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Star Trek Strange New Worlds: Spock Amok

"There is one more chant I'd like to try. We might need a gong."

This episode was so good that it gave me reviewer's anxiety.

In the first place, I'd like to give major cred to whoever decided to risk doing Freaky Friday with Vulcans. Especially so early in their run, and after the intensely dramatic "Memento Mori." It wasn't just silly, either. This story had somewhere to go, and it absolutely arrived.

Shore leave on Starbase One seemed like a perfect opportunity for Spock and T'Pring to mend their rocky relationship, but it wasn't working because of Spock's strong adherence to duty and T'Pring's disdain for all things human. Switching bodies should have strengthened their bond since they had to do each other's jobs – T'Pring actually experienced active diplomacy with an alien race while Spock negotiated with a Vulcan criminal. Except I don't think that worked either, since Spock ended up punching Barjan out for calling Chapel an ape.

(Rehabilitating Vulcan criminals with logic seemed like a meaningful job to me at first. But really, would logic truly help in rehab? How would that work?)

The Vulcan deadpan discussion of their dilemma, including hijinks, was just so funny, mostly because Ethan Peck and Gia Sandhu did a marvelous job with Spock and T'Pring's mannerisms, voices and body language. Pike's reaction made me laugh. M'Benga's katric transfer with sea urchin paste made me laugh. Everything associated with the body swap made me laugh.

But as funny and even sexy as Spock was with T'Pring, his scenes with Christine Chapel were even better. It made sense that Spock would confide in Pike since his Starfleet career was on the line. But why confide in Chapel, first about his problems with T'Pring, and later about the body switch? It's obvious that Spock finds Chapel intriguing, and vice versa. He even teased her, and she hit him upside the head. They have such a human connection.

Chapel even told Spock that the most important thing was to be honest with T'Pring. Just as Chapel was honest with Lt. Dever, who wanted to put aside fun and talk seriously about their relationship – so she dumped him. That last scene with Chapel and Ortegas hinted that Chapel is interested in Spock, and that interest is nothing like what she had with Dever.

Honestly, you don't need to know the original series to watch SNW, but the opening sequence was a love letter to the fans who know those old episodes like the back of their hand. (In other words, me.) Spock's nightmare was a recreation of "Amok Time," right down to the wedding party with the gong, ritual combat with lirpas, and the famous Star Trek fight music. Human Spock was even slashed across the chest like Kirk was.

You wouldn't think they could top Vulcan Freaky Friday in the same episode, but honestly, Enterprise Bingo came close. Offended by being told they were "where fun goes to die," workaholics Una and La'an, after apprehending a couple of cadets playing, decided to try the game themselves.

This is the sort of plot that usually only works with well established characters, and this is only episode five. So why was it so wonderful? I love Una and La'an together so much. And I don't even care if it's a friendship or a slow burn romantic thing.

This episode's semi-serious Starfleet plot was negotiation with the R'ongovian Protectorate, a people that control a crucial piece of space. The "radical empathy" diplomatic technique was obvious early on but still enjoyable, and it was nice to see Admiral Robert April again.

But sadly, the most interesting thing about the diplomatic scenes, other than the effective make-up on the cat-faced aliens, was Pike wearing Captain Kirk's famous green wraparound tunic, and much better. It seemed too deep a green for me, though. And what was with the shiny sleeves?

This entire episode, including the diplomacy bit, wasn't funny for the sake of funny. It was about breaking the rules and bonding with others. And the visuals, especially the conference room view of Enterprise, Una and La'an on the hull signing the scorch (that scene made me go "awww"), and the gorgeous solar sailing ship were a visual feast. (And Vulcan! Vulcan defined grandeur.) Even the simpler scenes with Chapel, Ortegas and M'Benga preparing for shore leave were adorable. And also about bonding.


— Stardate 2341.4. Or was that just in Spock's nightmare? We visited Starbase One. Does Vulcan count if it was only a dream?

— Christine Chapel broke up with her boyfriend. Ortegas mentioned Chapel's previous relationship was with a woman. Bi representation!

— This episode and the original series episode "Turnabout Intruder" both had the flavor of an old Thorne Smith novel called Turnabout in which a married couple switch bodies and end up better off as they learn about each other's lives.

— And by the way, "Turnabout Intruder" is an uncomfortably misogynistic outing in which Kirk's crazy ex switched bodies with him because she wanted to be a starship captain. If you want to do original series homework, I suggest "Amok Time," not "Turnabout Intruder."

— Was this our first glimpse of Spock's quarters? They're gorgeous, but T'Pring insulted his taste by saying it was too human.

— In this week's hair report, Una, La'an and Chapel all went for upswept bun-like things. I loved all of the shore leave costumes, especially Chapel's pink hoodie, but M'Benga's fly-fishing hat took the cake.

— The end credit music was "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places." Which was perfect.

— Here is Enterprise Bingo. You're welcome. And thank you to the person on the internet from whom I lifted it.

Rules: Complete 10 items from the list below. Don't get caught!

Use transporter to reflavor gum.
Phaser stun duel.
Turbolift two floor shout challenge.
Set the Universal Translator to Andorian.
Gravity boot hang challenge.
Medical tricorder challenge: Vulcan mar[s]upial.
Food replicator challenge: durian fruit.
Sneak a tribble into the transporter buffer.
Sit in the captain’s chair.
EV suit challenge: unsanctioned space walk.
Sign the scorch.

Quotes, and I restrained myself:

La'an: "Sir, I should go do the... security things."

Una: "As a senior officer, I don't get to be part of the crew anymore."
La'an: "Oh, no, that's not because you're a senior officer. It's because you terrify people. (Una looks at her) That's a compliment."
Una: "Thanks?"
La'an: "I mean, what's wrong with liking work? And shore leave, I mean, the ship clears out, the halls are empty, no lines for the matter synthesizers. It's just you and the gentle thrum of the warp core. It's like... it's like Christmas."

Spock: "I had a terrible dream last night that I had to fight my human side."
Chapel: "Vulcans don't do subtle, do you?"

Spock: "It appears that hijinks are the most logical course of action."

T'Pring: "We have switched bodies. And we seem unable to switch back."
Pike: (laughing) "Get outa town."
T'Pring: "We are not in a town."

Ortegas: "Never get in the middle of a Vulcan relationship. They will hit you with a lirpa."

Spock: "This is coming dangerously close to hijinks."
Chapel: "Hey. Who doesn't love hijinks?"

Chapel: "They're going to nerve pinch us for this, aren't they?"
M'Benga: "Yes, probably."

I loved this episode more than I can say. Just re-reading my notes while writing this made me laugh repeatedly. How can SNW sustain this level of quality?

Four out of four candles, bells and gongs,

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


  1. I loved, loved, loved the fact that Spock and T'Pring didn't try to hide the body swap from Pike (or Chapel, for that matter), like they do in a lot of other body swap episodes. Because of course. It would be illogical to hide it from the Captain, and it was completely logical to seek an ally for Spock's adventure in T'Pring's body. This episode seemed to really have a strong understanding of what the pitfalls might be that they could easily fall into, and how they might avoid them.

  2. Is it wrong that I kinda ship Spock as T'pring and Chapel, they had really great chemistry.

  3. Guess I'll be the exception that proves the rule that this was a good episode. I'm glad everyone really enjoyed it. I did not. Will try rewatching, given all the positives. Maybe I missed something.

    IMHO, for a body swap to work the two swapees have to have really different expressed personalities, like Crichton and Aeryn in Farscape (S02 "Out Of Their Minds"), or Adolphe Menjou and Carol Landis in the Hal Roach comedy "Turnabout". But because Vulcans interacting with Vulcans require such stilted "logical" conversations, it was hard for me to notice much difference pre and post swap.

    This episode made me realize I never cared much for Vulcans unless they were half human, or in a scene with a human, or having emotion sickness. Think of all the "Sarek" episodes. I would not want to write Vulcan lines. There's a reason there will never be an all Vulcan Trek spinoff series.

    I did love the Nurse Chapel scenes, and Anson Mount as Pike, who just has to show up to be good. The La'an/Una scenes seemed flat to me until they walked out into space and looked up to see that magical lightship. That was wonderful.

  4. milostanfield, you could be right. Maybe we're all intoxicated with this brand new Trek and are seeing it through rose-colored glasses. Time will tell.

  5. The “shiny sleeves” are actually on all of the uniforms - leather-type shoulder pads with delta-shaped perforations. The light just happens to hit Pike’s alternate uniform in a way that makes it appear shiny. The Picard uniforms are similarly with their delta-perforation design.

    The green fabric hue I believe is accurate to the original and appears more vibrant here due to lighting and production values more advanced than in the 1960s.

  6. bbussey, you're right. Had to be the lighting.


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