Published Jul 14, 2023
RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 205 - 'Charades'
Remediation has been made. No further contact is necessary.
By Jay Stobie
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a concerned Spock turns to Dr. M'Benga, who diagnoses him with experiencing what humans call stress. Spock worries that his emotions may impact his judgment. Unfortunately, there is no easy cure; he will just have to learn to live with them.
Despite being apart, Spock and his fiancée T'Pring's sharing of their katras and more helped strengthened their relationship. However, when the Enterprise was commandeered by Angel, Spock engaged in a risky gambit. T'Pring assures him she was not concerned as she did not believe he could have feelings for Nurse Chapel. Through it all, Spock still questions if he's "too human" for his fiancée.
In "Charades," a shuttle accident leads to Spock’s Vulcan DNA being removed by aliens, making him fully human and completely unprepared to face T’Pring’s family during an important ceremonial dinner.
- Christine Chapel
- Dr. Joseph M'Benga
- Nyota Uhura
- Erica Ortegas
- La’An Noonien-Singh
- Christopher Pike
- Sam Kirk
- Una Chin-Riley (Number One)
- Yellow the Kerkhovian
- Durik of the Vulcan Science Academy
- Amanda Grayson (Spock's mother)
- T'Pril (T'Pring's mother)
- Sevet (T'Pring's father)
- Blue the Kerkhovian
- U.S.S. Enterprise
- 40 Eridani A, Vulcan System
- Galileo shuttlecraft
- Kerkhovian moon
The U.S.S. Enterprise is en route to the Vulcan System to survey the moon of Kerkhov, formerly home to an ancient civilization which had vanished. Long-range scans suggest the presence of a strange energy anomaly just above its surface. Traveling at sub-impulse speeds, Nurse Christine Chapel uses the downtime to prepare for an interview involving a two month fellowship sponsored by the Vulcan Science Academy. In Sickbay, Dr. Joseph M’Benga begins quizzing her on Korby’s three principles of Archaeological Medicine,* with Ensign Nyota Uhura, Lt. Erica Ortegas, and Lt. La’An Noonien-Singh continuing the questions in the ship’s gymnasium and forward lounge.
Chapel aces the academic inquiries but dodges La’An’s curiosity about why she isn’t practicing for this test with Lt. Spock, a Vulcan. Ortegas interjects, describing things between Chapel and Spock as “weird.” The observation rings true when the science officer completely ignores Chapel in a turbolift.
In Captain Christopher Pike’s quarters, Spock credits M’Benga with helping him suppress his emotions and giving him the chance to explore new interests, such as cooking. Pike is surprised to learn Spock utilizes nasal suppressants to mask human scent. Spock sees the scent of humans as something that most Vulcans must get used to. Listening to Lt. Samuel Kirk’s briefing about Kerkhov in the Ready Room, Spock notes his ability to avoid triggers that would lead to an emotional overload. The Vulcan rises and calmly cleans up dirty dishes and crumbs Sam had left on the table. Moving to the lounge, his friends recount funny stories which Spock find... fascinating.
Content, Spock looks forward to reuniting with his fiancée, T’Pring. Speaking via a comm channel in his quarters, Spock learns T’Pring has scheduled their ceremonial engagement dinner — the V’Shal — at the urging of her mother, T’Pril. With her mother opposed to the wedding, T’Pring hopes this will alleviate some tension, even though Sarek will not be attending.** Spock agrees, but the matter clearly distracts him. Back in the Ready Room, Pike notices his attention wane as they discuss Spock’s mission to pilot the shuttle during the flyby of the Kerkhovian moon. Describing the dinner as a big deal, Spock insists the flight will help him focus on work. That is, until he discovers that Nurse Chapel will now be his passenger.
In the shuttle, Spock and Chapel adopt awkwardly rigid postures and fail to make small talk. With the Kerkhovians rumored to have a robust and advanced system of medicine, Chapel believes the assignment could help her application for the fellowship. She confronts Spock about his apparent desire to avoid her, but the shuttle’s computer interrupts and announces that they are within scanning range of the moon. Spock initiates scans, determining that the previously detected energy anomaly is a stable vortex — a rupture in space-time. Suddenly, the shuttle’s alarms go off, alerting them to gravitational radiation approaching their craft. Systems go down, and Spock turns into the skid, a maneuver that pulls them toward the anomaly.
The light intensifies, and Spock awakens to find himself staring up at Chapel, M’Benga, and Pike in Sickbay. Chapel and Spock had been in a shuttle accident. Uncertain of what transpired, the two appeared back on the Enterprise. Chapel was unharmed, but a wounded Spock was healed by an unknown presence. As the science officer sits up, M’Benga delicately tells him that whoever did this had made Spock fully human. Spock catches his reflection, notices his rounded ears, and angrily proclaims, “What the f—!”
Having been found floating in space, the shuttle is returned to the Enterprise. Commander Una Chin-Riley and La’An inspect it, curious as to how the vessel can be in pristine condition following the crash recorded in its logs. La’An uncovers a metallic, oval-shaped device. Uhura analyzes it on the Bridge, determining it to be a calling card which will allow them to communicate with whoever left it. A blue, luminous, nebula-like being appears on the viewscreen and introduces itself as "Yellow of Kerkhov." Flustered, Pike asks about the shuttle accident. According to Yellow, remediation had been made per their laws and no further contact is necessary. The shuttle collided with their transport tunnel, and the Kerkhovians felt obligated to repair it. The two beings in the shuttle — Chapel and Spock — did not “match.” Spock was damaged, but contained “mixed instructions,” so they fixed him according to Chapel’s biology. Yellow declares that thanks are not necessary and severs the connection.
In Sickbay, M’Benga assures Spock he is working on a cure. Wearing a nervous expression, Spock tells the captain that he feels angry, powerless, annoyed, and weirdly hungry. Pike reminds him of his upcoming dinner with T’Pring’s parents, prompting Spock to panic and claim that T’Pril hates him. Sniffing his armpits, Spock asks if he smells more human before enduring fluctuating emotions at the news that Pike convinced T’Pring’s family to postpone the dinner. Relieved, Spock intends to return to his duties and social obligations.
The fully human science officer is overwhelmed with laughter in the forward lounge, stuffs himself with bacon in Pike’s quarters to make up for lost time, and must be forcibly restrained while berating Sam Kirk for leaving another mess. Disturbed by Spock’s unsteady emotions, La’An chats with him in the Ready Room. Recognizing Spock’s symptoms as akin to being a human teenager, the security chief describes adolescence as a delightful cocktail of anger, fear, sexual attraction, and hunger. Spock notices strange feelings stirring, his lustful gaze making La’An uncomfortable. After Spock admits his embarrassment, La’An gives him a friendly pat on the arm and contends he must work on impulse control.
Nurse Chapel dedicates herself to studying Spock’s case and works through the night. Entering Sickbay, M’Benga tries to ease Chapel’s frustrations, citing the resources of the inscrutable inter-dimensional beings who don’t experience space and time the way they do. The nurse blames herself for Spock’s condition, at least until the doctor reminds her she is late for her interview. Chapel speeds to the Ready Room and contacts the Vulcan Science Academy. On the viewscreen, her interviewer divulges that he is not impressed by her essay. The representative is more focused on her syntax and word choice than her groundbreaking field work. He promises to communicate with her again and abruptly ends the transmission.
Downtrodden, Chapel makes her way through the corridors until she bumps into Spock, who immediately recognizes that she is upset. Assuming it involves the fellowship, Spock pronounces, “Vulcans can be such jerks.” He embraces her in an uncharacteristic hug, eliciting a smile from Chapel and assuring her he will also be fine. Pike pages Spock with an emergency message — his mother, Amanda Grayson, is beaming aboard. The captain greets her in the Transporter Room, and Spock soon enters, wearing a winter cap to conceal his lack of pointed ears. He insists the headgear is regulation, though Amanda quickly changes the subject. If they don’t do the engagement dinner now, T’Pring’s parents will call off the wedding. Pike struggles to assist Spock in coming up with an excuse, leading Amanda to announce the event will be held the following night aboard the Enterprise. Despite claiming he is suffering muscle spasms, Spock proves unable to hide the displeasure from his face. His emotions intensify, and Amanda senses something is awry. Spock removes his hat, revealing that he is human.
The three retreat to Pike’s quarters, Spock anxiously snacking and insisting they postpone the dinner. Amanda discloses that T’Pring’s mother is skittish over the engagement because she is human. The solution? Permit Amanda to show Spock how to lie and have him pretend to be Vulcan. They take a detour to Sickbay, where M’Benga presents Spock with prosthetic Vulcan ears. Amanda then illustrates the first part of the V’Shal ritual — Spock must prepare tea for T’Pring’s parents and serve it to them in a scalding hot teapot. Unable to cope with the heat, Spock watches as Amanda does it with ease. Living as a human on Vulcan has taught her to suppress her own pain. On the Bridge, Spock’s friends — Uhura, LaA’n, Una, and Ortegas — demonstrate robotic speech patterns for him to study.
The second part of the ritual involves the young couple being made aware of their faults and flaws. As a timer counts down, T’Pring’s parents will tell Spock all the things they believe he is doing wrong. In the final portion of the V’Shal, Spock must mind-meld with Amanda and share a memory of his childhood. Spock has severe difficulty with each task, causing his mother to realize that they might simply have to hope Chapel and M’Benga uncover a cure.
In Sickbay, Chapel’s efforts with haploid gene replacement aren’t going any better. The Vulcan genome is failing to replace the duplicated human copy. According to the models, Spock’s cells will lose all genetic plasticity in 24 hours and the changes will become permanent. Federation medical technology isn’t working, so Chapel runs to find Ortegas and Uhura in the lounge. She asks Ortegas to pilot a shuttle adjacent to the inter-dimensional opening above the Kerkhovian moon so they can talk to the “ancient aliens.” Ortegas isn’t enthusiastic at first, but Chapel and Uhura convince her to do it for Spock.
Meanwhile, Amanda waits in the Transporter Room with Spock, who is now wearing traditional Vulcan clothing and distinctly nontraditional prosthetic ears. T’Pring beams aboard, exhausted from her mother’s interest in rituals. She is relieved when Amanda offers to greet her parents for her. Spock and T’Pring leave for the captain’s quarters. T’Pring observes that her frustration with her mother is only fascinating in the way it is fascinating that some species eat their young. Spock stifles a laugh with a cough and claims he was choking. Spock chooses to spare T’Pring additional stress and refrains from telling her about his condition.
The two wait in Pike’s quarters until T’Pring’s parents — T’Pril and Sevet — arrive with Amanda. T’Pring’s father compliments the decor, but T’Pril takes command and deems the room to be merely adequate. She notes an unfortunate odor, drawing a glare from Captain Pike, and questions Spock about his accident. The science officer explains he was in a crash which singed his eyebrows. Pike changes the subject, showing off the Vulcan specialties, including tevmel, that he had prepared. Sevet relishes his first bite, though T’Pring’s mother remarks Pike’s take on the dish is not traditional. Her husband backtracks and agrees.
In a shuttle above the Kerkhovian moon, Ortegas flies the vessel as Uhura attempts to patch in their call to the Kerkhovians. Arms crossed in anticipation, Chapel suggests they move closer to the gravitational anomaly that nearly killed her and Spock. Blocked by a distortion field, Uhura proposes they wedge themselves in the door to get a signal through. She describes the vortex as being like calm waters under a stormy surface, but Ortegas declares that she hates analogies. Uninterested in being the one to vote against doing a crazy maneuver, Ortegas tells her friends to hold onto their butts and stears into the anomaly.
On the Enterprise, Spock restrains his suffering as he grips the blistering pot and pours pomkot tea for T’Pring’s mother. She sips it and proclaims it acceptable; Spock has completed the ritual’s first step.
Within the Kerkhovian vortex, the three officers find themselves in a reflective, prism-like environment and wonder if they are dead. Uhura posits that they are in inter-dimensional space, and another nebulous being — this one named Blue — greets them. Chapel recounts that the Kerkhovians did not remediate Spock correctly, ultimately turning him into something he’s not. Blue is confused by the complaint being submitted after the response period. Chapel requests a meeting with Yellow.
In the midst of the ritual of awareness, Amanda urges T’Pring to visit more and fortify her self-confidence. In her attempt to avoid being needlessly cruel, Amanda irritates T’Pril, who credits Amanda’s heritage for her timidness. T’Pring’s mother turns her attention to Spock, stating that he is a disappointment who turned his back on his planet, his people, his family, and their daughter. Sensing this won’t go well, Pike takes a swig of his drink. T’Pril states many Vulcans would have interest in T’Pring, yet Spock disrespects his family name by choosing Starfleet over all else. Spock has failed Sarek as a son and does not deserve her daughter. Spock’s anger simmers, and he excuses himself as the ritual ends. According to T’Pril, a Vulcan should have a more resilient bladder. Entering Pike’s restroom, Spock punches the air and screams into a pillow. He contacts M’Benga, who alarms him by conveying Chapel’s current location.
Yellow coalesces before Chapel in inter-dimensional space and inquires about the nurse’s relationship to Spock. Chapel describes him as her friend, prompting Uhura and Ortegas to exchange a knowing look. However, friends are not permitted complaints outside of the response period because they do not have sufficient connection to the being in question. Chapel tries to describe the level of care friends have for one another, sparking Yellow’s attention. The Kerkhovians were curious as to why Spock diverted shields away from himself in order to protect Chapel during their crash. Surprised, Chapel still hesitates to admit her true intentions toward Spock. Ortegas and Uhura emphatically object, pleading for her to confess that she has a fondness for the science officer. Gesturing for her companions to look away, Chapel concedes that she occasionally wishes she and Spock had a deeper connection. By healing Spock, the Kerkhovians changed him. He better understands Chapel’s emotions, but she misses him as he was.
Spock returns from the bathroom, but Pike stalls the dinner by proposing they honor Spock’s human heritage with the important Earth tradition of charades. The captain endeavors to relay the sacred rules. The door chimes, and Spock finds Chapel waiting in the hallway with a hypospray. Stating she has his “vitamins,” Chapel guides Spock into another room and informs him that the Vulcan genome should start coming back immediately, while physical changes may take a couple hours. Spock is pleased to see her, but the nurse is curious about why he protected her during the accident. Spock asserts it was logical, then reluctantly begins to say there’s something he needs to tell Chapel — just as she moves the hypospray up to his neck and injects the antidote. Spock’s expression becomes rigid and Chapel departs with tears in her eyes.
Shortly thereafter, Spock completes his mind-meld with his mother, noting that she shared a memory of an ordinary day in which she took him to school. Critical of the subject’s mundanity, T’Pril nevertheless acknowledges that the ritual dinner has been completed. She pronounces that Spock overcame many faults beyond his control, referring to his Vulcan logic as diluted and eyeing Amanda as she calls his mixed heritage a handicap. Spock counters her assertion and reveals that the entire ritual was performed by a human. Pike overhears the comment as he walks over with more refreshments, opting instead to turn back. Spock defiantly insists that he is the human as he removes his prosthetic Vulcan ears. Shock overwhelms T’Pring’s family, and Spock attests that his mother is the most resilient, compassionate, and tolerant person he’s ever known. Beaming with pride, Amanda thanks Spock.
T’Pring speaks to Spock in the privacy of his quarters, curious as to why he did not confide in her. They have shared katras and been through so much, yet she ponders whether Spock even considered telling her about his condition. She accepts her fiancé for exactly who he is but gets the impression that he still does not trust her. T’Pring pulls her hand away from Spock’s, recommending they take some time apart.
Chapel watches Sickbay’s viewscreen as the Vulcan interviewer transmits his decision not to offer her the fellowship. The nurse smiles, reporting on her trip to inter-dimensional space which resulted in first contact with a new species. The Vulcan is captivated, but Chapel delights in telling him he can read all about it in the paper she will publish. She says that the fellowship is not ready for her and closes the channel.
Pike and Spock commiserate in the captain’s quarters and toast to the long day. Spock then goes to bid farewell to his mother in the Transporter Room, where Amanda explains why she shared the memory of the first time Vulcan children asked Spock to play with them. From her perspective, it was the first time Spock felt accepted. The judgment she experienced from Vulcan mothers was a sign of their weakness, not hers. Finally cognizant of what Amanda sacrificed by living on Vulcan, Spock reflects on his mother’s attestation that it is not easy being a human who loves a Vulcan.
Alone in his quarters, Spock resolves to go see Chapel — only to open the door and find her waiting in the corridor. She follows him into the room and listens as he voices the news that he and T’Pring are taking time apart. Spock is conflicted because he has feelings for someone else. He doesn’t wish to suppress it any longer — he wants to feel this. The tension builds, and the two embrace in a passionate kiss. Spock asks what this means, but Chapel replies, “I don’t know. Shut up,” as she begins to kiss him again.
* "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" - The U.S.S. Enterprise searches for exobiologist Dr. Roger Korby, Nurse Christine Chapel's fiancé, on the planet Exo III. Chapel had signed onto the Enterprise in hopes of finding Korby, who is known as "Pasteur of archeological medicine." His expedition had left him stranded on an icy planet with 'The Old Ones,' ancient android natives that have since been extinct.
** "The Journey to Babel" and "Lethe" - In this classic episode, Captain Kirk seeks to learn more about Spock and his estrangement to his father, the Vulcan ambassador Sarek, discovering its due to the science officer's choice to attend Starfleet Academy over the Vulcan Science Academy. The Star Trek: Discovery episode provides further context about Sarek's complicated feelings towards both of his children (Spock and Michael Burnham) and the Vulcan Science Academy.
- Written by Kathryn Lyn & Henry Alonso Myers
- Directed by Jordan Canning