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175. Gwyndala’s Dad Has Got It Goin’ On (Prodigy 2.01 and 2.02)

Anika and Liz sign up for an internship, accidentally steal a ship, and … well, we’re discussing the second season premiere of Star Trek: Prodigy

(Please note we have seen the whole season, and although we make some very virtuous remarks about sticking to the episodes at hand, we cannot be trusted to respect the Temporal Prime Directive.)

  • The binge model and Star Trek
  • Dal versus the education system
  • Sexualising the Diviner
  • Zero’s story is both a trans narrative and a disability narrative 
  • The romances in this series are super low key and free of inherent drama … but would there be a bigger fandom if the show provided more fodder for ship wars? Is that better? Or worse? 
  • Jankom and therapy and Dr Noum
  • Rok-Tahk, rules and Liz’s Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead trauma

Transcript

Liz: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast, where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext and subspace hosted by Anika and Liz. Today, we’re discussing the second season premiere episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy, Into the Breach, parts one and two. My heart is so full.

Anika: Once more, Unto the Breach. Alright, so I wanted to tell everybody at the top that we have both seen all of the episodes of the second season.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: But we’re going to do them one at a time, or in this case, two at a time, and there’s one other two-parter. We’re going to go one by one and attempt to not go into the future. We have seen the future, so fair warning.

Liz: Yes, this may not be a spoiler-free experience if you haven’t finished the season, but we’re going to try. In part because I think the binge model has been really unfair to Prodigy. I have 20 weeks’ worth of feelings swirling around in my heart from three days of watching, and every episode is so good and I want to appreciate it for what it is.

Anika: Yeah, remember how we had three months in between the first 10 episodes and the second 10 episodes of season one?

Liz: Yeah! In general, I think the binge model does a disservice for shows, and for Prodigy in particular, which is telling a really, big complicated story that would have really benefited from the weekly buzz of word of mouth and speculation and all of that. I know this is simply the nature of Netflix and maybe the alternative would have been not getting season two at all, but I’m not a fan and I don’t like feeling like my viewing is responsible for whether or not it gets a third season or a streaming movie or anything else. That’s not my job.

Anika: Yeah, it’s bad that when you said we should do this weekly, the thing that I thought was, oh, well, then I can watch it over and over. Yes, I’ll count it for something. I completely agree. It should not be on me.

Liz: Yeah, I really hate that it’s on me because it’s not really like you and I as individuals have no power here. I have been streaming the series over and over again in a tab all week and it still hasn’t cracked the Australian top 10 for kids, not even for kids.

Anika: I’m not even sure I count because I got screeners. I watched actually all but the last three episodes before it even premiered. But I think that that might mean that I don’t count as a person. That I’m not actually watching and I would have to go into maybe one of my other profiles in order to count as a person to watch Prodigy.

Liz: I’m so grateful to have this second season. It was so wonderful. It is a fitting end to the series if it is an end point, but I’m disappointed that it’s come about like this. I think the writers, everyone involved in the creation of Prodigy deserve better.

Anika: I agree with all that, but I think that we are going to get so fewer fics around. So no one’s going to post theories and ideas and start whole alternate universes based on an episode or two or three. And that is sad to me, because that’s how I got into Star Trek fandom, was through those posts and discussions and fix. And I have many fic ideas and I’m like, will I ever write any of these? We’ll see.

Liz: I am still processing season five of Discovery on that level.

Anika: Yeah, but it feels like what would even be the purpose of it, because it’s like this, you know, moment, flash in a pan moment that’s going to be out of everyone’s… And, you know, part of it is like, that means it’s on me as a content creator to keep it going. It’s like, well, I have like a real job.

Liz: Truthfully, I think that us doing 15 to 20 episodes covering Prodigy is going to count for something. So let’s get down to it. And our one hundred and seventy fifth episode is the season premiere of the best new Star Trek. And I’m going to say it, the best Star Trek, which is not to say — I said this in a few places. Prodigy is absolutely standing on the shoulders of giants, and also Star Trek: Picard.

Anika: I actually love how much random Picard stuff is in this season. Because because they’re like, OK, fine. We have to deal with this because it’s the important stuff that is happening in the timeline. And so we have to acknowledge it and we have to address it. But we’re going to do it our way. And I appreciate that.

Liz: I think one of the great things about Star Trek as a franchise is that in general, it yes, ends even at silly ideas, whether that’s the main timeline taking the destruction of Romulus from the JJ. Abrams movies or yeah, Prodigy acknowledging the events of Star Trek: Picard and even the silly things in Voyager, like Janeway being turned into a salamander. Star Trek itself makes it hard to point at any one thing and go, no, that’s not canon. And when they do, it’s usually stuff that has aged really badly, like women can’t be Starfleet captains.

Anika: Right. The fact that over and over again in this season, they kept saying that like the Romulan evacuation was taking too much of their time and energy and staffing. They just didn’t have the ships or people because of that. And that softens Starfleet’s terrible decisions as seen in Star Trek: Picard, because they’re saying this wasn’t a decision just because we are isolationist and racist and horrible. It’s because also it was really hard to begin with. It felt like it was impossible. And we decided that we had to give up because that was the best thing for our people. And that’s still bad. But I can see where they’re coming from.

Liz: And at one point late in the season, Jellico also notes that they lost so many ships to the Living Construct that there’s nothing to spare. I think Prodigy takes a really wide view of the worldbuilding of the Federation, and takes the stuff that was sort of throw away in Picard and makes it make sense. But let’s talk about these episodes.

Anika: They mention the evacuation.

Liz: They do. They do.

Anika: They start on a high point.

Liz: Well, the episode opens on a high point with everyone but Dal basically thriving in their pre-Academy prep school, which — I’m just going to note that when Chakotay joined Starfleet, he ran away from home at 15, and I’ve always assumed there was some sort of prep school or bridging course or something that Starfleet offers for people who have come from other cultures and different educational systems, and people from Luddite colonies like Owosekun. I’m glad that this exists on screen, but I also feel like Dal is being set up to fail, because he is clearly not thriving in the traditional American education system. It seems like everyone else has been paired up with teachers or mentors or peers, and Dal is just being put in a classroom and expected to thrive, and he’s not.

Anika: And it’s not just on the prep school. It’s also on Voyager. The same thing happens to Dal on Voyager. Dal is singled out as the problem.

So I have here, ‘Anika has a lot to say about Starfleet’s universal design for learning.’ It really feels like the way that they go around to each of the students, both in the very opening scenes, and then again on Voyager, they do the same thing in the turbolift ride with the Doctor. It’s like, here is this educational program that has been set up for you specifically, Jankom, and you specifically, Rok-Tahk, and you specifically, Zero. And then they get to Dal and they’re like, whatever. You just figure it out.

And I think that that is — so universal design, the idea of universal design is that in both motivation and instruction, you take into account the students’ needs. It feels like this Starfleet Academy or pre-Academy seem to be — they’re doing that.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: But when they get to Dal, it’s like, he’s a problem they can’t solve. And so they just put him into a box. And that is very true to the problem of universal design, is there are some students who you can’t figure out easily, who are just sort of against school.

Liz: But not only that, I never forget that Dal is voiced by a Black man. And this feels like the way the education system in both our countries looks at Black kids, particularly very intelligent Black boys.

Anika: That’s where I was going.

Liz: “You’re a problem, let’s just put you in in-school detention until you leave and aren’t our problem anymore.”

Anika: Almost universally for universal design, the problem kids, the kids who they say, “Well, they just don’t like school. And so we’re just going to put them into remedial math because they refuse to play the game. They refuse to be tested to figure out what is going to be…” And those students are always the marginalized populations and especially Black children. And it’s because of implicit bias. It’s not even like that they are the children who are actually troublemakers. In any definition of that, they’re singled out and then they start finding reasons to say that they’re a problem. And the reason that universal design as a concept exists is because people are trying to address these problems. But it still benefits the upper middle class gifted population, not the working class and below — still gifted population.

Liz: All of these kids come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They were all child slaves. Rok-Tahk was a fighter. But Rok-Tahk is very, very young and thrives with positive adult attention. And Zero is very self-motivated. And so is Jankom. And it seems like Jankom is actually in a really good place where he’s going through something that many teenage boys struggle with, where they want to be themselves, but they also want to be liked. And how do you walk that path of being true to yourself without irritating or hurting or annoying other people?

Anika: And not for nothing, Councillor Noum has taken an interest in Jankom.

Liz: Yeah, yeah. Which he is conveying in a very Tellerite way of open dislike, but it’s culturally appropriate.

Anika: Right, it’s culturally appropriate. And Jankom knows that.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: And it feels like positive reinforcement. Whereas Dal, whose closest relationship in terms of authority figures was hologram Janeway. I mean, which is true for all of them, but particularly for Dal. She was the first adult, quote unquote, that he trusted in any way.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: And he trusts Admiral Janeway because of that. And he feels like Janeway is ignoring him.

Liz: And the thing is, Janeway doesn’t have that relationship with him that her holographic self did. She likes him, she respects him, but she doesn’t really know him. One of my recurring notes I read to watch the episode was, ‘is Janeway setting Dal up to fail, or does Janeway want Dal and his friends to figure out what she’s doing?’ And I think the answer to both questions is, eh, she didn’t really think about it that much, and absolutely she wants them to figure it out.

Anika: Right. I think that she brought them on there for a reason.

Liz: Yeah. But also she’s incredibly busy and is not in a position to personally oversee the education of one kid. And it just seems like no one in Starfleet has gone, hey, this boy was raised by a Ferengi and then was sold into child slavery. Maybe he doesn’t know how to be in a classroom.

Anika: They just keep telling him to read the book. When we go to his quarters and he has the conversation with Gwyn, and his quarters are just full of books and PADDs, and it’s just like, oh, what about Dal makes you think he wants to read any of this?

Liz: Right, right.

Anika: That’s not his way.

Liz: They send Murf off to the holodeck for security training. Dal should be on the holodeck having interactive lessons with people who can explain things to him, and who can let him try things and fail, because Dal learns through trial and error.

Anika: And we’ve seen that work with him before.

Liz: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Anika: And it seems like that’s not crazy. Because that program exists, it means that this is an option and he doesn’t know to ask for it. There’s another thing about school, is that schools are required by law to offer accommodations to students, but you have to ask for them.

Liz: It’s sort of the first-generation college or university student problem as well.

Anika: Right. There are so many students who don’t know that these possibilities even exist or are open to them. So they don’t know to ask, they don’t know to look. They just think that they have to do whatever anyone is telling them to do.

Liz: Yeah. And I’m going to float the idea that the Doctor is not the right mentor for Dal. I like that we seem to have Tysess overseeing Nova Squadron and the Doctor keeping an eye on the Prodigy kids, the Protostar kids, but the Doctor is not the right one for Dal.

Anika: Yeah, I was going to say the Doctor is actually like surprising me right from the beginning.

Liz: I have never said this before, but I wouldn’t have minded more EMH shenanigans.

Anika: The Doctor either becomes the whole story, like a Data. In Voyager, he either becomes the whole story like data and takes over everything, or he is the butt of the joke. And here, he’s still the butt of a joke, but it’s affectionate. And he does not take over. He actually shines a spotlight on the others. In fact, I would say all of the legacy characters do. And I think that this show does it so much better than other shows because of the way that the legacy characters are integrated into the story that is being told about the main characters, instead of building the story around bringing in these other people.

Liz: Yeah, and obviously the big comparison is Star Trek: Picard and how it literally shoves out all of its new characters to make room for the legacy characters. But I also compare it to Strange New Worlds and how Una and Spock and Pike take up a lot of attention, and Christine, and La’an is…

Anika: We know nothing about Ortegas.

Liz: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Anika: To this day.

Liz: She and Hemmer were the only characters who have no connection with a pre-existing canon. And Hemmer is dead and Ortegas is a cipher.

So I really do admire the Prodigy writers so much because they’ve given us such rich characters, but they also handle the legacy characters with so much respect and nuance. And they really understand how to make them interesting and complicated supporting characters. And as a person who often gets very attached to a supporting character, that is such a skill.

I feel like I know Tysess and Noum, even though we know nothing about them. I think they’re married. But that’s just — like, I want you to carry that theory with you as you rewatch season 2.

Anika: Now I’m going to be looking for it. I watched Hamilton for the 4th of July, like everyone should.

Liz: It’s your patriotic duty.

Anika: Especially these days. And Daveed Diggs is just, you know, easily one of the best parts of Hamilton. So every time Tysess was on screen, I was just like, I see you, Lafayette. I love those characters. I just loved them. All of the adult characters. I obviously love all of the children characters. But IIlthuran, whatever his name is. Ilthuran.

Liz: Gwyn’s dad. Gwyn’s hot dad.

Anika: I was going to say A, why is he so hot? And B, why is he so great? I love him. Oh my God. From this episode, she walks into his astronomy tower and I was like, I want to marry him. And he’s just perfect.

Liz: I just want to say, you know that I’ve been sexualising the Diviner for a while now. I’m not jumping on to some hot Diviner bandwagon. But IIlthuran, man, Gwyndala’s dad has got it going on.

Anika: He’s got it going on. Whatever the tentacles on their head are, they’re perfect. I was just like, I’m uncomfortable with how attractive he is.

Liz: No, no. I had that feeling a lot.

Anika: And he lives in an astronomy tower, and he’s the underdog who no one pays attention to because he cares about the stars, and nobody cares about that. I was just like, boyfriend material.

Liz: Oh, yeah.

Anika: And he wants to be a good dad, just like the whole thing.

Liz: Yeah, yeah. Honestly, we’re jumping ahead because this is part two, but I love the Vau N’Akat. I think they are actually up there with the Romulans as my favourite Star Trek alien, not just my favourite new Trek alien, which they kind of were already.

Anika: Their aesthetic.

Liz: Oh, my gosh. Like the Thurandil, the Lee Pace’s Thurandil … but also they act like the Numenoreans in Rings of Power, where they’re like isolationist and superior, and — yeah, totally, totally into it. I’m not one of those people who thinks that we need to see a cartoon in live action for it to be quote unquote real, but I really want to see how you would render these settings and costumes and designs for live action. I need a Vau N’Akat character in Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. And also, some galaxy brained person on Mastodon suggested that the heirloom technology that the Vau N’Akat use could be the foundation for programmable matter by the 32nd century.

Anika: That makes sense.

Liz: Though I’ve got to say the Vau N’Akat are doing more attractive things with it.

Anika: We would hope that now that Solum is sort of on the good path, that they will eventually become a part of the Federation or at least a joining the Klingons type of relationship with the Federation, that they would be able to share technology.

Liz: Yeah, because they clearly have very sophisticated technology without having any interest in developing space travel, which is kind of … you know my thing with the Prime Directive and how you have to have warp drive to qualify to have first contact.

Anika: Yes, yes I do.

Liz: I just think that level of technological determinism is reductive.

Anyway, let’s talk about Zero. And I’m trying to avoid spoilers, I’m trying to take this episode just as it is, but Zero is thriving in their professional development and their medical training, but they want sensory input, and I think that is so real.

Anika: Relatable.

Liz: Yeah, yeah.

Anika: They know, they can see, and they can sense with their psychic powers what they’re missing. This scene, the very beginning scene, when we first see Zero and they are watching a cute little cadet couple, you know, flirting and touching each other’s hands for the first time. That scene reminded me of Wall-E, which is a precious, wonderful movie.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: But Wall-E is a robot. And as much as they are a character, they’re not a Medusan, they’re not Zero. Zero is a fully sentient — not even a construct, not even a Data.

Liz: No, no.

Anika: I think Zero is a creature that exists and just has a completely separate physiology than all of us. And to be that, but to exist surrounded by all of us and be the only one. And to know that, yeah, I have all this stuff, but in order to exist in this space, I have to diminish myself. And I don’t get to have any of the good stuff that they have. Zero is so brave to do this.

Liz: And it’s interesting that they haven’t returned to the Medusan home world, that we’ve seen.

Anika: No.

Anika: Well, I remember the first season there, one episode where we learned like their backstory and it’s that they, kind of like Ilthuran — I’m going to have to come up with a nickname for him — wants to see the rest of the universe. I love that all of them are misfits and Zero is a misfit on their own planet, and still here. And this arc is just a really interesting arc about wanting to feel more.

Liz: And Zero is such a rich character because they’re clearly a trans narrative, they’re a canonically non-binary character, and I think “I want to be who I truly am and I want to experience all the things that come with being a person…” And that’s, you know, physical experience and sexuality and romance.

Anika: Having what I see other people have.

Liz: Yes. While still being true to myself. I think that’s a really powerful trans story. And we’ll get into this later around episode eight. I actually am waiting for trans people to weigh in because I feel like I might be too cis to see what the story is. But I know that Prodigy, unlike other Treks, has had trans sensitivity advisors on this season.

But the other thing is that Zero’s story is a really powerful disability story because they’re intelligent, they’re autonomous, but they have to live with an assistive device. And it limits what they can do. And yet they are almost an adult and deserve bodily autonomy and disabled people are also entitled to the same sexual and romantic experiences as any other person.

Anika: Right. And it limits the way other people see them too. It puts a barrier between who they are and how people see them. And that also I think is a really good storyline in this season.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: With how they are seen by certain people.

Liz: Which brings us to Ma’jel, my queen. I expected Ma’jel to be sort of a secondary love interest to Dal, that there would be some kind of love triangle between him and Ma’jel and Gwyndala. And I was like, oh, this is going to suck, but okay, I’m going to try and make the best of it. And then you said something about a completely unexpected pairing. I guessed it involved Ma’jel. And I was like, Ma’jel/Jankom? I don’t hate this idea. Jankom can have a cool Vulcan girlfriend.

And I still think that Jankom should have a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Jankom can have whatever Jankom wants. But Ma’jel and Zero are such a startling combination, right from the moment where she speaks to him telepathically. And it’s like, hey, you, I see you.

Anika: Yeah, Ma’jel never sees Zero as anything other than a being. A being that is the same as her. Like, yeah, you have a completely different…

Liz: Physicality.

Anika: Aesthetic. Yeah, physicality. But we are the same. And I was just like, ooh, Ma’jel is the kind of Vulcan who is totally fine just jumping into someone’s mind and being like, I can read your mind. And that was the moment I was like, oh, Ma’jel, I like you. You’re the kind of Vulcan I can get behind.

Liz: You’re a bit of an asshole. I like that.

Anika: And it’s great. And she really becomes a part of the team. And it’s excellent.

Liz: Without really letting go of the fact that she does believe in the hierarchy and authority and very much being the adult in the room, which is also Zero. Zero often thinks of themselves as the sensible one, which is why it’s always funny when they go off the rails.

But all the romantic couples in this season are incredibly mature in a way that does not quite feel true. Some of them are 17. Like, have you met 17-year-olds, guys?

Anika: But okay, so Gwyn is the only person in this episode who validates Dal. So I understand why he’s devoted and determined not to mess it up in a way that I think is true throughout. I love them.

Liz: I’m torn because I love the way the romances are handled in this series. I think it really is appropriate to the younger preteen end of the audience and to the older end of the audience who don’t want that level of teen melodrama. However, I kind of feel like Prodigy would attract a bigger fandom outside of Trekkies if there was like … you know, how Avatar and Legend of Korra and Voltron had massive fandoms, and it was all shippers and it was all ship wars and it was very high drama, but people were talking about them.

Anika: I do not know that, but I believe you.

Liz: Look, I have done my time in the Avatarverse ship war trenches.

Anika: You know, you said that and I was like, well, like, you know, Rebels was really, there was not any of that. And there’s Arcane, which there’s some shipping on Arcane, but you have to squint.

Liz: That’s like an adult animated series. I’m thinking that the teen animated dramas.

Anika: It was a teen plus. Well, Rebels is definitely a teen.

Liz: Oh, yeah.

Anika: It really — Rebels is on par with Prodigy.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: So, yeah, I do think that it is partially the youth. And it is partially, I’m just going to go out and say this, Star Trek.

Liz: Oh, yeah.

Anika: Literally the only relationship that we’ve gotten in, like, we’ve got Book and Michael, who are extremely mature in their abilities. And we’ve got Spock and Christine, who are not.

Liz: Like, that’s the only high drama relationship and it’s quite unpopular.

Anika: That’s the only high drama relationship.

Liz: And, you know, people are talking about the Starfleet Academy series and they’re all like, “Oh, it’s going to be a CW soap opera. It’s going to be so bad.”

Anika: That is what I want! It used to be that the people, and I don’t think this is true anymore, but the people who make Gossip Girl were the showrunners. And I was like, yes, exactly. I should be the showrunner though.

Liz: Oh, it makes me angry that you’re not.

Anika: And I would be really good because I have both the university perspective and the teen melodrama perspective. So they fail by not hiring me.

Liz: Look, we should just start writing screenplays and get an agent. And the fact that one of us is in a different country and has a full-time job is…

Anika: I already have a pilot written. Anyone want to read it?

Liz: In conclusion, Mike McMahon, call Anika.

I love Zero and Ma’jel, and I love that Ma’jel forms relationships with the other characters as well. Like, she’s not just in a relationship bubble, but Ma’jel and Zero also remind me of how Kollos and Spock bond in Is There in Truth No Beauty, which we watched before we watched Prodigy, and how Vulcans and Medusans do make a good pair.

And Medusans can experience corporeality … you know, having a body, that word, through possessing someone and joining with them in that way. But it seems kind of permanent. I think that was the end for Diana Mauldar’s character, that she’s permanently bonded with Kollos. Zero is 17 and not ready to make that sort of commitment. And so is Ma’jel. Let these kids experiment first.

Anika: Yeah, it’s fine. And that’s why I’m okay with the relationships being sort of…

Liz: Low-key…

Anika: Transient.

Liz: Yeah. Also, they’ve just got more important things going on. They have to…

Anika: Like, for real…

Anika: They have to save Chakotay.

Liz: Yeah, save Chakotay, save the world. I have to believe that Janeway wanted the kids to figure out what was in the so-called Shuttle Bay 3. She couldn’t just come out and tell them because… I don’t know, Janeway’s walking a really difficult line in this season where she… she wants to do her own thing, but she’s also an admiral and she has to answer to Jellico, who is kind of a hard-ass.

Anika: Like, yeah, I won’t spoil, but I will say, Janeway’s arc is kind of amazing.

Liz: No, it really is.

I’ve seen people who are worried that they’re like, this isn’t the Janeway that I know and love, and I’m like, this is the Janeway I know and love.

Anika: It’s really well done in this, like, true to Janeway.

Liz: Oh yeah.

Liz: I think fandom has sort of reduced Janeway to this crazy, phaser-happy, anti-authoritarian lunatic, much in the same way it has with Kirk. But she was always really doing her best to follow the rules. When she says sometimes you have to punch your way through, she’s talking about like a spatial anomaly, not other ships. She is very rule-abiding, but also she was allowed to have more leeway because she was out in the middle of nowhere, and she didn’t have to answer to anyone. Here she has to answer to Jellico and the rest of the Starfleet command structure.

Anika: And it grates on her. She has to decide. She’s like, oh, do I follow my instincts, which is what I would do in the Delta Quadrant, or do I have to accept that they know something that I don’t know?

Liz: Yes, and I think that is a really mature sort of storyline in a way that’s impressive for a kids show because we were saying, why does Rios go back to Starfleet? Why does Raffi go back to Starfleet, when neither of them seem happy with having to make that choice? And Janeway, we learn at the end, is on the cusp of, hey, maybe I just don’t want to be in Starfleet anymore.

Anika: Which is exactly right for her character. That’s what I mean when it’s like, yes, it’s — yes. I love it.

Liz: And it feels like a really good middle-age storyline in that you’re an adult and you have all of this experience. And is it better to go along with the people around you or to break out on your own?

Anika: And also, is it okay to choose something else?

Liz: Yes.

Anika: Which is not to bring current events into it, but it would be great if some people would choose to do something else. That would be awesome. I would like there to be more stories about people who move on.

Liz: Later in this season, I am going to hang some shit on Picard for retiring when he does, but I’m actually okay with men in their 80s deciding that it’s time to hang up and go home and retire.

Anika: Co-signed. But I do want to point out here that Noum and Tysess are just as loyal to Janeway and her crazy schemes as the Voyager crew ever was.

Anika:

Anika: And that, to me, means that it wasn’t just the special circumstances of “I guess we have to side with her because there’s no one else to side with here.” But I always point to Tuvok and being like, look, Tuvok is clearly the person who would always be like riding for Starfleet regulations, and he goes along with her all the time. So that means that it’s Janeway that they are loyal to. It’s not a special occasion.

And Noum and Tysess, who are never in the Delta Quadrant, and who have been working under her in much more normal circumstances are still fully on board with, let’s take this illegal cloak ship into the wormhole to go save your crew. Just says everything you need to know about the type of leader that Janeway is.

Liz: And I love that Tysess and Noum don’t really fall into … like you can’t say that Tysess is a Chakotay or a Tuvok, although I do think that he and Tuvok are pen pals and, like, frenemies.

Anika: They get together and have bitchfests all the time, like every six months or so.

Liz: That’s it, exactly. Tysess will contact Tuvok being like, “The admiral just did this, is that something I should be concerned about?” And tuvok will be like, “No, unfortunately, that is very normal.” And I love that Noum was the chief medical officer on the Dauntless, but now he’s the ship’s counselor. like, guys, those are different jobs, but once again…

Anika: Those are different jobs. No, but I kind of like the idea that the captain’s counselor is sort of like what you want it to be. It’s kind of bad for the concept of mental health, mental health care. But it’s kind of great for — because we’ve seen it now in kind of all of the new series, where they’ve shifted. And I just think that that’s it’s interesting. Also, you know, on the on the backs of it’s okay to do new things.

Liz: Yes, I can imagine in the future…

Anika: Yeah, it’s sort of easier to be like, I was a general practitioner and now I’m a specialist in this other medical field. And that wouldn’t be difficult.

Liz: And especially if you have longer lives and, you know, maybe Tellarites don’t need eight full hours of sleep. I was going to say that it seems like Jankom has had some sort of therapy because he seems like he’s in such a good place. And now I’m wondering if it was with Dr. Noum.

Anika: That’s what I was thinking too. That’s why they have this sort of relationship and why when he talks to him in the corridor, Jankom immediately drops into therapy speak.

Liz: Yeah, yeah.

Anika: I think that that’s great. We just came up with that and it’s a headcanon. It’s not world building, necessarily, but it’s something that makes sense. And when people in the 60s watched TOS, none of them would have said a Tellarite can be a counselor.

Liz: No, no, I love this. I love this deeply. All through the season, I kept expecting a bit where Jankom would just like crack and reveal that his calmness is all a facade and it’s just something he’s been putting on. And no, it just it seems like genuine growth for him. And he’s still learning to balance, like, following the rules with improvising and figuring out when he should do one or the other. And that’s normal. I think he’s quite underused again this season. But I like what we could infer.

Anika: Yeah, Murf and Jankom get the short end of the stick in terms of character growth.

Liz: I think we learn a lot about Murf. But yes, Murf is a joke.

Anika: And Rok-Tahk, she has her moments, but she doesn’t really have an arc necessarily.

Liz: She doesn’t really change as much as other characters.

Anika: But she’s also like really young.

Liz: Yeah, yeah.

Anika: At that point, like she shouldn’t be changing yet.

Liz: Yeah. And what we do see is that she really wants to follow the rules and she wants to fit in. And I think that is extremely relatable. You know the movie Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, with the iconic Jayne Brook receptionist role? I could not watch that as a child because all the rule breaking really stressed me out.

Anika: It’s in the title, Liz. The rule breaking is in the title.

Liz: It was the last day of school so they wheeled the TV out and put on a video for us all to watch. And I had to watch through my fingers because it was so stressful. I was, like, 11. And so I extremely relate to Rok-Tahk. She’s in a safe space now. She’s with adults she trusts and she wants to trust them and she can trust them and I love that.

Anika: I’m going to say something that’s not going to be surprising.

Liz: That she shouldn’t trust Janeway?

Anika: I do not have any of that stress. I was the kid who was like, you know, someone would say something like, “Everyone stand in a line and be quiet.” And I would be like, well, what happens if you’re not? And then I would make noise to find out. That was me.

Liz: Yeah, no, definitely not me. Can’t relate.

Anika: I’m just saying, Prodigy represents everybody!

Liz: Yeah, but also Rok-Tahk wants to get along with everyone, but she’s completely able to call out her friends. She’s not afraid of being ostracized or anything. She trusts them. And I don’t want to bring Harry Potter into it, but you remember the Neville Longbottom thing, and it’s harder to stand up to your friends.

I really like how the kids immediately develop their own relationship with Chakotay when Janeway finally comes clean about her secret mission.

Anika: And they see that and they immediately, they’re like, oh, he’s the reason we’re here.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: We need to go save him right now. They are fully on board immediately. It’s so heartwarming because I think that that is very true to the age group. It’s almost simplistic, this ‘you saved us, so we save you’, but adults wouldn’t do that. Like, they wouldn’t even see it. And I want more people to reciprocate in these ways and to realize that someone’s — it’s like, someone’s sacrifice affected me. I think that it’s easy to say, I support X, Y and Z sacrifice, but to actually do something about it, and these kids just jumped right in.

Liz: And on a storytelling level, I think it’s important that they form their own bond with Chakotay. They have their own level of gratitude to him, because otherwise they’re just doing it because he’s connected to Janeway. And I think that’s kind of what a lot of people expected, because we are programmed to think of the legacy characters as important. But for this story to work as well as it does, the kids need to be the ones with agency and their own connections.

Zero recognizes how deeply Janeway is hurt by Chakotay’s loss. And to some extent, Janeway cares and therefore they care, which is why I ship Janeway/Chakotay, because it’s certainly not about him.

Anika: So you ship Janeway/Chakotay because Janeway cares about him?

Liz: Yes.

Anika: See, I think that — and again, no spoilers, but the reason this season works for me in terms of the Janeway and Chakotay stuff is because it is very clear that Chakotay is absolutely devoted to and in love with Janeway, and Janeway is like, you’re my bestie, thanks. And that’s not bad, like, no shade. She does love him. And want him back and he’s a very important person in her life, but she’s not attracted to him in that way.

Liz: I disagree. I’m going to present arguments later in the season.

Anika: She flirts with everybody, so…

Liz: She doesn’t hold hands over breakfast with everybody, but we’ll get to that. We’ll get to that. I definitely think this is a ‘Chakotay is monogamous and Janeway is not’ situation.

Anika: Yeah. Maybe that’s it. That she doesn’t want him to be her OTP.

Liz: We’ll talk about this at the end. But he has other things going on. Like, part of the problem with Chakotay as a character on Voyager is that he’s always very narrow in his interests and relationships. And it’s always kind of weird when they bust him out of those narrow little tracks. Chakotay in Prodigy is a much richer character. Not least because of his relationships with the kids and the different facets of himself that these bring out. So I’m really eager to talk about those. But that’s half a season away.

Anika: That’s a half a season away. But I love it. I was not looking forward to Chakotay. I think that I was on the record with that. This Chakotay is great. This is going to be high praise. Are you ready?

Liz: Yes.

Anika: Prodigy Chakotay reminds me of Yoda in The Last Jedi, aka I don’t hate him.

Liz: The only Yoda you like!

Anika: The only Yoda I like.

Liz: Well, I remember, in this very podcast, and I think it may have been our Voyager shipping episode, we agreed that for Chakotay to work in Prodigy, he needed to be a completely different character. And he kind of is.

Anika: Yeah, he kind of is. And they even like, they make a reason for it. They’re like, okay, we need to reset Chakotay. And so we’re going to give him 10 years.

Liz: Spoilers. They basically went down a checklist of everything I personally love in a character and ticked them off one by one. It feels extremely personally targeted at me. And I just want to say thank you.

Anika: Aw, that’s very sweet. There were certainly things that felt targeted at me. So I get that feeling. It wasn’t quite as much as Picard and Strange New Worlds. But there were definitely things that were like…

Liz: Can I just say before we wrap up, I watched the first half of this two-parter on the train home from work on Monday afternoon. And I watched it as the Hagerman brothers intended, which is that I was being sexually harassed by a very drunk man. The thing is, I didn’t notice at first because I had my noise-cancelling headphones in. The sound mixing on this show is amazing. And I just wasn’t looking away from my phone. But then, when Dal is on his FaceTime with Gwyn and she freezes, at that moment I passed through a data dead zone and my stream froze. So obviously, I didn’t notice it first. So, serendipity. But it was only then that I realised that this man had been talking at me for 15 minutes. That’s how absorbed I was in this show.

Anika: Yeah, it is a very absorbing show. And so, in that sense, the ability to binge is… I’m gonna compare it to Rebels again. I didn’t watch the first four seasons of Rebels until they were out. Because I was sort of like, hey, Anakin’s not in this, why do I even care? And then my daughter was like, look, Mom, you would love Star Wars Rebels. It is Star Wars made for you. You need to go watch it right now.

And so I gave in, and it was the summer, so I had more time. And then I watched legitimately all four seasons in like three days. Because I could not stop watching. I was like, I can’t believe this exists. And there were moments when I was so happy that I could hit next episode on Prodigy as well. I was so invested in the storyline, and I needed to see it right away.

Liz: It was very much like eating a whole box of chocolates in one sitting where every time I hit next, I was like, I know I’m going to regret this, but I need it. I need it in my face right now. And I’m not normally a binger, but I’m watching it on my phone on the train, I’m watching it at lunchtime, I have never downloaded Netflix episodes to my phone before. It’s really easy, I’m really impressed by it. I moved my TV into my room so I could watch it in bed. It was, yeah, it was a whole thing.

Anika: It’s an amazing series. It’s an absolutely beautiful season that is so packed with feelings.

Liz: Feelings and ideas and… My friend’s son hasn’t watched any Star Trek. She was a casual Next Generation fan and then noped out of Picard because it was too dense with canon for her to follow. But she has learned that Prodigy exists, and she’s really excited to watch it with her son, who is nine. And his favourite thing is time travel, so…

Anika: There’s so much time travel and it’s all timey wimey fun.

Liz: I love it. I love it so much.

Anika: Thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.com, including links to our social media, credits for our theme music and transcripts of our episodes. I believe that all of the Discovery episodes are now… transcripts are available.

Liz: Season five is definitely done. Don’t know about the others, but I will try to… I’m going to try and stay up to date with the Prodigy transcripts at least.

Anika: You can follow us on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Blue Sky, all at antimatterpod. And at Mastodon, @antimatterpod@TenForward.Social.

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Join us next week when we recap Prodigy‘s next episode, Who Saves the Saviors? Is that a Who Watches the Watchers reference?

Liz: Oh, it absolutely is.

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