While on a survey mission, the U.S.S. Enterprise discovers a comet is going to strike an inhabited planet. They try to re-route the comet, only to find that an ancient alien relic buried on the comet’s icy surface is somehow stopping them. As the away team try to unlock the relic’s secrets, Pike and Number One deal with a group of zealots who want to prevent the U.S.S. Enterprise from interfering.
The series premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (reviewed here) introduced a new generation to a new crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, instantly revitalising the contemporary approach to the franchise. The pilot episode showed fans that a return to episodic storytelling was possible within the confines of contemporary television, without forgoing any developments in the approach to character or plot.
Episode two, “Children of the Comet”, reiterates the series’ dedication to episodic storytelling. But it also doubles down on Strange New Worlds dedication to its characters. Writers Henry Alonso Myers and Sarah Tarkoff brilliantly counterbalance Pike’s (Anson Mount) glass-half-empty approach to destiny, with Uhura’s (Celia Rose Gooding) glass-half-full.
Myers and Tarkoff neither forget about Pike’s predicament, nor do they trivialise it against the backdrop of Uhura’s story. Instead “Children of the Comet” does what Trek does best, it presents different viewpoints and posits the question of what works best for the characters involved. Exploring Uhura’s tragic past explains her own hesitations when it comes to her future in Starfleet. It also helps to define her trepidation when it comes to this week’s away mission.
Strange New Worlds continue to exhibit all the best aspects of The Original Series and The Next Generation. Telling compelling stories about the exploration of space. But with plenty of onboard human drama to help drive home the morals behind the storytelling. This episode we’re learning how to communicate.
During a senior crew dinner in the Captain’s sprawling quarters, Uhura falls foul of two pranks by her colleagues. Despite speaking 37 languages, Uhura lacks confidence and this becomes apparent in her interactions with others. But in recounting the tragic story of how she came to join Starfleet, its clear the cadet has a strong sense of who she is. Celia Rose Gooding brings a huge amount of charm to the legacy character. In these short scenes she is able to bring us on Uhura’s emotional journey, conveying her complex history with an emotional performance rather than through exposition heavy flashbacks.
Elsewhere, the U.S.S. Enterprise stumbles upon a comet which is heading directly towards an M-class planet. The inhabitants of the desert world are a pre-warp society with no understanding of the fate which awaits them. When Pike and co. attempt to correct the comet’s path they learn it is a mythic figure to a race known – by the universal translator – as the Shepherds. The comet and the Shepherd’s prove to be much more than the Enterprise bargains for thanks to their advanced tech.
For Pike, this means he needs to learn to communicate with the Captain of the Shepherd vessel. For the away team, including Spock (Ethan Peck) and Uhura, it means they need to learn to understand an alien language and its technology. Who better to crack the code of the comet than a cadet with 37 languages under her belt?
Myers and Tarkoff’s script coalesces beautifully. There’s a slow build in tension that restrains itself from verging in to melodrama. Whilst aspects of the finale seem a little out of left-field, it also feels wonderfully Trek. Leaning in to the talents of its cast, “Children of the Comet” does something unexpected yet poignant and for that Strange New Worlds should be celebrated.
“Children of the Comet” is an excellent way to follow up the pilot episode. It ticks all the boxes for a classic Star Trek episode.
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