Sci-Fi: ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Episode 3-4 Review

Screenshot of Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M’Benga and Rebecca Romjin as Una Chin-Riley (Number One). Copyright goes to Paramount Pictures and Roddenberry Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

I promised this review and I love this show too much to pass up talking about any episode, so here it finally is! As for the next review covering episodes five and six, I’m going to forewarn you here that this blog will be silent for a week in June due to vacation so that review might also be delayed slightly. But we’ll be back before you even notice we’re gone! In any case, this series has yet to disappoint. Every episode is full of excellent writing, interesting concepts, and some of the best character work in all of Star Trek. I really can’t get enough of ‘Strange New Worlds’! In the latest episodes we finally got an episode entirely focused on Una Chin-Riley, which I’ve been anticipating since the first episode, as well as a perfectly suspenseful take on the Gorn. I can’t wait to get into these reviews so here’s your SPOILER WARNING. Onto episode three!

“Ghosts of Illyria”:

Una Chin-Riley: Una gets to run the Enterprise on her own in this episode and it’s very clear why she’s second in command. She’s meticulous, probably more so than Pike, and very protective of her crew. These traits are really helpful when she realizes she has to deal with a ship-wide disease that’s leading most of the crew to put themselves in serious danger in search of heat. But she also provides one of the largest mysteries in the entire episode. At the very beginning of the episode we see her develop the same symptoms that other crew members display when they get the disease. But all it does is envelop her and disappear. She then lies about experiencing any symptoms at all when she’s first asked by Dr. M’Benga. All of this leads up to the reveal that she’s an Illyrian, the bioengineered alien species they were attempting to study at the beginning of the episode. I adore this reveal, not just as an explanation for her super strength, but also as a criticism of some of Star Fleet’s views. She struggles with guilt over her identity, especially when La’an Noonien-Singh comes down with the illness and accuses her of lying to everyone while attempting to fight her way to a heat source. This fight is probably my favorite part of the episode. It’s the first time we get to see Una use her super strength to the fullest, catching punches in mid air and picking up La’an like she weighs nothing. As the episode ends her guilt and loyalty to her crew lead her to approach Pike with the goal of resigning but, as we all know, she’s too badass to let go of so Pike refuses her resignation and tells her that her species if wrongfully judged. Una owns this episode with both her physical and emotional strength, and I do love a good second-in-command takes over episode.

Dr. M’Benga: M’Benga is a secondary character in this episode, but he provides yet another major mystery in the show. The disease spread that occurs throughout the episode is immediately established as being nearly impossible because of the transporters. The transporters should have filtered out the disease entirely. While this isn’t the major concern of the crew left behind in this episode, it confuses Una enough that she keeps it in the back of her mind until the end of the episode. When she discovers that the medical bay transporter was responsible for letting the disease through because the biofilters weren’t updated in favor of something M’Benga’s hiding in its code. At first this feels like a betrayal. M’Benga risked everyone’s lives in order to hide something for himself, and after he’s been such a supportive and amazing doctor throughout the entire episode. But then it’s revealed that what he’s hiding is his daughter who he’s managed to trap inside the transporter, effectively holding her in stasis until he can find the cure for her deadly disease. This reveal is heartbreaking, and it’s even more heartbreaking when he admits that he’s endangering everyone and instantly resolves to stop what he’s doing once he’s confronted. Fortunately for him, Una manages to find a way around the problem and he ends the episode reading a book to his daughter. His backstory is just the right amount of emotional and his personality is just the right amount of likable that I’m very much anticipating a solo episode for him.

Spock and Pike:

The secondary storyline in this episode follows Spock and Pike, who don’t manage to get transported to the Enterprise in time to outrun the major storm that’s messing with the Enterprise transporters. They’re forced to wait out the storm in a cave while the ominous figures of light they spotted surrounding the storm bang on the door. This story isn’t given too much time, but it connects well to the main story. Firstly, I really love how Pike irritates Spock in this scenario. Pike’s eagerness to get back to his struggling crew makes him eager to find a way to muscle his way out, but Spock instantly turns to the writings left behind in the cave for knowledge. These separate responses are very in character and simultaneously bewilder each other to very amusing results. I also liked the twist that the frightening creatures banging on the door were actually attempting to save Pike and Spock the entire time. Not just that, but they were once Illyrians, which puts Pike in just the right space to give Una the pep-talk at the end of the episode. This wasn’t a long story, but it was fun to watch.

‘Memento Mori’:

La’an Noonien-Singh: This was the opportunity for her character to win me over and, though she isn’t my new favorite character or anything, I definitely like her more after this episode. This episode is really about her childhood trauma. She lost her family to the horrific acts of the Gorn, and it’s later revealed that her brother, who was attempting to escape with her, willingly sacrificed himself to the Gorn for her. This background makes the entire episode play out like a suspense-thriller with her at the center. The first time the Gorn are described, particularly the clicking sounds they make, gives us a chilling moment where the sound dulls so all we hear is the clicking paired with La’an’s jagged breathing. Everywhere she turns, she sees her dead brother. She first-hand witnesses sudden attacks on the ship that leave innocent civilians dead within the blink of an eye. But this episode doesn’t lean too far into horror. It actually makes a point of focusing on strategy. The Gorn’s strategy comes first and foremost, presenting the terrifying prospect of a ship that is hard to detect, waits until the Enterprise can’t raise their shields at all, and can run down the ship until they’re low on resources. But La’an is an excellent strategist too, and you can’t help but admire her ability to know what the Gorn are going to do before they do it. The friendships she forges with Pike and Spock also help her character out quite a bit. Pike helps her deal with her trauma, offering both encouragement and support, and plays off of her advice well with some really witty moves of his own. Meanwhile, Spock’s recent loss of his sister endears him to La’an’s situation and vice versa, which is a surprisingly effective way to use ‘Discovery’. These friendships mean that she feels like a more solid part of the crew by episode end.

Uhura and Hemmer: There are a few different groups who are trapped together in this episode, but the biggest stand-out is the pairing of Uhura and Hemmer. I haven’t really gotten to talk about Hemmer yet, but I really do love this character. He’s an Aenar, which are a subspecies of Andorians that are canonically blind. Andorians really are some of the best characters in Star Trek, aren’t they? Hemmer is a really gruff guy on the outside, somewhat understandably because people get in his way often. Still, I was really waiting to see the softness behind that hard shell, and it turns out Uhura was the best person to bring it out. But really, who couldn’t like Uhura? The scenario that forces these two to work together comes about when the Enterprise is attacked by the Gorn. At the time Uhura’s in the middle of an engineering test being given by Hemmer, but the entire thing turns more dire when Hemmer breaks his hand during the attack just when the coolant system goes offline in the bay they’re in. Not only are Uhura and Hemmer trapped in position by debris, but Hemmer clearly can’t fix anything by himself. Which leads to Hemmer having to teach Uhura how to fix the issue instead. He winds up being a surprisingly good teacher in a pinch, and is only helped along by Uhura’s infectious positivity. He even shares with her wisdom on both ones natural calling as well as the fear of death. In the end they wind up having to vent the bay entirely, a dangerous venture with the both of them in it, but the two manage to successfully tether themselves down. Seeing these two reassuringly grasp hands as they’re put at the mercy of the vacuum of space wound up being my favorite moment of the episode, though Pike’s relief when he hears they’re alive is a close second.

Obviously I don’t really have any complaints about these episodes, or any episodes so far. All of the concepts they’ve tackled have been done perfectly, and the characters are already some of my favorites in all of Star Trek. Pike might just be my favorite Star Trek Captain. And that’s only after four episodes. This is genuinely one of my favorite projects of any franchise that’s come out recently and I can’t wait for more!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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