension and highlights how close Janeway is to making a fatal mistake. This raises the stakes on both a narrative and character level.

Prodigy

This day could have gone better


Verdict

An excellent episode with a thrilling starship chase and strong characterisation contributing meaningfully to the plot. The outpost has a lived-in quality to it and each of the characters have meaningful moments when looking for passage. Jankom and Doctor Noum’s exchange is wonderfully written and performed while serving as a reminder of Jankom’s lack of knowledge about his own people. Janeway is brilliantly characterised which feeds into her conversation with Dal where she provides meaningful advice to him. Following that is a well-crafted misunderstanding on both sides that is consistent with the impulsiveness of such young characters. The starship chase sequence is excellently crafted though let down slightly by the slapstick nature of Murf’s evolution and accidental launch of a torpedo. It’s also unfortunate that the solution doesn’t come from the characters. Janeway’s impulsiveness and emotion-based decision-making being called out by Commander Tyssess is a powerful exchange and highlights that people never stop learning even after gaining experience. The arrival of the Romulans wound up by the proximity to the Neutral Zone further ramps up the tension and highlights how close Janeway is to making a fatal mistake. This raises the stakes on both a narrative and character level.

Overall
  • 9/10
    Crossroads - 9/10
9/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • the lived-in feel of the outpost
  • each character getting a memorable moment as they look for passage
  • Jankom and Doctor Noum’s excellent exchange
  • Janeway’s characterisation
  • Janeway’s advice to Dal about overcoming fear
  • a well-crafted misunderstanding on both sides
  • the starship chase sequence
  • Janeway being called out on her recklessness and emotional decision making
  • a wonderfully tense ending

 

Rise Against…

  • the contrivance of Murf’s evolution and the ensuing torpedo launch
  • the solution to the chase not coming from the characters

 

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7.75/10 (4 votes)

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