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STAR TREK: PRODIGY 1×06 “Kobayashi Maru” Review

Neil reviews the latest episode of Paramount+’s STAR TREK: PRODIGY saying “well that was unexpected.” Stream new episodes Thursdays.

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Star Trek: Prodigy (Nickelodeon/CBS Television)

Star Trek: Prodigy streams new episodes Thursday’s in the North America via Paramount+.

Synopsis

As Gwyn struggles to find her role aboard the U.S.S. Protostar, Dal tests his leadership skills in the newly discovered holodeck. 

Review

Well Star Trek: Prodigy certainly came back from its winter break with a bang. Rather than picking up the plot threads left hanging in the finale, “Terror Firma,” instead the series pivots to tell a funny-but-meaningful story about leadership.

Through the series’ first five episodes Dal (Brett Gray) has had to face up to his own limitations as the self-appointed captain. Where we met him in the pilot episode he was stedfast in his arrogant belief in his leadership skills. But he was also petrified at living out the rest of his days as one of The Diviner’s (John Noble) captives, as was picked up by Zero (Angus Imrie). The series has quietly and capably moved his character along, choosing instead to focus on bringing the cast together as a team. This episode separates Dal (mostly) from that team and really serves to challenge his self-image.

The whole episode is beautifully framed in a classic Trek trope, the holodeck episode. Of course Hologram Janeway serves to introduce Dal and Jankom (Jason Mantzoukas) to the concept of the holodeck. There’s a few nods to other holographic landscapes including a personal favourite of Janeway, a Jane Eyre Holonovel. At least it wasn’t Fair Haven. Dal chooses the Kobayashi Maru, confidently thinking he can ace the classic Starfleet exam.

Over the next few minutes Prodigy only served to blow my mind several times. It appears that since the days of James T. Kirk, Starfleet has upgraded the Kobayashi Maru to take place on the price of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D of The Next Generation fame. Mind blown the first. The classic location is, of course, beautifully rendered on screen by the production team and now I’d like a TNG-era animated series please.

But to take on an exam like the Kobayashi Maru you need a crew and Dal has left his behind. The computer gives Dal the option of plenty of legacy offers in a massive display littered with different past, present and future incarnations of the Starfleet insignia. Mind blown the second. When Dal asks for the best the computer can give it calls forth a roll call of legendary characters.

Rendered using stock audio bites are Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Odo (René Auberjonois) and eventually, Scotty (James Doohan). They’re joined by Doctor Beverly Crusher with Gates McFadden returning to record new dialogue. All five characters are equally loving rendered to look like their younger counterparts at various stages in their Starfleet careers. Mind blown the third through seventh.

Whilst it is gimmicky, the way in which Prodigy works in the characters feels natural and will obviously pass over the heads of most of the young audience at which the series is aimed. Instead this is squarely aimed at the Trek-loving parents who can enjoy explaining each of the legacy characters to their children.

The exercise does team Dal some important lessons about himself as a leader. The fact these lessons come at the hand of none other than Spock feels like a love letter to classic Trek. Once again I find myself commanding the show for its commitment to character development.

Elsewhere, lingering questions over the nature of the U.S.S Protostar lead to the revelation that the ship was previously staffed by a full complement of crew including a certain Captain Chakotay (guest star Robert Beltran). The revelation leaves Hologram Janeway with the knowledge there’s much she doesn’t recall about the ship and its history. Mind blown the eighth. Returning from winter break with an episode this strong really sets the bar high for Prodigy moving forwards.

Verdict

Well that was unexpected… Star Trek: Prodigy successfully brings back a group of faces (and voices) from the past in new and exciting ways to recreate the famed Kobayashi Maru test.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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