Hey! Hallie here!
Vacation has put me a bit behind on these reviews, but I adore this show and I want to catch up to recent episodes as fast as possible. So expect a lot of ‘Star Trek’ reviews in the near future. For now I’m going to cover episodes five and six, which I have very different opinions on. ‘Spock Amok’ is a nice change of pace, with a comedic storyline and some really fun crew bonding. ‘Lift Us Where Suffering Can’t Reach’ is much darker and delves into a classic Sci-Fi story that may alienate some viewers. Both have good moments and bad, which I’ll get into. Either way, if you also aren’t caught up on this show, I highly recommend catching up! This series is so good so far! So SPOILERS AHEAD, as always, and let’s get into this!
What I Liked:
Christine Chapel: This episode may be about Spock, but Christine is the real stand out here. Not only is she at the center of the storyline focusing on the crew taking a day off, which is always fun because we get to see the characters let their hair down and hang out with their friends in a non-professional setting, but she has her own complicated arc in this episode. She starts out the episode sharing with Erica Ortegas (I love their friendship) that she’s going on a date as part of her off-time. However, right after the credits we see things go very wrong. Her date wants to know where their relationship is going and she quickly gets distracted when she sees a morose Spock at another table. She then abandons her date to give Spock encouraging advice about his own relationship. Christine helps Spock throughout the rest of the episode figure out his relationship with T’Pring and bridge the gap between his Vulcan and human sides. And through all of it, she’s also clearly hiding romantic feelings for Spock. Which is only further cemented when she discusses her commitment issues with Erica later in the episode, telling her that she could only see herself committed to the “right guy”, clearly implying Spock. It was really nice to get a deeper look at Christine this episode. I always love her sense of humor and I’m interested to see how Christine’s feelings for Spock will affect her story moving forward.
Spock: While I favored Christine this episode, I did really like Spock as well. The main purpose of this episode is to see Spock put in a hilariously awkward position and watch how he reacts to it. It’s a simple premise, but it works really well. It’s ultimately very funny to see Spock as mortified as a Vulcan can be when he realizes he’s stuck in T’Pring’s body right before he’s needed for important negotiations. And going back to Christine, all of his scenes with her are excellent. It’s adorable how genuine he is with Christine even though he doesn’t always understand her. He also shows his human side around her more than anyone else, which winds up in him decking a Vulcan he needs to negotiate with when Christine is insulted for her human qualities. This isn’t the deepest dive into Spock’s character, but it’s still fun.
Christopher Pike: Pike isn’t a main character in this episode, but I still really like whenever he’s around. His face when he discovers that T’Pring and Spock have switched bodies alone is worth his presence. It’s also really cathartic to watch the scene where Pike has to subtly defend Spock’s actions and point out the sacrifices he makes to T’Pring while she’s in Spock’s body. And while not the point of the plot, it’s always fun to seek Pike solve a mystery and save the day at episode’s end, even if the mystery is only about what negotiation tactic will convince another alien species to join Star Fleet.
Una Chin-Riley and La’an Noonien-Singh: This is just a really fluffy, fun side plot. At the beginning of the episode M’Benga quite adorably lets slip that the majority of the crew think that these two lovely ladies are a buzzkill. Which is a valid criticism considering they both decide not to take the day off and spend time with the rest of the crew at the beginning of the episode. Slightly offended and wanting to prove everyone wrong, these two quickly discover a game the rest of the crew has called “Enterprise Bingo”. The game involves doing random tasks such as using the transporter to return the flavor to a piece of gum or signing their name on the Enterprise’s hull. It’s so fun to see these two let loose and even get competitive over the game. Sometimes these types of storylines are the most rewarding to watch in all of Star Trek.
What I Disliked:
T’Pring: This episode didn’t do a whole lot to endear me to T’Pring. Firstly, T’Pring starts out this episode criticizing Spock’s humanity as a reason for their strained relationship, which is both untrue and awful of her to do. Yes, he has issues with putting his work before his relationship, but his humanity has nothing to do with that. Then, she is the one who suggests pretending to be Spock during negotiations in order to get a better understanding of him, but instead uses the opportunity to criticize Spock in a high stakes situation in front of everyone, forcing Pike to step in. Clearly I’m just not a big fan of this character.
Body Swap: Generally the point of body swap episodes is to see two characters acting completely different to how they would regularly act. It gives the actors involved the opportunity to stretch their comedic acting abilities by interpreting a character they don’t usually play. That…doesn’t really work with Spock and T’Pring. They’re both Vulcan. On principle they don’t show much emotion, which makes them seem very similar. In other words, there were only subtle differences between Spock and T’pring for the actors to work with and that made this concept a lot less enjoyable.
Ok, I’m going to review this episode a bit differently. I didn’t like this episode. But my dislike of this episode is mostly up to personal preference, so I want to review it as more of an explanation as to why this episode was written the way it was and why some people, like me, probably didn’t enjoy it despite the good writing. First off, I don’t tend to like the classic “pretty ex” episode most captains seem to get. Most of the time I feel like jumping head first into a random romance because two characters already “have history” is awkward. But it’s a classic formula for a ‘Star Trek’ episode, so I can’t say it’s surprising. Still, most of the time these ex-girlfriend characters don’t have the best intentions, and this episode is no different. This ex comes from a society that thrives on service and sacrifice to the planet. Which already sounds pretty shady. Then we get introduced to a little boy from said society who holds some kind of place of honor and is actively being protected from several kidnapping attempts. Every storyline, even the side stories of Uhura and Doctor M’Benga, wind up following the mystery of why this kid is under constant threat of being kidnapped. They all eventually discover that it’s his dad that’s trying to kidnap him and manage to stop his final attempt at trying to spirit away his son, but they frustratingly turn him over to his planet before they even figure out why his father did what he did. And that’s when we get to the point of the episode. It’s essentially a retelling of a Sci-Fi story that poses the idea of a society that operates on the suffering of children. Essentially, the child chosen serves as the life force of the planet and is slowly and horrifically drained of all life in order to keep the planet healthy.
The worst part? Our heroes don’t get to save this little boy. Pike figures out what’s going on far too late (Guess it doesn’t pay to trust someone you barely know because you “have history”) and as enraged and heartbroken as he is, he can’t interfere in the society per Star Fleet rules. Meanwhile his ex tries to reason with him, telling him that there’s no other choice for her people and many societies turn a blind eye to the suffering of children for the supposed “benefit of all”. Of course, we all know she’s pure evil. Pike also knows she’s pure evil. But as much as we the viewer want to rage at the screen and yell that no one could ever do that to a child, this episode aired right after another school tragedy in the US where politicians continued to send thoughts and prayers instead of reforming some dated, ridiculous laws. And that makes this episode topical for shining a light on our own society that ignores the suffering of children for personal gain. This episode was well thought out in many aspects. It was also awful to watch. I couldn’t ever watch it again and I can’t say I enjoyed watching it at all. I also can’t say that its attempts to show hope at the end of the episode really work, especially because the little boy’s dad giving M’Benga something that might be able to save his daughter winds up being irrelevant a few episodes later. But despite some imperfections it has a very well put-together message.
That’s the end of this review. In a few days I’ll come back with my reviews on episodes seven and eight, which I’m so excited to talk about. I really needed the delirious fun these two episodes provided after how depressing episode six was. I say this after every review, but ‘Strange New Worlds’ blows me away every week. I can’t get enough of this show or of how much the actors seem to be enjoying every episode as much as I am. It’s a pleasure to watch it as it’s airing and I recommend it if you still haven’t checked it out!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!