Star Trek Prodigy review S1E5: “Terror Firma”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 27: A general view of atmosphere during a special brunch & screening for Paramount+'s "Star Trek: Prodigy" at Lombardi House on October 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Paramount+)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 27: A general view of atmosphere during a special brunch & screening for Paramount+'s "Star Trek: Prodigy" at Lombardi House on October 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Paramount+) /

“Terror Firma” shifts Star Trek Prodigy into higher gear.

“Terror Firma” is the conclusion to both Star Trek Prodigy’s first cliffhanger and its first batch of released episodes. As the series goes on mid-season hiatus, it delivers another action-packed half hour that further develops the show’s compelling characters.

The episode starts mere moments after “Dreamcatcher” ended. Hologram Janeway contacts her “cadets” to tell them the Protostar safely landed 10 kilometers away. Unfortunately, the planet devours the Runaway ground vehicle, leaving the group no option but to walk. Gwyn broke her leg when she and Murf fled the falling ship, but she uses her telepathically controlled weapon as a leg brace.

The planet (which Jankom hilariously dubs “Murder Planet”) shifts around and continues to attack our characters. By nightfall, they are no nearer their destination. Looking at the stars, Dal and Gwyn realize the group can navigate by them instead.

At the same time, Solum and Drednok arrive and beam down. Drednok shoots Gwyn’s weapon, leaving her unable to escape the planet’s vines and cilia. She urges the others to escape.

Solum finds Gwyn and what he thinks is the Protostar. As Gwyn calls to him for help, he chooses instead to board the “ship”—actually another of the planet’s traps. Dal and the others have reached the real Protostar. They launch, returning to rescue Gwyn.

Solum breaks free from the planet’s snares, and he and Drednok chase the Protostar into warp. Zero and Jankom discover the Protostar’s engine is an actual protostar. Engaging the proto-warp system, the ship accelerates to an even faster speed, leaving Solum and Drednok far behind.

“Terror Firma” shows how families and villains can be complicated on Star Trek Prodigy

Star Trek has frequently told stories about the complicated nature of families. “Terror Firma” stands in that tradition.

On the one hand, it shows us the Protostar “cadets” finally coming together as a “found family.” Rok, Jankom, and Zero are quicker to accept Gwyn as a member of the group than Dal is. But at the episode’s end, it’s Dal at the end of the living chain dangling from the ship to pull her aboard. And Gwyn does what she sees as “the right thing” in casting her lot with the Protostar, no longer lashed to the captain’s chair (as she was in the first three episodes) but sitting there bound by nothing but connection to these other beings.

As Hologram Janeway says, “It’s good to have the entire crew safely aboard.” Presumably, the second half of this season will include ongoing conflicts among our characters. Such is the complicated nature of family life! But after this episode, there’s no doubt these beings belong with each other.

“Terror Firma” also reveals the complexities in Gwyn’s family of origin. Last week, we saw her deep-seated knowledge Solum would not express joy or pride in her or call her by her full name with unconditional love. This week’s episode confirms Gwyn’s insights, but also shows us a multidimensional antagonist.

When Solum must choose between saving Gwyn and recovering what he thinks is the Protostar, both the dependably excellent animation and John Noble’s voice work make viewers sense Solum truly is torn. Later, when his ship catches up to the actual Protostar and hails it, he does seem, at some level, pleased to see she is alive. I think Solum does care about Gwyn—but he cares about the starship more, because he cares about himself more.

On several occasions, including twice in this episode, Solum calls Gwyn “my progeny.” It’s a cold, scientific, biological term. It carries none of the warmth “daughter” or “child” can carry. What’s more, it defines Gwyn strictly in relationship to Solum. It does not recognize her independent existence or identity.

Solum calls the Protostar his “salvation.” The series hasn’t yet fully revealed his connection to the ship, but it clearly runs deep. Neither this dependency on the ship nor his genuine but limited love for Gwyn make him a fully sympathetic character. But they do make him a more compelling one than he was in the series’ pilot episode, and they secure him a place in Star Trek’s sprawling cast of memorable, multifaceted villains.

Star Trek Prodigy created a multifaceted villiam in Solum

Speaking of multifaceted villains, Solum’s visage seems to increasingly resemble Andy Serkis’ Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. The Protostar is his “Precious!” And this episode contains another nifty visual nod to Middle-Earth. As Drednok searches for Dal, Rok, Jankom, Zero, and Murf, they huddle together and hide under an embankment, looking for all the world like the hobbits hiding from a Ringwraith in The Fellowship of the Ring.

The revelation of the nature of the Protostar’s engine feels both obvious and clever. It was hidden in plain sight but I never seriously entertained the thought. Points to the Prodigy creative team for keeping me guessing all month!

Jankom Pog says the baby star in the engine gives the warp drive “one heck of a kick.” The same could be said about Star Trek Prodigy. With each episode, the show outdoes itself, continually raising the stakes and viewers’ investment. There’s plenty to be excited about as we wait for Star Trek Prodigy’s return on January 6, 2022.

Next. Star Trek Prodigy: Just how old is the Protostar?. dark