A Return to Form — Strange New Worlds‘ “The Broken Circle”
Strange New Worlds brings it home again in the second season premiere — adventure, conflict, lives needing to be saved, alien worlds, conspiracy, and moments that show the strength of spirit that is a signature of good Star Trek, spiced with both dark and light humour. That’s not to say the episode is without flaws, nor a few Trek tropes.
Mimicking any established Trek series, the Enterprise crew is perfectly content breaking the rules again, or to quote Data in First Contact, “To hell with our orders.” Captain Pike dashes off on his own to try to find an advocate for Number One (Una), who’s been arrested… for being herself, a genetically modified alien. Hoping for a Pike-Maneuver-saves-the-day-type episode? You might be disappointed, as he leaves very early on, with the Enterprise still being repaired.
This is rather an excellent way to develop other characters and introduce new ones. With a somewhat-unsure-of-himself young Spock in charge, suffering from the events of last season, we see a different side to our often-stone-faced Vulcan of the later TOS era. In a nod to said era, Spock is advised by M’Benga to take up music, which current mental health practice supports, and we see the famous Vulcan lyre, a beautiful gift from a compassionate doctor whose empathy comes from his own inner demons.
To save La’an after receiving a distress call, Spock and crew steal the Enterprise, which gives us a couple of fantastic scenes. The crew, such as Ortegas, tease him and motivate him to come up with his “line” (since we have, “Hit it!”, “Engage!”, “Make it so,” etc.), and his line is very… Spock. This camaraderie among the bridge officers shows how the crew is a family. They are not only fine going MIA (trope) but are also willing to do whatever to support Spock and help La’an.
The second fantastic scene is the introduction of the brilliant Carol Kane in the role of Pelia, a long-lived alien, who is sick of teaching and wants to go back into space. She helps the crew hatch and carry out the plan, with sarcasm, wit, and a touch of eccentricity. It’s also revealed that she had a friendship with Amanda, mother of Spock, which sparks his curiosity. Starfleet has had great engineers, such as Scotty, who lied to impress Kirk; B’Elanna, who did it “the Maquis Way;” Miles O’Brien, who kept a station together, while cursing the “bloody Cardies;” and a “dip-shit grease monkey from Chicago” turned captain. Pelia fits the role nicely.
The crew learns of a conspiracy to reignite the Klingon war “for profit” — how very Ferengi — and to be carried out using a “Trojan Horse” of a ship — which is a reused Enterprise set, er…smuggled Federation technology and scrap. We do, however, get an incredible head-smashing martial arts scene that takes up a huge amount of the episode, featuring M’Benga and Chapel doped up on green stuff. The crew ends up being successful at stopping the conspiracy, destroying the ship while treating us to an incredible amount of piloting tricks by Ortegas, and saving M’Benga and Chapel at the last second… because of course they do.
What follows is a peace talk between Spock and the Klingon captain of another ship who’d be dead if the crew had failed, and we see plenty of Klingon party style, with drinking, burping, belly laughs, good-natured insults, and a hangover that ends up serving as Spock’s punishment. We also get a cliffhanger at the end… and it promises a story that is hopefully “Gorn to be wild!”
So, what does this episode do really well? We get to learn more about the rest of the crew, especially Spock, Chapel, and M’Benga. This is not TOS, where Kirk, Spock, and McCoy have an adventure while a redshirt and the captain’s temporary paramour die. We get the “good looking” Klingons, with the distinct TOS-movie-and-TNG-era style of forehead, build, and skin tone. There are no lizard-like Discovery Klingons or plain ones like in TOS. We also get to see the fun and good side of the Klingons, not just the roving thugs they first debuted as. We get several easter eggs: the Vulcan lyre; the still-menacing Gorn; and Pike flying off to try to save his first officer (one wonders if this development later affects Spock’s loyalty to Pike in “The Menagerie”). There’s a brutal fight scene and some epic flight scenes; plenty of adrenaline to go around. We learn the fate of Oriana, reunited with her family after escaping the Gorn. We see Spock as the officer still learning and coming into his own as a command officer. Finally, there’s also the addition of Pelia — probably one of the best new characters to come along.
What doesn’t work? The fight scenes are so dark they make Season 3 of Picard look lit up like a rave! Nurse Chapel, as one half of the duo that’s kicking butts and taking names, is also a little jarring compared to her TOS persona. While Strange New Worlds has made the established characters extensions of who we know, I wonder what changes are in store for Nurse Chapel. The relationship between her and Spock is currently implied to be mutual interest versus the unrequited aspect portrayed in TOS. Hopefully, there’s a story there for us in the future.
Overall, this is a fun action/adventure. We get some of our favourites while the story continues to move forward. It’s a promising start to a strange new world of episodes.
A Canadian musician and artist specializing in working with special/exceptional needs students, Eve Zellick plays multiple instruments, composes, and arranges music transcriptions through an online publishing house – including the amazing music of the Star Trek Universe. Eve loves cosplay and has been a fan of Star Trek since her early teens, watching episodes in syndication while completing homeschool and university studies. A crush on a certain Ensign inspired her to pick up clarinet. Eve’s favourite characters include Lwaxana Troi, Elim Garak, and Phillipa Georgiou, her favourite soundtrack is TNG’s “The Inner Light”, and her favourite series are DS9 and Lower Decks. Eve’s other hobbies include Legend of Zelda games, exploring the outdoors with her dog Mushu, and finding herself in random situations and adventures.