DISCLAIMER: This recap of Star Trek: Prodigy holds a whole quadrant full of spoilers. You’ve been warned. Use the Janeway Maneuver at your own peril.
Welcome Trekkies! The fourth episode of Star Trek: Prodigy, a series about five teens from a prison colony who must come together to form a Federation crew, dropped this morning.
Ready to dive in? Engage!
Stardate: Still unknown. Location: Hirogen System, Delta Quadrant.
The fourth episode opens with the first Captain’s Log of the season, narrated by the self-appointed leader of the USS Protostar, Dal R’El (Brett Gray).
The Captain’s Log is a form of record-keeping that’s been used since the first captains sailed Earth’s seven seas and it’s a time-honored tradition in the Star Trek franchise, informing both the ship’s crew and the audience of what to expect during the next mission.
Since the crew almost flew directly into a dying star last time, Hologram Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is teaching the young “cadets” the basics of piloting a starship… and the wonders of autopilot.
As the Captain’s Log concludes, Hologram Janeway summons the crew to the bridge: she has found an uncharted M-Class planet – meaning one that is suitable for life – in the Hirogen System. Readings from the Protostar‘s sensors suggest that the planet is rich in cilium-like vegetation with elevated thoron emissions, which is a radon isotope that is largely used to deceive sensors and transporter systems but also has some medical applications.
The Hirogen are a nomadic species from the Delta Quadrant whose society is entirely based on the ritual hunt, capture and slaughter of prey, despite their advanced technological status. Let’s put it this way: Hirogen hunters consider the Jem’Hadar worthy prey, that’s how badass they are. Plus, they train for the hunt with advanced holodeck hunting simulations.
As the crew prepares themselves to explore the planet on their first away mission, Hologram Janeway equips them with some official Starfleet gear, such as Tricorders (useful for data analysis, even if the data is the gas composition of a fart and tracking location) and Federation Type 1 Phasers (a small, basic weapon with eight adjustable settings, ranging from stun to heat through disruption to disintegration).
As the Protostar flies down to the planet to land, we get some beautiful shots of the planet’s surface and atmosphere, which are made all the more breathtaking thanks to the incredible score by Nami Melumad. Luckily, Hologram Janeway has taught Zero (Angus Imrie) how to land the ship, which they do, albeit a little shakily. OK, more than shakily. Zero attempts to lower the landing clamps and instead crashes and skids into the planet’s natural pink and purple formations.
As the crew prepares to leave the ship and explore the M-Class planet, they handcuff Gwyn (Ella Purnell) so that she cannot escape again (and if you guessed this exchange was a little bit of foreshadowing, you’d be right). And more importantly, Hologram Janeway shows the crew the RUNAWAY, a land vehicle with accelerated ion propulsion, Tritanium chassis, holosteering, impulse steering and “hold-on-to-your-butts” grab handles.
Naturally, the “hold-on-to-your-butts” grab handles are Janeway’s favorite feature. I guess the Janeway Maneuver isn’t just for piloting starships, it also works for driving cars because why else would you need those handles (disclaimer: don’t try that at home, kids).
“There’s only four seats. You’re not coming?” Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) asks Hologram Janeway.
Hologram Janeway responds that she wishes she could come along, but that holograms cannot leave the ship. As a huge fan of Star Trek: Voyager, I really hope that the crew can eventually adopt the same technology used on The Doctor (Robert Picardo) for Hologram Janeway so that one of the most decorated captains in Starfleet can leave the ship with her new crew.
Stepping off the ship for the first time, Zero says, “If I had a breath, it would be taken away.”
Despite the fact that Hologram Janeway told the crew it was safe to breathe, Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) is not convinced, only leaving the ship once he is covered head-to-toe in an away mission suit with environmental controls. And given what Zero discovers next, maybe Poggy is on to something: there are no nutrients in the planet’s soil despite the abundance of flora.
Looking to their self-appointed captain for advice, Zero asks for some guidance on what to do next with the information that they just gathered. But Dal is busy making other plans, i.e., going on a joyride in the Protostar‘s land vehicle. And soon, the rest of the crew is distracted with their own personal journeys and no one is following Hologram Janeway’s advice to “look out for each other.”
Zero goes off to explore a hedge maze that would give the Overlook Hotel a run for its money. Jankom explores a forest, full of green gas that sounds like a fart as it shoots from the ground, only to find an abandoned hut with a boiling pot of stew, just like he ate on the Tellar Sleeper Ship. In contrast, after accidentally scanning herself, Rok-Tahk finds an adorable fluffy, purple life-form that just wants some cuddles, something the animal-loving Brikarian cannot resist. As a whole murder of fluffy, purple life-forms descend on the giggling Brikarian, she lies down on the ground in complete bliss.
When Hologram Janeway sent most of the crew to explore the planet for an hour, Murf (Dee Bradley Baker) stayed behind to keep her company and to keep an eye on the prisoner in the brig. Chirp! Belch!
As Murf chirps away at Gwyn, she notes what we’ve all been thinking: Murf is smarter than he looks. But just because he is smart, doesn’t mean he isn’t distractible. A robot (the looks similar to a mouse droid) enters the room and Murf goes scrambling after it, chasing the droid down the hall and leaving Gwyn alone. He does love eating ship parts after all.
Gwyn, now in the brig unsupervised, uses her mental abilities to summon the weapon that she used in the series opener, “Lost & Found.” Luckily, for the progeny, but not so luckily for the escaped Unwanted, she is able to use her telepathic link with the weapon to destroy the control console for the Protostar‘s brig, releasing herself.
As Gwyn steps onto the bridge, Hologram Janeway attempts to stop her from whatever she’s planning to do, saying that the progeny has already been locked out of the ship’s controls. But that isn’t enough to stop Gwyn from restoring power to the Protostar: her father taught her starship mechanics, astrophysics, linguistics and information technology to prepare her to pilot the Starfleet vessel.
Desperately, Hologram Janeway tries to contact Captain R’El that his prisoner is loose.
But because the captain has removed his communication badge, Hologram Janeway’s calls go unanswered, leaving the hologram to defend the ship from a corporeal life-form with actual knowledge of Starfleet vessels and engineering systems. And before Dal has a chance to respond to the message, Gwyn manages to reprogram the hologram to respond to the progeny as if she was the captain.
Immediately upon taking control of the ship, Gwyn sends a message to her father, The Diviner (John Noble), and his trusty stooge, Drednok (Jimmi Simpson), that she has control of the Protostar. Gwyn instructs Hologram Janeway to prepare the ship for takeoff. As they attempt to liftoff, the landing struts become obstructed by the planet.
Back on the planet, Zero is exploring the Overlook maze that they discovered earlier in the episode, finding the Protostar‘s engine, which looks like an ion propulsion drive, located at the maze’s center.
On the other hand, Dal, who’s still joyriding, stops to explore after seeing a mirage of two humanoid life-forms who appear to be his parents. As Dal sneaks closer to the image, a life-form mimicking Hologram Janeway suddenly appears to him, but this decision to appear as Janeway is a misstep, the captain figures out that hologram cannot be real (after all holograms cannot leave the ship).
The fake Janeway explains, “We have the ability to see what you want and give it to you. We also sense your fear… The Diviner won’t find you here.” My guess is this is more than a false promise, the planet’s elevated thoron emissions could be used to block The Diviner’s attempt to scan the planet for life. But Dal knows this is too good to be true. As he runs from the weird lady, it slithers after him shouting, “Stay. Stay! STAY!” With little choice, Dal fires the phaser and injures the life-form. Now angry, the planet and the unknown life-form start to fight back.
Jumping back to Zero, who is still fascinated by finding the Protostar‘s engine in the maze, they are wondering aloud what it all means. Just as the planet starts to seal Zero in the maze, Captain R’El comes to the rescue, saving the Medusan from the superorganism. Here, the audience learns that the planet lures and consumes its prey, meaning it’s a planet with quite an appetite!
Apparently, the planet acts as one superorganism luring and consuming its prey for nutrients. To do this, the planet releases spores that trick the mind into seeing what it wants by fabricating an individual’s desires onto its cilium. Not only do unsuspecting victims see what they want, but they can also taste it too!
Next, the crew must work together to save each other, one crew member at a time. As the audience returns to each crew member, we see what’s actually going on with the planet: it’s not fluffy, purple animals that Rok-Tahk is snuggling, but a tangle of vines and dark smoke that are reminiscent of Evil Dead; and Jankom isn’t stuffing his face with delicious stew, he’s eating dirt, vines and mush on the planet’s surface.
As the rest of the crew races back to the ship, the audience sees that Gwyn finally managed to cut the Protostar free from the planet’s grasp. In a last-minute attempt to convince the ship and crew to stay, the planet’s cilia turn into The Diviner. As the fake Diviner tries to convince his daughter to stay on the planet a while longer, the planet slips and calls her “Gwyndala,” a name that she knows her father would never call her.
Preventing Gwyn from piloting the ship off-planet, the nacelles become entangled and cilia infiltrate the ventral superstructure, turning off the command-and-control systems and crashing the ship to the ground.
Gwyn is forced to abandon the ship, but not before rescuing Murf in the shuttlecraft she built in the first episode. I guess there is hope for her yet, too bad she had to destroy the Protostar to figure that out.
“You stranded us all,” Dal says as the closing credits begin to roll.
New episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy are available to stream Thursdays on Paramount Plus. Check out our Star Trek: Prodigy recaps here!
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