Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review, “The Serene Squall”

Image: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds/Paramount+
Image: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds/Paramount+ /

Over the past two episodes, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has given us both the high and low points of the season. As we enter the final stages of the first season, “The Serene Squall” gets us back on track with an episode focusing on Spock.

We begin at the Ankeshtan K’Til Vulcan Criminal Rehabilitation Center (thank you Paramount for including captions). The facility looks imposing, but as we enter, we see the more beautiful interior.

We briefly gets to see more of T’Pring’s work in criminal rehabilitation, one of the most interesting aspects of “Spock Amok.” The couple talk about sex, showing off more of their humorous side. This almost feels like it could be a deleted scene from “Spock Amok,” Hopefully, the relationship will continue to mix in this kind of humor even as they face serious issues.

Getting into the meat of the episode, the Enterprise is threatened by the titular Serene Squall space pirates. Space piracy is a vintage sci-fi trope of the golden age. Like many of the storylines on Strange New Worlds, this plot could have come from The Original Series.

On the hunt for a missing colonialist ship, the Enterprise soon finds itself at the center of an asteroid field. There’s plenty of starship action here, plus a fully tooled-up away mission. While everyone looks sufficiently cool, it leaves the viewer wondering why Captain Kirk ever let so many of his crew go on away missions in just their uniform.

While the away team is busy aboard the colonist ship, the Serene Squall board the Enterprise. Pike, La’an, and the others are seized. This is the first time that we’ve seen fighting aboard the Enterprise in Strange New Worlds, and while the scenes are certainly well done, it feels like the Federation’s flagship is taken rather too quickly.

The assault on the Enterprise and the seriousness of the attack runs counter to the comedic elements of the Serene Squall, who are played primarily as comedy pirates. It’s very Harry Mudd and, once again, very Original SeriesStar Trek as a franchise has remembered the importance of fun.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds focuses on Spock’s relationships

While “The Serene Squall” is the second Spock-centric episode of the season, the episode could be said to focus more on Spock’s interactions, with plenty of time devoted to Nurse Chapel and the new character Dr. Aspen, a former ship’s counselor. Aspen is interesting, and for a while, it seems a pity that the character wasn’t considered for the main cast.

The twist in the back half of the episode — that there are no colonists and the Enterprise isn’t the real target — is unexpected. It ups the ante, converting the episode from a somewhat run-of-the-mill “Enterprise captured” story into something more.

The true purpose of the assault on the Enterprise is, in fact, an elaborate jailbreak, which ties back to earlier scenes with T’Pring. Arden, actually called Angel, wants to use Spock as a hostage to ensure her lover is released from custody. The situation puts T’Pring in an awkward position of choosing between her betrothed and her duty. Ultimately, she decides to make the transfer.

Whether she does this out of love for Spock or horror at the thought of being responsible for the deaths of one of Vulcan’s favorite sons, we can’t be sure, but Spock is determined to stop her from giving in to Angel. His plan of kissing Nurse Chapel to sever her feelings is one that quietly pleases Chapel. Angel manages to see through the ruse quickly; Jesse James Keitel certainly makes the absolute most of this villainous role, relishing being both threatening and brilliantly sarcastic.

One of the few downsides to Strange New Worlds has been how often Captain Pike has taken a backseat role. Anyway, Angel secures an escape, allowing the character to make a future return. That seems more likely than after the final reveal, where we learn that the mysterious prisoner at the center of the plot is Spock’s half-brother Sybok. It’s a rare reference to the much-maligned Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but the character has always had far more potential than his single appearance would suggest.

Rating: 8.0

“The Serene Squall” is a return to form for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and, in many ways, encapsulates the series as a whole. Taking the classic space pirates motif and oft-done story of a captured Enterprise, the episode updates the format while remaining true to the show’s ethos. While other series’ may have played the episode entirely straight, Strange New Worlds finely balances seriousness and humor while introducing two more intriguing characters in Angel and Sybok. Great stuff!

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