Morale Star: What it’s like to be Starfleet

Mary Brown Hill

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ProdigyThe freshman season explored themes centered around making the right choice and what that looks like for Dal and the other kids, and “A Moral Star, Part I” just takes that point even further. . We’ve watched Janeway guide Dal on his way to captaincy for eight episodes so far, and now we’re really seeing his efforts pay off. It’s beautiful that she can see it before the diviner rips it off, and I haven’t been this nervous about a cliffhanger in a long, long time.

Plot Ahoy

On the heels of their celebration of surviving the events of “Time Amok”, something triggers Drednok’s disembodied head to broadcast a message. When the Diviner’s image appears, neither of them wants to hear its message, but Gwyn stops them, curious to know what her father might have to say. The diviner issues an ultimatum; they have one day to return the Protostaror he will slaughter all remaining miners on Tars Lamora.

The crew debates various alternatives, but the promotor only has enough power to handle a single jump. If they jump to the Federation and ensure their own safety, there is no guarantee that the Federation will be able to get Starfleet to the asteroid before the Diviner’s deadline. Thus, Dal concludes that they all have a choice between turning around and facing their true demons or moving forward and condemning everyone they left behind to death. It’s a tough choice for anyone, let alone a teenager. Dal is visibly struggling with the decision, so Jankom Pog tries to do it for him, choosing to start planning a rescue mission. Dal gets up and leaves to meditate while Gwyn follows. Dal ruminates on what it means to be in charge, but ultimately agrees that they must return to save the rest of the Undesirables.

However, his crew remains savvy enough to realize that the Diviner has no intention of honoring his deal, so they set about planning. At one point, Janeway praises Gwyn for making a “hell of an upgrade”, but to what system, we don’t know. With their preparations complete, they have one more thing to iron out, and they do so by walking across the deck wearing their own version of the Starfleet uniform. Satisfied, Janeway alters her own appearance to adopt the new design.

Dal takes his place in the captain’s chair and orders them to protowarp towards Tars Lamora. Once there, they have a date with the diviner, and Dal points out that once they return the Protostar they will have no way of leaving the asteroid. The diviner amends the terms of the agreement, offering them the Rev 12 in exchange for Gwyn. Dal protests, but Gwyn agrees to accompany her father.

The diviner, Drednok and Gwyn board the Protostar and leave the Rev 12from the docking bay. As they walk away, the Seer has Drednok override Janeway’s programming to force her to recognize him as the ship’s commander, and his appearance takes on a more divine allure. Before they warp, the Diviner has Drednok target the mining facility’s electricity generator, but Gwyn protests that it will kill everyone on Tars Lamora once the atmospheric generators fail. The diviner explains that he promised Dal and his compatriots a ship, not their lives. He gives the order to Protostar go deform. Gwyn urges him to find out why he wanted her this time, and he admits leaving her behind was a mistake. She is, after all, his daughter, but he chose the ship because it represented salvation. Gwyn demands to know what he means and why he considers the Federation and Starfleet to be immoral. Rather than answer her, the diviner asks why she is stalling. As this exchange occurs, Drednok discovers that the protodrive is missing.

Back on Tars Lamora, the “Zero” who left the ship with the crew is revealed to be a fake, hiding Murf who holds the protostar within him. The real Zero, having teleported to the asteroid before meeting the Diviner, reappears and they all begin rescuing the miners. However, they are worried about Gwyn and can only hope she can wait long enough for the rest of the plan to work.

To analyse

First of all, I want to stress how fantastic it is that the Prodigy the writers room took what was a gag and turned it into a plot highlight. They spent a sizable amount of time establishing that Murf is indestructible, and it eventually became a running gag. Now Murf’s entire being becomes a clever way for them to thwart the Diviner, and I’m absolutely here for it. Likewise, I’d like to acknowledge that while Jankom Pog still hasn’t had enough screen time, he’s getting some major character development in this episode, and credit where it’s due, the script requires about three sentences to make it work. When Jankom attempts to make Dal’s decision, he not only demonstrates that he is sensitive enough to recognize Dal’s distress, but also that he is willing to do something about it. It’s huge on the part of the character who was perfectly content to allow the Kobayashi Maru go up in flames rather than even attempt a rescue.

However, the heart of the show, unsurprisingly, rests with Dal and to a lesser extent, Gwyn. Dal demonstrates real growth here, not just because he recognizes the gravity of the situation, which is already a lot for a character coded as a “teenager” as strong as Dal. However, the biggest indication that Dal has grown as a character is that he’s torn between the two options. He realizes that his inner turmoil stems in part from his own trauma, but he also recognizes the duty he has to the crew under him. For a kid who started the season not caring about the welfare of anyone but Dal, that’s a huge step. Then, for him to go on and recognize the needs of more abstract individuals, with whom he doesn’t have the connection he has with everyone on board the Protostarindicates how deeply he has internalized the philosophy of Starfleet.

I love that Janeway got to see him make that decision, and her pride in him is palpable. Then, when everyone comes together to plan and modify the Protostar, we really see how these kids have turned into a strong crew. Each of them must also make the same choice to put the needs of others before their own, and their decision remains beautifully unanimous. None of them may have attended the Academy, but Janeway is right when she tells them she sees Starfleet in them.

Honestly, I see Starfleet not only in its determination to make the hard choice and do the right thing, but in its clear-sighted determination. Person on board Protostar seriously believe that the diviner intends to keep his word, and they foresee this eventuality. We won’t know the full gambit until next week, but I’m sure they still have a few more cards up their sleeves. I also have faith that Gwyn will see her father’s “truth” for what it is. Very little he can show her will make up for his decision to let the Undesirables die, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what he conceives as vindication in next week’s conclusion.


Four and a half crates of Chimerium

Stray thoughts from the couch

  1. The head thing felt like an homage to both R2D2 and Data’s head from Arrow of time.
  2. I have to believe that Dal and his crew have a plan to save Janeway. There’s no way they didn’t plan for Drednok to rework his program, and having a hostile Janeway would prove a significant obstacle to resuming the program. Protostar. I think Gwyn’s upgrade was about Janeway herself, but we’ll have to see.
  3. Zero’s panic about his true form is quite valuable.
  4. All of you, they save the kitten Caitian! I’m so, so happy about it.
  5. John Noble remains delightfully malevolent as a diviner, and I really, really hope Gwyn can get some of his own back in Part II.