Star Trek all-stars teach Dal about command in “Kobyashi.”
Back from hiatus, Star Trek Prodigy wastes no time boldly going back into the franchise’s past for fun and inspiration with “Kobyashi.” Having successfully escaped Solum thanks to their ship’s super-fast protostar-powered warp drive, the Protostar crew is ready to go to the Federation. But Dal, their self-appointed “captain,” is not. He’s convinced going to Starfleet will mean losing his freedom.
So when he and Jankom Pog find a Kobayashi Maru scenario in the holodeck files, Dal feels compelled to show he has what being a captain takes. With a holographic crew of Uhura, Odo, Dr. Crusher, Spock, and (before it’s all over) Scotty under his command, Dal tries the test more than 100 times. Each attempt ends in inevitable and spectacular failure.
Meanwhile, Gwyn and Zero have asked Hologram Janeway about the Protostar’s purpose before it was buried on Tars Lamora. She informs them the information is classified. They manage to retrieve the data, but it’s encrypted and password-protected in the language of the Vau N’Akat—of whom Gwyn and Solum are the only remaining members, and with whom the Federation has supposedly had no contact. Gwyn translates the password, gaining full access to multiple corrupted but readable data fragments which may yield answers.
After (he thinks) almost beating the Kobyashi Maru scenario, Dal, thanks to some counsel from holographic Spock, realizes he needs to listen more to his “crew” and put their needs before his. He finds them analyzing the retrieved data—one of which is a holographic recording of Hologram Janeway and the Protostar’s former captain, Chakotay, as the ship is about to be boarded.
Furthering current character growth and saluting Star Trek characters past
As did the fourth season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, “Kobayashi” leans into one of the most popular elements of Star Trek lore, the “no-win scenario” designed to test Starfleet cadets’ character.
Remembering its true nature, viewers can safely say Dal passed the test with flying colors.
No, he didn’t rescue the Kobayashi Maru. No one can. No one does. But his persistent attempts to do so (not unlike Boimler’s repeated attempts to save the entire Borg cube in Lower Decks’ “I, Excretus”) show him coming a long way from his first instinct, which was to turn and run. Dal’s performance on the test, coupled with the revelation he insisted the Protostar return for Gwyn in “Terror Firma,” shows how much he is growing toward becoming, if not a Starfleet captain, then at least a more mature person and friend.
Using the holographic scenario to include so many classic Trek characters was a brilliant idea. It’s amazingly well-executed, too, thanks to carefully curated sound clips. Only Gates McFadden recorded new dialogue. (Unfortunately, Dr. Crusher’s likeness is the least convincing of the five classic characters seen here.) The “cameos” are bittersweet, given the fact all the other actors represented—save Nichelle Nichols, who is struggling with dementia—have died. But watching this cross-section of Trek history in action is overall a delight, and may convince some holdout fans Prodigy is indeed “real Star Trek.”
The episode nicely advances the intertwined mysteries of the Protostar and the Vau N’Akat. We learn none other than Chakotay captained the ship on (presumably) the mission that brought it to the Delta Quadrant and Tars Lamora. And a flashback shows us Gwyn is essentially a clone of Solum, given life in defiance of “The Order.”
The scene also gives us our first firm landmark for Prodigy’s place in the Trek timeline: some six years after Star Trek: Voyager. (The flashback is set “17 years ago,” on stardate 43929.9, sometime late in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s third season. Adding 17 yields a stardate beginning in 60. Per Memory Alpha, Voyager’s latest stardate was 54973.4. Q.E.D.)
We don’t know who “The Order” is, why it forbade Solum an offspring, or why Solum needs the Protostar, but meaty answers feel close at hand.
A friendship between Gwyn and Zero also develops nicely in “Kobyashi.” As did Rok-Tahk in “Starstruck,” Zero here gives Gwyn insight into their experience as a prisoner on Tars Lamora, but also makes a genuine connection. The two work together to retrieve the classified data, and Zero’s reminder that language is more interpretation than translation gives Gwyn needed encouragement to access the information.
Nobody beats the Kobyashi Maru. But no episode of Star Trek Prodigy yet beats “Kobyashi” for classy callbacks to the franchise’s past and exciting glimpses of what this series could mean for its future as the show continues.