Star Trek: Prodigy

"Let Sleeping Borg Lie"

2 stars

Air date: 11/3/2022
Written by Diandra Pendleton-Thompson
Directed by Olga Ulanova & Sung Shin

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

After seeing a holodeck simulation of Gwyn's restored memories, the young crew attempts to disable the sinister Trojan-horse-from-the-future weapon that the Diviner has integrated into the Protostar's system. They are unable to break its defenses, however. Coincidentally, the ship stumbles across a dormant Borg cube. Hologram Janeway warns the kids of the extreme danger of the Borg, but the kids think they may be able to use the Borg's knowledge to figure out how to disable the weapon, so they board the Borg vessel and start poking around.

Attempting to tie these two storylines together is forced at best, and wrong-headed at worst. This is Prodigy's entry point into the Borg collective — which in theory makes sense since this is the Delta Quadrant — but this adventure plays out as one of the most ho-hum and tensionless encounters with the Borg to date, and even more so as executed on its rather naive, Nickelodeon-friendly level.

While the animation of the Borg interiors is inspired, particularly once Zero enters the hive mind and experiences their collective, the idea of us entering the hive mind for possible information is reckless stupidity, full stop. The rest is Borg 101, with the drones waking up, doing their zombie routine, adapting to the phasers, pushing and shoving, and so on. There's a reasonable character core around Zero's guilt over having harmed Gwyn by revealing himself, but it's uneasily serviced with Zero's assimilation into the collective, and his connection of friendship all too easily allowing him to escape using pure will.

Meanwhile, Admiral Janeway's ship, the Dauntless, has the unconscious Diviner in sickbay (under the care of Dr. Noum, who is rude and sarcastic even by Starfleet doc standards, and voiced by Jason Alexander), where they attempt to revive him to find answers. Meanwhile, the Dauntless follows the breadcrumb trail left by the Protostar to the destroyed Federation space station.

As this series' introduction to the Borg, this is a tepid disappointment, with very little meat on the bones beyond "Hey, it's the Borg!" — and a lot of questionable decisions by the crew in the face of one of the franchise's supposedly greatest threats. The end result is no real sense of danger despite a situation that should have this crew hopelessly outmatched — even more so on account of their many bad decisions. And I'm already tiring of the Trojan horse arc, which still strikes me as a contrived plot device.

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

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20 comments on this post

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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 8:09am (UTC -6)
Baby's first Borg I guess? A pretty shallow episode overall.

There's essentially two sections here - crisis of the week and arcwork. The entire first act is more or less serving the needs of the arc as a whole, with us first checking in with the kids, then with the real Janeway. Then of course we come back to real Janeway again at the end of the episode for a final scene. All of the arcwork is...fine. The real issue here is the characters are learning things that we as viewers already know, which means there's zero drama. They can gussy it up a bit with character dynamics, letting us see the responses each one has to the revelations, but it's nothing which is surprising to us at all.

That leaves less than 15 minutes for the actual plot of the week, which is basically the kids stumble over the Borg. That's pretty much it. They somehow find a cube floating in random space (what are the chances of that?), explore it looking for a way to defuse the MacGuffin, and then realize the Borg are going to be no help at all. There's no overall forward movement here - they're right back to where they were at the start of the episode, save for knowing there's no way to actually deactivate the device.

I will give the episode some credit though. First, unlike last week, they remember that having a character arc is important, and Zero gets a bit of focus here. They start the episode feeling isolated and guilt ridden regarding the damage they did, go through the trials of being temporarily assimilated, and realize the "Magic of Friendship" is powerful enough to turn back. It's all extremely cursory because of the short runtime, but it's there. Also, I think they did a good job finding a way to make the Borg creepy yet still child-appropriate - and I'm happy in animation we finally get to see non-humanoid Borg.

Still, this may be one of the most forgettable episodes of Prodigy yet. It's basically just there to introduce the crew to the Borg. I guess it would hit different for children, but as adults versed in Trek, there's very little (other than Zero's arc) worth holding onto here.

Two stars.
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Norvo
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
I was surprised to see the Borg show up in a Nickelodeon kids show. In that context I don't mind this episode rehashing the basics of the Borg, the target audience needs to know who the Collective is. It also made sense that no one was getting pumped full of nanoprobes and sprouting Borg tech. Too graphic.

I appreciate the vinculum showing up, we haven't seen that bit of Borg tech since the Voyager episode Infinite Regress. And speaking of obscure reference: ya think it's a coincidence two of the lead characters are called Dal and Rok? As in the big cloudy fake monster O'Brien had to cast out in DS9's The Storyteller?

Probably :-) But the village is strong anyway!
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C.T Phipps
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 6:46pm (UTC -6)
Man, you must have watched the Mirrorverse version of the show. This is easily Prodigy's best episode. The Borg are also at their most menacing since "Best of Both Worlds" and I'm including First Contact. They feel alien, overwhelming, and callous rather than malevolent.
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Greg M
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 6:53pm (UTC -6)
Reading this review and reading the Trekcore review, there was something that struck me as a major difference in both. The Trekcore review referenced the author's children a lot, how they reacted to what was going on screen and kind of their impressions. As much as I have respected Jammer's reviews over the years, this review doesn't really read like it's a kids show, even though that is the demographic this show is trying to target. This show is introducing the Borg to a younger generation, and I have to say the shots of the Borg and the assimilation process was the first time I've seen them as menacing (Minus Picard) since TNG. Also, this episode was about Zero, and how they (Or is it "it", I'm always confused by pronouns and trying to to offend) are going through the trauma of hurting people, especially Gwyn. I have heard the "I have my own collective" message before, but I thought it was effective here, especially targeting the demographic it is trying to attract.

Jammer, I appreciate you reviewing prodigy, but if you have children are you watching it with them? Maybe including their reactions (if that's ok) might add to the reviews some.
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Jammer
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 7:44pm (UTC -6)
"Jammer, I appreciate you reviewing prodigy, but if you have children are you watching it with them? Maybe including their reactions (if that's ok) might add to the reviews some."

Ideally, this is what I would like to do. Indeed, I referenced their reactions in some of the earlier episodes (which, not coincidentally, were not posted as the shows aired). In the past I've also mentioned some of my wife's reactions with the other Trek shows, when she was watching them with me. This episode might've landed differently if I could see the kids' reactions, I will admit.

Unfortunately, the reality is that with everyone's schedules and activities, it has become very difficult for me to wait until we all have time to sit down and watch the shows together while also trying to keep pace with posting reviews in a timely manner. So lately I've just been watching the episodes before work on Thursday morning. (It's also why you now often see reviews posted on the same day as airing, which used to almost never happen.)

My kids have still not seen these latest episodes. Eventually they will, but I don't know when that will be, and if I wait, the reviews might not happen until weeks or months down the road, if at all, and everyone will be wondering why I'm behind. So it's the trade-off I've decided to make in this year of non-stop Star Trek.
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C.T Phipps
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
I think there's a lot of course correction for Kathryn Janeway in this episode and I wonder if it's Mulgrew's influence as I have a much more consistent grasp of her character than I do from Voyager (and I just rewatched the series). To be blunt, Hologram Janeway is SCARED of the Borg and pretty much tells the crew to run away from them. It's a vulnerability that adds to the character and fits much-better with what we know of the Borg while regular Janeway never did run from the Borg but more or less ran at them.

Part of what I like about this episode is the Borg are also treated as far less personal in their evil and no less malevolent for it. The Borg aren't doing this because they get pleasure from evil like the Borg Queen or sadistically tormenting Seven or
Doctor Jurati. No, they're an assembly line and the rest of the galaxy is parts. It's like my best friend, Michael, has the same opinion on Davros for the Daleks.
The Daleks are infinitely better and more terrifying without Davros because the Daleks are terrifying due to their lack of individuality and indifference. This episode nicely conveyed the Borg are dangerous because we're ants to them.

Oh and a reminder that our heroes straight up killed two Borg in this episode.
Also, apparently are indirectly responsible for the Junior Lieutenant's death.
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AMA
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 8:35pm (UTC -6)
I found this episode to be a bit of a 'mixed bag.' I agree with @C.T Phipps and @Greg M that the Borg, for the first time in a long time, appeared menacing. I also liked, like @Karl Zimmerman did, that the episode revealed more alien forms of the Borg. With the exception of using some potentially overly complicated words for youth, I thought the episode offered a great introduction to the Borg for novice viewers.

With that said, the episode reverted to some of the worst elements of Voyager and once again made the Borg, and, more specifically, assimilation, into something that could easily be overcome. There's merit to the moral that undergirded the rejection of assimilation, but the solution was too simple. The visuals, then, made the Borg compelling and menacing, but the story once again mollified them. A shame.

I'm also a bit mixed on the group's decision to turn to the Borg for solutions on the weapon they find: yes, the plan is both risky and ill-advised, but these, again, are not well-trained officers but kids/adolescents who are likely to make mistakes.
The series has already shown the crew maturing, learning from past mistakes, so having them choose another dangerous mission is more questionable than a few episodes ago. Still, I know, even for myself, sometimes you make the same mistake multiple times before learning a proper/better course of action.

All in all, a decent outing, highlighted, for me, by the mood and visuals.
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Rahul
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 8:43pm (UTC -6)
Just not good enough here -- basically comes down to Zero arbitrarily rejecting the Borg hive mind with all of Gwyn's pleading. Felt like the episode was largely just relying on recycling the Borg, something that VOY did a fair bit of.

The weapon onboard the Protostar - living construct - has some potential for good sci-fi. Did phasering it have something to do with taking the Protostar near a Borg cube? I guess I don't get how they come across a Borg cube without any forewarning etc.

More interesting is Admiral Janeway retracing Chakotay's steps, finding Gwyn's father, finding the destroyed CR721 station -- but this was just mechanics, albeit interesting plot points. I guess there's a bit of a mystery to solve here.

1.5 stars for "Let Sleeping Borg Lie" -- a watchable 1/2 hour but this one really felt like it's made for the younger generation. Jankom was getting annoying -- the idiot just phasers the living weapon aboard the Protostar... Too bad Zero didn't assimilate him first and then decide to reject the hive mind - would've made him more palatable as a character.
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C.T Phipps
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
I feel like I'm willing to let assimilation be rejected here because Zero is not a human being and we can attribute its ease to being a Medusan. I would be a lot more unforgiving if it was Dal or Gwen who were able to throw it off.
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Greg M
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 9:47pm (UTC -6)
@C.T Phipps,

Also, the Borg called Madusans Species 802 (If I remember correctly), which strikes me as being pretty old. Maybe the Madusans have learned to resist assimilation that other species have not. They are pretty powerful.
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Booming
Fri, Nov 4, 2022, 4:55am (UTC -6)
I would like to throw in that reviewing a show on a Thursday before work will very likely have a significant affective effect on the review, probably skewing the reviews towards the negative and middle of the scale.
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Meg
Fri, Nov 4, 2022, 5:01pm (UTC -6)
I was really bothered here by Hologram Janeway allowing the kids to expose the Borg to new technology from the future. It sort of cheapens the sacrifice of the drone with 29th century tech in "Drone." Of course, the target audience will likely not have seen "Drone", but it raises a major issue of character continuity with Janeway. I get that as a hologram she won't ultimately override Dal. But now the Borg know about a future tech weapon that could take out the Federation, and they've already said they want to assimilate it! That plus the Protostar would make the kids a huge target for the Borg in episodes to come. It bugs me that Janeway, the Starfleet captain with more Borg experience than anyone (even Picard), would allow this, even though I know it was her hologram and not her.

Did anyone else see the Janeway admiral's log uploaded on Instagram after the last episode? She says that Chakotay was on a mission to rectify mistakes Voyager had made in the Delta Quadrant. I wonder whether the Borg were a key part of that mission somehow, such as helping civilizations that had suffered after Voyager's alliance with the Borg against species 8472. The alien who created the original "Dauntless" did so as an act of vengeance against Janeway for how that alliance caused the assimilation of his people, so PRO may be setting us up for a follow-up to that. If that's the case, it makes sense why they wanted to introduce the Borg, aside from the fact that it's the Delta Quadrant so presumably they'd show up at one point. They may end up being a big part of the reason Chakotay came back to the DQ to begin with.

As for Zero, the fact that a) they are non-corporeal and b) the Borg can't use their nanoprobes make it plausible that Zero could resist assimilation. They were only in contact for minute, maybe hours at most, and had no nanoprobes. It was just the allure of the hive mind, so I do see how it makes sense that Zero could break out of that by being reminded of what they had outside the hive mind.
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PM
Fri, Nov 4, 2022, 11:54pm (UTC -6)
Sorry if this sounds rude but why the review focus on an almost-unwatchable kids show that is as far from Star Trek as humanly possible, rather than shows that much better align with the tone and interests of this site such as Kenobi*, Andor, etc..?
*for-better-or-worse
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Galadriel
Sat, Nov 5, 2022, 6:43am (UTC -6)
@PM

I am far from a big fan of “Prodigy”, but I cannot leave your claim unchallenged that it is far from what StarTrek is or should be.

Yes, PRO is in the Delta quadrant and therefore lacks any Fe­de­ra­tion back­drop, but there was once an en­tire 7-sea­son show ba­sed on that very pre­mise. It is also really ac­tion-hea­vy and feels some­times more Star­Wars than Star­Trek, but that’s again not soo dif­fe­rent from VOY. It also fo­cu­ses more on plot and cha­rac­ters than on SciFi con­cepts or moral di­lem­ma­ta, … seems again quite in VOY ter­rit­ory. On the other side, it avoids the ob­noxi­ous ele­ments so pro­fuse­ly found in DIS and PIC, and it is far better writ­ten than any of those, with bet­ter plot struc­tu­re and like­able (!!) cha­rac­ters. Also, it’s not a prequel but shifts the Star­Trek time­line forwards.

So I wonder where your assessment comes from.
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Rahul
Sat, Nov 5, 2022, 9:00am (UTC -6)
Agree with @Galadriel -- particularly how PROD "avoids the ob­noxi­ous ele­ments so pro­fuse­ly found in DIS and PIC". Plenty of similar vibes between PROD and VOY, as is meant to be.

I'd also add that for a 1/2-hr animated show, it's miles ahead of "Lower Decks" in terms of watchability, enjoyability and not being obnoxious.
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C.T Phipps
Sat, Nov 5, 2022, 12:12pm (UTC -6)
[[I'd also add that for a 1/2-hr animated show, it's miles ahead of "Lower Decks" in terms of watchability, enjoyability and not being obnoxious. ]]

Star Trek: Lower Decks is certainly up there with the best of Trek for those who don't mind humor and is only getting better with every season.
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Boris
Sat, Nov 5, 2022, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
There are a lot of differences of opinion on Lower Decks. My personal feeling is that on the one hand the worst Lower Decks episodes are just ok (not actually bad), most of the episodes are just ok (not great), certainly not the best of Star Trek. LD's attempts at humor are definitely much better than most of Trek (Ferengi episodes anyone?), but the LD episodes I've enjoyed the most are the meatier more serious ones (of which there have maybe been 4 or 5) and on that front season 3 has dropped the ball.

As for Prodigy, it's almost impossible to compare it with Lower Decks because they're so different. I'm certainly enjoying the ongoing story so far and am eager to know what happens next, which is not true of Lower Decks most of the time (nor is it meant to be), where the story ends up plays a big part in how good it ultimately is.
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Yanks
Tue, Nov 8, 2022, 12:08pm (UTC -6)
Jammer: "Hologram Janeway warns the kids of the extreme danger of the Borg, but the kids think they may be able to use the Borg's knowledge to figure out how to disable the weapon"

I think this is the cardinal sin of this episode. Holo-Janeway should have told her cadets that the "weapon" is from the future and the Borg would have no knowledge of it.

The Zero-Borg dynamic was the only thing that kept me in this episode.

Pretty shotty introduction to the borg.

Maybe I'm being to harsh here as this is designed for kids...

2 stars.
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FawnDoo
Tue, Nov 8, 2022, 9:34pm (UTC -6)
"Sorry if this sounds rude"

No, you're not.
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Anna
Mon, May 22, 2023, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
My 7 year old enjoyed this. He kept shouting "This is a really bad idea!" at the screen. I worried it might get too scary for him (he's a bit below the recommended age, and he does find Drednok scary) so from that point of view I was glad the story resolved itself quickly.
From an adult point of view though, the Borg being disarmed by the Power of Friendship was disappointing and they were defeated far too quickly. I enjoyed the aesthetics and I was glad we had a Zero episode, but agree this was one of the weakest so far.

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