Star Trek’s Cutest Mystery Character Is A Deep-Cut TNG Reference

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1, Episode 11 – « Asylum »

The species Murf (Dee Bradley Baker) belongs to was revealed by Star Trek: Prodigy, and it has an amazing link to Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Star Trek: Prodigy’s midseason 1 premiere, the teenage alien crew of the USS Protostar arrives at a Federation relay station and meets a Starfleet Lieutenant named Barniss Frex (Eric Bauza). Frex scans each member of the Protostar’s crew to determine their species, and just like that, everyone found out what Murf is.

According to Barniss Frex’s scanner, Murf is a Mellanoid slime worm. This is quite a deep-cut reference by Star Trek: Prodigy to the Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1 episode, « Coming of Age. » In that episode originally broadcast in March 1988, Wesley Crusher traveled to Relva VII in order to take the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. Wes accidentally bumped into a Zeldan Starfleet crewman named Rondon (Daniel Riordan), who hurled insults at young Wesley Crusher by calling him a « Bulgallian sludge rat » and a « Mellanoid slime worm. » This was the only prior mention of a Mellanoid slime worm in Star Trek until Murf, which makes the adorable purple alien the first Mellanoid slime worm actually seen in Star Trek.

In an interview with Screen Rant, Star Trek: Prodigy’s executive producers Kevin and Dan Hageman revealed that they didn’t originally know what species Murf would be when they created him. The cute little worm was a late addition to Star Trek: Prodigy’s cast after the Hagemans realized the show’s young audience would respond positively to a pet aboard the Protostar. When it came time to figure out what Murf actually was, Dan Hageman said they Googled ‘Star Trek worm’ and found ‘Mellanoid slime worm,’ and the mystery of Murf was solved.

Knowing Murf so far as the loyal, sweet, and helpful friend he’s been to Star Trek: Prodigy’s crew, especially Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui), it’s hard to see why calling someone a Mellanoid slime worm is an insult. But it hints at more secrets about Murf still to be revealed by Star Trek: Prodigy. After all, Murf is a very young Mellanoid slime worm, and he may gain less adorable traits as he gets older. It’s also clever that Murf’s species was revealed when the Protostar crew tries to join Starfleet as a nod to Wesley getting called a « Mellanoid slime worm » when he took the test to join Starfleet Academy.

Meanwhile, there’s another mystery alien aboard the USS Protostar, the ship’s self-appointed Captain, Dal R’El (Brett Gray). Dal has never known what species he hails from or anything about his past before he was sent to Tars Lamora to serve the Diviner (John Noble). Barniss Frex’s scanner couldn’t determine what Dal is, just like it didn’t identify Gwyndala (Ella Purnell) as a Vau N’ Akat. It’s possible there is a link between Dal and Murf since they are both purple mystery aliens. It remains to be seen if Star Trek: Prodigy will solve the mystery of Dal, but now Murf’s species (and ties to TNG) are established. Both Murf and Dal bear watching as more secrets about them could be revealed in the second half of Star Trek: Prodigy season 1.

Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 is streaming on Paramount+.