Star Trek: Prodigy Season 2 Is Star Trek At Its Best

Jul 1, 2024 | Posted by in TV
Prodigy

Star Trek: Prodigy releases its long-awaited second season where the former crew of the Protostar are recruited by Admiral Janeway to embark on a mission that they are uniquely connected to.

The details of the unexpected cancellation and Netflix picking up the show are well documented and won’t be recounted here but sufficed to say, it’s a minor miracle that audiences can see this at all. Less than ideal is that all 20 episodes are dropped on Netflix on the same day. This release strategy doesn’t work for Prodigy as episodes are built with creating anticipation in mind. Cliffhangers are dramatic and high-stakes with the intention of keeping the viewer on the edge of their seats as they wait a week for the next instalment but it’s a tradeoff I can happily accept if it means I can actually see the episodes.

Prodigy

We need to science this!

Since all 20 episodes were released at once; it’s unrealistic to do a detailed analysis in the way I was doing with my coverage of the first season so I have elected to do a high-level piece built on how the second season made me feel and why I believe that Star Trek: Prodigy is the best modern Star Trek series. By committing to this opinion, I am in no way saying the other shows are bad. I enjoy all of modern Star Trek to varying degrees but also believe that Prodigy is the best of what the current era of the franchise has to offer.

The first season impressed with its focus on characterisation. Its setup was unique as it featured characters from outside the Federation learning practical lessons about the core values and how to apply them. Each of them internalised those values on their own terms after extensive exploration of why they’re worthwhile. It provided a broad and challenging appraisal of everything that is just accepted in the other Starfleet-centric shows. It was also the perfect setup for younger viewers using Prodigy as their gateway into the franchise to learn and understand the core ideals. The writing was also incredibly mature and never talked down to the audience; this solidified it as a Star Trek show that welcomes everyone and trusts its audience to follow the storytelling.

Season one ended with the promise of a significant status quo change in its second season as the circumstances of the finale meant that it was impossible to return to what became the norm for the crew. Kate Mulgrew’s Admiral Janeway promised to take most of them under her wing as Warrant Officers on a ship of her choosing while Gwyn was sent to the present-day version of her homeworld to make a better first impression of the Federation. This promise was certainly exciting but also created questions about the impact the change in status quo would have on the character dynamics and the overall style of the show.

Prodigy

The crew ready for action!

Any fears are allayed very quickly in the second season. The first episode details Admiral Janeway summoning the former Protostar crew -sans Gwyn- to join her on her new ship; the U.S.S. Voyager-A as Warrant Officers assigned to different departments allowing them to hone their chosen skills in the field. Initially, it appears as if the scope of the show is expanded with a much larger ship and crew -around 800 serving on board- where the characters will be separated. Indeed, the anxiety about that separation forms a significant part of the first episode as they are used to taking on the odds together. Fortunately, it doesn’t last long as their frustrations with compartmentalised information lead them to stick their noses in where they don’t belong and an all-new adventure begins where they work to clean up a mess that they caused by their impulsiveness.

There’s an old rule in network TV -where Star Trek spent most of its life- around changing everything while keeping it the same. The Next Generation and Voyager particularly followed a formula where everything should be wrapped up by the end of a given story so that viewers who missed an episode won’t feel lost. The show is largely the same week to week so that viewers can dip in and out. This notion evolved when viewers were demanding more progression and serialisation. This is why shows in the Arrowverse for example underwent status quo changes to reward viewer investment but at their core, the structure of the show would remain much the same. Arrow would always fall back on the team infiltrating an enemy stronghold while Felicity supports from afar using a computer. The surrounding details and relationships may shift but viewers can take comfort in the core of the show remaining the same.

Prodigy does exactly this in its second season. The crew may no longer be on the Protostar and have progressed to being smaller fish in a bigger pond serving under Admiral Janeway but the show is still focused on them working together to manage situations on their own. Situations are manufactured to separate them from the comfort of the abundant resources afforded by Admiral Janeway and the crew of Voyager. It remains very much their story and the problems are for them to solve.

Prodigy

There be whales here!

There are significant differences in the second season. It’s a far more serialised show than it was in the first but it makes sense in context and is never jarring. It’s clear from early on that there’s an ongoing season plot but the individual episodes aren’t invalidated by being part of a larger whole as they are still distinct from each other with the larger story weaving expertly through them. Character arcs also progress throughout the season as they learn and grow before the viewer’s eyes. It’s wonderfully constructed and never loses sight of what the show is despite the extra elements that could steal attention from the main characters in lesser hands.

The extra elements are used well and compliment the main characters nicely. Legacy characters like Admiral Janeway and the Doctor (Robert Picardo) exist to support them and never take anything important away from them. Other parts of the franchise are preoccupied with referencing and utilising its past as a substitute for meaningful and thoughtful storytelling but Prodigy promotes the idea that Star Trek‘s past is important but shouldn’t stand in the way of its future. The main threat of the season involves the potential erasure of the Star Trek universe as we know it and presents new characters with new ideas as being the key to stop it. It’s a distinctly unsubtle message about a franchise being doomed if all it does is rely on past glories. The answer to the problem isn’t more Janeway; the answer is the new characters. They will take the franchise forward and ensure it continues to exist.

That isn’t to say the legacy characters are unimportant. Janeway, the Doctor and others have important roles in the season and develop in their own ways but the show never forgets that it isn’t about them so they remain in a supporting role. It’s through Janeway that the show’s intended audience is clearest as she is a mentor to the new crew. As such, she has been altered to fit the style of Prodigy as a show and is characterised as being more encouraging and a great deal softer than she was in Voyager. It’s easy to attribute that to her mellowing as the years have gone on but it’s also a good stance for a character looking to encourage younger officers to take. It’s similar to Riker being more over the top and comedic to fit the style of Lower Decks. In both cases, it’s clear that they are the same character but the shift is also identifiable.

Doctor Who

Shall we set sail?

In terms of storytelling, the show remains as adept as it was in the first season. The aforementioned ongoing plot that fills the season is a very complex one involving multiple timelines and different factors that influence the continuation or loss of them. Despite the complexity, the scripts are sharp and keep everything cohesive despite the high risk of the narrative becoming unwieldy and confusing, The characters are constantly challenging their understanding of the events surrounding them and any changes are thoroughly explained so that the viewer can follow them.

The season is full to bursting with creative and interesting adventures. The medium of animation is used to great effect in delivering visually stunning scenarios. There are space battles, unusual creatures, breathtaking locations and even an episode where a starship is retrofitted into an old-fashioned sailing ship to sail over clouds. The production team take full advantage of having fewer constraints than would be found in a live-action show to showcase things never before seen in the franchise and double down on the only limit being imagination.

As mentioned, Prodigy season two features an ongoing story. This continues what was established in the first season and finishes the story that brought the crew together by addressing the remaining mysteries unresolved at the end of that season. It’s interesting throughout and there’s impressive variety in how it’s explored. It builds on what came before while acknowledging the most confusing elements and taking time to properly contextualise them. Everything is used as fodder for compelling stories to be told and there’s the strong sense of a plan being followed since the beginning of the show. There are some minor issues such as a villain that needed a little more time to truly crystalise into an engaging antagonist and occasional pacing issues but nothing that significantly impacts the season as a whole.

Prodigy

Pull yourself together Voyager!

It isn’t all arc-driven; there are points where the crew take a break from the main plot to partake in a standalone adventure with a very loose association to the larger story. These stories allow for a more detailed exploration of individual characters that feed into their specific journeys. One of the highlights of the season significantly develops Zero’s grasp of their identity and offers powerful commentary on the difficulties inherent in feeling comfortable in one’s skin. It’s an immeasurably relatable problem and the show offers comfort in highlighting that anyone feeling uncomfortable isn’t alone and that it’s perfectly normal for that journey to be continuous. Zero’s experience offers hope without alienating those who constantly struggle.

Every character deals with their own emotional arc such as Rok taking delight in learning and having her unquenching thirst for knowledge both encouraged and rewarded. Dal wrestles with his need for validation and if being in a leadership position is required to achieve that, Gwyn is forced to consider if there is a place for her in the universe and what that place might be, Jankom Pog works to find a balance when it comes to interacting with others and Murf simply wants to be understood. All of these are relatable to viewers and are explored through the lens of the established characters with plenty of opportunity for the viewer to connect in their own way.

A new character joins the former Protostar crew in Maj’el (Michaela Dietz); a Starfleet cadet who finds herself embroiled in the unsanctioned adventures by accident and finds a kinship with them when they offer her a sense of identity she can’t find elsewhere. In a basic sense, she acts as a contrary voice who challenges them on their more reckless decisions but there’s a lot of depth to her and she finds her place within the existing dynamic naturally. Her presence is welcome and engaging.

Prodigy

Strange new and old world!

Fanservice is something that’s expected in franchise media these days and Prodigy season 2 is no slouch in that department. The presence of Admiral Janeway, the Doctor and Chakotay could be considered under that heading but since they are integral to the season then they extend beyond that. References, cameos and winks and nods to the audience can be found throughout but where Prodigy stands apart is that they never derail the story being told. Cameos are important and no time is spent dwelling on things referenced for long-term fans to recognise. They are simply dropped, sometimes acknowledged and then the narrative moves on. The approach is refreshing as the referenced elements act as texture enhancing what Prodigy has to offer but keeping the focus on the individual elements that define the show. It’s the right way to offer fanservice and gratefully accepted because of the approach.

Star Trek: Prodigy‘s cancellation is nothing short of criminal as proven by its sophomore season. The characterisation is excellent, the storytelling complex and exciting, the visuals stunning and it’s generally a sincere encapsulation of what makes Star Trek great. There’s a slim chance that Netflix could commission a third season and the best way to prompt them to do so is to watch it. Star Trek: Prodigy is Star Trek at its best and it deserves to continue.

Prodigy

Don’t mess with Admiral Janeway

Overall
  • 9/10
    Star Trek: Prodigy Season 2 - 9/10
9/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • excellent characterisation
  • complex storytelling
  • meaningful fanservice
  • stunning visuals
  • taking full advantage of the medium of animation
  • a strong sense of the fundamental values of the franchise

 

Rise Against…

  • a villain that required more development
  • pacing issues in places

 

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User Review
9.75/10 (2 votes)

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