Chris Connor reviews the second episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2…
Last week’s opening episode of Strange New Worlds proved that the show has lost none of its quality in its sophomore season, carrying on story threads from the first season and setting up a raft of new questions. The second episode ‘Ad Astra per Aspera’ picks up one of the central plot threads around Number One (Una Chin Riley), her genetic modification, and an investigation from Starfleet.
This episode places Rebecca Romjin at the centre, having found herself a peripheral character at times in the first season, and offers questions about the bureaucracy of Starfleet and its morality. Pike seeks out legal counsel for Number One and her tribunal with the bulk of the episode built around her court case; perhaps given the nature of the first season’s conclusion this might come early on in the season, but it is one of the strongest episodes of the show to date.
We get a real sense of the kinship between Pike and Una here and the lengths he is willing to go to clear her name and defend her character. It encapsulates the utopian morality of the original series and while of course set in the far future, it feels startlingly timely with comments on identity, race and gender still prescient in contemporary society and delicately handled here, never overstating its intentions.
This is another episode that shifts attention away from Pike, again helping the ensemble to flourish and show the calibre of the wider cast. Fleshing out Number One is welcome and we get a sense of how much she means to the wider Enterprise crew, and having Melanie Scrofano’s Batel as more of an antagonist helps to offer a different perspective on her relationship with Pike and his loyalty to his crew.
Being so heavily built around the court case and a largely smaller central cast, there is never a sense of dragging its heels and it is constantly riveting, diving deep into the connections of the characters to each other and showing their humanity. It also shows the show’s depth and quality away from exploration and we get a sense of real desperation from all involved. Of course Pike but also La’an and Uhura to help Una clear her name.
‘Ad Astra Per Aspera’, is a standout episode in an already stellar show, offering questions about morality, race, gender and so much more. It is well acted across the board with Rebecca Romjin coming into her own as Una Chin Riley, getting a welcome moment in the spotlight and fleshing out her backstory. Painting Starfleet as flawed is also delicately handled showing that everyone has their flaws, including those we idolise.
Star Trek Strange New Worlds continues its winning start to season two, and there’s surely plenty more twists and turns and delights for fans and newcomers to come.