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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

‘Strange New Worlds’ season finale: Unbalance of terror

"A Quality of Mercy" uses visions of the future to tell Strange New Worlds‘ first quasi-time-travel story, which is the vehicle for a parable about one man coming to terms with his personally awful fate, which he must willingly choose to accept. It cleverly frames its events from a possible alternate future based on a classic TOS episode and asks the question: What if the fact of our mere presence in a situation were destined to have catastrophic consequences, almost regardless of our actions?

The result is perhaps the best SNW episode of the season, which uses callbacks and nostalgia effectively but without compromising the straightforward effectiveness of the story at hand, which is about Pike learning that his attempt to outsmart his fate may have even more dire consequences for the Federation and those closest to him.

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‘Strange New Worlds’ goes full-on ‘Alien’

On the eve of Uhura’s cadet assignment ending and her announced intention to return to Earth rather than stay aboard the ship, the Enterprise is ordered to investigate the disappearance of the USS Peregrine, which went down on an icy planet and stopped transmitting in the high interference of the atmosphere. The crew’s fate is unknown. Pike takes an away team down in two shuttles where they find the crash-landed ship. It turns out the crew members have been wiped out by the Gorn.

"All Those Who Wander" is a fairly straightforward and unpretentious sci-fi/horror B-movie that’s elevated by a major sacrifice and a final coda that deals with the emotional consequences of the aftermath.

The only survivors found on the Peregrine are a young girl named Oriana (Emma Ho), who is being protected by a member of the world’s indigenous species, whom the girl has named "Buckley" (Carlos Albornoz), and whose language the Universal Translator can’t decipher.

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Dire fantasy has an eleventh-hour redemption

"The Elysian Kingdom" is exceptionally odd, in that it’s such a plodding, boring, test-pattern of a fantasy episode for its first three acts before then becoming really interesting and moving and Trekky in its last act of impossible choices. This was well on its way to being the worst episode of the season before it redeemed itself at the eleventh hour.

That redemption brings it up a few notches, but I still can’t endorse this. I want to throw away the first 40 minutes entirely, in which the Enterprise, trapped in a nebula by a mysterious force, turns into a fantasy world where the crew have their minds hijacked and unwittingly play out the parts in the fantasy book that M’Benga frequently reads to his daughter Rukiya (Sage Arrindell). M’Benga and Hemmer are the only ones who retain their personalities and know they aren’t the characters in the book.

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Under the guidance of ex-Starfleet humanitarian worker Dr. Aspen (Jesse James Keitel), the Enterprise ventures into a "wild west" area of space to rescue missing colonists who have apparently been kidnapped by a band of pirates known to actively pillage this area. Their ship is called the Serene Squall, and Aspen says the pirates will likely sell the colonists into slavery to the Klingons if they aren’t rescued. The Enterprise enters the region, which puts them out of contact with Starfleet and on their own, in a mission to find the Serene Squall and rescue the prisoners.

"The Serene Squall" is easily the worst outing for SNW this season, and it’s a bit of a deflation to see this promising show on the decline for the third straight episode. Still, this one stands out in its boring mediocrity compared to the last two. There haven’t been a lot of pirate episodes on Star Trek (they were long forbidden by Gene Roddenberry in the TNG days), with "Gambit" being the only notable exception. "Gambit" was middling, but it was a lot better than this.

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Pike stares, glares in dealing with latest strange new world

While making a visit to the Majalan system, which Pike visited a decade earlier, the Enterprise comes to the rescue of a Majalan shuttle under attack by a larger ship from a nearby alien colony. The Enterprise fends off the attackers, which crashes on the planet surface as its crew escapes. The shuttle’s rescued passengers are beamed aboard the Enterprise for protection. Among them are a young boy, his father, and a Majalan official named Alora (Lindy Booth), whom Pike coincidentally had some sort of romance with a decade ago.

The boy is the new First Servant of Majalis (Ian Ho), a young genius who is imminently scheduled to ascend to the throne in a crucial ceremony. The boy’s father, Gamal (Huse Madhavji), says he is the father in biology alone, as the First Servant actually belongs to all of Majalis. Alora seems friendly, and is really glad to see Pike again. Gamal seems a bit off, like something is wrong.

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SNW: You can’t spell amok without ‘OK’

"Spock Amok" is a low-stakes laid-back comedy that very nearly works because it just allows us to spend time in the company of characters who are shaping up to be very likable, and it doesn’t try to be too wacky. It doesn’t quite get to the finish line because, well, in trying so hard not to be wacky, despite its fairly wacky premise, it just sort of meanders its way through the hour while basically admitting it has no real ambitions.

This is fine, mostly because the cast gels well enough that they overcome the lack of compelling material. This is essentially a shore-leave episode with some minor inconsequential "Enterprise hosts some negotiations" plotting bolted on to give some of the characters something to do. From a character standpoint, it retreads one of the most examined issues in all of Star Trek — Spock’s troubled identity as a half-human half-Vulcan. (It opens with his dream sequence where a human Spock and a Vulcan Spock battle each other in the ring with lirpas, complete with TOS music.)

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SNW: Run silent, run deep, run reliably

On Starfleet Remembrance Day, the Enterprise comes to the routine aid of a Federation colony only to find it has been attacked, with its inhabitants missing and blood everywhere. After tracking down and rescuing the remaining escaped survivors from a nearby ship, the Enterprise suffers great damage and casualties in an ambush by an unknown enemy vessel. Various clues have La’an convinced the enemy attacking them is the Gorn.

"Memento Mori" is a lean, mean, well-executed battle-siege episode in the vein of TOS‘s "Balance of Terror" and DS9‘s "Starship Down," with some Wrath of Khan thrown in for good measure. Because the Gorn never attempt to communicate and simply open fire, the enemy is faceless, mysterious, and implacable. This proves all the more effective for making a tense submarine showdown that’s all about tactics, cunning, and figuring out how to out-maneuver an enemy with superior numbers and firepower (there are four ships chasing the Enterprise).

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‘Strang New Worlds’: Ghosts of Treks past

"Ghosts of Illyria" continues SNW‘s trend of repackaging classic, old-wine Trek themes in shiny new bottles. It’s true there are not a whole lot of points to be earned for originality here, but the style and execution continue to be top-notch, and the use of familiar devices and themes continues to service these specific new characters in worthwhile ways.

This week in Trekkian Golden Oldies, we have: (1) the violent planet-side ion storm that prevents transport and endangers the away team, (2) the mysterious contagion running amok aboard the ship and contaminating the entire crew, and (3) the taboo issue of genetic engineering in the Federation. These are all connected in a single plot that’s relatively straightforward, so the threads never threaten to become a muddle. It’s nice, solid stuff.

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‘Children of the Comet’: Choose your fate

"Children of the Comet" might be the purest, truest episodic Star Trek experience since CBS/Paramount started rolling out new Trek series in 2017. That’s not to say this is amazing or groundbreaking, because, again, like the pilot, it traffics in things that have been done on Trek plenty of times in the past 50-plus years. But it does them well, with showmanship and class and a minimum of fuss.

I don’t want to overpraise a show for not falling into all the traps of Discovery and Picard, but I also want to give credit where it’s due, and this is due its credit for being solid sci-fi (and very good Trek), and very balanced in the way it handles plot and character. This tells a story. We’re only two episodes into this series, but my optimism is running high.

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Series premiere review: ‘Strange New Worlds’

"Strange New Worlds," the newest Trek series’ eponymous pilot, is the best-looking, best-produced episode of TOS ever made. That is to say, it’s a TOS-style story made with 21st-century filmmaking. Of course it looks great. Pretty much every episode of these new shows looks great. The secret is "Strange New Worlds" looks great while delivering a classic Star Trek experience. This is not a groundbreaking hour of television, but it’s a good, solid execution of a classic formula.

Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) is coaxed (ordered) from an extended leave following the Enterprise‘s joint mission with Discovery to take down Control. (He gets his order from Admiral Robert April, played by Adrian Holmes, who almost immediately looks like one of Trek‘s better admiral characters.) You’ll recall in the process of that arc, in second season’s "Through the Valley of Shadows," Pike vividly experienced his future in which he would be gravely injured and permanently disabled after very nearly dying. "Strange New Worlds" picks up in the months after that revelation, and it has shaken Pike to his core. He’s having trouble getting motivated to go back to work as the Enterprise gears up for redeployment after being repaired, and it’s hard to blame him.

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