Star Trek: Prodigy


2.5 stars.

Air date: 11/17/2022
Written by Lisa Schultz Boyd
Directed by Steve In Chang Ahn & Sung Shin

Review Text

"Crossroads" is a wacky, fast-paced, entertaining mess, but ultimately too frustrating and contrived to recommend. It has our Starfleet wannabes deciding to shut down, abandon, and bury the Protostar under an avalanche of snow, so they can continue their mission to make contact with the Federation without infecting them with the Unstoppable Super Virus Weapon that's aboard the ship. They arrive at Denaxi Depot, a snowy Mos Eisley port featuring Xindi security guards, where they make contact with numerous shady characters, including a middle-aged, eye-patched Captain Okona, from the notoriously bad TNG episode, "The Outrageous Okona."

Meanwhile, Admiral Janeway and the Dauntless also arrive at this depot in their continued investigation into the missing starship and the vanished Captain Chakotay. (Coincidentally, Barniss Frex is also here.) The Diviner has already remembered his daughter's name (but little else), and when Janeway's crew runs into our wannabes, certain contrived misunderstandings prompt them to run rather than staying and explaining themselves.

This leads to various near-misses where Janeway's team almost has conversations with — and then fails to capture — Dal, Gwyn, and the gang, who steal a nearby hovercraft and escape into the snowy wilderness where they get back aboard the Protostar, with Okona stowed away for good measure, and flee the planet at high warp.

Meanwhile, Murf hatches from his chrysalis/egg to reveal he now has legs. He promptly sits on a control panel that fires a torpedo at exactly the wrong time, making the Protostar look hostile when in reality its crew is merely a bunch of inept kids. Ultimately, Dal takes the ship into the Romulan neutral zone in an attempt to evade Janeway, which threatens to spiral into an interstellar incident. (I love how the Romulans are so defensive about a neutral zone that they themselves are already clearly deeply violating.)

Roger Ebert had the label "Idiot Plot" for a plot that would be solved immediately if the characters would just say the right words rather than having the plot constantly make them be idiots who steer around obvious truths, instead leading to maddening misunderstandings and disaster. Under that definition, "Crossroads" is a textbook Idiot Plot, with twists and turns that get in the way of communication and resolution at every possible opportunity. It's a lively and eventful one, but still frequently frustrating.

Previous episode: All the World's a Stage
Next episode: Masquerade

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16 comments on this post

    I'm really torn on this episode, because I thought it was pretty successful in isolation as an entertaining and fast-paced episode of TV. However, I really, really hate what it means for the remainder of the season arc.

    There was a lot to like here, particularly in terms of fanservice. We get to see the Xindi and meet Okana again. We get to have the kids run into various members of Janeway's crew. There's tense action scenes in spades, and the status quo was certainly upset by the end.

    But the episode - and the entire plot of the season - now rest on a series of contrivances which largely come down to no one being able to communicate properly. Stretching out a plot via miscommunication is one of the absolute worst writing crutches. Literally everything could have been solved if just one of Dal, Gwyn, or Jankom Pog actually could have said something coherent and understandable to a member of the crew of the Dauntless. But they all turn into a bunch of dum-dums who can't actually say the right thing because of the needs of the plot.

    Look, I get it. They want Vice-Admiral Janeway to be the antagonist for the back half of Season 1, and since she's good, and the kids are good, there had to be some scenario that would stop the kids from actually explaining what was going on. But having them to meet face-to-face with six episodes yet to come...and faceplant so just a letdown. I suppose we're meant to be disappointed like the kids are, but I'm more just left wondering why they're all absolute morons...which isn't something I should feel for the protagonists of a show.

    It's funny also because Janeway has EVERY REASON to want to chase down the vessel even without contrivances. A bunch of children piloting a Starfleet warship is, by itself, something that she must absolutely want to stop no matter the cost. The fact they shouldn't have it and are using it for "good" doesn't really apply materially to it.

    I thought the 'contrivances' actually worked reasonably well. That is, it makes sense that Jankom would be misdirected by a minor insult; Gwyn would be worried about her father coming after her; and Dal would want to protect himself and his crew from any consequences that may result from their first meeting with Starfleet. The fact that Rok calls them all out for not relaying the necessary information also means the writers are aware of these contrivances. Admittedly, this all does extend a not-so-thrilling chase between the Dauntless and Prodigy, but I'm hopeful the same won't arise week after week. Given as much, I enjoyed the episode quite a bit.

    Two stray thoughts, and one question: not a fan, at first glimpse, of Murf 2.0, and hope a 3.0 might lie ahead; the reasonable treatment of Okona here makes squaring Lower Decks with canon just a tad more difficult for me, personally; and where exactly in the universe are the crews? With regard to the latter, I was under the impression that the story was taking place in the Delta quadrant, but now there are Kazon mixing with Xindi and Klingons, and the neutral zone is in play. The series is either playing 'fast and loose' with space and time, or distance is practically immaterial in canon now. Said two episodes that the latter was not an issue, but it does raise some questions as to what may be possible in universe.

    Totally agreed with Jammer’s review and star rating: It’s frustrating to watch this one because of how lazily plotted it is. Idiot plots are never fun to watch. But there are interesting elements individually, like Okona.

    Just a lot of action, nothing thought-provoking and it definitely felt like Star Wars on the icy planet with the chase scenes. Probably great for the kids out there. Quite the coincidence with the real Janeway and her team meeting the Protostar crew just as they arrive at the transport station. Wasn't a fan when they threw in the Neutral Zone and Romulans right at the end -- like, how much fan service are they trying to cram in 1/2 hour??

    Are now the Xindi Reptilians are working for SF? That's an "interesting" way to get some ENT fan service...

    I think it is pushing it in terms of believability by getting all these loose ends to tie together now into one plot, but PROD is very much like VOY where often one has to turn off the brain and just sit back and enjoy the ride -- which hasn't been bad, to be fair.

    The Chakotay part remains a bit of a mystery -- and Vice Admiral Janeway is driven by her emotion in this respect. Not much is made consequentially of her 1st officer pointing this out to her -- but that's the Janeway we know from VOY, very stubborn.

    2 stars for "Crossroads" -- one would think eventually Vice Admiral Janeway will be able to welcome the Protostar kids into SF but we've got to go through some hoops to get there first. So we get some shallow adventure scenes here, nothing really intelligent, but probably great as a kids show.

    Particularly frustrating is that the idiocy could have been considerably mitigated by having Janeway and her officers interview Barniss Frex before the kids get to Denaxi Depot. A scenario where the kids are pursued on sight without a chance for explanation, given Frex’s bogus testimony, would have worked much better. In fact, I think I’ll make believe that’s what happened, because I otherwise enjoyed the episode.

    So, if the goal of these kids is to protect the federation from the Protostar, wouldn't the simplest coarse of action after meeting Janeway be to tell her everything?

    Instead they un-snow the hidden Protostar and get in a chase where eventually they WILL be caught... putting Star Fleet and the Federation at risk.

    I know they are kids but...

    Still fun to watch.

    2 new Merf's from me.

    I think 2.5 stars is fair.

    Sure, the Protostar crew could have been more straightforward, but where has that gotten them so far? They were lucky to escape forced servitude. Dal's mother figure turned out to be something of a manipulator. And the crew's first contact with actual, non-holographic Starfleet personnel was a pretty mixed bag.

    Think of when you grew up, you looked up to an adult, only to later be disappointed when they let you down in some way or another. That's what I think this episode was going for by having the Protostar's crew get disillusioned in their first meeting with Starfleet people. It's hard to communicate when the power dynamic is very much in Starfleet's favor.

    Oh, how I hate this kind of Idiot Plot. After too many exposures to it, and being thoroughly burned with it in the acclaimed duology Blackout/All clear by Connie Willis, I cannot stand it anymore.

    Let's hope for a return to form in future episodes.

    A plot that depends on miscommunication and peo­ple not com­ing clear when it is darn ob­vious they should is never very good. Also, there is fun­­da­­men­­tal am­bi­gui­ty of the danger:

    *) We are told that our heroes cannot even open a channel to Star­fleet without infecting Starfleet by The Weapon™, but the re­lay sta­tion was in­fec­ted only after ac­ces­sing the logs of the “Pro­to­star”, not after simple com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Call me confused.

    *) When they have a chance to talk to Starfleet personnel face to face, they all both it.

    *) The politics of the Neutral Zone is as ambiguous as ever — Star­fleet can­not enter it, but the Ro­mu­lans are al­ways there wait­ing for Star­fleet ships. What does “Neu­tral” mean here? Ap­pa­rent­ly, it means “oc­cu­pied and ad­mini­stra­ted by Ro­mu­lans”, which is paradox.

    I am not impressed and give 1½ points for a plot that doesn’t work and fits bet­ter to Star­­Wars than to Trek. Let’s hope it will im­­pro­ve in the rest of the sea­son.

    On the other side: Props to the Xindi having an appearance (the first since “Enterprise”?). It’s al­ways good to learn what has be­come of the big ene­mies of yester­year, especially when the we can see that re­la­ti­ons have be­come nor­mal to some extent.

    To be fair, they're at least consistent about the Neutral Zone. Through much of TNG, it's treated more like a no-fly zone administered by the Romulans.

    Prodigy has exceeded my expectations, and I've really been enjoying it. But "Crossroads" was a big let-down for me.

    When plots are driven by nonsensical decision making by the main characters, it completely pulls me out. Sure, these are just kids, but these are kids that have accomplished a lot (a couple weeks ago they faced off against the Borg!). Three of them had the opportunity to tell the truth to Starfleet, and, instead of taking the opportunity to set the record straight, they run away, instigate a "car chase," and then reveal the starship that will potentially destroy the Federation.

    For a show marketed toward a younger audience, Prodigy has been surprising smart & well-written. Which is why I was taken aback by the sloppy writing in "Crossroads." These characters have grown throughout the course of the season, and they are smarter than what was reflected by their actions in this episode.

    I was particularly taken aback by Janeway's use of the word "savages", and the accompanying aggression, used to describe a group of people about whom she doesn't have the backstory or understanding. This felt VERY out of character to me. What happened to Federation acceptance of all cultures and scientific inquiry?!

    Everyone compares the chase to Star Wars, but I thought it was a pretty clear callback to Serenity, when Mal et al. fled from the Reavers.

    Oh, I liked this one. I agree that it's an Idiot Plot, which is annoying, but I thought it was almost plausible. Jankom has always been more interested in arguing than having a meaningful conversation. Gwyn is terrified of her father. And Dal at least was trying to have a conversation with Janeway before he got interrupted.
    I really like that the show isn't just trying to string out them getting to the Alpha quadrant - I expected a lot of story-of-the-week episodes while they tried to get there and instead Janeway and crew have found them and the chase is on. I thought they played Janeway and Dal meeting really well - she is both recognisably the mother-figure Dal knows, and a completely different person with a different agenda, and I'm not surprised he floundered a bit on encountering her. I liked that we got a sense that a relationship was possible between them while also acknowledging that they are basically two strangers meeting in a spaceport. And given that his last mother sold him into slavery, I'm not surprised he ran away.
    I just hope they don't string out 'we can't communicate!' for too long and figure out an answer. These are smart kids, it can't be too hard a problem to solve. There must be a Federation equivalent of Morse code or something they can use.

    Galadriel, if you ever come back to this, wasn't the point about the relay station that they DIDN'T communicate with it, they just showed up?

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