Review: Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 13 “All the World’s a Stage”
This week’s Star Trek: Prodigy not only tells a story relevant to our heroes’ circumvented journey toward Starfleet, but, surprisingly, adds a bit of lore to The Original Series era of Star Trek.
Knowing they can’t just go to Starfleet, thanks to the weapon at the heart of their ship, the crew of the Protostar charges themselves with doing goodwill missions. That means this week they answer a strange distress call from a nearby planet. Landing on the planet, the crew discovers the call came from colonists that inhabit particular traits – albeit humorously skewed ones – of James Kirk’s Enterprise and its crew. Pretty wild, right? How could this possibly be the case?
Thanks to a wonderfully expositive stage play performed by the colonists, the Protostar crew learn a Starfleet ensign “fell from the sky” more than a hundred years ago and veered the inhabitants away from existential danger. The stage performers explain the ensign decided to leave his ship and come to the planet himself because of Starfleet’s non-interference policy. After landing on the planet, however, he also brought a warning that the area outside the colony was dangerous thanks to an evil curse the colonists call “the Gallows.” With his dying breath, the ensign asserted Starfleet would come one day and rid the colonists of the evils that had plagued them.
Now, so many years later, the colony, named New Enderprize, is a living tribute to what the colonists think is Starfleet. For example, a few members of the colony are generationally named Scott’ee, Sool’u, Huur’a, Dr. Boons, and Sprock. The Kirk-esque character even talks. In the stilted. Manner. That William Shatner’s Kirk is famous for. It’s all a hilarious and unexpected tribute to The Original Series that will likely play off well enough with kids, although let’s be honest: this episode is aimed toward long-time Star Trek fans.
“Can you believe these dumb-dumbs? Playing dress up and pretending to be the Federation.”
“[uneasily] Yeah, who are they fooling?”– Jankom Pog to Dal, in a conversation reflective of the Protostar crew’s own predicament.
Because of The Gallows, the colonists haven’t gone beyond their own town for generations. But that doesn’t stop Dal (Brett Gray) from learning how dangerous the outside of the colony is firsthand. He becomes infected with an illness when an adventurous colonist comes back to the town plagued after getting too close to the mystery threat. With the captain’s health on the line, Gwyn (Ella Purnell), Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), and Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) venture into the wilderness to do what Starfleet does best: help people.
The crew arrives at a cave that leads into a hollowed-out part of a mountain, and they find a creature with two glowing eyes amid explosive eruptions of gas and poisonous material. But in a neat reveal, the eyes turn out to be the red Bussard collectors of a Class F Federation shuttlecraft. This shuttle specifically is the Galileo from the classic USS Enterprise – or rather, a Galileo from the Enterprise, since there was more than one. The shuttle is dripping plasma from its nacelle into the muck below, which is explosively poisoning the surrounding area and lending credibility to the colonists’ belief of a killer monster out in the wild.
The shuttle, teetering on the edge of tumbling into the muck below, could potentially destroy the entire area. So, Jankom, the Protostar’s engineer who is suffering from a bit of a confidence issue thanks to the unmovable weapon on the Protostar, courageously takes the lead and tries his best to prevent the shuttle from falling. Meanwhile, now that they know what is causing Dal’s sickness back in the colony, Zero super-quickly concocts an antidote that allows Dal to spring into action to save his crew. Using a few members of the faux-Starfleet colony as an impromptu bridge crew, with them using holographic controls displaying the Constitution-class bridge, Dal swoops in onboard the Protostar and beams his crew to safety before the shuttle falls.
Thanks to a log entry that triggers in the final moments of the shuttle’s existence, we learn the full story behind the ensign crashing on the planet. The shuttle was piloted by Ensign Garrovick, who is probably the same Ensign David Garrovick from The Original Series episode “Obsession.” He, eschewing the Prime Directive dictating that the Enterprise couldn’t assist these people, apparently crashed on the planet by himself with the intention of helping its inhabitants solve their existential crisis. He succeeded, but couldn’t escape and ultimately lived out the rest of his days with them. According to Garrovick, the colonists gave him hope when he had none, which made the Starfleet ensign consider the colonists his savior, not the other way around. When precisely this event happened during the Enterprise’s mission is up in the air, but using Garrovick for this story is quite the deep cut from Star Trek lore and sounds like perfect fodder for a novel or comic book tie-in.
As Dal notes, the parallel between the inhabitants of New Enderprize and his own crew is striking. Both are people more or less pretending to be Starfleet, and both value the ideals and mission of the faraway organization. It’s neat that Star Trek, and specifically The Original Series, have been around long enough for this type of self-reflective and semi-serious humor. We certainly appreciated this type of storytelling, and kudos to this episode’s writers for crafting a story that directly services Prodigy and, obliquely, The Original Series.
Rounding out this episode on a real Starfleet ship, the Dauntless, Vice Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) comes face-to-face with a recently revived Diviner (John Noble), although this isn’t quite the Diviner we knew from earlier in the season. Remember, he had some of his memory wiped thanks to Zero, just like his daughter, but he does give Janeway a bit of information about the Protostar and Chakotay. Specifically, Chakotay was taken prisoner, but by who or why he doesn’t say. Soon after this minor disclosure, Janeway learns that the escape pod launched by Barniss Frex in “Asylum” was intercepted by an unidentified ship. That’s all we get from Janeway and her crew in this episode, but the Dauntless is presumably getting closer and closer to the Protostar. It’s just a matter of time before the two crews meet.
Taken together, “All the World’s a Stage” is a surprisingly poignant episode that not only helps our crew continue their goodwill journey toward Starfleet, but allows The Original Series to re-enter the current Star Trek conversation in a crafty way. Prodigy is turning out to be full of surprises in this way, which only reinforces our notion that every Trek fan should be giving this show a shot.
- The title of this episode comes from the first line of a particularly memorable monologue in William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It.
- This episode begins with a typical Kurtzman-era opening shot of a starship, complete with the ship (or the camera) spiraling toward the lens.
- Various ways the people of New Enderprize pay tribute to Kirk and his crew are:
- Using Kirk’s famous double-handed melee style. Doing a Vulcan salute but with the wrong fingers. Various colonists spoke in manners similar to the TOS crew
- The colonists wear green uniforms similar to the green tunic we see Kirk wear in TOS.
- After making Murf a key part of this show’s marketing, we wonder just how different the Mellanoid slime worm is going to look after his metamorphosis.
- Jankom hoping for a funeral worthy of a royal Tellerite is a reference to his delight in “Asylum” at discovering his species were founding members of the Federation.
- Allowing the colonists to live their dream by working onboard a Starfleet vessel is a heartwarming resolution, and we can’t help but feel thrilled for them – although we’ll try to ignore the unconvincing plot point of Dal needing a flesh-and-blood crew because the Protostar’s autopilot was disabled thanks to the shuttle’s warp core causing subspace interference yadda yadda yadda.
- Look, we don’t know how technology works in Star Trek (does anybody?) but could Zero really synthesize an antidote by hitting all five buttons in, like, seven seconds?
- As seen in the credits, Ella Purnell pulled double duty in this episode as Gwyn and some female Enderprizians.
- Fred Tatasciore, who voices Shaxs in Lower Decks, voiced Dr. Boons, Ensign Garrovick, and Sprok in this episode.
Star Trek: Prodigy stars Kate Mulgrew (Admiral Janeway/Hologram Janeway), Brett Gray (Dal), Rylee Alazraqui (Rok-Tahk), Angus Imrie (Zero), Ella Purnell (Gwyn), Jason Mantzoukas (Jankom Pog), Dee Bradley Baker (Murf), along with Billy Campbell (Captain Okona) and Robert Beltran (Chakotay).
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