"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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