Star Trek: Prodigy
Air date: 1/13/2022
Written by Diandra Pendleton-Thompson
Directed by Steve In Chang Ahn & Sung Shin
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
After the Protostar answers a distress call, Dal is reunited with DaiMon Nandi, a Ferengi smuggler who raised the orphaned Dal from an early age and taught him how to take advantage of and profit from whatever situation lay in front of him. Nandi is in need of a crystal from a nearby alien world (to pay off gambling debts) that has not been previously contacted by outsiders, and she makes a deal with Dal to help her obtain one in exchange for a cloaking device. (Nandi's appearance here makes use of what we might as well call Delta Quadrant Syndrome — frequently used on Voyager — where we somehow coincidentally run into familiar people even in the vastness of space where those people aren't from.)
Nandi obviously can't be trusted, and that's the problem with this overly average outing — not too much happens that's unexpected or not an obvious baked-in prerequisite of Nandi as a duplicitous Ferengi character sketch. The crystal she wants is actually from an array that's key to the aliens' abilities to communicate, and removing them from the cave causes everything to shake and rumble, Indiana Jones style. But not even one crystal is enough for Nandi; she has to start trying to steal them all. (Yes, greed and stealing are wrong, especially when the crystals are not simply "money" but part of a world's ecosystem.)
Nandi ultimately proves so odious that her bile takes over the episode. Her late revelation to Dal that she actually sold him into slavery to the Diviner seems needlessly cruel, and when a cash reward is offered by the Diviner looking for the location of the Protostar, she sells him out yet again. Way to play down to your stereotype, Nandi.
Balancing the scales with the relatively obvious plot are Janeway's welcome Starfleet lectures on the delicacy of the Prime Directive and first contact with alien cultures. Such lessons are put into practice by the away team when they learn a sandstorm is not simply a random vortex but a method of communication. But when it all goes sideways (thanks to Nandi), Janeway admonishes them for their poor intentions. One of this series' pleasures is watching her try to teach the green crew how to do things right, the Starfleet way (even if they ignore her at first). Meanwhile, in continuing to try to solve the mystery of the Protostar's history, Hologram Janeway learns that Drednok is the one that boarded the ship during Chakotay's fateful command. The trickle of information on this front continues.
Previous episode: Kobayashi
Next episode: Time Amok
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11 comments on this post
Thu, Jan 13, 2022, 9:31am (UTC -5)
The characters' introduction to the transporter, beaming floor pies all over the ship and Murf (accidentally) into outer space, was genuinely funny.
I loved the truly alien nature of the Cymari, and the characters' use of 'acoustic terra-molding' to communicate. The series exploited animation to introduce a form of life that has not been seen in nearly 1000 episodes of the franchise. I have to admit, as Rok-Tahk expressed an audible 'wow,' I just about did the same. A physical embodiment of the Cymari was likely unnecessary, but that's a minor quibble.
I also appreciated the in-universe message, regarding the delicateness of first contacts. The writers have now also presented two example of where youth should be wary/skeptical of parental figures. I'm not certain that is the intended message, but it's pretty punk if so. Ultimately, Nandi worked well as a foil and a means to bring The Diviner back in as a threat.
Incredibly well done episode. One of my very favourite outings in this new era of Trek.
Thu, Jan 13, 2022, 10:33am (UTC -5)
. . .
So we've got a female Daimon Ferengi in the Delta Quadrant who raised Dal. At first glance it seems like this violates all kinds of continuity but it really doesn't. This is clearly a woman who refused to accept the limitations of her society, stole a ship and struck out for deep space so she could live her Ferengi dream of being the most Ferengi who ever Ferengi-ed. And of course there would be stories like that--people who do things like that given Ferengi society.
The show, for its part, is concerned about telling us none of this backstory, and that's exactly how it should be. It would be entirely besides the point and would make the episode worse if it tried. But it allowed for it. For those of us who know the wider Star Trek lore, we can easily connect the dots here. I appreciate that. I appreciate that while the show seemingly isn't concerned with such details, it's concerned just enough.
Thu, Jan 13, 2022, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Once again, the episode served as an introduction of sorts to kiddos of several aspects of the Trek universe, from transporters to the Prime Directive to the Ferengi. I have to say that while it's a bit weird to see a Ferengi so far afield, they do make perfect antagonists for a kids show, as they're irksome without being genuinely threatening. The writers did their homework quoting the Rules of Acquisition as well.
The episode was not just memberberries for Trek fans however. This episode was great when it came to developing Dal's character into something more compelling. Not only do we see some of Dal's backstory, we also get to see him make a big mistake, own up to it yet continue to suffer consequences from it (the loss of respect of holo-Janeway), and hopefully grow more as a person. Gwyn's empathy for his situation was well played too. If there was any fault here it's just that the supporting characters really had no role this week - the episode could have run exactly the same if Jankom Pog, Rok-Takk, and Zero had stayed onboard the ship.
This was also quite a visually imaginative episode, and showcased what can be done with animation within the Trek setting that it would be difficult to do even with all the CGI they throw onscreen for Discovery.
Thu, Jan 13, 2022, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
I guess we gotta feel some more for Dal, who was raised by this treacherous Ferengi, sleeping in the engine room and ultimately being sold as slave labor. So this is a somewhat relatable experience to what Gwen went through -- more common bonds between these 2 building I think.
I liked the sci-fi aspect for the sand people and how they communicated and Gwen picking up on these things. At least we've got a very much alien species that first contact ends up being a disaster with. Janeway can be used to educate the younger audience on the ways of Trek like with the Prime Directive and how this species will now likely turn xenophobic.
I guess there's a tiny B-plot with Janeway looking through old logs of the Protostar under Chakotay's command -- and she spots (I believe) Drednok in a photo. Good ongoing mystery with what happened to the Protostar's crew that Dal's monologue touches on at the start of the episode.
2.5 stars for "First Con-tact" -- bit of a step down from "Kobayashi" but still very enjoyable. I think Dal is developing some more morals after this episode as he realizes they shouldn't steal all the crystals etc. The crew is coming together, Janeway guiding them. All pretty good stuff so far, and we may not have heard the last from the Ferengi (unfortunately).
Thu, Jan 13, 2022, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
Season 1 episode 7
“Mmmm floor pie.”
“It smells amazing!”
“And it’s delicious!!”
- Jankom Pog, Rok-Tahk and Gwyndala. Damn it, now I want pie!
* * * 1/2 (out of 4)
I agree with @Jeffrey's Tube that this is the best episode of Prodigy yet.
I was tempted to stick with 3 stars again this week, but then I realized there is only so much you can fit into 23 minutes. And “First Con-tact” is a perfect distillation of what Prodigy can be. Good clean fun, an interesting adventure of the week, and a little bit of long-form arc to pull us along.
Plus I have to give Prodigy huge props for making a great Ferengi episode! Towards the end of DS9 ("The Emperor's New Cloak”), and for those tiny slivers of Voyager ("False Profits”), and Enterprise where we “saw” them (ENT: “Acquisition”), the Ferengi have pretty much universally fallen flat. Here Prodigy brings them back to life, giving us Daemon Nandi. Nandi is captain who raised Dal, had him sleep in the engine room (like Kaylee on Firefly!)
and then sold him to slavers… for a profit, or course. Daemon Nandi is something of a cross between Snow White’s wicked Stepmother and Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy,
@Karl Zimmerman hits the nail on the head when he observes that the Ferengi "do make perfect antagonists for a kids show, as they're irksome without being genuinely threatening.” Kudos to the writers for putting the Ferengi to their perfect use.
@Jeffrey's Tube commented last week, "I think it's official that Prodigy is a sequel series to Voyager.” This week we see that the apprentice has surpassed his master - Daemon Nandi is far better for kids’ enjoyment (or the kids in all of us) than Naomi ever was. Of course this episode also has more than a little of Voyager’s "Live Fast and Prosper” in it.
Speaking of Voyager, we get another look at Captain Chakotay, and the cool new Starfleet uniforms. In what @Rahul calls the b-plot, but I want to call the c-plot, we catch the briefest glimpse at the robot Drednok in an old recording, hinting that the Diviner might have had something to do with The USS Protostar’s loss. This is just enough of an arc to carry us forward from episode to episode, while we partake in the adventure of the day.
And what an adventure it is! First Contact is a visual extravaganza! And how crazy that Sand Megaripples are at the cutting edge of Science:
I was reminded of the Fantasia night shows at Disneyland that I went to see decades ago as a kid during TNG’s original run, and which evidently still go on to this day,
That I get that same feeling of awe and wonder from a Star Trek cartoon well into my mid-life as I did when I was a kid at Disneyland, speaks volumes about this wonderful show.
And finally, we are treated to a fun B-plot: kids playing with the transporter. Murf continues to impress. Plus warm floor pie!
I love that every week these kids learn something new about the ship. Last week it was the holodeck. This week it is the transporter. And even better, each week that new lesson becomes an integral part of the plot. Last week Kobayashi took full advantage of the holodeck. This week the transporter saves the day. That was the philosphy behind old-school kids shows like 3-2-1 Contact,
I find myself thoroughly entertained and feeling great at the end of each Prodigy episode. A bit like the feeling I got back when TNG first aired week-to-week in 1987. If kids in elementary school are enjoying Prodigy now, as much as I enjoyed TNG then, then Star Trek is truly fulfilling Gene's vision.
Fri, Jan 14, 2022, 10:41am (UTC -5)
So, how does the female Ferengi get 4000 light-years from where she sold Dal into slavery?
The kids messing with the transporter was good to see.
It will be interesting when Janeway reveals to the crew what she's clamored from her memory tid-bits.
Go figure, a Ferengi wasn't truthful...
Enjoyable every week.
Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 8:35am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 26, 2022, 8:18pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 11, 2022, 9:46pm (UTC -5)
With the other punny title, "Terror Firma," we got some insight into what's driven Gwyn, and so did Dal. They finally started to connect because Gwyn was raised by a manipulative and abusive father, whom we learned last week was trying to rebuild his species. Here, we learn that Dal grew up in a similarly unfortunate circumstance with a Fagin-like Ferengi mother figure, Nandi.
That leads to some questions about how the episode begins, however, as we find the kids learning that transporters exist. If a Ferengi is out here, even this far from Federation space, surely she knows about transporters, especially if she can quote the Rules of Acquisition. That said, Jankom Pog, a Tellarite, seems to be fairly ignorant of the Alpha Quadrant ways, given he got here in a generation ship. Also, Rok-Tahk's most endearing trait of empathy for other lifeforms seems to be a bit askew as she happily subjects seemingly indestructible Murf with transporter experiments.
As with Gwyn, Dal doesn't really have a frame of reference for a better childhood, so there's a strong part of him that's attached to Nandi, even if he doesn't entirely trust her.
She sends out a distress call, which the Protostar answers, but her real goal is to mine some Chimerium for a Klingon cloaking device of hers, that's also a new piece of technology to the kids, as far as they know.
So, ulterior motive established, untrustworthiness established, but ahead they trek on, because they could also use the mineral. They go to the Cymari homeworld in search of the crystals needed for the cloaking device, but Janeway warns them not to violate the Prime Directive. Though the civilization there is highly advanced, they still haven't engaged in interstellar travel.
And they're truly alien. They can sculpt their world with sound, and require their crystals to function. So, when Nandi grabs a few of their crystals, their cave begins to destabilize. Dal, and the kids get all but one of the crystals back before beaming up to the ship, where Dal manages to beam the last one back to the cave, and its home tendril, since he put a commbadge on it.
But trouble's brewing, as Janeway lets the crew know that their interference will drastically change the Cymari civilization.
Also, Nandi now finds out the Diviner has put out a reward for the acquisition of the Protostar crew.
There is a bit of Janeway trying to ascertain exactly what happened to the Protostar under the ship's previous captain, Chakotay, but there isn't much to learn, at least not yet.
Aside from these little teases, the episode is primarily self-contained, but is definitely important in the development of Dal, as well as the growing understanding between Dal and Gwynn. I definitely like these developments for Dal, in particular, as we're finally starting to see some more of his growth and a bit of his maturity.
Fri, May 20, 2022, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
Its plot was simplistic (first contact with an unusual species that goes wrong), but the character development - particularly the revelation that Dal was sold into slavery, and that thus both Dal and Gwyn have been betrayed by their 'parents' - was robust. The scenes with the aliens fell a little flat, perhaps because I saw SNW 'Children of the Comet' - which also uses harmonies for communication in a first contact scenario - just a few days ago. I'm also not sure how wise it is to have Alpha Quadrant species popping up so frequently - Jankom Pog is a Tellarite, we've seen Klingon artefacts, and now Dal has been raised by a Ferengi (!). There has to be some bigger revelation behind this.
There's also a rather unpleasant and poorly judged few scenes at the start where the 'kids' decide to test the transporter using a living subject - Murf. Murf isn't harmed ('He's indestructible!' coos Rok, rather presumptuously), of course, but it's quite cruel and unsettling viewing, particularly given how innately trusting Murf of the others is depicted as, while at the same time they don't know that the transporter won't kill him.
Still a great show, though.
(Hologram Janeway continues to steal every scene she's in, and the animators have down an admirable job of unmistakeably capturing Kate Mulgrew's features in an in-universe style.)
Sun, Aug 28, 2022, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
This is still not great, but one of your earlier reviews likened this show to Clone Wars, and I wasn’t a big fan of that show either until it found it’s footing late in the second season. I believe if they keep this series around for a while there will be a real chance to see these characters grow into a real crew and mature with the audience like Clone Wars did.
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