Warning: Spoilers for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” season 1, episode 5.
It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through the inaugural season of the latest “Star Trek” spinoff. It makes you wish these shows had longer seasons. However, it’s safe to say that no one, probably including Paramount, expected “Strange New Worlds” to be as popular as it is, so fingers crossed we’ll get many more seasons and if the writing only gets better from this point, this will undoubtedly be the hit “Star Trek” show the Melrose-based studio so desperately wanted.
Plus, each episode has topped the last, which is a sure sign that when this show hits full steam, we’re in for a real treat. Or alternatively, of course, it could just fall on his face, like “Picard” did, but…we have a hunch that won’t happen in this particular case.
And as if to prove the point, Episode 5, titled “Spock Amok” opens with an incredible, unexpected and very entertaining nod to “The Original Series” – as the episode title might reveal.
In the pre-credits sequence, Spock (Ethan Peck) finds himself on Vulcan preparing for Koon-ut-kal-if-fee, the Vulcan ritual, which means “marriage or challenge” and is a “passionate fight” where a Vulcan challenges another over a mate, ultimately resulting in the winner’s marriage. It was first seen and explored in depth in the “TOS” episode “Amok Time” (S02, E01) and has since become an iconic piece of “Star Trek” lore, even beautifully parodied in arguably a of the best “The Simpsons” episodes ever made, “Deep Space Homer” (S05, E15).
Related: Every actor who’s ever played Spock on Star Trek
We find ourselves asking, “Uh-oh, who pissed off Spock so much that they challenged him to a ritual fight to the death?” But it’s a dream, of course, Spock just ate too much K’normian cheese before going to bed. However, the events of the dream echo his subconscious fears and concerns, as they often do and Vulcan Spock battles a human Spock, both played by Peck, in a reflection of his duality.
It’s really inventive writing and naturally every conceivable detail has been faithfully reproduced, including the infamous score. (opens in a new tab) by Gerald Fried called “The Ancient Battle/2nd Kroykah” which was later used in a number of other second season “TOS” episodes, including “The Doomsday Machine” (S02, E06). It’s so refreshing to see the writers/producers/showrunners referencing their own franchise instead of other entirely different sci-fi IPs. It’s not like the “Star Trek” universe doesn’t have an incredible wealth of material to use.
The USS Enterprise docked at the revered and respected Starbase 1 for much-needed repairs, as well as crew R&R after the near-fatal encounter with the Gorn last week, suggesting this episode will be the one that ” Star Trek” alone has turned the classic “leave ashore” story into a sci-fi trope. The majority of the pre-credit sequence focuses on Spock and his fiancé T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) as they attempt to resolve some personal issues. They agree to set aside some quality time for a private dinner later that evening.
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The side story in this week’s episode is another “Star Trek” staple, the ongoing interplanetary negotiations…and why not. The Federation is trying to persuade R’ongovians to join, but so far things are not going so well. And now they want to discuss the matter, at length, immediately, rather than at the scheduled time, which was the next morning. As such, Spock misses his dinner date. Oh dear. Roll those gorgeous opening credits.
The “leave ashore” nature of the episode creates some interesting correspondences with the crew and represents the common thread of the tertiary plot. Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) goes on a date with an old flame, but the second he starts talking about deepening their relationship, she pulls away and chooses to go talk to Spock instead, who is sitting nearby in the bar. Meanwhile, Lt Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) and Lt Cmdr Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) team up and engage in mischief while everyone else is off the Enterprise.
Chapel offers Spock some relationship advice, which he duly follows. He sets the stage for a “soul sharing” ritual in T’Pring’s quarters in an effort to make up for the missed dinner, and thus begins the main thread of this week’s story. They perform the ritual exactly as planned, except they are now in each other’s bodies with no obvious way to reverse the process. Yes indeed, we’re served up a most generous course of that classic sci-fi trope, body-swapping, with just the right amounts of humor, drama, and entertainment.
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What is particularly fun and quite voluntary is that they sound exactly the same. Rewatching this episode – and we highly recommend it – the subtleties are a bit more noticeable. To be honest though, from what we’ve seen here, we now want a “WandaVision” style limited sitcom series starring Spock and T’Pring so badly. Luckily, they’re both skilled diplomats, and luckily, they both have jobs that require their skills. Imagine the chaos if one was a classical concert pianist and the other was a prison guard in a Vulcan penal colony.
Nerd’s note: Captain Kirk went through the ordeal of body swapping in the “TOS” episode “Turnabout Intruder” (S03, E24) and other notable examples include the superb “Stargate SG1” episode “Holiday” (S02, E18), the “Farscape” episode “Out of Their Minds” (S02, E09), and the epic “Red Dwarf” episode “Bodyswap” (S03, E04).
Aside from these out-of-body shenanigans, the other major source of fun this week comes from Noonien-Singh and Chin-Riley. They come across a pair of signs who were engaging in something called “Enterprise bingo”. It’s exactly what you’d expect, a list of challenges to complete that more than likely violate at least several Starfleet regulations, much like those online scavenger hunts that were popular about 10 years ago. And there are a few fun ones on the list that Noonien-Singh and Chin-Riley confiscate, so naturally they try a few themselves.
Attempting to reflavor chewing gum using the transporter doesn’t float their boats, the phaser duel is somewhat underwhelming, and the two-stage turbolift challenge just doesn’t last very long. However, the last item on the list is “Sign the Scorch” and is a hugely creative addition to the USS Enterprise story. It is (now) the oldest unreplaced piece of the Enterprise hull, where it was said to be lucky to sign it. Rather than using EVA suits, they use a small force shield to gain access to the outer shell and avoid an unpleasant death in the freezing vacuum of space.
Related: “Strange New Worlds” is a love letter to “The Original Series”
Noonien-Singh and Chin-Riley sign the Scorch, before looking up in awe to see Rongovian’s flagship flying overhead, sails spread and flying the Federation flag, signifying that the negotiations were a success, thanks almost entirely to Captain Pike (Anson Mount) correctly guessing that the extremely The empathetic nature of the R’ongovians directly affects their behavior.
Spock and T’Pring each have enriching experiences in each other’s bodies and while it probably sounded hilarious when the idea was fleshed out, it falls a tiny bit flat, but… not enough to do. really any type of dent in the fun of this episode. It’s all well-paced and, for the most part, weaves its way through a potential minefield of cliches without detonating one.
Fan-favorite green “Captain’s Wrap” tunic makes its first “Nu-Trek” appearance in this episode and according to IMDb (opens in a new tab), in the original series, the Captain was the only one to wear one. Apparently it was created to hide the belt that William Shatner had to wear when he gained weight.
Has… uh, has anyone seen Sam Kirk? Ask a friend.
Finally, in Sydney, Australia, to promote all things Paramount — the launch of the streaming service, the success of “Top Gun: Maverick” and so on — there was a spectacular drone show above Kirribilli and the Harbor Bridge which, among other things, also featured the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 emerging from warp drive. You can watch the full display here (opens in a new tab).
The first five episodes of ‘Strange New Worlds’ are now available on Paramount Plus (opens in a new tab) just like the entire second season of “Star Trek: Picard”. Season 4 of “Star Trek: Discovery” is also available on the Paramount streaming service in the United States and on CTV Sci-Fi or Crave TV in Canada. Countries outside of North America can watch Pluto TV Sci-Fi Channel.
Paramount has confirmed that its streaming platform will launch in the UK and Ireland on June 22, available both as a standalone service and as part of the Sky Cinema subscription for the UK cable company. However, only the first three episodes of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” will be available on the streamer on that region’s launch date, as the show will continue on a weekly airing schedule on Wednesdays until the end of season 1 in 10 episodes.