Hologram Janeway helps the Star Trek Prodigy crew survive in “Starstruck.”
In “The City on the Edge of Forever,” Captain Kirk told Edith Keeler a novelist of the future recommended the words “let me help” even over “I love you.” “Starstruck,” this week’s episode of Star Trek Prodigy, is a recommendation of three related words: “I need help!”
The action begins where last week’s ended. Hologram Janeway tells the Protostar “cadets” about the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet’s mission of peaceful exploration. Rok, Pog, and Zero think she makes a pretty good “pitch.” But Gwyn orders the ship back to Tars Lamora. In response, Dal proclaims himself captain. He sends Gwyn to the brig and orders a course, over Janeway’s warnings, away from the Federation toward what turns out to be a self-destructing binary star system.
No command Dal gives frees the ship from the event’s gravity well. When he diverts power to the engines, Gwyn escapes from the brig. She can’t take an escape pod because Dal is jettisoning “everything not bolted down.” But the Protostar’s computer suggests using the ship’s “vehicle replicator” to create a shuttlecraft. The shuttle’s being built when Rok, on Dal’s orders, finds Gwyn. The two fight as the shuttle takes shape around them—one of the niftiest fight scenes in any Star Trek series.
Back on the bridge, Dal finally realizes he needs help. Hologram Janeway gives our adventurers the guidance they need to escape disaster. With Gwyn back in the brig and everyone else eager to begin Janeway’s Starfleet training in earnest, the Protostar soars toward its future—not knowing Solum the Diviner has left Tars Lamora in pursuit of his kidnapped daughter and the ship.
“Starstruck” plants Star Trek Prodigy character development seeds
Captain Kathryn Janeway is present only in holographic form in Star Trek Prodigy, but it’s a delight to hear Kate Mulgrew performing the role again. This Janeway has all her corporeal counterpart’s wit, warmth, and wisdom—and even her signature coffee mug! And her brief introduction to the Star Trek philosophy, complete with quotes from “the captain’s oath” monologue, is as inspirational to viewers as it is to the characters. I look forward to seeing how Hologram Janeway keeps nudging these ragtag cadets toward realizing their full potential.
On the surface, it seems Dal may need the most nudging of all. His self-indulgent sweep through the captain’s quarters shows he’s eager for the perks of being in charge, even though events reveal he’s not ready to be a leader. But he does demonstrate some healthy skepticism about leaders in general. “The Federation?” he asks at one point. “It’s just another name for someone else in charge.” He’s really raising this question: Who do we choose to listen, to and why? “Take it from me,” he says, “if it sounds too good to be true, it is.” This line’s more than a hint at Dal’s as-yet unrevealed backstory. It’s pretty good advice for living. Though Dal can’t see the irony in asking people he’s lied to several times to listen to him—”I lie for us,” he explains—he’s got seeds of a philosophy that could serve him well as he grows into a true leader.
“Starstruck” also plants seeds for could become a complex and significant relationship between Gwyn and Rok. Although they come to blows, they also speak honestly and openly to each other—and seem to really hear each other. Rok voices her anger at Gwyn for having been treated as a criminal on Tars Lamora. Gwyn seems to grieve the fact her father told her all the “unwanted” on the prison world were criminals. And while she offers up the insufficient “only following orders” defense, she also points out Rok is making the same mistake in her blind acceptance of Dal’s commands.
I’m a little disappointed Gwyn is still in the brig and a kidnapped captive as this episode ends. Although she is an intriguing character, positioned to be Prodigy’s co-lead, she has largely taken a back seat to Dal in the series’ first three episodes. I hope and expect the storylines will soon give her more attention and agency.
“Starstruck” isn’t short on sheer entertainment, either. Discovering the Protostar along with the characters is a joy for any Trek fan who’s daydreamed of wandering around a starship. (It has two warp cores—plus a mysterious, starlike power source we will no doubt hear more about.) And Jankom Pog continues to be a dependable source of enjoyable one-liners. (My favorite this week? When he first sees Janeway, he asks, “Why is her forehead so smooth?”)
Star Trek has always encouraged us to “plot our own course,” as Dal says. But it never encourages us to go it alone, as Dal initially wants to. “Starstruck” is a delightful maiden flight for the Protostar, in which we can hear these twin Trek emphases loud and clear even in the midst of a fun, fast-paced ride.
Our characters still need help finding themselves and plotting their course, but the artists of word, animation, and voice behind Star Trek Prodigy need no help creating a fresh and compelling take on the Star Trek universe and ethos.