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Star Trek Strange New Worlds: The Serene Squall


Maybe not a classic, but tongue in cheek and quite enjoyable.

The second best part of this fast-moving and witty episode was Jesse James Keitel as Doctor Aspen Captain Angel. The moment they appeared, all in black and with a snake tatt on their face, I scribbled on my notepaid, "They're either awesome, or the villain." Luckily, they were both, and dare I say, a better incarnation of space con man than Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

(Aspen/Angel was referred to as "they." Jesse James Keitel uses "she.")

Doctor Aspen made no secret of their focus on Spock instead of the so-called endangered colonists. Asking Spock to fasten their necklace in the turbolift while almost rudely discussing Kolinahr and his emotions. Invading his personal space on the bridge. Going to his quarters to ask him about human hunches. After the pirates boarded Enterprise, Spock kept turning his back on Aspen and I kept thinking, No, Spock! Don't give Aspen a live phaser!

And voila. After Doctor Aspen was revealed as pirate captain Angel and Keitel started gleefully chewing the furniture, it turned out their entire gambit was using Spock to force T'Pring into a prisoner exchange for... wait for it... Sybok, Spock's half-brother, a featured character in a Star Trek movie so bad that many fans don't consider it canon. But Strange New Worlds has been so good so far that I'm actually excited about what they're planning for Sybok.

I'm still a little confused about Angel's relationship with Xaverius/Sybok, though. Angel talked deceptively about their Vulcan husband and the man they loved, but didn't state outright that they were married. Whether or not Captain Angel is actually Spock's in-law, I'm sure Angel will be back.

For me, the best part of the episode was Spock's increasingly confusing love life. SNW has managed to give him two terrific love interests that very much reflect the conflicting sides of his nature. Spock's conversation with T'Pring about twentieth century literature on sexuality was charming, but his banter with Chapel was even better. Spock needs a friend to work out his romantic confusion, and Chapel is being genuinely supportive and helpful.

And I'm fangirl enough to admit that I got a charge out of Spock kissing Chapel in front of T'Pring and Captain Angel. Ploy or not, there's clearly something developing between them. I can almost imagine the discussions in the writers' room about how far they can go and what they can do without creating a conflict with the Spock/Chapel relationship in the original series. I am enjoying it so much.

Oddly, I'm enjoying T'Pring a lot more than I ever thought I would, too. She is genuinely trying to understand Spock and develop a strong relationship with him, but it is clear that her emotions aren't fully engaged. We already know how smart she is; of course, she knew what Spock was doing was a ploy. What's interesting is that because T'Pring finds humans inferior, she doesn't think Spock could have feelings for Chapel. She's wrong.

Meanwhile, captive on the Serene Squall, Captain Pike cooked his way into some pirate hearts while sowing dissent and starting a mutiny. I so enjoyed his charm offensive with Remy, who reminded me of Olaf the troll, and not just in looks. Was Remy flirting with Pike the way Captain Angel flirted with Spock? There was that comment about Pike's jawline, and the "handsome and witty" thing, right?

I was confused about the colonists and the destroyed ships and where was the real Doctor Aspen, former Counselor on Starbase Twelve. But it wasn't really important. And I absolutely enjoyed the Spock-has-superior-strength fight scene, plus Chapel's fight with the hypo secreted in her sleeve.

And note how I just subconsciously moved the discussion back to Spock and Chapel?

Lots of bits:

— Stardate 1997.9, and T'Pring's personal log. Every episode has featured a different character's log. (Next time through the series, I need to track that.)

— T'Pring was working at the Ankeshtan K'Til Vulcan Criminal Rehabilitation Center, 3rd Moon of Omicron Lyrae. That's a mouthful. A guy named Stonn was at the prisoner art class with T'Pring! Stonn is a character in "Amok Time."

— This week's original series homework: If you haven't seen "Amok Time," it's the only TOS episode featuring T'Pring, and not to be missed. (Although it will also spoil the ultimate destination of the Spock/T'Pring relationship.) There's also "The Tholian Web," a so-so third season episode featuring a space laser trap like the one we got here for five minutes.

— The "prefix code," being able to take over your own ship from a hostile force, was featured in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, one of the three best Star Trek movies.

— Sybok or no, I refuse to rewatch Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It's practically unwatchable. Sybok's face wasn't shown in this episode. Has he been cast?

— I am currently watching Big Sky, a show about two female private detectives in Montana. Jesse James Keitel is one of the cast, and I like her character, Jerrie.

— Dr. Aspen/Captain Angel had a fabulous look: very attractive and interesting outfits, the snake tatt on their face, black fingernails with rings just below each nail and interesting, almost Bajoran earrings. And how cool was that necklace as a portable transporter?

— Spock's sideburns are now a bit less curvy on their way down his cheeks. And Pike's hair has calmed down a little, too.

Yes, it was a quotable episode:

T'Pring: "I have been doing research on human sex."
Spock: (snorts his drink through his nose) "What?"
T'Pring: "In Tropic of Cancer, the human author, Henry Miller, has a very specific idea about sexuality, which strikes me as very male."
Spock: "I... have not read it."
T'Pring: "Meanwhile, Erica Jong's Fear of Flying presents a female point of view, while still tied to a 20th century conception of..."
Spock: "I am not familiar with that book, either."
T'Pring: "Um. Well, I found The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson to be more interesting, as a study of the transformations some humans go through in the process of..."
Spock: "T'Pring. Perhaps we should read some of these texts together."

(And I would pay good money to watch.)

Chapel: "Have you met Dr. Aspen yet? They seem very sharp."
Spock: (not paying attention) "Hmm."
Chapel: "Has razor blades for palms. You know, to shave?"
Spock: "Curious."

Spock: "T'Pring has been researching... (looks around to ensure no one else can hear) human sexuality. She has been quite thorough."
Chapel: "That doesn't sound so bad."
Spock: "One would imagine."
Chapel: "But?"
Spock: "She appears more eager to explore my... 'humanity' than I am."
Chapel: "Spock, are you telling me your girlfriend is moving too fast for you?"

Aspen: "I see why Starfleet calls you their Boy Scout."
Pike: "They do not call me that."
Una: "Chris, it's actually in your file."

Pike: "Yellow alert. Erica, take us closer, please."
Ortegas: "How close do you want to get? First date or third date?"
Pike: "Blind date."

Ortegas: "Looks like a net. Except, you know, made of lasers."

Ortegas: "I enjoy flying manually. Feels like the ship and I are in a deep conversation. You know, like a third date." OMG, I love her.

Ortegas: "What does 'firing gently' even mean?"

Pike: (squinting) "Argh, me mateys. If we ever catch Angel, we should make them walk the plank. Argh."
Una: "Please stop."

I apologize for taking so long to post these reviews. I seem to be experiencing some writers' block. Which is really frustrating, considering that I am enjoying this series' first season so very much.

Three out of four secret personal transporter necklaces,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. As... fascinating as the Spock/Chapel dynamic is, I think my favorite relationship that's been developed so far on the show is between Pike and Ortegas. They really feel like a couple of shipmates that have been serving together a while and have built a lot of loyalty and trust.

  2. I liked Dr. Aspen. I really didn't like Captain Angel at all. She / the writers / the director went so much over the top with the acting that it kicked me out of the episode.

    Also the duality of the "we're two days from communicating with the Federation", "hey, let's call your girlfriend in real time", "oh, here she is, just in time" was so very GameOfThroneyFinalSeason for me.

    Still, SNW keeps kicking it out of the park, even if I fear that they might do a JJ and fuck it up with an overload of fan service.

  3. ... Here's going to be a controversial opinion....

    I love Star Trek V. It's one of the best comedies I've ever seen. So, before anyone yells at me, I know Star Trek V is a bad movie. But, like Plan 9 from Outer Space, it's hilarious. Both movies are so incompetent that they're so funny.

    Also, I first watched Star Trek V when it first came out on VHS when I was like 9 years old, so there is that.

    Plus, SNW so far is having a way of bringing bad Star Trek canon into good Star Trek canon. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Patrick, I also love Pike and Ortegas together.

    Anonymous, here's hoping they don't pull a JJ. :)

    Kathy, you made me laugh out loud. Star Trek V really can be compared to Plan 9 from Outer Space. Good point.

  5. I'm sorry I've been a little late to the party here. I stopped watching new shows right out of the gate because so many of the shows I like get cancelled after only one season, so even with Star Trek, I wait a bit to hear how things are looking. I thought of saying something on one of the previous episodes, but other than some minor thoughts about the characters, I didn't have much to say about them as a whole. But this time, I do want to ask: do we not talk about the Week's Most Obvious Symbolism anymore? Because Angel had A SNAKE TATTOOED ON HER FACE! I am glad that you suspected her right from the beginning, though, because I did too, and I was worried that maybe I'm too cynical.
    As far as the rest of the characters, I still enjoy Anson Mount and Ethan Peck, but I watched ST: Disco, so I already knew them. I also like Dr. M'Benga, and I keep hoping the thing with his daughter isn't going to end with me crying. The thing were we seem to differ is on La'an and Ortegas. I find La'an to be a little more trustworthy now, and I'm assuming the writers were using our (the audience's) own prejudice at her last name against us. On the other hand, she is such a stick in the mud that I tend to get annoyed with her more than anything. And Ortegas is bothering me, and I can't quite put my finger on why, but I think it's because she is so much like other Latina characters that I've already seen, that she seems almost like a stereotype rather than a real character. I would be okay with that on a lesser show, but on a show like Star Trek, her character just really annoys me. Uhura, I really can't tell how I feel about her yet. I think that's just me having trouble with reconciling three different actresses, and my heart is still kind of heavy from losing Nichelle Nichols so recently. I had to opportunity to talk to her a few years ago, so she has been someone I really admired and looked up to, and I like Zoe Saldana in the role, too. This new girl seems fine, but she's no Nichols or Saldana, so I'm still getting used to her. I hope my comments aren't too negative, because on the whole I really am enjoying this show.
    Oh, and one last thing, in case no one has said it yet, but I absolutely LOVE the opening sequence and music. I like the opening of Picard, which kind of goes between happy and melancholy (and I admit I teared up a little the first time I heard the TNG theme at the end of it). Discovery's theme is okay, and I like the sense of wonderment that seems to be imbued in the score, but it doesn't really pull me in. With SNW, the opening narration is fine, but when it finishes and we get the proper new iteration of the old theme, I smile every time! I can't skip it.


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