HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
One of Prodigy’s greatest strengths lies in its understanding of what Star Trek is at its heart, and I do realize that everyone who has ever watched the podcast or read this column has heard me comment on this probably a thousand times. However, I cannot stress enough how important hope is; we have to have hope in order to make it through the day. Star Trek routinely teaches its fans that we must strive to be better, to do better, and to have faith in the idea of progress. Prodigy’s thirteenth episode of season one titled “All the World’s a Stage” not only exemplifies that idea but also reminds us that we have to have faith in ourselves as well.
Answering a distress call, the Protostar discovers a pre-warp civilization that appears to be modeled after Starfleet from the 23rd century. The natives, whose names bear shocking similarities to the names of the famous Enterprise crew, escort Dal’s small landing party to their settlement, dubbed “New Endaprize.” There, they perform the “logs,” for the officers from “Star Flight,” in the form of a stage play. According to the performance, some hundred or so years ago, the Enterprise noticed a threat to the civilization but was barred from direct intervention by the Prime Directive. “En Son,” whom we later find out to be Ensign Garrovick, volunteered to take the shuttle Galileo to the planet in order to deal with the issue.
Garrovick’s shuttle crashes, and he stumbles out of the wreckage where the planet’s indigenous population finds him. He salvages what he can from the crashed shuttle and spends the rest of his life trying to teach the Endaprizians how to keep themselves safe from what comes to be known as “the Gallows” as well as communicating some of Starfleet’s principles to them.
After watching the play, Dal remains somewhat skeptical until a young girl stumbles into the settlement showing real symptoms of the sickness. Soon, Dal himself falls ill, so Gwyn calls up for EV suits. Rok-tahk beams down with them, and she, Gwyn, and Jankom Pog find the downed shuttlecraft and discover that it has been leaking warp plasma for the past century, which is what not only causes the sickness but also has been contaminating the land. However, sub-spatial interference renders modern Starfleet tech useless. Jankom Pog realizes that the Galileo has an old duotronic communications system that should work, so he leaps aboard the precariously balanced shuttlecraft and contacts Zero. Zero then manufactures a cure, and Dal regains consciousness.
A rockslide leaves the team in the caverns stranded with the old shuttle, and Dal beams aboard the Protostar with three of the Endaprizians. After Janeway uses a holographic generator to convert the Protostar’s bridge into a Constitution-class bridge, they’re able to pilot the ship close enough to the cavern to beam Rok, Jankom Pog, and Gwyn out of the shuttle just before it crashes into the plasma run-off.
Dal acknowledges that the Endaprizians may have created a conclave of Starfleet, and he, Gwyn, and Jankom Pog help them to seal off the contaminated area and offer the people medical supplies. They leave the Endaprizians to evolve as they see fit. Back aboard the Protostar, Rok discovers that Murf has formed a chrysalis of some description.
Aboard the Dauntless, Janeway interrogates the Diviner and doubles down on needing to apprehend those who stole the Protostar.
As anyone who sat through English 101 in college can tell you, “All the world’s a stage” opens a famous monologue from As You Like It, in which Jaques ruminates on the Seven Stages of Man, culminating in a rather depressing line about the oblivion of death. It’s not a happy speech by any stretch of the imagination, so it makes for an odd choice as a title for a Prodigy episode. The use of a literal stage within the episode is a bit on the nose, but there’s more to the title than just the obvious.
Dal spends a great deal of time in this episode worrying because he isn’t really a member of Starfleet. That worry only intensifies when he realizes that the sickness is real, and frankly, that’s an entirely appropriate and normal reaction. He frets because he feels as though he’s only pretending to be Starfleet. He considers himself an imposter, but the Endaprizian doctor reminds him that one does not have to be something in order to believe in it. The Endaprizians realize that they aren’t Starfleet, but they’re doing their best to live according to Starfleet’s ethos. Doesn’t that make them better members of Starfleet than Admiral Buenamigo from Lower Decks?
Dal needed to hear that wisdom in order to find his own core of belief in himself and in the Endaprizians. Doing so enables him to help save his friends’ lives. I have a friend who advocates very strongly for the “fake it until you make it” approach to life, and “All the World’s a Stage” demonstrates an adherence to the same philosophy. However, the episode takes this further and asks us to consider what makes a “real” Starfleet officer, and I think the story very intentionally conveys that doing one’s best to live by that ethos, rather than attending the Academy, is what makes a real officer.
There’s a bit of the episode that could be read as a meditation on fandom as well. The Endaprizians can very easily be understood to be such ardent fans of Starfleet and cosplayers. While the overall effect may seem somewhat silly, the Endaprizians have internalized Garrovick’s message. They’ve used Starfleet principles as the bedrock for their lives. As fans, we wear costumes, write fic, and put together fan productions. All of that effort, hopefully, stems from a similar belief in Star Trek’s message, just as it does for the Endaprizians in the episode. The episode both defends fandom and reminds us as fans that while we may nitpick canon or argue over the finer points of make-believe technology, the most important element to take from Trek is its message.
The episode doesn’t forget about the Seven Stages from the As You Like It monologue either. I do not think having Murf enter a transitional phase in this episode is accidental, but Murf isn’t alone. Fundamentally, Prodigy is the story of how these kids move between one stage and the next. Are they moving between the “whining schoolboy” to the “soldier/Full of strange oaths”? I don’t know that we’re meant to go that far down the Shakespearean rabbit hole, but growth is a central theme that defines Prodigy. Where Jaques ends his monologue with this deeply melancholy idea that death brings only oblivion “sans everything,” Aaron Waltke opts to take a more optimistic stance. Yes, Garrovick eventually succumbs to his wounds, but everything he strove to impart remains. Garrovick credits the Endaprizians for saving him. He doesn’t stumble toward death with his “pouch on side,” but rather as part of the community. Jaques never manages that. He’s always apart, pondering his melancholy, which colors his understanding of life. Jaques ultimately is hopeless, seeing life as an ultimately futile progression toward death, but Prodigy is full of hope and directly challenges that idea by giving Garrovick the last word on his own contribution and death.
Lastly, the episode pokes fun at the initially condescending attitude with which Dal views the Endaprizians. He has much to learn from them and their faith in the idea of Starfleet, but he especially needs to learn to appreciate their accomplishments. The Endaprizians have done amazing things with comparatively little, which is why their help is integral to the story’s resolution. Their faith in Starfleet’s ideals drives them to be better, and the episode reminds us to take that commitment very seriously indeed.
Four crates of chimerium
Stray Thoughts From the Couch
- Yes, Garrovick is a familiar TOS face.
- The names really do crack me up. We’ve got Huur’A, Sool’U, and James’T. James’T even mirrors his namesake’s particular speaking rhythms.
- I love the wood leeches because this shows just how clever the Endaprizians really are. They don’t just dress the part of Starfleet officers, but they experiment and think like them as well.
- Okay, yeah, the costumes are a little rough and look more Frankenstein than Lagerfeld, but there’s a certain charm to it.