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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - "Lost in Translation" + "These Old Scientists" - Double Review

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2x06 “Lost in Translation” – Review:

Lost in Translation explores aliens in a way that pushes the boundaries of what we know to be alien. Far too often science fiction shows, Trek included, will have these “aliens”, be vaguely humanoid – but this allowed us to draw some inspiration from Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival for a mind-bending science fiction spectacular of an hour centered around Uhura, who seems to be the only one experiencing hallucinations and hearing strange sounds as Starfleet, led by Captain Pike – now a Fleet Commander, as much as he tries to play it down, advance their mining fleet capabilities.

Celia Rose Gooding puts in a tremendous performance as Uhura and has done the entire series; able to give depth to the crisis the character is going through: a communications officer who can’t communicate gets the point of this episode across; and into the void steps Kirk, this reality’s Kirk, who doesn’t have that connection with La’an, and is instead getting into scraps with his brother Sam, in true Kirk fashion, with the weighty reputation of their father weighing down on them: James is the idealist, Sam is happier in his station but could do without James making things worse for him by succeeding in his father’s image. It’s interesting to watch Strange New Worlds almost make this episode act as a way to introduce the main timeline’s version of Kirk, which is why it’s almost a shame that La’an and Kirk never got that chat (but then, what would they talk about, given La’an can’t tell him what they’ve been through?) – but almost more impressively; Strange New Worlds had the restraint to avoid making Kirk meet Spock for the first time the big set-piece of the episode; but keep it refreshingly low-key, to a chess game. It’s a touch different from the bravado of the Abrams blockbuster flair, and Strange New Worlds feels like the anti-2009 reboot in many ways, which whilst I like it – is needed for Trek at this point. The youthful energy, the leadership drive and the ego is there – and the care that Wesley puts into his performance really makes it for me. It’s cheese – but it’s the kind of cheese this series thrives on.

Listening to others and empathy is the key message of Lost in Translation, with Pike willing to take the blame for Uhura’s actions should anything go wrong. Giving the show a canon-compliant way to have Kirk and Pike meet when Pike was a fleet commander was by far the littlest of touches but it went a long way; and Kirk being used to serve Uhura’s story was a fantastic needed depth here. Using this as an epilogue almost to explore Hemmer’s death showcases much to the strength Uhura has come as a character; but we see that reflected in the B-plot, much of the episode revolves around Una and Peila clashing over their differences: Una can’t understand why Peila, someone hundreds of years old, has never advanced beyond where she was – and Peila is content with life and who she is as a person. It’s a dynamic that gets the both out of both characters, and supplements the a-story of the aliens only being understood by being listened to very nicely indeed – and fits in with the image of these early versions of the characters that the show likes to remind us that these are very-early versions of the characters so well.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2x07 “Those Old Scientists” – Review:

We’ve been wondering for a while whether Trek can do a crossover with such shows given the fact that now; all 4 series – Discovery, Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds and the recently-finished Picard – take place in different timelines – it would take some time-travel nonsense to establish Boimler and Mariner, back in the past – from a timeline where every crewmember on the bridge of the Enterprise is the stuff of legends; giving them the same reception that likely, any fan would’ve had from real-life had they ended up on the Enterprise the following morning. It’s a brutal awakening for Boimler, who’s wonderfully played by Jack Quaid who isn’t prepared for any of this time-travel nonsense at all. Thankfully, time travel is where Trek excels at – we saw earlier in the season how good the results could be, and Those Old Scientists revels in that. We can jump over the hows and the whys of time-travel and get straight into everything, with the crew wasting no time on reactivating the portal to send Boimler back. Unfortunately, he’s joined by the hyperactive Mariner – making life on the Enterprise so much more harder for everyone involved. The change of pace to open with a Lower Decks intro may confuse those who aren’t fans of the show – but then again; if you’re not, you’re missing out on some golden Trek.

Newsome matches the same energy of chaos that her cartoon counterpoint had and both her and Quaid showcase how good voice-acting work needs to be for their characters and how much it’s a testament to their brilliance that it fits in seamlessly here. We see more comments raised about how this Spock is careering off-course from his canon persona in the relationship with Nurse Chapel; which is worrying Boimler, who thinks it’s something he’s done. We see the knock-on effects of the Strange New Worlds characters’ actions in the future though that please them: “Ad Astra Per Aspera” is mentioned; brought back to show Una’s impact in the trial; a feat that she’s impressed with. Pike’s birthday is a National Holiday; and he’s surprised to learn that Boimler dressed as him for Halloween. As weird as it is for Boimler and Mariner to meet their heroes – it’s weirder for the crew of the Enterprise to learn that their actions will echo throughout history. Boimler and Mariner come from a point in space history similar to where we are now on Earth: everything is discovered, there’s no more age of exploration waiting for them – whilst the crew of the Enterprise are blindly stumbling in the dark. The events of the original series; let alone Voyager or The Next Generation, haven’t happened yet – and there’s ramifications to be felt everywhere. Boimler may have also queued up the Chapel/Spock break-up before it can even become a relationship; such a crucial point of the season so far it’s almost flying under the radar. Seeing Spock smiling is a feature that I love puts Boimler on the track to something being wrong from the off – and whilst Jess Bush’s Chapel is one of the most underutilised members of the crew; her material this week was fantastic as usual. This is the most devastating revelation of the future – that there is no future where Chapel and Spock can exist in together.

Those who aren’t fans of Lower Decks may be alienated by this episode but then again; this is the boldness of Lower Decks that means we can breach this subject with an open-mind – animation is no lesser artform, and should be embraced – and I love that Trek has had the courage to go there; the nice touch about the aliens being pirates and actually scientists really wanting acknowledgement for their discovery set them on a course to join the federation showed that communication again; is key – and Strange New Worlds bringing the best out of these characters is a fantastic decision.


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