Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: The Elysian Kingdom
June 23, 2022 6:39 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Desperate to cure Rukiya's worsening disease, M'Benga is confronted with the mystery of the Enterprise's unexpected trip to Ye Olde Costume Department.

Behold the wizarding world of Memory Alpha:

• The cover of the book The Kingdom of Elysian indicates its author is Benny Russell, a character in two episodes of Deep Space Nine.

"The Swamp of Infinite Deaths."
"Oh, that is not a good swamp."
- Pollux (Spock) and Sir Rauth (Pike)

"Don't look, it'll blind you."
"What about you?"
"I…am a wizard."
- Hemmer and Sir Rauth (Pike)

Poster's Log:
This episode was a real litmus test for this amazingly strong first season. The "costume episode" is verrrry well-trod Trek ground—TOS, TNG, and VOY had many, DS9 had like one or two (ENT's closest was probably "Mirror Darkly")—but it's always seemed to me that they were more often misses than hits. "Elysian Kingdom," unlike most of them, has serious emotional resonance: after the initial scene, we know (because of general TV narrative tropes) that M'Benga being king will somehow involve Rukiya and her illness, and that helps carry us over some of the "yes, yes" scenes like those in Queen Neve's "throne room." And the fact that the plot's outcome is a little predictable is offset by the powerful resolution scene in M'Benga's quarters, which again recalls DS9: "The Visitor" in impact, but with a happier flavor.

Also skillful: not using a story we all know for this, like Robin Hood or whatever. The writers rightly understood that that story isn't the one that matters, and treated it more as setting than narrative. Yet we are prevented from confusion and excessive story slowdown by M'Benga's helpful little flashbacks (during which I half expected to see Khitomer conspirators). Hemmer was a great choice for his helper here, too (the protagonist of these Trek stories always gets a helper!); we haven't gotten to know him well enough for his Elysian-role to reflect amusingly on his non-Elysian self (as Pike's does), but also, he needed to get a lot to do because we haven't gotten to know him well.

Do you suppose they meant for Pollux's costume to make him look like Sarek?

I don't think DS9 ever clearly suggested whether or not Benny Russell actually existed in the Trek timeline, but this episode establishes that he did. Very cool, and thought-provoking.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
IIRC, previous depictions of the "warp bubble" concept have suggested the phenomenon to be exotic, rather than a routine element of warp engine operation, as implied here; those sufficiently interested may consult the MA pages warp bubble and static warp shell.

I haven't been tracking them closely, but it feels like this show's tearing through the stardates. IIRC we had one that was 19-something pretty recently, and this one is stardate 2341.6 (but then, trying to figure out what stardates really mean has always been a bit of a fool's errand).

The first portion of the Wikipedia page about Boltzmann brains suggests that the usage of the term here might be vastly oversimplified, but that's all I can claim to know about Boltzmann brains.

Speaking of the tropes of TV narrative: "‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Is the Best of What Television Used to Be" (Vice)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (41 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Oh the costuming department was off the chain this week - Lady Audrey's dress was like something Selkie wishes they produced, Queen Neve will become a cosplay convention staple and the irridescent blue material for Rukiya's princess dress contrasted the magenta nebula perfectly.

Christina Chong and Ethan Peck both got to show off their cheeky sides - something I always appreciate in Trek, when a serious character gets to show some emotional range (see TOS Spock, Data, Odo, Tuvok) and those exchanges between Sir Adya and Z'ymira the Huntress are just screaming Slash This, AO3!

Strange New Worlds has become the highlight of my weekly watch list. Ten episodes just doesn't feel like enough when the Trek is this good.
posted by Molesome at 11:51 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


This was an amazing head-fake--something that promised a costume romp, and to no small extent was a costume romp, with some of the crew (especially Mount and Chong, who was utterly delightful playing completely against type) really hamming it up, but at the same time reaching deeper into some metatext, about the story and how it ends and how it can be changed by the storyteller, which makes the evoking of "The Visitor" and "Far Beyond the Stars", two of the best Trek episodes ever, completely justified. M'Benga thinks that he knows how Rukiyah's story ends... until he doesn't.

Do you suppose they meant for Pollux's costume to make him look like Sarek?

Or like Elnor, a bit.

And yeah, brace yourselves for the Z'ymiradya fic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:24 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


WHY IS THIS SHOW SO GOOD ALREADY
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:59 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


For me this was the first real dud. Lazy redressing of the main set, padded episode, not very many actual jokes.
posted by sixswitch at 4:31 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


I’m closer to sixswitch than the previous comments: not a stinker, but the most underwhelming so far by a considerable margin. Two high points: Mount playing the conniving coward (if this had been made 55 years ago there is just no way Shatner would have played that role) and Hemmer’s magic trick with transporting away the opposition. But in general: benevolent superpowered cosmic entities with the emotional development of a gradeschooler is something we have seen too many times in Trek with disappointing results; the Spielbergian notion of the innocent child ascending into glittery stardust didn’t do much for me either. I realize that bottle episodes exist to balance out the budget expenditures elsewhere, but lightly redecorating the sets for a community theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was sort of embarrassing.

Still and all, it is a rare show that seven episodes in a row are as solid as they have been so far with SNW, and pretty much unheard of in Star Trek.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:04 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


For me this was the first real dud. Lazy redressing of the main set, padded episode, not very many actual jokes.

Second in a row for me. Couldn't finish it. Dud indeed. Just like older Trek, there are some episode types I stay away from. This is definitely one of them.
posted by juiceCake at 5:30 PM on June 23


M'Benga's chemistry experiment pissed me off. Using a squeeze bulb glass pipette to add something from an erlenmeyer in which he dissolved something by eye that he had to grind up with a mortar and pestle ... and it blew up on him. WTF.

Not even a micropipette, a graduated cylinder, a weigh scale, or a mill. True, there's stuff in a wet bio lab that is energetic, but you'd have to be trying to get it to blow up.

Also, food colouring in glass vessels everywhere - unlabeled! I'm not even going to go into aseptic technique.

This is supposed to be an advanced biological therapy he's trying to develop. And he's using alchemy-era techniques.

No, I can't forgive this one. I'm having a really really hard time refraining from using harsh and uncouth language in this post. It isn't even wrong, nor is it "cute," it's downright insulting.

GAAAAAGGHHHH! <barf>

/McCoy
posted by porpoise at 6:04 PM on June 23 [16 favorites]


I enjoyed this. It has the fun of seeing everyone being appropriately OTT, underpinned by the serious story about M'Benga's daughter.

People on IMDB are being particularly shitty about Babs Olusanmokun's performance and that makes me mad. I think he was wonderful.

Also...M'Benga's first name is finally official! And it's not Geoffrey or Jabilo!
posted by rednikki at 6:07 PM on June 23


in the far future, they have run out of ventilated hoods

I will acknowledge that the episode had a handful of iffy bits, but overall I enjoyed it quite a lot. I dig the show's willingness to just get kind of campy with a "filler episode" (and usually the "filler episodes" are the most fun anyway). That being said, I was pretty surprised that they wrote out his daughter as an ongoing storyline this early on in the series — I'd have expected that to be a continuing concern at least into the next season, but maybe they wanted to take care of that just in case they didn't get a second season or something.

The costumes, though. Chef kiss. And Mount having the time of his life playing the sniveling cowardly advisor is just a delight.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:10 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


It says a lot about the show and their confidence that they can do a playing-against-type episode this early in the show and land it. Also I guess that's Christina Chong's actual dog she's carrying around while wearing the most sparkly dress that was ever sparkly? Adorable.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:00 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


I think its way too early for too many of these experimental episodes, the characters are still too raw.

I wonder if child protection services will ever question M'Benga about Rukiya's whereabouts.
posted by porpoise at 7:13 PM on June 23


By now, there has to be a "sublimated, possibly god-level" checkbox on Federation CPS forms.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:20 PM on June 23 [17 favorites]


In some ways it felt like they hadn't quite earned this sort of episode yet, but on the other hand there was enough here that worked that I still enjoyed it. More jokes would have been nice but, on the other hand, they pulled off the camp well. Overall I was impressed with how not-bad it was.

(And yes that's not what a Boltzmann brain is but who cares.)
posted by BungaDunga at 9:11 PM on June 23


I'm also in the weakest episode of the season camp. I enjoy these costume romps, but this one just didn't land for me. And as well as Anson Mount plays Pike, I found his work in this episode the least enjoyable of the cast.
posted by fairmettle at 9:12 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


rednikki People on IMDB are being particularly shitty about Babs Olusanmokun's performance

Yeah, ok, I temper my vitriol over the ep with that Olusanmokun gave a heroic effort. His IMDB bio doesn't mention theater, but it had that same kind of energy as Avery Brooks and Patrick Stewart. Cadence too, but that's scripted.

I'm not being faint with the praise.
posted by porpoise at 9:28 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Fantastic Episode!
posted by Faintdreams at 1:08 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


M'Benga's chemistry experiment pissed me off. Using a squeeze bulb glass pipette to add something from an erlenmeyer in which he dissolved something by eye that he had to grind up with a mortar and pestle ... and it blew up on him. WTF.

Also his use of a printed book, that, well possible, made me think in this day and age he'd be a vinyl collector.

But reading from physical books and using beakers to create some sort of cure are story telling conventions used without thinking of context. One of the worst (and therefore best) examples of this is from DS9 where Odo passes out having been hit in the head with a rock. This is Odo. He doesn't have a centralized nervous system with a brain in his head like humans. As a shape-shifter we were never given any indication that he also replicates the nervous system of what ever form he's taken (and when he takes the form of a panel he most certainly doesn't replicate the electronics).

It would be nice if they took on the challenges the future or different life forms take rather than just falling on conventions. Conventions are comfortable and useful but at times, as in this episode, are close to absurd.
posted by juiceCake at 4:20 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Ah, the ol' Love It Or Hate It episode! I am on Team Love It.

Babs Olasanmokun and Bruce Horak had some good chemistry, and I would enjoy seeing more interaction between M'Benga and Hemmer.. Heck, I was just glad to have Hemmer even be in the episode. Anson Mount continues to be perfect, and it was nice to not have so much of the focus on Spock so that Ethan Peck could relax and have fun.

It was surprising that they moved so quickly to seemingly wrap up the Rukiya storyline. I felt sure it would roll over into Season Two and force a much more dramatic set of events. I'm actually a bit disappointed about that. At least the "swept up by a cosmic entity" part was on-brand for Trek.

Even playing against type as she did this week, I just do not like Christina Chong in this show. Maybe she will get eaten by a Gorn and we can get someone else.
posted by briank at 5:00 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Since we've called this the costume episode, I might as well chime in to say that I thought Uhura got short-changed in terms of costume quality. Her dress (aside from the shoulder accents) just looked so cheap and stiff and poorly made compared with some of the other outfits. Pike's by contrast looked much richer and better constructed. (It seemed his hair was heading skyward again before the transformation, but I wonder if the hair stylists didn't exaggerate it this time to contrast with his costumed look.) I couldn't decide if I loved M'Benga's crown or felt there was something a bit off with it (I think I settled on both--I liked the overall structure and design, but wasn't keen on that front pointed "jewel" treatment and decided that there was something off about the bottom band when seen in close-up shots.) That rainbow princess dress (and matching dog outfit) was certainly something.

I really didn't think they'd handle the Rukiya storyline this way or this soon. I thought she was going to turn into the new Jake or new Wesley, but thinking about it now, I guess it makes sense: NCC-1701-D was supposed to be the first Enterprise that brought families along into space with the crew, and technically Rukiya shouldn't have been on the ship, so it's logical (from a canon storytelling perspective) to send her away, and send her away both quickly and in a well-worn Star Trek trope, to keep the doctor focused on his mission and to keep him from getting in trouble with the chain of command. It might also give him more room for flexibility with his story line if every episode isn't him desperately searching for a cure.

Like porpoise, I really, really, really hated M'Benga's chemistry bench experiment. At the very least, he should have been compounding his ingredients under some sort of hood or venting system. I also kept thinking that a more sterile environment would likely be better but then I'm not a chemist. It just felt very off-brand for the franchise, which from the start has been all about the wonders of modern science (and where crew members only end up resorting to older, more primitive methods when they're in situations where they can't access all their new, shiny tech).

Ortegas' sword handling looked really awkward and laboured to me. It kept catching my eye, and not in a good way.

Can somebody explain to me why Star Trek suddenly has a fascination with fireflies? They seem to be all over the place.
posted by sardonyx at 6:27 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I liked it! I can see where it might not work for you, but this is coming out of a young human's imagination so when it feels silly and amateurish .. it's OK! I don't mind the resolution, but again I get why it might not work for everyone. Honestly, I'm happy to not see the plot line dragged out forever.

How many more episodes do we have?
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:03 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Looks like we get two more this season.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:38 AM on June 24


There's sadly only two episodes left this season, and I am not ready for this ride to be over. This is the most fun I've had with a TV series in years. Like, this was probably my least favorite episode of the season because the pacing felt a bit off, but that didn't mean I didn't like it: I loved the set dressing, the costumes, the acting and the overarching story. Star Trek casts have always had big let's-put-on-a-show energy; you may not always like the results but you can't claim it's not part of the series' DNA.

If I have one nitpick, and it's the same as last episode, it's that there aren't nearly as many crew members on this ship as there probably should be.

I've said in a few past threads, here and on the blue, that I would love to see what Peter Watts would do with the Star Trek universe. Watching an episode like this, that is fundamentally hopeful about the possibilities of consciousness in the universe, I'm reminded that there should be room for optimism and wonder in our science fiction, too. I'm really liking that this show manages to show risk without either becoming grimdark or always killing off a redshirt before the second commercial break.
posted by thecaddy at 11:03 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Speaking of the sparkly dress, a slow-motion spin of it is available if you need costuming details.

More about Melissa Navia training for ages when she heard she might have to do some sword fighting. Also I need the authors to listen to her ideas on where to take the show next!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:46 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


GAAAAAGGHHHH!

/McCoy


That’s weird — I don’t recall McCoy ever mentioning Klingon cuisine.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:16 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


I am fully down for Navia's proposed mobster musical. They've already got the book...
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:45 AM on June 25


Ortegas' sword handling looked really awkward and laboured to me. It kept catching my eye, and not in a good way.

She was basically handed a broadsword and then choreographed/directed to use it like a rapier. Not her fault; that type of sword's too heavy for that style of fighting. I don't think she did anything wrong, it's either just A.) a miscommunication between the props department and the stunt/fight choreography crew or B.) you can explain it away using the antecedent of that pronoun's explanation (which I love, and agree with completely!), that it's because this is created from a child's understanding of how swords work, based entirely on seeing pictures of swords in books and swordfighting in old movies.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:08 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I don't think DS9 ever clearly suggested whether or not Benny Russell actually existed in the Trek timeline,

I thought DS9 never made it clear whether all of ST was in Benny Russell's head or otherwise.
posted by biffa at 3:20 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


The kid who plays Rukiya is good but they never address why she speaks uninflected American while her father has a thick Nigerian accent. (Is that Babs Olusanmokun's natural voice?)
posted by zadcat at 5:49 PM on June 25


Children get their accent from peers, not parents. Joseph and Debra raised their child somewhere that Rukiya's age cohort spoke Federation Standard in that way.
posted by channaher at 6:22 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


Is that Babs Olusanmokun's natural voice?

Looks like neither Olusanmokun nor Jess Bush to go by this interview are acting in their usual accents. He was born in Lagos, though, so perhaps he is using his parents’ accent or something as a model (I don’t know where he grew up).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:45 PM on June 25


I don’t know where he grew up

He has said that they moved around, and he grew up in London and Brazil, and went to an American high school in Brazil. His own accent is a bit of nowhere in particular.
posted by briank at 8:06 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Well, I haven’t seen him in much. He played an American in Black Mirror, a South African iirc in The Defenders and, I guess, a Fremen in aDune. Don’t recall seeing him in much else.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:24 PM on June 25


While this might be my least favourite episode of the show so far, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I think they relied too heavily on the fun of the ridiculous situation, without giving us any real stakes until later in the episode. It's fun to see these actors ham it up but I still don't know a lot of these characters that well. 8 episodes into a 10 episode first season is maybe not the time to do a "characters in costume" romp - but I do amire this show for trying all the different flavours of Trek.

The end of M'Benga's daughter's story was lovely, though. And it really shows the strength of doing episodic stories with some character threads strung along in the background. This wouldn't have worked as well if we hadn't had the set up of the daughter and the story in earlier episodes, but the episode itself still feels self-contained enough.

Still no real turkeys in the first 8 episodes, though.
posted by crossoverman at 4:08 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


This is definitely not my favourite flavour of Trek, but I liked it anyway. Dr M'Benga got to be the focus of an episode, the actors clearly had a lot of fun chewing the scenery, the costumes were nice to look at, and I will never get tired of the trope of an exasperated straight man archetype (or two of them!) trying to fix everything while everyone else is hopped up on alien pollen.

I was also surprised by how early the Rukiya storyline was resolved. I was going to say that it would have felt less odd in an episode towards the end of the season -- but then I realised that this is an episode towards the end of the season!
posted by confluency at 10:40 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


> It says a lot about the show and their confidence that they can do a playing-against-type episode this early in the show and land it.

Next Generation did "The Naked Now" as its second outing following the two-part launch episode! Compared to that, this was a safe choice.

I think the storyline it most reminded me of was the DS9 episode with Rumpelstiltskin manifesting in response to a story Miles O'Brien was reading to his daughter.
posted by zadcat at 11:40 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


So the whole abruptly concluded Rukiya situation reminds me: the most famous example hitherto in Trek of using the pattern buffer as suspended animation is Montgomery Scott, who would do so about forty years later.

Canonically Scott and M’Benga served together, so this may have been where he got the idea. Is this a deep continuity cut or am I angling for a No-Prize here?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:20 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Team hate it, sorry. I appreciate this type of episode has a long history for Star Trek. Those are all the episodes I choose to forget.

A couple of the players got stabbed to death or arrowed to death. Who were they? It seems important that they died.
posted by Nelson at 9:38 PM on June 27


More about Melissa Navia training for ages when she heard she might have to do some sword fighting.

So really, what is it about Enterprise helm officers and running around with swords?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:31 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


A couple of the players got stabbed to death or arrowed to death.

Ooops, I was wrong. I watched the scene again (the hallway fight, about 30 minutes into the show). The 5 mooks are all incapacitated in non-lethal ways. Ortegas defeats a couple with some punches and kicks and then Number One takes out three with arrow shots to the shoulders of their sword arms. A few of the security ensigns might have some odd holes in their arms.
posted by Nelson at 7:57 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


what is it about Enterprise helm officers and running around with swords?

I don't have an explanation for it, but it's certainly no basis for a system of government.
posted by The Tensor at 9:24 AM on June 28


So really, what is it about Enterprise helm officers and running around with swords?

Or just officers in general.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:39 AM on June 28


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