Most of the episode is an excuse for the LARPing, but eventually, the real plot kicks in, and what prompts it is my favorite thing in the episode. What makes M’Benga realize that this isn’t just a re-creation of The Elysian Kingdom is when Zymera and Sir Adya hug, and make it clear that they’ve been lovers. In the book, Zymera and Adya have never even met. But Rukiya thinks they should be friends and lovers, and yes, the whole thing is Rukiya’s fanfic that she wrote in her head, and I adore the heck out of that.
But the real thing [writer John] Shiban brings to the table is an understanding of how commercial television works. For what seems like the first time in twenty-nine episodes, we have a script that ends acts on a gripping, cliffhangery note, starting with the teaser. Where most episodes limp toward Russell Watson crooning the theme song, this episode has an actual exciting teaser that makes you want to suffer through “Where My Heart Will Take Me” to find out what happens next, a vanishingly rare occurrence on this show.
One of the things I’m really loving about SNW so far is that they keep trolling us with regards to Spock and T’Pring. Thanks to the original series’ “Amok Time,” we know that some time in the future, Spock and T’Pring will not be anything like a regular couple. Their bond will still exist in some form, as Spock will be compelled by the pon farr to fulfill it, but T’Pring will, by the time Spock succumbs to the pon farr, have moved on to Stonn, having grown weary of being affianced to a legend. She will manipulate Spock and Kirk to get out of her marriage.
Every single time we’ve seen T’Pring on SNW, it’s been set up to appear to be where T’Pring gets fed up and walks away. We saw it writ small in “Strange New Worlds” when Spock interrupts their nookie-nookie to go rescue Number One. Both “Spock Amok” and this episode set up situations that seem tailor-made to sunder their relationship—
—and both times, it just deepens the relationship. This is, frankly, delightful, and I love how the show is messing with our expectations.
Nothing earth-shattering, and it’s Yet Another Alien On Earth Before Official First Contact (latest in a series! collect ‘em all!), but Boehmer and Jolene Blalock do good work together. The former’s curiosity is very well-played—not inappropriately emotional, but simply logical by his own lights—and the latter does a fine job of showing T’Mir undergoing the same journey in an hour that T’Pol has been going on over the last year. Ann Cusack is fun as Maggie, and I especially like Hank Harris’ low-key Jack. Usually when you have someone that thirsty for knowledge portrayed onscreen, they’re overly enthusiastic and nerdy, but Jack is calmer about it, which makes it more likely that T’Mir would come to like him more than most of the other yucky humans.
Alora is played by Lindy Booth—among other things, Rebecca Romijn’s co-star on The Librarians—and she fulfills the cardinal rule of one-episode romance-with-a-guest-star episodes. Episodes like this live or die on whether or not the guest actor has chemistry with the person they’re paired up with. In the transporter room when the pair are reunited, you could put a match between the pair of them as they’re facing each other and it would light on its own from the sparks the pair generate.
The casting helps, as Booth is never not delightful, and Mount has the ability to have chemistry with pretty much anyone he’s in a scene with.
The episode opens with a dream sequence where Spock finds himself in the wedding arena that we first saw in “Amok Time,” preparing to wed T’Pring, but what seems like a rehash of “Amok Time” instead turns into a rehash of Superman III, as Spock suddenly becomes human, and T’Pring invokes kal-if-fee. She chooses the Vulcan Spock as her champion, and so human Spock fights Vulcan Spock with lirpas. First of all, they do an amazing job re-creating the set from 1967, and then, bless her pointy little head, Nami Melumad also re-created the iconic fight music from the episode for the score, and it is glorious. (Da-da da da da da da da-da DA DA!)
While this is pretty much La’an’s episode in the same way that the previous episodes have been Pike’s, Uhura’s, and Number One’s, the real star of this one is Anson Mount. Throughout this entire crisis, Pike is constantly thinking, constantly trying to figure out a way to turn their disadvantages into advantages. There are echoes of the best of previous Trek captains here: a willingness to do something batshit crazy to get the job done (Kirk, Archer, Burnham, Dal), always thinking three steps ahead (Picard, Saru), and an easy and almost effortless confidence in his crew (Sisko, Janeway, Freeman).
Half-hearted attempts are made to show humans stumbling toward a Federation, but there’s little coherency, many inexplicable decisions, and a consistent portrayal of humans as racist, impatient, and stupid even as the scripts insist they’re being bold and daring. And the Vulcans, whom the scripts insists are a bunch of big meanies, are actually acting like grownups.
I was on Pint O’ Comics on WESU FM in Connecticut last night talking about Star Trek — mostly about Strange New Worlds, but really about Trek as a whole — and it was a wonderful conversation. Don’t worry if you missed it, ’cause it’s been archived!
Medical thriller. My second collaboration with Dr. Munish K. Batra is in the midst of revisions requested by our agent. I’m hoping to have those revisions done in the next week or so said agent — who absolutely loves the book, but says it’s too short to be saleable, which has been an issue throughout my career — can start shopping the book around.
Space opera novella series. I’ve completed the first four of these novellas. Not ready to announce what it is yet in any detail. The current plan has Books 5 and 6 done by mid-June.
Precinct series.Phoenix Precinct now has an actual deadline from my publisher: 1 October! So I damn well will write it by then….
Cassie Zukav. I still have to write “Stop Dragon My Heart Around,” which will be the final story to go into Ragnarok and a Hard Place: More Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet. It’ll be the only wholly original story in the collection, which will otherwise include all the stories that were published in magazines and/or anthologies and/or collections since 2013, as well as all the Cassie vignettes I posted to Patreon.
Bram Gold. I’m still halfway through Feat of Clay. Sigh. Hoping to get this done before summer is over. Blorfle. Meantime, I’m also scheduled to write another Systema Paradoxa novella in this universe.
The Four ???? of the Apocalypse. One of the two stories we were waiting for has been turned in. Hoping to finally make progress on this…..
Various bits of short fiction for anthologies. Waiting for the go-ahead on one tie-in anthology that I’m really looking forward to. The stories for Zorro’s Exploits and Three Time Travelers Walk Into… are done and awaiting, respectively, proofreading and publication. My stories for the upcoming Tales of Grignr and Ludlow Charingtons charity anthologies are both turned in. I have forthcoming stories to write for Phenomenons: Season of Darkness (which is crowdfunding right now!) and Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2022. And finally, I’m co-editing and writing a story for a tie-in anthology that’s going to be incredibly cool. It’s being shopped around to publishers right now.
Nonfiction. I’m still doing the weekly Enterprise Rewatch for Tor.com, as well as reviews of each new episode of Trek (currently Strange New Worlds) as they air also. On top of that, I’ll be reviving “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” in June and July with eight new movies (well, five new movies and three older ones), and I’ll be reviewing The Umbrella Academy season three when it drops near the end of June. I’ll also be doing a piece for Outside In Regenerates on “The Curse of the Fatal Death.”
Star Trek Adventures. Still waiting for the final approval on Incident at Kraav III. Meantime, I have ten mission briefs to write for this…
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness–The Beginning. I’ve done all my script work for this, and I think it’s all been approved. At the very least issue #1 is approved. I’ve seen some of the artwork for #1 and it looks fantastic. The series should start being published this summer.
There’s other stuff, too, but it’s all back-burnered while I get the above stuff done. Wheeeee!