Moral Star Part II: Gwyn vs. the Moral Choice Engine

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.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

The second part of “Moral Star” offers us the dividends we’ve come to expect from Prodigy. The Protostar crew continues to gel and demonstrate just how far they’ve come as people and as a crew. I am very excited to see where part II of this season takes us, but I have to say, it’s going to take some doing to top this beautifully crafted first half of the season.

Plot Ahoy!

Aboard the Protostar, Gwyn attempts to wrestle with her father, both literally and figuratively, as he discovers that the literal protostar is missing. The Diviner order the ship to return to Tars Lamora, and Dark Janeway and Drednok comply. Back on the asteroid, Dal and Zero attempt to round up the Unwanted to get them aboard the Rev 12, but their communicators’ limited range hampers their efforts as they restrict the universal translator’s effectiveness. Dal eventually comes up with a way to route the UT through their manacles, and they’re finally able to gather everyone together.

Aboard the Protostar, Gwyn continues to wrestle with her father, who remains unmoved. He orders Drednok to reboot the Watcher drones, and just as Rok and Jankom Pog make it to the engine room, the Watchers complete their power-up cycle. Jankom leaves Rok to handle the door while he attempts to install the protostar inside the Rev 12’s devastated engine core. He soon discovers that he is vastly out of his depth, but Rok suggests a series of steps that will allow him to connect the protostar to the engine matrix. Jankom Pog steps back and assumes her position at the door, letting her make the necessary repairs.

However, just as she begins, the Protostar warps into transporter range, and Drednok beams down to the engine room. Though the now-liberated miners are able to crash through the door and overwhelm Drednok, with the young Caitian beheading him. Unfortunately, Drednok was able to beam the protostar’s coordinates back to the Diviner, who retrieves the protostar from Murf and installs it back into the ship. Just as he’s about to have Janeway set a course for the Federation, Janeway reveals that Gwyn upgraded her programming to prevent the Diviner from reprogramming her. Janeway rips one of the fluid lines on the Diviner’s suit, rendering him weaker.

Gwyn continues struggling with the security lockouts preventing her from lowering the shields, but her father begs her to stop. He explains that if she does not allow him to complete his mission, their people will die. Gwyn turns to him and demands to know what he means, so he takes her to the holodeck where he runs a program to simulate Solum. The Diviner reveals that the Vau N’kat sent him back in time to prevent First Contact from taking place because First Contact challenged their people’s view of their supremacy. An ensuing civil war destroyed their planet and civilization. The Diviner went back in time to program the Protostar with a trojan horse virus that would activate upon contact with another Starfleet vessel and cause all ships to turn against Starfleet, destroying the organization.

Gwyn argues that one cannot trade one tragedy for another, but the Diviner refuses to hear it. Dal finally beams aboard after using the Rev 12’s weapons array to target the Protostar’s shield emitters, and he rushes to confront the Diviner. Unfortunately, he is unsuccessful, but he did not beam aboard alone. Zero confronts the diviner and leaves the “encounter suit,” revealing the Medusan’s true form to the Diviner. The sight drives the Diviner insane. Gwyn gets a look at Zero through the reflection in Dal’s comm badge, but the exposure only harms her memories of the confrontation, including her memory of the Vau N’Kat weapon.

Dal orders the Protostar to return to the Federation, leaving the Diviner imprisoned on Tars Lamora and the Rev 12 to the Unwanted. Meanwhile, back in what may be Federation space, Admiral Janeway’s ship tracks the Protostar’s protowarp signature and orders her ship into pursuit at maximum warp.

Analysis

I’ve mentioned before that one of the real joys in Prodigy is watching how well the writers have maintained all the different threads in the show. From Rok’s steadfast determination to be acknowledged for her intelligence as well as her size to the importance of the UT to the Unwanted finally to the power contained in Zero’s true form, the writers have not allowed us to forget any of these elements. They are therefore free to capitalize on them in “Moral Star Part II,” which they do.

I love that Dal cleverly devises a way to use the manacles, a symbol of the Diviner’s oppression and cruelty, to channel the UT and thereby freeing the Unwanted who are now able to communicate. In one notable case, communication allowed two of the Unwanted to express their feelings for one another. That’s a potent symbol. Similarly, Rok’s knowledge base that she developed in “Time Amok” allows her to take the reins from Jankom on the repair effort, reminding us that she really is far more than just her size, which has been a recurring theme throughout the show.

I want to take a moment here and acknowledge Jankom’s decision-making here. He quickly and easily relinquishes the repair tasks to Rok as soon as she makes her recommendations. He doesn’t fight her or try and explain that he knows better. He accepts her input at face value and allows her to take over by virtue of her greater understanding of the systems in play. That’s a hugely important demonstration of Starfleet’s values. Rok gets to handle the issue because Rok is the most knowledgeable person aboard the Rev 12, regardless of comparative age, gender, or assumed aptitude. I love that Prodigy shows a real example of what that level of enlightened thinking looks like.

Similarly, Zero gets a chance to reclaim some autonomy. The Diviner used Zero as a weapon, forcing the Medusan to harm other sentient beings. After ten episodes of exposure to Zero’s nearly childlike wonder at the corporeal world, we as viewers have a much greater appreciation for just how awful that would have been for Zero. Therefore, allowing Zero to use the same power to stop the Diviner from causing greater harm returns a measure of control to Zero, and truly, that’s a beautiful move to make on the part of the writers.

Gwyn also gets a chance to demonstrate how much she’s learned over the course of the season. We’ve seen her stand up to her father before, but this time, she’s standing up because she understands that her father is wrong and not just as it applies to herself. Rather, she makes a moral choice here that benefits the greater number of people. Yes, what happens to the Vau N’kat is tragic, but Gwyn recognizes that it’s a tragedy of their own making. She has the necessary perspective to recognize the flaws in her father’s thought process, indicating that she has moved beyond simply being the tool the Diviner hoped she would become.

If anything, the Diviner and his motivations serve as the lowest point of what is a stellar episode. We have seen the Diviner’s motivations before. The Malcorians from “First Contact” possess similar beliefs about their own place in the universe, and while they ultimately opt to slow down their entry into the community of warp-faring species, Krola’s attempt at self-harm indicates how dangerous upending a species’ belief system can be. However, the Vau N’kat take that upheaval and externalize it, destroying themselves in the process. The Diviner stands before his daughter, who has never not known that she was part of a greater interstellar community, and tries to convince her that Starfleet caused their people’s downfall rather than the Vau N’Kat themselves. It’s, unfortunately, a little too pat and not entirely convincing, despite John Noble’s admirable attempts to sell that version of events as the Diviner.

Regardless of the Diviner’s rather disappointing end, “Moral Star , Part II” provides a gorgeous ending to the arcs characterizing this first half of Prodigy’s opening season, and I cannot wait to see what happens when Hologram Janeway meets her meatspace counterpart.

Rating:

Four and two thirds crates of chimerium

Stray Thoughts From the Couch

  1. So, does anyone else wonder what’s going on with the Diviner’s goo suit? Does he need the goo? Does he not? He seems fine without the goo on Tars Lamora. Also, what’s going to happen to him? He clearly can’t function without care, but I didn’t see any bots there to care for him. Are they leaving him to starve? That seems dark, even for Prodigy.
  2. I sort of understand why they relinquish their Protostar uniforms to return to Starfleet, but I was disappointed to see their Unwanted-era outfits return.
  3. Awfully convenient that Gwyn forgot about the trojan horse virus (you know, because the Protostar itself gets used as a trojan horse…). Awfully convenient indeed.
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