“Featuring a superb performance from Anson Mount, and with terrific support, makes this episode an enjoyable one for all fans of the series.” We review the new episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
The fun just keeps on coming this season on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. So far, we’ve had unexpected action heroes (M’Benga and Chapel). Strong female representation (Una Chin-Riley). And even an emotional side to one character emerging (La’an Noonien Singh). This week’s episode throws Captain Pike into the mix alongside La’an and M’Benga. And it is something that is kind of a throwback.
Those fans old enough to remember the classic original series episode ‘The Cage’ will be familiar with the planet of Rigel VII. Hold onto your phasers as we are going back there. This week sees Pike, La’an, and M’Benga travel down to the planet where Pike once lost three crew members. Let’s just say that it is going to come back to haunt him.
Returning to a planet that dredges up tragic memories, Captain Pike and his landing party find themselves forgetting everything. Including their own identities as he confronts a ghost from his past.
Featuring a superb performance from Anson Mount, and with terrific support, makes this episode an enjoyable one for all fans of the series. Our return to Rigel VII comes at a cost for our three members of the away team. La’an is injured and is facing certain death. M’Benga doesn’t remember how to medically treat her. And Pike is a shadow of his usual self. This, at times, leads to us becoming a little frustrated at the episode but that isn’t really fair. Instead of plowing full steam (or Warp) ahead, the episode slows things down a lot. This means we have time to digest what information we are gaining.
For every minute we are wondering exactly what is going on, every small piece of info proves vital to the plot as we head through the episode, bringing the finale to us with a flourish. And every member of the cast gets to have some time in the spotlight along the way. Of the main three, Anson Mount on whose shoulders the episode rests. But he manages to pull it off with considerable ease. Mount is terrific when he is forced to be front and center, to have the entire episode based around him. And he is superb at every turn.
CHRISTINA CHONG AND BABS OLUSANMOKUN
After her excursion last week, where the whole episode was on her shoulders, Christina Chong is back on familiar ground here. La’an is back to being her Chief Of Security best while still hiding the feelings she exposed to us previously. But for around half the episode, she is out of the picture, due to a serious injury she picks up during a fight. But it is a minor complaint in the scheme of things. After last week, La’an could do with some time out, and she gets it here. But when she is in action, Christina Chong once again proves that she is a bonafide badass. For a character I had reservations over at the start of last season, she has fast become an actress that without her appearance, the series wouldn’t be quite as fun.
Babs Olusanmokun is fast becoming one of my all-time favorite TV actors. As with Christina Chong, Olusanmokun has us hooked when he appears as Dr M’Benga. All he has to do is give us a smile, or a serious diagnosis in an episode and we are charmed by him. After his fighting prowess was highlighted in the first episode, M’Benga has settled down somewhat in the past few episodes he has featured in. But here, he does get into the action once again, although in a limited capacity. Babs Olusanmokun gives an understated but riveting performance as he plays second fiddle to Anson Mount during proceedings.
WRITING AND DIRECTION
The episode is written by Kirsten Beyer and Davy Perez. And they both do pretty well at keeping things moving. There is a third of the episode that is dedicated to the crew of the Enterprise, orbiting Rigel VII and starting to suffer the same effects as those on the planet. By confining the rest of the crew to a ‘Race against time’ scenario, which Star Trek does so well, it allows the episode to breathe. The writing isn’t without its faults but they are minor in the scheme of things.
The direction by Eduardo Sanchez is assured. Although the special effects and the sets threaten to override and derail the events on screen, Sanchez manages to deliver an enjoyable adventure that fits in really well with the narrative the writers have aimed for. Sanchez frames the episode and everything we see with a keen eye for detail. He manages to keep the pacing as tight as it needs to be and comes across as a master storyteller in his own right.
After the emotion of last week’s stellar episode, it is time for Trek to do what it does best and have the Captain take center stage. And it pulls it off marvelously. Ethan Peck, Jess Bush, Melissa Navia, and Celia Rose Gooding do get their time in the spotlight (especially Melissa Navia), but the episode belongs to Anson Mount and his supporting players. We finally get a real sense of those flashbacks Pike was forced to relive in ‘The Cage’ and we get to see how they have affected him. It all plays a part in the ultimate tragedy that will befall him in the future.
While not being the best episode of the series so far, it still manages to hold its own. And it harkens back to the original series with its episodic nature. And that serves what we see and the series so well. While next week’s episode is quite light-hearted for the most part with only a scattering of tension and drama, this week’s effort is more of what we’ve come to expect. With a race against the clock, dramatic tension, fight scenes, and a worthy ending, fans will lap it up. As they should.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 is currently streaming on Paramount+. The entire first season is available to stream now.
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!