HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
“Let Sleeping Borg Lie” is one of those Star Trek: Prodigy episodes that translates well for a younger audience but feels a little unsatisfying for older fans. I do not mean thematically but more from an in-universe perspective. Star Trek struggles a bit for fantastic villains, particularly as the franchise tends to welcome them into the fold later, developing them into admittedly complex parts of the community. While this choice represents the heart of what Trek is, it does make writing for the franchise more difficult. This twelfth episode of Prodigy’s first season tries for a return of the implacable Borg and then weakens them again, which may or may not be a good idea in terms of franchise canon.
Gwyn creates a holodeck program re-enacting her conversation with her father, revealing the knowledge of the weapon aboard the Protostar, and the crew sets to searching. They find nothing until they search the bridge. Jankom Pog reveals hidden writing, which Gwyn identifies as the term for Solum. Her heirloom shifts form into a key, and when she inserts it, the deck splits to reveal a heretofore unknown deck. Even Holographic Janeway had no knowledge of it. On that deck, they discover that the weapon is a living construct and, owing to it being derived from future technology, impervious to their weapons.
Not long after, a proximity alarm sounds, and they return to the bridge to discover that they’ve come upon a Borg Cube. Janeway’s immediate impulse is to tell the kids to turn around and run away. But, realizing that the Borg may have the key to destroying the living construct, Dal orders the crew to board the Cube. Once there, they discover that they have no way to access the information and conclude that one of them will need to join the collective in order to find the data.
Zero, having been part of a hive mind before, joins the Collective, which awakens the Borg, who proceed to begin looking for things and beings to assimilate. Zero fights the Borg but is eventually taken over as the Collective capitalizes on their fear of causing harm. The Borg attack and capture Dal, Jankom Pog, and Rok-Tahk. Gwyn escapes briefly but is also captured. The Borg take them all to the center of the Cube where Zero reveals that they have been assimilated. Borg-Zero expresses a desire to no longer do harm, and Gwyn reminds them that sometimes harm is inevitable, even when one acts out of love. Her argument reminds Zero that they’re already part of a collective, enabling them to overthrow the yoke of the Collective. They return to the ship after Zero incapacitates the Cube.
Zero reminds the crew that they have chosen to do good with their life, and though the Protostar cannot return to Starfleet just yet, the ship can be used to do some good. Dal agrees, and when they receive a distress signal, he orders a course to rendezvous with the ailing vessel and provide whatever help its crew needs.
Meanwhile, Admiral Janeway meets with Dr. Noum who has made some progress with the Diviner, but he remains uncertain of how to awaken him. However, the Diviner does moan something about how “they” have taken “his daughter,” but despite Admiral Janeway’s entreaties, he can give no more information. Another officer recommends using the bio-serum to heal him, and Janeway orders that it be done. The Diviner gasps awake, apparently healed. The ship arrives at the last location of the Protostar’s signal, and Janeway finds the wreckage of the relay station and concludes that Chakotay has lost control of the Protostar and that whoever does have control must be stopped. Notably, the ship finds no sign of Barniss Vrex’s escape pod.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. “Let Sleeping Borg Lie” does a phenomenal job of demonstrating just how much Dal has grown since we began this journey on Tars Lamora. He puts the needs of the Federation ahead of his own, as Jankom Pog reminds us when he tells Dal that Starfleet holds the key to one of the greatest questions Dal has about himself. Moreover, Dal recognizes that his gratification has merely been delayed, not necessarily thwarted, which is a huge leap for a child to make. Dal in many ways has been living in a perpetual present. Many aspects of his past are complete unknowns, and Dal’s future thinking has only gone as far as the next job or the next step. Remember how he had no real idea to get off Tars Lamora? The Dal captaining the Protostar right now would have a plan. He’s even starting to be able to make plans on the fly, which is what happens when he determines that Gwyn is the only one who can possibly escape the Borg.
While this maturity could be meant as a sign that Dal is growing up, I don’t think that’s entirely it. Much like Zero who explicitly recognizes the crew as his collective, Dal’s decision making in this episode indicates that so has he. Dal has a home and a family for arguably the first time in his life, and he therefore now also has a future to safeguard and protect.
Zero also makes a certain peace with their future, and that choice is particularly important. We must remember that Zero spent an indeterminate amount of time as a captive, without control over whether or not they committed harm. Zero carries an incredible amount of guilt for that, and their decision to reveal themselves in order to save Gwyn only adds to that burden. In this episode, they learn to accept forgiveness, yes, but more importantly, they realize that they get to choose what happens in their future. That realization, of course, leads to the collective decision to spend their time doing good with the Protostar, not just to curry favor with Starfleet but to do it for no other reason than they want to do the right thing. There lies the heart of Starfleet.
My problem with this episode, if it can even be classed as a problem, is that the Borg have been lessened as a villain once again. The Borg began as an implacable foe—unemotional and unswerving from their objectives. We get a taste of that in this episode, but something about them never quite lands. I may feel that lacking because I’m an adult; I don’t know. I am certain, however, that defeating the Borg with the power of friendship makes for a good resolution of a kids’ show but does not seem terribly likely from an adult perspective.
Given that the Borg Collective now has knowledge of the great weapon stored in the Protostar’s belly, I wonder if we’ll see them again. The Living Construct would constitute quite a prize, as it would hamstring Starfleet. They indicate an interest in that to Zero, so I do think we might see some consequences for the crew stemming from that knowledge.
Three crates of chimerium
Stray Thoughts from the Couch
- We know that Janeway faced down the Borg several times in the Delta Quadrant, which is why Hologram Janeway comments that she’s had enough of the Borg to last several lifetimes.
- I grieve with Admiral Janeway that she must give up her beloved coffee. Her expression as she stared into the replicator is one I have very much felt.
- The Chakotay mystery remains on the backburner for me; I suppose I’ve concluded that the Vau N’Kat killed him.
- I really hope that Admiral Janeway remains suspicious of the Diviner.
- Man, “Solum.” Not very subtle there, is it?
- Murf, time travel snarls make me a little ill, too.
- I do love that they rocked their Away uniforms to go to the Cube.