Warp Factor Trek

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Whereas most TV episodes have one or two and occasionally three or four credited writers, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” had as many as six, and both parts of Prodigy’s mid-season finale “A Moral Star”, had nine — the entire writers’ room of the show. Now, “Preludes” again credits Prodigy’s complete writing staff. But by the end of the episode, it’s clear why there were so many chefs in the kitchen, and not just because they’re all looking for those sweet, sweet residuals checks. As a series of loosely connected vignettes, “Preludes” contains multitudes.

USS Dauntless: Commander Tysess consults Vice Admiral Janeway, who is listening to Chopin’s Prelude No. 4. Tysess has found a bounty on “the Unwanted” — the six kids who have taken the Protostar. Elsewhere on the ship, the Diviner genuinely views Starfleet as his saviors, but “Asencia” reminds him of their Vau N’Akat mission. Janeway realizes that the kids have escaped from slavery. She goes to question the Diviner, who uses some Kirk-Fu to knock her out. His memory has seemingly been restored.

The Protostar crew congregating (Paramount+)

USS Protostar: The crew collaborates to fix the auxiliary warp drive so they can proto-jump past the Romulan Neutral Zone. Needing a break, the kids bond by discussing their pasts.

Rok’s past: Rok used to fight in gladiatorial shows against a “hero” who would consistently defeat her as part of the show. One day, she decided she’d had enough, so she turned the show into a comedy where she defeated “the hero.” She won cheers for the first time, but since people didn’t come to see a monster be the hero, she was sold to a Kazon agent.

Medusans floating above the surface of their home planet

Zero’s past: Originally, Zero existed as a free-floating energy being, one of many curious minds who left their homeworld to explore. Captured by the Kazon using a transport chamber similar to one used to transport Ambassador Kollos in “Is There in Truth No Beauty”, Zero was delivered to Drednok and Gwyn.

The Diviner’s past (and future): Starfleet enticed the Diviner when they first arrived on Solum. Many of the Vau N’Akat were against joining Starfleet, and civil war ensued. The Federation refused to interfere.

Solum making first contact with Starfleet

Decades later, however, the Protostar arrived. The ship had been thrown through a temporal anomaly during its mission to the Delta Quadrant. The crew was taken prisoner and the final Living Construct was placed on the Protostar to weaponize it. The intention was to send the ship back in time to destroy Starfleet before their first contact with the Vau N’Akat. Chakotay sent the Protostar back in time, without a crew, before it could be used.

The Vau N’Akat formed “the Order,” sending 100 ships back in time — each with a Drednok — in hope that one of them would find the Protostar. The being who would become Gwyn’s father became known as “the Diviner”, and Asencia became “the Vindicator”. Most of the ships didn’t survive the collapse of the wormhole, and those who did landed in separate times and places. The Vindicator managed to infiltrate Janeway’s crew, knowing she was equally determined to find the ship. The Diviner landed twenty years in the past. Fearing he wouldn’t live long enough to complete the mission, he created a progeny.

Young Jankom Pog

Jankom’s past: Pre-Federation on Tellar Prime, orphans were enlisted for deep-space cryo-sleep missions. An asteroid collision led to Jankom being awoken early. He was assisted by a computer that only knew how to respond when a person used their full name. This was why Jankom — stuck learning how to fix the ship’s numerous problems — developed the habit of always referring to himself in the third person, as “Jankom Pog”. The spacecraft was so short on breathable air that what he used during the repairs meant there wasn’t enough for everyone onboard. He abandoned ship so they could survive, but he was soon caught by the Kazon.

Murf’s past: Indeterminate.

Tysess enters while Janeway is listening to music (Paramount+)

Opening this episode with Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor, which was also in the Next Generation episode “The Masterpiece Society”, was an apt choice. The “preludes” here are stories that can stand on their own, much as Chopin’s Preludes exist without being “preludes” to anything in particular. And yet a sense of dread hangs over each of the stories, much like how the Chopin Prelude used here is sometimes called “suffocation” or “above a grave” and was one of the pieces played at his funeral. Each crew member’s story inevitably leads to their imprisonment on Tars Lamora, or in the Diviner’s case, the start of his desperate mission.

Previous hints are expanded on here. Jankom’s proclivity to refer to himself in the third person gains some context, and Rok’s fondness for Nutri-Goop, established in “Starstruck”, clearly goes back long before she was eating the stuff on Tars Lamora.

The “hero” versus Rok-Tahk

The vaguely Original Series-style fight music in Rok’s flashback was nostalgic without being on-the-nose. If you’re looking for overt references, the mention of Janeway’s dog Molly — seen in the Voyager pilot “Caretaker” — was a nice touch.

The show’s timeline is beginning to come together. Questions are being answered. A few new questions are arising. In my review of “Crossroads”, I questioned the presence of Kazon in the Beta Quadrant. This episode both doubles down on that — showing the Kazon and the Klingons together at Rok’s fight — and may hint at a reason; it seems the Diviner has been using the Kazon as agents to capture his workers. Now I wonder how he realized the ship was on Tars Lamora, and I’m curious if this will be explored further. A couple of other questions: Just how far in the future is Chakotay? Is this entire series an epic plan to satisfy the shippers?

Rating: 5/5

This episode is a winner. The backstories add much to our knowledge of the cast, and you can see the care taken in visually rendering them, especially Zero’s story. None of the stories are the “meatiest,” but they’re each enjoyable “campfire tales,” and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. It’s an episode that stands on its own yet is a key part of the ongoing plot. “Preludes” achieves an amazing feat by being both satisfying unto itself and even moreso in context. I look forward to returning to this tale again and again.

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