Star Trek: Strange New Worlds does Law & Order this week in episode 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera.” There’s a lot to unpack here—-subtle storytelling, courtroom drama, and the difference between what is legal and what is just. All rise, and let’s discuss Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera.”
One of the things that make Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera” work well is the way the writing allows the audience to infer without saying things explicitly. It’s so easy to watch TV with your phone in your hand. It makes it easy to not listen closely when information is given in passing.
I’ll admit it took me a couple of viewings with my screeners to catch everything. It also took me confirming a few things with closed captions once the episode dropped to make sure I got all the important details.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera” is heavy with detail not only about Una’s character as a person, but her history with Neera. They were once best friends. The boy at her school, Ivan Ketoul, that was arrested at age 10, along with his parents, for being genetically modified was Neera’s cousin.
Una and her family chose to hide among regular humans. They hid their genetic modifications because they could. The split separated Una and Neera, not just geographically, but emotionally too. Courtroom testimony becomes an apology. Once I realized this, the emotional weight of the episode became that much greater. Rebecca Romijn gives the best dramatic performance we’ve seen from her thus far. We can’t wait for more from her this season.
Confession: aside from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, I’ve not really watched a whole lot of courtroom shows. But if they’re all like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera,” then I better make some popcorn and cue up Law & Order and Boston Legal because dang, this is good.
This is easily one of the best courtroom episodes we’ve had from Star Trek. It goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “The Measure of a Man,” which is arguably the best. I contend that this is just as good, and in some ways, maybe even better. Neera’s closing argument really moved us with its impassioned appeal, not just to the emotional circumstances of Una’s case, but to the legal letter of it.
Her statement, “Do you know why I love the law? Because a law is not a mirror to society. A law is an ideal. A beacon to remind us how to be our better selves, and you have the opportunity today to do just that,” appeals not only to the legalities of Una’s situation but to the sense of justice found in the Admirals.
We hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen from Yetide Badaki as Neera. We’re not one for a whole lot of courtroom drama, but good grief, she had me on the edge of our seat. More on her in just a moment.
Legal vs. Just
Neera’s argument of what is legal versus what is just in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera” is straight out of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Frankly, it should be required reading for all humans. And if you need another reason to check it out, Dr. King was a Trek fan.
The full quote is, “‘One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” A law doesn’t make something just.
In the foreword of a recently published book, Star Trek: Essays Exploring the Final Frontier, Star Trek author Dr. Una McCormack says in response to the question, “Why Star Trek?”, “Because few shows have given me so much uncomplicated pleasure, while asking me to think more carefully about the world I inhabit and the kind of world I would like to inhabit.”
That is precisely what Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera” does. Sure, it’s exciting to watch a courtroom drama play out, especially with one of the characters we love at the center. But what it also does is challenge the audience to do what McCormack says—think carefully about the world we inhabit and the work we would like to inhabit.
It calls the audience to look for places in our world where things are legal, but not just. Good art should make you want to be a better human at the end of the day. “Ad Astra per Aspera” makes me do just that.
While Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera” is easily one of the best dramatic episodes of the series, if not all of the Star Trek canon, it also has some great character moments too.
First, We’re so eager for them to give me #MORETEGAS this season because dang it, no matter how small the line, Melissa Navia just knocks it out of the park. Her conversation with M’Benga where she guesses what Pasalk and Spock are discussing is HILARIOUS. Then, Ethan Peck as Spock apologizing for his “outburst” about put us in the floor. This entire cast positively nails everything their given.
The character witness scenes for Una are another highlight for us. They showcase Una’s relationships with the crew well and highlight the depth of her relationship with each of them.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×02 “Ad Astra per Aspera” will easily be recorded as one of the best-written episodes of Trek in history. Props to writer Dana Horgan on her very first Star Trek writing credit. She also serves as a co-executive producer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. This is why we need to pay our writers fairly. Dana and so many others clearly deserve it.