After three new Trek series aimed at more adult audiences, Star Trek: Prodigy promises a new entry point for kids into the franchise. As regular listeners of our podcast might know, none of us has kids of our own, which makes it hard to know how exactly this new cartoon might land with the target audience.
Luckily, I had the perfect guest to watch with me! Her name is Daphne, but that’s Captain Daphne to you. She’s seen a little bit of Trek, including the beginning of Discovery, but in many ways she’s like the kids on the show: she’s smart, sassy and learning about the Federation and its lore for the first time.
I’ve written out a full recap below (spoiler warning as usual) and at the end I interview Daphne for her review!
The show starts out in 2383 in a Delta Quadrant asteroid prison colony named Tars Lamora. Dal (voiced by Brett Gray) is approached by Drednok (Jimmi Simpson), a menacing robotic enforcer who’s the right hand of the prison head, known as The Diviner (John Noble). Drednok wants to know where “Fugitive Zero” is, but Dal doesn’t know. All of a sudden, a chaotic moment nearby presents Dal an opportunity to make a break for it. He runs and leaps, stealing vehicles and evading Drednok and a team of tracker robots until he finds himself driving a stolen truck out a chute into space…and plummets back into the asteroid’s gravity.
Next we meet Gwyn (Ella Purnell), accepting the delivery of an adorable cat/wolf child from a Kazon, who said he couldn’t find any more orphans for them. Gwyn is clearly proficient in alien languages, including Kazon and she has a problem with how young the kid is and wants to protect her from the hardest mining work.
Gwyn is also the daughter of The Diviner and wants his approval, even while she empathizes with the children that are being held and forced to work all around her. The Diviner is convinced that Dal does know more about Fugitive Zero and tasks Gwyn to get that information from him.
Gwyn’s approach is to bring Dal in to question him. At first he pretends he does know Fugitive Zero, but he gives away the lie by gendering the Fugitive as “he” when in fact Zero is a Medusan, a non-corporeal being without gender. Still Dal convinces Gwyn he can take on a search for the fugitive.
On his mission, Dal ends up tethered to his new buddy, a large rock alien that looks like it could be mean. Dal tries to get his buddy to help him escape but they don’t really understand each other and end up scuffling. Dal aims a mining tool and accidentally hits the rock ceiling, causing rocks to fall. Dal’s buddy saves his life and Dal is just as surprised by that as a bunch of new, beautiful crystals in an area exposed by the ceiling collapse.
Just past the crystals, there’s a Federation starship that we’ll soon learn is called the Protostar and this is a big moment. Climbing on board the ship, Dal and his buddy find a bridge and a comm badge sitting on the arm of a chair. When they touch it it activates the universal translator and Dal gets a shock when his buddy’s voice is high-pitched and frankly adorable! His buddy turns out to be an 8-year-old Brikar named Rok-Takh (Rylee Alazraqui) and she was Captain Daphne’s favorite character.
On the ship they also meet Fugitive Zero, aka just Zero (Angus Imrie). Zero has built themself a robot body that allows them to walk around but also protects others from accidentally gazing on them (callback to TOS where we learn that looking at a Medusan inflicts insanity on other humanoid species).
Side note: in principle I think non-binary characters should be performed/voiced by non-binary actors. But also Medusans are utterly strange and different so this feels like an older form of non-binary representation in Trek where you only get it when it’s alien. I’m into Zero being part of this cast but hope we can see trans and non-binary humanoids too. That all said, neither I nor Captain Daphne found Zero’s voice easily gender-able, so that was cool.
Back to the story, the group realizes they need a few more pairs of hands to actually escape on the Protostar. First order of business is securing an engineer, Tellarite Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas, whose casting gives me great joy as a Brooklyn-99 and The Good Place fan).
Because Tellarites are notoriously argumentative, the group actually has to suggest to him that he doesn’t want to come on the ship as an engineer to get him to accept.
The last crew member they recruit is Murf, who looks like a Lisa Frank blob and kind of squeaks and chirps like a seal.
But they need to hurry to get the ship ready to go because Drednok has let Gwyn know that Dal isn’t where he said he would be. She and Drednok go to apprehend Dal but he gets wind and meets her away from the ship so she doesn’t find it.
Dal is attached to a big turbine along with a bunch of other laborers and it looks super dangerous. Yet again a chaotic moment allows him the chance to escape when something like an explosion or a gas leak seems to distract everyone. Turns out it’s a trap: Drednok and Gwyn are expecting that once he escapes he’ll lead them right back to Fugitive Zero.
When Dal realizes he asks Gwyn to join them but it’s too late, a whole crew of tracker robots are right behind her. There’s a very funny moment when Dal is standing on the hull of the ship making weird faces and Zero lets the others know he’s sending them a telepathic message that they should take Gwyn hostage. Zero thinks it’s a terrible idea but Jankom Pog seizes on it and they all just go for it.
With Gwyn strapped to the Captain’s Chair they activate the ship and a hologram of Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) appears and asks how she can help train them.
The episode ends with The Diviner, clearly in ailing health and hooked up to a machine by several tubes, railing against the fugitives and determined to get his “progeny” back.
Star Trek: Prodigy is rendered entirely with CGI and 3D modeling and it’s a really neat new feel for Trek (yes, it was used in the Short Treks “The Girl Who Made the Stars” but it still feels fresh). Overall we liked the characters and wanted to learn more about them.
The downside in this first episode is that parts were a bit hard to follow, including almost everything up until they find the Protostar. Captain Daphne said she thought younger kids would have even more issues and I couldn’t disagree. If you’re going to show this episode to your kids, you will probably want to be on-hand to explain things like what “noncorporeal” means.