Prodigy comes in for an almost flawless mid-season finale! Anika and Liz take a good, long look at Zero, and then discuss:
- The sheer joy of watching a carefully planned story, competently told
- If Lower Decks and Picard are sequels to TNG, and Prodigy is a sequel to Voyager, will the Section 31 series be a sequel to DS9? (Liz has suggestions and they involve casting Alexander Siddig…)
- We talk a lot about how the Diviner is a child slaver, but he also has the regular kind of slaves AND THAT’S NOT BETTER!
- How the Diviner is like one particular Australian scam artist…
- We have some qualms about the Diviner’s fate
- Protecting Rok-Tahk is SO important
- The Shipping News (Liz has a lot of Janeway/Chakotay feels)
Anika: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext, and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. This week, we’re assessing Star Trek: Prodigy‘s mid-season finale, A Moral Star Part Two.
Liz: I have a lot of feelings.
Anika: Hey, I posted on Twitter immediately after watching this episode that I think Star Trek: Prodigy is my second favorite Star Trek series. After only Voyager. Cause I was just like, I can’t handle these feels. And the fact that in twenty-four minutes, they explode and explore so much.
Liz: I don’t want to rank them because it’s hard. And the Star Treks that I love the most are not necessarily the best ones. But I definitely think that, even taking into account subjectiveness, Prodigy has the best first season of any Star Trek.
Anika: Yes, for sure. It’s just very tight. They knew what they were, they knew the story that they wanted to tell, and they told it.
Liz: The producers and writers have done a lot of interviews in the last couple of days, of course, and one of the things they keep saying is that as soon as they knew that they had an order for twenty episodes, they sat down and they planned. And that shouldn’t be as novel as it is. But I mean, we can see the work!
Anika: They planned out the whole season. Crazy! What an amazing idea.
Liz: I know! And I do think it’s easier to do that in animation. You’re a lot less likely to run into problems where an actor gets injured and has to be written out for an episode or two, or an actor just has no chemistry with everyone else and has to be replaced, so that character is just put on a bus.
But in terms of the plotting, this is so tight. The time travel stuff is actually complicated, and I usually have an easy time with time travel. So to speak.
The other thing that’s happening is that … I think his name is Aaron Hartz [transcriber’s note: or, more accurately, Aaron J. Waltke], I was tweeting with him yesterday, and I should remember his name, but in his interviews and on Reddit and even Tumblr, he is answering fan questions. And just the sheer amount of thought that they have put into the worldbuilding, and how Prodigy fits into what’s happened a couple of years earlier in Lower Decks, and what is about to happen with the Romulan rescue.
It doesn’t come across as Michael Chabon answering questions on his Tumblr or doing Medium posts with worldbuilding that is not remotely apparent on screen. It’s demonstrating how deeply they have filled in the background. And that comes across on screen, even when it’s not overt.
Anika: They absolutely thought about where in the timeline it was being dropped, and how that was going to affect different things. The background and the uniforms, and how things line up is very interesting. They really put care into each decision. And again, you’re right. That is easier in animation because they’re making the whole thing.
Anika: So they don’t have to worry about how to match something. They can recreate it exactly how they want it to be. And that’s a freedom. And it’s why I love animation so much, that you can have aliens that you can’t have. You can have that sand planet, that would not make sense in live action, and would be very, very difficult to … It would be animated anyway. The VFX would be animated, and it wouldn’t look the same because the people would be people. And so it just, it would have a different feel. It would be more menacing and less magical.
Anika: Animation really frees you up for those kinds of things. And for the ability to just change, like, you can do this with real lighting, but because of the way that colors work, and the colors and painting works, and how everything is put together, it’s easier to do a mood shift with animation than it is with real lighting.
Liz: It’s more subtle.
Anika: And that is very apparent in Prodigy, that they’re leaning into all of the different things that they can do. And I just love it. It just feels very uplifting. I don’t know. I don’t know what the word is, but I just … I feel happy when I watch.
Liz: It’s the sheer joy of not just watching a story that I’m enjoying unfold, but seeing how competently it is made at every single level.
And I think truly part of the genius is that they took the opposite approach to Star Trek: Picard and filled their writer’s room with people who were not necessarily the biggest Star Trek fans, but who had a lot of experience telling this sort of animated story for this sort of audience. And the Star Trek lore is secondary to that. It’s great. I love how much they think about the uniforms, and what are the synths doing, and is the Federation overstretched?
And that’s really important, but I feel like … Not anyone could do it, but you can choose writers who are open to learning those facts and thinking about it.
Anika: Yes. And, also, you said you didn’t want to rank, and I also – I hate ranking things.
Liz: It’s like choosing your favorite captain.
Anika: Why would I do that? But the reason that I’m so drawn to it, I think, is that it is such a successor to Voyager, that it’s literally about these people who don’t fit into Starfleet. They’re the people who fall through the Starfleet cracks.
And people say that that’s Deep Space Nine, but the people in Deep Space Nine don’t want to be in Starfleet. They don’t join Starfleet at all. They’re very separate. They’re a community that is surrounded by Starfleet, but isn’t a part of Starfleet. Whereas on Voyager, they are assimilated, ha ha, into Starfleet, and yet they aren’t the Enterprise crew. They aren’t people who grew up wanting to be that.
Liz: It’s true.
Anika: Even Harry Kim, which I would say is the closest, is someone who picked Starfleet because, you know, he wanted to make his parents proud and he wanted to explore space and he wanted to have some adventure, or something. But he didn’t want to get lost in deep space and have that kind of adventure.
I feel like Riker would be totally fine getting lost in the Delta quadrant. Or even Mariner.
Liz: Oh my God. She would have so much fun.
Anika: Right. So that type of Starfleet personality is different from the people who ended up lost in the Delta quadrant. Like Janeway, as much as she wants to get home, she’s also okay with it.
Anika: Anyway, I’ve always described Voyager as a bunch of misfits who ended up having to be a crew. And it turns them into a family because they’re all they have. They could drop off on a planet and then never see the Voyager people or home again. But those are their options. Deal with Voyager or never see anyone you know, ever again.
This show reminds me of that, because there are people who had never even heard of Starfleet, but by the end of this episode, were absolutely living up to Starfleet ideals, and trying to be a Starfleet crew, to the point where they were bringing that idea of what Starfleet and what a crew is, and how you take care of a ship, to all of these random miners that were stolen from all over the Delta quadrant, and creating a second fake Starfleet crew.
Liz: And it’s wonderful! It’s definitely a sequel to Voyager in terms of, look, Chakotay is there. Janeway is there. The Delta quadrant is there. And I think that’s great. I think, if Picard and Lower Decks are sequels to Next Generation, then Prodigy is the sequel to Voyager. I do think Deep Space Nine deserves something. I almost wonder if that’s what the section 31 series will be.
Anika: Well, Section 31 was introduced in Deep Space Nine.
Liz: Exactly, exactly. And that that can be the complex politics, deconstructing the Federation series. You know, I really want it to be set in the early 25th century, so after Picard. What if Alexander Siddig is a regular?
Anika: Can you imagine?
Liz: Just the idea of Siddig and Yeoh sharing a screen … I just got all wibbly. And I said it as joke, but honestly, I think that would be amazing.
Liz: That should be the follow-up. That should be Bajor considering joining the Federation again, and a generation after the rebuilding of Cardassia, what’s happening there? And what should section 31 be doing about the Dominion, and how does Georgiou deal with that in an ethical way? I mean, probably she doesn’t, but…
Anika: You’re pitching an amazing show.
Liz: Thank you! Thank you. I really, really hope that the actual showrunners are thinking along the same lines.
Anyway. Yeah. I just wanted to say, like, I have said before that I don’t think that there’s a plot to keep Deep Space Nine out of current continuity, but Prodigy has turned into such a love letter to Voyager that I kind of do feel like maybe Deep Space Nine deserves something. And only the bits of Deep Space Nine that I like, obviously.
Anika: I mean, I think that Discovery shares Deep Space Nine‘s themes at times
Liz: It does, but that’s also a successor to Enterprise. So, you know, maybe Deep Space Nine is allowed to have something of its own.
Anika: Anyway, let’s go back to Prodigy.
Liz: Yeah, that show. Uh, this was such a great, great finale, and I am so excited to learn the truth about the…
Anika: The Diviner’s vendetta.
Liz: Yes. And basically it’s that he’s terrible. And he has been all along. Spoilers!
Anika: Again, child slavery.
Anika: It’s not a shock to me. You don’t bring in John Noble to play a not creepy person.
Liz: I don’t think he was creepy in Fringe. I think that he destroyed the entire world twice by accident, but … yes.
Anika: Well, he’s not standard, either. He’s not the villain of Fringe, but he is the tragic hero, I guess?
Liz: Yes. Yes.
Anika: Yeah, so I was not surprised that the Diviner isn’t just a, you know, mustache twirling child slaver.
Liz: No, not at all.
Anika: And again, I cannot get over how beautiful that entire sequence, the sequence with Gwyn and her dad, and the destruction of Solum so pretty. He is so pretty. He’s not attractive, but he’s so pretty. It’s just the, again, I’m going to call it painting because it looks so vibrant
Liz: No, there was a shot when they walk onto the holodeck, and I remembered what you said back in the very first episode about how he looks like a painting. And I was like, oh, Anika was right.
Anika: It’s just amazing to me, how much is there. The layers of art that are involved. And in that whole sequence.
I put in our notes here, and we briefly discussed it in on Discord, I feel that this version of Solum, you know, the idea of aliens arriving, and it creating a civil war between the people on the planet that destroys the planet, I was like, yeah, that’s a … that tracks. That sounds exactly what would happen if aliens came to Earth now. If a Vulcan showed up right now on Earth, it would not go well. It would not involve a jukebox and a party in the woods. It would be a civil war that would destroy the planet.
Liz: Yeah, and we definitely know which side of that civil war the Diviner was on. I have to assume that he was part of the movement that destroyed his planet and has not learned a single thing from that.
Anika: It’s almost like he does sort of have this … It’s not guilt, but it’s, like, waving at guilt over the idea of, you know, “I was a part of this, but the Federation is the cause.” He doesn’t take any responsibility. He doesn’t find himself accountable. It’s just that he was caught up in it and, and he feels bad that, that it happened, and he feels bad about what he did, but it wasn’t his fault. He had to do that.
Liz: Well, just like he had to employ child slaves. And also the regular kind of slaves! That’s not better!
Anika: I was wondering, because we do know that there is time travel involved, I was like, so were all of them stolen as children, and some of these people have literally lived their entire lives in this mining camp? That’s horrible.
Liz: That is so horrible that I’m just not going to entertain the possibility. Some of these people were enslaved as adults.
Anika: You’ve made the decision. It was just very … It was rough.
Anika: It was very rough, the whole thing. And, you know, so, okay. There’s a podcast called Maintenance Phase, which is about –
Liz: Oh, with Michael Hobbes!
Anika: Yes, with Michael Hobbes and Aubrey … starts with a G, I think, but she’s @yourfatfriend.
Liz: Yes. Yes. I know her work.
Anika: And it’s a very fun research podcast that does a deep dive into nutrition, diet, health, wellness, meditation, self-care, all that kind of stuff. And their most recent episode was on Belle, I forget her last name, but she–
Liz: Belle Gibson?
Anika: Yeah, Belle Gibson. Who’s an Australian. So I thought of you.
Liz: Okay. Okay. She grew up in a suburb where I lived for a few years, and also was last seen living in the neighborhood of my friend, and they have the same coffee shop.
So I saw that this was the topic and I was like, no, we can’t let foreigners find out about Belle Gibson. This is so humiliating!
Anika: It’s very bad. It’s a really, really rough ride. Go listen to it, because it’s a lot of fun to listen to. And also I was sobbing at the end. It was devastating.
But I swear this has to do with Prodigy, because I had a very similar reaction to the Diviner and to Solum that I had to Belle Gibson, because they revealed the tragic backstory stuff, and you feel for them and you feel for all of this stuff that was lost, or this is all the stuff that really happened to this person. And yet what they did with it is like the worst possible thing. And so you’re stuck. And you know me and how I love finding the humanity in terrible people.
I have these two combating, you know, forces, where I understand why this happened and why this person is damaged. And I understand their trauma, and I have sympathy and empathy and compassion for them. But also, wow, are you horrible! You’re a terrible person who does terrible things, and if you can’t acknowledge that, which neither of them can, like, you have to – like, the thing about the Diviner and Gwyn is that he said, “I’m telling you everything, and now you’re on my side, right?” And she was like, “No, you are still a terrible person who did terrible things, including to me.”
So I’m not giving him a pass for this. Yeah, you had reasons. And I’m really sad about this, too. And I now have sympathy and empathy and compassion for you. But also, you are horrible and I am not on your side. I was really proud of her for that.
Liz: Yeah, because that is a hard road to walk with anyone, but especially with a parent, because we love our parents. I don’t think Gwyn had any illusions about her father’s morality by this stage, but she still wants a reason to have hope that he could improve.
Anika: Right. Exactly. She wants to believe that he could make that journey, that he could realize his accountability, his responsibility, and he could try to fix it instead of exacerbating it and making it worse, which is what he’s doing.
Anika: He is looking at this really big picture and completely failing to see how many people his personal actions have actually harmed.
Liz: And I am willing to include the population of Solum in that.
Liz: It might be a case of, “Oh no, I didn’t think that the xenophobic civil war that I fought in, or possibly led, was going to wipe all of us out. I only wanted to wipe out the people who disagreed with me!”
Anika: Well, that’s the thing about dictators. And I’m not saying he is one.
Liz: No, but I feel like he could lean in that direction a little.
Anika: Yeah. And also like, what is … you know, the Diviner is not a name, that’s a title.
Liz: Yeah. So what is the deal here?
Anika: I want to know what that is. There’s still more to this story that I don’t think he’s not telling Gwyn. Again, he’s just not looking at the whole thing. He is so delusional and trapped in his own ideas of what happened and how he was wronged.
Liz: Yeah. Which makes his ultimate fate very interesting, because he’s exposed to Zero’s true face and ends up, I guess, trapped in his own head. And by the end, I was kind of like, is that justice? It’s a very cruel justice.
I assume that he has a Drednok to care for him, but I am uncomfortable with where they left it, because, and I guess we’ll talk about this more when we get to Zero, where we watched Is There, in Truth, No Beauty, I was really uncomfortable with the idea of this race that’s so hideous they make people insane. And I think that they have separated the ugliness side of that story, but…
Anika: That was super pretty. I’m just saying. When that happened, I was like, this isn’t going to make me insane.
Liz: No, I’m totally into it. But the use of insanity as a plot device and punishment, I just don’t like seeing mental health played that way. And I do hope that we revisit, and that the Diviner sees a more conventional sort of justice.
Anika: Right. We don’t actually know the rules of this, right? We don’t know anything about Medusans. So what could happen is, the Diviner is now sort of trapped in his own mind, or whatever, and that causes him to reflect, to have, like, a self-realization, you know, to go through that journey of, “Oh, I am responsible for this and I have to atone for it, and I have to do the work and I have to apologize.” Like, let’s start with that.
Anika: Bringing it back to John Noble and Fringe, that’s a reason to hire John Noble.
Anika: If that’s what you’re going to do, if the second half of the first season is going to be the Diviner coming out of insanity arc. And I don’t know if I expect that, but it is an interesting thing to think about. It is an interesting way it could go.
Liz: Yeah. I just want to flag that I’m not comfortable using mental illness as a punishment.
Anika: Oh, absolutely.
Liz: Even though I also think that these are kids, and they have not had the same opportunity to think about it in the way that we have. They were acting in the moment, and it’s arguable that this was their only option to restrain the Diviner.
Anika: Zero has that one line where they say, “You used me against your enemies, and now I’m going to show you what that’s like.” And so I really feel like it was Zero’s decision.
And that’s why I called it Zero’s revenge in the notes, because it really felt like Zero pitched this as, “What I’m going to do is get back at him for all of the people…” like, this is another thing that’s way too dark to think about, because how many people did Zero quote unquote help? That’s horrible.
I’m very upset for poor Zero because they didn’t have the agency, they didn’t have autonomy. Of course, Zero is desperate to find someone to help break them out and start this whole thing, because that is a devastating existence. They would also be struggling with post-traumatic stress and all these things. And so they would be acting out of those feelings.
And that’s why this seems like justice to that type of person to the person who’s stuck in there, who is – again, we don’t know how old Zero is, and has also been absolutely traumatized for who knows how long.
Liz: Oh yeah. It was absolutely empowering for Zero and it was what they needed to reclaim their sense of identity after being used that way. I just have qualms. That’s all.
Anika: And the fact that it also affected Gwyn accidentally, even though it seems to have been reversed pretty much immediately.
Liz: But still. That’s not nothing.
Anika: Yeah. So I think that that helps Zero to realize what is actually happening, and how maybe they don’t want to be a Diviner, and they don’t want to use this power for ill.
Anika: And I don’t even know exactly what happened to the Diviner at the end. But if they somehow kept him around and in the plot, then Zero helping him come back would also be a really interesting way for both the decision of Zero using the power against him, and it hurting Gwyn and, you know, coming to that realization.
There’s a lot of interesting ways that that could go, that I don’t know if we’re going to get in this show, because again, as you get show and it’s an adventure, and maybe we’re the only people who are worrying about this.
Liz: It wouldn’t be the first time!
Anika: But also, this show has really surprised me with how incredibly deep and how incredibly dark it is. So it could go there. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
Liz: I definitely feel like we need to revisit the Diviner. We know from interviews that Janeway, real Janeway, will sort of be the antagonist for the next half of the season, but Janeway is not the enemy. And sooner or later, they are going to learn about the weapon aboard the Protostar, and that’s probably going to lead them, and eventually Janeway, to Tars Lamora and the Diviner.
Liz: As long as we’re talking about Zero, I do love that they have moved away from the ugliness factor about the Medusans. And they talk about their monstrous appearance and all that, but I think the 21st century iteration of that is not that it’s ugliness, it’s merely a sight so incomprehensible and alien and beautiful that most humanoid minds simply cannot comprehend it.
Anika: I absolutely think that the word ‘monstrous’ means something different in 2022 than it did in 1969.
Anika: That is an easy comment to make. And when you started talking about monstrous as a word, and yet it was not ugly, immediately, my mind went to oh, like Shape of Water.
Anika: There’s just this otherness to it that, it depending on how you look at it might be ugly, but it might be beautiful and it might just be a fish. So…
Liz: A sexy, sexy fish.
Anika: A sexy, sexy fish.
Liz: It’s a bit Lovecraftian, in that Lovecraft wrote about all of these eldritch abominations, the sight of which will make a man go mad. But Lovecraft was also scared of Jewish people and Black people. So what Lovecraft considered monstrous was … Honestly, look, the guy was a bigot. We don’t need to take his aesthetic considerations on board.
And yeah, now there are whole Tumblrs of monsterfuckers out there. How many people in Starfleet do you think are really hoping that they can go to bed with a Medusan?
Anika: I mean, absolutely there are, and it’s not even just the Medusans. There are so many Star Trek aliens, or aliens in general that it’s like, you know, why would you want to be stuck with just humanoids if you live in a world where there are other things? Obviously I’m a Tumblr monsterfucker.
Liz: I was going to say, podcast like you’re Will Riker.
Anika: Everything is beautiful. Everything has the capability of being beautiful, because beauty is objective. Or subjective. I’m tired.
Liz: No. I understand.
Anika: It’s been a long week.
Liz: I think you’re right, and I do think that it’s great that Star Trek and our culture has moved on and it’s not simply, “Ew, ugliness, oh no!” Aside from Jankom Pog. His aesthetic still troubles me. But you know, we’re getting there.
Anika: He’s definitely still the weak link of the series. He’s definitely grown a lot.
Liz: He has.
Anika: And again, it might just be that he’s not my aesthetic either. I mean that, not just visually, but also like, I don’t like … I don’t like jokes. I don’t like boy jokes the most.
Liz: He does feel like a character who has been conceived to appeal to the side of the audience that’s not me. And that’s, that’s completely fine. Because I have Dal and I have Gwyn, and I have Zero, and I have Rok-Tahk and Murf, like, I’ve got the whole show here.
Anika: Right. And I love them all.
Liz: I definitely think that Jankom showed a lot of ingenuity in using his prostheses instead of conventional weapons to hold off the Reaper aliens.
Anika: That was fun too. I really liked the tentacles, the robot tentacles. And that reminded me of Discovery. And so I was like, oh, like shout out. So it was fun to me.
But what I liked best about Jankom this episode was that he just gave up and said, “Yeah, you go do that. I absolutely yield to the eight year old science whiz physics girl, to figure this out, and I will take care of this part.” And he was not jealous in any way. He didn’t resent any of that during or after.
Liz: No, no. He was really mature about it.
Anika: And he protected her, which, for Rok-Tahk, who has been pushed into the, “You take care of us because you’re a rock.” Even when they’re not making her be the security officer, she is still a giant rock. If someone was shooting at you, you would jump behind Rok-Tahk.
Liz: Right. Protecting her is such a big deal.
Anika: Right. And he was like, “I’m throwing all of my energy into making sure that you are taken care of.”
Anika: Explicitly, not even just, “We feel bad that you were alone for months,” but explicitly, “There’s a battle going on, and I am the person who is in between you and the evil robot tentacles. And I am going to keep them away from you.” That was just a really rewarding scene for those two characters.
Liz: It made me think, and I am reading a racial dynamic here that absolutely does not exist in the show, but it made me think of the trope of the strong Black woman who doesn’t need anyone to help her, and how damaging that is, because everyone needs support and reassurance and protection at some point. And if you push this trope of the person who never, ever needs that, then people in real life don’t get that.
Anika: And there are studies, it affects little Black girls as young as eight. Yeah, you’re adding it to it, but it’s also, it’s not a stretch, because there are biases that we don’t realize that have been become ingrained, little black girls, as young as seven and eight, are called women more often than sixteen-year-old white girls. Or even eighteen-year-old white girls. It’s just, it’s this very strange thing.
Liz: It’s ugly. And I think it’s sometimes also applied to little girls who are fat because, they’re often taller and larger than their peers, so they’re perceived as more adult.
Anika: And again, they don’t fit that little box of the cute little girl.
Liz: Yeah. If the target audience sees this and takes their empathy for Rock and extends it to real life people, I think that’s good. I think more adults should do that.
Also, I think, just to have Jankom, as a teenage boy, protecting Rok-Tahk, that’s great. Like, there are so many horrible stereotypes about teenage boys. Let’s go with the physically ugly punk rock kid who doesn’t like beauty, and yeah, he is kind and he protects people.
Anika: Oh, it’s just so much to love.
Liz: I know. Our children are so good.
Anika: But let’s talk about Dal, because I can’t get over him. I lovehim so much.
Liz: I did not realize last week that he was still wearing his high top sneakers with his Starfleet uniform. And that gave me so much joy. That was like, my son! My son does not respect the uniform code.
Anika: Why would he? He never would, ever. I love him for it. And he was so good. He has come so far. I’m just so proud of him. The scene where he was trying to get people to get in the ship and get all together, but he could only talk to two or three people at a time, and “How am I going to get all of these people to work together? What am I going to do?”
And he figured it out. He worked the problem and came up with a solution and implemented it. And it was such a great solution. And then at the end, when mom Janeway was putting into her log how using the things that held them contained in order to help them break free – that was such a brilliant metaphor. And I was like, I can’t take this. This is too, too much for me.
And how devoted he was to Gwyn, how brave he was. He was completely fearless about making sure that she knew that he was there for her. Again, like, that parallel with Rock and Jankom, and then you know, Dal is going to be that, “I’m here to rescue you.” And he completely failed, but he didn’t give up. And it was just so beautiful
Liz: No, no, it was amazing. And the way he jumps on the transporter pad and he doesn’t have a plan, but he’s like, “I’ll let you know when I work it out.” That was so, so Kelvinverse Kirk
Anika: I was crying. I understand. I love him so much. And he absolutely, he is Kelvinverse Kirk. And I love him so much, too. It’s just incredible to me.
Liz: I definitely feel like we’re approaching a point where we need to move beyond ‘this character is like Jim Kirk’ as a shorthand for ‘this is a character the audience should pay attention to.’ I think we discussed how that was a problem with Michael’s characterization in the season four premiere.
But at the same time, this is important. And there is a generation of Trekkies who are going to meet Jim Kirk and go, “Oh, he’s like Dal,” instead of the other way around.
Anika: Yes. I think that it’s better in Prodigy than it is in Discovery because of that, because kids are coming to Prodigy.
Liz: Also, Michael was already an established character. Whereas Dal is very much his own person and the Kirkness isn’t erasing stuff that was already there.
Anika: Right. Yes. I agree with that.
Liz: Yeah. So we’ve saved the Catian, we’ve saved everybody. It feels like a Steven Moffat ‘everybody lives’ story. Which I think is appropriate, because Moffat was also running Doctor Who as a family drama.
Anika: Yes, exactly. I was really scared. When Gwyn briefly lost her mind, I was terrified we were going to be stuck with that for six months. And I was not prepared.
Liz: No, I was going to have to have a little cry on the train.
Anika: I really appreciate that they understood that you can’t do that for something that you want a twelve-year-old to watch, especially in the middle of a pandemic,
Liz: Oh my God.
Anika: They have been literally traumatized. Everyone in the world has been traumatized for two years. Don’t do that.
Liz: No, no. And there is still a sense that time has passed and kids — well, anyone — who wants to go out and write Gwyn hurt comfort fic about her recovery has six months to do it, and that’s going to be great. But I would not want to leave this child in that state.
Anika: Right. I think that partially that’s another reason that I love Prodigy so much, is that it’s sort of … You know, it’s that formula. We talked about how procedurals have a formula, and that’s comforting. And similarly, media that is created for kids and teens has a formula, and that is also comforting.
Liz: As much as bad things happen in this series and people complain that it’s too dark and too traumatic for kids, it is
Anika: People don’t understand.
Liz: No, no, kids need — look. My feeling is that children need to have dark things and scary things and genuine stakes in their adventures. And my experience of young audiences is that they absolutely know when they’re being talked down too, and will reject that. But at the same time, you do need to provide a safe landing. And part of that is also earning that safe landing.
Anika: It’s a balance beam. And that’s another thing that this show succeeds at. It’s really rewarding. I just, I’m so happy. My daughter is twenty-five so she’s exactly the same age as Pokemon and Blue’s Clues.
Liz: Oh my God.
Anika: So it’s interesting to see the differences between the media that was made, you know, when I was ten and the media that was made when she was ten, and the media is being made now. It’s really interesting to see that growth. And I really appreciate it. It’s that sense of being talked down to, that sense of, the only reason you’re watching this is because you have this toy or you want to be a cowboy. They didn’t trust kids to follow along with a story.
Liz: I was just thinking, I was not allowed to watch cartoons much as a kid, but I watched Captain Planet whenever I could. (I was a big Linka/Wheeler shipper. She was from the Soviet Union. He was from America. It’s meant to be.)
And that show was so, so, so patronizing. Like, we kind of love it now for how cheesy it is, but the quality of writing and the depth of storytelling … Animation has come so far. And I think a big part of that is Avatar: the Last Airbender in the two thousands, and then that ended and the writers mostly moved on to The Clone Wars, and between the two of them, they just caused this massive explosion in quality across children’s media.
Anika: So The Bad Batch, I’m going to bring it up again, but The Bad Batch literally starts with Order 66. Order 66 is the most devastating thing that ever happened in Star Wars, and for some reason, people are obsessed with it right now. Or I guess just Dave Filoni maybe is obsessed right now. But–
Liz: Where Dave Filoni goes, we reluctantly follow. Still mad about Bean Dad Luke, for the record.
Anika: That comment, that, “Oh my gosh, Prodigy is so dark,” and it’s like, yeah, Prodigy is dark. The Bad Batch is dark. Order 66 is dark. Revenge of the Sith is dark. But again, it’s this idea of trusting their audience. They trust adults and children to be able to handle it, and to understand they’re telling that story, and to understand where the darkness is coming from.
The reason we tell stories about dragons is because real kids have to deal with real stuff that is really terrible and really dark. For example, the pandemic. How many grandmothers have died? We’re all living through a mass casualty event. So pretending like that’s not happening, and that all we want is, you know, a story about a unicorn that makes a friend, that’s not all we need in this moment. People need to feel that escape, but they also need to feel catharsis. They need to have a way to explain what they’re feeling and how lost they feel, and what they need.
Anika: And stories help that.
Liz: I have just dug up the famous GK Chesterton quote, “Fairytales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know the dragons exist. Fairytales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
Liz: That’s the value of story. And that’s the value of darkness in children’s media. When I was a small child obsessed with an Australian soap opera, I would tell myself stories where the whole town was flooded and people were going to die, and my favorite character had to be saved. (I was a five-year-old shipper. I’m not ashamed.)
Anika: I mentioned my My Little Pony adventures on this podcast before. Oh my goodness. I wasn’t allowed to have Barbies as a child.
So I had My Little Ponies, but my My Little Ponies, every time I got a new one, I would tell the story of how they had been tragically separated from the rest of the family in this horrible pony war that devastated the pony population. And it was always children. I would always have the baby ponies, and then their mother would be like, “Oh, my baby was lost in the war but now you’re back.”
I would play out the entire drama in my room every single time with like music and, settings, you know, props, everything. Every single time, this horrible war that happens to pony land and ripped families apart. Whenever I got a new pony, they would come back together again. And it was always, like, the older sister didn’t know that they had a younger sister who was lost in the war.
Liz: Oh, my God, you know, I love a secret baby! And that’s the thing. Like, we had pretty normal childhoods at that point. If you were young enough to be getting My Little Ponies, I assume your mum was still around?
Liz: So this is the story that we as normal little girls were telling. And that’s messed up in an amazing way. Obviously, on some level, we needed that. We were aware that bad things were happening in the world, whether they were natural disasters or wars, and we needed to process that through play and story.
Liz: Speaking of stories, that meant a lot to me when I was young….
Anika: I know where this is going.
Liz: I know Janeway and Chakotay are the second on your list of couples in this series, but I just want to say that I know that when the showrunners say that this is a new chapter in the Janeway/Chakotay relationship, they are not literally saying they’re going to get married and mash their faces together. But that is what I read. That is what I heard. And I cannot be stopped.
Anika: And you’re not alone. I saw one tweet that I thought summed it up really well. It was like, “The JetC nation is unable to tweet right now, because we all died when that happened.”
Liz: I was spoiled for that, because the level of excitement was just such that people were forgetting to tag. And I was annoyed, but I also wasn’t mad because it meant that I got, like, an hour of anticipation before I watched the show.
Anika: I’m not even a huge J/C shipper. And it was still rewarding.
Liz: My take is, obviously Chakotay is not good enough for Janeway, but he’s the himbo she wants, and therefore he is the himbo she should have.
Liz: Also, I’m open to the possibility that the writing for him in Prodigy will be much better than it was in Voyager.
Anika: Imagine! Imagine a well-written Chakotay.
Liz: Oh, I am. And don’t get me wrong. I have read many great Chakotay fics over the years. I know it can be done. I am so excited for the OTP of my later adolescence to be back.
I’m obviously also always hanging out for Beverly to turn up in Picard. I don’t stop shipping things. I just move on to other things, and collect them at the back of my heart.
Anyway, the Janeway and Chakotay of it all. I’m afraid that they have gone and given me a middle-aged OTP in this series. Sorry, sorry, I’m going to ruin it, but …
Liz: Just a week after I was saying that they saw me coming and declined to provide that!
Anika: I just love my Gwyn and Dal.
Liz: Oh my goodness. Their relationship – it’s still not romantic. I think that they care about each other deeply, but neither of them would recognize it as a romantic attachment. But I love seeing the groundwork being laid. And honestly, friends who love each other, who realize, wow, they also love each other romantically, is kind of my favorite thing.
Anika: Exactly. That’s what I was going to say. My favorite thing is friends who meet when they’re young and have, like, twenty years of just being best friends. And then all of a sudden, like, “Wait a minute.” That’s my favorite.
Liz: “We love each other, and it turns out that we have loved each other all our lives.”
Anika: All this time. And then I cry forever. And I can totally see Gwyn and Dal having other relationships, and still always coming back to each other. Like, they are already at that point in my trajectory of relationships. It’s like, I don’t care that you’re seventeen, I can see you when you’re fifty, and it’s going to be great.
Liz: I cut out the bit of our episode a couple of weeks ago, where I compared them to my headcanon Lorca/Cornwell, because I thought that was self-indulgent. It is self-indulgent, but I’m leaving it in this time because that’s what I see.
Anika: I just love them so much. So what I say is, I ship all best friends. I always feel that there’s someone – it’s either unrequited, but not exactly unrequited because they’re still in love, but they’re not in love, you know? Or it’s, eventually they get together and it just takes them a really long time.
Anika: Or they just have a physical relationship, and a casual relationship, but also are like deeply platonically in love, but can have sex when they want to.
Liz: Right. And maybe, maybe one day when they’re older, it will become a monogamous long-term commitment. Or maybe it won’t!
Anika: Exactly. Relationships based in friendship is, I guess, what I’m saying. I’m not saying that I’m anti just friendship!
Anika: Because I’m not saying that. I just want to put that out there! I’m not against friendships, but relationships that start as friendship and become something else, something deeper, or just stay the same, but change, if that makes sense. All the emotions stay, but maybe the way that they express them changes. That’s my favorite relationship type.
And I’m very happy. Because Gwyn and Dal already have a relationship that is strong enough to become that, I guess is what I’m saying it is.
Liz: And the thing is, part of the reason that I like relationships that build out of friendships is that, let’s face it Star Trek, which was very formative for me, is not very good at constructing a relationship from scratch. They are much better at established relationships and people who are in unrequited love for many years.
Someone meeting and being interested and building a relationship from that … I think they’re getting better, I think Michael and Book feel really real in a way that a lot of other Star Trek relationships haven’t.
And because I grew up watching Star Trek, my preference is to avoid the whole dating cliche stuff and just, just skip straight to a more complex relationship. Maybe it’s also that I don’t date in real life. Anyway, therapy with Liz.
Anika: Okay. My cat is very upset. She’s been yelling for the past 10 minutes. I’m sorry.
Liz: I think it’s because your cat is a really strong Janeway/Paris shipper and is pretty mad about all this Chakotay nonsense happening.
Anika: That would make sense. She’s my cat. I don’t want to break up Paris and B’Elanna though!
Liz: No, no. Remember, we’ll always have the lizard babies
Liz: And my theory that Murf is a lizard baby,
Anika: I like your theory that Murf is lizard baby. I like the idea that the lizard babies exists somewhere.
Liz: They’re just the right age to join the Prodigy crew.
Anika: The crew. Exactly. So this is a good way to bring it in, I really love that Kate Mulgrew is playing multiple Janeways.
Liz: She is playing so many Janeways right now. Because she’s also playing two of them in Star Trek Online.
Anika: Good on you, Kate Mulgrew. I’m excited for real Janeway and holo Janeway, because holo Janeway has become important as well. It’s like, five or six weeks later and I have not gotten over when Dal called out for Janeway when he was lost on the planet in, like, episode three.
Liz: No, I’ve been thinking about that too.
Anika: I will literally never get over that moment, because it was so amazing. And I just love that Janeway is their mom, but is also sort of their peer. It’s just really, really fun to me. And so I love holo Janeway. I’m excited for there to be dueling Janeways.
Liz: I’m very keen for holo Janeway and real Janeway to be at odds. Because if the Admiral is going to be the antagonist for the second half of the season … And I saw the show runners compare it to The Fugitive, where the antagonist is not a villain, just someone whose goals do not align with the heroes, which I think is great.
Holo Janeway is going to protect her crew and real Janeway thinks she’s saving Chakotay, and that is also sort of holo Janeway’s goal. So absolutely, they are going to meet. The kids are going to have a field day. Janeway and her crew are not going to be impressed with these delinquent teens. I am delighted.
Anika: Oh delighted. I can’t wait. I’m so excited.
Liz: I also want to flag that we all thought that Daveed Diggs and Jameela Jamil would be Chakotay’s crew, and actually they’re Janeway’s. And that delights me unspeakably.
But also, the showrunners explicitly said that Tuvok will not be in the series. And I was like, you are dead to me. Friendship ended with Prodigy. Obviously I’ve forgiven them, but I think they’re making a poor choice.
Anika: Yeah, a poor choice. The only way I would accept it is if he didn’t want to leave his family.
Liz: Which I could see.
Anika: I understand if he’s like–
Liz: Yeah. “I was away for seven years and, in an unemotional and logical way, I miss them. And logic dictates that I am going to stay very close to my wife and children and grandchildren for the next forever.”
I need to sit down and work out a timeline of where all the Voyager crew are at this time, because if we’re coming up to the Romulan supernova, then Seven has joined or is about to join the Fenris Rangers. And Icheb has only a few years to live. So it’s going to be fun to work out where everyone is and what they’re doing.
Anika: I love feeling like this, about these characters that I have loved for so long, who literally shaped my life in certain ways, and they’re still around and they’re still shaping my life.
Liz: Yes. If you had told me in 2017, when I had just watched the first episode of Discovery and I was like, “Is this good? I don’t know, but I’m having fun, and I’m going to stick with it.”
If you had told me then that a few years later, we would have canonical Janeway, and a show where Chakotay is playing a supporting role, and we would also have a series with Seven of Nine and she’s in a relationship with an amazing female character, and also that there would be an animated Star Trek comedy, and I would enjoy it, I would’ve thought you were joking.
Anika: The amount of Star Trek that exists right now is–
Liz: Too much.
Anika: –blowing my mind. It’s just crazy to think, how did we get here? If you told me in 2017 that any of that was happening, I might be like, really?
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