Warning: Spoilers for "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" season 1, episode 7
With news that the last episode of Season 2 of "Strange New Worlds" plus the first two episodes of Season 5 of "Discovery" have started shooting, we rejoice that more "Star Trek" is on the way, but sadly only three installments remain of this inaugural season of the best Paramount Plus Trek live-action spin-off show so far.
Following the recap — which includes a brief clip of Captain Pike (Anson Mount) hosting his dinner party in episode two "Children of the Comet" and for reasons that will become clear soon that's particularly entertaining — we begin this week on the Ankeshtan K'til Vulcan Criminal Rehabilitation Center on the third moon of Omicron Lyrae. And also for reasons that will become clear later, this is quite significant. This is where T'Pring (Gia Sandhu) has been based, trying to guide those who once walked a destructive path back to civilized society. Helping them purge the emotions that lead to thievery, abuse, even murder.
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In her spare time, she has been researching works from Earth history that might help her understand Spock's (Ethan Peck) human's side. Interestingly, she wants to explore a part of Spock that he himself is reluctant to examine. It's also worth noting that this Spock — in comparison to Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the "The Original Series" — seems to be having a much smoother journey thorough his duality, which is probably more indicative of the change in the socio-cultural climate over the last 50-or-so years than anything else.
Spock asks Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) for advice and straight away we can see that this love-triangle is going to be developed further. Then we cut to the primary plot which is provide assistance for visiting counselor Dr. Aspen (Jesse James Keitel) who is running aid missions for stranded colonists, but this sector of space "is the quadrant's version of the wild, wild west." During a cordial evening dinner in the Captain's quarters with most of the command crew, we also learn that Starfleet sometimes refers to Pike as their "boy scout."
The development of Pike's character so far in this first season has been nothing short or exceptional and it feels like an inevitability that if this continues to such a high standard, he will is quickly going to climb to somewhere very near the top of the Greatest Star Trek Captains List.
Dinner is interrupted however, when the Enterprise drops out of warp and they discover a debris field made up of fragments of two of the three colonist's ships. The warp signature of a third ship, potentially pirates, is detected, but extends outside of Federation space. Nonetheless, Pike decides to give chase. Roll those gorgeous opening credits.
The relationship between Spock and Aspen is nurtured, but the full significance won't be revealed until the end of this episode in one of the best "I Did Not See That Coming" moments in recent "Star Trek" memory. That she's a fan of industrial techno should really have been a red flag. Not since the early 2000s when hard house and techno began to crossover in Amsterdam and Berlin by the likes of Paul van Dyk and even Renato Cohen, has the genre really offered anything of worth.
She talks to him of Vulcan theology and even the Kolinahr discipline, which Spock has not yet taken as he chose instead to join Starfleet. Aspen seems incredibly knowledgeable about such things, but simply puts it down to "having worked with a few Vulcans before."
The Enterprise enters an asteroid field where it is suddenly surrounded by giant laser net, somewhat similar in principle to what we saw in "The Original Series" episode "The Tholian Web" (S03, E09). Although this doesn't seem to be quite as advanced. It's worth mentioning that the dialogue here between Pike and Lt Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) is priceless and while we do like her character, it would be nice to see her evolve at least a little bit beyond "cheeky chappie."
In fact, this whole set piece is very nicely handled and Spock is forced to make a guess before the Enterprise is destroyed. Thankfully, he guesses correctly, but his anguish over the situation is noticed by Aspen, who so far, is proving to be an intriguing character. She gives Spock the "identity" talk, "sometimes we act a certain way to fit people's expectations, but that's not necessarily who we are" and so on. It's clearly layered to incorporate the gender discussion, but the more immediate meaning will become clearer as we make our way further into this episode. In addition, it's more elegantly presented in a clever, subtle manner when compared to most attempts that "Discovery" has made, for example, regarding this subject.
Proceeding into the asteroid field, the Enterprise eventually detects the third colonist's ship, with enough life signs onboard to account for prisoners plus 30 or so pirates, but no immediate sign of the pirate vessel, the Serene Squall. A landing party is assembled, with Pike, Lt. Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) plus a couple of token red shirts and beams into the colonist's cargo ship ... only to get captured about 30 seconds later.
At the same time, a boarding party simultaneously beams onto the Enterprise and begins a hostile takeover attempt. The pirates eventually make their way to the bridge — where, the crew and officers do an appalling job of defending a bottleneck situation as the pirates exit the turbolift doors. Still, despite this shocking lack of training in CQB, the set piece is well choreographed and now command crew are prisoners with the exception of Spock and Aspen who managed to escape.
We return to the pirate-held colonist's ship, where Pike — and now all the captured command crew from the Enterprise — are being held prisoner. Pike himself is receiving something of a pounding from the Orion pirate captain, Remy (Michael Hough) when…frankly, there's a moment of genius. After having thrown some gruel (it's what all young, orphaned Londoners ate during the time of Dickens) in the Captain's face, he then convinces the Orion to let him cook something nice for a change for his merry band of malnourished pirates. It's a chef's kiss moment in so many ways, on so many levels.
At the same time, Pike begins to sow the seeds of mutiny, by letting Remy believe that selling his captives (the Enterprise crewmembers) to the Klingons would be a good idea, then planting the idea to his persuadable pirates that it's a terrible idea and that their captain is untrustworthy. Apparently, it's a tried and tested method of escape, born from an as-yet-untold escapade on Alpha-Braga 4.
Spock takes Dr. Aspen to engineering where Chapel is attempting to regain control of the ship. And then this is where, on the flip of coin, Aspen reveals her name is Angel and suddenly she's gone full Stormfront. Returning to the bridge, her persona has utterly changed from confident counselor to crackpot crook; she'd make a dynamite Minerva Mayflower in a "Hudson Hawk" reboot. And while her character has suddenly become extremely annoying ... she's meant to be, so mission accomplished.
Turns out that the real doctor is probably still wandering around the uninhabited planet she was dumped on and story about the colonists was just fabricated. Slowly,
Stormfront Angel reveals her bigger plan. She wasn't even after the Enterprise, she was after Spock and as such she places a sub-space call to Ankeshtan K'til, specifically to T'Pring. In exchange for the life of Spock and the crew of the Enterprise, she wants a Vulcan named Xaverius to be released. Because T'Pring and Spock are bonded by ritual engagement, she is obliged to save his life.
The only way to save the Enterprise is for Spock to use his imagination and improvise. In front of T'Pring and everyone else on the bridge, he declares his undying love for Chapel and gives her an extremely passionate kiss. T'Pring acknowledges this confession and there and then they agree to break said ritual engagement so she is no longer obligated to conform to Angel's demands. At which point the colonist's ship — now under the command of Captain Pike — appears and takes a few, very delicate shots to disable the Enterprise's engines, weapons etc as Lt Cmdr Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) is able to successfully paralyze the ship's systems remotely using "backdoor codes." Why the "prefixed code" wasn't mentioned here instead is unknown.
Angel beams to the safety of a concealed escape ship, but not before giving Spock a lecture on logic, emotion and how who you are is far more important than what you are. And while we consider that as an axiom, her real motives still haven't been revealed. Spock and T'Pring rebond and despite claiming that they both felt no emotions whatsoever, he and Chapel clear the air. Yeah, that love triangle isn't going anywhere.
But during that conversation, Spock admits to Chapel that he believes he has deduced the identity of the Vulcan Angel was trying to free. Are you ready to have your mind blown?! It's Sybok, Spock's half-brother from "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" the events of which are set 28 years from now. Ambassador Sarek had a child out of wedlock who grew to reject the traditional logic-based teachings of Vulcan and joined the V'tosh ka'tur (a recently introduced concept).
As Spock explains in the movie, "There was a young student, exceptionally gifted, possessing great intelligence. It was assumed that one day he would take his place amongst the great scholars of Vulcan. But he was a revolutionary. The knowledge and experience he sought were forbidden by Vulcan belief. He rejected his logical upbringing. He embraced the animal passions of our ancestors. When he encouraged others to follow him, he was banished from Vulcan, never to return."
The extremely likable character was played by Laurence Luckinbill in the movie, but we only saw a shot from behind in this episode, so we don't know yet who has been given the honor of playing this potentially very interesting character.
The first seven episodes of "Strange New Worlds" is now available to watch on Paramount Plus as is the entire second season of "Star Trek: Picard." Season 4 of "Star Trek: Discovery" is also available on the Paramount streaming service in the US and CTV Sci-Fi or Crave TV in Canada. Countries outside of North America can watch on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. Paramount is available in the UK and Ireland both as a standalone service and as part of the Sky Cinema subscription for the UK cable provider.