[Apologies for delay: life stuff. I’ll get to the other episodes eventually]
The running thread of Dr M’Benga’s sick daughter, and his efforts to cure her, has been just that – a running thread. It’s come up in a couple of episodes, it’s been absent from a couple of episodes, but it’s been used to deepen our understanding of M’Benga and give Babs Olusanmokun the chance to act his socks off. Both of which have very much been achieved. Back in the sixth episode, the deeply unsatisfying “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”, M’Benga is able to get access to some advanced medical information which very much implied that his research would be ongoing. That episode didn’t give him a cure, but it gave him a path.
Let’s get the most obvious things out of the way first. Yes, as with the previous episodes of this series there is little here that could be called original. Yes, as with the previous episodes of this series, there’s a focus on a single character while giving the rest of the crew enough to do. Yes, as with previous episodes of this series, the question is whether the redux of familiar ingredients is enough to justify the existence of this episode. So… does it?
The whole “ban on genetic engineering” thing in the Federation has always seemed a bit… unthought out. Not in-universe, but metatextually. The logic of it is, “well, Khan was a super-evil dude, so maybe we shouldn’t do that.” And, fair enough, you can see the sense there, and for that being presented as the reason to avoid it. But also… to the point where other species can’t even be allowed in to the Federation? That seems a bit spurious — something which has been done for plot reasons rather than because anyone has sat down and gone, “well, do we really think the Federation would actually respond in this manner?”
One of the most impressive things about Nichelle Nichols — among a great list of impressive things about Nichelle Nichols — is how she managed to do a huge amount with generally very little screen time. One of the the reasons that Uhura works as an actual character is because of what she invested in the role. She always went way above and beyond what what actually on the page, and in doing so brought her to life. Uhura developed into an easy-to-like character who had her own strengths and abilities far, far away from snide, ignorant jokes about how the only woman on the bridge of the original Enterprise was apparently a receptionist.
Star Trek is back for a 3rd 21st century show. But can Strange New Worlds succeed where Discovery and Picard have struggled? Welcome to an episode-by-episode review.
Star Trek, in all its various forms, has never really been away since The Motion Picture dragged the once-cancelled original TV from the syndication doldrums to the bright cinematic uplands of the silver screen. A series of six ridiculously successful movies (well, ridiculously success for a middlingly-liked but cancelled TV show at any rate) gave birth to The Next Generation. Then Deep Space Nine. Then Voyager. Then Enterprise. Alongside all that, there were the four Next Generation movies – noticeably less successful at the box-office than their TOS counterparts but keeping the flame alive nonetheless. Enterprise, ignominiously-if-deservedly cancelled in 2005, seemed to mark the end of one particular strand of the franchise, yet just four years of no-Star Trek lie between it at the show returning to the big screen with the sharp, expensive and alternative-timeline shenanigans of the 2009 movie. That’s spawned two further movies – with a third on the way – but in a very real sense Star Trek‘s home has always been the small screen, not the silver one. Anyway, you get the point – four years between Trek projects is nothing. Even if the gap between Enterprise and the franchie’s big return to television, Discovery, is twelve years they have not, in any meaningful sense, been twelve Star Trek free years.