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Star Trek Strange New Worlds: Charades

"Vulcans can be such jerks."

I had a hard time trying to figure out how to describe this episode in one pithy paragraph. Although "Vulcans can be such jerks" might just do it.

Essentially, Spock has been actively repressing his human side, and specifically his attraction to Christine Chapel. He's dutifully socializing with his workmates, but keeping a distance. (Although it seems unfair to criticize him not laughing at their jokes when he honestly doesn't get the jokes.) The nasal suppressants were a terrific physical manifestation of Spock's attitude. Almost like metaphor suppressants.

All of that changed after Spock and Chapel had a shuttle accident and got caught in one of those darned ruptures in space-time. The mysterious Kherkovians repaired Spock, Chapel and the shuttle (and gave it a deep cleaning, which was hilarious), but they must have thought Spock was broken because they fixed him by making him like Chapel: human. Fortunately, they left a calling card behind in case there was a problem with the warranty.

And let me pause on the way to discussing the rest of the episode by saying how much I love that the Kherkovians were like those automated phone messages that we all despise.

Anyway. It seemed at first as if all this was just so that Ethan Peck could make us laugh at human Spock. Growling at Sam Kirk. Responding sexually to La'an's lecture about human teenagers. Stuffing his mouth with bacon. Sniffing his armpit. The stocking cap with the delta on it. It did indeed make me laugh.

But that wasn't the point. The point was that Spock wasn't Spock anymore. Logically, Chapel might have had a better chance with him romantically if he had stayed human, but this episode showed that she loves Spock as he truly is. She refused to accept the change and relentlessly pursued every possible way to "fix" him, including baring her soul to the Kherkovians. (And Uhura and Ortegas.)

Where this episode might have gone off the rails is that yes, the freaking engagement dinner should have been freaking postponed. It was just too illogical to make Spock put on a pair of fake ears and carry on with it. It sort of went past funny into infuriating. I mean, how can Spock marry into this awful family? How rude can your future mother-in-law possibly be?

(I loved the echo of the Vulcan fight music from "Amok Time" throughout the dinner. It kept making me smile.)

Okay, T'Pring's father Sevet did try. He loved Pike's hors d'oeuvres, and he kept trying to neutralize T'Pril's rudeness while appeasing her at the same time, probably a reflection of their entire marriage. I also liked how Pike tried to defuse the tension with charades, although that was again maybe a little too on point with the Spock plot.

T'Pring scored some points with me by showing extreme exasperation with her mother. But she was also right that Spock should have confided in her, especially after their Freaky Friday body swap. I wasn't surprised that T'Pring decided it was time for a break in their relationship. Spock's heart isn't in it.

But what I liked most was that pretending to be Vulcan gave Spock a new appreciation of his mother, Amanda. I thought it was particularly touching how Spock acknowledged Amanda's strength and resilience in front of T'Pril, who continually denigrated humans. And Spock's new way of seeing Amanda allowed him to truly see Chapel.

It shouldn't have been a surprise that Spock and Chapel ended the episode in a liplock. It's been heading that way for awhile. Although honestly, I didn't think they would actually go there.


— Stardate 1789.3, en route to Vulcan and visiting the ancient moon of Kherkov. Pike ordered downtime to let the crew relax a bit. He's a good captain.

— The multiple scenes with the crewwomen drinking together, telling jokes, and doing their impression of how Vulcans talk were a lot of fun. I also liked that Uhura and Ortegas took the risk of revisiting the Kherkovian moon with Chapel.

— So much for Chapel's fellowship in archaeological medicine. It was great how she just hung up on that jerk of a Vulcan interviewer. Let's carry through with the phone rudeness metaphor, shall we?

— M'Benga quizzed Chapel on Korby's three principles of archaeological medicine. Would that be Roger Korby from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

— I'm so glad Mia Kirshner reprised her role as Amanda from Star Trek: Discovery. A bit sad that we didn't get an Amanda/Pelia scene, though.


Spock: "Steering is compromised."
Chapel: "How compromised?"
Spock: "I am turning into the skid, and the skid is taking us into that."
Steering a shuttle is like driving a car in snow?

Pike: "How do you feel, Mr. Spock?"
Spock: "I feel... angry. And... powerless. Annoyed. And weirdly, hunger. Is this a normal human feeling?
M'Benga: "Hunger can affect your mood. We'll get you something to eat."
Spock: "I feel grateful that you're trying to help me. Seriously, it's so nice of you."

La'an: "Adolescence is a delightful cocktail of anger, fear, sexual attraction, and, uh, hunger. You're constantly snacking. Like, so many snacks."
Spock: "I am hungry. But I'm also sad and frustrated. (glancing at her body) I also feel... strange feelings stirring. And now I'm embarrassed."

Spock: "Is it about the fellowship?"
Chapel: "I don't really want to talk about it."
Spock: "Vulcans can be such jerks." (hugs her)

Spock: "It's not all bad. Sometimes I don't cry in the shower. Kidding!"

Una: "I am Vulcan. I love logic."
Ortegas: "Notice how I move my eyebrow but no other muscles in my face."
Spock: "Do I really sound like that?"
Uhura, La'an, Una and Ortegas: "Yes."

T'Pring: "We debated for three hours over this outfit."
Spock: "That is... fascinating?"
T'Pring: "I suppose it is, in the way that it is fascinating that some species eat their young." (Spock snorts)

Spock: "I must use the bathroom."
T'Pril: "A Vulcan should have a more resilient bladder."

I'm still worried that my outsized love of this show is making me biased. How many nasal suppressants out of four?

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


  1. Loved that this was basically the inter-dimensional equivalent of an insurance claim gone badly (with the corresponding customer service).

    I'm always struck by how wedded to tradition the Vulcans are, while at the same time also being committed to logic/reason. Tradition and logic would seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum much of the time, so such a reverence for tradition seems...illogical.

  2. I had some mixed feelings over this episode. It was clever and funny and just plain nice in some ways. But I keep feeling they’re messing too much with my Spock. Part of Spock’s appeal in TOS was a certain mystique he carried. Viewers slowly got to know him and his Vulcan persona throughout the seasons. In SNW his mystery is being revealed quickly and early. I do like Ethan Peck’s Spock, but I think I’m such a fan of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock that I’m rather biased!
    And Spock’s relationship with Chapel has moved irreparably away from canon. I can’t see Chapel ever not being able to slap Spock out of a Vulcan healing trance when asked….(Private Little War?)
    But I still love the show. 🙂

    1. Worth noting, though, that the dialog from the romulan temporal agent in episode 3 confirms we're not in a Pre-TOS timeline. We're post-temporal wars (I.e. a Post-Enteprise tineline), where things have been changed. Things are heading broadly in the same direction, but no longer have to exactly match TOS history. These aren't the same versions of Spock and Chapel we saw in the original series.

    2. Oh, that's what it means. I never finished Enterprise so it never occurred to me that DIS and SNW were in an alternate timeline, but that makes a lot more sense. The entirety of DIS was counter to everything we knew about Star Trek history, to the point that when it was all classified I thought that aspect of canon was covered, but SNW has also messed with continuity in some surprising and fascinating ways, nothing major but I'm curious if they continue down this road, eventually putting Kirk in charge of the ship with the original cast of characters, will they adhere to TOS, or continue down this alternate path.

      Måge, Leonard can never be replaced, but I've liked both Quinto and Peck, with Peck delivering a different but perhaps his portrayal has the potential to be just as wonderful a Spock as Nimoy was able to create.

    3. Antony, I hadn't thought about that, but I like it. I don't want this series to confine itself to a story straitjacket.

  3. It helps to realize the alternative timeline. I do like Pinto and Peck as Spock. I’ll add this show to those where I enjoy the ride rather than ruin with expectations.


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