Review: Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 20 “Supernova, Part II”
The situation is dire for our young heroes. Federation ships keep arriving at the battle with the Living Construct, and it seems like there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it save destroying the Protostar. So, that’s exactly what Captain Dal (Brett Gray) proposes, but that solution presents its own problems; namely, everything within 50 million miles will be destroyed when the Protostar’s protostar goes supernova.
In a scene that features techy problem-solving and teamwork straight out of any other Star Trek series, the crew determines there is a way to destroy their ship without destroying everything around them. They plan to extend the destructive energy of the supernova across a section of space, instead of their immediate vicinity. To save the crew, they plan to replicate a shuttle using the Protostar’s vehicle replicator and clear the blast zone in time. It’s a good plan, but of course, a complication presents itself. The ship’s auto-navigation controls are broken (of course), which means someone would have to stay behind and pilot the ship to its destruction. Dal, as any good captain would do, volunteers himself, but Holo-Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) offers to do it, and the crew can make a copy of her program to take with them.
“All this time, all the love we put into it, and we’re just going to… blow it up? It just doesn’t feel right.”
“Think of it as letting a young star become what it’s meant to be.”– Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) and Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) as they bid farewell to the Protostar.
As the crew prep to leave the Protostar, Holo-Janeway runs into a problem. Her program is too big to copy onto an isolinear disk, a complication she chooses to hide from the crew. Soon enough, the kids depart their ship with a copy of Janeway supposedly in hand, and what unfolds next is a sequence that we rank near the very top of most tender Star Trek moments.
As a melancholy soundtrack plays underneath, the crew pack into their shuttle and leaves the Protostar behind. The battle with the Living Construct is at an end, yes, and their view as their home goes to warp and into oblivion is mesmerizing. Thinking Holo-Janeway would want to see the results of their sacrifice, the crew go to activate the backup hologram, but instead are met with a recorded message. In this monologue, Janeway explains her program had grown too rich and complex thanks to her time with our young heroes to be stored on an isolinear chip. So, she had to make the ultimate sacrifice, and she knows the crew will find their way to Starfleet without her.
Normally, it might have been easy for us to get hung up on the idea that a hologram’s program was too big for an isolinear chip, but we didn’t feel that this time. Instead, the emotional gravity of the situation made us really appreciate the message this show is conveying: friends can allow you to grow as a person, even far beyond your initial hopes and dreams. In the same way, we praised “Supernova, Part I” for digging in its heels and actually having the Living Construct complete its diabolical mission, we appreciated how “Part II” didn’t pull any punches with Holo-Janeway’s “death.” There’s no last-minute save here for our favorite hologram.
The episode then time jumps by one month, and Vice Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is in San Francisco getting a briefing on what exactly happened to the Protostar when it jumped to warp and detonated its drive. (Why it took a month to learn this information, we don’t know). We learn the ship’s destruction actually created a temporal wormhole, and through that wormhole, a signal from Chakotay’s Protostar came through. The mayday signal from 52 years in the future came as the Vau N’Akat were planning to take the Protostar through the temporal wormhole, as described by The Vindicator in “Preludes.” It turns out Holo-Janeway created this wormhole on purpose as her last act in existence. Vice Admiral Janeway asserts she wants to be on the ship that goes to explore that future time.
Another surprise awaits Janeway on Earth, though, as it turns out the crew, in their rudimentary shuttle, have arrived in San Francisco. But how did the crew, without navigation systems in their shuttle and without Holo-Janeway to guide them, make it back to Earth? Moreover, why didn’t any of the Federation or alien ships partaking in the battle with the Living Construct realize a shuttle was floating in space near where the Protostar launched to its death? This episode doesn’t take any time to explain, which leaves quite the plot hole. Last we saw the crew, they were floating in space in their hastily built shuttle. Then one month later they splash down near the Golden Gate Bridge. What’s up with that?
“Good intentions? I know my prior statements about my experience with the accused were unusual, to say the least. But one year ago, not one of them had heard of the United Federation of Planets, yet through fate, engineered by their own ingenuity, they set their compass to Starfleet. And without their intervention, I cannot say with certainty that all of us would be sitting here right now.”– Vice Admiral Janeway as she defends the Protostar crew.
The crew faces the music in front of Starfleet brass, as they have technically racked up quite the list of charges against themselves. But Vice Admiral Janeway is on their side and encourages Starfleet to let them apply to the academy. Moreover, she encourages the brass to allow Dal, an augment, into the academy, as his DNA actually comprises many of the Federation’s member species, making him a great candidate for entry. It’s about time Starfleet relaxed its guidelines about augments!
Janeway’s passionate plea works, as all charges against our heroes, are dropped. And while they aren’t exactly able to get into the academy, Janeway was able to convince the powers-that-be to allow five of them to be taken under her wing as she embarks on her mission through the temporal wormhole. It’s a pleasant ending for most of our heroes, but what of the sixth member of the crew? Gwyn (Ella Purnell) is the one who can’t go with the rest of her friends. Instead, she knows her mission: find her homeworld and try to unify her people before anybody makes First Contact with them.
Before they go their separate ways, Dal and Gwyn have a chance to reflect on their adventures together since Tars Lamora, in a scene complete with a neat reference back to the pilot when Gwyn mistakenly said “cat boots” and not “cahoots.” Topping a remarkable arc from when they first met, the two share a kiss before Dal leaves with Janeway and Gwyn goes off to search for Solum.
Before the crew leave, they are treated to a welcome sight: a new Protostar-class ship, the next in the line that began with their former home. But this new ship isn’t their new home, as Janeway leads them to her “much bigger plan,” although learning what that plan is will, unfortunately, have to wait until next season.
Taking the two “Supernova” parts together, Prodigy has delivered a remarkable season finale – perhaps the best one of the current Star Trek era. It has action, it has beauty. You’ll feel chills up your spine and one or two tears down your cheek. It’s heartfelt, sad, and hopeful. These emotions are given room to breathe across the two-part finale. Who would have thought we’d feel these feelings from a show that’s aimed at kids? But here’s the thing: Prodigy is not a kid’s show. “Supernova” proves that all too well. Our young heroes have experienced character arcs as fully realized as any of their live-action cousins. We feel for them and their search to become part of Starfleet, which most of them did indeed do, and it took no small amount of sacrifice to get there. It seems so long ago they were all laborers in a prison colony.
Watching Holo-Janeway sacrifice herself is an incredibly touching moment, and reflective of our heroes leaving one stage of their journey and beginning another. They are no longer being hand-held by a training hologram. They are joined by the real deal, the real Kathryn Janeway, and are ready to start a new adventure as they go search for Chakotay and the first Protostar crew. We’re tantalized by what ship Janeway decides to depart on, what adventures await our heroes as they go through the temporal wormhole, and how Gwyn’s journey may or may not lead back to her found family.
Thanks to remarkable character-building and Prodigy’s award-winning visual design, we are more invested in this crew and this show than ever before. Season two cannot come soon enough.
- Dal asked Janeway how the copying was going just a few seconds after the hologram realized there wasn’t enough space on the disk. When did Holo-Janeway have time to record the message the crew later plays in the shuttle?
- The doctor who talks to Rok-Tahk near the end of the episode is voiced by (and shares the likeness of) Star Trek science advisor Dr. Erin Macdonald.
- Cosplayers have a few more options to choose from now that our young crew has bespoke Starfleet uniforms.
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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