Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades” marks a return of comedy to the series. But what is also the most comedic episode thus far in season two, is also perhaps its most emotionally empathetic episode. Plus we get something that I never expected to see in Star Trek—a true woman’s perspective in a science fiction story. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s fly into the nebula that is Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades.”
Oh, the Humanity!
We often see explorations of Spock and other Vulcans exploring their emotion or lack thereof. Spock in canonically later iterations of Star Trek has always leaned more into his Vulcan upbringing. His human side is rarely explored. When it is, it’s because something is wrong with him. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades” allows Spock to not only explore but to fully embrace his humanity. And not only that, we get to see Spock better understand and empathize with his human mother. It is so lovely to have Mia Kirshner back as Amanda Grayson. Also, I really want that gorgeous green dress she wears during the V’Shal dinner.
Spock’s identification with his human side in this episode, especially the way he defends Amanda at the end to T’Pril and Sevet is beautiful. I love that the writers took this opportunity to explore Spock’s character in this way. Ethan Peck delivers beautifully, not only in his dialogue but also in his physical performance. I hope we see Spock embrace what he has learned during his time as a full human throughout the rest of this series.
A Woman’s Perspective in Science Fiction
While this is meant to be a primarily Spock episode, I think the Chapel storyline is just as important. I was first surprised that this part of the story is effectively written as a rom-com. What surprised me even more is that I didn’t know that was something I desperately needed to see in my science fiction. I’m a lifelong sci-fi fan. Part of that means that a large portion of the sci-fi stories I love and enjoy are written by men, are led by men, or have a male perspective. Dorothy “D. C.” Fontana was long the only woman in the writer’s room in Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Animated Series and shaped much of what is now Star Trek canon. However, up until the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager in 1995, there’s been very little of a woman’s perspective seen in Trek canon.
Christine’s emotional journey and her courage in going back to the Kerkhovians in order to save Spock’s Vulcan side are incredible. It’s also personally costly for her. She’s better understood by the fully human Spock. He’s more sensitive to her feelings. And yet, he’s not her Spock. That half-human half-Vulcan Spock is the Spock she loves and is literally risking serious injury and death to save. And not only that, Ortegas and Uhura are literally willing to risk the same to help Christine!
I’ve been the lead girl in the rom-com (of life) and I’ve been the best gal in the rom-com. And you best bet I’m flying that ship into the nebula. I’m not letting my friend go through that alone. That entire storyline made me feel so seen as a woman who loves science fiction and also loves positive female friendship in my stories. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was life-giving. I’m so, so happy I got all of those things in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades.”
The Canon Police Are Back!
Be prepared for me to use that gif at every opportunity. The big thing that’s going to set off the Canon Police at the end of this episode is that Spock and Chapel effectively hook up. We have no indication from Star Trek: The Original Series that this ever happened. We only know that Chapel has an unrequited love or attraction to Spock. And I can certainly understand the Canon Police being frustrated with this change in the storyline. However, I think you can read this story in two ways.
If you want to more strictly adhere to the existing TOS timeline, you could interpret Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades” as the lead-up to whatever reason Spock and Chapel don’t work out. They have a fling or brief relationship. It doesn’t work. Spock ends back up with T’Pring and then we have “Time Amok” in Star Trek: The Original Series. No need for arrests or citations today, Canon Police.
The other option is that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades” is a further indicator of a soft Star Trek: The Original Series reboot. Now, again, we have no official confirmation if this is where we’re heading with this series. If it is, AND we have this cast doing it, I’m definitely not going to be mad about it. But I don’t think this is a big enough change to alter the face of Star Trek. Trek will not implode if this happens. After all, infinite diversity in infinite combinations is the Trek ethos. Why not bring that to play in this series?
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades” is my favorite episode thus far in this series. The emotional range and physical comedy of Ethan Peck are top-notch. The Star Trek fandom is blessed to have him as our Spock. The emotional development of Chapel and Spock is amazing and my goodness, I had no idea how much I needed to see women being women in my Star Trek.
I want to give a big shout-out to director Jordan Canning, writers Kathryn Lyn, Henry Alonso Myers, and staff writer Onitra Johnson for making this episode happen. Again, it was something I didn’t know I needed. Now I want it in all my Trek. I had “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” by The Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin stuck in my head while watching this episode and writing this review, and with good reason. This is why you pay your writers fairly, people! They’re writing TV that makes everyone feel seen.
If you want a little more extra credit for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades,” add this week’s episode of We Are Starfleet to your podcast queue where I chat about this episode with my co-host Mike Slamer and our brilliant guest, Star Trek podcaster and YouTuber, Brandi Jackola. We focus in particular on the women’s perspective shown in this episode. It’s a conversation you won’t want to miss.
What did you think of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×05 “Charades”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The next episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will premiere on July 20, 2023, on Paramount+.