29 – Prototype

Grade: C+

Prototype (1996) on IMDb


While flying around in space, Voyager finds an unconscious robot floating around by itself. They transport it onto the ship and B’Elanna Torres successfully convinces Janeway that she should be allowed to find out how it works. This goes against Tuvok’s better judgment who expresses concern about activating something they don’t know anything about. Well, she fixes it and then is almost immediately taken hostage.


This episode was just OK. I liked some of the scenes between B’Elanna and the robot, and it started out ok. But the execution of the episode was just bland. There was the always obligatory Prime Directive discussion, which has really become tiresome, so I dropped the grade a bit.

Speaking of which, here’s what bothers me about the Prime Directive and how it comes up every single episode lately. First of all, I don’t think we’ve heard a good definition of it. Usually it has been described as not interfering with the natural progression of any species they come in contact with. It seems to me that it would be impossible to do anything without having some kind of contact with aliens, and this is going to lead to a lot of interference. But other times, it has been described as only applying to pre-warp societies. So in other words, they would only have to worry about it if the aliens on the planet couldn’t travel to other planets.

So wanting to know more about this law and how it should be applied, I looked it up on the Star Trek wiki page at https://en.memory-alpha.org. If you’re curious, you should try to read the entry for it. It says there are 47 sub principles, and I started to read them, but seeing it was longer than just about anything I read in High School, I gave up. Apparently, it’s true that the Prime Directive means whatever the writer wants it to mean. So here in this episode, it means Torres can’t help these robots avoid extinction. I honestly don’t see what the big deal is, but when she finds out that there is a robot civil war and that she may have given one side a huge advantage over the other, she destroys her creation and feels really bad about it.

I really tried to go along with this story, but it just wasn’t really that compelling to me. Once I heard Janeway spout off about the Prime Directive yet again, the first thought that came to my mind was that she, of all people, had absolutely no right to lecture anyone about the Prime Directive. If she had followed it in the pilot episode, they wouldn’t be in the Delta Quadrant at all. So that put me in a foul mood to begin with.

It also annoyed me that Janeway once again ignored the advice and counsel of her security officer. Remember how she lectured him about being her conscience and that she really needed his counsel? But every time he offers it, she takes the other side. And more often than not, it turns out Tuvok was exactly right, and what he warned about actually happens. When will Janeway learn and when will she actually follow his advice?

So anyway, I didn’t like this one very much.

Of Note

Jonathan Frakes directed this episode. Neither he nor Ken Biller liked this episode very much. They said there were parts that were pretty corny – most notably the robots and their ships.

One thing that I thought was silly was hearing Chakotay say “I’d hate to lose another shuttle”. I’m not sure why. Whenever they need a shuttle, the writers just magically give them one.

Finally, look closely at the hand of the robot that Torres works on. It has 5 fingers but no thumb. I think that would make it pretty much impossible for this robot to do just about anything.