Hey! Hallie here!
I promised more ‘Star Trek’ so here it is! This group of episodes was so much fun. In fact, ‘The Elysian Kingdom’ in particular is some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a Star Trek episode. It’s clear in both of these episodes that the cast had an amazing time putting them together. Pair that with some excellent representation in ‘The Serene Squall’ and you have ‘Strange New Worlds’ at its best. Although, it’s hard to argue that ‘Strange New Worlds’ hasn’t already been at its best for the majority of its episodes. I’ll be going over plot points below so here’s your SPOILER WARNING. And just your general warning that, once again, I don’t have many negative things to say this time around.
‘The Serene Squall’:
Spock: We have another Spock-centric episode and this one takes an interesting turn for Spock’s romantic relationship. Given that a few episodes ago T’Pring was insulting Spock’s humanity, it’s really nice to see her actively trying to remedy that by embracing it in their relationship. But as we all know from pretty much every Star Trek adaptation, Spock isn’t quite comfortable with his humanity. His uncertainty puts him in the perfect position to be manipulated by Dr. Aspen, who I’ll get into a little later. Claiming that they have experience with Vulcans because of a personal attachment, they propose to Spock that maybe he’s so human and so Vulcan that he’s something else entirely. While the episode doesn’t fully lead to his discovery of what that might be, it’s a really interesting take on Spock that will clearly come into play later in his story. However, just as interesting as all of his character development is his relationship with Christine Chapel. He’s shown still going to her for advice when he’s troubled, and in order to trick Aspen into believing they can’t use Spock as blackmail against T’Pring to get a prisoner released, he kisses Christine. We all already know how much that means to Christine, and it’s heartbreaking to see her attempt to brush it off. But then we see Spock hesitate when T’Pring tells him she knew about the ruse because he could never have feelings for her. This love triangle very much seems to be another example of his human and Vulcan sides warring with each other and it’ll be interesting to see what role that plays in his self discovery.
Dr. Aspen/Angel: First off, hats off to Jesse James Keitel, the lovely trans actress who brought Dr. Aspen, or Angel, to life. Angel was an extremely likable character from their first moment on screen. They were so intriguing that I didn’t really begin to suspect them until about halfway through the episode, when it’s revealed that the pirate crew that took Pike and the rest of the crew captive is waiting on their captain to return. To be honest, the octopus tattoo around their eye should have given everything away. Still, they play just as good of a villain as they do an innocent doctor and some of the advice they give Spock was extremely helpful regardless of their morals. It’s taken way too long to get good trans characters directed by good trans directors on screen, but I’m so glad we get to see that in this show.
Pike and The Crew: This is the secondary plot of this episode and it was funnier than I expected it to be. I mean, it starts out with Pike getting beaten up for information and ends with the crew starting a mutiny to overthrow the acting captain. The glee in which Pike and the rest of the crew execute the plan had me smiling throughout the episode. The plan which Una identifies as “Alpha Braga IV” gives us not only Pike impromptu cooking a meal for the entire pirate crew, but also various scenes of the crew using blatant sarcasm and witty humor to manipulate the crew around them. Even better, the crew does manage to take over the ship and save the day, but DURING the mutiny they caused. It’s such a fun mess.
(This note is just to say that I’m just as confused about Sybok as you are, but I don’t want to judge the show for it yet.)
‘The Elysian Kingdom’:
Doctor M’Benga: I was so excited for a completely M’Benga centered episode and now that we have one, I’m just sad we didn’t get it sooner. His storyline has always been a sad one. His daughter has a deadly illness and so he’s forced to keep her in a transporter until he can find a cure. This episode gave that storyline a surprisingly lighthearted and whimsical ending. M’Benga finds himself in the story he frequently reads his daughter with the crew playing the characters. M’Benga himself is the main character, the king who in the book must make a decision between preserving a powerful, sentient weapon which he loves, or saving the princess and the kingdoms being overtaken by an evil queen. It’s pretty clear how the episode is going to play out the moment they mention that decision. He will have to sacrifice his daughter for the crew. However, getting there is really fun. Aside from Hemmer, M’Benga’s the only one who knows that the fantasy story isn’t reality. and some of the characters grate on him. But despite some of his grumbling, he mostly embraces the story and enjoys it. It’s nice to see M’Benga enjoy himself after all the depressing storylines he’s been given. The ending for his daughter also manages to be a happy one. The alien who caused the story to come to life offers to let M’Benga’s daughter live with it, promising that if she does she’ll be cured of her disease. M’Benga lets his daughter make the decision because he’s a good dad, and when his daughter agrees and returns to him seconds later as an adult, he’s happy for her even though he didn’t get to keep raising her. M’Benga really needed to let his daughter go and I’m glad he got to do so in a manner that was more happy than sad, even if a few tears were shed.
The Crew: ERICA ORTEGAS. What a badass! She owned every minute of every scene she was involved in. She even got a choreographed sword fighting scene! Another stand out was very clearly Uhura. Celia Rose Gooding gave me chills as a villain, which is so surprising considering how warm and likable Uhura is. And she looked absolutely stunning. Also, two shout outs go to Anson Mount and Christina Chong who flexed their comedic muscles this time around and clearly had a blast doing it. Seeing La’an Noonien-Singh turn into a ditzy princess obsessed with her dog was hilarious. And Pike as a sniveling, power-hungry advisor? Somehow Anson Mount makes that transition seem seamless. Lastly, Hemmer was adorable this episode. Instead of playing a role, Hemmer’s telepathic abilities make him immune to whatever the alien being is doing to the crew. But despite his general grumpiness, Hemmer has a blast tricking the people around him into believing he’s a wizard by using science. There isn’t one character, or actor, who doesn’t seem like they’re enjoying themselves this episode. It’s impossible to watch everyone have this much fun and not have fun yourself.
And that’s it! My next review for this season will be my last. I just learned that this season only has ten episodes. I’ll miss it so much! Hopefully they don’t wait too long to give us season two and even more amazing Star Trek content. I know I’ll be rewatching this season over and over again until they do. Also, all the people who worked on costumes and sets in episode eight deserve applause and another episode in season two to flex their skills. Please. Episode eight was so beautiful.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!