On the most recent Star Trek: Prodigy, Dal finally gets to experience his dream of being a starship captain in Starfleet. Of course, it’s only made possible by inhabiting the body of Admiral Janeway through body-swapping shenanigans.
There are a lot of Star Trek projects in production concurrently these days, but if you were under the preconception that the writers of the various shows communicated with each other so that they were all on the same page, “Mindwalk” likely will dispel that notion. Less than six months after Star Trek: Strange New Worlds delivered body swap hijinks in its episode “Spock Amok,” Star Trek: Prodigy is following its coattails. Even worse, one can’t help but now compare the two episodes to one another, and “Spock Amok” was a particularly strong episode full of great performances and character development.
So, how does Prodigy’s “Mindwalk” stack up to Strange New Worlds’ “Spock Amok”? Not great. But first the good. After two straight episodes of not much forward plot advancement, this episode finally lets Janeway meet the crew of the Protostar and even share a scene with her Holodeck counterpart. This sequence, the highlight of the episode, expands our understanding of who Kathryn Janeway is and allows Kate Mulgrew to really showcase her subtle voice modulation when differentiating the human Janeway from Holo Janeway.
But where “Mindwalk” suffers is its shallow use of the body swap premise. In most body swap stories, characters gain needed perspective through their experience. Either they ultimately learn to become a little more like the person whose body they briefly inhabited or they at least come to better appreciate that other person’s struggles. Here, neither Dal nor Janeway are fundamentally changed by their experience. Body-swapping is simply used as a plot device to allow an interaction with Janeway that won’t violate the rules the writers invented for activating the living construct.
It’s at least somewhat comforting to see how quickly the Dauntless’ crew discovers Janeway is compromised given how over the top the writers go with Dal’s awkward attempts at passing for their commanding officer. I know this is a kid’s show, but Dal’s ineptitude when trying to adapt to this situation is a bit too over the top.
Another plot device that strains credulity is the episode’s reliance on Dal and the Protostar crew being in visual range with each other not through the main view screen but through the literal windows of both ships. It’s not only extremely unlikely but obviously puts the two ships far too dangerously close. Even Scotty can’t defy the Laws of Physics.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the episode comes when The Diviner helps Dal — whom he confuses for Janeway — escape. He says it’s because he owes his life to Janeway. However, it seems after 20 years, he may be rethinking his life choices and questioning what it was all for in the first place. He appears to be, like a father, prioritizing Gwyn’s well-being over his mission. This could foreshadow his turning on The Vindicator. I’m now predicting we’ll see him give his life to save Gwyn by the season’s end.
“Mindwalk” finally unites Janeway and the Protostar crew and lets our two Janeways meet, but it fails to use its body swap premise as anything more than a gimmick. Worse still, Strange New Worlds got to the body-swap premise first this year and with a far stronger franchise entry. The comedy too played a bit too broad here and mostly falls flat. This was a mindwalk off a short pier.
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