Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Prodigy, Season 1: Starstruck

Prodigy, Season 1
Airdate: November 4, 2021

2 of 20 produced

2 of 20 aired


Dal must decide whether to take the Protostar in the direction of the Federation or away from it. His decision lands them in hot water that will require him to admit vulnerability.

This is the power of science, people!

Matthew's thoughts:

This is a character development episode, which is a good idea at this point. We are given several character beats that help us identify with and care about the cast. Rok, for instance, is angry at Gwyn for never stepping in when her father was subjugating them. Gwyn actually feels remorse for it, too, while still feeling the pull of her heritage. Dal is immature and possessive, and resistant to advice. This results in the ship being pulled into the gravity well of a dying star. I was dazzled by the star - it is a white dwarf devouring a red giant, which will eventually lead to a classic Type 1a supernova and black hole. I was so, so, soooo pleased by being presented with a real astronomical phenomenon, as opposed to some dumb crap about mushrooms or dark matter comets or some other pseudo-scientific rot. I love how the crew works together to find a way out of the bind, with Dal admitting his inexperience to Janeway. It's a very star Trek note and it felt genuinely good when the swelling music played and everyone celebrated. Why does this work when the overbearing music cues and togetherness on Discovery do not? I think it's because Prodigy has done a better job creating consistent characters with whom we can empathize and root, and it hasn't turned any of them into SHOCK TWIST murderers or replicons from beyond the moon. Then, the story is done. DONE! God, it's so satisfying to have an episode feel complete in and of itself, as opposed to just being strung along by a delaying tactic in the Big Dumb Plot in order to keep us subscribed.  

Do I have nitpicks? Sure. If power was diverted from all systems, how is the vehicle replicator working? Why was artificial gravity working? But I have nitpicks about plenty of other Star Trek I enjoy. I can forgive inconsistencies (how did Scotty and Geordi beam through those shields, anyway?) if I care about the characters.

Overall I would give this a 3, which I remind our readers is a good, solid episode well within the fat part of the bell curve of Star Trek. I probably could have done with a bit more information about the stellar phenomenon, and ultimately this episode was really just "ship gets near a thing, ship escapes thing." But I enjoyed it, was tickled by the real science, and can't wait to watch the next episode, which is a really good sign.

Beth's Thoughts:

I agree that this is a really good character development episode. It finds a great way to demonstrate how young Rok really is, with her shouting, "I don't wanna!" when Dal tells her to go check on Gwyn (this resonates really well to someone with a nine-year-old child at home). But prior to that, it does show that Rok is a good being, who cares about others (by providing Gwyn with food while in the brig). This also demonstrates Dal's immaturity and impulsiveness, but it gives him a bit of growth when he finally does ask for (and receives) Janeway's help.

I really enjoyed the real science shown in this astronomical phenomenon! This brings me back to Voyager, when they really did insert some science into the show (e.g. event horizons of singularities, dark matter nebulas, stars going nova, ion engines being developed to help humans explore their solar system). As Matthew mentions, this is not only explained in a scientifically accurate way, but illustrated and animated in a way that was really stunning and awe inspiring.

Of course there are nitpicks with some of the systems still functioning when power was supposed to be diverted from... everywhere. But, again, as mentioned by Matthew, these oversights can be forgiven when we care about the characters driving the plot. This is also aces because it is a self contained story that is over when the episode is over. This approach to the storytelling in Star Trek is breath of fresh air. We don't need serialized plot lines (although I thoroughly enjoyed seasons six and seven of DS9).

Because of the strength of the science in this show, I want to give it a 4. However, if I were allowed to give half stars, I'd give it a 3.5. This tells me that since we can't do half stars, I should really settle at a 3, for a total of 6. I would call this above average Star Trek, but the science could have been explored and explained a bit more. The character development is done quite well, and contributes to an overall pleasant episode. I, too, am excited for what's to come!

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