Thursday, November 18, 2021

Prodigy, Season 1: Lost and Found (parts 1 & 2)

Prodigy, Season 1
"Lost and Found"

Airdate: October 28, 2021

1 of 20 produced

1 of 20 aired


A group of lawless teens, exiled on a mining colony outside Federation space, discover a derelict Starfleet ship. Dal must gather an unlikely crew for their newfound ship if they are going to escape Tars Lamora, but the Diviner and his daughter Gwyn have other plans.


"It is I, the EJH. Remember Good Star Trek?"


Beth's Thoughts

This is… good, bordering on great. The animation is visually stunning. They manage to show subtle nuances on the character’s faces that is not normally seen on animated series. It’s also attractive and interesting. Completely engaging.

The voice acting is also top notch. I’d like to make a special shout out to Jason Mantzoukas, who voices Jankom Pog. Mantzoukas is the kind of actor that you tend to either love or hate. I tend to find his manic energy hilarious, and he is fantastic as the voice of Jankom Pog, the argumentative Tellarite.

This may be one of the best premiere episodes of Star Trek I’ve seen. The pacing is consistent and never gets too bogged down. But most importantly – it feels like Star Trek. The tone is hopeful and positive, despite the fact that the story begins on a prison planet.

It feels like a Star Wars kind of Star Trek, but that’s not a bad thing. This is a show that seems to be appropriate for children, and in fact, my nine-year-old son was eager to watch it and has since watched each episode several times. He is a kid that loves Star Wars: Clone Wars, but the animation in Prodigy is far superior to Clone Wars’ animation. I would even say that the voice acting in Prodigy is well above Clone Wars.

The only real nitpick that I would have is that the story in this episode is awfully reminiscent of the plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Dal is asked repeatedly, “What species are you?” in a way that reminds me of Rey being asked, “Who *are* you?” The struggles to get off of the Tars Lamora prison colony remind me of the attempts to leave Jakku. However, in the context of this premiere, it all works surprisingly well. It’s a very fast paced and action packed first episode, but that is really refreshing as compared to other series premieres in Star Trek. The character of Drednok is very similar to General Grievous in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but I’m still interested is seeing more of his (its?) backstory.

I would easily grant this episode a 4. It may not have the greatest Sci-Fi premise, other than it taking place in space and on a spaceship. But the central conflict of them escaping the prison colony and struggling to work the starship makes it a really engaging story with very optimistic and hopeful characters – who are all interested in helping each other. The internal conflict in Gwyn is interesting to see. Is she good? Is she evil? She clearly doesn’t trust what her father is doing, but seems compelled to obey him anyway. They did a great deep dive into Trek cannon with the Medusan character of Zero. Overall, this makes me optimistic for what’s to come.

Matthew's Thoughts

If I were asked to boil down my problems with post-2009 Star Trek into just two bullet points (note: no one has ever asked me to do this), they would be these:

  • Grim, unrelentingly violent tone
  • Total disrespect for established continuity

I would have a few more, to be sure, but these are my two biggest beefs. Right off the bat, Prodigy solves both of these issues. The first is likely because of its home "network" of Nickelodeon - the responsible executives of a TV network for kids aren't going to put up with Kurtzman's horrible "we do it because we can" schtick. So no swear words, no decapitations or eye gougings, and no main characters treating each other horribly or being revealed in a SHOCK TWIST as mass murderers. So I'm already more predisposed to give it a chance.

The show also wisely locates itself somewhere outside of the space of the original shows (i.e. 1966-2005) but also seemingly places it well after those shows in continuity. This minimizes the potential for conflicts and contradictions, unlike Discovery, and to some extent, Picard. This was the same wise move Roddenberry made in creating TNG. But then, they go one better - someone on this show's creative staff clearly actually watched some Star Trek. Like you say Beth, there are Medusans, Tellarites, Kazon, Janeway... it's like this show is actually related to something I like! And they didn't make them grotesquely redesigned monsters.

I also noted the Star Wars tone, which initially irked me slightly but I ended up being OK with because, it turns out, this show is populated by nice people trying their best to do good things. As an episode, this two parter did a good job of introducing characters and making them likeable, as well as setting up interesting avenues for their future development. Will Dal find a way to overcome his impulsiveness and gain responsibility? Will Gwyn revel in her newfound freedom, or will she be bound by her attachment to her mysterious, nefarious progenitor? Will Zero find her way back to the Medusan people? Is Murph really intelligent but nonverbal? Will this group of kids find the Federation? I actually want to know the answers to these questions, because they are rooted in my liking the characters themselves, as opposed to being a Big Dumb Mystery Plot imposed from outside the characters by lazy writers who can't be arsed to work out consistent character traits for their cast. This episode feels complete as a story, setting up future adventures but not leaving a million and one plot questions unanswered and dangling.

If I were to offer criticism of the story (beyond its lack of anything particularly sci-fi), I would say that they didn't do much in the way of proposing to rescue the other slave children on this prison planet. That seems like a very Star Trek thing to try to do - but it may well be addressed in coming episodes.

From a technical standpoint the show is quite enjoyable. The animation is a cut above similar computer generated shows like The Bad Batch. The emphasis on facial animation and close-up character work really helps sell the emotional lives of the characters, who also enjoy very solid voice acting.

I agree with your 4 for a total of 8. This is the first piece of Star Trek since 2005 that actually feels like it deserves the name. It's infuriating that Paramount could not find the means or the staff to do something like this in 12 straight years and untold millions of dollars spent. But at least we have this. Here's hoping Kurtzman stays far away from it and lets the people who made this and subsequent episodes deliver a show that succeeds in making the audience feel better than before the episode started, and provides people worthy of emulating as opposed to cautionary examples whose mistakes and flaws we should avoid.

(podcast link to come shortly)

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