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Strange New Worlds brings it home again in the second season premiere – adventure, conflict, lives needing to be saved, alien worlds, conspiracy, and moments that show the strength of spirit that is a signature of good Star Trek spiced with humour both dark and light.

That is not to say the episode is without flaws, and a few aspects that are Trek tropes.

Mimicking any established Trek series, the Enterprise crew is perfectly content breaking the rules again, or to quote Data in First Contact….”To hell with our orders”. Captain Pike dashes off on his own to try find an advocate for Number One (Una) who was arrested…for being herself, a genetically modified alien who’s culture makes such changes to the infants as a matter of survival. Hoping for a Pike Maneuver saves the day type episode? You might disappointed as he leaves very early on, with the Enterprise stuck being repaired. 

This is rather an excellent way to develop other characters and introduce new ones. With a somewhat unsure of himself young Spock in charge, suffering from the events of last season we see a different side to our often stone faced Vulcan of the later TOS era. In a nod to said era, we learn that Spock is advised by M’Benga to take up music, which current mental health practice supports, and we see the famous Vulcan lyre, a beautiful gift from a compassionate Doctor who’s empathy comes from his own inner demons. 

To save La’an after receiving a distress call, Spock and crew steal the Enterprise which gives us two fantastic scenes – the crew such as Ortega teasing him and pushing to come up with his “line” (since we have Hit It!, Engage! Make It So, etc) and his line is very…Spock. Seeing this camaraderie among the crew who not only are fine going MIA (trope), but willing to do whatever to support Spock and help La’an, showing how your crew is your family.

The second fantastic scene is the introduction of the brilliant Carol Kane in the role of Pelia, a long lived alien who is sick of teaching and wants to go back into space. She helps the crew hatch and carry out the plan, with sarcasm, wit, and a touch of eccentricity. It’s also revealed she had friendship with Amanda, mother of Spock, sparking his curiosity. Starfleet has had great engineers such as Scotty who lied to impress Kirk, B’Elanna who did it “the Maquis Way,” Miles O’Brian who kept a station together, while cursing the “bloody Cardis”, and a “dip-shit grease monkey from Chicago” turned Captain. Pelia fits the role.

The crew learns of a conspiracy to reignite the Klingon war “for profit” – how very Ferengi – and to be carried out using a “Trojan Horse” of a ship – which is a reused Enterprise set, er…smuggled Federation technology and scrap. We do however get an incredible head smashing martial arts scene that takes up a huge amount of the episode, featuring M’benga and Chapel doped up on green stuff. The crew ends up being successful at stopping the conspiracy, destroying the ship while treating us to an incredible amount of piloting tricks by Ortega and saving M’benga and Chapel at the last second…because of course they do.

What follows is a peace talk between Spock and the Klingon captain of another ship who be dead if the crew had failed, and we see plenty of Klingon party style featuring drinking, burping, belly laughs, and good natured insults, and a hangover that ends up serving as Spock’s punishment. We also get one cliffhanger at the end…and it promises a story that is hopefully “Gorn to be wild”

So, what does this episode really do well? We get to learn more about the rest of the crew, especially Spock, Chapel, and M’Benga. This is not TOS where Kirk, Spock and McCoy have and adventure and red shirt and the Captain’s temporary paramour die. We get the “good looking” Klingons with the distinct TOS Movie and TNG era style of forehead, build, skin tone, and we get to see the fun and good side of the Klingons not just the roving thugs they first debuted as. No lizard like Discovery Klingons or plain ones like TOS. We get several Easter eggs – the Vulcan Lyre, the Gorn are still a problem, Pike is off try to save his first officer…which one has to wonder if this later affects Spock’s loyalty to Pike in The Menagerie. There is a brutal fight scene and some epic flight scenes and plenty of adrenaline to go around. We learn the fate of Oriana, reunited with her family after escaping the Gorn. We see Spock as the officer still learning and coming into his own as a command officer. Finally the addition of Pelia – probably one of the best new characters to come along.

What doesn’t work? The fight scenes are dark enough they make Season 3 of Picard look lit up like a rave – one wonders why there wasn’t plenty of lens flares if the producers wanted to go that way. Possibly it was to setup some of the big reveals like the Trojan horse and hide that it was just a recycled set. Nurse Chapel as one half of the duo that’s kicking butts and taking names is also a little jarring compared to her TOS persona. While Strange New Worlds has made the established characters extensions of who know, one wonders what changes for Nurse Chapel later on, and the relationship with her and Spock is currently implied to be mutual interest vs the unrequited aspect portrayed in TOS. Hopefully there is a story there for us in the future.

Overall, its a fun action/adventure, we get some of our favourites while still moving the story forward. A promising start to the new season.


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