Time is out of joint in “Time Amok.”
The clever writers at Star Trek Prodigy continue to ring amusing changes on classic titles from the franchise this week with “Time Amok.” But where the title “First Con-tact” was little more a sharp pun, “Time Amok” proves an apt summary of the high-concept dilemma facing the Protostar crew.
When the “cadets” fail to solve Hologram Janeway’s simulation based on the classic “chicken,fox, and grain” riddle in the holodeck, Dal confesses to their photonic mentor that he and his shipmates aren’t the Starfleet cadets she thought they were. There’s not much time to process this revelation, however, because the Protostar encounters a violent tachyon storm. Its emissions fragment the ship’s timeline. Each person ends up isolated from the others as time runs at different speeds for them.
But the fragmented timestream is only the beginning. The tachyon storm also caused a breach in the Protostar’s warp core. Hologram Janeway realizes she must move among her crew’s various timelines and help them somehow work together—a problem analogous to the one they weren’t able to solve on the holodeck.
In the meantime Solum the Diviner, alerted to the Protostar’s whereabouts by DaiMon Nandi, remotely activates a file in the ship’s vehicle replicator (first seen in “Starstruck”) that generates a new version of Drednok, in Gwyn’s timeline, which is closest to normal time. Gwyn uses her (way cool) telepathically controlled blade to dispatch the murderous droid—but not before he, in an attempt to save the ship for Solum, finds the correctly sized dilithium coupler the Protostar crew, across its various timelines, is looking for to finish the repair job.
Gwyn records a message for Rok-Tahk, for whom time is moving forward at an extremely slow rate. The message contains the schematics for a new warp matrix Zero designed, and the location of the dilithium coupler. Wisely using the enormous expanse of time available to her, Rok-Tahk learns multiple engineering disciplines “and so much math” to complete the warp core repairs. Activating the matrix reunites the timelines and the Protostar friends. “You may not think you’re a crew,” Hologram Janeway tells them, “but you sure look like one.”
“Time Amok” is a breakout episode for Rok-Tahk
“Time Amok” uses a sophisticated science fiction concept to generate drama and tension. Separating the members of the Protostar crew from each other by placing them at different points in “oscillating time” is a clever move, creating a logical reason to focus on one character at a time (no pun intended) throughout the episode.
And no character benefits more from these extended periods of focus than Rok-Tahk. Ten-year-old voice actor Rylee Alazraqui delivers outstanding performances in episode after episode, but she outdoes herself in “Time Amok.” I found the scene in which the increasingly agitated Rok-Tahk orders the computer to “make Janeway go away” after the hologram has been urgently pressing her on the need to fix the warp core containment deeply moving. Alazraqui sounds genuinely distressed and overwhelmed. And her litany of “good nights” to her crewmates who aren’t there with her is one of the series’ most tender moments to date. I hope Prodigy will continue exploring not only the after-effects of Rok-Tahk’s lengthy isolation from the others but also her discovery of her “calling” as an engineer.
The emotional journey Rok-Tahk undergoes in “Time Amok” makes it easy to forget the rest of the crew dies when the Protostar explodes in their various timelines! It’s treated lightly, since Prodigy is primarily pitched at younger viewers—”Jankom distinctly remembers not being alive!” But it’s another example of how the show deftly handles big ideas and big themes.
Another example is the question Hologram Janeway asks Dal in his timeline. It’s a line of dialogue that no doubt resonates more with middle-aged fans such as yours truly than it does with younger viewers, but that fact only underscores how well this series works on multiple levels. Hologram Janeway asks Dal, who has been absorbed in a computer game in his isolation, “What do you want to do with the time you have left: play some silly snake game or get to building?”
Using the time we have to build—a better future, a better present, a better community—is what Star Trek, at its finest, has always been about. “Time Amok” shows Star Trek Prodigy is carrying that torch forward in excellent fashion.