Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Prodigy episodes 1 & 2, “Lost & Found.”
The backstory of Shinzon (Tom Hardy) in Star Trek: Nemesis was always problematic, but Star Trek: Prodigy drastically improved upon the concept of young aliens toiling on a prison planet. Star Trek: Prodigy is about Dal (Brett Gray), Zero (Angus Imrie), Gwyn (Ella Purnell), Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas), Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), and Murf (Dee Bradley Baker) finding the USS Protostar, a Starfleet ship abandoned in the Delta Quadrant. Aided by the hologram of Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), the band of alien kids uses the Protostar to escape the brutal mining colony of Tars Lamora.
Star Trek: Prodigy‘s concept has similarities to the origin of Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis. Shinzon was the clone of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), and he was created by Romulans to replace Picard and sabotage the United Federation of Planets. However, the Romulans abandoned their plan when Shinzon was still a child and they sent the clone to the dilithium mines on the planet Remus. Shinzon was beaten and abused on Remus until a Reman, who later became known as the Viceroy (Ron Perlman), rescued him. As an adult, Shinzon later rose up and led the Remans to take over the Romulan government. Shinzon assassinated the Romulan Senate, installed himself as Praetor, and planned to destroy the Federation until Picard and the USS Enterprise-E put an end to him.
However, Shinzon’s backstory was told in muddled flashbacks that left many questions unanswered, and Star Trek: Prodigy‘s two-part premiere, “Lost & Found,” instantly improved the basic idea of aliens forced into a prison labor camp. In Star Trek: Prodigy, Dal is just one of a multitude of aliens enslaved by the Diviner (John Noble). But the resourceful Dal is able to make friends who help him when he stumbles upon the derelict USS Protostar, which the Diviner is searching for. Unlike Shinzon, who needed the Viceroy to protect him from the Remans when he was a boy, Dal, Rok-Tahk, Zero, Murf, and Jankom Pog are able to launch the Protostar by themselves and use it to escape. The rebels even kidnap Gwyn, the daughter of the Diviner, who harbors her own doubts about her evil father’s goals.
Another clever aspect of Star Trek: Prodigy that Star Trek: Nemesis never dealt with is the importance of communication in the slave camps. Presumably, Shinzon could speak Romulan and Reman when he was sent into the dilithium mines or the labor camp had universal translators. In Star Trek: Prodigy, the Diviner made sure none of the various aliens on Tars Lamora could understand each other’s language, which prevented them from working together against their overlord. Dal’s discovery of the Protostar’s universal translator was crucial. The Starfleet technology that’s standard in Star Trek instantly allowed Dal, Rok-Tahk, Zero, Jankom, and Gwyn to understand each other, which was their impetus to team up and fight the Diviner and his robotic enforcer, Drednok (Jimmi Simpson).
Star Trek: Prodigy’s advantage over Star Trek: Nemesis is the fact that it potentially will have multiple seasons to tell the stories of its alien rebels while the intriguing aspects of Shinzon’s past were glossed over in Star Trek: Nemesis, which robbed Picard’s clones of necessary dimensions. Star Trek: Prodigy also more thoroughly sets up the brutal realities of Tars Lamora and how the Diviner keeps his slaves under his thrall, whereas Star Trek: Nemesis could only pay Shinzon’s backstory in the Reman prison colony lip service. The young heroes of Star Trek: Prodigy kick-off the series by embracing a path to freedom and adventure, with Captain Janeway’s hologram indoctrinating them into the Federation’s ideals. This is opposed to Shinzon, whose attempt to destroy the Federation after escaping his ordeal in a Reman prison only led to his own demise.
Star Trek: Prodigy streams Thursdays on Paramount+.