The most fascinating thing about Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 13 is that the main plot has no villain or adversary.
Sure, we’ve had the Murder Planet, and as recently as the season premiere, Barniss Frex was no bad guy, even if he did abandon the Protostar crew to the self-destructing station.
But this encounter with the Enderprizians is a wholly benign adventure, with The Gallows serving as more of a mystery than an antagonist.
The canonical reference that comes to mind first when the Enderprizian culture is seen clearly is Star Trek: The Original Series Season 2 Episode 25, “The Omega Glory,” wherein Kirk and his away team discover another Starfleet captain, Ron Tracey, has broken the Prime Directive and shared Federation technology with a pre-warp species to aid their war against their enemies.
Captain Tracey justifies his actions by claiming the Omegans possess a serum of longevity extracted from the planet, which provides immunity to the plague that killed his away team and crew.
In triumphing over Tracey, Kirk discovers the enemy combatants on Omega IV are survivors of an American-like population whose holy texts are garbled meaningless versions of the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance.
On the Enderprizian planet, the Protostar landing party also discovers inhabitants whose culture has been shaped by Federation interference.
They also suffer from a plague and worship the Federation contact who fell from the sky and taught them a history they have kept alive through a collaborative oral recitative performance which has morphed over a century into a type of commedia dell’arte with the archetypes populated by Kirk’s Enterprise crew.
Nothing about the Enderprizian culture is malicious or facetious, and the simplicity and joy with which they embrace all they hold to be true is the pinnacle of immersive cosplay any LARPer would aspire to.
All this serves to provide Dal with guidance as he falls victim to extreme imposter syndrome.
Dressed in Starfleet uniforms, flying a Starfleet vessel, but unable to ever contact Starfleet for fear of the living construct infecting the entire Federation, Dal feels disingenuous as they try to take on the missions Hologram Janeway says Starfleet would undertake.
Pog: Can you believe these dum-dums? Playing dress-up. Pretending to be Federation…
Dal: Yeah, who are they fooling?
He sees a lot of similarities between the Enderprizians’ situation and his own.
The difference is they see no reason to question their right to exist as “Starflight” crew, while Dal suspects the Protostar crew’s attempts to live up to Starfleet’s expectations are all for naught.
Gwyn: If these people sent a distress signal, they obviously need our help.
Dal: Do they? Clearly, some Starfleet guy landed here a hundred years ago and they weren’t ready for first contact. These people are living a lie and don’t even know it. Just like us.
It’s a little odd seeing Dal second-guess himself. Since deciding to “be Starfleet,” we’ve gotten used to Dal stepping up to the leadership role with confidence and relative success.
His conviction may have sustained some damage with the discovery of the living construct and facing the Borg. Anyone’s would have.
When he contracts the plague caused by The Gallows, panic sets in quickly — despite Zero’s attempt at a bedside manner — as he sees it as just another indication he’s not fit to wear the uniform.
Dal: Zee, have you ever synthesized an antidote?
Zero: No, but I’ve skimmed the manual.
Dal: Great. My survival’s riding on chasing down a curse and my doctor’s making it up on the fly!
Zero: I sense you are afraid, but I am doing everything in my power. Lashing out will not improve your situation. Try to relax!
In his way, Jankom’s undergoing a crisis of self-confidence too.
Failing to be able to deactivate the living construct after not being able to crack the Borg tech, he’s itching to fix something, and despite the dangers of leaping into the Galileo shuttle teetering on the brink of falling into a pool of plasma, he’s more impulse than reason at this point.
Gwyn: If anyone steps foot on the shuttle, and it falls, this entire place blows.
Pog: And honestly, if we come across one more thing Pog can’t fix, then Pog can’t call himself an engineer.
Meanwhile, Rok’s feeling helpless as she can’t figure out how to help Murf feel better on the ship, and she has no science to cure Dal on the planet.
The only one with a real sense of purpose is Gwyn, who only recently regained her memories.
For someone who grew up with no positive socialization to speak, she’s grown into a reassuring and supportive crewmate.
Pog: Why are we walking towards it? Jankom Pog is afraid!
Gwyn: I’ve learned never to fear the truth.
The second TOS connection is a fun one as we discover the Enderprizian’s “N-Song” is no other than Ensign Garrovick of Star Trek: The Original Series Season 2 Episode 18, “Obsession.”
His final log is an elegant juxtaposition of past and present as the recording scores Dal’s rescue efforts, buoyed by the Enderprizians, who have literally trained for a hundred years to crew a starship.
Just as Garrovick credits the Enderprizians with saving him, they provide Dal with insights on how being Starfleet has nothing to do with wearing the uniform.
I know what you must think of us. Our facilities poor. Our knowledge woefully incomplete. En Song told my ancestors of your Prime Directive, how we weren’t ready for your technology, your ideas. We know we’re not Starflight but you don’t need a real ship to believe in what it starts for.
Discovering the true nature of The Gallows holds shades of The Beast from Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It is the figure borne of fear and ignorance, poisoning the idyllic life on the planet.
It is also the price they paid for Garrovick’s presence, knowledge, and influence.
(Quick aside: I’m genuinely amazed at the layers of narrative meaning this show manages to build with every episode. Seriously.)
It’s hard to believe there’s stuff going on elsewhere, but, as mentioned before, Murf’s going through some stuff. When TV Fanatic spoke with the show’s creators, the Hageman Brothers, they confirmed that the meta-Murf-asis we’re witnessing reflects the whole crew’s evolution.
But also, it’s Murf. Indestructible, adorable Murf who shoots torpedoes with his butt. Hopefully, he emerges soon. The anticipation is palpable.
This is no longer a rescue mission. It’s a manhunt.
Vice Admiral Janeway
Finally, the Dauntless is still in play, and The Diviner is very much a concern.
With his brain still scrambled from seeing Zero’s form, we have no idea when and where he saw Chakotay nor who took the captain prisoner.
What will Barniss Frex have to say for himself when Vice Admiral Janeway and her posse track him down?
Will The Diviner’s mission come clear for him again?
Who will catch whom first? Hit our comments with your thoughts and theories, Fanatics! And remember, “live logs and proper.” Indeed.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.