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Star Trek Strange New Worlds: Subspace Rhapsody

"The last thing anyone wants is singing Klingons."

I was dreading this episode. It could have been terrible. Instead, I laughed, I cried, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Much like the Buffy musical (to which there were several callbacks), everyone began to sing confessions when their emotions were heightened, mostly about their romantic relationships: Pike and Batel, La'an and James Kirk, Spock and Chapel. It turned out, though, that the most touching relationship sung about was Uhura's with the Enterprise crew.

I found this review difficult to tackle, and ultimately decided to go with the musical numbers in order. Possibly more recappy than I usually am, but sometimes you'll have this.

"Status Report." The infamous Star Trek technobabble set to music, which was an appropriate way to introduce people singing who don't usually sing and are very confused about why they're doing it. "All systems are stable, so why are we singing? Most unusual, so peculiar."

"Connect to Your Truth." Lieutenant James Kirk came on board to shadow Number One, since he's going to be a first officer himself soon. Yes, another contrived excuse to get the future Captain Kirk on the Enterprise when he's not supposed to be there yet. Not that I'm complaining.

This one was relatively simple. Una sang to Kirk about what it takes to be a good commander: connect to your crew. "The littlest things can mean everything when it comes to them and you." Rebecca Romijn has a strong voice and it was sort of Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like, but what I liked most was Una and Kirk waltzing down the corridor. Those long, white corridors are so clearly perfect for waltzing.

"How Would That Feel." Christina Chong also has a terrific voice and did an excellent job with her solo. La'an has great difficulty expressing her emotions, and she's currently in the grip of a strong attraction to James Kirk – but their relationship happened in another timeline that he didn't experience. Talk about awkward.

"Private Conversation." A brief number and played mostly for laughs, showing two starship captains on viewscreen embarrassing themselves in front of the Enterprise bridge crew.

"Captain, can we have a private conversation?
In a more discreet location?
About our cancelled vacation?"

Cute. And short, because La'an was clever enough to walk over and turn off the viewscreen before it got out of hand. What I mostly learned from this number was that Captain Batel's first name is Marie, and she prefers room service while Pike would rather go camping. They clearly, duh, need to be more honest with each other about what they want out of their relationship. Good advice for everyone.

"Keeping Secrets." After La'an told Una about her feelings for Kirk, Una gave her some excellent advice: "Be your own best friend and confidant." I have been enjoying Una's friendship with La'an. They're both exceptionally strong professional women who always support each other. I also liked the bit with everyone floating, released from the artificial gravity.

What La'an experienced here contributed to her emotional growth. She took a chance and told Kirk how she felt, tamping down her emotions but still being truthful. Or as truthful as she could get without breaking temporal laws. And I bet Kirk would have reciprocated her feelings if he hadn't already been involved with... CAROL, a scientist on Starbase One! Who is pregnant! Wow.

I like Paul Wesley as Kirk better with every episode he does. Keep finding excuses to bring him in, please.

"I'm Ready." This was one of my favorite numbers, a big, fun, well-choreographed melée with everyone dancing around the lounge.

Jess Bush's Christine Chapel is one of the best things about this series and she was marvelous here, very sexy with a vampy lounge singer voice. But she was actually singing about some serious things as Spock, removed from the music, stood apart and watched her. Chapel worked hard for this fellowship, she got it, and she is not going to put a relationship she thinks isn't working before her career. Who could blame her?

"I'm the X." Spock's answer to Chapel's number in the lounge was a song about... well, it wasn't really about math, but that Spock can do the math. "I solved for Y in my computation but missed vital information, the variable, so devastating. I'm the X." As in, ex-boyfriend. He gets it. He and Chapel are over.

I loved Ethan Peck's deep, soft voice with real range, and how well he sang. And I was sad that this might be the end of the one romantic relationship on this show that I'm invested in.

"Keep Us Connected." This was the song that made me cry.

Uhura sang about losing her family and spending her life alone. "How come everywhere that I go, I'm solo? Am I at my best unaccompanied?" But she knows that she has connected to the crew, and they're now her family. Uhura saw the patterns and connections of the "musical reality." She figured out the solution. And it turned out to be the grand finale...

"We Are One." This was ultimately a triumph for Uhura, who pretty much saved the Federation and half the Klingon Empire by leading them all in song and destroying the subspace fold. Celia Rose Gooding has a beautiful voice and Uhura as a character is all about communication, so that made sense thematically.

So it was a bit corny. Working together, rowing in unison, contributing to the greater good, it's a cliché. But it's what Star Trek is really all about, isn't it?

A brief bit about the Buffy musical:

If you've never seen it, "Once More, with Feeling" is so exceptional that it's nearly everyone's favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I picked up at least three references:

La'an: "So, what's next? More improbability? Or will we just suddenly poof into bunnies?"
M'Benga: "I would prefer not to be a bunny, either."
Spock: "I doubt we will be bunnies. But we may not be done with singing."

In the Buffy musical, Anya, a former vengeance demon, suspected that bunnies were behind the spell because she was genuinely afraid of them. "Bunnies aren't just cute, like everybody supposes / They've got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses / And what's with all the carrots? What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?"

The other two homages were Uhura saying at one point, "I have a theory," something Giles said that started a group sing about how they could face anything together and ended with "It could be bunnies." And while Pelia was suggesting sending music into the fold, there was a riff of Dawn's ballet.

Bits and pieces:

— Stardate 2398.3. A naturally occurring subspace fold on the far edge of the Alpha Quadrant was the explanation for the musical reality. Did we need an explanation?

— A pop chorus was added to the opening credits.

— Co-showrunner Henry Alonso Myers was also showrunner of The Magicians and oversaw their excellent musical episodes. He knew what he was doing.

— Dr. Korby, "the Louis Pasteur of archaeological medicine," was again mentioned. He was in the original series episode, "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

— I really loved the dread on everyone's faces when the music started in the background and they knew they were about to start singing.

— The Klingons dancing while singing threats was laugh out loud funny. And I'm happy to report that Klingon General Garkog with the eyepatch was played by Bruce Horak (Hemmer). Yes, please bring him back at every opportunity, thank you very much.

— Spock did some diplomatic work with the Klingons, and staggered a bit as he returned to his post. Bloodwine again.


Pike: "So. That happened."
La'an: "Reports of musical outbreaks have come in from every deck."
Kirk: "Honestly, I assumed it was something you had all rehearsed... but I sang, too."
M'Benga: "So did I. And I do not sing."

Kirk: "Mr. Spock, you explained that very well. I almost understood it."
A nice little Kirk/Spock moment.

La'an: "When people sing, they are confessing highly personal, emotional information."
Pike: "Lieutenant, are you telling me our emotions constitute a security threat?"

Una: "Admiral April's last message confirmed that the improbability field has now spread to twelve Federation ships. He let me know, in a surprisingly beautiful baritone, that he wants us to stop this now, by the way."

Kirk: "So are you going to tell me that thing you wanted to tell me before?"
La'an: "Okay. I need to just say this before it comes out in the form of a seventeenth century sea shanty."

Spock: (singing) "When I scan the universe, it reveals truth and gives meaning. It's what I'm meant to do." Is it ever.

I liked it a lot the first time through. The second time, I loved it, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. Four out of four singing Klingons from me.

For what it's worth, I looked around the internet for reaction and the response was totally black and white, either that it was fabulous, best episode ever, or they jumped the shark, big time. What did you guys think?

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


  1. I have a theory:

    It could be bunnies.

  2. Super fun episode. And they actually put the soundtrack out on the music streaming services. An episode with very high rewatchability!

  3. Buffy's musical episode 20 years ago started a trend. And shows that try "the musical episode" almost always fails to deliver and it ends up being awful.
    This was OK, I am still not a fan of musicals and I didn't have high hopes for this episode. But this had some really great songs in it, and the cast were all great vocalists. Well done.


  4. Thanks for this review, Billie! Great job. I haven’t been reading spoilers for SNW and was completely taken by surprise with this episode. Since we’re doing black & white, I’ll say I am definitely in the “I like it” camp!

    One of the first things I noticed was that everyone had great singing voices. I wondered if anyone was dubbed! Seemed too good to be true that everyone sounded so professional. I’m not complaining, just surprised. On OMWF, not everyone was as gifted, which made it feel more real and spontaneous. And, singing your deepest feelings? Where have I heard that before?

    I laughed out loud at, “I have a theory.” Sweet. And bunnies! Such an obvious nod! Thank you, SNW, it was great. Even the last big number reminded me of “the big group sing” where Buffy should “get her Kum Bay Ya-yas out.” :)

    Onward with other points to ponder.
    - Uhura is on a roll. Saving the day is becoming her specialty!
    - Kirk/La’an = dusted
    - Funny Klingons? Cheesy & dumb, but it worked. It was funny.
    - Spock/Chapel canon is completely turned on its head. The lovelorn loser (and I mean that in the literal sense) in that relationship is Spock! I didn’t see that coming.

    Should be fun to see where the dust settles after this episode.

  5. Some more fun facts:
    Legacies did an episode called Salvatore: the Musical, but we had to wait until this episode to get a Salvatore to actually sing.

    The Klingons did a K-pop number, fun pun. :)

    One of the best musical episodes people should watch is from Penguins of Madagascar: The Return of the Revenge of Dr. Blowhole featuring Neil Patrick Harris as the titular Doctor. (in a nice allusion to Dr. Horrible of course)

  6. I'm not as much in love with this episode as other people seem to be. I mean it worked, it was fun, the actors obviously had fun and sang very competently, but doesn't anyone else think the music itself was kind of... bland? When I think years back to Once More With Feeling or Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I can still remember most of the songs, I even had them on my MP3 player for some time. The Subspace Rhapsody, on the other hand, I finished thirty minutes ago and I don't think I could reproduce a single melody from it. And I have zero desire to put them on my MP3 player.

    I don't know, maybe it's just me.

    (Also, as a sidenote: I didn't really get why it was necessary for Nurse Chapel to choose between Spock and the three month fellowship. I would understand if it was several years, but three months seem like a really short time to break up over.)

  7. I was speechless. Star Trek has always been fun for me, but this was fun on a whole different level. The quality of the songs was kinda meh, but that wasn't the point. Terrific idea well executed.

  8. I loved it :) I think they were clever about getting the actors with trained/professional singing voices (Celia Rose Gooding is a Grammy winner apparently?) to do a lot of the singing and playing down the others. M'Benga felt like the Willow of this one to me! Loved the Buffy references, I caught two but missed the one to Dawn's ballet :)

  9. I adored this episode from start to finish, and like Billie, I cried during the big number at the end, when the whole crew sings. Working together to make the galaxy a better place is what Starfleet DOES, and watching them do it in song ... just stunning.

    I'm hoping we'll now get the restrained Vulcan scientist I know and adore from TOS, and not this emotional quasi-Vulcan.

  10. I loved it but then I'm always up for a good musical. I knew Gooding and Chong would sound good given their musical theater background but Peck and Romijn were a pleasant surprise. I'm sure some of them got auto-tuned but they still sounded like themselves.

  11. Strangely, I am one of those that does not see it in black and white. I thought it was okay. Some of it was good, there were several moments where I actually laughed out loud, and other parts where I was bored and hoping it would be over soon. I agree that I am a little disappointed to see the Spock/Chapel thing end so quickly, just because we barely saw any of it. But I knew it had to end, so I don't mind too much.
    The one thing I have to disagree on, unfortunately, is the singing. It's not that they were bad, it's that it was so obviously fake that it took me out of it. Did no one else hear the auto-tune in their voices? I could hear the computer sounds clear as day. They might be good singers on their own, but clearly the showrunners didn't think so. I didn't hear one real voice without the computer hum in it.

  12. Given the title of the episode is "Subspace Rhapsody", I'm surprised nobody has yet mentioned the nod to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the middle of the song "We Are One" when Pelia, La'an and Spock are staring in different directions (the first screenshot in this review, and about 2' 45" after the beginning of that song). Check out the Bohemian Rhapsody music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ (about 20 seconds in for a similar image).

  13. Given the title of the episode is "Subspace Rhapsody", I'm surprised nobody has yet mentioned the nod to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the middle of the song "We Are One" when Pelia, La'an and Spock are staring in different directions (the first screenshot in this review, and about 2 minutes 45 seconds after the beginning of that song). Check out the Bohemian Rhapsody music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ (about 20 seconds in for a similar image).

  14. I've just watched this episode for the FIFTH time, and that doesn't count the dozens of times I've watched some of the songs on YouTube. I've become obsessed with this episode and can't get the songs out of my head. Great job by everyone involved!


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