Star Trek: Strange New Worlds– “Spock Amok” and “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”

The two most recent episodes of Strange New Worlds include a quirky comedy and a riff on an old philosophical question, one better explored in a classic story by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Title: “Spock Amok”

Cast and Crew

Director: Rachel Leiterman
Writers: Henry Alonso Myers and Robin Wasserman

Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike
Ethan Peck as Lt. Spock
Rebecca Romijn as Commander Una Chin-Riley aka “Number One”
Christina Chong as La’an Noonien-Singh
Gia Sandhu as T’Pring
Jess Bush as Christine Chapel
Celia Rose Gooding as Cadet Nyota Uhura
Bruce Horak as Hemmer
Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M’Benga
Melissa Navia as Lt. Erica Ortegas
Adrian Holmes as Admiral Robert April
Alden Adair as Barjan T’Or
Jennifer Hui as Ensign Christina
Ron Kennell as Vasso
André Dae Kim as Chief Kyle
Graham Parkhurst as Lt. Dever
Tahirih Vejdani as K’Tyll
Carlisle J. Williams as Brax
Torri Webster as Ensign Zier

Premise

Pike encounters difficulties while negotiating with an inscrutable alien race, Number One and La’an Noonien Singh try to prove they’re not “where fun goes to die” by completing an “Enterprise Bingo” challenge secretly played by the lower ranks, and Spock and T’Pring switch bodies.

Unbelievably trivial continuity error: Chapel asks Spock in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” if he has ever had a fiancée. In this episode, set years earlier, she meets T’Pring.

High Points

Mount’s Pike gets some genuinely funny lines this week, and he delivers them wonderfully. His final interactions with the alien ambassadors are classic Trek. It’s what both Kirk and Picard would have done.

Gia Sandhu’s T’Pring is perfect, and her interactions are often quietly hilarious.

Low Points

Some people will rankle at the show’s exploration of Vulcan sex, but even D.C. Fontana has argued that Vulcan sex takes place outside of Pon Farr. Those scenes do, however, rob them a little of their mystery.

Overall

It’s a rather fluffy episode, but Trek is allowed those. It comes as a bit of a surprise, following as it does a tightly-scripted dramatic entry.

Title: “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”

Cast and Crew

Director: Andi Armaganian
Writers:Robin Wasserman and Bill Wolkoff

Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike
Rebecca Romijn as Commander Una Chin-Riley aka “Number One”
Ethan Peck as Lt. Spock
Christina Chong as La’an Noonien-Singh
Jess Bush as Christine Chapel
Celia Rose Gooding as Cadet Nyota Uhura
Bruce Horak as Hemmer
Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M’Benga
Lindy Booth as Alora
Ian Ho as First Servant
Dan Jeannotte as Lieutenant George Samuel “Sam” Kirk
Sage Arrindell as Rukiya
Rong Fu as Lt. Jenna Mitchell
André Dae Kim as Chief Kyle
Adam Maros as Kier
Shawn Ahmed as Shankar

Premise

Pike and the crew try to protect a utopian society’s Golden Child from kidnappers, only to discover (as should be apparent to most viewers) that things are not as they appear.

High Points

The utter grimness with which the episode presents the twist is memorable, and contrasts starkly with the bright and cultured locations.

Low Points

The episode follows the outlines of the society in “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” (1973) quite closely. Le Guin did it better. This version gets bogged down somewhat by the Trek tropes (including the past love) and represents one of those cases where, suddenly, the Prime Directive gets treated as absolutely sacrosanct, with very little thought to alternatives that would exist in Trek‘s reality.

Darren Mooney has a fascinating take on this episode at Escapist Magazine. You likely won’t agree with everything he writes, but it’s worth reading, particularly if you have watched this ep and read Le Guin’s classic tale.

Overall

This is a good episode, but not a great one. The ending will leave you unsatisfied. Then again, there is no good ending possible. That’s the point.

I thought it was interesting that they attempted a scientific explanation for a situation that, in Le Guin’s story, is simply presented as how things are, in order to allow for the problem. It’s Star Trek science, but I buy it. It’s certainly better than the chaotic “science” of the pilot episode.

The Scores

The scores would work out to be more-or-less the same. The acting is strong in both. Neither are especially original.”Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach” is especially derivative, though it has a stronger story. Both boast high production values and make effective use of CGI and well-chosen locations. Most of “Lift Us Up” was filmed at the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ontario.

One reply

  1. JD DeLuzio says:

    The Parkwood’s grounds and house feature in a bewildering variety of shows and films, including nearly every recent major SF/F series.

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