Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Prodigy, Season 1: Kobayashi

Prodigy, Season 1
Airdate: January 6, 2022

5 of 20 produced
5 of 20 aired


The USS Protostar emerges 4,000 lightyears away from its last position in the Delta Quandrant, and now finds itself in the Gamma quandrant, with its engines down. While searching for a lost Murf, Dal stumbles across the Holodeck, and in an attempt to prove to his crew that he is a capable captain, he decides to tackle the Kobayashi Maru. What could possibly go wrong?

I think this "new" ship was put together by monkeys.

Beth's Thoughts

Overall, this is a mostly fun episode. There are quite a few fun scenes, as well as a deepening of the mystery surround the Protostar's origins. We also discover that Murf may well be indestructible.  Meanwhile, Dal, along with a wide slate of cameos from great officers of the past, discovers that the Kobayshi Maru is truly a no-win scenario.

I'm a bit torn on this episode. On my first watch, I really had fun. Seeing all these beloved characters of Star Trek past was really neat, and was awesome fan service. Gwyn finding her purpose in the crew was also satisfying, and propels her redemption forward. The further mysteries she uncovers promise some interesting developments coming our way. The Protostar is not currently on its original mission - how was it co-opted? Finally, the surprise of Captain Chakotay popped up at the very end was also great (albeit not a huge surprise, because Robert Beltran spoiled the news well ahead of time).

On my second watch, a few things didn't sit quite right with me. Most of my problems lay in the way Spock, Uhura, Scotty, and Odo's dialogue was edited in. When watching on a TV with a decent audio system, it's clear how awkwardly it's all edited together. The clips are of widely varying quality, even within a character's uninterrupted lines. Especially egregious were some of Spock's lines. Any fan would know that lines were being pulled from multiple different sources (original episodes of TOS and various movies), and there wasn't any real work to blend them seamlessly together. It sounds very disjointed. 

I realize that this was a way to honor the actors who are no longer with us (and Nichelle Nichols, is by all accounts, not capable of reading new lines or scripts), and on the first watch, it was really nice. On the second watch, the flaws in the editing are more noticeable. I know it’s meant to be a sweet homage, but with the terrible sound editing, it comes off as a cheap stunt.

Finally - ugh. The use of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" is just way too reminiscent of J.J. Abrams using the Beastie Boys song "Sabotage" in the first Nu-Trek movie. I... just... I can only hope that the music that survives in the 24th century is Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart (among other classical greats) - not AC/DC and the Beastie Boys.

All this being said, the continued character growth for Dal is really great. He is an impulsive, stubborn, and immature teenager, but he is shown to be very capable of rolling with the punches. I'm eager to discover the true origins of the Protostar and more about Captain Chakotay's time in command. It's fun to see that he continued in Starfleet after returning home from the Delta Quandrant (at least within canonical Star Trek).

Because of the flaws with the audio editing and the horrible obnoxious music choices that remind me far too much of J.J. Abram's Nu-Trek... I have to knock this down to a 3. If it hadn't been for those two problems, I would have given it a 4.

Matthew's Thoughts 

So I like this one more than you do, I think, and perhaps is is because of having suffered through 4 seasons of Disco/Picard, or "Miserable People Doing Horrible Things," as I like to call it. Right off the bat, I agree wholeheartedly with the technical criticism with respect to voice acting. Much like Princess Leia seemed to be speaking to entirely different people in Star Wars Episode 9, here Spock especially seemed like he was phoning in dialogue from a different episode - which of course he was. But even worse was mixing snippets of dialogue from completely different decades of Leonard Nimoy's life. It was easily apparent which lines were from TOS, which from the movies, and which from Unification. The man was a heavy smoker, died of COPD, and the notion that voice recordings from his 30s and his 70s would blend seamlessly was farcical. Having Gates McFadden on board was a coup, of course, and her dialogue was gangbusters, and clearly tailored to the story. For the characters that had significant parts, they should have just recast voice actors for the roles, to be honest, and written more tailored dialogue for them.

OK, with that rather long criticism out of the way, for me everything else worked beautifully. Compared to Kurtzman Trek (MPDHT), this was such a breath of fresh air. Dal is competitive and insecure, which leads to him trying over and over on the test. My kids got a lot of good laughs over his failures, but there is also a lovely character story to be had. Dal learns a lesson in relying on others, and listening to them. We also get the nice button at the end of Gwen learning that Dal ordered them back for her. See? Nice People Doing Good Things.

I loved, no I LOVED the Enterprise D bridge. The recreation was gorgeous, cinematic, nostalgic, beautiful. It really raises the question why they don't just do an animated show following up all the characters we adore. Not that I don't want this show, because I like the characters and want to know their stories, but hell, if the D can look this good, why not give us the extended finale Voyager deserved, or Sisko's return from Space Jesus Land, or Riker and Troi on the Titan, or two more seasons of Enterprise? The actors are alive, the animation is movie-worthy, and at least these writers know what the hell they are doing and LIKE Star Trek.

Anyway, this episode was a 22-minute master class in telling a self contained tale with a moral, while also advancing the overarching plot of the show. Why can't anyone else manage to do this? Why do the writers of the bad shows insist on inverting the ratio of character story to Big Dumb Plot? Why are those shows so chock full of grotesque torture porn? The existence of Prodigy, which has consistently been not only entertaining, not only exciting, but also ACTUALLY STAR TREK, really puts the lie to the entire enterprise of Kurtzman Trek. It didn't have to be this way.

So for me, I would have given this a 5 if not for the technical problem that kept dragging my mind from the excellent story on offer. So I'm going with a 4.

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