Star Trek: Prodigy returns for its five remaining season one episodes with a brilliant, revelatory premiere. Questions that have lingered from the start are answered with stunning surprises. We learn the ragtag young crew’s backstories, what happened to Chakotay’s (Robert Beltran) original USS Protostar crew, the future destruction of Solum, and how the surviving Vau N’Akat sent the Diviner (John Noble) back in time to destroy the Federation. Episode sixteen, “Preludes”, packs whopper exposition in a lean package. Producers Kevin and Dan Hageman use every second of the twenty-four minutes runtime wisely. The primary characters reaffirm their bonds while a ruthless new enemy makes her presence felt. Ensign Asencia’s (Jameela Jamil) deadly mission as another Vau N’Akat with a fierce Drednok is accidentally uncovered.
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Spoiler Warning”Preludes” opens with Vice Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) listening to Chopin on the USS Dauntless. They continue to lurk outside the neutral zone as the Protostar refuses to answer hails. Starfleet doesn’t know that the Protostar has been weaponized with a Vau N’Akat Construct to destroy their ships. Janeway’s Andorian first officer brings information about a bounty on the Protostar crew. She finally acquires the names of the teens who commandeered the stolen ship. Who is this Diviner looking for them?
On the Protostar, the crew tries to fix the auxiliary warp drive. They need to charge the engines for a proto jump escape. Dal (Brett Gray) continues to reel from the discovery that he is a genetically engineered “augment.” Zero (Angus Imrie) reminds everyone they are all haunted by their past. It focuses on Rok (Rylee Alazraqui), who tells how she ended up a prisoner on Tars Lamora. Rok was called the “monster” and fought the “hero” in an arena to cheering spectators. It was a staged act that always ended in her defeat. Afterwards, she got a bowl of yummy nutri-goop for the performance. Rok enjoyed doing the show until realizing everyone viewed her as a real monster. She turns the tables on the hero and humiliates him. The hero played along, but Rok only got a small portion of nutri-goop in the end. It turns out that people didn’t like seeing the monster win. She was sold soon after. Gwyn (Ella Purnell) now understands why Rok hates fighting and didn’t want to be the security officer.
Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) fixes the broken robotic arm on Zero’s containment suit. It remembers being free on a planet with other Medusans. They roamed together in happiness, but were hunted by the Kazon. Zero was captured and sold to the Diviner. Gwyn is overcome with guilt as she remembers receiving the caged Zero on Tars Lamora.
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Decades of Infighting Destroyed Solum
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On the Dauntless, Asencia shares her memories with the shocked Diviner. They were once the same age. Starfleet made first contact with Solum in the future. The Federation’s presence divided their society. As the Vau N’Akat descended into civil war, the Federation refused to choose sides. Decades of infighting destroyed Solum. The Protostar appeared in the aftermath after creating a wormhole from the past. The Vau N’Akat survivors captured Chakotay’s crew, infected the ship with the Construct, and were preparing to go back in time to attack Starfleet. Chakotay escaped and sent the ship back alone. The Vau N’Akat then created “The Order.” A hundred ships went into the wormhole with one passenger and a Drednok accomplice. Many were destroyed as the wormhole collapsed. He became the Diviner, and she the Vindicator. They arrived in the Alpha Quadrant twenty years apart. Asencia infiltrated Starfleet after a genetic modification to hide her real appearance. She joined Janeway’s crew to find the Protostar. Asencia asks the Diviner why his daughter betrayed him. He sadly replies, “She met a boy.”
Jankom Pog tells his story after Zero. He was part of thirty Tellarite orphans sent on a deep space mission. Their ship got hit and suffered multiple malfunctions. Jankum Pog wakes up in his cryo-pod. He was just an engineer trainee. The ship’s service robot inundates him with problems. He humorously fixes everything, but uses too much oxygen. Jankum Pog decides to leave, so the other sleeping orphans can survive the voyage. He constantly had to remind the robot his name, who forgets as soon as the escape pod ejects which is quickly snapped up by the mercenary Kazon.
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The Protostar crew embrace each other. Dal asks Murph (Dee Bradley Baker) if he has a story. The mischievous, indestructible Mellanoid slime worm belches loudly. Everyone laughs until Hologram Janeway appears with good news. The proto drive is charged. The teens ask her what the real Janeway is like. She tells them about Janeway’s beloved dog Molly.
On the Dauntless, Janeway realizes the Protostar thieves were innocent kids kidnapped and sold to the Diviner. She recognizes that Gwyn’s image looks exactly like their rescued guest with lost memory. She ventures down to Asencia’s room and sees her true identity with the Drednok. A stupefied Janeway is knocked out from behind by the Diviner before she can call for security.
Set Your Phasers to Awesome
Preludes radically progresses the narrative on all fronts. Asencia’s cover has been blown, but she can’t kill Janeway. Starfleet will surely investigate and derail their plans to retake the Protostar. Conversely, Janeway knows the teens aren’t a threat. However, they still can’t contact the Dauntless without the Construct destroying it. The proto drive is active, so escape from the neutral zone and Starfleet seems possible. Forgive this tantalizing tease, but I’ve seen the last four season one episodes. Set your phasers to awesome. Science fiction and animation doesn’t get any better.
Star Trek: Prodigy is a production of Secret Hideout, Roddenberry Entertainment, Brothers Hageman Productions, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, and CBS Eye Animation Productions. New episodes premiere every Thursday on Paramount Plus until December 29th.
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