Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 19 – Debuted Thursday, December 22, 2022
Written by Erin McNamara
Directed by Andrew L. Schmidt
An excellent episode that rises to the level of the big stakes on display with big payoffs for character and plot points that have been building for the whole series, while still leaving plenty to do in part 2 of the finale.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
The prodigies finally made it to Starfleet, but not the way they wanted. Facing a hostile armada, they cannot open a hail to explain things for obvious Construct-killing-everyone reasons. While Admiral Janeway is now up to speed, Dal says his short time in her body didn’t do her reputation any favors, admitting, “They think she’s crazy.” Stuck in the Dauntless brig, the admiral’s dire warnings seem to be falling on deaf ears as Tysess gets orders from an indignant Admiral Jellico to take down the Protostar’s shields and board the wayward ship… just as Asencia/The Vindicator wants. Left with no other choice, the Protostar crew (thanks to Zero’s “hotwiring”) take back control of the ship and put all their evasive maneuvering practice to work, buoyed by an inspirational speech from their captain—Dal talks of how they will all laugh about this one day at Starfleet Academy… umm. Gwyn cuts off Rok from spilling the beans… ixnay on the no augmentsway.
Back in the brig, Janeway finds a sympathetic ear with the brig officer, discovering this ensign she didn’t recognize was a former refugee she saved back in her Voyager days. That history of trust gets the admiral out of the brig as the fleet continues to hammer the Protostar. Gwyn decides it’s time to arm up to repel boarders, but Dal stops her, worried firing at Starfleet officers could look bad on her Academy application. She knows it’s time to tell him the truth but as she starts, Dal reads things wrong and picks this moment to make his big move… with a big ol’ kiss! Oh boy. After a lot of back-and-forth cringe, Gwyn drops the truth bomb: The admiral said he can never get into Starfleet. The news crushes the kid, but as the shields fail, he rallies with: “We all deserve to be somewhere.” He will be the one to take on the boarders to make sure the rest of his crew can join Starfleet. What a guy.
Asencia is done Trilling around and goes full Vindicator in the Dauntless transporter room, taking out the boarding party so the Vau N’Akat trio can board the Protostar and complete their mission… because The Living Construct requires a manual uplink, in case you were wondering. On the Protostar, Drednok takes on all the kids with the exception of Gwyn; she’s hiding out on the bridge as The Vindicator arrives, hitting Holo Janeway’s off switch so she can engage in some classic villain monologuing with gems like “Years we have waited for this, years they will suffer.” Concerned about his loyalty to his daughter, she tricks The Diviner into getting locked in the underdeck just as Gwyn reveals herself, armed with her heirloom. Of course The Vindicator has one too, so it’s time for some cool smart sword-thing fight action. Even after Gwyn lands a scar-inducing blow, the “You dare stand in the way of the Vau N’Akat” harangue continues. Naturally.
The rest of the kids have been pinned down, literally, by Drednok with a variety of the robot’s dastardly devices; security officer Murf is the last to be frozen (literally) following some fun and impressive ninja blob moves. Things are even worse on the bridge, as The Vindicator is getting the upper hand, calling Gwyn “a mistake… that shouldn’t exist.” Uncool, Asencia. The Diviner returns and is ordered to complete the mission as The Vindicator threatens Gwyn. And he makes his choice… for his daughter, using telekinesis to send his old heirloom straight at the Vindicator. But the younger Vau N’Akat is too fast, catching it and throwing it right back into his chest. As Gwyn cradles her dying father, a triumphant Vindicator opens a channel. Admiral Janeway shows up on the Dauntless bridge a second too late as the Construct pulses through the fleet. Complete with a maniacal laugh, The Vindicator has the audience she craves, informing Starfleet it’s payback time. And so it begins, as the ships all start firing on each other in a cruel pantomime of the Vau N’Akat civil war… revenge for a thing that hasn’t even happened yet. The Vindicator doesn’t do nuance.
Rok rallies the trapped kids using her big ol’ brain to free Murf, who frees Zero, who frees Dal (and so on), and soon enough they rush the bridge, vowing to make The Vindicator pay for what she’s done. Alas, she decides to bounce using her Drednok as an escape pod launched straight through the bridge canopy. They can do that? Gwyn cries over her father as he quite literally fades away, bestowing his mission to save Solum unto his daughter in his final moment, hoping she can find a way to peace that he could not. The girl has no time to grieve as the Living Construct has one last surprise—it shuts down the Universal Translator across the battling fleet. As his own crew also loses the ability to communicate, Dal sees the irony: It’s just like how they started back on Tars Lamora. Gwyn steps up, first comforting Rok and Pog. She studied languages as part of a plan to pit different species against each other, but now she can use her superpower for good, telling Admiral Janeway she stands by to act as a translator for the fleet.
Now Dal has a bright idea: if the Construct only affects Starfleet ships, why not ask others for help? And for this task, he gives the captain’s chair to Gwyn. When a dubious Klingon answers the distress call, Gwyn makes the hard sell with an impassioned speech that would impress Jean-Luc Picard, reminding the warrior that the Federation has always been there to help others. Well, it was worth a try. Things continue to deteriorate as Admiral Janeway braces for what looks like a fatal torpedo… but the Dauntless is saved as a Bird of Prey warps in to take the shot at the last moment, joined by more aliens and allies willing to put themselves in harm’s way. Beautiful. Things are looking up and the translators got fixed too, so maybe they are going to make it. Then a bunch more Starfleet ships arrive only to get infected and start firing at each other, and more automated distress calls mean even more waves of Starfleet reinforcements will come. Channeling her inner Ackbar, Rok points out the obvious: It’s a trap. With the Protostar unable to escape and without enough allied aliens to help, “there is nothing we can do… it’s an annihilation.” And that’s how you do a “Part 1.”
Things escalated quickly in this beautifully paced action-packed episode that paid off a number of emotional character beats. While only the first half of the finale, “Supernova, Part 1” delivered a complete episode, even with the dramatic cliffhanger. What makes this episode rise to an even higher level is how well it delivers the core messages and themes of Star Trek itself. You can sense how this crew has become a family and how they raise each other up. And you can see how they have come to embody the ideals of Starfleet (and therefore Star Trek), especially though Gwyn’s impassioned plea. “Everyone needs to know there is a place out there willing to accept us all no matter how different we think we are” is a message that resonates through the generations. You didn’t have to be a fan to feel the powerful emotion of this episode, but if are, it quite possibly brought a tear to your eye at least once.
All of this made the episode especially poignant for Gwyn, with Ella Purnell doing her best work on the series so far as she moved from action to heartbreak to inspiring. Her hero moment as the only one who could communicate was beautifully bookended with the series premiere and the “Babel” of Tars Lamora. The journey began working for the enemy, but she earned this moment of taking the captain’s chair, showing just how smart the development has been in this series for her and other characters. In his new interview with TrekMovie, John Noble said, “The Diviner’s redemption is necessary,” and we can see that here, as the actor shows off his prowess and completes the character’s long journey from the mysterious adversary of the series premiere to his final sacrifice for his daughter, evoking Darth Vader’s death in the arms of his son. Right as The Diviner becomes nuanced, Jameela Jamil has jumped in as the now deliciously over-the-top Vindicator, who peaced out just in time to return as the new big bad for the show.
All of the Vau N’Akat drama and action—including the super cool telekinesis/heirloom sword fight—was just part of a densely packed episode with standout moments for all of our characters along with big progression on the plot. When you think back, it’s astounding how much fit into this first half, including Dal’s double gut punch of a failed attempt at a kiss followed by learning he can’t get into Starfleet. BTW, Gwyn’s message about the Federation and Starfleet accepting everyone sort of belies this, but in the end could win the day. The potential romance between Dal and Gwyn has been telegraphed but once again the show finds a way of delivering something expected in an unexpected way. Plus there was still time for everyone else from the Janeways to the rest of the kids to have sweet and heroic moments, true to their characters, including some more adorable Murf-fu.
Returning to Gwyn’s hero moment of being the only one who could communicate, Trek fans may need to do some of their own headcanon technobabble to explain away why disabling the Universal Translator prevented Starfleet officers, who should all have a working knowledge of Federation Standard, from being able to communicate with each other. Perhaps the Construct was also scrambling voices so they could only be heard in their native tongues, but somehow that wasn’t the case on the USS Protostar itself. Maybe Holo Janeway fixed it so Gwyn could talk to Rok, Pog, and Admiral Janeway. It seems that Dal speaks Federation Standard as his native tongue, so perhaps Nandi (the Ferengi who raised him) uses this as a sort of universal trading language.
While we are down the nitpick rabbit hole, one might have been wondering for the last couple of episodes why the kids don’t try to sabotage or even destroy the USS Protostar. Even before Zero was able to “hotwire” control back from the Construct, Jankom Pog’s “percussive maintenance” abilities surely could have destroyed or removed something vital to keep the ship going. Trek fans may be hearing echoes of Lily in First Contact telling the kids to “blow up the damn ship,” but perhaps the clue is in the title and this obvious solution will finally dawn on the kids in “Supernova, Part 2.” Nitpicking is a time-honored Trek tradition, but these issues mostly come down to how this show is taking a few shortcuts because it is both time-limited and primarily geared to younger and non-Trekkie audiences. Thankfully, Prodigy avoids idiot plot-type tropes just to keep the action going. Also, longtime fans still get rewarded with scenes like Janeway’s unexpected ally from a deep-cut episode of Voyager.
This is one of (if not the) best episodes of the series so far. It’s also one of the strongest episodes of Star Trek, not just of the Paramount+ era but of the entire franchise. Prodigy is ending its exceptional first season (or season 1, volume 2, if you prefer) with a bang. The impressive writing, music, visuals, and acting that earned this series an Emmy nomination are on full display here, and even surpassed in some cases. And it’s only “Part 1.”
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New episodes of Prodigy debut on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., and on Fridays in Latin America and select countries in Europe. The series is also carried on SkyShowtime in the rest of Europe with the second half of season one expected to arrive in 2023.
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