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99. Delta Quadrant Girlboss (Prodigy 1.07)

This one’s short because we spent too much time talking about media diversity and the value of procedurals…

We are brushing up on our Rules of Aquisition and speedreading General Order One … it’s time for Prodigy!

  • Did we NEED to bring the Ferengi into the 21st century? 
  • Seriously, lots of things about Nandi left a bad taste in our mouths
  • “The prime directive quandary was the most interesting part of the episode” — words which we have NEVER said before now!
  • Can Murf consent to being a transporter experiment subject? 
  • Nandi has pierced ears and this worries us a LOT
  • Pay animation writers fairly, dammit!

Transcript

Liz: I feel like I have more to say about Good Sam this week than…

Anika: I know, right?

Liz: And I’m sorry. No one deserves to come into this obsession with me, but the version that exists in my head is really good.

[theme music]

Liz: 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 discussing Star Trek: Prodigy, season one, episode seven, First Con-Tact. And I was right. It’s a Ferengi episode.

Anika: I don’t like the Ferengi.

Liz: No. I was so excited when they said that Grey Griffin was voicing the villain this week, because I loved her in Avatar. She’s like my second or third favorite character. And I think she’s an outstanding voice actress. But she didn’t really sound the way she usually does. Which is fine. I love that she’s versatile, but I just … Ferengi.

And my beta reader pointed out that the design, the animation design, kind of leaned into the anti-Semitism of the Ferengi’s origins, which I do not like.

Anika: That wasn’t my main issue, but my main issue is related, in that I’m just tired of being introduced to Ferengi who are tricksters, who only care about money and profit and their own lives. The twist would have been better if the twist was, she cared about Dal more than profits. That would have been a better twist.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like Discovery is probably going to be the place for non-profit motivated Ferengi.

It’s just frustrating because the second we found out she raised Dal, I knew that she sold him into slavery. And I respect that as a twist, as you say, parental betrayal is a theme, and the link that adds between Dal and Gwyn is really great. I just … This is another episode where I went, this is fine, but I am an adult Trekkie, and I know how this story goes, and so it is not for me.

Anika: I think I was even more – it left a bitter taste in my mouth, in that I agree that I want Dal and Gwyn to be friends and have things in common, but I also want them to be friends without having things in common.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: I want them to show compassion and empathy for each other–

Liz: Without just having the same experiences.

Anika: Yeah, without having the same experience.

Also, I don’t want all of these children to have terrible parents. And I have concerns that we’re never even gonna learn about Jankom’s parents, because we still have very little about Jankom at all. And Rok-Tahk, for that matter.

And it feels like I’m being set up for these kids on their own because their parents are bad, not kids on their own because something horrible happened. And I don’t want that. And also, I just cannot believe that an entire race of beings is completely focused on profit all the time.

Liz: To the exclusion of any morality whatsoever.

Anika: Right. That doesn’t make sense to me. That doesn’t make sense as an evolutionary goal.

Liz: No, no.

Anika: I can’t do it. I can’t take it. And so I just don’t like the Ferengi. I was holding out that hope that she wasn’t a horrible parent to Dal. So it just made me sad.

Liz: I guess, because this is introducing the Ferengi to a new audience, they can’t really get all that subversive with it. And for us as Trekkies, we can talk about how cool it is to have a female Daimon with her own ship and, you know, progress in the Ferengi community!

Anika: She is wearing clothes.

Liz: Yeah, yeah. And earrings, which really worries me. This is a kid’s show. She’s girlbossing around the Delta quadrant, but it’s like, a girlboss is still a boss.

Anika: Okay, I’m going to get all the DS9 fans, particular, angry at me with this, but how about we just stop with the Ferengi? Maybe just give up and say that that was bad. We don’t have to introduce the Ferengi to a new audience.

Liz: Yeah, let’s just leave the Ferengi in the past, like the gods who turn up in The Original Series wearing very short tunics and making people kiss.

Anika: Right. I’m just over it. If you’re going to do a Rom and show growth, but have that be the exception – I guess what you’re saying is this woman being a woman in charge came of that, but she’s just a bad Ferengi, still.

I’ll stop. I’ll stop because, clearly I’m biased and I’ll just…

Liz: But no, I think it’s fair. I think the one good Ferengi or two good Ferengi in Rom and Nog, is not enough. And imagine, in this time of increasing antisemitism, being a Jewish kid, sitting down to watch the new Star Trek and encountering this stereotype.

Anika: We don’t need to introduce it to a new audience. We could have not done that. You could have made her not a Ferengi, made her some kind of pirate, not an Orion. Oh my.

Liz: She could’ve been Talaxian!

Anika: Yeah, she could have been Talaxian! No, I like it. And then, if the twist was, she sold him, it would be a twist.

Liz: Yes, because no one would see it coming.

Anika: Right.

Liz: Yeah. Just disappointing all around in that regard.

I like that Dal knows the Rules of Acquisition, but as your note here says, it’s kind of weird that he grew up in a ship surrounded by artifacts from the alpha quadrant and the Federation, and never once heard the name.

Anika: She’s a merchant or something, isn’t she? I mean, that’s what she does. So I feel like it would come up and it would be like a complaint, or if she’s in the Delta quadrant in order to avoid Federation rules, okay. That makes sense. But then what? Like that, again, it just never came up? It just never came up that that’s why? It’s just weird.

Liz: Yeah. All of this could have been avoided by making her Talaxian.

I saw a really great headcanon in the comments of TrekCore, suggesting that she had pretended to be a man and risen to the rank of daimon, and Rom’s edict granting Ferengi women liberation came down and she was like, huh, I can reveal that I’ve been a woman all along. And then her crew abandoned her, and so she just sort of set course for the Delta quadrant to strike out on her own.

And yes, I think that’s a really great story, but that’s a comment on a news site. It’s not what was actually on screen.

Anika: So she left, as I said, a sort of a sour taste. It colored the entire episode for me.

I really loved the planet.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: The idea of the planet, the execution of the planet. That was a lot of fun. Sentient sand is super cool. I’m into it.

Liz: At one point, I thought it was going to go full Dune and give me a lorge worm. And then, instead, they gave me light squids and I’m happy either way. I’m not complaining. I liked the planet.

Anika: I loved it. So that was fun. It was very, again, Star Wars Rebels.

Liz: Yes. Yes.

Anika: Like, literally that happens, that a temple grows out of the sand and inside it, crystals appear. So I was like, huh, but again, not a complaint. I like it. To me, it brings me that much closer to, this is a big shared universe, and, you know, I can, I can imagine the story in my head where Dal and Ezra meet up and discuss their lives. And that’s cool. I’m into it. But it was very reminiscent.

Liz: I would certainly not be shocked if we learned that they had a lot of Rebels in mind going into this series, if only because that is what the target audience already knows. And you can’t throw too many new and unfamiliar things at a character at once. It just doesn’t work. At a character? I meant at an audience.

Anika: We think of the characters as our audience. They’re listening to us discuss their lives.

Liz: And they should bloody well pay more attention.

Oh, I really enjoyed the whole thing about the prime directive and the kids learning the hard way why that’s important. And the fact that Janeway can’t do anything to stop them. Because after the revelation of last week’s final scene, I have been thinking about how Janeway operates with a captain and a crew, which presumably contained some cadets, but not all.

Because she was Chakotay’s captain, to what extent that colors the relationship between holo Janeway and him. And so, yeah, she’s helpless in the face of her crew’s bad decisions.

Anika: Yes, the whole prime directive conundrum, or quandary, was the most interesting part of the episode to me, because I sort of felt like the betrayal and the sad Dal stuff, and even, like, the planet being alive, all of that we’d seen before in Prodigy.

So the prime directive, and the idea of having a good and successful first contact versus having a disastrous first contact, those concepts were the most interesting to me because they were new for this crew.

I have my own quandaries and conundrums about the prime directive, and what is good, and what is a problem, and you know, how far is too far and how far isn’t far enough. Those are interesting questions and I really liked how Dal did fix it, but that didn’t solve the problem, and how he understood that, even before Janeway laid it out for him.

Because he was already feeling guilty, and already feeling like he’d really messed up. And this was the first time, really, where we saw Dal admit that he really messed up.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: In front of other people, to himself, that he really made a mistake that he can’t take back. As much as he’s cocky, he’s not someone who goes around saying that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s not what I’m saying. But this time it really seems to affect him in a way that he is going to learn from it. It’s just a new, a new sort of vulnerability in Dal that I liked seeing.

Liz: I definitely feel like his experience last week in taking the test has taught him that this is a safe space to admit his faults, and he can do it without losing his tenuous authority. And I think that’s great. I think that’s one of the lessons he has to learn to become, not just a captain, but an adult.

Anika: And there are plenty of adults who have not learned it. And it is a problem, because they’re ruling the world. And it’s bad.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: They have way too much power. So more of this. Teach our children well.

Liz: I also liked that they introduced the prime directive with a straight up black and white situation where, yeah, you don’t go in and mess about with a pre-warp civilization, because that’s wrong. That’s unfair to them.

And it’s not the same as going, hmm, these guys are dying of a disease that we could absolutely cure. Anyhoo, off we go. Which is where my problems with the prime directive lie. I think this is a very straightforward situation. And that’s good. We’re learning at a 101 level.

Anika: Right? We want that. I think that there are plenty of adults and Star Trek fans who need that 101 level because they do sort of skip to the murky stuff and people …

Not to bring up Tuvix, but it’s like a Tuvix thing, where that is so complex, and there are so many different ways to look at it that people just choose their side and then they die by it. [Transcriber’s note: obviously the only one who should be dying here is Tuvix.] They cannot change their mind, because it’s too important.

Whereas this is so, like you said, it’s simpler. There aren’t all of these nuances. It’s just, don’t do this thing, you know? And in particular, that’s where it was good to have the con woman, that just made it blatantly obvious to everyone, everywhere, that this is the wrong thing to do.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: We are taking advantage of these people. And that lesson, boiling it down to its simplest, is an important foundation that you have to understand before you get to the Tuvix level stuff, because otherwise you make a split-second decision based on what you think the morality is, and you don’t listen and you don’t pay attention.

Liz: It’s like learning to drive, which I am doing right now. And I have to learn to brake and accelerate and, you know, turn corners, before I can learn parallel parking.

Anika: Right.

Liz: My corners are coming along very well.

Anika: Congratulations.

Liz: Thank you. I did love the cold open, where everyone is sort of mopey and depressed, and the ship is a pigsty because it’s occupied by teenagers and children, and Janeway is not their mother and does not clean up after them. Your mother doesn’t work here.

Anika: So related, picking up pie off the floor and eating it, don’t do that. I’ll be the mom. Floor pie, bad idea.

Liz: It’s an homage to a wonderful Simpsons gag, where Homer sees the floor pie and is all, “Mm, floor pie.”

I loved that they were experimenting with pie, because that’s just so random and inappropriate. Experimenting with Murf is also inappropriate.

Anika: I have concerns, I have many concerns about Murf. We really, really need for them to learn how to talk to Murf.

Liz: Mind-meld! Mind-meld!

I just think it’s a mistake to leave your eight-year-old in charge of the ethics board, even though she is clearly the most qualified.

Anika: She brought Murf on board to begin with, because she was so excited to know what Murf was saying all this time, and then it failed for whatever reason, but it’s just there.

I remember back, I don’t know how many episodes ago, but when Gwyn was in the brig, and she got out and she brought Murf over to her side, and eventually saved him.

I want to build on that. I want Gwyn and Murf to have a relationship where Gwyn, because she’s the communications person, she’s the specialist, figures out how to communicate, even in a rudimentary way.

Liz: Right. Like, I can communicate with my cat and he doesn’t seem as smart as Murf.

Anika: Exactly.

Liz: I’m sure that it is possible to develop some understanding of at least when he’s — he’s always okay. I think the really serious episodes will be when Murf is in danger. But yeah. Don’t use your slimy pet for experiments.

Anika: I’m not concerned that they’re going to hurt Murf, even though beaming Murf into space is bad. Don’t do that, guys. Don’t do that.

Liz: In their defense, they were aiming for the bridge. And also it was hilarious. But right, don’t beam your friends into space.

Anika: So I don’t think that they’re actually going to hurt him. Again, this is a kid’s show. This is a cartoon. This is … Murf is Murf. They’re not going to hurt Murf. You don’t hurt the cat. You don’t hurt the pet. You know, like you don’t hurt the child. Murf’s okay.

However, I am concerned for the morality questions of what, level of intelligence is this creature, so that we can treat him appropriately?

Like, absolutely, I can communicate with my cats. My cats are smarter than the lady bugs that infest my house. I can’t communicate with the lady bugs and tell them to go away, you know? But I can tell my cats to eat them.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: There are levels, even within, you know, below human sentience, or whatever, there are still levels of intelligence that we should appreciate and care for them at that appropriate level where they are.

Liz: Yeah. I think this is probably a lesson that they are going to learn. And again, you can’t pile too many lessons into a 25-minute episode. I just, you know, I worry, I worry. I want Murf to be okay. And I don’t want these kids to look back on their childhoods and realize that they were participating in unethical transporter experiments.

Anika: No one but us will remember it next week.

Liz: No, I know. But we, we will remember. We will remember.

I really loved the aesthetic of the sand planet and the crystals. And I don’t like the anti-Semitism in Nandi’s design, but I love the detail of all the embroidery and patterns in her clothes, which I thought was just really cool.

Anika: I don’t think I noticed her clothes. She was introduced and I, and I was like, ugh, Ferengi.

Liz: No, I understand.

Anika: I became blind.

Liz: After our conversation the other week about Gersha Phillips’s design for a Ferengi outfit in Discovery, I was noticing that she was dressed in sort of looser fitting garb than most Ferengi. She was wearing parachute pants, like, Hammer pants, and had this really fantastic embroidery on her coat. The clothing was a really nice design and then her ears were pierced, and again, this is a kid’s show, but yeah.

Anika: Well, that’s one of those do the designers of Star Trek: Prodigy know about Ferengi earlobes? I don’t think so.

Liz: I strongly suspect – no, I suspect they do, and this was thrown in as something that would be perfectly normal to a kid audience, who are accustomed to women wearing earrings, and a bit of an, oh for the adults.

Anika: Okay. That’s fair. Because my ugh was when she was introduced and we learned that she raised Dal, and the camera panned over to his earlobe.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: Where he has that missing notch. And I was like, what is going on? I’m gonna, you know, out myself, again, as someone who thinks about SVU too much, but that’s where my mind went. And it was bad. So I don’t appreciate that, animators.

Liz: She called him her lobeling. So I think we have to assume that for a Ferengi woman, lobes are more like breasts and they’re, like, part of the whole child rearing relationship, as well as being sexual organs? I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it. I … no, I’m stopping. Goodbye.

Anika: Because I always assumed that the notch that’s missing in Dal’s ear was his species, but that’s normal, but now I’m like, what did she do to him?

Liz: This is stupid, but I always thought he lost it in a cat fight or being microchipped. Because I once had a cat that had the exact same notch missing. Dal is not a cat. You heard it here first. Yeah.

Anika: I mean, he does have a tail that…

Liz: True.

Anika: …does tail things.

Liz: Hmm. Maybe Dal was the Catian all along?

Anika: That’s the other thing, is that we don’t know what Dal is, and it could be something that we know about and we just haven’t realized it, or it could be something new. But the fact that he doesn’t know means that it’s important.

Liz: Speaking of the mysteries of the series, I was wondering last week how Gwyn’s people’s language got into the Protostar’s databases. And then I realized, she put them there. The Protostar has traveled back in time, but at some point, they going to reach the Federation and Gwyn will be there, and maybe one day as an adult, Gwyn will go on to be part of the Protostar project.

Anika: That’s – that’s – that’s like, Arrival levels of interesting communication…

Liz: Real galaxy brain stuff, I know. Because I was like, did the Federation do something to the Diviner’s people, is this why he wants the Protostar? But no, it was Gwyn all along. She has sent a message to herself.

Anika: I like this because it means that they’re going to be okay.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: They’re gonna to the Federation at some point, and they’re not going to be destroyed or held accountable for anything weird. They’re going to be okay.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah.

Anika: Maybe they’ll build the Protostar together.

Liz: That would be nice!

Anika: Zero and Gwyn and they’re all working together.

Liz: Because Zero is obsessed with the engine! Oh, my goodness. This is wonderful. I had not thought that far ahead.

Still worried about Chakotay. Not sure how Chakotay gets out of this, but, you know, holo Janeway is going after her mystery.

Anika: They wouldn’t introduce Chakotay to kill him. Again, maybe it’s optimistic of me, the predominant audience of this show is going to be, number one, children, number two, Voyager fans.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: You know, and number three, other Star Trek people.

Liz: Yes. And also I am seeing that a lot of the kids watching Prodigy with their parents, are then going on to watch Voyager. And I love that, it makes me really happy, but that doesn’t mean that this show’s going to kill Chakotay.

Anika: I think Chakotay is safe, because they wouldn’t. I just, maybe, again, I’m naive. But since 2019, when all of my favorite characters died and it was horrible, people have been more reluctant to kill off characters.

Liz: I know. It’s great. What if that had started a year earlier?

Anika: Exactly. It would have saved so much of my psyche.

Liz: I would just like to write Kat fic that doesn’t involve first having to bring her back to life.

Anika: Especially since they wouldn’t have to tell new stories about her, because she would be back in the past with all the past people. But…

Liz: Yeah

Anika: That’s … I suppose – just let it go.

Liz: Yeah, no.

Anika: It’s okay.

Liz: We’re getting over it.

[Transcriber’s note: we are not getting over it.]

Anika: But I think that, particularly in that it’s Prodigy, it’s a kid’s show. It’s going to have some timey wimey fun stuff. It’s going to have some dramas for Chakotay, but I don’t think that it’s going to – I think Chakotay could be lost, but he’s not going to be lost forever. And he’s not going to be killed.

Liz: I think that’s very likely. I hope he’s suffering though, because I always like him best when he’s suffering terribly. I’m a good person.

But I love that Janeway is pursuing the mystery. And the final reveal is that it was Drednok who was boarding the Protostar. Which, again, timey wimey, because seventeen years earlier, or however long he and the Diviner are looking for it.

Anika: All very interesting.

Liz: I’m hoping that we get at least some answers by the end of this season. I know season one is like 20 episodes, but this five-episode tranche, I would like at least one question answered.

Anika: Yeah, it’s sort of like, we’ve already had one hiatus, we’re going to have another hiatus, but then it’s still going to be season one. But also season two has been ordered. So we know there’s going to be a season two. It’s also timey wimey in this weird way where I don’t really understand what’s going on in the scheduling of Star Treks.

Liz: With Prodigy, I know it’s in part to do with how animation works, and one, they need a lot of lead time to get episodes animated, so they do tend to order a lot at once. But also, I don’t remember how it works exactly, but it’s sort of a scam to underpay animation writers. And the Prodigy writers themselves, including the showrunners, have been very vocal about this on Twitter.

Anika: So are you … you’re saying that they’re calling it the first season to pay people less?

Liz: Basically, yeah, because you get a pay bump for subsequent seasons.

Anika: All right. Well, that’s terrible.

Liz: Pay parity for animation writers is something that I’ve only learned about since I started following Prodigy writers, and now I feel very passionately about it, because I love animation, and I would love to write television for young people, which means probably animation. So, yeah. Get on that.

Anika: And I’m pretty sure that they’re also paid less for streaming services versus broadcast. Even though, at this point, streaming services make as much or more money.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. I was reading a thread just this week that, if you work on like a dodgy 22-episode procedural on CBS, to pick a random example, you get more in terms of income and residuals, and opportunities to learn and develop into a producer or showrunner role, than you do doing a 10-episode one-off for a streaming service, even though you probably have more creative freedom in those 10 episodes.

Anika: Also, they tend to have a bigger budget. Because they are seen as sort of like mini movies, “we can do more because we’re streaming.” And so they have a higher budget, but they don’t spend it on people who are making it.

Liz: No. And the thing is, you know, you look at Picard, and Picard had almost no writers who came up through network procedurals. And I think that really showed in how poorly structured it was, because one thing you have to learn on anything with tight timeframes is structure. Those skills are really underrated.

Anika: Okay. Should I wrap up?

Liz: Yeah, I’m going to cut so much from this. I just like that we have a shadow Good Sam podcast that we could post, but we don’t.

Anika: If it does get cancelled after like a season, I think that we should just do a, that one season, you know, watch each episode and talk about it.

Liz: I would be totally up for that.

Anika: It would just be fun. It would be like, no one else cares about this, but we do. We would become famous for that.

Liz: Then we can move onto like Jason Isaacs’ other one season procedurals.

Anika: There’s so much out there waiting for us.

Liz: Why does he keep doing this?

Anika: Alright, 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. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, all at antimatterpod.

Write to us at mail@antimatterpod.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Prodigy, Star Trek in general, the MCU and Good Sam.

If you like us, leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your podcasts. The more reviews, the easier it is for new listeners to find us.

Join us next week when we’re recording our 100th episode, which is a milestone that I’m not sure we expected to get to. We will be discussing the next episode of Star Trek Prodigy, which is titled Time Amok. So that’s fun.

And we’ll be playing some kind of game to be determined, we have to come up with it, in order to give away free stuff to you, our audience.

You can enter it by leaving a review at again, Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your podcasts, which now includes Spotify. I just put that out there because Spotify is how I listen to podcasts. Or you can share us on social media, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, if you still have a Tumblr, I don’t know who does. And if you follow our Twitter, you will see and what you can win.

Liz: Oh yeah. Yeah. I am working on a piece of #art. It’s not very good, but we’ll get there.

Anika: Lots of fun stuff that I’m going to take pictures of, and I’m going to put up on to twinter … Twinter? I’m going to put up on Twitter after this episode airs, all leading up our recording.

Liz: Yay!

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