Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Strange New Worlds" Season 2, episode 9
We've talked before about refreshing it is when "Star Trek" doesn't take itself too seriously; the most obvious example of that was probably the epic "Deep Space Nine" (DS9) crossover with "The Original Series" (TOS) in the episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" (S05, E06) that aired in 1996 as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations.
You could also probably include quite a few episodes of TOS as examples of when the show didn't take itself too seriously, like "The Squire of Gothos" (S01, E17) and thankfully "Strange New Worlds" has continued this tradition. However, one might have thought that in a season that's only 10 episodes long — both "DS9" and "TOS" average 26 episodes per season — there might really only be enough room for one epically entertaining and irreverent episode. And in the past, it's typically been per show, not even per season.
Let's face facts. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" popularized the musical episode with the phenomenal installment "Once More, With Feeling" (S06, E07) and this was way back in November 2001, nearly 22 years ago. If it wasn't the first time it had ever been done, it certainly became the most well known. And after the "Lower Decks" crossover just two weeks ago came a moderate case of whiplash as we were snapped back into the grim, gritty horrors of war. And now we're suddenly back at the London Palladium once again for a impromptu musical number. Being a fan of "Strange New Worlds" at the moment kind of feels a little like being at the end of long piece of emotional elastic.
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It needs to be stressed that none of this is a reflection of the quality of this installment, on the contrary, we're going to go out on a limb here and say that this might very well be the best episode of "Star Trek" that's ever been made. But, when the cherry is already on top of a generous helping of strawberry sauce, which itself adorns several scoops of whipped cream that sits in the middle of a lake of melted chocolate, dripping over a mountain of melt-in-your-mouth ice cream, all covered in a monsoon of hundreds and thousands, you might forget about the cherry. What's needed is a layer or two of sponge and maybe even a biscuit base. It's all about equal proportions and this second season is not of equal proportions.
Consequently, the full impact of this has been less than it could have — and should have — been. "Strange New Worlds" is adapting and showing it has an impressive range, but it's potential is being squandered by rushing. So, what's the reason behind the rush?
Well, last week we mentioned how unusual it was to a) have the character of Kirk popping up quite so much, b) how little focus there had been on Pike himself and finally c) we seem to discovering quite quickly all the reasons why the new characters weren't on the Enterprise in "TOS." You may recall that we speculated a clock with considerably less time on it than we would want, is already ticking down. And sadly, that theory was supported further by events in this episode.
Lieutenant James Kirk (Paul Wesley) references his request for a command commission — his first command will of course be the USS Enterprise. Kirk also makes a reference to Dr Carol Marcus, his love interest from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and played by Bibi Besch in the movie. And in doing so, he also makes reference to the fact that she's pregnant with his kid, who will of course turn out to be David Marcus, played by Merritt Butrick, before he's killed with a Klingon D'k tahg in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock." Oh, spoiler alert.
The in-universe date for the events of "The Wrath of Khan" is 2285, the actor was aged 21 and the in-universe date for this episode is 2259. According to canon, that would make David 26 when we're introduced to him in "The Wrath of Khan." If she's just pregnant, then it's plausible, but it was always implied that Kirk never had time to spend with his son, choosing to chase through the universe instead and that was a result of being in command of a Federation starship.
According to Memory Alpha, the events of "The Motion Picture" are assumed to be in the mid 2270s, approximately two and a half years after Kirk finished his five-year mission on the USS Enterprise. Memory Alpha also suggests that Kirk didn't take command of the NCC-1701 until 2265, "at the age of 32, Kirk assumed command of the Constitution-class USS Enterprise from Fleet Captain Pike." And that leaves a six-year gap, which makes it even harder to guess where this show is going. Plus Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) makes a reference to studying with Dr. Roger Korby and the forthcoming events of TOS episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of" (S01, E07).
But enough of this second guessing shenanigans.
The choice of tunes was great, with some lengthy vocal numbers, plus a more up-beat routine with Jess Bush (Nurse Christine Chapel) all the way to the Klingon warrior boyband snippet, which was nothing short of inspired genius. Although a more varied mix of styles might have been fun. We already know Celia Rose Gooding (Ensign Nyota Uhura) can sing like a heavenly angel, one can help but wonder who out of the cast is actually singing and who is lip·synching to a similar-sounding voice?!
When you think back to "TOS" episodes like "The Squire of Gothos" as we've mentioned above or even "The Way to Eden" (S03, E20), an episode like this is exactly in the vein of "Star Trek," it's just a damn shame that Joss Whedon got there first and forever put his stamp on the idea. Bravo sir, bravo.
The next episode is the season finale, and given the back-and-forth and up-and-down and round-and-round nature of this second season, hold on to your potatoes, 'cause just about anything could happen.
"Strange New Worlds" and every episode of nearly every "Star Trek" show currently airing 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.