After the incident with the Borg last week, we can probably expect a quiet episode of Star Trek: Prodigy this week... right? Wrong! Let’s dive right in to this amazing homage to redshirts in the Trek universe.
The episode opens with a bang — Admiral Janeway is interviewing the now-conscious Diviner. Specifically, she wants to know why he was muttering the word "Protostar" while he was delirious.
The Diviner's memory appears to be fractured, but he does tell the crew that the Protostar stole his daughter. When Janeway asks if the Diviner has seen Chakotay, he says "yes.” He knows that Chakotay was taken prisoner, but he still can’t remember the details of what happened. It’s unclear if he recalls whether Starfleet is his enemy, but when he sees their combadges, he has some unpleasant flashbacks.
Ensign Asencia tells the Admiral that they're tracking Lieutenant Barniss Frex, the survivor of the Federation relay station. He was picked up by a passing ship. Janeway is very interested in talking to him, as she's on a mission to find out who stole the Protostar — not realizing that the culprit is likely sitting in her Sickbay.
Meanwhile, back on the Protostar, the crew is getting used to the fact that the Living Construct can't be removed, which means they can't go to Starfleet. Even hailing another Starfleet ship would lead to disaster. Instead, they’ve decided to use the Protostar to help others.
Hologram Janeway picks up a distress call from a planet, but a subspace distortion field is preventing her from telling the crew anything about what they might find down there. She does detect life signs, however.
Meanwhile, Murf is having a difficult time. Is our favorite Mellanoid Slime Worm sick, or is there something more going on here? Rok-Tahk decides to stay on the ship to look after Murf while the rest of the crew beams down to the surface.
The transporter process is strange — as Dal notes, it takes longer than usual, which may be due to the interference Janeway detected. They end up on a lush, green world, where the crew finds two random people wearing somewhat familiar looking uniforms. They're calling themselves Sool'U and James'T (familiar names!), and they recognize the combadges Dal and his team are wearing. They’re excited that what they call "Star-Flight" of the "Fed'ration" has returned to their planet.
Clearly this race, self-designated as Enderprizians, have somehow encountered and been influenced by Starfleet, but how? As Janeway tells them, no Federation ship has been here in over 100 years. These people clearly aren’t members of Starfleet; there's something weird going on here.
They're shown to a colony of New Enda-Prize — which appears to be modeled after a starship, complete with nacelles. Everyone gapes at them. Zero mentions that this isn't a deception. Members of this culture really think that they're Starfleet.
The Enderprizians (who even go so far as to mimic the voice cadence of different officers from The Original Series) insist on showing the Protostar crews their “logs,” which are clearly a cultural touchstone. As they watch the re-enactment of what happened to these people, they see the crew of Kirk’s Enterprise being unable to intervene in events because of the Prime Directive, which prohibits them from interfering in the natural development of a culture.
But someone in a red shirt called En Son (or Ensign) by traveling down to the planet to help these people, the Enderprizians, who are in need. While En Son brings great knowledge, he also brings a warning. Don't go into the woods because there's evil there — The Gallows. Those who ventured near were afflicted with a sickness. After passing on the tales of Starfleet, En Son died. But not before he promised that Starfleet would return and get rid of the curse in the woods.
Dal's ready to leave, recognizing that this culture wasn't ready for first contact a century ago. He sees the people are living a lie, and it feels all too familiar. The Protostar crew are not really Starfleet, after all. As they decide to head back to their ship, a wounded young woman staggers in, saying she saw The Gallows.
The crew recognizes that curses aren't real, but whatever The Gallows is, it's hurting these people. Just then, Dal finds similar lesions on his own skin. Zero says he can synthesize a cure, but because of all the interference, he needs to know more about what they're dealing with. It's time to investigate the woods.
As Rok-Tahk worries over Murf back on the ship, Gwyn contacts her and asks for EV suits and medical supplies. Rok leaves Murf in the care of Hologram Janeway and heads out to help her friends.
Meanwhile, Dal is having a bit of a crisis. He’s uncomfortable, sick, and realizing the future of an entire species might depend on him. But the local doctor has some wise words for Dal. They might not be Starfleet, but they believe in what it stands for. And at the end of the day, that’s what Dal and his crew members feel as well.
Rok-Tahk, Gwyn, and Jankom Pog approach The Gallows; it’s inside a glowing cave. They find two red “eyes” that are actually from a spacecraft. A Federation shuttlecraft, to be clear, from the Enterprise NCC-1701, called the Galileo. It’s leaking plasma from the warp engine, which is what's causing both the sickness and the subspace interference.
Jankom takes his life into his own hands and jumps into the decrepit shuttle that's on the verge of falling into a bottomless abyss. He is able to get through to Zero and describes the situation, which allows Zero to quickly synthesize an antidote.
But the landing party is in trouble, and they can’t be transported out. The Protostar will have to fly in, but being that close to the interference will knock out both the ship’s autopilot and Hologram Janeway. Dal has no idea how they're going to mount a rescue with so few team members — until he realizes he has a crew. The Enderprizians.
Hologram Janeway voices her doubts about the newcomers, but Dal insists they can handle it. They just need a chance.
The Enderprizians are unsure of how to manage the complex (and modern) controls of the Protostar, so Hologram Janeway changes the control interface to something the aliens are more familiar with — that of a 23rd Century Constitution-class starship.
They fly in and manage to beam the away team up right as the shuttle falls into the abyss. While they’re doing that, a log from the Galileo plays. This was the shuttlecraft of Ensign Garrovick, last seen in The Original Series episode “Obsession.” He came to save the locals, but it turned out that they actually were the ones that saved him.
They return the Enderprizians to their home, and Dal realizes that if this group can be Starfleet without a ship, so can the Protostar crew. They’re going to contact Starfleet and do it without the ship that might endanger the Federation.
But we’re not done yet. Remember Murf? Well, it turns out there was more going on with him than just being sick. He's gone into a cocoon, and there's no telling what will happen when he emerges.
Swapna Krishna (she/her) writes about space, technology, and pop culture at outlets such as Wired, NPR, Engadget, and more. You can find her on Twitter @skrishna.
Star Trek: Prodigy currently streams exclusively on Paramount+ in U.S., Latin America, Australia, South Korea, Italy and the U.K. and is coming soon to Paramount+ in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France as well as to Nickelodeon international channels, which are available in 180 countries globally. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Prodigy is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.