“Despite the lack of Captain Pike and Una Chin-Riley, This opening episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a terrific start to the second season.”
It is finally here. The second season of the brilliant Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has warped onto Paramount+. And not a moment too soon. For those of us suffering from withdrawal symptoms after the superb climax to the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard, this is what the doctor ordered. An exciting and welcome return for the crew of the U.S.S Enterprise. What will be surprising is that this opening episode suffers from a distinct lack of Anson Mount’s Captain Christopher Pike as well as Rebecca Romijn’s Una Chin-Riley for reasons that become quickly apparent.
But even without the pair to lead the cast and the episode, it seems funny to learn that it benefits from their absence. It allows some of the other cast members to become front and center, to get their moment in the spotlight. None more so than Jess Bush as Nurse Christine Chapel, and Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. Joseph M’Benga. Between them, this first episode of the new season is theirs without a doubt. It also benefits from a storyline that fans can understand and enjoy. Additionally, Ethan Pike as Spock, Melissa Navia as Erica Ortegas, and Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura manages to get in on the fun.
EPISODE S2:01: THE BROKEN CIRCLE
A distress call from Lt Noonien-Singh compels Spock to disobey orders and take the USS Enterprise and its crew into disputed space, risking renewed hostilities with the Klingons in a bid to aid their shipmate.
Where can I start? We first discover that Captain Pike is off on a mysterious journey to the far side of the galaxy, leaving Mr. Spock in charge of the Enterprise. Although we do miss Anson Mount, to begin with, Ethan Peck more than makes up for it. His incarnation of Spock is one that we feel comfortable with. Instead of following in the footsteps of the late Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto’s movie version, Peck has forged his version of the character. And doing so has made him into someone that we can’t take our eyes off of when he’s on screen. He has put a unique spin on a character that has been in our subconscious for close to sixty years.
Melissa Navia as Ortegas is an addition that keeps on giving. Her role as the helmsman of the ship has become a role that we can’t do without. In this opening episode, Ortegas gets to show her stuff in a brilliantly thrilling and tense scene. I shan’t spoil it for you but I can say it does feature some pretty fancy flying. The only problem I have with the character is simple..she isn’t in it ENOUGH! Melissa Navia does get her share of moments later on in the season but here, she doesn’t get nearly enough to do. but once she appears, strap yourselves in, it may not be a smooth flight but it’s an exciting one nonetheless.
CELIA ROSE GOODING & CHRISTINA CHONG
Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura is wonderful. This isn’t the Uhura we’ve seen over the years, this is a younger, more innocent version of the Communications Officer. And Celia Rose Gooding plays her perfectly, all wide-eyed charm, and youthful fascination. Again, sadly she isn’t given that much to do here but rest assured, she will come into her own as we progress through the season.
Christina Chong on the other hand, is a badass! You thought you saw all she had to offer in season one? Think again. In this episode, La’an gets to show her comedic side as well as her aggressive, no-nonsense taking stance. And it all adds up to an inspired and winning performance from Christina Chong. One moment, she’s your friend, the next laughing and joking with you before turning once again and kicking some serious alien butt. You’ll laugh along with her, and you’ll cheer her on.
JESS BUSH & BABS OLUSANMOKUN
But without a doubt, the episode belongs to Jess Bush and Babs Olusanmokun. The pairing of these two actors is perfection. Christine Chapel can approach Dr. M’Benga and discuss everything and anything with him. And he, in turn, gives her advice like a father would to a daughter. And both are in fine form here. Christine can’t get over her feelings for Spock, as they are as conflicted as he is with how she feels. M’Benga can sense the tension between the two of them and offers both some sound advice. It is the relationship between the pair that holds some serious emotional weight here, something that anchors the episode in safe territory.
But the highlight comes later in the episode when the truth of everything is finally revealed. Suddenly, we see a transformation of both characters. Again, no spoilers, but when I say that ass-kicking action has never been so satisfying, I mean it. Both Jess Bush and Babs Olusanmokun must have trained for hours to perfect what they show the audience in the later part of the episode. Once you’ve seen what these two are capable of, you’ll never look at them in the same way again. Ever. The pair’s chemistry on screen is what holds the episode together, like superglue, it binds it and holds it tight. And we find ourselves hooked.
WRITING AND DIRECTION
The episode is written by Henry Alonso Myers and Akiva Goldsman. Both have created an interesting and highly enjoyable first episode of the season. It doesn’t feel they had too much trouble sidelining Pike and Chin-Riley to focus on the other characters. And this is to their credit. Not once do we feel shortchanged by their absence from the episode. We feel that they went in the right direction, not rushing to clear up last season’s cliffhanger but letting it percolate a little longer while telling us another story that holds us firmly in its grip, never letting our attention waver for a split second.
The episode is directed by Chris Fisher. And he has done a grand job of it too. His attention to detail is extraordinary, and the direction of his principal cast and the group of extras that make up certain scenes is sublime. Fisher knows when to cut away and when to shift the narrative, even if it is ever so slight at times. And the way he handles the more dramatic and action-filled moments fits the episode and the narrative brilliantly. He knows when to ramp up the tension, and when to let it ease off before hitting us full in the face with some superb fight scenes.
Despite the lack of Captain Pike and Una Chin-Riley, This opening episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a terrific start to the second season. By focussing on other characters instead of the lead ones pays off in full. This is how Star Trek needs and deserves to be. While we got the feeling in season one that the crew would and could make up a dysfunctional at times space family, here we see that they’re already there. Multiple races, genders, and feelings mix together with such ease and without prejudice that it gives us warm feelings inside.
Of course, the ‘Dad’ will be back in the center seat next week to keep an eye over his ‘brood’. But for this opening episode, we think we can allow him to have a lie-in while the kids go out to play. As ever, Star Trek produces something topical, something that speaks to all of us and gives us a whale of a time seeing how it all plays out. Plot threads are wound out that MAY be tied up by the end of the season. But it is going to be interesting to see exactly where they lead. This opening episode boldly goes and doesn’t want to stop. Nor that we want it too, anytime soon.
New episodes of Strange New Worlds premiere weekly on Thursdays only on Paramount+ in the US and UK. Make sure to visit us frequently as we will keep you updated on all the latest stories as they develop. With Future of the Force, you can stay informed and won’t miss a thing.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!