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Star Trek Strange New Worlds: The Elysian Kingdom

"Once again, the magic of science prevails!"

This episode was a clever Renaissance fair adventure, beautiful to look at, fun to watch, with a surprisingly poignant conclusion.

This was M'Benga's story, and he did just fine playing himself as he followed the mystery to its conclusion. But what propelled "The Elysian Kingdom" was our glorious cast playing fairy tale characters either with or against type: Chapel as a kind and perceptive wise woman healer, Uhura as a sadistic and evil queen, the uptight workaholic La'an as a Disney princess in a sparkling gown babytalking to her adorable lap dog.

Surprisingly, Ortegas stole the show as the noble and valiant knight Sir Adya, courageously defending her king, ridiculing Pike's cowardly Sir Rauth, and romancing Una the Huntress. Ortegas has turned out to be a surprise standout in this series already filled to the brim with exceptional characters.


Chief Engineer Hemmer stole scenes, too, just by being himself. He used his telepathic abilities to channel the being in the nebula, whom Rukiya delightfully named "Debra" after her mother; I loved how he wiggled his antennae. And "Once again, the magic of science prevails!" was delightful.

Okay, I'll come clean. This episode wasn't for me. It edged too far into outright silly. Plus I don't relate well to fantasy, unless it's time travel or vampires.

But it did work as a lovely resolution to the sad story of the terminally ill daughter hiding in the transporter buffer. M'Benga won't be able to raise Rukiya, and he will always miss her. But he can think of her as an adult, alive and happy, living in her stories with a kind and generous entity called Debra. A fairy tale ending much preferable to the alternative.

And honestly, I can't say enough good things about the gorgeous costumes, the amazing set decoration layering forest, torches and mist on top of the Enterprise corridors, the transporter pad as a dungeon prison. And I particularly loved the Jeffries tube as a secret passage through the swamp.


Bits:

— Stardate 2341.6, M'Benga's log. Enterprise visited the Jonisian Nebula. The being in the nebula, a.k.a. Debra, was possibly an instance of Boltzmann brain. I'd never heard of it before.

— I liked the early scene where Una did her job as second in command by gently reminding M'Benga that he was chief medical officer, not just a distressed father.

— Many fans have noticed that the fairy tale book we kept seeing was authored by Benny Russell, Sisko's character in the exceptional Deep Space Nine episode, "Far Beyond the Stars."

— An original series callback might be "The Squire of Gothos," mostly because of the costumes. But I thought a better match would be "Metamorphosis," which was about a fatally ill woman cured by merging with a cloud-like alien.

— La'an's dress was hilarious. So was her conversation with the dog.


Quotes:

Pike: "I could get used to this. No battles, no chaos, just scanning a nebula and focusing on the science. Nice change of pace, wouldn't you agree?"
Spock: "Captain, you have repeatedly told me that humans have a superstition against calling attention to good things by saying them out loud."

Pike: "Ortegas, get us out of here."
Ortegas: "Kissing this nebula goodbye, take two."

Pike: "Diplomacy might be more prudent."
Ortegas: "I'm sorry, but we need the Mercury Stone. And it's hard to hear over the sound of your trembling boots."
M'Benga: "That's enough. We're going to try diplomacy. If that doesn't work, then you can cut something in half."
Ortegas: "Thank you, sire. Starfall is thirsty."
Pike: "Ridiculous name for a sword."
Ortegas: "You're ridiculous."


Ortegas: "And what is to keep us from simply marching in there and taking him?"
Spock: "The Swamp of Infinite Deaths."
Pike: "Oh, that is not a good swamp."

Hemmer: "Contact with it is unpleasant. That's why I blocked it. It felt as if my brain were being squeezed through my nose."
Ortegas: "I did that to a man once."

Hemmer: "Maybe I can get us out of here with the help of some powerful magic called science."

Hemmer: "What would a human magician say?"
M'Benga: "Abracadabra."
Hemmer: "Abracadabra. I like it."

Ortegas: "Not bad, Wizard. I like this... science."

Three out of four Swamps of Infinite Deaths,

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

5 comments:

  1. I loved a lot of this episode, but it was a little disappointing to me how easily and cleanly they resolved things at the end. M'Benga had to make a hearbreakingly difficult decision, without knowing it would turn out okay, and then immediately he sees her adult self show up and exposit to him that everything was fine, that he made the right choice, that it's all ok. I wish they'd been a little less direct. Like, maybe if he opened the book at the end and found that instead of the story he'd been reading to her, it was filled with stories about his daughter's adventures. That would give him and the audience some peace of mind, it would be touching, and it would resolve the arc of her writing her own stories, and it would show us, not tell us all of those things.

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    Replies
    1. I'm guessing they had Rukiya "really" show up to tease her possible return in a future episode. But I like your ending better. It fits perfectly with the "everything coming from a fairy tale book" setup.
      Still not sure if M'Benga will be relieved or whiplashed by Rukiya's reappearance. Yes he did get to see, more explicitly than in your ending, that she was going to have a wonderful life in the cloud, but he'll never go through the joys, aches, and pains of raising the daughter he loves. I'm wondering if that will wear on him over the years, not to mention Rukiya not having her dad raise her.

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  2. I loved all of the bickering, especially between Pike's Sir Rauth, and Ortega's Sir Ayda. And Una showing up dressed like Robin Hood made my evening. I think I'm falling in love with Number 1!

    I think one reason this show is so good is that the cast is really having fun doing it, and that's rubbing off on us. 3.25 Philodendron draped corridors.

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  3. I'm worried the SNW is starting to run out of ideas. We had a body switching episode almost back to back with this episode (I know there's an episode in between, but that's not my point). I appreciate the lighter tone this series has, but can we spread out the comedy episodes to other seasons?

    And I hated the ending. I hate using sick kids as drama. Was the point of introducing M'Benga's sick daughter only for this episode? Also, since when does a 10-year-old know what's best for them? Granted, it would have been hard to explain why the actress is aging in real life while the character can't (because she's caught in the transporter buffer). But the ending came way too abrupt when it could have gone longer.

    Also, I would have preferred it if the adult daughter didn't come back. In fact, how do we know for sure that was his daughter as an adult? He could have imagined it.

    Mostly, I was laughing at the cast having fun (Anson Mount was so funny!) But, that end kind of blew it for me.

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  4. I thought the episode was a little silly at first as well, but then I remembered that this was the manifestation of Rukiya’s story for what she thought was her father’s enjoyment. Once I thought about that a bit more, it made all of it quite sweet to me.

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