Charades is a highly entertaining episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds packed with charm, fun, hijinks, and lighthearted frivolity that lightens the tone after two solid but dramatic episodes.
It’s time for another gripping episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. After last week’s unforgettable return to Rigel VII the Enterprise is back to business as usual. However, a shuttlecraft accident leaves Spock wounded. And an ancient alien species is on hand to heal his extensive injuries. But after examining his human/Vulcan hybrid DNA, they take it upon themselves to extract the Vulcan half leaving Spock completely human. And in true Star Trek fashion, mayhem ensues. But can this episode build upon the foundation of last week’s intense return to Rigel VII and continue to energize this invigorating season? Or has this sudden skew into comedy derailed the momentum of the show?
Fear not cadets because ‘Charades’ is another masterclass from the Strange New Worlds team. Not only is the entire episode a fun tongue-in-cheek game of charades, but it offers us a glimpse at a side of Mr. Spock many of us thought we’d never see. More importantly, it allows Ethan Peck the opportunity to stretch his legs and really grow into the role. And he does so with renewed zeal. The reward is a highly entertaining episode packed with charm, fun, hijinks, and lighthearted frivolity that lightens the tone after two solid but dramatic episodes. So, strap yourself in and dig into this emotionally-charged adventure.
This season has worked tirelessly to highlight an individual member of the bridge crew per episode and I’m pleased to report that this trend has continued this week. As the logline suggests, this episode is all about Spock. After last week’s emotionally-charged return to Rigel VII, this week we dust off the cobwebs and lighten the tone with a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek episode that finds Spock losing his Vulcan DNA. One can be forgiven for thinking an episode as light-hearted as this would seem out of place after recent events. But the effect is quite the opposite. Indeed, the frivolousness of this episode serves as the perfect tonic. And although it does tend to tap into the more absurd aspects of Trek lore, it fits into the dynamics of classic Trek to perfection.
Even Anson Mount’s Captain Pike lets his perfectly styled hair down in this episode and allows his comedic chops to rise to the surface. And the results are often hilarious. From cooking with Spock to dealing with the awkwardness to meeting T’Pring’s family, Mount excels when bringing his comedic chops to the fore. And it is a fun departure for the usually steely Captain of the Enterprise.
The Original Series often harnessed these daft storylines and turned them into television gold. And the same lightning in a bottle has been captured here. The series has been hinting at Spock’s emotional instability for some time. But once his Vulcan DNA is removed from the equation the floodgates open and a rollercoaster ride follows. From Spock discovering the simplest of pleasures to dealing with the emotional stresses of his job, Peck finds the character’s inner monologue and brings it to the surface.
The reveal is far more striking than we can ever anticipate, even after many breathtakingly quirky performances from Leonard Nimoy. But Peck’s emotional vulnerability betrays Spock’s deepest darkest fears and brings them out for all to see. Many of these outbursts are utterly hilarious, while others are enough to move us to tears. But in essence, Peck shows us a side of Spock rarely seen in franchise history. And fans of all ages will be flocking to his banner after this.
SPOCK & NURSE CHAPEL
Fans of the Original Series will be well aware of the “will they won’t they” relationship between Spock and Nurse Chapel. But after several weeks of innuendo and emotional exchanges, the series comes full circle and forces the relationship out into the open. This emotional disclosure was always hinted at during the TOS. But it was never dragged into the open, so this is a bold choice for the SNW team. But the payoff is well worth the wait. How this reveal will affect the canon of TOS remains to be seen. But with both Spock and Chapel now facing their demons and forcing their feelings to the surface, things are certainly about to get interesting. For better or worse.
Keeping the fifth episode in line with previous installments, the cast rises to the challenge and adds some much-needed meat to the bones of their respective characters. Jess Bush leads the charge in this sense. During the first few episodes of the new season, Bush’s Nurse Chapel has endured her fair share of hardships. From being sucked out into the vast expanse of space, to slugging it out with a bunch of Klingons, Chapel has risen to every challenge. But perhaps the toughest challenge of them all is letting her feelings for Spock rise to the surface. These emotional admissions are treated as comedic sidenotes at first. But by the time the credits roll, they offer some genuine moments of heartache and joy that hit hard. And it’ll be fascinating to see how her character develops over the next few episodes.
Mia Kirshner returns as Spock’s human mother Amanda. And she picks up where she left off to deliver a typically seasoned performance. One that brings her paternal brilliance to the fore. Kirshner slips back into character with ease and offers a pair of safe hands on the wheel as Spock’s emotional rollercoaster ride threatens to derail. The same can be said about Gia Sandhu who reprises her role as Spock’s fiancee T’Pring. Even though we all know their relationship is doomed to fail, Sandhu returns and gives this episode her all. Vulcans are a traditionally unemotional race, but here, Sandhu casts a wounded demeanor when dealing with her fiancee. And the torture swelling beneath her cool exterior is palpable. It’s impressive stuff and worthy of recognition.
Although Ethan Peck steals this episode with effortless enthusiasm, Anson Mount’s contribution to this episode cannot be overstated. Mount always seems to be on hand to lighten the tone with some well-placed comedic hijinks just when the plot begins to stall. And that is the hallmark of a well-written script by Kathryn Lyn & Henry Alonso Myers. But Mount’s timing is impeccable and helps to sell the episode where others would fail.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Although we are yet to see the series really cut loose and unleash the inevitable confrontation with the Gorn the show is alluding to; it is a joy to see the show let its hair down. Charades is an episode worthy of its place in Trek lore. And it is more than worthy of being accepted in the annals of franchise comedy gold. There are moments of pure joy, hilarity, and hijinks that would make William Shatner proud. And with Mr. Spock finally embracing his human side and unleashing a side of him we’ve never seen, Charades cements itself as one of the best episodes yet.
Whether you’re a new Trek fan, or like me, an Original Series legacy fan, there’s something for everyone in this episode. The result is an unmissable hour of television gold for fans young and old. It is a feast of well-executed classic Star Trek. Enjoy!
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!