James Osborne reviews the fifth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds…
At the halfway point of season one, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds delivers “Spock Amok”. The episode loosely follows on from the aftermath of brutal assault by the Gorn attack, as the USS Enterprise and its crew return to Starbase 1 for some much-needed shore leave.
The shore leave gives Spock the chance to reunite with his fiancé T’Pring, after they were unceremoniously separated in episode one. In their rare alone time together, the pair discuss the balance of their relationship and Spock begins to question whether or not his duties as a Starfleet officer are compatible with the life he wants to lead with T’Pring.
Sadly for Pike, the life of a Starfleet captain is always bound to duty, and he is called in by Admiral April to conduct crucial negotiations. Even more sadly for Spock, he is brought upon at the last minute to join his captain in the negotiations, and with no time to inform his fiancé, he leaves her waiting for him alone on their would-be date night.
After a tough round of negotiations, and some advice from his colleagues, Spock suggests that he and T’Pring engage in a special ritual mind meld which will see their consciousnesses swapped for a short period of time. Unsurprisingly, the ceremony goes awry, leaving the couple in each other’s bodies without a way to revert back.
The ensuing chaos, which sees Spock and T’Pring forced to fulfil the other’s responsibilities, is a wholly entertaining, and completely predictable affair. It’s a very welcome shift in gears, after the high-stakes and riveting action of “Ghosts of Illyria” and “Memento Mori”. The episode’s goal is to get the audience to think about whether we would be more forgiving of others if we could live a day in their shoes, and it nicely demonstrates that the lives of others are just as complex and challenging as our own.
Ethan Peck, who is increasingly forging a version of Spock that is worthy of the work done by Leonard Nimoy, does a wonderful job capturing the mannerisms of Gia Sandhu’s T’Pring. However, the most eye-catching star of “Spock Amok” might just be Captain Pike’s bedazzling green wrap-around, which reinvents the outfit worn by Shatner’s Kirk in the original series, and will undoubtedly become a cosplay staple at future conventions.
And that’s all great. But where is Samuel Kirk? The character was brought in as a ‘big-reveal’ at the end of the first episode, and had a minor role in “Children of the Comet”, but since then he has been completely absent. It was established that the character would be working under Spock, with the promise that their clashing personalities would be the source of plenty of mischief and fun. This episode seemed like it would have been the perfect chance to explore that relationship just a little bit more because, even though no one asked for Sam Kirk to be in the series, he is in it.
Instead, more time is spent with the two characters who the series has explored the most: Commander Chin-Riley and Lieutenant Noonien-Singh. In a homage to Star Trek: Lower Decks, the two make it their mission to delve into the lives of the USS Enterprise’s ensigns, finding out their secret rule-breaking rituals, and trying their hands at them in order to better understand their crew. It works within the tone of the episode, but does seem like a distraction from the much more interesting (and, actually, much funnier) A-plot about Spock and T’Pring’s body swap.
Strange New Worlds is now halfway through its first season, and it’s uncontroversial to say that so far, the season is the best debut of a Star Trek series to date. While there are kinks here and there, the episodes are all at least solid, with regularly captivating visuals and compelling character work thrown in for good measure. The season’s first five episodes have delivered what they needed to deliver, and at the top of that list was a reminder of the virtues of episodic storytelling. With the show’s recurring cast now fully fleshed out, the task of the season’s latter half is to tell stories with a bit more weight, and to retain its sense of fun along the way.