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Putting Together Star Trek: Prodigy's Tribute-Filled Episode Sounds Like A Mega-Fan's Dream (Or Nightmare)

Spock in Prodigy
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Warning! The following contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Prodigy episode “Kobayashi.” Read at your own risk!

Star Trek: Prodigy returned to Paramount+ after a brief hiatus, and man, did it pull out all the stops in its midseason premiere. “Kobayashi” treated fans and Dal to the most-famous challenge in Starfleet history, which took place on the Protostar’s holodeck courtesy of Kate Mulgrew's AI Janeway. Dal wanted to test his mettle as a competent Starfleet captain and utilized programs of Spock, Beverly Crusher, Nyota Uhura, Odo, and Montgomery Scott to try and overcome a Klingon attack. 

Dal’s effort was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as Star Trek: Prodigy’s use of archived audio from past projects, so that departed actors such as Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, and René Auberjonois were a part of the episode.  Producer and writer for the episode Aaron J. Waltke spoke to about the painstaking efforts that fueled the creative process in bringing the past and present together in such a way, which sounds like either a mega-fan’s dream or nightmare, depending on how they feel about what was involved. In his words:

Yeah, it was extremely challenging, is the short answer. We had the Star Trek archives, which obviously have the audio from the last half-century of Star Trek shows and movies. But ultimately, it did come down to how were the lines delivered? Were they the right intonation? Was the audio clean enough? Could it be cleaned up? Ultimately, what it came down to is I had all of the scripts, and I wound up creating a computer algorithm. I used a lot of Boolean searches, searching the scripts to see if I could find the right lines to fill in the blanks. Because there were a few key ones like, ‘In your own way, you are as stubborn as another Captain of the Enterprise I once knew.’ I knew I wanted to use that.

Succintly put, Aaron J. Waltke nerded out in the most hardcore way imaginable for this episode. Anybody who invokes Boolean searches by name knows what's up. The producer had some ideas for lines he wanted to use, but he also needed those lines to make sense in a way that allowed for a competent scene to come together. Luckily (even though it was obviously written as such), the scene took place inside the holodeck, so any audio issues or clunkiness in dialogue could be written off by the fact that these are technically A.I. programs and not actual living characters in a canonical sense

“Kobayashi” featured Dal trying and nearly succeeding in defeating the Kobayashi Maru challenge, but as Star Trek fans know, it’s a nearly impossible challenge to overcome, with success not being the true purpose. Aaron J. Waltke talked about the process in stitching that scene together with past audio, and the process of finding the perfect lines for Star Trek: Prodigy to use in honoring the classic characters and their portrayers.

But there are other lines that were just sort of like, ‘We have Klingons bearing down on us at mark 1.4, mark 10’ or whatever, that I was like, ‘Okay, we have to find one that sounds good from this character.’ So it really came down to a lot of leg work and grunt work where I think I probably watched around 45 episodes top to bottom and read about 90 Star Trek scripts top to bottom to find the perfect lines. And sometimes I would find a line, and then I would track it down in the episode, and it wouldn't sound right, or it would be the wrong delivery, so then I would have to take that out and plug it back in. It was quite an endeavor, to say the least.

Aaron J.Waltke revealed he fell back on his past experience as a documentary filmmaker, which helped aid him in finding the right tone for pieces of dialogue to fit them into Star Trek: Prodigy’s amazing episode. Still, 45 episodes and 90 scripts are a lot of content to plow through in crafting scenes that take up just half of a streaming episode, especially given what Waltke accomplished even outside of that. For me, it feels like a work-heavy nightmare I wouldn’t readily take on, but I’m sure there are many other Star Trek fans that would jump at the opportunity to immerse themselves in the franchise's deep history. Thankfully for at least one of us, probably, Waltke is not me, and his efforts helped deliver what may be one of the best episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy yet. 

Star Trek: Prodigy is back from its brief hiatus, and fans can stream new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+. I’m definitely looking forward to what’s ahead and for answers on the deeper mysteries behind the mechanics of the Protostar ship.

Mick Joest

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.