Star Trek: Prodigy

"Supernova, Part 2"

3.5 stars

Air date: 12/29/2022
Written by Kevin & Dan Hageman
Directed by Ben Hibon

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Supernova, Part 2" spends its first act quickly resolving the cliffhanger set up in part one before then moving into full coda/wrapup/setup mode for its second and third acts. This is definitely to the episode's benefit, because in the process it ends up being the best and most satisfying episode of the season — not to mention demonstrating the most thematically resonant and relevant material that a kids' Trek series of this type should be putting forward.

To make a short story shorter, the kids realize that to stop the weapon from destroying the entire fleet, they have to destroy the Protostar by destabilizing the engine core (resulting in the titular supernova). This would wipe out the entire star system and the present fleet, so they must move the ship far away at a fast enough speed to spread out the blast's destruction and minimize it in any one location. This is the precise level of technobabble that a story like this needs — sensible and straightforward while making it about the characters' choices.

Even better, the story offers up a major sacrifice, which comes in the form of Hologram Janeway, who must oversee the self-destruct while the kids abandon ship in a shuttle. Holo-Janeway plans to back up her program so the kids can take it with them, but it has become too large to transfer onto the available portable storage. Instead, Holo-Janeway leaves them a recording with encouraging words that provide exactly the right meaningful message. It's an effective level of loss that isn't too heavy for a kids' show but gives the story some actual dramatic stakes.

These elements work in spite of the whole overcooked idea of the Super Virus Weapon, which results in the destruction of what must be dozens of ships here and, one would think, a large number of casualties. The story papers over it so as to not go too dark, but the plot really never should've gone down the whole "destruction of the Federation" road in the first place, and shouldn't have unleashed the catastrophe for the sake of last week's cliffhanger. It's dumb and unnecessary given what works on this show, and spending so many serialized episodes on this contrived super-weapon was a waste.

Fortunately, the finale spends a minimal amount of time on this and instead brings us back to Earth (and ground level), where we get a number of insightful scenes that close the book on this volume while also setting up some basics for season two.

We get a scene where Janeway and a Vulcan science officer discuss a wormhole that was opened by the destroyed Protostar, and they uncover a distress call from Chakotay that originates from 52 years in the future. So Chakotay's whereabouts remain unsolved, but with more clues that could drive future stories.

Meanwhile, the kids make their way back to Earth and attend a hearing about their various infractions and heroics, while Starfleet decides whether to grant them acceptance into the Academy. Granting them immediate acceptance is deemed unfair, but instead they're given warrant officer status under Janeway's command. However, Gwyn announces she's leaving to return to her not-yet-destroyed homeworld, in an attempt to stop its catastrophic future from happening. Will she return in season two? She and Dal share a nice goodbye scene.

The show offers teasers for a second season that will hopefully be more about our characters learning to be Starfleet officers and less about serving a serialized plot, but what we see here is promising. There's a new Protostar in a class of vessels that we see has been built, but Janeway mentions she has "a much bigger plan" for her new crew members. The kids all have an earnestness about Starfleet and the Federation that is the right tone for what this show should be, and I hope they can learn while also being themselves in their new roles and surroundings.

This is a much better season finale than the action-heavy first half seemed to be pointing toward. The fact that it spends its time getting our characters into the real Star Trek world and dealing with the newness of that, and out of the serialized plot that was holding it back for much of the season's back half, is probably a big reason why.

Some closing thoughts:

  • Why do they clip off the music at the end of every act break on this series instead of letting it naturally end? It's clearly intentional (is this some trendy style on hip kids shows these days?), but it's a terrible choice that just feels clunky and amateurish. If I were the composer, I'd revolt.
  • During the hearing, and throughout this season, everyone kept referring to the Protostar as a "stolen Federation ship." Even the kids constantly acted like they were guilty of stealing it. This was really tedious given that they found it abandoned in a mine and used it to escape their enslavement, and then headed straight for Federation space with the intent of returning it. They didn't steal it, the Diviner did.
  • For a while I was wondering if this show was setting itself up to become the long-discussed, never-developed Starfleet Academy series that's been bouncing around Paramount since the TNG days. (This also could've played as a series finale; there's enough resolution.)
  • In retrospect, the Protostar should've been destroyed a long time ago, given what happens here. How many people had to die so these kids could hitch a ride to the Alpha Quadrant? And on TNG, finding a way to overcome or outsmart the Super Virus Weapon and its whole "hailing frequencies will kill everyone" nonsense (why not beam a message in a bottle into space explaining the whole situation?) would've been figured out in 30 minutes flat. It wasn't here merely because the plot needed it for this protracted arc.
  • So ends the first year of year-round streaming Star Trek. I managed to mostly keep up, but I could definitely use the downtime. Although 2023 looks like there's no slowing down, I may get a month or so of a break. Star Trek: Picard returns for its final season in February, and I'll see you then.

Previous episode: Supernova, Part 1

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11 comments on this post

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Android Dan
Thu, Dec 29, 2022, 5:19am (UTC -6)
I had been watching Prodigy for most of the season but faded away after the episodes were getting too “kiddie” for my liking. I decided that I had invested too much time to not see the conclusion so I decided to re-up my Paramount Plus subscription to catch the final two episodes. I have no regrets about that. If only the entire series had run with the sharper writing and characterization evident in the last two episodes. I’m thinking this was first-year teething issues and many Star Trek (and non-Star Trek) series have had choppy first years that were redeemed in subsequent seasons with more confident writers and more fleshed out characters.

Is the conclusion a perfect episode without flaws? Absolutely not, there are plenty of things to nit pick and criticize here…however I’m left feeling hopeful about Star Trek and this series after feeling the earnest intent and positive outlook the ending conveyed. For the first time in a while I felt the real “core” of Star Trek was able to shine through in a NuTrek series (not to knock Discovery or Lower Decks as those series have had some bright spots as well but just not as fulfilling for some reason to my brain).

I think it’s because it’s a children’s show that the somewhat simplistic messaging that the future can be hopeful actually works (no need for grim-dark cynicism or overly gray socially muddied pontification about the “two sides to every story”). I really don’t need Star Trek to explore the ugly underbelly of Star Fleet or the Federation within the context of this show.

Essentially, Starfleet represents the best of future-evolved humanity and that’s what the intrepid kids of Prodigy have been motivated and hoping to experience all season long.

I’m a bit surprised that the writers didn’t do a reset at the end and leave the kids stranded for another year away from the Federation, instead we get some nice fulfilment of the year-long journey both emotionally and physically. I was genuinely smiling when they revealed the Prodigy shuttle landing in the SF Bay waters.

Random thoughts…

The ending feels simultaneously abrupt and too drawn out at the same time. There’s lots of plot threads wrapped up but then many new ones created in 10 minutes. Janeway still has to find Chakotay, Gwen has to find her home planet and reconcile with her father, Dal and the rest have to learn and find their way in a very different environment/society/construct.

I’m surprised that it seems like Janeway won’t necessarily be taking the kids to find Chakotay on a newly-built Prodigy but instead she seemed to hint at using another ship? Perhaps a new Voyager?

Is this truly the end of Holo Janeway? It seems like with the “real” Admiral Janeway persisting as a regular character on the series there isn’t necessarily a need for Holo Janeway, but I can’t help but feel like she was a distinct character with her own personality and it seems kind of a shame to bid farewell to her forever.

The editing of the final episode was noticeably choppy. Very abrupt cuts from one scene to the next that almost felt like mistakes but I know they where just trying to keep to the runtime with too much story to tell in not enough time.

I’m curious if they will keep the kids in their new uniforms for an entire season 2. They lose a lot of their personality and individuality with the rather drab gray colors of the new uniforms. Also -not to body shame anyone- but the more rounded and large shapes of Jankom and Rok just don’t translate well into those “onesie” style uniforms.

I was truly expecting some sort of time travel stunt to reset things and save Starfleet from the massive losses they took while under the destructive control of the construct. Clearly based on the debris field many starships were totally destroyed. This seems like a pretty significant loss of life and equipment in a single event which is kind of hand-waved away due to it being a kids show. I don’t think there will be any acknowledgement of this in the future so we’ll just have to accept that.

Interesting that they addressed the “no engineered beings” in Starfleet rule by splitting hairs and saying that Dal wasn’t actually augmented but just a hybrid of multiple species. I suppose technically this works but it sure is bending logic and reality to a great degree. I’m OK with it…because it’s a kids show (that’s the mantra one must say over and over again with Prodigy).
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AMA
Thu, Dec 29, 2022, 7:47am (UTC -6)
A competent end to the first season, highlighted by Holo and Admiral Janeways.

The resolution to the previous episode's cliffhanger was a considerable letdown, somewhat akin to the start of the second half of The Next Generation's 'The Best of Both Worlds.' I'm not certain the series ever made it clear that the virus is contingent upon the continued existence of the Protostar, but even then the logic is severely lacking. Admittedly, I did not consider the possibility upon which the crew ultimately arrived, and wonder, in retrospect, why the option, beside dramatic reasons, was not previously taken. It certainly would have spared a great number of lives. There are also some questions as to just how the crew found their way to where they did (with sufficient air).

Overlooking the cliffhanger's resolution, I thought the rest of the episode played quite well. I do wish, however, that the episode pointed to a second season focused on life at Starfleet Academy, but it seems the series will be heading in multiple other directions. Oh well.

The season suffered from some of the same issues as other recent instalments, in stretching the central story out unnecessarily, but, all in all, it was an enjoyable arc. The highlights, for me, were First Con-tact, and All the World's a Stage, with an honourable mention going to Kobayashi.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Dec 29, 2022, 8:10am (UTC -6)
I have really, really mixed opinions on this one. The problem with it is though it contained many poignant scenes which provided good payoff of the seasonal arc, those individual scenes didn't comprise a full episode - not even the second part of a two-parter. This was pretty clearly about 1/3rd the end of the final act of last week, and then 2/3rds epilogue. And while all of this would have worked fine tacked onto last week's episode, as a single weekly drop it was probably the single worst episode (in terms of structure) in Star Trek history. Lots of good content, but the parts did not make a whole.

I am happy that they took their time with the finale, and we got so many longer, drawn-out scenes to explore the character interactions and what happens after the climax of the story. That said...the climax was incredibly anticlimactic. The gang come up with an idea to save the day literally a single minute into the episode. That plan goes off without a hitch. The Construct does not try to interfere, Ascencia and Drednok do not reappear, there's not even some sort of last-minute technological snafu. Indeed, the framing of everything, right from the first minute, is saying "this is the conclusion, this is the only possible solution!" which means we're just strapped in for the now foreordained conclusion. They do lengthen it a bit with Holo-Janeway's fond farewell, but this is like if Best of Both Worlds Part II came up with the "Borg hack" two minutes into the episode, we were done with the Borg in 15 minutes, and then we were dropped right into Family!

I did have a few other minor niggles along the way as well. I was let down how after the ultimate sacrifice of Holo-Janeway, there was very little in the way of consequence. The kids won, they got into Starfleet (except for Gwyn, who has another path). Here I am able to give the show some credit, as it's a kids show, so a happy(ish) ending is generally expected, but it was all just a little too saccharine and unbelievable to me. Particularly that all of them became acting cadets - even Rok-Tahk (who seems to be the mental equivalent of a 10-year old) and Murf (who cannot verbalize in a comprehensible fashion, acts like a small child at times, and may not even be sentient). I mean, come on...Murf is a pet, a mascot, he's not one of the kids! But all of this stuff can be forgiven on the "grading the show on a kids show curve." The structural issues with the episode cannot though. If Lower Decks can figure out how to do a season finale properly in the same runtime, Prodigy should be able to as well.
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JS
Thu, Dec 29, 2022, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
Nice little nugget: the shuttlecrafts welcoming the crew in SF bear the "NCC-74656-A" registry number. Anyone wants to hazard a guess what ship they get in Season 2? :>
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Rahul
Thu, Dec 29, 2022, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
The writers figured out a way to tie up everything nicely, plant a seed for a 2nd season, have plenty of good-byes, maudlin -- a typical nu-Trek season-ender. But the amount of technobabble was on par with a VOY or TNG episode -- did they toss out "interspatial flexture" or some such? And some crap about creating a wormhole via an interspatial rift?

At least it's clear where the supernova episode title comes from -- and I'd say it's creative to spread the explosion through time as a way of minimizing the damage in the present time. Dal started the idea and his teammates tacked on other parts.

So it would seem PROD S2 would involve looking for Chakotay 52 years in the future in Janeway's new ship with all the kids minus Gwyn. Can expect to see what effect Gwyn has on her people in 52 years time? Might be interesting -- I'd hope we see the character again.

The kids don't' get into StarFleet but of course Janeway takes them along under her command. All charges against them dropped -- much like in the TOS movie. Interesting the line about Dal being constituted from 26 member species of the Fed and that he's some kind of perfect representative of the Fed -- so should various member species all start cross-breeding then??

2 stars for "Supernova, Part 2" -- not quite as good as Part 1, not a lot of time spent on plot but mostly wrapping up and setting up. I guess again, I'm not a fan of each season being it's own arc and needing to tie a bow at the end of each season, but here it would seem there will be a fair bit of continuity for S2.
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Jammer
Thu, Dec 29, 2022, 9:45pm (UTC -6)
Review now posted.
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Daniel
Fri, Dec 30, 2022, 4:38am (UTC -6)
The biggest qualm I have with the show at this point is the concept that Starfleet would authorize the construction and deployment of a ship powered by something that could be so catastrophic if destabilized, would trigger a supernova explosion so massive that it could wipe out a star system. A warp core breach, by comparison, seems to only affect maybe tens of thousands of kilometers in radius.

Star Trek TNG/DS9/VOY era shows were full of episodes where propulsion and power technologies potentially more powerful and more devastating were shown as not worth the risk. Kinda wish they'd toned down the consequences of a containment failure of a protostar drive.
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Troy G
Fri, Dec 30, 2022, 9:44am (UTC -6)
Very good episode. I may watch it again
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Fortyseven
Fri, Dec 30, 2022, 3:18pm (UTC -6)
Honestly, if you decided to skip Picard S3, or even just do a mid-season and season finale wrap-up, that would be completely understandable.

The new-ish showrunner seems very proud of what's to come, and that excitement is infectious, to a point. But what we've actually been shown in the previews, at least to me, indicates it'll be more of the same, but an even more of a reference-heavy, Trek love-fest than S1 or S2 were. And that's saying something. And now they're dragging the original TNG cast down into the muck.

I hate being that cynical, specially coming off the back of the very positive, hope-filled Prodigy. I really hope the third time's the charm, but nothing in Picard's history up to this point gives me any reason to believe it'll make up for all that... noise.

Here's hopin'. 🤞
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StarMan
Mon, Jan 2, 2023, 6:58pm (UTC -6)
@Fortyseven: "Honestly, if you decided to skip Picard S3, or even just do a mid-season and season finale wrap-up, that would be completely understandable."

Goodness, don't say that. I intend to use Jammer's reviews and the comments section sentiment to gauge whether I'll subject my eyeballs to Stewart's final insult. :-D

After SNW underwhelmed I stopped watching NuTrek - first time I've switched off on any new Trek content in over 25 years - and I couldn't be happier. Man cannot live on hate-watching alone; even I have my limits.

From the sounds of it there has been some decent stuff between LD and PRO, but reading a few comments I feel I probably would've been so-so on the whole thing. My logic is - why support the animated / kids stuff when the adult-orientated content that I'm most interested in so dreadfully underwhelms?

Anyway, so far as Picard and Jammer, S3 needs to break the pattern of previous season before I tune in.

As for those expectations, basically:

Episode 1 & 2: Memberberry overload, lots of exciting setup - 3 to 3 1/2 star range. Sentiment: medium to high. Am I in? Not a chance. S2 pulled the same stunt before diving off a cliff.

Episode 3 & 4: Momentum from first couple of episodes still strong; the settling in phase of the season. Things might slow down a tad, perhaps not quite as exciting and kinetic as at the start. Sentiment: medium, interested, maybe a few quibbles. Am I in? Nope, as we're approaching the critical mid-season.

Episode 5 & 6: Momentum has dropped off. The nudge along of the mystery elements is starting to get annoying. Weaker writing, obvious padding, questionable character motivation. Sentiment: hope is fading, irritability, disappointment- some will still champion the season regardless. THIS is where I'm most interested. If my expectations are met, I'll step back check back in after the finale. BUT - if Jammer is regularly pumping out 3 to 4 star ratings up to this point and sentiment is still high / enthusiastic, I'm gonna jump in and check out episode 1 and give Matalas the benefit of the doubt.
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Tim C
Thu, Jan 5, 2023, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
I quite enjoyed this! Scattershot though it was, it hit the emotional beats well and set the show up for something intriguingly new in season 2. I'm looking forward to it.

Muchos gracias for your efforts in 2022, Jammer. Look forward to joining you for Picard season 3. Good lord, it *has* to be better than season 2, right...

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