Star Trek Prodigy shows the Protostar crew risking everything.
The latest episode of Star Trek: Prodigy, “A Moral Star: part 1”, brings Solum the Diviner’s chase of the Protostar and its crew to a close by giving our characters a compelling reason to take the ship back to Tars Lamora, the mining prison asteroid where their current “joyride” began.
In a holographic message stored in the replicated Drednok’s head, Solum offers to release his prisoners, “the Unwanted,” in exchange for the Protostar’s return. Solum gives them one day to decide, or “the miners will pay the price.”
The Protostar has enough power for only one more activation of its proto-drive. Faced with either jumping to the Federation, which may not be able to reach Tars Lamora in time, or handing over the Protostar in the hopes they can trust Solum, our crew decides to go back—after devising a secret plan.
At Tars Lamora, Solum not only takes control of the Protostar but (in a very Darth Vader-like move) alters the terms of his deal, demanding Gwyn come with him. Drednok objects, reminding Solum that Gwyn doesn’t know the full truth about herself. But Gwyn agrees, on the condition Solum leave her friends and the miners with his own ship, the Rev-12. Solum agrees, and remotely unlocks the miners’ manacles. Gwyn makes a sad farewell to her friends, but believing she is making amends for having done nothing when Solum originally took all his prisoners.
Once aboard the Protostar, Solum has Drednok override Hologram Janeway, who is transformed into a somber, subservient version of herself. He then, over Gwyn’s protests, destroys the Rev-12’s power generators, which leads to a loss of gravity on Tars Lamora. “I promised them a ship,” he sneers, “not their lives.” The Protostar leaves. Solum is about to telepathically communicate the hidden truth about Gwyn to her when he discovers the secret Gwyn has been hiding: The Protostar crew removed its proto-drive.
Back on Tars Lamora, we discover Solum’s taking the Protostar was all part of the crew’s plan. The Diviner just “couldn’t resist the bait.” Dal admits the loss of gravity and power wasn’t part of the plan, but the crew gets busy fixing the generators and gathering the prisoners.
Should Star Trek Prodigy make the Protostar gang a conventional crew?
Our characters’ realization they “make a good team” and their decision to don Starfleet uniforms—quite stylish ones, too, their gray and white color scheme evoking the admirals’ togs seen in both Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the Star Trek Kelvin timeline films—feel logical and appropriate, especially after the harrowing events of “Time Amok.”
The episode also reaffirms, in unequivocal terms, the high ideals and principles Star Trek fans have long associated with Starfleet. As Hologram Janeway tells her crew, “”[Y]ou’re risking everything on a seemingly impossible mission to save others, to bring hope to a hopeless cause. Nothing’s more Starfleet than that.”
I do wonder whether the Protostar gang’s evolution into a Starfleet crew, complete with Dal embracing his appropriately revised role of captain (as we saw him first seriously start to do in “Kobayashi”), is actually the best direction for Star Trek: Prodigy to take.
For me, a great deal of this series’ charm and fascination has been its ability to feel so much like classic Star Trek without structuring itself along classic Star Trek lines. I enjoyed seeing our characters face and meet challenges without having the typical Starfleet chain of command, shared ethos, and even shorthand to fall back on. No doubt the Protostar crew will continue to be unconventional in several ways as the series goes forward, but their new layer of Starfleet “formality” feels like a slight loss to me.
On balance, this episode delivers a gripping and well-executed plot, full of twists and turns in its last two acts. All the actors deliver their usual strong performances.
It’s especially a treat to get so much of John Noble as Solum. As I mentioned when reviewing “Terror Firma,” the Diviner emerges as a multifaceted character no matter how much Gwyn calls him a monster. To be sure—Solum is not a “good guy!” He is the villain of the piece. But like all strong villains, he is a compelling presence, and his motivation is clearly layered, even if we still haven’t yet learned all his secrets.
Judging a two-part story before it’s done is always a challenge. But “A Moral Star, Part 1” is a strong beginning. We certainly are “in cat boots now!”