Star Trek: Prodigy 1×15 Review: “Masquerade”

Star Trek Prodigy Masquerade
Photo: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ ©2022 VIACOM INTERNATIONAL. All Rights Reserved.

In an episode that could have easily served as a finale, “Masquerade” answers one of Star Trek: Prodigy‘s most burning questions. It also basically completely changes the game, dropping a major bomb in the final scene.

“Masquerade” finds our intrepid Protostar crew limping along through the neutral zone. They’ve managed to evade Starfleet after their harrowing chase in last week’s episode, but with the ship damaged, there is only so much they can do. Luckily, Okana knows of a nearby starport that should have the materials necessary to fix the nacelles.

I really loved the opening sequence. Okana’s presence on the ship has obviously been getting to Dal. Dal has some of the best character development so far, yet he’s regressing the longer the charming rogue stays on board. His Captain’s Log, which had been sounding more and more like that of an actual Starfleet captain, went back to being flippant. He fantasizes about blasting Okana out of an airlock. It’s the perfect reminder that these are literal children.

Dal shouldn’t be comparing himself to Okana; he’s just a kid! Naturally, he’s not going to have the same kind of life experience as someone like Okana. But imposter syndrome is something everyone faces, and Dal’s insecurities have been on display for all to see for ages. His main issue with Okana is not how much he knows, but how well he knows himself. And Dal, who has no idea even what species he is, is envious of that.

The lingering question of “who is Dal?” and “where did Dal come from?” was answered in this episode. The grand mystery of why no one knows what species Dal is has a very logical answer: he’s essentially every species. Dal was created in a lab by Arik Soong, using various traits from approximately 26 different alien species. Dal is distraught to learn that he has no parents, no family. His entire journey so far has been learning about where he comes from, and it turns out that he technically comes from nowhere.

When faced with the potential to become a better version of himself, Dal originally declines, remembering Janeway’s warning that what sounds too good to be true usually is. However, he secretly gets the upgrade implant, which gives him brand new skills like telepathy and increased agility. Unfortunately, Janeway’s adage is proven correct when his new upgrade ends up leading them into trouble.

You see, the Protostar wasn’t as sneaky as they thought they were when they camouflaged their ship to head into the neutral zone. The Romulans were fully aware of their presence and have followed them. They knew somehow that the Protostar was valuable – whether it’s because they did a scan themselves or because they recognized the Dauntless‘s desperation in going after it.

Whatever the reason, the Romulans come after Dal because they need him to get into the ship’s systems. Dal takes the opportunity to turn on his fancy new upgrade, and it almost immediately goes haywire on him. He cycles through several species – including Klingon, Vulcan, and Tellarite – gaining new characteristics as he goes. At one point he produces some sort of ooze.

His telepathy alerts him of the danger, but he isn’t able to take advantage. One of their pursuers slips on the ooze. But in the end, Dal’s desire to better himself renders him virtually useless. Surprisingly, it’s Murf who comes to the rescue, leaping out of his little hamster ball and successfully taking out all of the Romulans.

“Masquerade” provides a valuable lesson on the importance of being yourself. Gwyn and Rok are against Dal getting the upgrades from the start, assuring him that he doesn’t need to be “fixed”; he’s fine the way he is. When he isn’t able to help in their time of need, despite being “made better”, he realizes that his insecurities are his worst enemy. He can’t take a shortcut and become worldly and knowledgeable like Okana. But as Gwyn points out, Okana abandoned them at the first sign of trouble, and Dal stayed. He’s a good person, and that’s what’s important.

I like how apparently with every episode, Prodigy is going to introduce a new area of science, using Rok as a vessel. We’ve had physics, climatology, and now genetics.

Back on the Dauntless, real!Janeway faces an impossible decision. She can’t violate their treaty with the Romulans to pursue the Protostar into the Neutral Zone. But at the same time, she can’t let the Romulans acquire the Protostar. When it seems as though the Romulans are going to win, they fire torpedoes at the ship, hoping to cripple its systems but not harm any of its crew. Thankfully, due to Murf’s amazing combat prowess, they’re able to divert the torpedoes before any damage is done.

I go back and forth as to what’s going on in Janeway’s head. Last week, learning that the Protostar was crewed by children definitely gave her pause. I have to believe that she was going back over Frex’s statement, second-guessing everything he told her. But she still pursued the kids with single-minded determination, seemingly not interested in giving them a chance to explain.

In “Masquerade”, upon learning that the kids somehow managed to defeat an elite Romulan strike force, she seems reluctantly impressed. She must recognize that there is something special about these kids. I can only hope that she gives them the benefit of the doubt when they next meet face-to-face.

As for the huge bombshell that got dropped in the final moments of the episode, can you believe that Ascencia is actually Vau N’Akat? I’ve been getting weird vibes from her since the beginning, and in “Crossroads”, I found it odd that she seemed to be so close to the Diviner. And her reaction to the Protostar not being destroyed seemed very shady. Now I understand why. She knows who the Diviner is, she knows what his mission is, and she has the same mission.

I am blown away by this revelation. How long has Ascencia been undercover? Does she know what happened to Chakotay? I always assumed that the Diviner’s desire for vengeance against Starfleet was his own obsession. Is hatred for Starfleet a commonality among the Vau N’Akat?

Not only that, but Drednok is alive! How is Drednok alive? More importantly, how did he end up with Ascencia?

While this episode could have easily served as a season or mid-season finale, I’m extremely glad that it didn’t. That means we only have to wait one week to find out what happens next, instead of months. And I am so very excited to see what happens next.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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