When a mentor from Dal’s past persuades him to use their Federation cover for personal gain, they quickly discover Starfleet has protocols for a reason.
It was undoubtedly going to be difficult for Prodigy to follow up last weeks episode, “Kobayashi Maru”. Digging so deeply in to the history of the franchise was always going to be a crowdpleaser. So this week Prodigy cleverly pivots back to its central mystery and doubles-down on its focus on character development.
Shifting the U.S.S. Protostar to the Gamma Quadrant places the ship’s crew closer to the Federation. For the series itself, this means there’s more scope to use recognisable faces. In this episode it means working in Damon Nandi (Grey Griffin), a Ferengi who has a history with Dal (Brett Gray). What this means for Dal’s lineage remains a mystery. Was he raised in the Gamma Quadrant and later travelled to the Delta Quadrant? Or, given the lapse in time following the end of Star Trek: Voyager, have recognisable races – like the Ferengi – now travelled further afield?
Prodigy continues to exhibit a strong grasp on its characters. Throughout the season to-date we’ve see them challenged by their surroundings and experiences. Once again it’s Dal who has to face up to his shortcomings this week. As the self-appointment Captain of the Protostar that does put him front and centre as with any other Trek series. It’s not unusual for the Captain to shoulder the brunt of the narrative but we are seeing Dal’s arc outweighing the development of other characters.
“First Contact” presents a new challenge for Dal. We know so little about his past but his connection to Nandi, whilst giving us an insight, also opens him up to being exploited. Whilst it isn’t fun to watch, Nandi’s deception does expose Dal’s vulnerabilities. It’s a strong lesson in personal strength and resolve for the series’ young audience. His journey this week also culminates in a touching seen with Gwyn (Ella Purnell).
The group’s first contact mission in the Sheralyx system also presents a number of enlightening opportunities. It’s another chance to see the series’ core cast functioning as a unit. Overcoming their initial arrival on the planet further serves to embrace Gwyn as part of the crew. The away missions also plays to another of Prodigy‘s strengths, its visuals. The planet itself is beautiful, fine details of the expansive desert are immersive and alien. The planet’s inhabitants are also visually striking, moving far beyond what the limited budget of TOS could ever muster.
Back aboard the U.S.S. Protostar, Hologram Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is diving back in to the mystery of the ship’s previous crew. We get another look at the returning Robert Beltran as the now Captain Chakotay as Janeway continues to look back over the footage. It doesn’t move the plot on too far but does make sure the underlying arc is still in-play for the audience. When the crew return to the ship it seems their poor behaviour, breaking Starfleet’s Prime Directive, may just be the straw that breaks Holo Janeway’s back. Given the serialised nature of the storytelling there’s going to be consequences next week…
“First Contact” presents all the best aspects of Star Trek: Prodigy. A strong emotional heart underpinning an exciting story which is rooted in Trek‘s legendary history.
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