Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - S1 E2 - "Children of the Comet"
By: Samantha Coley
May 12, 2022
'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Season 1 Episode 2 Review: What's Meant to be Will Always Find a Way
Uhura's first away mission features music and the exploration of fate.
The second episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds dives into Cadet Uhura's (Celia Rose Gooding) very first away mission and uses the experience to examine the overlap between science, faith, and destiny. We also get a more intimate look at what it's like serving on Pike's (Anson Mount) Enterprise, his relationship with his first officer Una (Rebecca Romijn), and Spock's (Ethan Peck) faith in Uhura. By toeing the line between science and belief, Strange New Worlds engages in an age-old quandary that Star Trek and much of humanity have revisited over and over.
Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 2, "Children of the Comet," opens with a "Cadet's Log" voiceover from Uhura detailing the subject of this week's episode: a mysterious comet passing by a pre-warp planet. Ortegas (Melissa Navia) starts us off on a humorous note as she meets Uhura ahead of dinner in the Captain's cabin, having tricked the junior officer into showing up to the casual event in her dress uniform. The helmsman tells Uhura she can count this as her first official square on "Enterprise Bingo," which I am personally dying to see the playcard for.
Dinner at Captain Pike's seems like an event that we'd all want to attend — his quarters are warm and inviting, large enough to host a party in, with an open fire pit, upbeat music, and friendly conversation as the senior officers work together family-style to prepare a shared meal. The atmosphere here instantly tells us so much about this crew and how Pike interacts with them. Through Uhura's first-timer experience we also meet Hemmer, the new Chief Engineer (Bruce Horak) — both Hemmer and the actor who plays him are blind. In a sci-fi future, it's easy to erase any physical ailments or abnormalities, but Strange New Worlds takes this opportunity to celebrate Hemmer's blindness as a strength rather than an "impairment."
Throughout this episode Uhura is a complex mix of confident and unsure of herself; she's a talented young officer ready to prove she's got what it takes, while also thinking that she may not be cut out for Starfleet. Gooding plays the varied emotions of the linguistics prodigy flawlessly. As Uhura struggles to figure out where she fits into the grand scheme of the universe, Strange New Worlds uses the alien encounter of the week to assure her that she's exactly where she needs to be. When the comet turns out to be more than it appears, Uhura is sent on her first away mission, along with Spock, La'an (Christina Chong), and Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte). While on the surface, Uhura is the only officer capable of cracking the mystery set out before them — figuring out how to communicate with their surroundings.
Uhura shines as brightly as the comet itself in this episode, using her unique skill set to help the crew despite feeling out of her depth. Her prodigy-esque revelations are somewhat reminiscent of a young Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Gooding's delivery of dry humor and joyful wonder perfectly captures the essence of a slightly less experienced Uhura that will evolve into the character that Nichelle Nichols originated, and I think it's safe to say she'd be proud.
The alien threat that the Enterprise is up against, known as the Shepherds, demands that Starfleet not interfere with the destined path of the comet — but the crew has a moral obligation to do everything they can to save the civilians on the planet below. Working in unison Uhura, Pike, Spock, and the rest of the bridge crew are able to figure out a way to move the comet without alerting the Shepherds. "Children of the Comet" effectively blurs the line between science and faith in a very appealing way. The comet is what the Shepherds herald it as — it bestows water to the desert planet below, creating a path for the struggling society there to one day flourish. However, it would not have been able to do so without Spock and Uhura's interference. The episode posits the idea that faith is most effective and miraculous when working hand in hand with science and morality. It also spotlights that communication is the most powerful tool we have in our arsenal.
As a bookend to the warm opening dinner scene, this episode also takes a few quiet moments to enrich the relationships between several crew members. This episode teases briefly at the flirtation between Spock and Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) that will eventually evolve into a complete infatuation on Star Trek: The Original Series. We also witness Spock developing an older-brother-style bond with Uhura as he bluntly encourages her throughout the episode before telling her that Starfleet is genuinely lucky to have her.
Meanwhile, just as the comet "knew its fate," as Uhura says, so does Pike. Una is one of the few crew members that knows what he saw in his vision and how it affects his outlook on life. She notices him getting hung up while talking about where Uhura sees herself in 10 years at dinner and makes quiet, careful observations about him throughout — as Spock noted in the Short Trek "Q & A." As she stays behind to help clean up after the meal, and later over a couple of drinks, Una urges Pike to not give up on his own life just because he too received a message from the future. In fitting with the theme of the episode, Una suggests that Pike could use the foreknowledge he has of the vision to save the kids he's destined to die for and himself.
In the unaired Star Trek pilot that originated these characters in the 1960s, a group of telepathic aliens claims to read Una's mind and reveal that she's secretly harboring feelings for Captain Pike. Footage from that pilot was later used in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series at a point where Pike has lived through the accident he knows is in his future. While it's impossible to know if Strange New Worlds will fully explore or un-do either of these classic plot points, it looks like they're certainly laying the groundwork for both.
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