Strange New Worlds‘ “Spock Amok” in Review
“It appears that hijinks are the most logical course of action.” – Spock, in T’Pring’s body
We know T’Pring will backstab Spock in “Amok Time”, so it’s a bit of shock when the episode opens on Vulcan with her refusing to marry him, and forcing him to fight… himself! Yep, we’re straight into kal-if-fee territory, with human Spock and Vulcan Spock going at it to the legendary fight music. Fortunately, it’s a dream, lifted perhaps from Spock’s memory of the good and evil Supermen fighting in Superman III.
It’s really shore leave time on Starbase One, one of the Federation’s oldest starbases, newly rebuilt after the Klingon War chronicled in Star Trek: Discovery‘s first season. T’Pring is visiting, so that they can have some time together. There’s also a Vulcan criminal to be rehabilitated, though this episode’s focus is on the domestic sitcom that Spock and T’Pring’s life is about to become.
Meanwhile, Admiral April wants the ship to host a delegation of R’ongovians, to persuade them to join the Federation rather than the Klingons or Romulans, and the characteristically argumentative Tellarites have done a bad job of initiating the negotiations. The R’ongovians, whose ship fits the trope of a solar sail vessel, are an interesting race, prompting anger and displaying arrogance to wind people up, but at the same time making their decisions based upon empathy. It’d be interesting to see how Deanna Troi would work with them.
Ortegas, M’Benga and Chapel are heading out on shore leave in the biospheres established in the show’s first episode. This sequence is all handled with nice comedy aplomb, be it Una’s nickname or M’Benga’s hat. It’s exactly the kind of lightweight humour that TOS did when it produced comedic episodes. Being modern, though, it also gives us a hint that Chapel might be bisexual.
If you’re waiting for the title sequence, you’ll be waiting a while. It starts about fifteen minutes in – the latest so far in this series.
Una and La’an remain aboard. They soon encounter a pair of junior crewmembers triggering intruder alarms by being somewhere they ought not to be – namely, in one of the ship’s airlocks.
Spock, having sought relationship advice from Nurse Chapel, now performs an understanding-each-other ritual with T’Pring. It results in them switching bodies, unable to undo this identity swap! And naturally, as if Spock doesn’t have enough of a sitcom situation to deal with, the R’ongovians insist that he be the Federation negotiator.
Meanwhile, Una and La’an question the two young crewmembers, enjoying the chance to play good cop/bad cop, and it’s enjoyable to see them having fun winding up the juniors. The investigation finds that the crew have a game called “Enterprise bingo”. This gives us a followup to Ortegas teasing Uhura in “Children of the Comet”, as that was when the term “Enterprise bingo” was introduced.
Now, not only do the R’ongovians insist on only talking to Spock – who is actually T’Pring – but the Vulcan fugitive must be persuaded to rehabilitate by T’Pring, who is actually Spock…
As Una and La’an discover, Enterprise bingo involves trying to visit locations or do things in certain places, checking them off a list. Naturally, they decide to play the game themselves. This is a nice chance to see the two – who we’ve often been told go way back – actually work together as friends.
Honestly, from this point on, plot doesn’t really matter. Suffice it to say that the Vulcan fugitive is dealt with, and Spock and T’Pring – actually rather too easily – are separated by the end. Also, things do get sorted with the R’ongovians and their excellent empathic technique (which makes good sense when Pike explains it). That’s no surprise, nor is it where the enjoyment value of the episode lies. However, we do get to see a flyover by the R’ongovians’ quite beautiful solar sail ship.
The body-swap element of this episode is another familiar trope, a la the movie (and remake) Freaky Friday and the Red Dwarf episode “Bodyswap”. Thankfully, this particular example is far superior to the depths of TOS’ final episode, “Turnabout Intruder”, not least because, like the Red Dwarf version, this one is meant to be funny.
The episode’s enjoyment value is all about the snappy screwball dialogue between Spock and T’Pring – and Pike, when they let him know what’s going on. There are so many great lines, and hilarious miscontextualising of ordinary lines; never has “We might need a gong” been so funny, nor any of the human-Vulcan interplay. Don’t even get me started on “It must be so weird, being inside your fiancée’s body!” Then there’s the Easter eggs and little gags, like how Enterprise bingo plays a short jingle of the eight-note Enterprise fanfare when a square is completed.
The episode has a serious side too, with the foreshadowing of T’Pring’s later betrayal of Spock, and the issues of long-distance relationships between those travelling and those staying behind. What’s handled remarkably well is the blending of these, and the Federation’s mission, with the comedy elements.
If there’s a real flaw here, it’s in the fact that a body-swap episode really depends on both characters being equally familiar to the audience. Here – while Spock in general, and Ethan Peck’s version specifically, have established themselves enough to be familiar – T’Pring has only made a couple of appearances in the entire franchise. Nevertheless, Gia Sandhu gives us a very good effort, and clearly works well with Peck. Peck himself, of course, owns this episode, getting to show his comedic talents, whether in playing a panicked T’Pring, or in keeping up his recurring “It is a work in progress” gag. (Here, he says that to T’Pring about his quarters. In “Children of the Comet”, he similarly stated to Uhura, “I’ve been working on them,” about his pep talks.)
There’s little doubt that this is going to be a fan favourite, from the opening sequence – the music, the weapons, all just hitting that sweet spot – to the Enterprise bingo game. I can’t imagine anybody watching this who wouldn’t want to play Enterprise bingo; it’s a beautiful concept, and we can only hope that Star Trek Online might be able to make it happen in virtual form.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.