“It looks like you’re trying to fly a starship through an unstable stellar phenomenon. Do you need help with that?”
Look, I’m not saying that Janeway is Clippy, except that I absolutely am, and it’s kind of brilliant. In Long Janeway, Team Protostar have a mentor who is patient, clever and only available when the plot requires.
As a storytelling and exposition device, it’s brilliant. As fan service, it’s amazing — who didn’t get chills when Kate Mulgrew delivered the “to boldly go” line?
As a character in her own right, though, I keep reminding myself that, for all her coffee-drinking swagger, Long Janeway is an AI. If anything, she’s the voice of the Protostar (along with computer voice Bonnie Gordon — who is a friend of a friend, so that’s my claim to Star Trek fame sorted).
And that’s what I find really interesting about Long Janeway: that she’s created in the image of a great captain, but she has the potential to become someone else. I really hope that this is something the show explores, although, of course, as the adult figure in a kids show, she should remain largely peripheral compared to the kids she’s mentoring.
Speaking of Long Janeway’s protegees…
I’m very intrigued by the fan reactions to Dal and Gwyn this week, compared to the premiere. Last week, both characters were wildly popular; this week, they’ve both come in for a lot of criticism. Dal, in particular, is coming in for a serve.
And some of the criticism is deserved! Gwyn is complicit in her father’s crimes; even if, as she tells Rok-Tahk, she believed the Unwanted were criminals, enslaving them … is still not okay? It’s still, in fact, very, very bad? And frankly, I don’t entirely buy her claim — she may have once believed it, but her discussions around last week’s Caitian child suggest she had a pretty clear idea of what was going on.
As for Dal, yes. He is indeed arrogant, entitled, in over his head and dishonest. It’s very true that he’s not yet captain material. But there’s a worrying racial aspect to some of the comments I’m seeing around places like r/startrek and the comments sections at TrekCore and TrekMovie — no one is actually using the word “uppity”, but it’s all the same sorts of things people say about Michael Burnham and Beckett Mariner, right down to “he has no business being on a Starfleet vessel”.
In both cases, I’m like, yes. It’s episode 3 of a new series, and these kids are at the beginning of their journeys, and I for one am shocked, SHOCKED, that these seventeen-year-olds do not have the skills and experience of trained Starfleet captains, and that they are still in the process of confronting the immorality of their parents.
The thing is that the show is aware of these flaws. It expects the target audience (you know, children) to recognise them, and to cheer for the characters as they learn to do better. They aren’t flawless adults; they’re not even promising cadets. Dal is too cynical to believe in the Federation at all — how can he be a good leader when he’s never seen good leadership?
This is the beginning of the journey, not the end. I’m actually surprised at how many viewers seem to think these kids’ personalities are set in stone at age seventeen, with no possibility of learning and improving.
Anyway, who else is gonna be in charge?
Rok-Tahk is a very young child. Jankom Pog is more about the mechanics at this point. Murf … was eager to ooze into the captain’s chair, and looked good doing it, but at this point we don’t even know if Murf is sentient. Gwyn is still set on returning to her dad’s child slave hell asteroid.
Zero? They seem like a good prospect for command, but they more keen to be destroyed by a dying star than to come up with an escape route. I love that for them, and I think they have potential, but they don’t seem any older or more mature than the others.
So far it’s just Dal who has demonstrated the sort of big picture strategic thinking that a captain needs — even if he has a lot to learn.
My rocky daughter
This episode is mostly about Dal, but Rok-Tahk has some key and heartbreaking moments: her wholehearted enthusiasm for the Federation (“Equality sounds nice”), the fact that she was enslaved at such a young age that she cannot remember any food that’s not NutriGoop, her calling out of Gwyn.
I’d also like to flag the look she throws the others when she’s sent to secure Gwyn, her resentment at being “the muscle”. Rok-Tahk may look like a giant stone monster, but she’s a little girl, and I think part of her arc is going to be learning to assert herself so the others remember that.
What were these kids doing out here, anyway?
I forgot to mention last week that it’s interesting how every single character whose species is known — save Gwyn — is from the alpha quadrant. Tellarites and Medusans are from TOS, and Rok-Tahk is a Brikarian, a race which has its origins in the novels. Last week we also saw Caitians and Lurians among the slaves — more alpha quad people.
So how did they come to be enslaved in the delta quadrant? That’s an interesting question which I’m sure will be answered before the season ends — along with the mystery of what the Protostar is doing here, too.
(And where are her crew? Not on the slave asteroid, I presume.)
One question which I don’t think is mysterious is how these alpha quadrant kids have never heard of the Federation. I can very easily buy that Jankom remembers the food of his childhood, but not the political entity of which he was a citizen. I mean. What would you prioritise, if you were a child slave?
- Between Lower Decks and Prodigy, animated Star Trek is really getting into the comedic potential of communal sleeping arrangements, and I’m into it
- Lots of fanbros are really mad that the Discovery — or some other Crossfield class ship — was glimpsed in Janeway’s
propagandaFederation intro, to which I say: GOOD.
- Speaking of, the captain’s quarters look a lot like the ones seen on the Discovery, and it’s honestly a relief to see that Star Trek has embraced Real Pillows.
- Dal isn’t exactly wrong about the Federation sounding too good to be true — I wouldn’t exactly go screaming into a collapsing star in his shoes, but I’d definitely be wary.
- Medusans are meant to have powerful and innate navigational skills, but Zero can’t tell left from right. Which, as a person who doesn’t drive for that exact reason, I love.
“Starstruck” wasn’t as breakneck and pacy as “Lost and Found”, but it juggled necessary character work with exposition and even a bit of actual science. I mean, it threw out some words which I guess kids can look up. (StarTrek.com doesn’t have a page of kid-friendly explanations of the real science in the science fiction, which seems like an oversight on par with the lack of Murf merch in our lives.) Soooooooooo four blood truffle pies out of five.