Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach
June 9, 2022 5:17 AM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Or: "Pluto's Stepchildren"

Memory Alpha, lift us up where we belong:

Lindy Booth (Alora) and Husein Madhavji (Gamal) are both Canadian film and television actors.

• The Majalan Festival of Gratitude's name resembles that of the Bajoran Gratitude Festival, referenced in multiple DS9 episodes.

"Let the tree that grows from the roots of suffering lift us where suffering cannot reach."
- Majalan saying

Poster's Log:
Here is where the SNW show concept starts to concern me. Though I enjoyed it fine, "Lift Us" is the first SNW I'd call skippable. But this season is ten episodes; TOS and TNG seasons were 20+. There has to be a happy medium where we can have nonserialized storytelling, but also no nonessential hours, the latter being more forgivable in the long-season era of TV.

The first 2/3rds of this A-story felt so much like a TNG (specifically this one) that I 100% expected we would see the Prospect VII rebels and they'd all look like heavy metal roadies. Then, as soon as they go into the Majalan underworld, it immediately feels like a TOS. I get the feeling that was their explicit goal, plus better effects of course, and it's a successful and engaging hour by that measure. But I hope the next episode breaks more new ground, and it looks like it will.

I might've liked a line of additional technobabble explaining why/how the Sacred Chamber operates, but I guess YMMV w/r/t the need for that. Seems to me the theme is sufficiently unmistakable without further elaboration.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Once they started talking about a rite of ascension, I got my hopes up about an amazing John Tesh cameo, but alas.

Is the Rogue One-style text on the screen identifying the planet the first time an SNW episode has done that? (It's definitely not a Trek first; off the top of my head, Nimbus III in TFF was introduced the same way.) And what was the point if Pike named the planet in his log?

I call out this episode's cowardice in not using the full Majalan saying as its title. What could be more TOS-era than an absurdly-long title? Let's have a Trek episode title-length arms race! Bring in Fiona Apple as a guest writer!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (51 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Those Who Warp Away from Omelas Prime
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:08 AM on June 9 [32 favorites]


I liked this one a lot, personally! I appreciated the show’s willingness to leave a story with kind of a vaguely uncomfortable conclusion instead of tying everything up with a neat little ribbon.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:11 AM on June 9 [8 favorites]


Is the Rogue One-style text on the screen identifying the planet the first time an SNW episode has done that?

IIRC, they did it in the pilot episode, too. But I could be misremembering, because their briefing screens also have the planet name and some info.
posted by briank at 7:49 AM on June 9


I'm not sure that I'd say that it was skippable, exactly, although I think that it had a few problems:

- It very much is "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", with some echoes of TOS' "The Empath" (a single individual sacrificing themselves to save their entire race) and "Spock's Brain" (someone being plugged into a machine to serve the society). There are also echoes of the ritual sacrifices practiced in some cultures in which the sacrificial victim was publicly honored, sometimes for an entire year, before their sacrifice. But the strongest influence seems to be "Omelas", even though the above-linked Wikipedia article mentions that Le Guin got the idea from Dostoevsky and William James:
Or if the hypothesis were offered us of a world in which Messrs. Fourier's and Bellamy's and Morris's utopias should all be outdone, and millions kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far-off edge of things should lead a life of lonely torture, what except a sceptical and independent sort of emotion can it be which would make us immediately feel, even though an impulse arose within us to clutch at the happiness so offered, how hideous a thing would be its enjoyment when deliberately accepted as the fruit of such a bargain?
So there's a lot of precedent, but Le Guin would seem to be the most proximate, especially since there are indeed those who warp away from Omelas. Not sure how that would have been acknowledged in the episode, but it should have been IMO.

- They couldn't find another planet? Seems like that should have been mentioned as an option, especially for people that have cured everything.

- Speaking of which, I was expecting M'Benga to have made the case that maybe the needs of the many, you know, outweigh those of the few or the one. Or Chapel, or anyone.

- Not sure who suffers in the Federation, specifically, so that everyone else can have a good time. Arguably, the Prime Directive might drive some of that, but oddly, for an episode that's all about interfering in another society, it's never mentioned.

So... maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe an example of the Ten Percent Rule, where they don't quite stick the landing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:19 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Not sure who suffers in the Federation, specifically, so that everyone else can have a good time.

Everything we know of TOS-era Federation says it’s a post-capitalist society where everyone has their basic needs met. There’s no hint of someone suffering so that someone else can be better off. It seems that the writers really wanted to say “Hey, is this really more morally offensive than what you are doing, 21st century America?” but couldn’t find a non-clunky way to do that, so they just had the Federation stand in for America although it doesn’t make much sense.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:22 AM on June 9 [8 favorites]


The idea of the Federation as a utopia isn't really a thing until TNG, so I don't have a problem with that part of the episode. Certainly no one is deliberately causing anyone to suffer in the Federation, but they don't have replicators and so assumedly famines still happen (for example) and some people will die before the Federation can send aid, just by dint of the fact that the Federation can't act immediately on omniscient knowledge.

I mean, also, this was obviously a Second Amendment allegory?
posted by rhymedirective at 12:14 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Welp. As soon as Alora introduced the First Servant, I could see exactly where this was going, so none of the surprise twists were surprising, and I spent the whole episode waiting for the other shoe to drop. Enough stuff was happening in between the A plot that I enjoyed the episode anyway, but I found it increasingly frustrating that none of the crew thought to ask the basic questions or connect the extremely suspicious dots until the very end. Big idiot ball vibes.
posted by confluency at 12:23 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]


(I was going to say that this could have been resolved with a bit of extra dialogue if the captain had questioned Alora about the child early on, and Alora had just lied, implying that he would be made into some kind of benign religious figurehead with critical symbolic importance -- but I suppose that this would have violated the spirit of the Majalans' belief that they should not "look away" from what they are doing. So I think the writers painted themselves into a corner here.)
posted by confluency at 12:30 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I got both TOS and TNG vibes from this episode. Apparently, it is based on a script that Rodenberry came up with for TOS, and Pike definitely has big Kirk energy. The moral dilemma, though, feels like one that TNG would have taken on, complete with a trademak Picard Speech, amd with a TNG-style resolution.

I would like Uhura not to be used as the solution to every problem, though. How about if she sucked at security and it caused a problem instead? Maybe she let the father and the kid get out of Sickbay when she was sipposed to be keeping an eye on them. Maybe that button she almost pushed on the wrecked ship triggered something. I've had this same complaint about Ensign Tilly on DIS.

Lastly, Pike's hair is getting ridiculous.
posted by briank at 7:38 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


I love Pike's hair. Let it reach ever greater heights!
posted by yasaman at 8:14 PM on June 9 [19 favorites]


Pike's hair is incapable of any non-"boldly" form of going
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:30 PM on June 9 [7 favorites]


I would like Uhura not to be used as the solution to every problem, though. How about if she sucked at security and it caused a problem instead? Maybe she let the father and the kid get out of Sickbay when she was sipposed to be keeping an eye on them.

I tend to see stuff like this as more of a correction to the perception of Uhura on TOS as being the ship's "receptionist." Being able to communicate with heretofore uncontacted species would be hugely important--maybe the single most important part of the ship--and her thing here shows that it's also adjacent to cryptography in some ways, and vitally important to intelligence work. (In some beta canon stories, Admiral Uhura becomes head of Starfleet Intelligence for a while.) Ship security isn't just about charging through the corridors with phasers out.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:01 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Trek sure posits a lot of (near) planetary monarchical civilizations out there in our quadrant of the galaxy that managed to get warp capable.
posted by porpoise at 9:02 PM on June 9


“I got both TOS and TNG vibes from this episode.”

Me, too!

The main storyline with Pike and Alora was so much TOS, that I expected every shot framing Alora's face to have the vaseline soft-focus with the accompanying music cue.

Pike really was a substitute for Kirk in this because Mount can't quite manage being believably smitten into complete idiocy the way Shatner can. Shatner would have a slight smirk on his face while he's besotted, implying that he imagined himself in control when, really, his brain was 100% occupied by thinking about the sexytimes to come.

Also, Alora was such a 60s two-dimensional "beautiful woman" cliche that I feared she would
evaporate into nothingness at any moment.

The main storyline wasn't even a little bit believable, which was surprisingly forgivable because we were all high on the nostalgia.

A linguist isn't necessarily a polyglot and that's a common misunderstanding of what linguistics is. However, I'd expect that if Uhuru were a xenolinguist, her skills would make a lot more sense.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:17 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Lindy Booth was also in The Librarians with Rebecca Romijn so I'm hoping for more cast reunions like that. Admiral Laroquette, perhaps?

Uhura having the worst internship ever, by the way. Nearly gets shot into the vacuum of space last episode, this episode she's clearing landing zones, targeting phaser banks without any practice, AND has to do her day job on top of getting yelled at all day.

I treat my interns as if they were part of the team, not scream vague Rules of Developers at them. Maybe I should start. "Rule of Development #1: Computers Do What You Tell Them!"
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:41 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Also I kinda hope LeGuin's estate rings up Harlan Ellison's personal attack lawyer, because she should have a story credit for this one at least.

This is far less of a stretch than The Terminator being based on Demon With a Glass Hand. Majalan is Omelas with the serial number filed off and you can see the scuff marks from where they pried off the label.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:44 PM on June 9 [7 favorites]


Such a dumb conceit that Pike somehow ran into his old girlfriend. TOS would have more boldly gone were no man has gone before. Kirk just would have seduced the hot stranger lady diplomat Although I guess to see the double cross through, it would have been the lady who seduced Kirk, and that would never do. Anyway in our more enlightened modern time the whole romance aspect of the relationship is unnecessary..

The episode felt a little clumsy but biting off of Omelas is exactly what I want this show to do. Give us a bunch of high concept one hour sci-fi stories, whether original or appropriated. Just execute them a little better
posted by Nelson at 9:47 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


So I just reread Omelas and honestly this episode has very little in common with the Le Guin short story. The idea of a child sacrifice, sure. But otherwise Omelas has all sorts of themes and literary qualities that are nowhere represented in this Star Trek show. The episode still feels fairly cliche but it's not as sophisticated as Le Guin's short story
posted by Nelson at 10:26 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


A linguist isn't necessarily a polyglot and that's a common misunderstanding of what linguistics is. However, I'd expect that if Uhuru were a xenolinguist, her skills would make a lot more sense.

In the 23rd century they just call it linguistics. Only bible colleges still have a separate xenolinguistics department.


So there's a lot of precedent, but Le Guin would seem to be the most proximate, especially since there are indeed those who warp away from Omelas. Not sure how that would have been acknowledged in the episode, but it should have been IMO.

The episode ends with a very long shot of Pike gazing soulfully out of the window and thinking, "Oh my loss."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:06 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


The Verge: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reminds you filler TV is fantastic. TV doesn’t just have to be high-stakes, end of the world situations.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:24 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


A linguist isn't necessarily a polyglot and that's a common misunderstanding of what linguistics is.

Star Trek has always had a cack-handed view of linguistics. Was it not last week that we learned the Gorn, reptilian sophonts with no contact with Earth or the Federation at this point, use the fucking English alphabet? And I seem to recall Sato once working out an entire language -- vocab, syntax and all -- from having one word to study.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:27 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Though I enjoyed it fine, "Lift Us" is the first SNW I'd call skippable.

I thought the first episode was skippable. I've really liked most of the episodes so far, although the first ep seemed to really be playing it safe. I thought this one was better.

Anson Mount did a great job of portraying Pike's disbelief and disgust at the situation.

Once they started talking about a rite of ascension, I got my hopes up about an amazing John Tesh cameo, but alas.

Haha! I used to work for John Tesh.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:02 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Before or after his ascension?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:03 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


After, definitely.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:58 PM on June 10


“In the 23rd century they just call it linguistics. Only bible colleges still have a separate xenolinguistics department.”

Well, oddly, TNG's stupid "all humanoids were seeded from a common ancestor" would partly validate fundies' anti-evolutionism. I prefer to pretend that episode never existed, though.

That aside, there would be a distinction between what we know as "linguistics" now and what would exist with alien intelligences because human languages are qualitatively similar and alien languages would be qualitatively distinct from ours and between themselves. Uhura's job would be incredibly difficult! I'd expect xenolinguistics to be a distinct field (with subspecialties), just as would xenobiology.

Interestingly, what we call geology is generally applicable, and I think that's already a bit of a terminology problem in the study of other planets.

But an exploratory vessel like this, with science personnel, would necessarily have specialists in descriptive xenolinguistics and descriptive xenobiology, at the least because the "xeno" part would be pretty much the whole point.

Also, there's the issue of the "universal translator", which would moot all of this. Wasn't the UT mentioned first/only in TAS? Otherwise, like so much else, Trek ignores the languages problem unless it's convenient for the plot.

I don't mind — to me, Trek has never been plausible. I grew up on TOS! But I'm complaining about the polyglot/linguist thing because it's less an example of Trek being unrealistic, and more just Trek perpetuating a common misconception that happens to be a pet-peeve of mine.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:31 PM on June 10


The bible college line is hilarious but it's worth noting in the real world a lot of 19th and 20th century practical linguistics work was done by Christian missionary groups. Even now one of the best databases of spoken human languages comes from a a religious organization.

Not sure how that reality would carry over to Star Trek. One of the choices made by ST writers is how there's basically no visible human religion for most of the show. Like, does the Enterprise even have an interfaith chapel? There's no religion at all unless it's the topic-of-the-week or that one awful movie we all try to forget. The notable exception for this is Deep Space 9. The themes of Bajoran faith, The Prophets, and The Sisko is one of the things that made that show's writing so great.
posted by Nelson at 6:28 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Like, does the Enterprise even have an interfaith chapel?

How quickly they forget. In the TOS episode “Balance of Terror,” taking place perhaps a decade after the current time on SNW, Kirk officiates a wedding in the Enterprise‘s chapel.

Okay, that was an episode from 56 years ago. Carry on.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:35 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I came to this thread to state that Pike's hair was so distracting. It needs to start creeping downward.

Mind you, thinking about it now, I'm wondering if it is some kind of mystery game: bet how high Pike's hair will be every episode.

Any idea where that mansion is? I swear I attended a work event (possibly TIFF-related) ages ago at a place in the Bridle Path that really resembled this location--at least the gardens did. We weren't really allowed in the home itself.

I thought Pike's very obvious reaction to the first kiss--he remained completely immobile--was an odd one. Usually it's the female character who has the type of reaction in TV and movies. Then again, Alora was the one sitting up in bed and Pike was draped over her, again reversing the usual male-female positioning. I'm curious about the messaging they're trying to deliver with these poses and reactions: he's much more secure in his masculinity and he doesn't feel the need to be so performative of it, especially in comparison to Kirk, but he's much more of a sexual being (in the Kirk sense) than Picard.
posted by sardonyx at 10:10 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Pike's close-up; his hair was so * l o r g e * it was literally cut out of the frame. At first, I thought, "well, that's a bit much", but as the episode went on it got funnier and funnier to me, and now it's my favorite thing in the entire world. I love this show!
posted by Space Kitty at 12:08 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


The bible college line is hilarious but it's worth noting in the real world a lot of 19th and 20th century practical linguistics work was done by Christian missionary groups. Even now one of the best databases of spoken human languages comes from a a religious organization.
SIL studies languages in order to better proselytize Christianity, and while they have undoubtedly made important contributions to the study of language their lack of respect for native cultures and beliefs is at best problematic.

From the linked Wikipedia article:
SIL does not consider efforts to change cultural patterns a form of culture destruction and points out that all their work is based on the voluntary participation of indigenous peoples. In the SIL view, ethnocide is not a valid concept and it would lead to pessimism to characterize culture change resulting from the inevitable progress of civilization as ethnocide.
At least they do seem genuinely invested in preserving they languages of the communities they proselytize to.

Sorry for the derail. This could probably be tied back into a discussion of the Prime Directive...
posted by thedward at 6:48 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Also, there's the issue of the "universal translator", which would moot all of this. Wasn't the UT mentioned first/only in TAS?

It originally came up (as an actual physical prop device) in the TOS episode Metamorphosis, which was the one with Zefram Cochrane where they used it to communicate with the energy cloud "Companion" that was in love with him.

In Enterprise it was presented as already existing in some form, though imperfect and needing Hoshi's expertise.
posted by Pryde at 8:20 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Pike's hair is becoming a meme, and even Anson Mount joins in the fun.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:57 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]


Glad he has a sense of humor about it.
posted by briank at 11:20 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


"Pike's Peak" is the lol I needed today.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:24 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


I got very distinct “Dagger of the Mind” vibes from the device they hooked the kid to.
posted by hanov3r at 3:03 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]




[First lines of the piece linked by CheesesOfBrazil]
IN FIRST CONTACT, Captain Picard said, “You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century.” But what about in the 23rd century?
At least three or four times in TOS a crewman has pulled off some flashy maneuver and Kirk has said, “You’ve just earned your pay for the week.”

So what can we glean from this?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:40 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


It's an old fashioned phrase still in common usage, such as "burning the midnight oil".
posted by fairmettle at 6:59 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Worth one's salt.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:03 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


I see what you did there.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:08 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]




This episode gave me "The Lottery" vibes.
posted by obol at 12:21 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I looked at the episode as a path that was blocked for Pike to address his future disfigurement. The Majalans could, in theory, heal his maimed future self but at the price of a child's suffering. It is a price that he is not willing to pay. Slowly, his future kidnapping and escape to be with Vina make more sense. This helps tie things back to the Disco episode with the Thallosians.
posted by jadepearl at 8:36 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile, M'Benga's daughter may be saved by the same medical technology. What will the price for her salvation be?
posted by briank at 5:02 AM on June 13


Ah, that knowledge was provided by the Majalan doctor before joining the rebels on Prospect 7.

The Majalans have chosen to stay in their lava-ridden, child exploitation-fueled cloud city and leave dissenters on Prospect 7. The Majalans, with their advanced technology, could go and resettle on Prospect 7, freeing themselves of their ethical dilemma. The Majalans like to think that they LOOK unflinching at the price of their lifestyle/society and think they pay the cost of it, but they purposely do not step away from it. They do not wish to pay for their freedom out of an ethical pit. As portrayed in the episode, the Majalans are capable of warp space flight and very advanced technology nor resource-limited. Yet, for centuries have not transitioned from a society built on the bones of children.
posted by jadepearl at 2:57 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


The distinction between the rich home world and the poor offshoot colony that rejects their way of life also reminded me a bit of The Dispossessed. Although in this case the disagreement wasn't anarcho-syndicalism vs other isms.
posted by wilberforce at 3:02 AM on June 16


OMG I just saw this behind-the-scenes photo of Rebecca Romijn and Lindy Booth. Everyone having a great time on this show.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:41 PM on June 19


Coming to the party late -- I'm a few weeks behind with this show. By the time I got thru with the previous episode, my desire to watch had just waned to the point that it wasn't appointment TV for me any more. I want to like this show more than I actually like it.

It's trying, God love it, to do the right things. But the the clunky plotting and action sequences, the lines of half-baked dialogue that pop up in every episode ("It's not only necessary, it's required"... thanks, I'll make sure to tell the Department of Redundancy Department), and Anson Mount trying to pull off the bold yet principled adventurer and... sometimes just about managing it, but too often coming off as a cross between Zapp Brannigan and an aging lounge singer (and that hair! It's pure Vanilla Ice!)... oof. The whole thing just doesn't quite gel a lot of the time.

But this one nearly sold me! This felt more like genuine Star Trek than any episode yet. Yeah, you could see where it was headed (like I said, clunky plotting). But the refusal to wrap it up in a neat moral bow was in the best tradition of TNG and TOS.

I feel like they need some slightly sharper minds in the writing room and/or executive producers' suite to really boost this show up into orbit. But at least they managed to reach a fairly high level with this one.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:17 PM on June 24




So it is very funny living in Toronto where SNW (and most current Trek series) is shot and just repeatedly seeing very recognizable Toronto landmarks used as sets for alien planets, and not just some place the Iconians might want to visit.

All the Majalan palace scenes were filmed at Casa Loma and its gardens, which incidentally was the site of the Chris Evants fight in Scott Pilgrim. It's a little hard to suspend disbelief when you can see the early 20th century radiators behind Pike and Alora as they're about to make out.
posted by dry white toast at 9:40 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


> "Pike's Peak" is the lol I needed today.
Also known as Mount Anson.
posted by Syllepsis at 4:53 PM on August 12


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