Published Jun 16, 2023
RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 201 - 'The Broken Circle'
There's a tension that they can't quite pin down...
By Jay Stobie
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
In the Season 2 premiere episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, "The Broken Circle," a distress call from Lt. Noonien-Singh compels Spock to disobey orders and take the U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew into disputed space, risking renewed hostilities with the Klingons in a bid to aid their shipmate.
- Christopher Pike
- Una Chin-Riley (Number One)
- Dr. Joseph M'Benga
- Christine Chapel
- Erica Ortegas
- Jenna Mitchell
- Nyota Uhura
- Robert April
- La’An Noonien-Singh
- The Broken Circle extremists
- U.S.S. Enterprise
- Starbase One, Sol System
- Cajitar system, edge of Klingon space
- Cajitar 4
- False Federation Crossfield-class starship
The U.S.S. Enterprise is docked at Starbase One in the Sol System so the Operational Support Services team, led by the Chief Fleet Inspector Commander Pelia can run comprehensive inspections, systems checks, and upgrades. Captain Christopher Pike logs a disturbing tension he senses among the admiralty, yet his attention is drawn to Commander Una Chin-Riley’s upcoming trial. Pike speaks with Una via a comm channel in his Ready Room, and they both voice frustrations over an inability to get a response from their defense lawyer of choice.
Number One believes the lawyer is the only one who would argue the case, while the captain suggests they take their plight public. Unwilling to allow her “mistake” to impact Pike’s career, a deflated Una mentions she expects the prosecution to offer a plea deal involving her resignation. Pike objects, citing the incalculable loss to the Enterprise, but Una responds with the captain’s own advice, “Don’t start a fight you can’t win.” Pike resolves to traverse the quadrant and meet the lawyer face-to-face.
In Pike’s quarters, Lt. Spock learns he will have the center seat during the captain’s trip. The science officer points out that half the crew is on shore leave and the ship has yet to find replacements for their chief engineer and head of security. Spock appears nervous, but Pike expresses his faith in him and promises he won’t even have to leave spacedock.
Despite the captain’s confidence, a distressed Spock visits Sickbay. Dr. Joseph M’Benga recalls the Vulcan lowered the cognitive blocks controlling his emotions during his recent fight with the Gorn. M’Benga suggests Spock may have to learn to live with more freely flowing emotions. Spock expresses doubt, so the doctor offers another solution, retrieving a Vulcan lute and outlining the benefits of channeling emotion into expression. Spock’s heart rate decreases as he strokes the instrument’s strings — that is, until Nurse Christine Chapel enters, causing Spock’s readings to spike and inducing his swift exit. Not interested in chatting about Spock, Chapel brings up a fellowship in Archaeological Medicine for which she thinks she will apply.
On the Bridge, Commander Pelia’s inspectors critique Lt. Erica Ortegas’ helm layout and seek to install a secure comms patch at Ensign Nyota Uhura’s station, eliciting annoyed glares from the Enterprise crew. Since the maintenance requires a system reboot, a resilient Uhura insists she prep a secondary comm channel in case of emergency.
The newly-promoted ensign’s wisdom yields results, so Uhura heads to Spock’s quarters and informs him that an odd signal variance is emanating from the Cajitar system, on the edge of Klingon space. Uhura rules out random signal shifting and concludes it is a distress call from Lt. La’An Noonien-Singh.
Back in the Ready Room, Admiral Robert April denies Spock’s request to aid La’An, reminding him she was on voluntary leave. Spock persists, disclosing the message indicated an anti-Federation threat on Cajitar 4. Exasperated, April explains that the planet serves as a dilithium mining center where access alternates between the Klingons and Starfleet, as a result of a painstakingly negotiated treaty. Right now, it’s the Klingons’ turn. Any intervention may stoke hostilities, so La’An must fend for herself.
Standing by out of April's view in the Ready Room, M’Benga, Ortegas, Uhura, Chapel, and Lt. Jenna Mitchell share their disagreement with the admiral's orders. Spock announces his “obvious” plan — steal the Enterprise! The officers exchange curious glances but opt to support the endeavor.
Mitchell simulates a coolant leak in the intermix chamber, setting off blaring alarms and catching Commander Pelia’s attention. The chief inspector, who teaches a course in warp core breaches at Starfleet Academy, ignores the evacuation and enters the Bridge to confront Spock about the ruse. To Spock’s surprise, Pelia divulges she knows his mother Amanda Grayson, and states, “If you’re going to steal a starship, do it correctly.” The unexpected ally instructs Ortegas to vent ionized plasma from the warp nacelles, prompting Starbase One to blow the docking clamps.
With the vessel free, Pelia volunteers to sub in as the ship’s chief engineer, claiming it’s been 100 years since she’s gone out with engines of her own. Uhura finally recognizes Pelia’s accent; the commander is a Lanthanite. Ready to set course, the crew wonders whether or not Spock will say “his thing.” After briefly deliberating on the matter, Spock grips the captain’s chair and commands, “I would like the ship to go. Now,” sending the Enterprise into warp.
At the Cajitar colony, a confident La’An inspires cheers while downing bloodwine and drinking the Klingon Kr'Dogh under the table. La’An sets a meeting with someone named Greynax before recognizing M’Benga in the crowd. Conversing in private with the doctor, Spock, Chapel, and Uhura, La’An recounts how the settlement’s dilithium profits skyrocketed during the war. Once peace reigned, a syndicate composed of soldiers from both sides hoped to enrich themselves by reigniting the war. The extremist group had been collecting Federation tech, and a recent mining explosion produced ion radiation — a byproduct of photon torpedoes, noted by M'Benga, surprising them with his non-medical expertise. Chapel reminds them that she and M'Benga served in the Klingon War*, and doc likes to read up on weapons systems.
M’Benga laments the 100 million Federation bodies slaughtered in exchange for a parsec of space. La’An had located Oriana’s parents, but the ion radiation caused them to become ill. M’Benga and Chapel venture to a makeshift field hospital and treat one of Oriana’s parents. A Klingon notices their tech and forces them to follow her.
Elsewhere on the planet, Spock and Uhura covertly observe La’An’s meeting with Greynax, who speaks in the rare Klingon dialect Kach-Ugh. The buyer’s desire for Starfleet hand phasers leads him to threaten La’An, but she brandishes an “anti-matter detonation switch” that would explode if released. Amused, Greynax agrees to La’An’s price and requests additional weapons. After the Klingons depart, La’An coyly admits her bluff to Spock and Uhura; there is no such thing as a detonation switch. Uhura indicates Greynax’s plan will commence the next day, but when Spock requests a beam up, Chief Jay admits M’Benga and Chapel’s signals were lost an hour before.
Still held captive, the doctor and nurse enter a massive underground cavern where they are shocked to see a Federation Crossfield-class starship in the final stages of construction. Taken aboard, the two are tasked with treating the syndicate’s troops in Sickbay. A haunted M’Benga recalls looking after Klingon patients at the Battle of ChaKana on the moon of J'gal. Believing the photon torpedoes to be on the ship, Chapel and M’Benga hypothesize that the extremists intend to attack the Klingon Empire.
M’Benga procures a green liquid from his medical kit, indicating it would help them reach the Bridge and warn the Enterprise. A cautious Chapel questions whether M’Benga wants to do this “again,” but the doctor doesn’t see a better choice. The two use hyposprays to inject themselves with the liquid, resulting in an instant boost to their strength. M’Benga and Chapel fight their way to the ship’s transponder, which the doctor reprograms to send a simple message. With the effects of their “juice” running out, the pair continue their vicious hand-to-hand sojourn until they seal themselves in an airlock. The starship stirs from its hidden lair.
In a debris field near the planet, the Enterprise witnesses a Klingon battlecruiser exiting warp. In low power mode and surrounded by interstellar ice and rock with a high internal iron content, the Federation vessel goes undetected. La’An hails from the surface just as the false Federation Crossfield-class starship breaks through the soil and soars into orbit. The Enterprise’s sensors pick up the vessel, and Uhura alerts Spock to the Morse code message M’Benga embedded in its transponder signal — “Enterprise. Destroy this ship.” Spock surmises the extremists’ plot to initiate a false flag operation against the Klingon battlecruiser.
Rummaging through the airlock’s storage compartments for EV suits, M’Benga and Chapel locate a single helmet and thruster pack. The fake Federation ship opens fire on the Enterprise, and the doctor suggests they jump out of the airlock, using the pack’s attitude jet to maneuver and hoping the Enterprise detects the helmet’s internal beacon. Knowing it will take a minute to freeze to death, M’Benga and Chapel commit to the “terrible” plan. The syndicate’s vessel enters the battlecruiser’s sensor range; Spock hesitates. M’Benga assures Chapel that they’ve gotten out of worse, to which the nurse replies, “No, not really.”
Spock reluctantly gives the order to fire just as his comrades jettison themselves into space. The false Federation ship explodes; a tearful Spock watches on, believing he killed his friends. However, an alert at Uhura’s station notifies them of the EV suit’s transponder, and the medical officers are beamed aboard. Spock rushes to the Transporter Room and finds Chapel unresponsive. Spock fervently begins chest compressions, urging the nurse not to die. She finally inhales a deep breath and opens her eyes. M’Benga offers a knowing grin as Chapel strokes Spock’s cheek.
Spock utilizes the Bridge’s viewscreen to talk with Klingon Captain D’Chok, who accuses the Federation of destroying its own ship to cover its tracks. Spock explains the circumstances, though D’Chok insists he must look into his eyes to know the truth. Spock piques the Klingon’s interest by offering to confer over a barrel of bloodwine.
On the planet’s surface, Spock and D’Chok raise a toast. Pelia translates the Klingon’s salutation as “May your blood scream” and confirms to Spock that she is indeed Lanthanite — a people who lived among humans on Earth without being detected until the 22nd Century. Pelia notes that Spock’s mother was one of the first people she came out to, detailing that she helped Spock because the downside to living “almost forever” was not, as the “sweet, un-Vulcan Vulcan” theorizes, the loss of those you love, but boredom. Intrigued by excitement, Pelia suggests she might stay on the Enterprise. Having completed her mission to locate Oriana’s parents, La’An also returns to the Federation flagship.
In the Enterprise’s Ready Room, Admiral April reprimands Spock for disobeying orders, though he asserts that the science officer’s bloodwine hangover serves as an adequate punishment. Spock visits Sickbay, sorrowfully watching over Chapel before retreating to play the lute in his quarters.
On Starbase One, April tells Commodore Tafune that Spock unknowingly prevented the Federation from potentially defending two fronts at the same time. The admiral ominously remarks that, if “this war” happens, they are going to need every good officer they have... just as a nearby display identifies an object near the Federation border — a Gorn attack ship.
"The Broken Circle" features a dedication for the late Nichelle Nichols:
who was first through the door
and showed us the stars.
who was first through the door
and showed us the stars.
Hailing frequencies forever open...”
* "Battle of the Binary Stars" — The Federation-Klingon War was marked by the battle instigated by T'Kuvma who sought to unite the Klingon Empire against a common threat - the Federation. Further understanding of the impact of the war can be seen throughout the first season of Star Trek: Discovery ("Context is for Kings," "Choose Your Pain," "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry," "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad," "Lethe," "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum," "Into the Forest I Go," "Despite Yourself")
- Written by Henry Alonso Myers & Akiva Goldsman
- Directed by Chris Fisher