Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - S1 E5 - "Spock Amok"
By: Samantha Coley
June 2, 2022
'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Season 1 Episode 5 Review: Body Swapping Leads to Radical Empathy
This week's episode is all about perspective.
After the action-packed emotional rollercoaster of last week's episode, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 5, "Spock Amok," provides a much lighter fare. From Enterprise bingo to a learning exercise gone wrong, this episode is full of laughs and the growth that can come from putting yourself in someone else's shoes for a little while. Each episode of Strange New Worlds so far has felt both fresh and reminiscent of classic Star Trek, and "Spock Amok" pays homage to some of the franchise's delightfully goofy roots while exploring the concept of empathy.
The episode opens with Spock (Ethan Peck) all set to marry his fiancé T'Pring (Gia Sandhu) when he suddenly appears to be fully human. His Vulcan half appears and pledges to fight him to the death. His dreams reveal a deep fear that she will never be fully happy with him because he's part human. Spock's science officer's log reveals that it's time for shore leave for the crew of the Enterprise as they engage in negotiations with a new alien species who've been offered a spot in the Federation. When the negotiations are moved up unexpectedly, Spock once again chooses his duties over T'Pring, standing her up for what was supposed to be shared time together after their engagement night was also cut short. Understandably, she's disappointed with coming second to Starfleet once again.
In Star Trek: The Original Series, the Season 2 premiere is titled "Amok Time," and it centers around Spock and T'Pring's planned wedding that ultimately does not occur. It's the first episode to use the Vulcan salute, and it introduces the concept of Pon Farr. In the episode, Spock is meant to fulfill his promise to T'Pring, but she has fallen for someone else while he's been away and calls for a deadly Vulcan ceremony to get out of their commitment to each other. While Strange New Worlds could easily choose to take these characters in new directions, the conflict between Spock and T'Pring in this episode could very well lay the groundwork for this endgame for their relationship. In The Original Series, we also learn that Nurse Chapel holds unrequited feelings for Spock — in "Spock Amok," she shares some relationship advice with him and incidentally finds herself charmed.
In order to better understand T'Pring, Spock proposes a soul-sharing ceremony, which is meant to allow them to see themselves through the other's eyes. When the ritual malfunctions, they quickly find that they're stuck in each other's bodies. Comedy ensues as the pair must pretend to be each other in order to fulfill their duties. Having to actively spend time quite literally in the other's shoes gives both Spock and T'Pring a new perspective on each other and their relationship.
In the negotiations, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) realizes that he's put T'Pring in an impossible situation by asking her to do Spock's duties. He also recognizes that she doesn't entirely understand why Spock does what he does for Starfleet. He explains to her that Spock is exemplary of what's so wonderful about Starfleet. His choice to stand up for Spock impresses the aliens, and they extend another session of negotiations. By now Pike understands that sometimes the best way to get someone to understand you is to prove that you understand them.
After they switch back, Spock and T'Pring are inspired to be vulnerable with each other. He shares his fears that she won't accept the human part of him, and she expresses that she worried he only saw their relationship as another duty to attend to rather than a real connection. This experience allows them both to see that while they certainly have their differences, they do still care for each other very much.
Elsewhere, M'Benga, Ortegas, and Chapel all head out for a fun and relaxing shore leave filled with hot dates and fly-fishing. Una and La'an are seeing their officers out when M'Benga accidentally reveals that the junior officers refer to the duo as "where fun goes to die." The overly serious pair of officers are contemplating feeling out of touch with the crew and the way that they simply have different interests from their co-workers when some junior officers are caught trying to sneak onto the hull of the ship. Una and La'an decide to go in with the good cop / bad cop approach and find out that the young officers were trying to get the last square in Enterprise Bingo. In an attempt to better understand their fellow crew, they decide to do each of the challenges themselves. "People are idiots, you're fun," La'an tells Una.
Watching these two very serious characters indulge in a little reckless behavior is absolutely delightful. Though they don't find the same thrill from rule-breaking as the junior officers, Una and La'an find a way to understand why the ensigns on the ship do things like Enterprise bingo. They walk onto the hull without EV suits, using a force field, to sign the scorch for good luck. While they're out there they see their new allies sail away flying the Federation flag, feeling a true sense of child-like wonder at the lives they get to lead.
Each storyline in this episode follows the same narrative arc of radical empathy. Actively putting yourself in the shoes of someone different from yourself can give you a new understanding of their perspective. This episode encourages us to build connections and find solutions by taking the point of view of someone we don't entirely understand. By broadening our experiences, meeting new people, and learning to see the world through their eyes, we become more well-rounded humans. Empathy, understanding, and mutual sacrifice for good are the building blocks of that sci-fi future that Star Trek makes so darn appealing.
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