'Strange New Worlds' Season 2 episode 2 is a well-written tribute to traditional 'Trek'

 Guest star Yetide Badaki, who plays Neera, Una Chin-Riley's old friend and legal counsel, steals the show
Guest star Yetide Badaki, who plays Neera, Una Chin-Riley's old friend and legal counsel, steals the show (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Strange New Worlds" Season 2, episode 2

Do you know what you get when a long-running television franchise gestures with a nod to its origins without force-feeding its audience a bunch of what's-in-the-box empty plot promises drowning in a sea of treacle-thick nostalgia, relying solely on the reappearance of our once-favorite characters in little more than a lazily-written cast reunion? What you get is a stonkingly good episode like this one.

Entitled "Ad Astra Per Aspera," this installment revisits the issue of Lt Cmdr Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) and her hidden alien identity and there are a number of reasons why this is such a standout episode. Firstly, this is a character-driven story that relies more on well-written dialogue and solid performances rather than any fanciful VFX or elaborate set pieces and thankfully the dialogue and character interaction is absolutely perfect. 

Related: 'Strange New Worlds' season 2 premiere is a solid but subdued affair

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Tragically, we'll probably never know how much of the finished product episode is the work of staff writer Onitra Johnson, or also-writer Dana Horgan, director Valerie Weiss, executive producers Henry Alonso Meyers and Akiva Goldsmith or any other of the ridiculous number of series consultants producers, so it's hard to know who to praise for what. But you know, well done everyone. 

This scene, mush like the rest of this episode, is perfect; the humor is the right amount of the right sort (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

This episode is, in essence, an updated version of the classic "Trek" trial format, seen on a number of occasions in "The Original Series" like "Court Martial" (S01, E20), "The Menagerie" parts 1 & 2 (S01, E11 & 12), "Wolf in the Fold" (S02, E14) and so on. However, it uses that tried and tested trial format to address a much more contemporary topic — or more accurately, a topic that's as old as time itself, but tragically is still very much a part of daily life  — which is ethnic persecution. Plus of course, you could just as easily say that this mistreatment isn't only limited to ethnicity. 

Moreover, persecution in one form or another is a topic that's often reflected in the writing of "Star Trek," but some shows handle it significantly better than others and thankfully "Strange New Worlds" is one of those, opting for a more understated strategy and a less in-your-face approach. 

Read more: 'Strange New Worlds' proves to be a hit for Paramount

Every element of this episode really is perfect, from the outstanding performance of guest star Yetide Badaki, to the effective pacing of the story, to the minimal use and well-judged placement of humor, to the clever inclusion of subtle additional layers that demonstrate a loving attention to detail. In this particular instance, Pike (Anson Mount) has to visit the Volteran Nebula, where the atmosphere is not suitable for human life, so he has to wear a breather system...and why not? It makes any planet that must be visited within the "Star Trek" universe just a little bit more unusual and therefore just a little bit more interesting.

Attention to detail can make a difference, like this world … that's easily made just a bit more interesting. (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Melanie Scrofano returns as Pike's on/off-but-mostly-off love interest Captain Batel and the roles of the other principle characters has been kept to a minimum since this is really all about Romijn's Riley and Badaki's Neera. Maybe it was that extra edible together with that extra bottle glass of wine, but at the end of this episode, I was blubbing like a baby. And while those external factors might have contributed, I prefer to think it's because even after just one season, I'm more invested in these characters than any others on any other "Star Trek" show currently airing.

"Strange New Worlds" and every episode of every "Star Trek" show currently streams exclusively on Paramount Plus in the US. Internationally, the shows are available on Paramount Plus in Australia, Latin America, the UK and South Korea, as well as on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. 

They also stream exclusively on Paramount Plus in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In Canada, they air on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and stream on Crave.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.

  • Shyro
    'Strange New Worlds' Season 2 episode 2 is a well-written tribute to traditional 'Trek' - Wtf are you talking about? New Worlds /Discovery/Picard are a massive woke disasters that ruined StarTrek. Want startrek? - see the originals, TNG and Voyager are the best, DeepSpace9 and even Enterprise is good. Everything else after that is a train wreck and the only way you can appreciate the new ones is if you either getting paid to say you like it (my bet is on this one!!), a wokie, or just never really watched or understood the concept of real StarTrek.
    Reply
  • MRantz
    Shyro said:
    'Strange New Worlds' Season 2 episode 2 is a well-written tribute to traditional 'Trek' - Wtf are you talking about? New Worlds /Discovery/Picard are a massive woke disasters that ruined StarTrek. Want startrek? - see the originals, TNG and Voyager are the best, DeepSpace9 and even Enterprise is good. Everything else after that is a train wreck and the only way you can appreciate the new ones is if you either getting paid to say you like it (my bet is on this one!!), a wokie, or just never really watched or understood the concept of real StarTrek.

    First of all, I'm not paid to say this, I'm not a "wokie" - like that's even a thing, but, if that means that yeah, I do actually care for other people, and yes, I have the capacity to feel empathy, and no doubt, I show that care & empathy when the moment calls for it - then yes, I guess I'm a "wokie" who's been a ST fan for better part of 4 decades, so, I'm pretty sure I get it. It's with that said, I feel I can offer up this evaluation of your comment.

    I think it is very clear, that IT IS YOU who doesn't understand the very basic concept of what the concept of Star Trek is. I don't care if you've watched every episode of every series, and read every book, and watched every movie. You simply don't get it. PERIOD. Add to that, the fact that you seem to hate the word "woke" - you don't understand that the very ideas that the word "woke" stands for is the very embodiment of what Star Trek stands for. It's the basic starting fibers woven into every series, episode, movie and book !!!

    If you watched this episode, and you couldn't see how this episode SCREAMED the very basics of what Star Trek is, and did so basically every minute of the episode - then I have to ask, do you find it so strange, that the very Star Trek you seem to get so upset over... that very same Star Trek's concept of a future universe, where the very word "woke" wouldn't even have to exist, because everything it stands for would be part of everyone's view of everyone elses' basic "alienable" rights - would be the very universe where you and your "ideals" would find it so so very hard to fit in and be accepted ?????? Do you see the irony in that ? No, I know you don't... actually, I don't think you could see the irony even if you tried. It's literally to hard for you to see.... how sad !! How very sad !!!
    Reply
  • BJW
    Shyro said:
    'Strange New Worlds' Season 2 episode 2 is a well-written tribute to traditional 'Trek' - Wtf are you talking about? New Worlds /Discovery/Picard are a massive woke disasters that ruined StarTrek. Want startrek? - see the originals, TNG and Voyager are the best, DeepSpace9 and even Enterprise is good. Everything else after that is a train wreck and the only way you can appreciate the new ones is if you either getting paid to say you like it (my bet is on this one!!), a wokie, or just never really watched or understood the concept of real StarTrek.
    Star Trek TOS was considered to be liberal, progressive, you know, what you now call woke. It had episodes critical to the Vietnam War, it had reflections on race riots and supremacy. It had an interracial kiss that wasn't shown on shows in the South!

    ST: TNG had episodes with other "woke" commentary. There were episodes reflecting on the war (ie, Northern Ireland and others), reflecting on gender bending, and also on abortion. (I know you don't believe me, probably because you can't grasp metaphors or parables.)


    I'm not going to list all the "woke" themes that run throughout all Star Trek shows. Trek has always been progressive. I have to wonder if you have ever really watched Star Trek, to be so blind to what Star Trek is. Maybe you should go and rewatch all the Trek you love again, and see if you can find out what Star Trek is really about. Live long and prosper.
    Reply
  • NikkiNikki
    Why do I feel like we must have watched 2 completely different episodes. I felt, after coming off a really strong Episode 1, this episode was completely boring. My feelings on it have nothing to do with woke this or woke that, I could give a crap. They've done lots of social conscious episodes, some done really well, some not. just thought this one belongs in the "not" category.
    Reply