This week’s episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds offers the audience a closer look at Cadet Uhura, questions of predestination and free will, and some good-natured hazing. A typical episode of Star Trek, right? Pour yourself a glass of Saurian Brandy or Romulan Ale, pull up a chair, and let’s talk episode 1×02 of Strange New Worlds, “Children of the Comet.”
I love the opening we get with the episode with Cadet Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding)’s narration. I have always enjoyed the log entry opening narration that we get in many episodes of previous Trek series. What I especially love about this is that we’re not just hearing from the Captain. We’ve got the Cadet’s Log this week. With this kind of narration, we are able to zero in on a particular character. This allows us to learn more about them, and get the opportunity for some serious character development. I hope this is a continuing trend for the rest of the series.
First Square on Enterprise Bingo
But this week, we’re focusing on Uhura. Here, our young Uhura gets a classic fakeout from Ortegas–wear your dress uniform instead of something a little more casual or even the standard uniform to a dinner at the Captain’s Cabin. Except that’s not what Ortegas is wearing. Cargo pants, a crop top, high tops, and a hoodie is Ortegas’ idea of a “dress uniform.” Cue annoyed Uhura. It’s not quite the same experience, but I was in the marching band when I was in high school. There was some good-natured hazing involved with the freshmen (or fresh meat, as we were occasionally called), such as silly nicknames, shaving cream on your head, etc. I know what that’s like and it’s all in good fun, at least in my experience. And despite my usual jeans/t-shirt vibe, I have occasionally been the person who overdressed at a party. It’s awkward.
But this doesn’t stop our girl from making an impression. The backstory we get about Uhura, at least to my knowledge and what I can confirm from Memory Alpha, is new. The need to adapt, communicate, to process the significant loss she’s experienced via “running away to Starfleet” adds an entirely new layer to the character. I am here for it! I hope they do this for every character on the show.
The Shepherds and the Comet
As a person of faith, I find the instances of religious belief in Star Trek to be particularly interesting. Historically, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry didn’t want religion to be present in the Star Trek universe, so it wasn’t present in The Original Series and The Next Generation. Not until Deep Space Nine did the Star Trek universe take a serious look at religious belief. While the religious beliefs examined in “Children of the Comet” aren’t that of Earth, we’ve got some common themes.
The idea of predestination or fate is an idea found across many segments of religious belief. In “Children of the Comet,” the Shepherds believe that they must guard the comet on its path, and even landing on the comet is considered blasphemy to them, let alone shooting it down. The comet cannot be diverted from its predetermined destination.
Strange New Worlds has already been dealing with the idea of predestination or a predetermined fate when it comes to Captain Pike. The resolution of the episode forces the viewer to consider the question of Pike’s fate. Or is it really his fate? Una makes a point of saying, “I refuse to accept this.” Now with Trek history being what it is, we can’t ignore the existence of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, “The Menagerie.” But can we trust that “The Menagerie” is really the end of Pike’s story? I suppose we’ll see.
There are a lot of great character moments in “Children of the Comet.” As mentioned previously, I love the little snapshot we get of Ortegas’ good-natured teasing and the insight into Uhura’s backstory. Spock’s laughter and deadpan delivery are fun and on-point, especially when he says he’s been working on his “pep talks.” Speaking of deadpan delivery, La’an (Christina Chong) is giving Seven of Nine a run for her money for the title of Queen of Deadpan. La’an doesn’t just do deadpan, she does deadpan with a splash of smartass. It’s a blast to watch!
Pike’s reliance on his crew, leaning into their strengths, and delegating to them is a small thing, but it shows his strong leadership and confidence in his crew. None of this is even to mention that we get to see Celia Rose Gooding putting her vocal prowess to good use in this episode.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
We also have our introduction to Hemmer (Bruce Horak), the first time we’ve seen an Aenar since Star Trek: Enterprise. I also love that they cast a blind actor to play a blind character. Pike’s making ribs in his quarters which look to be bigger than my entire apartment, and we get a nice look at the rest of our main bridge crew during some downtime. There’s a lot of good to note in “Children of the Comet.” They aren’t anything but simple slice-of-life moments, but I really love that kind of thing in my Star Trek.
If you want to hear further discussion about the episode, please give a listen to this week’s episode of We Are Starfleet where my friend and colleague Baz Greenland and I chat “Children of the Comet.” As a bonus, you get to hear me get wildly embarrassed when I can’t remember the other blind chief engineer in Starfleet. I’m still facepalming.
What did you think of “Children of the Comet”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The next episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will air on May 19, 2022, on Paramount+.