‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Is Better Without the Gimmicks
‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Is Better Without the Gimmicks

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds just released two big, hyped-up episodes: “Those Old Scientists,” which is a crossover episode between Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Lower Decks, and “Subspace Rhapsody,” which is a musical.

Sandwiched between them, though, is one of the best episodes of the season. “Under the Cloak of War,” in which a Klingon defector named Dak’Rah (played by Robert Wisdom!) visits the Enterprise, explores the deep trauma of war as Christine, Joseph, and Erica are all forced to relive the atrocities they witnessed during the Klingon War. It’s not a perfect episode, but it’s still a gripping and viscerally upsetting story, not to mention a beautiful way of building on the backstory that was established in the season 2 premiere. The episode is filled with amazing details, from the maddening echo of an “incoming transport” warning to Joseph calmly deleting a wounded soldier’s pattern from the transporter so that more casualties can beam in.

Here’s a sentiment that will definitely make me the most fun person on the internet: compared to the heights that Strange New Worlds can reach in episodes like “Under the Cloak of War,” I’m just not into super gimmicky episodes like “Those Old Scientists” or “Subspace Rhapsody.”

Don’t get me wrong—I went into each episode really excited. One of my favorite things about Strange New Worlds is that it isn’t afraid to be as weird and silly as the older Star Trek series. But in the end, I was disappointed by the amount of fan service in “Those Old Scientists,” with Mariner and Boimler spending inordinate amounts of time geeking out over meeting their heroes. There are some great moments like Spock and Boimler’s experiment going awry and Una finding out she literally becomes the poster child for Starfleet. But overall, the episode fell flat for me.

I had the same experience with “Subspace Rhapsody.” Aside from Nyota’s song, which is an absolute banger and made me love her even more than I already did, the episode felt like an endurance contest. Was this episode as painful as the Robin Hood episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Not quite, but it was close.

I’ll admit, there’s often a very hazy line between a gimmick and a normal Star Trek plot. If a musical is a gimmick, then why not body-swapping, time travel, or memory erasure? How can I be sitting here hating on the musical episode when I ate up the fairytale episode?

Anyway, if you loved those two episodes, then I support you 100 percent. And I’m glad you’re getting a Star Trek experience you’re happy with! Meanwhile, I hope that Strange New Worlds will return to the storytelling that I love: Spock punching someone out while trapped in T’Pring’s body. Now that’s peak TV.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the work being covered here wouldn’t exist.

(featured image: Paramount+)

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Julia Glassman

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