Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review, “Children of the Comet”

Last week’s series premiere of Strange New Worlds succeeded in reintroducing Captain Pike and his crew to longtime fans as well as those coming fresh into the new series. It also reintroduced many of Star Trek’s original concepts, including the traditional “planet of the week” format and an emphasis on optimism. The show showed few signs of the darkness that has pervaded the franchise since the late 1990s. Does “Children of the Comet” make good on that strong start? Yes and no.

“Children of the Comet” isn’t as strong an episode as “Strange New Worlds,” yet it is quintessentially Star Trek. In many respects, the episode is still introducing the show and the new/old crew of the USS Enterprise. Coming episodes all focus on one character in particular and delve a little into their background, their place on the show, and what will drive them going forward. This week, it’s all about Cadet Uhura.

At the beginning of her career, Uhura makes the “rookie mistake” of attending the Captain’s Table gathering in full dress uniform. We’re also briefly introduced to Chief Engineer Hemmer, whose gruff exterior gives Uhura the impression she’s offended him. Uhura attempts to balance her professionalism with attempts to remain accessible, something relatable to anyone in the early days of a job.

Not everyone is impressed that Uhura sees Starfleet as a job and not a calling. That includes Spock, but we’re not sure if that simmering tension will last beyond this episode.

The question is whether asking Starfleet members to devote themselves fully to their mission is elitist. While we see Spock’s point, the show is on Uhura’s side; it gives her a moment to open up about her tragic background. The episode also highlights Spock’s unfamiliarity with emotion; he’s quick to criticize when a word of sympathy may have been more human.

Pike, meanwhile, continues to think about his eventual fate, a fate that Number One refuses to accept. This storyline could raise interesting questions about free will, predetermination, and the nature of time, themes the franchise has explored effectively in the past.

What happens in “Children of the Comet”

As for the plot of today’s episode, the Enterprise is tracking a comet on a collision course with a planet. After they discover a structure on the surface of the planet, they head down to investigate…but not before a bit of flirtation from Nurse Chapel toward Spock. It’s a nice nod to The Original Series and something that will be explored further over coming episodes.

One downside to the storyline is that we know nothing has come of it by the time The Original Series stars, meaning the show will either have to break canon or commit to a subplot without any legs.

The episode sticks close to Uhura, this being her first away mission. Much of her time is spent bonding with Spock.

Sam Kirk is injured quickly by a mysterious egg, and sadly the show misses a chance to truly pay tribute to the Original Series by not having a redshirt die, something we haven’t seen in far too long.

An alien race known as the Shepherds arrives on the scene, none too pleased at the Enterprise crew for trying to circumvent what they consider a holy inevitability. The comet, they contend, is on a preordained path. They believe it is sentient. Pike now has a choice between confronting the hugely powerful aliens or allowing the comet to crash into the planet, killing millions.

The solution to the problem is a fantastic Star Trek twist, and the scenes inside the temple look magnificent. Likewise, the space scenes are top notch and better than anything seen on Picard or Discovery. Paramount+ is definitely treating Strange New Worlds as its new leading Trek series. This is the kind of movie-level production Star Trek fans always dreamed of, although the Enterprise seems a lot more maneuverable than it used to be!

In the end, Spock (and some quite fantastic piloting) saves the day. However, the episode doesn’t offer all the answers. The Shepherds are a race worthy of a return down the road. It’d also be interesting to further explore the idea of an ancient sentient comet. The theme of predestination ties in nicely with Pike’s thoughts about the future and Uhura wondering just how she ended up in Starfleet, making the episode well-plotted and perhaps more profound than it appears on first watch.

Rating: 7.0

While not as instantly likable as “Strange New Worlds,” “Children of the Comet” reinforces that this is Star Trek as we used to know it. Focusing on Uhura is a smart call; fans are already familiar with the character, so there’s little need for info dumps. With an interesting concept, plenty of early character development, and some great-looking action, this episode continues where the opener left off in setting out what this new Star Trek is all about. Even the theme sounded better this time around!

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