Review

Star Trek: Prodigy “Supernova, Part I” Review: An excellent first installment of an epic finale

Paramount+

Review: Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 19 “Supernova, Part I”

The entire first season of the excellent Star Trek: Prodigy has led to this moment. The Protostar, with a Federation-killing weapon at its heart, is facing off against a fleet of Federation ships. Will Captain Dal (Brett Gray) and his crew, or Vice Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) onboard the Dauntless, stop the weapon before it can infect all those ships and wreak havoc on the organization that, in the future, inadvertently initiates a disastrous First Contact for the people of Solum?

There are a few people intent on letting the Living Construct begin its rage against the Federation. The Vindicator (Jameela Jamil), The Diviner (John Noble), and Drednok (Jimmi Simpson) need their plan to work, so they take the opportunity to board the Protostar after the fleet takes down the nimble ship’s shields. But before the trio beam aboard, Dal and Gwyn get quite the personal moment as Gwyn confronts the harsh reality facing them. Before she can actually explain what she wants to tell Dal, the captain assumes she is about to express her affection for him and goes in for a kiss. This show has hinted at Dal’s fondness for Gwyn, and this is the first time he acts on that feeling.

Jason Mantzoukas as Jankom Pog, Ella Purnell as Gwyn, Brett Gray as Dal, Kate Mulgrew as Janeway, Rylee Alazraqui as Rok-Tahk, Angus Imrie as Zero and Dee Bradley Baker as Murf

(Side note: Dal also hinted at his feelings for Gwyn in the game Star Trek: Prodigy: Supernova. It seems to be a coincidence that the game and this episode share the same name, and hinting at Dal’s feelings for Gwyn seems to be the only similarity between the two.)

As if it wasn’t bad enough having misread Gwyn’s intentions, Dal gets some bad news. As she learned from Vice Admiral Janeway in the previous episode, Gwyn tells Dal he can never serve in Starfleet because the Federation doesn’t allow augments to serve. It’s a blow for Dal, to be sure, as the scrawny alien has always had his sights set on Starfleet – a place where he could feel belonged. Honestly, Starfleet really needs to update its guidance regarding augments, right? Is Data not an augment? Or Tuvix, assuming he was allowed to live? Or any character who has some medical augmentation, like Captain Picard and his artificial heart or Geordi and his VISOR?  

Dal and his crew’s new focus quickly becomes protecting the ship from the three enemy boarders. Drednok proves more than a fighting match against Dal, Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas), Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), and Zero (Angus Imrie), leaving The Vindicator and The Diviner to confront Gwyn (Ella Purnell) on the bridge.

Brett Gray as Dal and Ella Purnell as Gwyn

Vice Admiral Janeway can’t do much to stop any of the action going on around her, however, as she is stuck in the brig following her mind-swapping-induced strange behavior in the previous episode. However, an unlikely ally appears to be guarding her cell. After Janeway monologues about how important it is that the Protostar be stopped, and how this crew member should trust what the captain is saying, the guard does indeed release Janeway.

How convenient is it that the guard (who deserves a name, but apparently this episode isn’t interested in providing one) remembers Janeway and her noble actions during the events of the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Counterpoint.” In that episode, Janeway helped telepathic refugees escape Devore space, and one of those refugees is now this Starfleet guard.  How or why this refugee got to Federation space and joined Starfleet, and then was lucky enough to be assigned to the Dauntless, isn’t addressed and probably should have been.

While it’s a tender moment when Janeway sees the fruits of her labor in this way, we can’t help but scoff at the convenience of this officer being Janeway’s guard at this moment in time. But hey, we need Janeway back on the bridge, right?  We’re really curious why this show’s writers chose to spotlight the events of “Counterpoint” in this episode. Unless you know Voyager really well and get the reference, this plot point is a bit distracting, especially since there is surely a myriad of ways Janeway could have escaped her cell to get back to the action.

Angus Imrie as Zero, Rylee Alazraqui as Rok-Tahk, Ella Purnell as Gwyn, Brett Gray as Dal and Jason Mantzoukas as Jankom Pog

Anyway, while The Diviner is ensuring the Living Construct is safe, Gwyn and The Vindicator engage in some fisticuffs, and much to The Diviner’s chagrin The Vindicator won’t mind putting Gwyn down if it means the Living Construct can complete its mission. In a moment of truth, however, The Diviner tries to eliminate his partner-in-crime to protect his daughter, but The Vindicator turns the tables on him and instead delivers a mortal wound.

With The Diviner down for the count, Gwyn at her dying father’s side, and the rest of the Protostar crew incapacitated, The Vindicator dramatically accomplishes her mission and hails all Federation ships. Yep, those in the audience assuming our heroes could avoid untold amounts of bloodshed were wrong, and it that way we were pleased Prodigy usurped our expectations. Soon enough, all the Sovereign-, Akira-, Centaur-, and Defiant-class ships in the armada start firing on each other. It’s really quite the sight.

“Starfleet left our people to tear themselves apart. Now I will watch your Federation do the same.” – The Vindicator, as the Living Construct infects the Federation fleet.

We want to praise the measured pacing of this episode generally, and the scene where the Living Construct infects the Federation, specifically. By producing a two-parter to end the season, “Supernova” has a lot of room to breathe, and the show’s producers use that time well. The weight of the Living Construct’s murderous actions is given time to sink in, as we see Starfleet ship after ship start destroying each other. Moreover, we see our young crew somberly react to the carnage being wrought because of their home. It’s a sobering moment, but one that passes in due time as Rok-Tahk puts on her determined face and helps her fellow fighters escape Drednok’s incapacitation.

The scene where Dal, Zero, Rok-Tahk, and Murf work together to give themselves a fighting chance is inspiring. It’s an illustration of how and why it’s important to work together, and what a dedicated group of friends can do when they join forces. After arriving on the bridge to confront The Vindicator, the Vau N’Akat makes a quick getaway using Drednok as an impromptu escape pod, leaving our crew to clean up the horrifying situation happening right in front of them. We say our chances of seeing The Vindicator again are pretty good.

The Vindicator’s escape gives Gwyn time to have some last words with her father. The older man remains apologetic that things turned out so wrong even though he had the best of intentions; that is, saving their people. In his last breaths, he asserts Gwyn could possibly unify the Vau N’Akat in a way he never could, even though Gwyn asserts she doesn’t know where Solum is or how she would go about being a unifier. Instead of helpfully explaining at least where Solum is, The Diviner gives Gwyn a quick pep talk about how she can do anything she puts her mind to. He then becomes one with the Force dissolves into some mysterious blue dust.

More problems quickly present themselves, however, as our crew tries to rectify the situation. The Living Construct, sensing the crew is trying to stop its rampage, disables the universal translator. This means our heroes can’t talk to each other, which is a remarkably clever tie-in back to the series pilot, where our myriad aliens couldn’t talk to each other on Tars Lamora. The communication breakdown makes it way to the Starfleet vessels as well.

The Living Construct is pretty efficient in its quest to kill as many Federationers as possible, yeah? Luckily, Gwyn was tasked with learning many alien languages while on Tars Lamora, so she can indeed be a unifier, just not in the way, her dad predicted a few moments ago. Beyond unifying her crew, Gwyn and Vice Admiral Janeway determine the only course of action left is to hail all nearby non-Federation ships, so that they may come help against the Living Construct.

Brett Gray as Dal, Ella Purnell as Gwyn, Jason Mantzoukas as Jankom Pog and Rylee Alazraqui as Rok-Tahk

“Asking another to put themselves at risk is no small request, even when we could understand each other.”

“Starfleet has one translator left. We brought this problem to you. Let us fix it.” – Vice Admiral Janeway and Gwyn, on the need to bring in non-Federation reinforcements to stop the Living Construct.

Gwyn turns out to be an inspiring leader, as she gets a myriad of species to join the fray, including the Klingons, Vulcans, and Ferengi. We have to say her speech, combined with Prodigy’s surprisingly heart-rending music and killer shots of Federation ships destroying each other, is quite the sequence. Her words perfectly illustrate the inspiring message Prodigy has been imparting to younger viewers: that there is always a place where you will feel accepted, no matter who you are (except for augments, right?). It’s in scenes like these that Prodigy feels like it’s punching above its weight.

The moment of rejoicing as alien ships warp into the battle doesn’t last long, however, as other Federation ships start joining the fray. But why? Zero realizes Starfleet defense protocols state Federation vessels should relay a distress call to other Federation ships when they are in trouble, which means more and more ships will arrive at the battle without realizing the danger the Living Construct presents. This means the Living Construct will have destructive access to basically every Starfleet ship out there. Without the ability to escape the battle and without a way to stop it, what should our heroes do?

This is the cliffhanger on which “Supernova, Part I” ends, and the idea that more and more Starfleet ships will arrive at the battle certainly poses a complication for our heroes. But we have some questions about this latest development. Would Starfleet blindly send reinforcements ad nauseum to a battle without ascertaining the nature of the conflict? This episode makes it seem like the Living Construct has laid the perfect trap for all Starfleet ships, but that would mean Starfleet leadership would have to be fairly foolish to let all their ships fall into the same trap. We don’t quite believe this could be the case.

This critique aside, “Supernova Part I” is one of Prodigy’s most impressive episodes to date. We simultaneously felt like kids again marveling at the epic space battle happening throughout the entire episode, and intensely introspective, as mature adults can be, as our crew use the all-powerful tools of communication and leadership to save the day (as much as they could). Seeing Gwyn call for help so passionately, and then aliens actually showing up, is quintessential Star Trek, and one of our favorite franchise moments of the last few years.

The fact that the Living Construct really did begin its assault on the Federation is refreshing, as we were expecting our heroes to somehow save the day without bloodshed. But Prodigy had more in store for us in this first part of the finale than we assumed, which should make audiences froth at the mouth at what the second “Supernova” episode holds. (Hint: we’ve seen it, and we can’t wait to share our thoughts.)

Stray Thoughts:

  • When this show was first announced, who would have thought it would eventually deliver arguably the most exciting ship combat of the Kurtzman-era thus far?

  • If Vice Admiral Janeway was on “medical leave,” as Commander Tysess (Daveed Diggs) described to Admiral Jellico (Ronnie Cox) because of her strange behavior, why would she be in the brig, and not, say, locked in her quarters or sickbay?

  • All The Vindicator must do to lock out Hologram Janeway is declare security overrides using her pseudonym, on a ship she isn’t assigned to.

  • Why did it take Drednok so long to deploy his gravity mine? Doing so when he first encountered Dal, Zero, and Jankom would have saved a bunch of trouble.

  • Where was Murf when our villains first boarded the Protostar? Since he is indestructible and stretchy, couldn’t he have blocked the turbolift to the bridge, or otherwise enclosed key people or equipment from enemy attack?

  • Where does The Vindicator within her Drednok cocoon plan to go? Drednok isn’t a ship; can the pair go anywhere besides the immediate vicinity of the space battle? She’ll likely just land on a ship that’s being destroyed.

  • We see the USS Defiant of Deep Space Nine fame among the Federation armada, just before the Klingon bird-of-prey warps in. While it would have made sense to have cameos by other well-known ships, such cameos might have been distracting and a disservice to the story Prodigy was trying to tell, so we are glad Prodigy’s producers showed restraint.

  • The excitable kid in all of us can surely appreciate Jankom Pog enthusiastically listing the types of alien vessels that warp into the battle.

  • The first Federation ship to warp into the engagement after the Living Construct starts destroying everything is the USS Sovereign, which is ostensibly the first Sovereign class ship commissioned.

Star Trek: Prodigy streams on Paramount+ and 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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