Fan Collective Unimatrix 47: Star Trek Prodigy’s “Ghost in the Machine” Episode

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.


Okay, fair enough, Star Trek: Prodigy, we’ve been overdue for a Holodeck Malfunction Episode, but “Ghost in the Machine” feels more like it’s a Halloween episode than the third episode from season one’s end. Still, as we’re getting to know the characters a bit more in the season’s seventeenth episode, especially the side characters, it would be nice to get a fun romp before the end, but that’s not exactly what we get either.

Plot Ahoy!

After days running a simulation trying to figure out how they can leave the Neutral Zone without getting blasted away by the Dauntless or unleashing the Living Construct onto Starfleet, Dal feels incredibly demoralized by their lack of success. Gwen even suggests that they never return to Starfleet. After the latest failure, he and the Protostar crew exit the Holodeck to drown their sorrows in ice cream. Exhausted, Dal stumbles off to his quarters only to discover that his life suddenly has a soundtrack. He meets up with the others, and they collectively determine that they haven’t left the Holodeck. Reaching out to Janeway, he confirms that she’s doing her best to force the arch to appear, but for now, they need to handle whatever the Holodeck throws at them.

They wander into one of Zero’s programs—the Cellar Door Society—in which a mystery reveals itself. Zero explains that solving the mystery usually unlocks the arch, so they all try to decipher the first clue, which happens to reveal that they have to find a skeleton key. Heralded by loud music, they open the door into Jankom Pog’s street fighting program. When one of the characters knocks a tooth out, Jankom concludes that the safeties have been disabled, meaning that now, there’s real danger.

They follow the crew into Murf’s nightclub simulation and narrowly escape into Dal’s pirate simulation. Zero has an epiphany that the program has been designed to keep them occupied. When the ship goes down, the simulation stops, and Janeway enters the Holodeck. Zero explains that she’s the one who crafted the program in order to prevent them from deviating from the ship’s mission—to get to Starfleet. Janeway has no recollection of doing anything, but the security feeds reveal that she did in fact give the computer the order to create the program. She argues that she’d never knowingly do anything to hurt them, but Zero reminds her that the Living Construct would.

Janeway’s horror at these revelations gets cut short as the alarms begin blaring. The Protostar has exited the Neutral Zone. Janeway’s flight plan has brought them into direct confrontation with the Dauntless.


Remember when I said we weren’t getting a fun romp? This is exactly what I mean. Over and over again, throughout the season, we’ve seen adults and mentor figures fail these kids. Some have failed because they’re too wrapped up in achieving their own ends. Others didn’t recognize that the kids need help and, therefore, failed to provide it. Still others have manipulated the kids horribly. To this point, Holographic Janeway has been the only adult figure on whom they can rely, and “Ghost in the Machine” rips that away. While I’d argue that Janeway’s motives or the lack thereof matter, in practical terms, they don’t. The Living Construct has tainted Janeway, and now, Dal, Gwen, Zero, Rok, Jankom, and Murf really are on their own. It’s a terrifying way to end the episode.

That Zero ends the episode by doing exactly what they enjoy doing, which is apparently sleuthing, is really adorable, and the rest of the Holodeck vignettes reveal so much about their crafters. Of course, Dal wants to be a pirate. In the Holodeck, he can still be in command without any stakes; he gets to do the fun stuff without the parts in which they could all die. I have to admit that I didn’t anticipate that Jankom Pog had that kind of range of motion. Who knew that the engineer enjoyed street fighting? Rok’s sparkly creature desperately needs a plushy, but more to the point, it’s so very Rok to want to create a holodeck program in which she cares for creatures. Even Gwen gets a moment to talk to a more benevolent version of her father who assures her that she has to find her own path.

The biggest surprise, obviously, is that Murf not only has a holodeck program, but that the Slime Worm has managed to learn a dance routine while lipsyncing. I didn’t see that coming.

“Ghost in the Machine” sets us up for even bigger betrayals in the episodes to follow. We still don’t know what happened to Admiral Janeway, so we don’t know who’s actually in command of the Dauntless. We don’t know whether Holographic Janeway can be restored and isolated from the Living Construct, and more to the point, we don’t know if the Construct will infect the Dauntless. It didn’t escape my notice that Holographic Janeway set a course for Earth. I have no idea how they’re going to manage to wrap up the season in two more episodes, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they do it.


Three and three quarters crates of chimerium

Stray Thoughts From the Couch

  1. Did anyone else feel a Dixon Hill moment? Because I did, it even reminded me of the scene in First Contact.
  2. I still don’t know how Murf’s little blob keeps floating.
  3. It may have been my computer, but the animation for this episode felt a little spotty.
  4. Of course, Jankom Pog plays in his own cyberpunk world.
  5. The Cellar Door Society recalls very real Sherlock Holmes-based societies. One of them, the Baker Street Irregulars, was founded in 1934.
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