Star Trek: Prodigy

“Masquerade”

2 stars.

Air date: 11/24/2022
Written by Nikhil S. Jayaram
Directed by Sung Shin

Review Text

It's at this point I have to wonder on what level I should be watching and reviewing this series — as an adult, or filtered purely through a kid's mentality. Ideally, it should work on both levels (see much of The Mandalorian), but it's becoming harder to take this seriously as Star Trek.

In the overly busy and superficial "Masquerade," the kids simultaneously flee Janeway's Dauntless and the Romulan warbirds and arrive at Noble Isle, a city on a planet in the neutral zone (*) where "cutting-edge" (i.e., unsanctioned) scientific experiments are conducted, and where the kids hope to obtain repairs to the ship — which, by the end, I don't believe they ever actually get. The city provides a cool backdrop for the adventure, where our crew is greeted by Dr. Jago (Amy Hill), a scientist who scans Dal and tells him he is actually a genetically engineered being created from human DNA as well as that of 26 other species. It's a crushing realization for Dal, who learns he has no parents and was created as an experiment in genetic augmentation by Dr. Arik Soong — although I'm not sure exactly how, since Arik Soong lived two centuries before Dal was born.

* At least, I think it's in the neutral zone. This episode is so confused about how the neutral zone works — contending that the Romulans haven't even entered it, despite them being right there in visual range during last week's encounter with the Dauntless — that it's impossible to know. Meanwhile, Janeway is ordered by her superior officer not to enter the neutral zone to retrieve the Protostar, but in the same breath he tells her to destroy the Protostar rather than let it fall into Romulan hands. Which is it?

Dal's origin is the most interesting aspect of the episode, and Jago says she can jump-start and "fix" Dal's augmentations with an implant and make him everything he was intended to be — maybe. Unfortunately, the philosophical and emotional implications — which are initially interesting — are brushed aside in favor of Dal's new mutations going haywire and giving him various alien features and abilities, while the chase plot with the Romulans does the usual action/adventure shoot-em-up thing.

Honestly, it's all a bit much. This story would've been stronger if it had tried to do less while focusing on its core emotional story (Dal's origins amid his threatened sense of leadership with Okona onboard — who, by the way, abandons the crew the moment it's personally convenient) with more detail and sincerity. Instead, this comes across as lip service amid a bunch of pyrotechnics, including a lengthy ascent in a space elevator (similar to the one in "Rise") while the Romulans attack the kids in flying spacesuits during a lightning storm. Meanwhile, the newly transformed Murf shows off some new superhero abilities that are already making me leery of his metamorphosis. Meanwhile, Dal's "enhancements" are, thankfully, reversed by the end. A lot of things happen here, but they don't add up to much.

Somehow, Janeway is still unable to catch up to the Protostar's crew, despite being seconds away from destroying their ship. But this plot continues to thicken (congeal?). In a last-minute twist, it's revealed that Ensign Asencia (Jameela Jamil) on the Dauntless is actually an undercover Vau N'Akat, and she releases a Drednok aboard the ship. She tells the Diviner that he wasn't the only one sent back in time to complete the mission. Well, okay, then. I have questions.

Previous episode: Crossroads
Next episode: Preludes

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

Comment Section

12 comments on this post

    I did not find that plot very interesting, apart from the sur­prise re­ve­la­tion at the end. Noble Isle clear­ly is the child-ap­prov­ed version of Free­cloud (in “Pi­card” S1), and I care for nei­ther. Law­less pla­ces out­side of Fe­de­ra­ti­on con­trol might exist, but I find them cliché­ed and Star­Warsy. Only a very good story could save a Trek epis­ode with a law­less out­post full of Mos Eis­ley style smugg­lers, thugs and ma­fi­o­si, but this epis­ode was far from good.

    The episode was mostly predictable: Okona out­ra­geous­ly de­sert­ed the crew, the shady and sus­pi­ci­ous look­ing ge­ne­tics lady turn­ed out un­reli­able (how did Dal pay for his treat­ment?), Ro­­mu­­lans are un­sur­pri­sing­ly sneaky, and what­ever was done to Dal got re­vert­ed at the end.

    As far as I can see, only three elements remain in the season arc:

    (α) Dal has found out his “species”, the Petridishigenes. To that, I say that I don’t care, and neither should he. Whatever else his par­ents could have been, he would have likely been dis­ap­point­ed by them for de­sert­ing him at Tars La­mo­ra. So the out­come that he was cre­ated by some Mad Sci­en­tists can hard­ly be called shocking.

    (β) OK, we’ve got a new security officer. Can we also talk to him, her, it, them or whatever? Or is Murf ex­pect­ed to act out­side of the chain of com­mand?

    (γ) There is a spy on the “Dauntless”, and worse to come. This ca­me un­ex­pect­ed and caught me by sur­prise.

    The last is also problematic, because the mission of the Di­vi­ner never made much sense to me: He wants to de­stroy the Fed­er­a­ti­on be­fore it con­tacts Solum and ignites a civil war there, al­though a simple “Don’t eff this up!” to the Solu­mi­tes after con­tact would be a much more pro­mis­ing path (or not, if all Solu­mi­tes are as un­reason­able and fa­na­tic as he is). It’s really Nero’s stu­pi­di­ty again, and I don’t want any re­min­ders to that movie.

    So I always assumed the Diviner’s mission was a pet pro­ject that had sprung from his own crook­ed mind — surely, no legi­ti­ma­te pla­ne­ta­ry se­cur­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion would have come up with a plan hat ri­di­cu­lous. It now seems I was wrong; this is really the way how the So­lu­mi­tes think. Maybe the ga­laxy didn’t lose much when they blew them­selves into oblivion.

    @galadriel is right: this episode of Prodigy felt more like Star Wars than Trek. Enjoyed the surprise reveal at the end and even appreciate the Jellico cameo which is pure fan service. Ronny Cox still plays him as the most unlikeable, condescending shmuck in the room... So of course Janeway was going to disobey orders.

    Other than that :-) We've all seem to have forgotten about Chakotay this week.

    Finally got to see the episode. I completely forgot about the Thursday drops what with all the Thanksgiving work today.

    My feelings were it's better than last week, but it's still not what I would call a great episode.

    I guess I'll start with the biggest element of this episode from a character standpoint - the mystery of Dal's parentage being solved. The entire character arc of the episode was more or less set around this issue, and Dal's resentment about (believing he was) upstaged by Okana. I don't necessarily think the idea that he was a genetic experiment by the followers of Arik Soong is a bad choice, but there was absolutely no foreshadowing of this, which makes it very much underwritten. Maybe writing this element properly just isn't possible, given it's an ensemble half-hour kids show, but I felt the reveal just came across as a bit random, rather than the gut-punch it was supposed to be to both us and the character. With what was supposed to be the emotional core of the episode just a bit underbaked, it was hard to land the rest.

    I though the action plot machinations with the Tal Shiar worked well, and there was a genuine sense of tension that has been missing from a lot of the action scenes in the last few episodes. There absolutely was a kind of Star Wars vibe to much of this episode though, from the smuggler station to the combat suits worn by the Romulans, to the musical choices.

    The big "twist" at the end didn't really surprise me, because it was spoiled in casting calls prior to the first episode even dropping that one member of Janeway's crew was going to be an imposter. I thought it worked fine enough, but the editing just seemed...wrong. Like there should have been a few extra seconds of scene, or even just a black screen with a musical note falling, rather than a super-quick cut to credits.

    Still, it was fine, grading on the kids show curve. Three stars I guess.

    I think PROD is getting to be a bit formulaic now -- has to have some (ridiculous) action scenes and then it just depends on how creative the story is and what new details we get on the Diviner and Janeway's mission. So this episode was a mixed bag and it really comes across as a kids show.

    The Romulans are hunting the kids -- reminds me too much of early PIC S1 when Dahj goes berserk and kills a bunch of Romulans. Dal's mutations are ridiculous and of course he gets reset by the end of the episode. And Murf just arbitrarily does whatever is needed to help, some head-shaking moments... But the idea of that space elevator (like "Rise") is cool.

    Again what is more interesting is the Ensign who is working with Gwyn's father -- the episode builds reasonably well toward her treachery. So she got the same genetic treatment as Dal did (pressing a button on the back of the neck??)

    2 stars for "Masquerade" -- a bit better than last week's "Crossroads" but it seems the episodes are becoming more action-oriented than having something intriguing to ponder. I suppose Dal learns some lesson about thing being too good to be true, but farfetched action scenes just to placate the younger generation are wearing thin.

    The episode, suggestively, given Rok's log, offers a few lessons, including, perhaps most importantly for the targeted audience, willing to accept oneself/not to 'masquerade' as someone else.

    The formula for the series might just be to offer such lessons mixed in with some universe/character building and action. That's about what I would expect for a show directed toward kids, and the creators are doing a fine job of it.

    The fact that Ascensia is revealed to be an operative from the future from the same species as the Diviner, also wanting to destroy the federation, opens up a huge plot hole. If she is in such a trusted position on a Federation starship, she could have easily taken a copy of the weapon with het and destroyed Star fleet already! Don’t tell me they could not have created a second weapon?

    Otherwise I found this a middling episode.

    3 stars from me.

    Part of growing up is coming to terms with who and what you are. Dal's story shows that, especially in his disappointment. What kind of history does he have if he was just grown? Bad judgment can also be a part of growing up, as Dal shows by choosing a quick fix to make himself more powerful.

    The kids aren't Starfleet. They don't have Starfleet training. Getting a crash course from a Janeway hologram isn't the same as going to Starfleet Academy. More to the point: they're kids, with all the mistakes, awkwardness, and learning as they go along that goes with it.

    I enjoyed the Murf changes. Good to see him (it?) becoming more integral to the crew's adventures.

    Maybe there's something more with Dal. It was briefly hinted at in Asylum, when Dal's genetic scan suggested he was of great interest to Starfleet. I'm not sure that story on his origin can be completely closed as of yet.

    Good to see Ronny Cox back as Jellico. I know a lot of fans don't care for Jellico, but I think there's room in Starfleet for someone like him. I don't think his orders to stay out of the Neutral Zone and destroy the Protostar if necessary are unjustified; I think they're practical orders for Starfleet, which only a few years prior to this concluded a devastating war with the Dominion. Wanting to avoid provoking a conflict seems pretty sound.

    Can someone explain why sometimes Zero has legs and sometimes floats?

    @Norvo, I also enjoyed seeing Jellico! And loved seeing Jellico take down Janeway! (I've never had the hesitation that @The Chronek says is common with Trekkies.) It was an enjoyable reversal on the Nechayev/Picard dynamic.

    With all due respect to @Jammer, the problem with "Masquerade" isn't really that it is "busy and superficial."

    I'm sure those who have followed Prodigy have enjoyed when the show does homage to various Treks.
    Sometimes subtly. Sometimes less so.

    Unfortunately this week Prodigy riffed off the garbage that is Picard.

    The Romulans on "Masquerade" were the garbage Romulan assassins from Picard.

    The planet in "Masquerade" was take on Freecloud from Picard: Stardust City (which had it's very own Soong). Although the Prodigy version had more of a Farscape coolness to it.

    Given the Picard source material, it is a miracle things didn't go completely off the rails.

    So 2 1/2 stars, at least.

    I think most of the Prodigy episodes so far have been kids' takes on types of Star Trek episodes - eg kids do the Borg, kids do timey-wimey shenanigans, kids do land on a planet, kids do a moral dilemma, kids do First Contact etc.
    But this plot felt straight out of the sort of programmes my kids usually watch. Character makes obviously bad decision, crazy shenanigans ensue, character learns valuable lesson, status quo is reverted in about ten minutes. That's a perfectly fine plot if you're writing Alvin and the Chipmunks, but it falls a bit flat if you're an adult viewer. This felt like a kids' TV writer trying to do Star Trek, rather than a Star Trek writer trying to do kids' TV.
    Apart from that I'm enjoying having more Admiral Janeway on screen and I liked the reveal of the traitor. SuperMurf is a bit silly, but if you're going to send armed Romulans after them, you need a plausible reason why they aren't just obliterated in five minutes, and Gwyn's weapon clearly isn't going to cut it any more. I don't like it, but I understand why they did it.

    Not a great episode, but am I the only one who got a real kick out of the visual references to The Rocketeer?

    Submit a comment

    ◄ Season Index