DISCLAIMER: This recap of Star Trek: Prodigy holds a whole quadrant full of spoilers. Use the Janeway Maneuver at your peril.
Welcome Trekkies! Star Trek: Prodigy, a series about five teens from a prison colony who come together to form a Federation crew, recently returned with its sixth episode, “Kobayashi,” picking up where the terror-ific mid-season finale, “Terror Firma,” left off before the break. In the outing, Dal faces off against an advanced Starfleet Academy no-win training module to learn how to be a captain.
Ready to dive headfirst? Engage!
Before the mid-season break, after deciding to do the right thing by saying TTFN to The Diviner (John Noble), Gwyn (Ella Purnell) engaged the U.S.S. Protostar’s protodrive for the first time, helping her friends and fellow crew escape her father’s grasp and life in the Chimerium mines.
In this week’s episode, we finally have answers about where the young crew landed after engaging the protodrive for the first time, and the answer will knock the wind out of you. Engaging the warp drive in the Delta Quadrant, the Protostar’s crew landed almost 4,000 lightyears away from their initial location, and they are now in the Gamma Quadrant.
Fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, are you living your best life right now? If the Protostar’s crew has made its way to the Gamma Quadrant, who knows what else is in store because we haven’t seen much of this Quadrant since the Dominion War. But, Weyoun 6 deserved better, and Vic Fontaine, as well. But enough guessing on what’s to come.
In his ready room, Dal R’El (Brett Gray) is “doing important captain things,” like playing the addictive “The Game” from Star Trek: The Next Generation, when he’s interrupted by three members of his bridge crew, Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) and Zero (Angus Imrie).
Dal’s crew has a unanimous request: they want to go to the Federation.
Zero points out the Protostar crew barely escaped the Murder Planet and The Diviner alive in the mid-season finale, and Jankom reminds Dal that the ship can’t get far without the protodrive. Rok-Tahk chimes in that she’s scared, which matters too, at least to a good captain, in my opinion.
But Dal isn’t ready to listen to Rok-Tahk’s feelings or any of the valid points his other crew members raise either. Instead, he again repeats the lie that they’ll face arrest if they go to the Federation. Good thing Jankom is around to call out Dal on his “mud slop.”
Realizing Murf (Dee Bradley Baker) still hasn’t voted, so the vote isn’t unanimous, the rest of the crew begins to search for the blue and purple blob, which begs where he is.
But, while Dal is looking for Murf, he accidentally finds Gwyn sitting by herself in the dark in sickbay. She thanks Dal for saving her life, which he quickly brushes aside by saying Hologram Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) made him do it, even though it’s a lie.
Finally, they find Murf shivering in what they learn is a holodeck, running a simulation called “Andoria IV,” from Hologram Janeway.
As Janeway teaches them about holo-simulation technology, Trekkies get a trip down memory lane like Ceti Alpha V from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk and Spock’s kal-if-fee gladiatorial match in “Amok Time” and a Jane Eyre holo-novel, which was the inspiration for Janeway Lambda One. Also, the Paxau Resort, where Harry Kim fell in love with a hologram-ish and Deadwood from a “Fistful of Datas.”
Once Dal stumbles upon the Kobayashi Maru holo-program. After Janeway explains it’s an advanced Starfleet Academy training module designed to test the greatest captains the Federation has to offer, he’s made up his mind: he’s going to win back the loyalty of his crew by proving he’s as good as any Federation crony. After all, leadership is easy, right?
According to a StarTrek.com poll, the most important leadership traits in a Starfleet captain are, in order: confidence, courage, desire, intelligence and the ability to inspire others. However, a captain must also consider the needs of others. Hologram Janeway seems to know that Dal could be a captain, but he still needs some training if he’s going to make a sound – or even a competent – captain.
Dal possesses qualities of a great Starfleet captain, except he must work on putting the needs of the many ahead of the few. So it’s a good thing he’s getting some training!
Meanwhile, Rok-Tahk is the only crew member still looking for Murf. When the Brikarian hears her friend guzzling something in the shuttle bay, she worries it’s the Chimerium OR THE PHOTON GRENADES! It’s the photon grenades.
Meanwhile, Zero checks on Gwyn in sickbay. They tell her that her leg has healed remarkably quickly and that she’s in perfect physical health; her mental health is suffering. Now that Gwyn feels better, the Medusan asks Gwyn why she remains in sickbay.
“It’s because I’m sad,” Gwyn responds. “I don’t belong here … I don’t belong anywhere.”
Zero shares a similar experience of loneliness and pain that they overcame, which helps Gwyn open up about her experiences. She is coming to terms with her father picking the ship over her and wants answers.
But when Gwyn tries to apologize for her father’s actions, Zero ignores her, trying to offer Gwyn a place of acceptance and purpose on the Protostar’s crew instead. Depressed, Gwyn says she doesn’t understand why it’s necessary to have someone who speaks a few languages on a ship that can translate all of them. Zero responds that language is more than translation; it is interpretation.
Then, Zero points out that finding answers to the ship’s mysteries might help Gwyn.
Next, we jump to Stardate 43929.9, which is 17 years ago. The Diviner’s health declined even back then, and he was on the hunt for the Protostar. His people had been searching for it for years before him. Despite something called “The Order,” The Diviner convinced a reluctant Drednok (Jimmi Simpson) to clone him to create Gwyn so that his species did not die out.
On a holodeck, back in the present, Dal tells the computer (Bonnie Gordon) he wants “some of the best you got” as his bridge crew for the Kobayashi Maru holo-test. So the computer auto-populates an all-star team: Communications Officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), Chief of Security Odo (René Auberjonois) and Science Officer Spock.
During Dal’s first attempt at the test, everyone says their name and rank, which introduces the characters to each other and introduces new fans to the bridge positions and legacy characters. The legacy characters’ voices use archives from various appearances in these clips, except for Dr. Crusher.
When Dal and Jankom first face the life or death scenario, after Spock explains the Kobayashi Maru freighter lies trapped in The Neutral Zone, Dal asks, “does anyone know these people?” Although the entire bridge crew answers by asking why it makes a difference, the two teens decide it’s not worth the effort and cheese it anyway, which prompts the all-stars to threaten to resign their commission.
Desperately wanting to prove he’s worthy, Dal quickly switches tactics and changes course to save the Maru. But before he can do so, the Enterprise is blown up by a Bird-of-Prey. Both Dal and Pog cling for dear life, forgetting it’s a simulation.
Dal gets a Captain Assessment Score of three percent, a Leadership Score of two percent and a Judgement Score of 0.1 percent. Ouch. From there, he decides to take the test more seriously.
In another section of the ship, Gwyn wonders why The Diviner needs a vessel with such a powerful engine, while Zero wonders why Hologram Janeway was so shocked by the Protostar’s capabilities. Gwyn activates Hologram Janeway to ask about the ship’s purpose.
Hologram Janeway says the Protostar’s mission was to enter the Delta Quadrant, but her memory of why the ship was on Tars Lamora is classified. Zero says, if her memories are classified, perhaps there is a way to access them. But before they search around her memory banks, Hologram Janeway needs some coffee first! Yay, it’s the first JJJ moment of the episode!
Then, Rok-Tahk runs in with an urgent question for Zero, “What would happen if you ate photon grenades?” The answer is to explode into a burst of gamma rays and cease to exist. This question sent me down a rabbit hole of science, so if you’re interested, start here.
BOOM! We cut back to Dal, who is losing for the 42nd time, Jankom is keeping count. Determined to beat the test, Dal is frantically taking it on repeat. Next, it’s his 49th run, and Dr. Crusher is commenting on the phenomenon of his stubbornness.
Next is attempt 61, and Dal screams, “Fire everything!”
Then, attempt 78, and somehow, for attempt 99, Dal convinces the bridge crew to hide from the Klingons. This move leaves me wondering how Dal convinced Spock that hiding was a good idea?
By attempt number one hundred and something, the self-appointed captain-in-training kicks the Tellarite out, replacing him with Scotty. However, Pog nails it with his parting shot, telling Dal: “Maybe if you listened to your crew once in a while, you would do better. “
Then, the episode cuts to Rok-Tahk, who is waiting for Murf to digest the photon grenades. He’s fine once he finally does, except for the tiniest Murf toot.
— Star Trek: Prodigy Writers (@TrekProdigyRoom) January 6, 2022
Elsewhere on the ship, Zero and Gwyn discover critical information encrypted in the Protostar’s databanks in the native language of Gwyn’s homeworld Solum, which should be “impossible” since she is one of two surviving members of her species. But using Zero’s guidance, Gwyn uses her ability of “interpretation” to unlock the code with a Vau N’Akat phrase she learned from The Diviner. Access granted!
Back on the holodeck, Dal is still honing his captain’s skills by obsessively failing the Kobayashi Maru. It’s like the opposite of Bradward Boimler in “I, Excretus,” who obsessively tries to get a perfect score. That will probably be what makes Dal a good captain in the end.
Eventually, after many tries, Dal digs into the Enterprise-D’s library. When he asks Uhura to hail the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, he blares what sounds like AC/DC‘s “Thunderstruck” over the audio channel to confuse the Klingons, and it works. According to Aaron J. Waltke, the music is a homage to when Zefram Cochrane plays 1968’s “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf during the launch of the Phoenix in Star Trek: First Contact.
But it also serves a purpose; it distracts the Klingons long enough for Dal and his bridge crew to eject the warp core and try to blow them up. With the move, Dal manages to destroy the Klingon ships in front of him and keep the Maru’s crew alive at the same time.
Because he can’t win the test, another Bird-of-Prey appears to blow him up at the last minute.
Although Dal and Spock beam over and Super Pinch some Klingon butt, Dal puts his feet up a moment too early and kills the bridge crew on the Enterprise-D. Although the captain-to-be is upset by his perceived failure in the no-win scenario — designed to teach Starfleet captains that sometimes you have to accept loss, Dal still doesn’t know that — and who better to hear it from than Spock himself?
Some of the archived dialogue used for Leonard Nimoy‘s Spock quotes come from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Enemy Within,” which is the perfect choice for an episode about Dal overcoming his shortcomings. In the episode, Spock points out Kirk’s negative side helps make him good at being a decisive person if it’s properly controlled and disciplined.
Although Dal may have started the Kobayashi Maru test for the wrong reasons, his repeated attempts to beat the test were ultimately a turning point for the character, with the test acting as a wake-up call for Dal.
After completing the test, Dal walks onto the bridge to see the rest of his crew looking at the classified data. Gwyn managed to crack the rest of the code off-screen. The team learns that Protostar is a prototype, but they will need months to go through the data. The code includes pictures of decorated Starfleet officers, and of course, Rok-Tahk wants to know more about who the people are, clicking on a man’s likeness.
In the final moments, Hologram Janeway remembers that the young fugitives are not her first crew, and Robert Beltran finally returns as Captain Chakotay.
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