Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: Children of the Comet
May 12, 2022 6:24 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

While racing against time to save a planet somewhere beyond Antares, Spock and Uhura discover the diplomatic power of music.

Memory Alpha is fluent in over six million forms of nerdification:

Bruce Horak (Hemmer) is legally blind, having lost over 90% of his eyesight to childhood cancer.

Thom Marriott (Shepherd captain) previously played a council member in the DISCO season 2 episode "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2" [FF previously --ed.] He also appeared in the CW series Reign, which featured George Samuek Kirk actor Dan Jeannotte.

• Persephone III may be in the same system as Persephone V, where Admiral Mark Jameson lived in semi-retirement prior to being called into service to help with hostage negotiations on Mordan IV in the TNG season 1 episode "Too Short a Season" [FF previously --ed.].

Trilithium resin, mentioned by Pike in connection with the Enterprise's warp system, is the same readily-weaponized substance that Sisko used to poison the atmosphere of Solosos III in DS9: "For the Uniform" [FF previously --ed.].

"I am familiar with Yahtzee, lieutenant."
- Spock, to Sam Kirk

Poster's Log:
Last week, I had an irrational fear that this ep would be about a "Hey Everybody, Let's Fuck" virus. Then I read the MA plot synopsis: ancient artifact + comet? Noooooo! Thankfully, this episode holds together much better than freakin' "Masks."

Nice to get a rare "Cadet's log." Nicer still that Pike doesn't interpret the Prime Directive to mean "Let them die!" the way Picard seemed to. Really, Pike continues to impress. I though his response to Uhura's confession about her Starfleet career was both in-character and admirable.

A clear theme of foreknowledge is emerging. Curious choice for an episodic series about exploring the unknown. Maybe that's the point. It seems likely that they plan to explore that more, which is as it should be.

I'm glad Hemmer is grouchy. I mean, I'm more glad this crew is less grim and dramatic than DISCO's and PIC's, but I was starting to think they were leaning just a little too chummy and gee-whiz.

I kind of suspect Kirk was selected as the away-mission injury as a Galaxy Quest homage because he looks so much like Guy Fleegman.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I wonder if the inhabitants of Persephone III call themselves the Kore

MA indicates that the ready room starchart has a lot of canon namedrops on it (and I'm positive this isn't the first time Stream Trek has done this): Argus Array, Cait (!), Elas, Grazer, K-7, Risa, Sarpeidon, Setlik (^-^), the Talarian Republic, Tribble Prime, and many more. Here's the list for those sufficiently interested.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (50 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this. It's just... good? Like I'm not having to convince myself that I'm enjoying it? What is this feeling?
posted by rhymedirective at 10:25 AM on May 12, 2022 [26 favorites]

Dear god let's not make this another hate watch show.
posted by bleep at 12:58 PM on May 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Tears of relief that the pilot wasn't a fluke. This is like watching TOS with my mother thirty years ago.
posted by Molesome at 1:24 PM on May 12, 2022 [7 favorites]

Another great episode that works on more than one level. Big Uhura episode (more about her personal life than we've gotten in canon in the last fifty-six or so years), and Pike's predestination gets highlighted on a few different fronts: by the Shepherds' fatalism regarding the comet (I wonder if their ancestors maybe had some words with the Voth, way back when), with the Prophecy of the Chunk of Ice, and with Una at the end. And it's uncanny that he even knows the names of the cadets who he's going to save; of course, if he convinced them to not join Starfleet, or even call in sick that day, they'd just be replaced by other cadets. Make sure that there's an emergency beam-out set up beforehand? Hmm.

Anyway, also a great "music is literally the universal language" episode; compare with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, contrast with VOY's "Virtuoso", and note the call-back to Spock and Uhura jamming in the mess hall in TOS.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:49 PM on May 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

A clear theme of foreknowledge is emerging. Curious choice for an episodic series about exploring the unknown.

What I think is super interesting about this is that this show, being a prequel, means much of the audience has foreknowledge - where the characters don't. Pike is burdened by what he has seen, though he doesn't know the whole truth. He thinks of it as a death - which is understandable, from what he's seen. But there is a kind of happy ending in The Menagerie, Part II.

I was watching Spock on that shuttle, knowing that he has prequel armour on and he was not in life-threatening danger. He and Uhura have a whole TV series and 6 movies ahead of them in this timeline. They don't know what is ahead but we do.

It could be a commentary on "Trek Canon", too. What is immutable. Can the future be changed? Tying it to saving those crew member's lives is very clever - he can't just avoid his fate, he must meet it to save them. Number One thinks the only fate is what we make, but she cannot know that the future - in many aspects, for this show - is unchangeable because of decades of lore behind us and in front of them.

Given that the story of Pike's "death" is still a decade away, I hope they don't keep pressing this character thread too hard. My biggest problem with Discovery and Picard has been putting characters at the centre who have been effectively treated as pre-destined or The One. I did like how his story was paralleled with the faith of the Shepherds and the comet, though. That's Star Trek to me.
posted by crossoverman at 3:54 PM on May 12, 2022 [13 favorites]

Big Uhura episode (more about her personal life than we've gotten in canon in the last fifty-six or so years)

I know Nichelle Nichols’ health is failing and that she’s retired from public life, but I do hope she’s happy with how STNW and specifically Celia Gooding are treating Uhura.
posted by nathan_teske at 4:24 PM on May 12, 2022 [18 favorites]

  • Really liked Uhura's backstory being fleshed out. The episode was essentially a lesson in how diversity can solve problems.
  • I enjoyed the fact that this Enterprise appears to be significantly nimbler than previous variations, twisting like a fish on a line during the battle with the Shepherds. Most previous ship-to-ship encounters have felt like standoff fights between battleships, turning in slow, wide arcs: this Enterprise feels more like a corvette.
  • I didn't like the fact that the away team was warned about the asteroid's low gravity before beaming out, only to walk around on the surface in what was clearly Earth gravity. I suppose the time and budget wasn't there for floaty wire work, but I still found it annoying.
  • Had to chuckle at the fact that a Kirk is red-shirted after striding boldly into the unknown with moustachioed swagger.
  • I happened to be listening to the excellent Our Opinions Are Correct regarding how disability is shown in science fiction. I'm think that Horak's role might pass the criteria laid out in the podcast: the show uses actual representation, while making it clear that Hemmer himself doesn't regard his blindness as a disability.
Really enjoying this. It's easily the "brightest" live-action Trek in years, possibly decades, both literally and figuratively. It's also nicely balancing original Trek's core principles of acceptance and positivity with a darker, modern theme (Pike's struggle with his predestination).
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:57 PM on May 12, 2022 [5 favorites]

regarding how disability is shown in science fiction.

I do wonder if the show will tackle how Pike sees his "death" and what that has to say about permanent disability? I definitely understand his struggle with seeing himself incapacitated feels like "death" but I'm not sure that's a great view of disability. The show could do some really interesting work around disability if it sees the contradiction between Hemmer embracing his increased senses with how Pike feels about being stripped of his physical abilities.
posted by crossoverman at 6:09 PM on May 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Considering the state of Starfleet in Picard I want to say the whole Federation began unraveling when they replaced this charming and compassionate Pike with that insufferable Kirk.
posted by M Edward at 6:14 PM on May 12, 2022 [12 favorites]

Yes, this is good. I, surprisingly, love the return to optimism and sense of adventure. Really frames Pike's fate.

I still love Chapel's uniform, I equally disagree with the showrunner's decision on La'an N-S's look.

Ricardo Montalbán as Khan was a misstep, but <shrug> the times (and his performance was riveting). I always thought that the decision to have the character named Khan Noonian-Singh was to evoke Captain Nemo, an (albeit Aryan) Indian prince. There are a lot of different contemporary Indian women's styles/ looks to base the character on.

Pike's hair is so ridiculous, it's no longer jealousy inspiring but just endearing.
posted by porpoise at 6:25 PM on May 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

I know Nichelle Nichols’ health is failing and that she’s retired from public life, but I do hope she’s happy with how STNW and specifically Celia Gooding are treating Uhura.

When she talked about her grandmother having been in Starfleet, for just a moment I had a thought that it would be amazing to see Nichelle in one last cameo as the grandmother, but I don't think that will happen. Still, it felt like an acknowledgement of the importance of Nichelle Nichols.

Liked the spitballing scenes on the bridge and the little nod to the Corbomite Maneuver with the bluff about "trilithium resin". Ortegas could have a good mentor/protege relationship with Pike; she seems destined for the big chair.
posted by briank at 6:34 PM on May 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Having the plot be about encountering a race exemplifying stoicism/ fatalism feels very Golden Age to me.

Especially the homopocentric colonial arrogance of "tricking" the "primitive" aliens and (not to, and) saves another group of aliens thing. (not serious)

Very Roddenberry. The writer Roddenberry probably grew up on GA science fiction.

Hey some ok Science! The explanation (harmonics and multiples) is sound, but it's more nuanced. Different musical scales make it a lot more complicated. But they're just differently mathematical, but prone to change more because of culture, than if was merely a genetic thing. At least for Hom sap.

On the gripping hand, I wonder if these Shepherds have any continuing communication with their origins' society and culture, or are they an ever more incestual genetic and cultural pool over the generations 'shepherding' the comet?
posted by porpoise at 7:02 PM on May 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Can I offer you an musical egg in this t̶r̶y̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ extinction level event?

- I liked how they worked in Uhura's singing voice, which we see later in TOS.
-Automated comet performing its own Great Filter - quite a bit Rendezvous with Rama, golden age appropriate. Golf clap.
-Still digging Australia's Next Top Medic; and still maintaining that the joint Stanford-Morehouse genetics study has its facilities in Missoula or Bozeman.
-Computer, activate Shazam and identify this tune.
-Wow, the interior of the nuTrek version of the F-type shuttle craft is cavernous!

The Starfleet cadet mentoring lesson was very good. Not in the exact words, but "Ever say 'somebody somewhere should do something'? You're the expert on this mission, Cadet. Today, Somebody -- is you. Save the day."
posted by bartleby at 9:21 PM on May 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Did anyone else get strong Hal vibes from the Shepherds ship? Thought it tied in neatly with the musical theme.
posted by coriolisdave at 2:22 AM on May 13, 2022

Missed an MA detail:

• The Aenar species originated in the ENT episodes "United" [FF previously --ed.] and "The Aenar" [FF previously --ed.].
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:10 AM on May 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

I knew that you'd ask that question.
Because you have precognitive abilities?
No, everyone asks that question.

So true!
posted by Spike Glee at 5:44 AM on May 13, 2022 [9 favorites]

I am just really digging the OG Trek vibe of this show! I love that the solved this dilemma without violence (OK, they did shoot out some enemy weapons banks...) instead using a clever physics effect to change the comet's trajectory! So perfectly Star Trek from beginning to end, I just loved it. Also, I loved the opening scene of the crew at Captain's Table, just taking time to breathe and get to know these characters! DISCO seemed so rushed all the time, like always on the brink of destruction, we don't have time for a quiet moment, and if there is a quiet moment it seemed overshadowed by some imminent doom. I love Uhura, and also very much love Ortegas!
posted by dellsolace at 6:41 AM on May 13, 2022 [11 favorites]

Just seeing that I said "love" like 47 times in that comment. I am enjoying this show!
posted by dellsolace at 6:42 AM on May 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

What a breath of fresh air! So fun, classic sci-fi tropes. A small part of me knows this could end up being problematic, perhaps we'll get an episode where Pike talks a computer into disabling itself. But as long as the writers stay fresh and modern and the production delivers at this level it's going to work. Put an ironic spin on the logic bomb, for example.

This episode really clicked on all levels; good visual design, good effects, great acting, good pacing. Just well made TV.

Did anyone else get the vibe that maybe Uhura's tragic backstory was a con? A story she's told before but is not true? I suppose it's very unlikely, I think she'll turn out to be exactly the sincere super capable cadet with some self doubt we saw here. And that's fine! But wouldn't it be delicious if there was a more complicated layer to her?

I love what they're doing with Samuel Kirk, he's a sort of hapless sidekick. Hilarious tweak on the Kirk mythology. Also I'd forgotten this but Sam Kirk is canon dating back to a TOS episode, including the mustache.

I want more of the cute transporter operator. Chief Kyle, played by André Dae Kim. (Also a rewrite of a minor TOS character.)
posted by Nelson at 7:12 AM on May 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Did anyone else think that Uhura laughed a bit too much at Pike's story?
posted by Spike Glee at 7:30 AM on May 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

SNW is absolutely two for two, and I'm so glad Uhura finally got some backstory. And I'm glad I'm not the only one amused by Sam Kirk in this episode. It was a surprise to see he wasn't just a one-shot, and since he has plot armor, it would be amusing if he becomes the Designated Butt Monkey and gets hurt by the Threat of the Week every couple episodes.
posted by SansPoint at 7:54 AM on May 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

I equally disagree with the showrunner's decision on La'an N-S's look.

In addition to the whole Khan lineage issue, and as sixswitch noted in the previous episode discussion, her character look and attitude makes her come off as just too much of an off-brand Carmina Drummer.
posted by fairmettle at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

Did anyone else think that Uhura laughed a bit too much at Pike's story?

Yes! So awkward! I interpreted this as "brand new cadet Tries Too Hard to laugh the socially acceptable amount at the captain's jokes, and overshoots".
posted by confluency at 9:39 AM on May 13, 2022 [16 favorites]

her character look and attitude makes her come off as just too much of an off-brand Carmina Drummer.

Yeah, I get that vibe from her too.

Still loving the show. And who knows, maybe the stupid fireplace in the captain’s quarters will grow on me. It is cold in space, after all.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:13 AM on May 13, 2022

Lo and behold, Kurtzman and co. have finally tried making a Star Trek show that's like, you know, Star Trek... after exhausting all other possibilities.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:44 AM on May 13, 2022 [7 favorites]

I think that Prodigy and Lower Decks feel "treky." Lower Decks leans hard into the goofier bits of Trek lore, but the show absolutely believes in the hopeful vision of the future.
posted by Spike Glee at 11:30 AM on May 13, 2022 [10 favorites]

Lo and behold, Kurtzman and co. have finally tried making a Star Trek show that's like, you know, Star Trek... after exhausting all other possibilities.

The end of S4 of Discovery felt like a set-up for S5 to be exploring new worlds, etc. And Picard is getting the band back together in S3, though I doubt it will fall into "planet of the week", it might be closer to Trek idealism.

It's been a long road, getting from there to here.
posted by crossoverman at 8:50 PM on May 13, 2022

Kurtzman and co. have finally tried making a Star Trek show that's like, you know, Star Trek... after exhausting all other possibilities.

History teaches us that men and nations Star Trek showrunners will behave wisely when they have exhausted all other alternatives.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:44 AM on May 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

This is a good show and I like it. I'm happy that it turns out that I'm not just some grump who can't enjoy new things.

I agree with much of the praise above. One thing I didn't see mentioned is the age range of the cast. I like that there are plenty of middle aged people in the middle of their careers, both as actors and as Starfleet officers.
posted by Horkus at 7:10 AM on May 14, 2022 [13 favorites]

The cold opening for this episode was nearly 12 minutes long. Still shorter than Discovery, but c’mon, guys, you’ve gotta roll the opening credits eventually . Just get it over with.
posted by schmod at 8:26 PM on May 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

I love a long cold open. If the set-up (and great character stuff) takes 12 minutes, that's good with me.
posted by crossoverman at 9:46 PM on May 14, 2022 [4 favorites]

Another good episode! Watched with Fleebnork Jr. and he enjoyed it as well.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:41 AM on May 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Star Trek is never just one thing. Sometimes it's boring as shit. Like this was.
posted by bleep at 9:37 AM on May 15, 2022

I was not bored, I liked the Comet interior, if all else fails there is always neo fandom, and man watching, and people watching. I liked the slow burn start, of Uhura's Star Fleet Career, and her growing appreciation for Spock. Seeing her realize she has a place, was good.
posted by Oyéah at 4:51 PM on May 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

I've got some nitpicks--the shepherds can detect lifesigns on the surface of the comet but don't notice an overheating shuttle flying through its coma? what on earth is going on with the table / bar set up in Pike's quarters?--but this does feel like a modern version of the Star Trek I grew up with, primary colors and competence porn and all.

It's also probably the strongest start for any of the series so far: not entirely unexpected since they have been doing shows for a while now. It also feels like this writer's room knows the story that it wants to tell. Both episodes have been concerned with investigating the ethics of the prime directive along with the idea of fate and predestination; I suspect they're going to keep digging into those threads over the remainder of the season.
posted by thecaddy at 9:23 AM on May 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

So far what I've been most impressed with is that both episodes have been absurd reverse-triple-gainer-double-twist writing stunts that turned out amazing.
First Episode:

Paramount: So tell us about the story.
Akiva Goldsman: So you know that speech at the end of The Day the Earth Stood Still?
Paramount: Sure.
AG: It all leads up to Pike giving that speech.
Paramount: ...the speech from a 71-year-old movie?
AG: Right. And I'm going to lampshade it by having him watch the speech on TV early in the episode.
Paramount: [quickly googling] Wait, the speech where Klaatu threatens to reduce the Earth to a burned out cinder? That doesn't sound very "Trek".
AG: Trust me, I'll make it work!

Second Episode:

AG: So, tell me about the story.
Henry Alonso Myers & Sarah Tarkoff: Lieutenant Uhura was the youngest, smartest cadet EVER in the history of Starfleet!
AG: ...uh...
HAM&ST: ...and she speaks 38 languages that she learned without even TRYING and she didn't even want to go into Starfleet but they BEGGED her and...
AG: Wait, this kind of sounds like that "Mary Sue" story...?
HAM&ST: ...and she totally banters with the senior officers and teases Mr. Spock about his "girlfriend" and then they transport to this comet that's going to destroy a whole planet and NOBODY can figure out what's going until Uhura is the ONLY ONE who can figure it out and save the day and save the WHOLE PLANET using the power of her beautiful singing voice!
AG: ...this is a joke, right?
HAM&ST: ...and THEN everybody tells her how awesome she is and Spock (who totally has a thing for her now but we'll save THAT until later in the season) says she's the true meaning of Starfleet and begs her to stay!
AG: I...I...I...
HAM&ST: Trust us, we'll make it work!

Looking forward to whatever nonsense they have planned for Ep3!
posted by The Tensor at 3:10 PM on May 17, 2022 [12 favorites]

A few thoughts here:

Uhura in this episode feels a little like a remake of Hoshi Sato on Enterprise: a young woman, fantastically gifted for languages, but not sure she really fits in on a starship (but who's obviously going to go on to find her place and do some amazing things).

I was a little disappointed that the planet dwellers were just sketched in. I guess there wasn't time to expand on what they thought about the comet. Reminded me just a little of Voyager's "Blink of an Eye" episode, but at least in that episode the planet dwellers had more to do.

I'm really curious how the series will cope with the fact that we know what's going to happen to Pike eventually – unless the writers find some clever way for him to dodge his fate that doesn't also destroy the "known" timeline.
posted by zadcat at 7:38 AM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Voyager's "Blink of an Eye" episode

(Great episode, IMHO among the all-time best Trek eps.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:11 AM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm really curious how the series will cope with the fact that we know what's going to happen to Pike eventually – unless the writers find some clever way for him to dodge his fate that doesn't also destroy the "known" timeline.

I mean, I think--based on the first two episodes--that he's going to do the thing and end up where we know he's heading. If anything, I think it's interesting because it foregrounds that the journey is more important than the destination. It also ties in well to the ethical questions of "what does it mean to interfere" and "what do we sacrifice to save others?" that seem to be a thematic focus of this show.

And tying into The Tensor's comment above, it's a bit of a high-wire act, too. "Yeah, the WHOLE SERIES is playing with the idea from Greek myth that you can't avoid your fate, and trying to do so just ensures that it will happen just as the oracle has forseen. Trust us! It'll work!"

After all, if you're born to hang, you'll never drown.
posted by thecaddy at 10:48 AM on May 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

It looks to me like they're building up to Pike figuring out how to save everyone without his death happening.
posted by cooker girl at 12:34 PM on May 18, 2022

If it means anything, I went back and watched the DISCO episode where Pike takes over Lorca's office. Lorca kept a bowl of fortune cookies on his desk.
Pike finds the last fortune paper, which reads:
Not every cage is a prison, nor every loss eternal.
Get it? Cage?
posted by bartleby at 2:32 PM on May 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

I feel like there's already a twist ending in store for the Tragedy of Captain Pike: he sees himself horribly burned and disfigured and has been treating it as the end of his life, but we know he eventually gets to live happily ever after with Vina on Talos IV. (And I'd forgotten that he's already visited and she's already there).)
posted by The Tensor at 2:37 PM on May 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

wow nice I gotta see if I can wrangle up some tickets for this teamLab escape room for myself

(I'm feeling really, really optimistic about this series after two episodes)
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:37 AM on May 20, 2022

oh right so Ortegas

does anyone else have a lot of difficulty accepting that that isn’t the same actress as the one tester in Mythic Quest
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:34 AM on May 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

So there’s a comet in the sky

There’s some shepherds

There’s a miracle

Is this a stealth Christmas episode?!?
posted by bq at 11:10 AM on May 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

oh right also partway through the episode Mrs. Fedora made the VERY distracting observation that the Shepherd had a very Monster Factory no-middle-sliders look to him and I was unable to unsee it
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:24 PM on May 21, 2022

The interior of the comet with the egg and the writing, I really felt like I was about two actions away in the Star Trek 25th Anniversary game in deciphering the puzzle. Use tricorder on egg!

And that opening captain's table followed by Una and Pike drying the dishes—that was some really nice character building. They've done this before.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:06 PM on May 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

I admit, I was sort of weirded out by the dishes. Giant quarters and no space for a dishwasher?

But otherwise I was very pleased. Crew that is collegial with a little teasing! Dilemmas solved with cleverness rather than blowing shit up! A version of the Prime Directive that is not that bizarre "this entire species is about to die, we could save them without revealing ourselves but that would be Interfering and the PD says no" that it turned to by DS9!

I am hoping, however, that not every crewmember is going to have a hideously tragic backstory, we are 2 for 2 now.
posted by tavella at 9:25 AM on June 20, 2022

I loved most thing about this episode. But the horrible leadership style when the inexperienced cadet Uhura showed nerves in a stressful situation? That was canonical Spock from TOS. Chef's kiss.
posted by mark k at 10:38 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm happy it gently rained on Persephone III right before all those hundreds of giant meteors hit it and wreaked havoc. However, I don't believe that the tiny space shuttle could melt its way through the comet, nor do I believe that Spock's sideburns are physically possible.

I hate space religion. I hope no Shepherds knock on my door and try to give me pamphlets, because they are very smug and annoying. Uhuru telling me the diversion of the comet was foreseen is only somewhat better than her telling me that the "Sun God" is actually the "Son of God". Sure, OK, perhaps the comet was sent on a mission to seed barren planets with organic material or to donate water to planets with not enough; then you could wonder who sent it on that mission but be given some welcome ambiguity. This, on the other hand, was stupid. But that's not a complaint in the ST universe. I liked this episode; I'm in.
posted by acrasis at 12:06 PM on April 8

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