John Noble's Role As The Diviner In Star Trek: Prodigy Continues A Trend He Started On Fringe

Warning: This post will contain minor spoilers for the first season of "Star Trek: Prodigy."

The Diviner in "Star Trek: Prodigy" functions as the series' central villain. Played by John Noble (of "Fringe" fame) the Diviner is an alien who owns a mine somewhere deep in the galaxy. He has enslaved hundreds of teenagers and is forcing them to dig through the planet in search of ... something. The Diviner is, in fact, looking for a missing Starfleet vessel called the U.S.S. Protostar, an experimental ship that can travel faster than any starship to date. When a group of escaped teens find the Protostar first and abscond with it, the Diviner takes off in pursuit. 

The Diviner's wicked scheme will eventually be revealed. He has traveled back in time to find a Federation starship and equip it with a secret computer virus that will automatically cause all Starfleet vessels to attack one another. He aims to destroy the federation as an act of pre-revenge. The Diviner has, in fact, come from the future, a time when his species will make contact with the Federation for the first time. Traditionally, First Contact instigates an age of peace and togetherness among many planets, but in the Diviner's world, it kicked off a brutal civil war that destroyed his people. His only recourse was to go back in time and destroy the Federation before that can happen. 

The Diviner has a deep, sinister voice, a robotic Darth Vader-like enforcer, and even a sword-wielding child in the form of Gwyn (Ella Purnell). Comparing him to a "Star Wars" villain would not be wholly inappropriate. 

'A grumpy old fellow'

Unlike certain Emperors' flair for wickedness, however, the Diviner takes no pleasure in being evil. Indeed, in a 2022 interview with the website The Beat, Noble points out that, like most characters described as "villains" in "Star Trek," the Diviner is actually working to achieve a goal he believes to be righteous. This is a lesson he learned playing a seemingly villainous character on "Fringe." No one, he feels, wakes up aiming to be villainous. They merely have different values than the heroes. It's the secret to believably playing a sinister person. When asked just how evil the Diviner was, Noble was diplomatic, pointing out that it was all a matter of perspective. He said:

"It depends if you're talking his internal truth, or what appears to be his truth. I guess we're talking what appears to be his truth. His own internal truth: pure as the driven snow — I believe that it is. Obsessively so. But the audience has probably thought, 'Well, he's a grumpy old man.' [Diviner's voice] 'A grumpy old fellow.' With a big, deep voice. Perception would be that he's a bad one."

Some of the more interesting characters throughout "Star Trek" have a hazy or inverted moral code. On "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," the Cardassian Garak (Andrew Robinson) once declared that lies and propaganda are vital for society to function. Quark (Armin Shimerman) from the same show is deeply principled, and only happens to devote his life to acquisition and wealth. Noble understands that notion. He even understands that the Diviner has a deep-seated talent for obfuscation, and for manipulation. The Diviner has no compunction about plying these talents.

'He can become many things'

Noble said that a dramatic villain, like any character, must be approached with understanding. Even if an actor would morally disagree with what their character says and does, it's not their job to communicate the show's point of view to the audience. As such, he looks at the Diviner as complex, fully realized and capable of extremes ... including gentleness and affection. This was the lesson he learned from "Fringe." The duality of humanity, he found, was a common theme on that show, and it aided him in bringing the Diviner to life. He said

"I play him, always, that he's playing his truth. Always, always. So I don't have any doubts about that. And we're all multifaceted. We have many faces. We can be angry, we can be loving. All these things can happen. And we see that side to him, and we see a softer side later. He can become many things. It was a theme that we explored a lot during 'Fringe,' the duality. In fact, we played the dual characters in that one. And it was fascinating to get to ask, 'What would happen if ...'"

Noble is leaving it up to the show's creators, Dan and Kevin Hageman, to decide just how sympathetic, or evil, the Diviner is meant to be. And in them he has faith, saying:

"So it keeps me interested, I must say ... It's up to Dan and Kevin whether to bend it towards the adult audience or keep it with the kids audience. But they're incredibly bright people, they'll make the right decision. I know this of them, I know this of all of them. Brilliant people." 

The first season of "Star Trek: Prodigy" is now available on Paramount+.