“With great acting, enough surprises, and a great payoff, episode 2 is one of the best courtroom dramas in Star Trek TV history.”
This week’s episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds takes a more relaxed pace than last week’s opener. In doing so, it gives the narrative space to unfold and develop. This episode resolves the cliffhanger from the previous season. And the cast members get to showcase their impressive acting skills while also having some lighthearted moments. The episode features a courtroom drama, a genre that Star Trek is known for executing exceptionally well. The audience is kept engaged throughout the episode by the presentation of facts, making it consistently entertaining.
AD ASTRA PER ASPERA
Commander Una Chin-Riley faces court-martial along with possible imprisonment and dishonourable dismissal from Starfleet. And her defence is in the hands of a lawyer who’s also a childhood friend with whom she had a terrible falling out.
The story of the episode once again proves that Star Trek and its writers have their finger on the pulse. The same was said about The Original Series back in the 1960s. And it is great to report the tradition continues here. Topics that we face in our everyday lives are brought into play here. Rather than ram them down our throats, they are used as a basis on which the episode can proudly stand. Topics such as persecution and racial hatred rear their heads. As does the falling out between two old friends, based on their ideals and feelings.
It also brings into play the question of friendship and loyalty. At times, the viewer may be taken aback by what some of the characters reveal their truthful, innermost thoughts and feelings to be. Of course, with the exception of Spock, who cannot lie. And here lies some of the humour that keeps the episode bouncing. But it all boils down to a simple question by the climax. What would YOU do when faced with attitudes and persecution of your ideals and self?
ANSON MOUNT & ETHAN PECK
The pairing of Anson Mount as Captain Pike and Ethan Peck as Spock continues to bring joy and satisfaction to the audience. Pike’s disappearance at the start of last week’s episode is finally cleared up. We see where he went and why. And that endears Pike to us even more. Knowing he would go to this extent for a crew member and friend. Mount looks every inch the reliable Captain we know him to be. We know the character’s eventual fate. But the more we see of him, the more we hope that history can be changed. And that is all down to the great writing and performance of Anson Mount to make us feel this way.
Ethan Peck is fast becoming my favourite cast member as Spock. Once again, he displays a great sense of comedic timing as the character as well as the more dramatic and annoying traits of Spock. Here, he is both hilarious and frustrating at the vital moments when he needs to be. And we also get to see Spock display his version of personal hatred of another Vulcan. It is sheer brilliance, boosted by a deadpan acting performance from Peck, one that will have fans laughing at how he plays it so straight-faced.
CELIA ROSE GOODING, JESS BUSH, CHRISTINA CHONG, MELISSA NAVIA, AND BABS OLUSANMOKUN
The characters of La’an, Chapel, Uhura, Ortegas, and M’Benga make an appearance again this week but their screentime and their importance are fleeting rather than vital. Three of the characters will make an appearance during Una’s court martial, delivering their truthful answers and testimony for their accused friend. For the main part, however, they are restricted to brief appearances that, though important, are in reality cameos that fit the narrative.
REBECCA ROMIJN AND YETIDE BADAKI
But without a doubt, the episode belongs to Rebecca Romijn as Una Chin-Riley and the guest starring Yetide Badaki as her former friend and lawyer Neera Ketoul. The tension between the pair in the first part of the episode builds us up to a crescendo. Will Neera help her former friend? Will she represent her in the best possible way, despite their feelings towards each other? And if so, how does she propose to attempt to get a not-guilty verdict for Una? These are questions we will get the answers to along the way. But its the getting to the answers that are the most fun.
Rebecca Romijn gives a measured, emotional performance as Una. We discover more of her back story during the episode, and we find ourselves deeply troubled for her. Knowing her background and what she’s faced, we are desperate for her to get some semblance of justice from the tribunal. By the same token, Yetide Badaki delivers an episode-stealing performance as Neera. We start by not liking Neera to going through anger and hatred of her right up to the point of hoped-for triumph. It is an incredible performance from the actress, making the character one we seriously hope to meet again one day down the line.
WRITING AND DIRECTION
The episode is directed by Valerie Weiss, and written by Dana Horgan. And together, the director and writer have accomplished something that will live on in the memory after the episode has ended. Valerie Weiss knows how to frame every aspect of the episode, with washed-out colours early on as Pike seeks the help of Neera, to a bright and colourful courtroom from around halfway. The episode looks wonderful. Throw in Dana Horgan’s impressive writing, the outstanding way it all comes together, and some unexpected humour along the way to cut through the dramatic, tense moments, and you’ve got a wonderful mixture.
With great acting, enough surprises, and a great payoff, episode 2 is one of the best courtroom dramas in Star Trek TV history. The emotion, tension, and humour complement each other brilliantly. It shows us that we don’t need big space battles, action-packed scenes, or stunt-filled fight sequences to enjoy what the series has to offer. Just containing our attention on the characters is enough. We are already pretty familiar with what this cast can do in their various roles but here, we get to see their acting prowess first-hand. And it endears the characters to us more than ever.
Without giving away spoilers, next week’s episode is going to be a rollercoaster for the emotions. And I do mean that in every possible way. We will discover a side of one character that we never expected to ever see. But that is for next Thursday. For this week, settle back into your favourite chair and prepare yourself for a courtroom battle Star Trek style. You won’t be disappointed as it will leave you with a smile on your face along with some fond memories of what you’ve watched. And on that basis alone, I find this episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds guilty as charged.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 is currently premiering a new episode every Thursday. Season one is available in its entirety now to stream on Paramount+
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!