“The Elysian Kingdom” delivers not only a fun episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds but also one that’s got a lot of heart. I love a good fairy tale and I love that my girl Ortegas finally got a bit of time to shine. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so grab a cup of your favorite wine (have your taster approve it first), and let’s talk Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode 1×08, “The Elysian Kingdom.”
But First, Let’s Fangirl
This is the episode I’ve been waiting on all season. Ever since I saw the image of Lt. Ortegas sword-fighting, I’ve been eagerly watching my inbox for a screener of the episode. It’s definitely been worth the wait. As someone who routinely cosplays as my favorite knight, Brienne of Tarth, I loved watching my favorite girl, Ortegas act as a brave and loyal knight. While all the performances in “The Elysian Kingdom” are purposefully over-the-top, Melissa Navia shines in this role. She’s able to deliver these lines with a seriousness that is simultaneously sincere and hilarious. Lines like, “Starfall is thirsty,” and Hemmer saying, “I felt like my brain was being squeezed through my nose,” and then her deadpan response, “I did that to a man once,” make me cackle every single time.
Also, we all know Ortegas is badass (and frankly, so is Melissa), but watching her perform the physicality of this role is great. She does amazing in these fight scenes, and as a fellow short girl that has wielded a longsword, I know the challenge in being able to draw and sheath a sword smoothly at that height. Well done, Melissa. I want to sword-fight with you sometime.
A Sentient Entity
Running into a sentient, disembodied entity in a nebula is so very Star Trek. Practically every iteration of Trek has at least one episode with a similar premise, and yet, I don’t think Trek fans ever get tired of it. I don’t at least. The idea of a sentient entity helping a little girl to tell the story of her imagination is beautiful.
And while the story of “The Elysian Kingdom” is a bittersweet one, it is also a beautiful one. I appreciate the way Rukiya’s story is resolved. It’s not the magical handwaving cure for an incurable disease like we may have thought we might get based on the technology that was shared with M’Benga in episode 1×06. Instead, it offers an opportunity to explore themes of sacrifice, letting go, and allowing those you love to live their own story, even if letting them go hurts. It’s a compelling story and brought a tear to my eye. High fives to our writers for this episode, Akeela Cooper and Onitra Johnson.
A Cosplayer’s Dream
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the outstanding performances of the rest of our main cast. You’ve got Christina Chong playing the polar opposite of La’an in Princess Thalia and her sweet, real-life dog Runa, Celia Rose Gooding as the evil Queen Neve, Ethan Peck’s Spock as the Evil Wizard Pollux, Jess Bush as Lady Audrey of the Woods, Bruce Horak’s Hemmer as Caster the Wizard, and Rebecca Romijn donning the bow and quiver of Z’ymira the Huntress are all positively stunning.
Hemmer, being the only other person who knows what’s going on, really hams it up using the “magic of science!” It is especially enjoyable to watch this normally serious character cut loose. None of this is to even mention Babs Olusanmokun’s impressive and seriously regal look as King Ridley. Make sure to watch this week’s episode of The Ready Room to see how King Ridley’s costume pays tribute to Babs’ Nigerian heritage.
“The Elysian Kingdom” is an episode I will revisit again and again for the fun of watching our cast play characters that are either the opposite or a heightened version of their regular role. And yeah…I’m definitely going to add Melissa’s Sir Adya to my future cosplay list.
“The Elysian Kingdom” is such a fun bottle episode of Strange New Worlds. I love the strong and bittersweet story. The costuming for this episode is positively insane, which frankly is par for the course with this show. Bernadette Croft is an absolute rockstar of the costuming world and “The Elysian Kingdom” is just an opportunity for her to show off. I really hope to see many of these costumes at my local Rennaissance Festival this year.
The other thing I love about this episode is the balance of humor with the bittersweet story. Melissa and Anson’s banter kept me in stitches the entire episode. Also, I didn’t think it was possible, but they somehow managed to make Anson Mount’s hair lie flat and look silly. I think that’s a win for the hair department. It is also a delight to see Anson play his polar opposite in the sniveling, cowardly Sir Amand Rauth.
Finally, I think it’s important to note that the word “Elysian” means, “relating to or characteristic of heaven or paradise.” It’s also related to the concept of “Elysium” in Greek mythology, which is the afterlife for the righteous and heroic. Considering the subject matter of this episode, this seems apropos.
What did you think of “The Elysian Kingdom”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The next episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will air on June 30, 2022, on Paramount+.