Prodigy’s “Terror Firma” in Review
The previous episode establishes the stakes: Murder Planet vs. Prodigy Kids. The Prodigy six are stranded on a planet which is actually a sentient being that desires to consume all new life for nutrients — even our hapless visitors. A natural but powerful entity, the planet has already demonstrated that it can use dreams and nightmares to ensnare its prey, along with twisty, strong vines as physical restraints. All viewers of episodic shows, especially Star Trek viewers, know it is going to work out for the most part and that the heroes are likely to succeed. But will the tense journey to escape these terrible odds turn out to be gripping?
Despite having saved Murf, Gywn has fractured her leg and is still working out her allegiances. Perhaps younger viewers don’t see it coming, that she will fully ally with the formerly enslaved children, but I know she will. One thing in favor of the stranded crew is a voice connection to the USS Protostar, via Hologram Janeway. However, some of the vines begin wrapping ominously around the Protostar’s hull. In order to join the stranded crew on a ten-kilometer walk back to the ship, Gwyn applies her heirloom as a splint.
Hologram Janeway finds she is limited in her ability to protect the Protostar, but after being blocked from most of the Protostar’s systems, she brainstorms a solution to the invasive vine growth on the vessel by initiating a cleaning protocol on the hull. She also realizes that one of the active systems is mysteriously drawing a lot of power from the rest of the vessel.
While the team trudge through a forest, they discuss what to call the planet they are on, Jankom Pog aptly naming it “Murder Planet”. To confuse the plucky group of kids, the planet rapidly terraforms. Acid rain drives the group for shelter. The kids find an abandoned Klingon vessel, where Pog cooks up some stew and the crew chats about their troubles.
Rok-Tahk mentions having found some adorable creatures which disappointingly turned out to be a false vision. Child actor Rylee Alazraqui convincingly sells the disappointment of having found the cuddly love of these cute but illusory creatures.
Other members of the team share how the planet lured them, but Dal is visibly uncomfortable sharing his “dream” of seeing his parents — understanding his identity in the universe. This “campfire” bonding moment gets stalled when, to avoid the pain of being an orphan, Dal sulks away.
Gwyn steps up her leadership game, with her own emotional parental baggage well known, and privately gives Dal a pep talk. She points out that, if warrior Klingons didn’t manage to escape the planet, the same task might be too daunting for this young and inexperienced group. The pair also discuss her heirloom, which Gwyn mentions was a gift from her father.
Meanwhile, the starship REV-12 arrives at the so-called “Murder Planet”. Aboard are Gwyn’s father — aka “the Diviner” — and his henchman, Drednok. Their intention? To hunt the group of kids.
As they again walk through the trees, Drednok confronts the youths, stopping them in their tracks. At first, the group believe that this is another example of the illusory nightmare side of the “Murder Planet” bag of tricks. However, it is a real encounter with their former enslavers. Gwyn’s full acceptance into the Protostar crew’s trust boundaries is shattered when the imposing Drednok reveals that she has summoned him there. She decides to put herself on the line, but Drednok responds by shattering her ornamental splint. Gwyn bravely allows the other kids to escape. While Drednok pursues the crew, Gwyn is left without defenses, injured and alone. She is nearly defenseless to the killer vines and has a confrontation with her father that is awkward and painful. He, forced to either save the ship or rescue his daughter, chooses the vessel.
The other kids make it back to the Protostar and — with Gwyn using her now-restored ornate heirloom — manage to rescue her from the vines, which briefly entangle her father. Although the Protostar warps away from the planet, the REV-12 catches up with them, but Zero deduces the aforementioned mysterious element of their vessel — the Protostar is powered by an actual protostar. This enables a new level of speed with which the kids can outpace the REV-12. Gwyn defies her father again. And as the ship engages its protostar drive to escape, she finds herself with a new family, finally a part of the Prodigy crew.
This episode completed a two-part arc while successfully showing the emotional voyages of its two leads, Dal and Gywn. Here, their relationship and the portrayal of Rok-Tahk continue to impress. On the other hand, I can’t decide which is more awkward: Gwyn referring to her father as “Diviner”, or his name for her, “My Progeny”. Although the latter is simply a biological fact and is devoid of fatherly love, the animation is able to show that there is a shred of emotional attachment, perhaps love, with the looks and gestures of these two characters.
This is a solid character piece, but it’s wrapped inside a predictable plot. Whereas I did find the character development well done, it was not a compelling story. And while the episode moved Gwyn fully into the crew of the Protostar — sealed by the daring rescue of her by Dal, backed up by his crew — the episode did not fully move me. That said, the reveal of new propulsion technology, harnessing a real emerging star as a power source, has opened new possibilities for this season and the show’s post-Voyager time period.
Frank Kennedy writes and performs original material for thoughtful audiences including a once, sold out off-Broadway stage in the pre-pandemic days. He blends his skills as a storyteller, provocateur, and sleight-of-hand magician telling poignant stories of fatherhood with sons living on the Autism Spectrum. Watching Star Trek almost daily with his Mom as a teen – during the post-cancelation syndicated-rerun days of The Original Series – he is proud that he was part of the fan enthusiasm that turned Trek into a continuum of shows and films, rather than a forgotten canceled show with poor ratings. Along with devouring new Trek content, he has filled his life with adventures to over sixty countries, boldly going and learning about cultures on the planet Earth.