Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - S1 E6 - "Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach"
By: Samantha Coley
June 9, 2022
'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Season 1 Episode 6 Review: The Morality of Sacrifice
The latest episode of 'Strange New Worlds' asks where we draw the line when it comes to sacrifice.
An episode that opens with levity and romance, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Episode 6, "Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach," unfurls into a harrowing tale of sacrifice and where we draw the line with what we're willing to give. As the episode begins, we learn that Cadet Uhura (Celia R. Gooding) is on security rotation with Chief La'an (Christina Chong). When a run-in with a non-Federation ship goes awry, the crew of the Enterprise — most specifically her Captain (Anson Mount) — is drawn into the inner workings of a strange society with a dark secret.
Pike and his first officer, Una (Rebecca Romijn), welcome aboard the inhabitants of an alien ship that sent out a distress signal and happen to run right into an ex-girlfriend of the Captain from his time as a Lieutenant. The two old flames are instantly swept up in the nostalgia of their own romance as Pike stumbles through introducing his former love to his Number One. Alora (Lindy Booth) explains that the child traveling with her is a chosen one, of sorts, known as the first servant and that they were, essentially, en route to fulfilling his destiny. As we later learn, Alora spins a wild web of lies for the crew of the Enterprise because she knows that Starfleet would be aghast at what her society actually has planned for the child.
Though she resists, the crew of the Enterprise enacts an investigation into the incident that happened upon their arrival. As the investigation operates in the background of the episode, Pike and his crew begin to witness more and more disconcerting happenings. When a supposed-radicalized terrorist attempts to attack Alora, she takes him out, but his last words are quite curious as he says "long live the first servant" — which is exactly the opposite of what she's convinced the crew that these extremists are attempting to do.
Elsewhere, Doctor M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) shares precious time with his ailing daughter whose life he keeps suspended in time in the transport buffer. He and Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) attend to the brilliant and endearing young boy set to be the first servant for Alora's planet. In the process, they witness his father — a former doctor — perform medical feats that they've only dreamed of as he reveals that their species has vastly advanced technology. During an intimate moment on her planet, Alora also alludes to their cutting-edge medicine after Pike reveals his fate to her.
While her offer is tempting, once Pike is aware of the true roots of this society, he's unable to accept it in good conscience and is actively disturbed by what Alora's people have done to get to this point. In direct contrast, the boy's father offers M'Benga the tools he can use to begin work on saving his daughter. Ultimately the episode makes a very good point about what kinds of sacrifices are worthwhile. The father was willing to risk everything to save his son, and upon being unable to do so, he offers what he can to help M'Benga.
As a series of miscommunications reaches a fever pitch, Pike and the crew of the Enterprise learn exactly what's going on just in time for their knowledge to leave them utterly helpless. Alora realizes that she won't be able to continue her relationship with Pike if she continues withholding the truth from him. In a serious miscalculation, she invites him to see what actually happens to the first servant, revealing that all of her planet's wealth and success is built upon sucking the life out of a child under the illusion of dubious consent.
"Lift Us Up Where Suffering Cannot Reach" uses this devastating revelation to explore the dangers of isolation and echo chamber mentalities. Alora's planet has been killing children in the name of the greater good for centuries. They've been doing it so long they don't even know why or how the practice started — and they're so driven by their own fear that they're willing to do anything to stick to tradition rather than find a new solution for their people. One could easily draw a connection between Alora's society and the current state of American politics regarding gun control.
Star Trek has always been a mirror for some of the biggest issues in our society, allowing people to see our failures and our triumphs through the eyes of Starfleet. Alora even says to Pike when he confronts her about the sins of her people, that humanity has been known to do the same. People with privilege turn a blind eye to the suffering of those less fortunate on a regular basis. As gun violence continues to grow in the US, right-wing politicians continue to do nothing about it. When you're willing to sacrifice child after child, where do you draw the line?
Fittingly, this episode leaves you with a strange mix of hopefulness and discomfort. Though the future is beginning to brighten for M'Benga and his daughter, Pike has a new context with which to consider the sacrifice 10 years out on his personal horizon. The Starfleet officers that he saves in his fated accident will be young adults when he saves their lives, but as it stands they're all just children. Much like the first servant, their potential is vast and unknowable, and it's very likely that this will bolster Pike's determination to give his life for theirs.
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