Star Trek: Prodigy

"Dream Catcher"

2.5 stars

Air date: 11/11/2021
Written by Lisa Schultz Boyd
Directed by Steve In Chang Ahn & Sung Shin

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

For their first away mission following their escape from the Diviner's clutches and their warping through the unknowns of the Delta Quadrant (that's where we are, as there's a mention of passing through Hirogen space), the crew lands on an uninhabited but lush planet to escape the confines of the ship and take a quick stroll to explore. What could go wrong?

"Dream Catcher" is a serviceable Trekkian episode in the tried-and-true subgenre of "crew sees illusions of what they desire." For example, Dal finds projections of his real parents (whom he never met) but can't see their faces. Pog finds a home in the middle of a fart swamp, proving that deep down he's Shrek. Zero finds the Protostar's mysterious engine in the middle of a forest — because mysteries are so all-consuming and intriguing to him. Rok finds a lot of cute creatures that are cuddly. All of this is being supplied to our characters by the planet in an attempt to lure them in and keep them there forever so it can ... eat them? (If this planet hopes to sustain itself by eating the few people who happen to land there, that seems about as effective as fueling the Death Star with a drop of gasoline.)

Already, Dal's incompetence and arrogance as self-appointed captain is looking to be an early weakness on this show. The way he takes pleasure in Gwyn being locked up seems needlessly cruel and shortsighted, and his casual disregard for his crewmates as he takes the dune buggy out for a spin is overly immature. Yeah, he's a kid, but so is everyone else. This is laying on the wrong-headed inexperience so heavily that it becomes self-defeating and simply makes the character unlikable.

Gwyn breaks out of her cell and is able to quickly take control of the ship (realizing that she has special skills; perhaps she is the show's "prodigy"?) and sends a message to her father, alerting him to where she and the Protostar are located. But with the planet's tenacious tentacles preventing takeoff, the episode ends with the ship crashing and the entire crew stranded. "Dream Catcher" is really the first part of a two-parter, and as such, inconclusive.

Previous episode: Starstruck
Next episode: Terror Firma

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14 comments on this post

Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Star Trek: Prodigy
Season 1 Episodes 3 & 4
Starstruck and Dreamcatcher

“Their kisses are so wet!”

- Rok-Tahk

Mal’s review before Jammer’s

3 stars (out of 4)

Running at less than 25 minutes each, it probably makes more sense to review these mini-episodes two at a time. That way there is enough meat in them to make sense of the plot.

And I have to say, I really like where the plot is taking us!

After our crew escape the mining planet at the end of the pilot, we first take a very necessary 24 minute break to get to know the ship, a certain U.S.S. Protostar (*not* Pornstar). I have to say, the ship is pleasantly pretty and a welcome change from the gloomy designs we’ve been stuck with on the rest of nuTrek. Taking us through the basics of the ship is the handy-dandy Widows OS Paperclip played by none other than holo-Janeway!

And what a pleasure it is to see Janeway demoted to the rank of holo-help desk :-)

Our group of children, “Captain” Dal, medusan Zero, rocky Rok-Tahk, piggy Jankom, and of course their pet blue blob Murf, obviously have no idea what to do with a federation starship. So holo-Janeway assumes they must be cadets. Turns out Windows OS Paperclips are equally stupid in the future!

Gwynala, the super-villian’s daughter, is tied to the captain’s chair, and there is a fun exchange where she and Dal both try to convince holo-Janeway that they are captain. In “Starstruck," at least, Dal comes out with a slight edge. The crew’s search for the brig is a nice tour of the ship, and Dal’s reaction to the Captain’s quarters is pretty much on the nose for any teenager getting his own room.

All in all, not much happens in Starstruck, but that’s ok. We need a second to catch our bearing.

The real exploring happens in “Dreamcatcher." Which is a pretty good name given the plot. Keeping with the Voyager cameos (in the pilot we saw a Kazon), here we land on a Hirogen planet that is basically a venus fly trap. You see the plot “twist” a mile away, but that’s ok, because the point is to use the planet’s powers to explore our characters’ deepest desires and fears. Luke at Degoba. Or Rey under the Jedi Isle. Good stuff.

Here we get the first big test of the annoyance level of Rok-Tahk, and I have to say, I found her to be quite cute with her vision of a million loving puppies.

Dal, true to his model of Disney ruffian with a heart of gold, turns out to be an orphan who doesn’t even remember what his parents looked like. Holo-Janeway is as close to an adult he has in his life, and when he runs away in fear, the “Janeway” he screams is a perfect stand-in for “mommy!”

Seeing the planet use Janeway’s image as a Little Mermaid Ursala like demon was freaky and fun (@Jeffrey's Tube).

I can’t say I could make head or tail of Zero’s dream. The Medusan remains a mystery to me.

We get the G-rated version of Jankom’s dream, with gluttony substituted (for the sake of the kids) in for lust. But again the voice-acting does the heavy lifting, and his “mmmmm… what?” is pitch perfect for the adults to get a chuckle at what the writers were really getting at. Nice. Jason Mantzoukas brings the same mad-cap humor to Prodigy as he did to Brooklyn-Nine-Nine, and a man his age really nails the two levels of humor necessary to make this an enjoyable outing for both kids and adults.

Speaking of Brooklyn, Ella Purnell’s Gwynala gets a wonderfully ambivalent story line. She’s very devoted to her father (earlier I called her Gamora to her father’s Thanos, and I think that still carries over pretty well here), but she is also extremely competent in her own right, and the line about her father teaching her IT as she is overriding holo-Janeway was a clever one. No surprise that the planet uses her father’s image to lure her to stay. The scene where Gwynala recognizes it isn’t her dad, because he says he is proud of her and opens his arms to hug her - man, that hit a little close to home…. Gamora, I mean Gwynala is prepared to abandon the rest of the cast on the planet, but for some reason she goes back for the blue blob (who is in no way C-3P0). Cause sometimes the feelings override cold calculations.

We end the episode on a solid cliff-hanger.

This isn’t exactly “Mr. Worf, fire,” but I for one will be tuning in next week to see where this goes.
Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 10:57am (UTC -5)
I thought this week's episode (Dreamcatcher) was good - a solid step up from the previous week. The well-used "planet of the week" trope - that they can see their greatest desires - really helped add some complexity to Dal and Gwyn in particular. I liked that The Diviner actually had a plot-relevant role as well, and they weren't just cutting back to him to remind the kids he was out there. The cliffhanger threw me for a loop though - after last week I had thought we were going with semi-serialization, but it looks like the show may (at times) be fully serialized.

Grading on the curve of it being a kids show, I'd say 3/4?
Eric Cheung
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 5:17pm (UTC -5)
I've been writing reviews of my own for all new Trek since DSC's The Vulcan Hello, usually, immediately after watching each episode. So, I suppose I'll post my reviews, too, bearing in mind they were written on each release date, so they reflect that.

1x01&02 Lost and Found

I keep saying that Star Trek is, above all, about communication. Even more than that, it's about seemingly implacable foes learning to communicate in order to solve problems. You don't need Starfleet to tell that story. You frankly, don't even need space. I would love a Star Trek show that took place right now, or even in the near future, that shows how we overcome the seemingly impossible task of wresting control from the powerful to avert climate extinction, or how we resolve World War III and reassess the very concept of war and international conflict as we rebuild from the ashes. I've definitely wanted a civilian Trek series for a long time, so I've been really excited for this one.

That's a slight digression.

This show starts on a prison labor camp, where everyone has their communication robbed from them. No one gets a universal translator and everyone speaks a different language. But there's one prisoner who's young and stubborn enough to have hope. Dal R'El (pronounced a few different ways this episode), keeps trying to escape. His youth and inexperience kind of makes his attempts fairly public. He doesn't quite know how to play his cards close to the vest, yet. Sometimes...a lack of communication is warranted. And he doesn't even know his own species.

Along the way, he meets Zero, a Medusan. We last saw one of them way back in the third season of TOS, when Diana Muldaur played a blind telepathic ambassador who could communicate with the non-corporeal Kollos. Anyone who caught a glimpse of Kollos would go mad. So, Zero built themself a suit that protects others from that madness, a bit like Cyclops' visor in The X-Men. Zero is very literal and telepathic, so they can sometimes also not know when to play their cards close to the vest. They also betray what Dal is thinking a lot of the time.

Zero is also a prisoner at this camp being hunted by Drednok for Solum. Right now, we don't know their motives, but that'll be cleared up, soon enough, I'm sure. Zero was captured so that they could be used as a torture device against at least one Lurian prisoner, and probably others.

Translating for both Drednok and Solum is Gwyn, who clearly wants to escape, but she's stuck working for them, so she tries to ameliorate the situation for prisoners, for example, by trying to make sure the newest prisoner, a very young Caitian, is the last quite that young. I presume she'll realize the only way out is a rejection of the entire system. But for now, she's a pragmatist that believes Dal's hope is futile.

One day, after a particularly public escape attempt, Dal is assigned to mine on the Northwest Crevasse. He watches a completely pictorial instruction and safety video (again just enough information from the wardens to keep the prisoners on a need-to-know, without letting them learn enough to cooperate and bond), where he's assigned a partner, an intimidating rock monster, with low grunts.

Through an accident, the two of them stumble upon the USS Protostar, NX-76884, an advanced ship that looks to be of a vintage roughly circa the USS Prometheus, but with the holographic displays Rios might enjoy. The point is, it's a ticket out. This is presumably the cutoff between the two parts.

The rest of the episode is about assembling the crew, and getting the ship repaired to get out of their. The "rock monster" is a kid named Rok-Tahk. The two of them use the universal translator embedded inside a commbadge to introduce themselves to each other. Zero arrives to introduce themself. But they need an engineer, so Dal goes to a Tellarite he knows named Jankom Pog.

Jankom Pog is a cheerful, but still argumentative, mechanic who is quite susceptible to reverse psychology. So, he's on-board.

Rok-Tahk wants to bring a cute little ball of slime named Murf.

So, that just leaves Gwyn. Still working for Drednok and Solum, she leads an army of robot watchers Dal's way, but the kids...nap her and they're on their way, providing hope to the other prisoners that escape is possible...with Murf butt-dialing up some phasers.

Before they decide where to go, hologram Janeway appears, ready to offer some help.

The show has a fun tone that would definitely appeal to kids. I remember when I went to see the 2009 film. Kirk says to Pike, "You can whistle real loud," which got some laughs from some of the youngest kids in the audience. That style of humor is in this show, one that might seem a bit too detached and observational to be present, but sometimes that's the way kids interact with the world, by trying to understand what they're seeing and making honest observations of it.

This premiere does a good job of setting up the characters, but leaving plenty of room for mystery. It'll be fun to see where this show goes.

The biggest conflict amongst the crew we'll probably see is between Gwyn and Dal. Perhaps a bit like the Boimler and Mariner dichotomy, in terms of the establishment versus maverick ideologies? Well, perhaps, though I think the establishmentarian is the one with more angst, this time. Dal will have to learn to temper himself a bit. It'll be fascinating to watch him mature.

And I see nice ways the other characters can add complications to situations. Zero will probably end up being too honest a lot of the time, and Jankom Pog will probably let pride get the better of him.

Rok-Tahk is a bit of a mystery, but I think this might be a character not to underestimate. "I'm big, not dumb." Who knows what Murf will be like?
I was disappointed they didn't bring the Caitian kitten along with them, as I thought she was a nice surprise, and it would have been great to spring her from the clink. Maybe we'll find out, anyway.

But everyone's pretty likable, so I'd love to find out.
Jason R.
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
Even in the context of your review the use of plural pronouns for an individual character is intensely annoying. Don't tell me they di that shtick in the episode?
Jason R.
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 5:40pm (UTC -5)
Oh now this is interesting, real life Medusans:

Medusan refers to someone who is alterhuman, non-human, or otherkin who is attracted to other alterhuman or sapient non-human beings. This includes attraction to sapient monsters, aliens, and mythical creatures. This attraction can be exclusive, or one can be attracted to humans as well. A similar term to this is anuafsexual. The non-human exclusive version is Otherkinian
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Pretty good episode here, good story, superb visuals of the ship landing and the planet's landscapes -- quite enjoyed it. Felt like "Shore Leave" with more purpose and a cliff-hanger ending -- are they stranded on this carnivorous planet with the ship damaged from the failed take-off and crash landing? It's good when the writers can create a solid self-contained episode within the larger arc.

I guess I'm now realizing "Prodigy" is kind of like to VOY what "Lower Decks" is to TNG -- different styles of tribute shows.

Just some of the capabilities of the characters takes some getting used to -- like how Gwyn frees herself and the Medusan's telepathic abilities to deduce what the planet is doing. Interesting how their tricorders tell them there's no life but their eyes/minds deceive them.

On the high end of 2.5 stars for "Dream Catcher" -- best episode of "Prodigy" thus far and for a 1/2 hour animated episode, pretty darn good. Not much in the way of character development here but just a reasonably good adventure. Some VOY episodes that share some of the main theme would be "Coda", "Bliss", "Persistence of Vision".
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 6:08pm (UTC -5)
@Eric Cheung, that's a fun review. Do you have reviews for episodes 3 and 4? Would love if you posted them too.
Eric Cheung
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 8:07pm (UTC -5)
1x03 Starstruck (also the name of a Kinks song)

Picking up right where we left off, we get to meet the hologram Janeway. She's there to train cadets, she assumes. Her presence is exactly the sort of thing that would be helpful to have if you've just stolen a completely alien ship and you're on the run. Most of the crew agrees...

Dal, whom I guessed will learn to mature over the course of the series, definitely has that lesson to learn this week. When Janeway tells the crew about the Federation, they are entranced by the pitch. They're starstruck. But all Dal hears is the propaganda of another authority figure. When Janeway suggest setting a course for Federation space, he shocks the crew by ordering a course almost exactly in the opposite direction, somewhere vaguely dangerous.

On the one hand, he should be skeptical, given the only life most of them have known is the toil of labor in a prison designed, at the risk of being redundant, purely for the benefit of its architects.

It's something Rok-Tahk confronts Gwyn about, when the crew throw Gwyn into brig. Rok-Tahk is a gentle soul, but she's also someone who knows when something is unjust and she recognizes that Gwyn was a collaborator. The fact that Gwyn believed her father's propaganda that the prisoners were criminals is a thin excuse, but as with Dal's selfishness, something that's slightly more forgivable amongst the young. One thing is absolutely clear, she's on a redemption path as well.

Meanwhile, everyone else gets to explore the ship. Again, they're starstruck. Rok-Tahk and Jankom Pog visit the mess hall, where Janeway teaches them about the replicator. A symbol of the post-scarcity economy of the Federation, as well as a symbol of the freedom of choice for the famished, it's not what eventually brought about universal distribution of necessities. That came a couple of centuries before the replicator. Jankom Pog orders what might have been a requested last meal, while Rok-Tahk settles for Nutri-Goop...prison food. She's intimidated by infinite choice. Janeway tells her to dream big, hinting at what Rok-Tahk's arc will be.

Dal and Zero are exploring the sleeping quarters. Evidently, while the ship is quite small, there are far more beds than they require, with a crew deck not unlike the bunks in Star Trek VI, the Defiant, or the hallway in Lower Decks. But Dal takes the captain's quarters, and STILL complains about the lumpiness of the bed.

Jankom Pog explores main engineering (two warp cores and...something else?) when a red alert klaxon summons the crew to the bridge. Dal's course sent them into a binary system where an orbiting white dwarf threatens to tear apart a gas giant, and the Protostar along with it. Starstruck.

Dal does everything he can without actually asking for help, and it goes predictably badly. During the course of this emergency, Gwyn escapes, activates the vehicle replicator, and disables artificial gravity. Rok-Tahk goes to stop her, but Gwyn counters that Rok-Tahk is a collaborator too, by listening to Dal. I'm not sure that's quite fair, since as green as Dal is in command, he's not actively trying to oppress an entire workforce. And the scope of the damage he can do is significantly smaller. One thing Rok-Tahk does do in the midst of their hand-to-hand combat is disarm Gwyn, by taking her shapeshifting weapon before returning her to the brig.

Dal does finally ask for help, and gets them out of the jam, but not with taking credit for doing so. Baby steps. After all, Janeway says that when the Federation started, it was made up of such foes. They had to learn to communicate in order to solve problems. So will this crew.

Meanwhile, we get a little check-in with the Diviner, who activates the entire prison into a cloaked vessel. The Protostar crew may be on the run, but they're being chased.
Eric Cheung
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
1x04 Dreamcatcher

While the first three episodes are sort of a setup for the rest of the series, they could kind of be self-contained stories in a lot of ways. This third one sets up a much more serialized storyline.

But let's take a look at what happens here. Dal is still unsure what kind of course to plot, so Janeway suggests an M-Class planet. Well, she more than suggests it. She orders them to go there on penalty of a report filed to Starfleet. When her human counterpart's ship was on its course home, side trips were optional, and part of her drive as a scientist who became a captain. I think that when she turned away in last week's episode as she said they were clearly cadets, she revealed to the audience that it's not nearly that clear at all. I wonder if her motive in threatening a report is to tease out a confession.

Janeway gives Dal, Rok-Tahk, Jankom, and Zero their gear: newly designed tricorders that seem to build on the Nemesis/Endgame tricorders, Type 1 phasers that look a bit like cobra head Type 2s, and the Runaway, an Argo-like ground vehicle...with four seats. Just as with VOY, this ship can land.

Dal and the others left Gwyn, Janeway, and Murf behind, Gwyn as a prisoner, Janeway because Starfleet still hasn't been able to reverse engineer mobile emitters, and Murf because there isn't much tech to eat. Dal takes the vehicle for himself and Gwyn not only escapes, but contacts her father, the Diviner.

Dal still having a thing or two to learn about selfishness is to be expected, but Gwyn can no longer claim ignorance in collaborating with the Diviner. Just as Janeway might not entirely trust Dal, she certainly doesn't trust Gwyn, so Gwyn reprograms the ship to take command.

The planet itself, is a bit like the shore leave planet. Since Dal abandoned the other three, each goes off on their own little adventure. Zero, ever the mystery-solver, finds themself in a maze with the ultimate mystery, the ship's strange engine component. Rok-Tahk, ever the animal-lover, finds herself amongst a horde of furry critters. Jankom, ever hungry, fills his space helmet with food. Dal, ever-curious about his origins sees a vision of his parents, or at least what he thinks they look like.

But, maybe there's a bit of a leader's instinct in him after all, as he's the first to realize this planet isn't the place for any of them. He grabs Zero, who figures out the planet is a giant organism that shows its prey exactly what it wants to show them before using its cilia to consume them. The two retrieve Rok and Jankom before heading back to the ship.

Gwyn's vision is of her father. But like Dal, she's too smart to fall for that trick. So, she tries to get back onto the ship and escape, but the Protostar is trapped in the cilia. She tries taking the damaged shuttle from last week and ends up crashing. Dal takes the Runaway to rescue Dal, but not before letting her know that she stranded them all.

The release schedule and episode count for this show is a little strange. The first season will be released in three parts: the first five episodes which ends next week, then another five episodes starting in January, then another TEN sometime late next year. That leads me to believe that next week will be another pretty big cliffhanger.

Where will that leave these characters? Will they get their ship back? Will Gwyn or the crew at least come to understanding the perspective of the other, even if forgiveness is too early at this point? Will the Diviner have a better idea where to find them? Will the Caitian kid get rescued, or better yet, will the prisoners revolt? If this really is the Hirogen planet, will we see some Hirogen hunters? What does Janeway know?

Serialization is kind of a classic structure in children's television, going back to shows like Doctor Who, and even further back, having its roots in serial matinees, comic books, pulp fiction, and serial novels of the 19th century. I mean, given Star Trek has had a lot of experience with this format by now, with the TOS movies and TNG starting some light serialization, then with DS9's sprawling arcs, ENT's season-long stories, and DSC and PIC operating on the same model as ENT's season three. But with the shorter episodes, it seems remarkable enough to mention this show's ties to the heritage of children's media.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling adventure!
Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 9:40pm (UTC -5)
Fantastic writeups, @Eric Cheung! A few comments,

"Her presence is exactly the sort of thing that would be helpful to have if you've just stolen a completely alien ship” - LoL - yes, thank god Teslas aren't as friendly to thieves !

"Janeway teaches them about the replicator. A symbol of the post-scarcity economy of the Federation, as well as a symbol of the freedom of choice … Rok-Tahk settles for Nutri-Goop...prison food.” Fantastic point I just wanted to highlight and pull out for others.

I haven’t seen @Peter G. or any of our other regulars (oh, here's @Rahul! so maybe folks will come along for Prodigy soon enough?). Hopefully we’ll get some of the higher quality folks on here to also chime in. There is definitely food for thought in this show.

"But Dal ... STILL complains about the lumpiness of the bed… .” I don’t see it that way. I think he was trying to do what a lot of kids do, which is say “this thing sucks, you totally don’t want it,” because they themselves really, really want it.

"Janeway suggests an M-Class planet. Well, she more than suggests it. She orders them to go there on penalty of a report filed to Starfleet.” The technical term is blackmail.

"an Argo-like ground vehicle” I think it is worth pointing out how much better this works in Prodigy than it did in Nemesis. All in all, I have to say I’ve enjoyed the first 4 episodes of Prodigy (1.8 hours) far more than I did the last TNG film.

"She tries taking the damaged shuttle from last week and ends up crashing.” I think one of the great things I forgot to mention in my review of “Starstruck”, and which you didn’t mention either, is the “Vehicle Replicator.” I laughed out loud when the ships asks Gwynala if she’d like a shuttle craft made? Talk about a great Voyager joke!

"Will they get their ship back?” I was assuming they were going for something like Voyager’s season 2 cliff hanger, “Basics,” but if you’re saying there is one more big cliff hanger coming up next week, then I really can’t wait to see what they come up with.

"Serialization is kind of a classic structure in children's television, going back to shows like Doctor Who…” Yes, there were many long-arc cartoons when I was a kid. It is great to see Prodigy take on a similar structure.

I hope we get a few more folks to join us as we wrap up the first five episodes next week!
Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 8:44am (UTC -5)
S1: E5 "Dream Catcher"

This episode made me think of VOY: "Bliss".

Once again I enjoyed it. I'm assuming that someday Dal will become a team player.

I certainly wasn't expecting a cliffhanger in this.

Hopefully, Gwyn will stay out of the brig when they get back aboard Prodigy. We learn she is very educated. I was a little surprised her initial action was to leave everyone behind.

I enjoy Rok-Tahk and Zero.

It seemed weird to me that Zero couldn't figure out to go up to get out of the maze.

Once again, the animation is quite impressive.

Can't wait until next week.

3 stars from me.
Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 8:45am (UTC -5)

I must say I'm pleasantly surprised with "Prodigy" thus far, knowing I'm not the target audience. It seems there wasn't much hoopla about it leading up to its premiere.

I'd also say that given it is PG, it's nice not to have coarse language and probably given that it's for kids, we're not getting beaten over the head with the woke crap you get especially on DSC. So I do fine "Prodigy" refreshing -- just telling a story using the tools of the Trekverse, in the Delta Quadrant.

I'd also add my voice to those hoping Jammer reviews "Prodigy". I always enjoy reading his reviews. I guess if he reviewed "Lower Decks" (which I found to be unwatchable -- thus making me appreciate "Prodigy" even more), he might get to "Prodigy". But what might complicate things for him is DSC S4 starts in 2 weeks with 1 more "Prodigy" episode to go in the 1st half of its S1.
Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
Jammer should be reviewing this show. Not a bad episode yet.
Bok R'Mor
Wed, May 11, 2022, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
Reminded me very much of a far more colourful version of ENT 'Strange New World' - not particularly original, but entertaining enough. Actually quite disturbing at times, too.

Hologram Janeway really is great: it's worth watching this series just for her. Luckily she's ever-present in this episode.

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