Prodigy’s “Mindwalk” in Review
“Preludes” and “Ghost in the Machine” ended with some tantalizing cliffhangers: “Ghost in the Machine” left the Protostar nose-to-nose with the Dauntless, with Hologram Janeway distraught after realizing she had betrayed her crew; and thanks to “Preludes”, we know that the Diviner has incapacitated the real Janeway. What happens next? Let’s recap “Mindwalk”, the antepenultimate episode of Prodigy Season 1.
The Construct has locked the crew out of the controls. Hologram Janeway, concerned she’ll inadvertently cause further sabotage, deactivates herself. Dal orders the crew to continue refusing hails from the Dauntless. The Protostar powers up and takes off.
Aboard the Dauntless, Janeway is unresponsive, still unconscious. The Vindicator resumes her cover as “Asencia” and returns to the bridge, arriving in time to see the ship begin chasing the Protostar. At her suggestion, the Dauntless merges its warp bubble with the Protostar’s, so the latter ship can’t escape.
As the Dauntless fires on them, the Protostar crew brainstorms ways to communicate with the Dauntless without opening a comm link. Zero helps Dal access the latent telepathy that he used to read Okona’s mind. However, this attempt to communicate results in Dal and Vice Admiral Janeway swapping minds.
Dal as “Janeway” tells Commander Tysess to cease fire, having “changed my mind — not in a weird way, but a totally normal way.” Dr. Noum, concerned by “Janeway”’s erratic behavior, reverses his prescription by ordering her to drink some coffee and “get it together.” “Janeway” promptly spits the drink out in disgust.
Noum finds signs of brain damage, which “Janeway” shrugs off. Asencia confirms that the Protostar is headed toward the heart of Federation space. She says the Dauntless alone can’t stop the Protostar’s weapon. So, Tysess plans to request that Starfleet Command deploy all available ships to that location… exactly as Asencia hoped.
Janeway as “Dal” is doing much better, helped by the fact that she has nothing to hide. She rebuilds the Janeway hologram without the Vau N’Akat modifications, allowing her memories of the first Protostar crew (led by Chakotay) to return.
Zero identifies the telepathic swap as a variation of Organian touch telepathy. While Janeway and Dal didn’t touch directly, the phaser fire between their ships created a close enough equivalent for the swap to work. Beaming and shuttles aren’t viable options, so Dal and Janeway will have to float between ships to make physical contact and swap back. Janeway expects it will be easier than when she got turned into a salamander!
“Janeway” signals the Protostar crew through the window. They communicate the plan via Charades. However, the Dauntless crew — intent on confining “Janeway” to sickbay — sedates her.
Admiral Janeway is happy with the kids’ desire to join Starfleet. She sadly informs them, though, that Augments such as Dal have been outlawed.
The Diviner, returning the favor Janeway did by saving his life, frees “Janeway” from sickbay. He only asks that Janeway protect Gwyn if his mission fails.
Both Dal and Janeway suit up and leave their respective ships. Admiral Janeway promises to fix everything to guarantee the kids receive a fair chance once they get out of the current mess.
Janeway’s body is caught in a tractor beam, leaving too much distance between them to physically touch. But thanks to Murf stretching and “Dal” firing a phaser to create a conduit, the minds of Janeway and Dal are finally returned to their proper bodies.
The Protostar drops out of warp and is greeted by a large fleet of Starfleet ships. It’s a good thing the real Janeway is on the crew’s side… But she’s now locked in the Dauntless’ brig, with no way to help.
This episode isn’t a deep commentary. It’s purely a romp, whether it’s Dal’s goofy movements in Janeway’s body or Janeway saying, “I was once transformed into a salamander; nothing could be as difficult as that.” Yes, even though 29th January is still over a month away, even a brief reference to Janeway’s celerity-induced accelerated somatic mutation rate is a nice early Threshold Day gift.
This isn’t the first time Star Trek has done a body-swap episode. Heck, it isn’t even the first time they’ve done body-swap hijinks this year. But I can’t fault the sheer amount of fun that they’re having here. I very much want to see footage of Kate Mulgrew recording her lines as Dal inhabiting her body, because she’s clearly having a blast.
One thing that separates this from other body swaps is the computer animation. A good actor can put on both subtle and overt mannerisms to show that they’re portraying a different character, whether it’s William Shatner’s work in the TOS finale “Turnabout Intruder” or Jeri Ryan talking as The Doctor in “Body and Soul”. But animators can take this to another level, especially if they aren’t afraid of the result looking a little silly. The mannerisms in Dal’s and Janeway’s bodies effectively reflect the change. This could have been overkill in a different episode, but with Janeway not attempting to hide the swap and Dal… well, just being bad at hiding it, it works out perfectly.
If the reveal that Dal was part “proto-Organian” seemed surprising back in “Masquerade”, it’s paid off here, as the Organians’ body-swapping ability (as seen in the Enterprise episode “Observer Effect”) is the backbone of this plot. It’s interesting that the latent ability is still accessible, even with Zero’s assistance. I’m curious if Dal will be able to access other abilities as time goes on.
There are some silliness and logic-stretches here. Is a phaser beam between the two ships really an approximation of “physical contact”? If so, you’d think this could easily happen with anyone standing on the same ship with a touch telepath. And I have to wonder: if the Construct can lock the controls and take the ship to warp, doesn’t it have the ability to open the Protostar’s comms so it can establish a link to the Dauntless? Though, given the end of the episode, perhaps this was intentional. In any case, it’s hard to worry too much about “silliness” in an episode like this.
Merging the warp bubbles is a neat idea, one previously seen with Enterprise and Columbia in “Divergence”, which similarly featured a spacewalk during faster-than-light travel, as Tucker crossed between ships while at warp. And it’s pretty priceless when Rok, in a bit of Berman-era technobabble, suggests, “What if we reconfigure the deflector to emit a phased tachyon pulse?” only to have Jankom angrily point out that he has no idea how to do that. (Though given that this is roughly what Data did in “All Good Things…” and Admiral Janeway did in “Endgame” — is Rok trying to time travel?!)
In an interesting bit of genuinely good science, Gamma Serpentis, a star never before overtly referenced in Star Trek, is mentioned as being near the heart of Federation space. Gamma Serpentis is a real star located 36.7 light-years from Earth. (If you’d like to consider this a deep-cut canon connection, the star was also referenced in a map by Geoffrey Mandel that seems to have appeared in multiple individuals’ quarters in Enterprise.)
And we have one last treat for a specific type of fans: the variety that support books like the recent Utopia Planitia Starfleet Sourcebook. Though we don’t get the best view of the fleet in the episode’s conclusion, it looks like we have a decent variety of ships. It’s nice that the CGI team had the lead time necessary to feature various ship renderings. I hope we’ll see them in more detail next week.
This is a fun episode overall. It doesn’t have a lot of morals, meanings, or messages, but it’s a treat.
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.