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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - "Among The Lotus Eaters" + "Charades" - Double Review

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2.04 “Among The Lotus Eaters

Among the Lotus Eaters takes us to a planet that wipes your memory the longer you stay on it – thanks to the result of an asteroid that gets in the way; in a very matter of fact callback to the tones of the case of the week episodes of the original series. Pike takes Dr. M’Benga and La’an with him to find out what happened to the planet that claimed the lives of prior Starfleet officers; but the situation turns into a difficult one when their memories go and they’re captured by an officer who’s gone rogue: a ghost from Pike’s past that he thought was dead and abandoned; mourned whilst he became a ruler on the world.

It's very much a character study of the episode and I like the way that Strange New Worlds structures its almost anthology narrative; taking time to spend with the characters depending on the need for the episodes. This one puts the relationship between Pike and Captain Batel under the spotlight, and again, its always a joy to watch Anson Mount and Melanie Scrofano share the same screen together, both rivalling each other’s brilliance: but their relationship has hit a bit of a rocky patch and Pike must learn not to turn someone away – so he goes to a planet where he forgets who Captain Babel is and clinging onto her memories and her ideals whilst down there means that he can bring her back. It’s a basic character drama moment but it gives Pike and Babel room to see their relationship and asks a basic question: can workaholics find love? Pike’s so focused on his crew – to the point that’s the only reason why he has the dedication to succeed in Among The Lotus Eaters, when he forgets who he is.

Meanwhile getting some big kickass moments for Ortegas was great to see. The Enterprise in full shut down mode; she realised – the best place for her was to be at the captain of the ship; and seeing Spock undo all of his good development strides that he’s made as a character and work back to a Vulcan with no memory was fascinating; the ultimate chaos for such an organised species. Ortegas taking command of the Enterprise – putting together the pieces that she was a pilot; meant that the Enterprise had an easier time of things than those back on the surface of the planet and that was to be expected. Pike, M’Benga and La’an – especially La’an – went through hell.

La’an – after the time-travelling escapade last episode, almost found herself on the brink of death. It’s a moment that again propelled us to remind Pike that he’s there to help his crew, it’s what he does – the well shot moment in the temple was a visual callback to There Will Be Blood almost; with Daniel Day-Lewis and the Pike role, there were a lot of similarities with the visual cues. If not the tone of the scene: but the revelation of Pike regaining his memories worked wonders. The whole episode ultimately did what Strange New Worlds does best: capture the thrill of the early monster of the week epsiodes; with the style and bravado that it needed to.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2.05 “Charades” – Review

After the memory-forgetting episode of the previous hour it was time we got a Spock centric one and this one literally; was a Vulcan-forgetting episode. The case-by-case standalone episodes allow each of the characters who may not have showed up in the last episode time to shine here and instead we switch focus to Spock and Christine Chapel, played by Jess Bush, who have developed an intimate connection much to the confusion of the crew ahead of Spock’s planned ceremonial dinner with T'Pring and her hardline Vulcan family. It’s a classic soap opera plot made more complex when meeting advance beings, Spock finds himself rendered human – and we get to see the Vulcan adapt to life as a human with all the quirks of adolescence and dealing with emotions and a sensory overload for the first time.

Ethan Peck has been perfectly cast to play the young Spock and he does a great job at bringing the character to life. The dynamics with the rest of the crew have always been from the outside looking in – Spock not getting the increasingly drunk Una, La’an, Uhuru and Ortegas talking about their shared in-jokes until he’s turned and then having to act human by them teaching him compassion and friendship. But the stakes are higher: now he has to lie to T’Pring’s family and convince them that he’s more of a Vulcan than a human.

The relationship between Chapel and Spock (I loved M’Benga’s look of confusion when he sees Chapel shoot a glance Spock’s way in the lift) developed a bit suddenly and as a result of Chapel seeing Spock to help her prep for her own interview about leaving Enterprise for the prospect of her career. But as has happened with La’an, a bit under different circumstances, we soon find that the best place for her is on the ship: the increased emotional connection that the two shared echoed the rediscovery of Pike and Babel’s relationship in the previous week, when people spend this long in closed quarters with each other relationships are only bound to form.

The corporal entity and their advancement in knowledge was a fun development that led to a misunderstanding similar to what Spock would have misunderstood – it was a nice touch to have the alien not openly be the villain; just a case of misunderstanding the attitudes of the then-present and being a little blunt in doing so. If this were Doctor Who or Buffy we would’ve had a tease at a season-long big bad buy now; but Strange New Worlds’ commitment to the episodic structure is a lifesaver in this current age of television – it’s the ultimate comfort show right now.

I don’t think T’Pring deserved Spock pulling the whole “I couldn’t trust you because you’re a Vulcan and you won’t lie” bullshit but it was worth it for the whole reveal that he’d tricked her parents; who bring the in-law attitude to the table that everyone who’s experienced dealing with in-laws will relate to, Vulcan or no. I’m just glad that Spock got to experience the smell and taste of bacon for the first time.

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