Prodigy‘s “Let Sleeping Borg Lie” in Review
As the episode opens, Dal, Gwyn, Jankom, Zero, Rok-Tahk, Murf, and Hologram Janeway are on the holodeck, watching a simulation of events previously seen in “A Moral Star, Part 2”. The Diviner reveals to Gwyn that the Protostar has been implanted with a weapon that will corrupt Starfleet’s ships and turn them against each other. This is his revenge for a first contact that will go wrong in the future and lead to the self-destruction of the Vau N’Akat. Murf is acting oddly, and Rok thinks he has a cold. Holo-Janeway is convinced that she would know if such a weapon existed, but Jankom reminds her that she didn’t know the ship contained a protostar either. Zero panics when the simulation is about to show their containment suit opening to stop the Diviner; they are wracked with guilt and do not wish to harm anyone else.
The crew searches the ship for the weapon, eventually finding a “symbol of Solum” (the Vau N’Akat homeworld) on the deck of the bridge. Gwyn’s heirloom reacts to it. When she inserts the heirloom into the floor, a sub-deck is revealed (shades of the Babylon 5 episode “Grey 17 is Missing”). They find the mysterious weapon, which appears to react as if alive. When Jankom shoots it, it protects itself. A proximity alert calls the kids back to the bridge. They’ve encountered a Borg cube.
Holo-Janeway explains the Borg hive mind and its dangers. Gwyn sees some promise – if the Borg can adapt to any weapon, could their knowledge help disable the weapon on the Protostar? Dal agrees that this is their best hope to deactivate the weapon. Zero confirms the cube is disabled. Dal insists they can slip in and out without any problems. While Holo-Janeway is against the plan, she decides to brief the kids anyway.
Meanwhile aboard the USS Dauntless, the real Admiral Janeway forlornly orders black tea. Ensign Asencia (Jameela Jamil) is shocked that she’s not ordering coffee; apparently, it’s doctor’s orders. Dr. Noum (Jason Alexander) says that their patient — the Diviner — is just coming out of stasis. The Diviner mumbles about his daughter being taken, but he’s unresponsive to their attempts to communicate. Though the doctor isn’t sure how to wake him up, Ensign Asencia suggests they replicate a bio-serum that was contained in the Diviner’s suit. Janeway commends her for the novel idea, while Noum dismisses her as “kissing tail.” They approach Relay Station 721, which was seen in the previous episode, “Asylum”.
Hologram Janeway has determined that the cube is dormant due to a neurolytic pathogen, which disabled their nanoprobes and shut down the drones. While this makes their mission safer, she insists that they hurry it. Jankom views the cube as “an engineer’s dream,” but even he becomes frightened when they encounter their first dormant drone. They find the Borg vinculum. Jankom quickly realizes that there’s no user interface to access it. Dal determines that one of them will need to plug into the Collective to obtain the information they need.
As a former member of a collective hive mind, Zero believes that they have the best chance of getting back out. Zero interfaces with the Borg and is comforted when the Borg are not disturbed by their true appearance. Yet, Zero begins to be absorbed by the Collective. The Borg begin to awaken, and the cube’s defenses activate. The kids try to intercept the drones, to protect Zero, but the Borg quickly adapt to the group’s weapons. A bridge collapse separates Gwyn from the others.
The Borg Collective encourages Zero to stop resisting. The Borg identify the weapon as “the Living Construct,” described as “a destructive force and a danger to the Federation.” The Borg wish to assimilate both the Protostar and the Living Construct. They take more aggressive steps to assimilate Zero.
At Holo-Janeway’s insistence, Gwyn reluctantly deactivates her heirloom weapon and manages to walk past a group of drones. She finds the other kids strapped down, being prepared for assimilation. Zero has already been outfitted with additional Borg components, and they identify themself as Borg. It quickly becomes apparent that Zero’s guilt and need to protect others has made them vulnerable. Gwyn insists that “resistance is not futile,” and Zero is emboldened to separate from the Collective. This lures the drones into a temporarily dormant state. Gwyn has been worried that they’d lost Zero, but Zero says they had already found their collective. The group re-board the Protostar and escape.
Zero says the Borg determined that the Living Construct cannot be deactivated or removed. The crew is discouraged, but happy to have survived. Zero is sure that, like themself, the ship can be used for good even if it has potential for danger. Dal says they aren’t going to Starfleet until they can do so safely. Receiving a distress call, Dal eagerly orders them to plot a course.
Stardate 61284.3: Admiral Janeway finds Relay Station CR-721 in pieces, with no sign of survivors. She fears that Chakotay has lost command of the Protostar and says that whoever gave the order must be stopped. Meanwhile, the Diviner awakens.
There’s a lot to like in this episode. For those interested in easter eggs and callbacks, the neurolytic pathogen that was used to defeat the Borg Queen in “Endgame” returns here, as the cause of the cube’s dormant state. Admiral Janeway was also shown as a tea drinker in “Endgame”. The vinculum was first described in the Voyager episode “Infinite Regress”. In this episode, Jankom Pog lists several components of the Borg cube, including “monotanium” and carbon. “Monotanium” was referenced more than once in Voyager, usually with reference to Hirogen technology. Carbon (while not uncommon — we’re all based on it) was mentioned as present in the Borg sphere in the Enterprise episode “Regeneration”. In a small musical nod, the music toward the end seems to echo Michael Giacchino’s theme from Star Trek (2009), which also returned in the Short Treks episode “Q&A”. And while this may be just me, it’s hard not to think of O’Brien’s turn as the Sirah in DS9’s “The Storyteller” when Gwyn says, “Dal? Rok?”
More substantially, Prodigy continues to progress as its own show. Zero, motivated by guilt, has embarked on a surprisingly complex character arc. Dal is beginning to step up as a leader worthy of respect. He’s motivated more by doing what’s right than by doing what’s easy, convenient, or safe. Jankom has some great lines (“The Borg never assimilated a turbolift!”), and seeds are clearly being planted for Murf’s upcoming “metamurfosis.”
The show is also having fun with existing Trek lore. The Borg are approached from an unusual perspective (even if this isn’t the first dormant cube we’ve run across), and they aren’t afraid to make things creepy even with the young audience. While Zero’s escape might come across as a little easy, it’s well-rooted in the character and the themes being explored. It’s nice to see variation in Borg designs, including what the closing credits refer to as a “Rhino Borg”. And let’s face it: “Zero” is a pretty natural name for a Borg.
The show continues to make good strides with one entertaining well-crafted episode after another. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Roger McCoy is pretty sure he was watching Star Trek before he was born! He has contributed to the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology series from Simon & Schuster (not directly related to the TV series of the same name) as well as a couple of unofficial Doctor Who anthologies. He believes a Star Trek story does not have to be canon to be good and does not have to be good to be canon, but if a story is Star Trek then you have his attention. He can be found online on his laptop in the other room; come on over and say hi! He’s probably just looking at Star Trek news.