Star Trek: Prodigy 1×16 Review: “Preludes”

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

Star Trek: Prodigy kicks into high gear with “Preludes”, which features a lot of flashbacks and provides answers to some questions that have been lingering since the series began. How did the Diviner end up with the Protostar? What happened to Chakotay? How did all the kids end up on Tars Lamora? Wonder no more, for we finally have our answers.

Bottle episodes – where the cast is confined to one location, usually done to save time and/or money – usually are more about character development than plot. But “Preludes” manages to flesh out some of our core characters and move the plot along at the same time. This is an episode where not that much happens, technically, but we learn so much information that it feels like a lot happened.

The Protostar is still stuck in the neutral zone as the crew tries to repair the warp drive. And the Dauntless is stuck waiting for the Protostar to make a move. Yet even after they finish repairing the warp drive, they still have to wait for it to be ready to charge. So while the kids are waiting, they share stories of how they ended up on Tars Lamora.

Each story is heartbreaking in its own way. Rok-Tahk used to be a pro-wrestler, basically, who got tired of being portrayed as the monster. As soon as she decided that she didn’t want to fight, her partner sold her. Jankom, already orphaned, was put in cryosleep to go on a mission and woken up early to repair the ship. When the oxygen levels fell too low, he voluntarily left so that the other Tellarites on board would be able to survive. And poor Zero was lured away from their colony and abducted.

These stories, brief as they are, provide a lot of insight to the characters. Rok-Tahk’s aversion to fighting comes from her dislike of the reactions to her “wrestling” performance. Due to her appearance and the language barrier, everyone just assumed she was the monster she pretended to be. Jankom’s engineering abilities were developed out of necessity, and now we also know why he always refers to himself in the third person. And after “Let Sleeping Borg Lie”, I assumed that Zero had voluntarily left their colony. Knowing how free they felt as part of their hive mind, and that they were forcibly removed, their reaction to the Borg makes so much more sense.

Sharing these will, I feel, bring these kids closer together. While they don’t have shared origins, they do have similar backstories. They have a combined purpose and a common goal, and nothing brings a group together more than tragedy and shared trauma. Every episode, these kids become more tight-knit and more like a cohesive crew.

Side note: the sequence with the Medusan colony was gorgeous. That may be one of my favorite bits of animation from the entire series.

Meanwhile, on the Dauntless, Ascencia (also known as the Vindicator) helps jog the Diviner’s memories to get him back on mission. In doing so, she answers all of the questions I posed at the end of last week’s review.

How long has Ascencia been undercover? On Solum, she and the Diviner were the same age, but when they and other Vau N’Akat went through a wormhole, they ended up coming out at different points. So while the Diviner has been cruising around the Delta quadrant for twenty years, for Ascencia it’s only been three.

Does she know what happened to Chakotay? Yes, because she was there. Chakotay and the Protostar came through the temporal anomaly and provided them the opportunity to take their revenge against Starfleet. Chakotay and the others were captured while the Vau N’Akat outfitted the Protostar with the Living Construct. But the Starfleet officers escaped and sent the Protostar back in time without a crew, forcing the Vau N’Akat to go after it. (It doesn’t seem that Chakotay was killed. However, he does seem to be stuck in the future on a dead planet.)

Is hatred for Starfleet a commonality among the Vau N’Akat? Yes, indeed it is. To hear Ascencia tell it, Starfleet is to blame for Solum’s civil war. While some, like the Diviner, wanted to join Starfleet, others, like Ascencia, were wary of an alliance. This led to decades of infighting, and eventually, they destroyed themselves. It seems as though they blame Starfleet for not taking a side, perhaps believing that if they had done so, the civil war wouldn’t have lasted as long or been as destructive.

I suppose I can’t really fault the Vau N’Akat for that belief. But at the same time, one can understand why Starfleet wouldn’t have wanted to interfere. They would most likely have come down on the side of those who wanted an alliance, but in doing so would have proven to the opposition that they were right to protest the alliance. If they had sided with the opposition, it would have been a betrayal of those who wanted to join. Remaining neutral was their only option, and that was also a poor choice.

Still, the fact that the Vau N’Akat’s answer was to go back in time and destroy Starfleet is a bit much. It’s reminiscent of Nero’s decision to destroy two planets just to punish Spock for being too late to save Romulus in the Star Trek reboot. Does killing thousands of innocents change the past? No. It just furthers the cycle of violence.

Also, I found the Diviner’s explanation for Gwyn’s betrayal extremely dismissive. “She met a boy.” It just completely disregards everything that Gwyn went through to break through her father’s brainwashing. She had a moral awakening, essentially, and it had to do with all of the kids. It wasn’t just about Dal. But then, the Diviner is, like, evil incarnate, so of course, he reduces Gwyn developing principles that conflict with his down to a boy.

One last question: How is Drednok alive? More importantly, how did he end up with Ascencia? Turns out, there are a bunch of different Drednoks! Every Vau N’Akat that went through the wormhole had a Drednok. So while this is Drednok, it isn’t the Drednok. I guess that’s a little reassuring.

Before I get off the topic, can I just say that I loved the use of different animation styles when Ascencia was telling the Diviner what happened? They utilized this same technique in the latest season of The Dragon Prince, and I’m a big fan. Animation as a medium has limitless possibilities, and changing up the art style for a flashback is such a great idea.

While all this is happening, Janeway finally learns that the thieves that she is chasing after are children who were sold into slavery and are in over their heads. It must occur to her that they have nothing to do with what happened to Chakotay. But when she goes to confront the Diviner, she discovers the truth about Ascencia. And then the Diviner knocks her out.

Now we’re starting to get somewhere! Ascencia protested the Diviner’s move, and while some part of me hopes that her three years undercover enamored her to at least some aspects of Starfleet, it’s more likely that she recognizes the tactical blunder. Now it’s only a matter of time before other crew members come looking for Janeway. Things. They be happening.

I’m also very curious as to what further part the Protostar will play in all of this. They cannot answer hails or they risk infecting the Dauntless and potentially the rest of Starfleet. When last we saw them, they were charging up the warp drive for a protostar jump. Yet I cannot imagine that they won’t somehow get involved in everything that’s currently going down on the Dauntless. The question is how?

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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