Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 16 Review: PreludesDiana Keng at .
I'll be honest. I love anthologies. I love exposition. So by any measure, Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 16 is a sheer delight for me, and I'll also admit that's a weird thing to say about a collection of woe-filled tales of child slavery, kidnapping, and vengeance-fueled tragedy.
However, thanks to the genius in the planning and pacing of the season, we're able to see the backstories of Rok-Tahk, Zero, and Jankom Pog as traumatic events that led to their happier, healthier place aboard the Protostar.
And while life isn't perfect for our intrepid kid crew, the injustices they have survived are easier to process, knowing they eventually find a family with each other.
The same cannot be said for Asencia, now known to be The Vindicator, and The Diviner.
While it's exciting to know for certain where (and when) Chakotay is and how The Protostar became weaponized to destroy the Federation, knowing the Vau N'Akat's specific circumstances only serves to deepen the sense of foreboding their thirst for retribution instills.
The Vindicator's recount of the events that led to her presence on the Dauntless is dramatic and passionate.
The Diviner's response to it is equally as weighty. Gone is the bewildered and lost victim of unknown wrongs. Returned is the determined being of singular purpose.
The Diviner: They called it an accident, but we know it was fate.
The Vindicator: They had no idea how starved we were for retribution.
It's interesting to note that The Vindicator remembers The Diviner being enamored of what the Federation offered the Vau N'Akat at first contact with some disdain.
Similarly, before having his memory jogged, The Diviner quickly notes that Janeway and Starfleet have been kind to him.
Meanwhile, The Vindicator, who has spent three years entrenched undercover with Starfleet as the model Ensign Asencia, has no warm feelings for them at all.
Her shock at The Diviner knocking out Vice Admiral Janeway is presumably more at his sudden reversal of sentiment than any concern for her commander.
We gave up our lives, our futures, our identities to protect Solum. Lone soldiers with singular purpose.The Vindicator
In another brilliant bit of plot architecture, hearing how each of the Protostar's crew members ended up on Tars Lamora draws the audience into a parallel with Vice Admiral Janeway as she reviews the intel on each of the targets of The Diviner's bounties.
While we've known since the Protostar took flight that the crew were victims making a break for freedom and a better life, IRL Janeway has been focused on finding Chakotay, which has framed anyone besides him flying the Protostar as a potential villain.
Her beginning her search for The Diviner only to walk in on The Vindicator and her Drednok followed immediately with being incapacitated by The Diviner himself is dramatic irony writ LARGE.
But the silver lining is that with an attack on the Vice Admiral, biding time is over.
We can’t go in. They won’t come out. Whatever trouble they’re in, they’ve locked us out.Vice Admiral Janeway
Over in the Neutral Zone, the classic Canterbury Tales format gets a Trek makeover as Rok, Zero, and Jankom share their very different journeys to Tars Lamora.
The Protostar's stories all share a common trait: a deliberate absence of biological parents.
When TV Fanatic spoke with co-creators, the Hageman Brothers, they shared that the writers' room considered what bringing parents into the story might mean and decided the Prodigy story should focus on the found family aboard the Protostar.
On Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 15, it's revealed that Dal is the product of genetic engineering.
We already knew that Gwyn is a cloned progeny of The Diviner. Hearing him explain to The Vindicator what sparked Gwyn's teenage rebellion is a beautifully accessible moment for all parents and one of the few LOL moments here.
The Diviner: I spent twenty years searching. I thought I wasn’t going to live long enough to see it.
The Vindicator: So you defied the order and made a progeny. You had to ensure the mission was completed. But tell me, why did she betray us?
The Diviner: She met a boy.
The specifics of Medusan procreation remain a mystery to outsiders, so Zero's kidnapping is essentially being stolen from their collective. Like a Borg drone being cut off from their hive mind.
We each have things in our past we wish to forget. Some more than others.Zero
Zero's captivity and exploitation by The Diviner and his Drednok are the most horrific of the Tars Lamora atrocities. Gwyn recognizes this and can't help but apologize for it, although she didn't know.
While Zero had no choice in causing the damage they did to those Drednok interrogated, they carry the guilt of what their visage was used for.
In the same way, Gwyn feels culpable for everything The Diviner and Drednok did, believing she could have stopped them if she had known, if she had sought out the truth.
Rok-Tahk's tale is predictably tender and, in turn, heart-warming and heart-rending.
I love that it explains her preference for Nutri-Goop and her pacifism. It also demonstrates how she saw the world in a positive light even when trapped in such a terrible situation.
A Hero needs something to fight, and people came from all over to watch the Hero fight me. I tried to scare the Hero, but heroes aren’t scared easily. The crowd couldn’t wait to see the Hero win.Rok-Tahk
There's a brief moment where I truly believed that the comedic take on the Hero vs. Monster battle would lead to a new renaissance of entertainment, à la Monsters Inc., but the inevitable Kazon cameo snuffs that hope.
Rok's tale isn't truly done yet, though. I'd like to know who left her -- a mere child -- to be a sideshow performer in the first place. I'm sure Murf would like a few minutes alone with them too.
Jankom Pog's tale is perhaps the most revealing of the three crew narratives.
We learn first that he is an orphan, as the Tellarites use orphans for deep space missions. What those deep space missions are is left tantalizingly open-ended.
Rok: I’d prefer to hear more of your stories. We never heard from you, Jankom.
Gwyn: You are the most miserable of the lot. I bet you have an interesting story.
We learn he's been trained as an engineer but hasn't completed that training.
But, most significantly, we learn that Jankom Pog, despite his natural Tellarite antagonism to everything, is an optimist.
At no point does the bot insinuate he isn't up to the task to trigger his contrariness. Instead, Jankom chants his mantra, "Jankom Pog can fix it!" until he does exactly that.
He proves himself an engineer and a hero. It's illuminating and illustrative of how layered these characters are.
The writing of this episode is credited to the entire Star Trek: Prodigy writers' room. Presumably, teams took on each story, purposefully crafting various styles, enhanced as always by Nami Melumad's gorgeously diverse score.
It's a real achievement when a show can entertain like this without any forward action.
Whose story did you connect with most deeply, Fanatics?
What's The Diviner's next move? With the Protostar repaired, does he have a chance of catching them?
And riddle me this: Forgetting for the moment the fact the Vindicator managed to hide her true genetic make-up from Starfleet and the Federation for three years, how exactly did she manage to sneak a Drednok unit on board in her luggage? Seriously, that one blows my mind.
Hit our comments with your best thoughts and theories! Go fast!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.