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Growing Up With Star Trek: Prodigy's Gwyn

The young heroine shows us that we have to balance our past and our futures.

Three photos of Gwyn, holding her sword and smiling at the camera, are against a blue background featuring the Star Trek: Prodigy delta.

Growing up means trying to figure out who you are and where you belong. (After all, we can’t all come into the world as dignified, Earl Grey-drinking captains.) Star Trek lore is full of excellent role models, but Star Trek: Prodigy turns the tables when its main characters are the ones trying to find their way. As kids themselves, the crew of the Protostar has a lot to learn about who they are and what they can do. All of the characters have challenges to overcome, but Gwyn carries the added weight of being torn between her father and her new friends, between her past and her future. Despite being an alien character, her struggle isn’t so different from that of human teenagers looking to find their place, and it’s important for them to see that they aren’t alone in feeling lost and confused.

When we first meet Gwyn, she is living in the prison colony of Tars Lamora with her father — a tyrant called the Diviner. The Diviner keeps a tight hold on his prisoners, who are forced to mine the planet in search of a lost starship, and his grip on his daughter is equally suffocating. Despite receiving an excellent education and serving as her father’s representative, Gwyn is miserable. She’s trained to operate a starship, but she lives on a rock with no hope of leaving. She speaks thousands of languages, but the only practice she gets comes from bartering with prisoners. Life with her father is all she knows; she wants to please him even though she doesn’t really agree with his work. She feels both used and useless, and she copes by shutting out her feelings.

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Even alien teens have their rebellious streaks; we see flashes of Gwyn’s true personality when she threatens a Kazon trader selling a little girl, and when she comforts the girl in her own language. Most importantly, during an interrogation with prisoner Dal R’El, we see just how much Gwyn dreams of leaving Tars Lamora and seeing the stars. She reveals a tiny sliver of her truest self, confiding in a relative stranger who can do no harm rather than a father who wouldn’t understand. Gwyn’s wish comes true sooner than she expected when Dal and his new friends kidnap her and flee in the very starship the Diviner has been seeking. Gwyn gets her first breathtaking look at the stars, and for a moment, she forgets her anger at Dal, at her father, and at herself. Although she wasn’t forced to work in the mines, Tars Lamora was her prison, too. And now, she’s finally free.

Distance and time give Gwyn some much-needed perspective. At first, she’s smug, sure that her father will come to rescue her from captivity. She is also confronted with the prisoners’ side of the story for the first time. She learns that they did nothing to deserve being chained and forced into labor; on the contrary, they were completely innocent, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. She starts to wonder if her loyalty to her father was misplaced. It’s an important lesson — it’s okay to change your mind as you learn new things, and you don’t have to blindly follow a life that hurts you. Now Gwyn deals with a new kind of misery — how to feel about her messy situation. Is she a bad person? How can she prove to these former prisoners that she isn’t her father?

Gwyn gets a chance to prove herself when the ragtag crew stops to explore their first new planet. The pause in their journey gives the Diviner time to catch up to them. At first, Gwyn hopes that he might take her back home, but then, she doesn’t know how to handle the responsibility of the decision on her shoulders. Would living under her father’s thumb again be better than answering the hard questions she’s been asking herself? Instead, she is dismayed to find that the Diviner has come, not for her, but for the ship. Hurt and betrayed, Gwyn tries to stop him from leaving with his prize. She is injured in the ensuing fight, and when she pleads with her father to help her, he chooses to leave her and take the ship. Of course, our heroes get their ship back, and this time, Gwyn comes aboard willingly, marking the severance of her patriarchal loyalty.

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Being abandoned is a turning point for Gwyn. She finds new friends in the former prisoners, who recognize the sacrifices she has made to help them. Their budding friendship is put to the test when the Diviner contacts them with an offer — the freedom of the remaining prisoners in exchange for their ship. Mere weeks ago, Gwyn would have fled to her father and turned in her kidnappers without a second thought, but she has grown since then. Instead, she takes the Bridge with her friends, all proudly sporting their new Starfleet uniforms. For the first time, she is truly happy with where she stands because she chose for herself. She no longer relies on her father to do her thinking for her, no longer shutting out feelings she can’t bear. She has finally learned who she is.

Gwyn faces her father once more; this time, armed with more self-confidence than she’s ever had and backed by her found family. But the Diviner isn’t out of tricks yet—he finally tells Gwyn the hidden truth about their people. She isn’t immune to his tale; she feels the pull of her past. Even though she has chosen her friends over her father, she finally understands that the world isn’t black and white. She isn’t the Diviner’s daughter or a Starfleet officer; she is both. Her past will always be part of her, and now her future is her own.

Star Trek: Prodigy — A New Look

Everyone searches for their place in life, and Gwyn finds hers on a reclaimed starship alongside a band of misfits. She proves that a difficult beginning doesn’t have to taint your whole story. She teaches us that the most important thing is to follow your heart and be the best version of yourself that you can be. It’s something we can all strive for, no matter where in the galaxy we call home.