Star Trek: Prodigy

"Preludes"

3 stars

Air date: 12/1/2022
Written by Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Kevin & Dan Hageman, Nikhil S. Jayaram, Diandra Pendleton-Thompson, Chad Quandt, Lisa Schultz, Aaron J. Waltke
Directed by Steve In Chang Ahn & Sung Shin

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

While awaiting repairs to the Protostar, our characters take some downtime to explain how they ended up in their common banishment to Tars Lamora. Meanwhile, aboard the Dauntless, the undercover "Ensign Asencia" reveals her shared history with the Diviner. "Preludes" puts this show's usual narrative mostly on pause to tell us the backstories of numerous characters through flashback sequences. The result is a welcome return to a more substantive storytelling form that doesn't rely on zany action.

Most valuable here is the Vau N'Akat backstory, which is relayed back to the memory-gapped Diviner through Asencia — actually named the Vindicator — who was his peer on the mission to destroy the Federation by traveling back through time (in their effort to save their planet, Solum, from its catastrophic fate as explained in "A Moral Star, Part 2"). This backstory finally puts together all the pieces that have been missing, and they actually add up.

We now understand why there have been so many head-scratching timeline questions — because Chakotay had traveled forward in time through a wormhole before encountering the Vau N'Akat survivors of the devastated Solum. The Vau N'Akat took Chakotay prisoner, but not before Chakotay could send the Protostar back through the wormhole on an automated course. (I guess Chakotay is still stuck several decades in the future on Solum?) The Protostar, as well as the Diviner, traveled back — apparently 20 years before the original departure date — through the wormhole. The Vindicator also went back in time, but only three years — explaining why she is so much younger than the Diviner. The rest of the Vau N'Akat soldiers were lost in the wormhole. I imagine when my kids eventually get around to watching this, I'll have plenty of timeline explaining to do, but I'm glad that I now have all the pieces to finally explain the things that weren't making sense.

There's also value to the various backstories of our young Protostar crew. Rok was an arena fighter who had a deal to put on a staged show in exchange for (the bare minimum in) food and shelter. When she decided she was tired of losing and decided to try winning, she was hauled away. Zero roamed free as a disembodied entity until being captured by Kazon. And Jankom Pog marooned himself in the Delta Quadrant in a calculated act of self-sacrifice to save the rest of his ship's crew.

I appreciate the detail showing us all these origin stories. It's a nice little set of short stories, which I guess the entire writing staff got together to assemble. And Janeway finally realizes in her investigation that the kids are just kids — just in time to be knocked unconscious by the Diviner, who intends to continue his original mission.

Previous episode: Masquerade
Next episode: Ghost in the Machine

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7 comments on this post

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Galadriel
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 5:30am (UTC -6)
Back on track again: I liked this episode a lot more than the two previous ones. In par­ti­cu­lar, the sto­ries of Rok-Tahk and the Di­vi­ner got my full inter­est; OTOH, Jan­kom Pog is still the most un­inter­est­ing in the crew, and Zero’s tale did not make much sen­se to me: Why and how should the Kazon hunt Me­du­sans? With just sun­glas­ses as pro­tec­tion against the mind-twisting ef­fect of the Medusans?

I am also really confused with the time the show is set in. The First Con­tact be­tween the Fe­dera­tion and the Vau N’Akat hap­pen­ed a long time ago, as they first spent decades on ruining their civilization, and then 20 years searching for the Pro­to­star. That’s how the Di­vi­ner and Asen­cia remember it, but there is a time jump in­vol­v­ed, and like­ly also an­other be­fo­re the Pro­to­star ar­rived at the ruin­ed pla­net Solum. I sup­po­se that Solum is as yet un­con­tact­ed, be­cause other­wise the de­struc­tion of the Fe­de­ra­tion would not bene­fit the Vau N’Akat; but this again opens the ques­tion why the Di­vi­ner would not simp­ly con­tact his own pe­op­le and warn them. Also I don’t know how many years have pas­sed for Ja­ne­way since the Pro­to­star has va­nish­ed (pro­bab­ly less than 20).

I am also happy that Janeway put the clues together and figured out part of the mys­te­ry; less hap­py that she doesn’t know that doors should be knocked be­fore open­ing. Now the Vau N’Akat can im­per­so­na­te her by their nifty holomask technology, and hunt the Un­want­ed more easily. I hope the Andorian XO is no moron and saves the day.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 8:20am (UTC -6)
This is easily the best episode of Prodigy in at least the last few weeks - arguably the best one in the second part of the season to date. It by all rights shouldn't work, but somehow it does.

The episode basically doesn't have a plot to speak of. Yes, there's some forward movement in the last five minutes or so of the episode on the Dauntless, but the Protostar is stuck in place with repairs, and the kids do absolutely nothing. Instead the entire episode is set aside to a series of flashbacks. An episode entirely created out of what are unrelated vignettes should by all accounts fail, but the focus here on character helps it to stay fresh when it came to the kids. Rok-Tahk's vignette was by far the standout, but they all had appeal since they never told the same story twice.

I had more issues with Ascencia's speech. On one hand, the stiches were showing in terms of writing. I could clearly tell they set up the Diviner's memory loss in part to allow for the infodump here, and "as you know Bob" is a pretty terrible writing trope. Also, Ascencia is retelling a lot of stuff we already know, even if it's stuff that the Diviner forgot within universe. On the other hand, for whatever reason I found her monologue regarding the predicament of Solum more compelling than when the Diviner explained it to Gwyn. The show got me to see her as more than just a villain, which is a great success. To top it off, I'm glad that the end of the episode signals that we won't have to sit around and have a fake conflict between Vice-Admiral Janeway and the kids for the remainder of the season.

So yeah, I'd say we're heading back on track after a few slightly underwhelming episodes. Let's see if this keeps up.
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Rahul
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 8:49pm (UTC -6)
An episode like this was long overdue, getting the back-stories of some of the Protostar crew and without the tiresome battle/chase scenes. Some important details about the Protostar being a ship from the future and the motivations for the Diviner's people are elaborated upon.

But I'd like to clarify the sequence of events and the timeline. So Chakotay was commanding the Protostar but it goes back in time and gets taken over by the Diviner's people who were already suffering from a civil war brought on after first contact with the Federation. Then the Diviner's people put their last construct in the Protostar and send it further back in time to prevent first contact with the Federation. But then they lost it somehow and went back in time to retrieve it and the wormhole collapsed. So the Diviner's people arrived in the Alpha Quadrant 3 years ago.

As for the back-stories, the only one I found interesting and cool visually and in a sci-fi way was the Medusan's. Was pretty neat seeing them floating around and their ship looked just like the one in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" And Zero, when captured by the Kazon, gets put in the same kind of box that Kollos was in when he was brought aboard the Enterprise in that TOS episode.

At least the episode started to clear up the confusion about who the kids were to the real Janeway -- the series could not get much more mileage out of simple misunderstandings...

Asensia is now fully one of the Diviner's species, but I think there may be something of interest in her query about the Diviner having a child while he was away from her.

2.5 stars for "Preludes" -- clearly a better watch than the past 2 outings and it reminds of the motivations in the larger arc. The Protostar crew get closer together, realizing they're all misfits with pasts they'd like to forget. And the overall arc is a decent story.
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AMA
Thu, Dec 1, 2022, 9:24pm (UTC -6)
As others have commented, a very good episode, offering fairly effective backstories for many of the main characters.

I think this episode, like others, does well by delivering a subtle message, in this instance, that people can heal from trauma some by sharing and connecting with others. I would add as well that I found the episode to be one of the most cinematic/beautiful in the entire history of the franchise: the lighting and colour choices with Rok-Tahk and Zero's stories were very well done, and the animation style that opened the Diviner's history lesson was magnificent.

Three stray thoughts:
- I hope to see The Hero reconnect with Rok-Tahk one day (their connection, despite never verbally speaking with one another, was incredibly charming);
- It was very cool to see an Aurelian as the Protostar's first officer;
- And the timeline of events, as @Rahul suggested, seems more complicated than need be, particularly for a kids' show.
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Colin Lindsly
Fri, Dec 2, 2022, 9:37pm (UTC -6)
First Contact with Solum occurred sometime in the future. It's not clear when, as it could be the 25th or 26th century (the Prometheus class - the ship making the contact - was seen to be active in both centuries).

I enjoyed learning about the backstories of the Protostar crew; however, it is weighed down by the revenge arc of the Vau N'Akat. I want to spend more time with the Protostar crew exploring themselves and the galaxy. That is what Star Trek is about, for me at least. I will be happy when the arc is ended.
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Troy G
Sun, Dec 4, 2022, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
I like how this episode answers some questions for me, particularly how a young Tellerite is in the Deta Quadrant, and the 20-year question regarding Chakotay
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Jammer
Thu, Dec 8, 2022, 4:28pm (UTC -6)
Review now posted.

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