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Television

‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ episode 16 – ‘Preludes’ review

In Preludes, Star Trek: Prodigy explores the backstories of its young characters.

As the crew waits for the ship’s Protostar Drive to charge, we finally learn the backstories of several heroes and villains in this character-centered installment. Meanwhile, on The Dauntless just outside The Neutral Zone, Kathryn Janeway’s pursuit of answers puts the former Voyager captain in dire jeopardy.

On the surface, not much “happensthis week as The Protostar’s crew kill time by recounting their origin stories. But what “Preludes” lacks in forward plot movement, it makes up in developing who these kids are and where they came from. Some of these backstories, such as Jankom Pog’s, introduce elements that could be revisited in future episodes and even open the door for strong potential emotional payoffs down the road.

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But this more exposition-heavy episode also answers a lot of questions concerning The Diviner, the Vau N’Akat’s mission, how The Protostar ended up on Tars Lamora in the first place, and the biggest burning question from last week, who is Ensign Asencia really?

“Preludes” really is an exploration of different origin stories. Even Dal, who takes more of a backseat this week in terms of focus, prompts the telling of his friends’ tragic tales by his admission that he’s still dealing with the emotional fallout of learning he was a failed genetic experiment. This is a nice change of pace from Dal’s earlier cockiness. And, after the self-doubts that he experienced during “All the World’s a Stage,” the humbling of Dal seems to be a now consistent theme in the back half of season one.

I wish Zero’s backstory had a bit more meat to it. It is definitely the least developed here. Though it’s a beautifully animated sequence, it doesn’t amount to much more than Zero’s ordinary life was interrupted one day when they were captured.

Rok-Tahk’s backstory proved much more interesting and surprising; but most of all, I appreciate the profound sadness to it. Rok-Tahk was fooled into believing playing the monster for others’ entertainment could be a liberating experience only to discover that flipping the script on her kayfabe persona didn’t attract an audience. It’s a complex and fairly dark lesson to impart to a younger audience but one that I hope the writers further explore in the future.

In fiction, we tend to learn who a character is at their core through their behaviors, and that’s why I think we learned the most about Jankom Pog this week. Jankom’s origin involved making the difficult choice to venture out alone into the vastness of space to valiantly save the lives of 29 other Tellarites who probably will never learn of his heroic act.

Now this is an ongoing series, so I think it would be nuts for the writers to just let this storyline hang without us ever learning the fate of that Tellarite ship. I think it would be too soon to return to this plotline in these final few episodes of season one, but I predict we’ll see it come up in season two.

star trek prodigy preludes 2

Paramount+

But certainly the biggest reveal this week involves Jameela Jamil’s “Ensign Asencia,” who we learn is really a Vau N’Akat who took on the name The Vindicator. Reminding The Diviner what happened to their people and why they’re opposed to The Federation, we learn that they were once candidates for entry into The Federation. Arguments among the Vau N’Akat over whether to ally with The Federation led to a devastating Civil War.

They perceived Starfleet’s policy of non-intervention as callous abandonment as the Vau N’Akat destroyed themselves. Then, when The Protostar showed up, the survivors saw it was an opportunity. They captured its crew and boobytrapped the ship with the plan to send it back in time to destroy The Federation prior to Starfleet’s first contact with the Vau N’Akat.

When Chakotay escaped, he thwarted the plan by sending the crew-less ship through the temporal phenomenon that relocated the ship to an unknown time period where the Vau N’Akat couldn’t get to it. But the Vau N’Akat’s last-ditch effort to complete their mission was to send hundreds of ships through the same temporal phenomenon hoping that one would arrive in a time period with the weaponized Protostar.

The lucky winner ended up being The Diviner, who searched for 20 years and created Gwyn to complete the mission should he not live long enough to do so himself. The Vindicator, meanwhile, found herself only 3 years in the past. She took on the fake Trill identity of Asencia and infiltrated Starfleet.

After discovering the identities of The Protostar’s current crew, Janeway realizes she’s not chasing criminals but kids who are just in over their heads. This drives her decision to interrogate The Diviner,  which leads to her walking in on The Vindicator in her true Vau N’Akat form. Now that she knows too much, The Diviner delivers a blow to the back of her head knocking her out.

“Preludes” isn’t exactly an action-packed thrill ride, but it shows confidence in the characters and their personal stories. The writers trust Star Trek: Prodigy’s intended younger audience will engage with the multiple backstories and not get bored by a slower-paced episode that is more about laying the groundwork for what’s to come.

That being said, it doesn’t completely work as a standalone entry. It provides needed exposition and fills in backstory that will likely become critical later, but almost nothing actually happens. As a result, “Preludes” may be doomed to becoming one of the more forgettable episodes.

New episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy drop Thursdays on Paramount+.

star trek prodigy preludes
Star Trek: Prodigy E 16 Review: 'Preludes'
"Preludes" isn't exactly an action-packed thrill ride, but it shows confidence in the characters and their personal stories. That being said, it doesn't completely work as a standalone entry. It provides needed exposition and fills in backstory that will likely become critical later, but almost nothing actually happens. As a result, "Preludes" may be doomed to becoming one of the more forgettable episodes.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Love Prodigy teaching Chopin appreciation to its young audience
Rok-Tahk's & Jankom Pog's flashbacks were highlights
The Vindicator leaving the door unlocked is too much of a plot convenience
6
Good

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