Published Jul 21, 2023
RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 206 - 'Lost in Translation'
It helps to have friends.
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, the U.S.S. Enterprise suffered a tragic loss when their landing party is stranded on the barren planet of Valeo Beta V. Hemmer, the ship's chief engineer, sacrificed himself after being infected with Gorn eggs, in order to give his friends and colleagues an opportunity to escape. Following Hemmer's sacrifice, Spock was unable to control his emotions, allowing his anger and pain to spill out. Acknowledging his human half, Spock begins to explore the feelings he was trying to suppress.
Meanwhile, La'An Noonien-Singh, the ship's head of security, lands in another timeline with events that were never supposed to play out. Worse yet, an agent from the Department of Temporal Investigations strongly requests she not share any details of what she experienced with anyone else.
Uhura reminds us that "the people you love the most can cause you the most pain, but it's the people you love that can mend your heart when you feel broken."
In "Lost in Translation," Uhura seems to be the only one who can hear a strange sound. When the noise triggers terrifying hallucinations, she enlists an unlikely assistant to help her track down the source.
- Christopher Pike
- Nyota Uhura
- Una Chin-Riley (Number One)
- Erica Ortegas
- Dr. Joseph M'Benga
- Sam Kirk
- James T. Kirk
- Christine Chapel
- Saul Ramon
- La’An Noonien-Singh
- U.S.S. Enterprise
- Bannon's Nebula
- Bavali Station
At Bannon's Nebula on the edge of explored space, the U.S.S. Enterprise enters a stellar nursery rich in deuterium — starship fuel — where the Federation is building an outpost to collect and refine the invaluable resource. Captain Christopher Pike stares out at the sprawling facility and its surrounding beauty from the Bridge, waxing poetic until he notices Ensign Nyota Uhura’s fatigue is distracting her from his speech. He jovially advises her not to burn the candle at both ends.
Commander Una Chin-Riley enters and congratulates Pike on his temporary promotion to Fleet Captain, as he now commands the Enterprise, U.S.S. Farragut, and the Bavali Station until the refinery is brought online. Lt. Erica Ortegas turns from the helm and remarks that it is the shiniest gas station she’s ever seen. Ever the explorer, Pike emphasizes that the facility will unlock half the quadrant and be the jumping off point for the next great age of exploration. Lt. Spock notes the nursery’s proximity to Gorn Space, and the captain sadly acknowledges the Gorn’s growing presence factored into Starfleet’s plans. At Spock’s suggestion, Pike orders Ortegas to find a dense pocket of deuterium. The helm officer prepares to “rip some donuts” and begins refueling the Enterprise by activating the Bussard collectors on the ship’s nacelles.
A sharp metallic distortion reverberates in Uhura’s ear, but no signal has been recorded. Pike attributes it to a glitch, but the dedicated officer resolves to run a full diagnostic. She heads to a compartment within a nacelle, where she replays a video of Chief Engineer Hemmer demonstrating how to recalibrate the communications array. Commander Pelia, Hemmer’s successor, stumbles upon Uhura and listens as she recollects that, since the antenna assembly goes through the nacelles and she often requested recalibrations, Hemmer provided her with instructions on how to perform the procedure herself. Pelia nods, stating that the Aenar had been one of her best students — well, actually he was “just okay,” but he made something of himself nonetheless. The awkwardness intensifies when Pelia asks why Uhura has never spoken to her before, but the engineer leaves once Uhura welcomes her to the Enterprise. Uhura resumes Hemmer’s file, smiling wistfully as she watches him play a practical joke on her.*
Wearing his Fleet Captain delta badge, Pike patrols the corridors with Number One and comments on the refinery being two months behind schedule. Starfleet attributed the trouble to “organization difficulties,” so Pike believes the facility requires Una’s signature brand of managerial fervor to get it back on track. Elsewhere in the hallways, Uhura boards a turbolift and hears the strange, metallic ringing again. Out of nowhere, she spots a grotesque, zombie-like version of Hemmer and staggers back in fear.
In Sickbay, Doctor M’Benga runs a neurological analysis on Uhura and determines she was hallucinating. While working in the nacelle, she had been exposed to a small amount of refined deuterium. Coupled with her rewatch of Hemmer’s file, the mild case of deuterium poisoning seems to explain why she hallucinated. M’Benga gives her medicine to deal with the symptoms, but quickly notices that her serotonin and cortisone levels indicate she has not been sleeping. The doctor prescribes that Uhura get much-needed rest before going back on duty.
On the Federation outpost, Una oversees repairs in the dimly lit facility. Pelia approaches, diagnosing the situation as even worse than it appears. According to the maintenance logs, the refinery has been breaking down faster than anyone can fix it. Pelia suspects an underlying issue, but Number One resists her input.
Attempting to follow M’Benga’s orders, Uhura struggles to fall asleep in her quarters aboard the Enterprise. As she sits up in bed, she immediately finds herself standing outdoors in an open field with thick smoke billowing in the distance. The auditory distortion returns until she awakes back in her room.
Lt. James T. Kirk beams over from the Farragut and is greeted by his brother, Lt. George Samuel Kirk. Sam welcomes “Jimmy,” and the two proceed to the bar in the Enterprise’s forward lounge. Sharing a drink, James asks about Sam’s work in xenoanthropology, but Sam senses the question is merely a polite prelude for James’ own news. Newly promoted, James will become the Farragut’s first officer in a few months.
Clearly displeased, Sam notes that the previous person to hold the record for being the youngest first officer in Starfleet history was their father, George Kirk, aboard the U.S.S. Kelvin.** Irritated by Sam’s demeanor, James points out that their father gave Sam his first name — though Sam chooses not to use it — so he had to do something to keep up. Frustrated by James’ ambition, Sam believes his father isn’t proud of him. Sam downs his drink and walks off.
Back on the station, Una rejoices as life support is stabilized and power is restored — at least temporarily. The lights brighten only to cut out once again, and Pelia’s team has found something in the fuel distribution system. The engineer had disobeyed Number One’s orders, opting to dig around the functioning systems and discovering evidence of sabotage.
Nurse Christine Chapel contemplates a chess move in the Enterprise’s lounge. Across from her, Spock raises a concern — he wishes to inform Starfleet about their fraternization. Chapel pauses in thought then describes human relationships as being like Schrödinger's cat. They exist or they don’t depending on who is observing them. Spock interrupts, intending to state that is not how quantum superposition actually works. Chapel admits it is a messy metaphor, theorizing that if they told anyone about their relationship, their “quantum cat” might disappear. Uhura approaches and confides in the duo. She first heard the disturbing sound on the Bridge, before her deuterium exposure, yet Spock and Chapel doubt anything is amiss.
Feeling defeated, Uhura departs their table and takes a seat at the bar, where James T. Kirk voices his opinion that her Vulcan buddy should protect his queen. Kirk introduces himself, but Uhura has heard of James’ reputation from Sam and believes he is hitting on her. James assures her he merely thinks she looks like she needs a friend. Uhura respectfully declines the friendship and withdraws from the conversation. Strolling through the corridors, the metallic ringing reemerges, and Uhura turns to find a darkened hallway littered with bloody corpses. She sees a disturbing doppelgänger of herself gripping a knife and reacts with a defensive punch. The hallucination ends, and she looks down to the floor to find that she has actually punched James T. Kirk.***
His nose bloodied, Kirk gets to his feet. Uhura is apologetic, but James refuses her offer to bring him to Sickbay. Having witnessed her experiencing the hallucination, he knows she has bigger things to worry about than being written up for striking a superior officer. The two travel to Uhura’s quarters, where she employs a dermal regenerator to repair his nose. Despite their rough start, Kirk believes Uhura’s assessment of her condition. He wishes to help, and the first step is checking with the Farragut’s doctor to see if any similar cases have been reported there.
With the refinery’s lighting grid and internal sensors offline, Una and Pelia maneuver through the facility’s shadowy depths. They locate their saboteur — a terrified Starfleet officer who frantically questions whether his new visitors are real. Una places a hand on his shoulder, asking the lieutenant, who relays his name to be Saul Ramon, why he sabotaged the station. Ramon is still seeking to discern hallucinations from reality, so Number One flips open her communicator and notifies the Enterprise of the medical emergency.
Curled up on the floor of her quarters, Uhura is startled by the sounds of explosions and the ship’s Red Alert klaxons. She hurries to the Bridge as Pike bellows that they are under attack. The viewscreen cracks and buckles, the change in atmosphere sucking the crew into space. Uhura comes to her senses, now sitting at her station, the bridge intact and free of any alarms. Pike observes that she is supposed to be on medical leave, but the ensign is speechless. The conversation between the two resumes in the Ready Room, where they are soon joined by James Kirk. The Farragut’s first officer expresses his appreciation for finally meeting Pike.**** Apparently, his vessel’s doctor received a call the previous day about Lt. Saul Ramon seeing things that weren’t there.
The three visit Ramon in Sickbay, and M’Benga highlights the damage to the speech and language centers of the lieutenant’s brain. Ramon experiences an intense auditory episode, prompting him to grab one of the doctor’s medical instruments. He slashes M’Benga’s chest, causing a minor wound, and speeds out of the room. Kirk reassures Uhura that this is a real event and follows Pike out the door in pursuit of Ramon. Phasers drawn, Pike and a security officer proceed down a corridor as the lights lose power. Rounding a corner, they find an unconscious crew member with a severe gash outside of Astrometrics. Pike calls for M’Benga, while Lt. La’An Noonien-Singh marches to the scene and indicates Ramon cut the power conduits. The captain and La’An continue toward Engineering.
Meanwhile, Uhura and James Kirk search another darkened hallway. The ensign endures a brief hallucination, momentarily unable to find Kirk. He reappears, but Uhura is shaken and chooses to return to Sickbay. Kirk proceeds on his own, eventually running into Pike and La’An. The security chief calls him by his first name, a fact which does not go unnoticed by Pike. Ramon must have found a place to hide, so the two parties double back. La’An watches Kirk retreat for a moment before joining her captain.
Alone in the halls, Uhura spots blood on the access tunnel to the port nacelle and reports the update. James isn’t far, but the ensign opts not to wait. Entering the nacelle compartment, Uhura notices Ramon jostling with circuitry and details that she has been dealing with similar hallucinations. She lowers her phaser and tries grounding him in reality by mentioning her name and rank, her home in Kenya, her cat Kamili, and the memory of her dad playing the piano. Ramon initially stares at her unresponsively, then suddenly moves to a console and initiates the fuel pod ejection sequence. The two fight hand-to-hand as explosions ripple through the nacelle. James appears behind Uhura, holding on to her and calling for an emergency transport. Kirk and Uhura are beamed out, but an expanding eruption tears through the hull and pulls Ramon to his death in the cold of space.
Standing in Sickbay, Captain Pike is contemplative as Chapel covers up the crew member who was injured outside of Astrometrics — she did not survive. The captain sits next to Uhura on a biobed, promising that they will come up with a solution for her hallucinations. After displaying his confidence in Uhura, Pike leaves to confer with Chin-Riley about the repairs to the refinery and decrypt Ramon’s files.
James Kirk leans against the wall in the hallway near Sickbay, perusing a PADD until La’An says hello. Remembering La’An from her recent transmission about Sam’s personnel file, Kirk divulges that he’s been waiting there to help Uhura. He then recounts how his family chased his father around from one Starfleet posting to another, yet he still barely saw his dad during his childhood. James’ mother explained that George Kirk was helping people that really needed it. La’An understands that, as a kid, James interpreted this as his father caring more for strangers than he did his son. This gave young James the impression that helping total strangers must be important. As someone aided by Starfleet, La’An agrees. With a smirk, Kirk reminds her that he hasn’t forgotten that she owes him a drink.
Chin-Riley and Pelia assess the routing system aboard the outpost, and the chief engineer interrogates Number One as to why she has a problem with her. Describing Una’s dismissal of the notion as malarkey, Pelia presses the issue. The first officer slams down her PADD and opines that Pelia is sloppy, doesn’t respect protocols, is too loose with discipline, doesn’t follow orders unless she agrees with them, and has crumbs on her uniform! In Una’s eyes, Pelia is a space hippie. The engineer accuses Number One of hiding behind order and discipline because it kills her when someone has the nerve to question her decisions. Una retaliates, stating she outranks Pelia despite the engineer having joined Starfleet before she had been born. Pelia shakes her head and reports she will have the station online soon.
In the ensign’s quarters, Uhura and James Kirk review a log in which Ramon recalls having the same kind of visual and auditory hallucinations as the communications officer. Based on the dates of the logs, Uhura estimates she has a day and a half until she loses her mind. Kirk encourages her to take a break, reminding her that the mess is serving real cookies which have not been prepared in the matter synthesizer. Unamused, the ensign shares that this isn’t the first time she has imagined someone who wasn’t there.
After her parents and brother died in a shuttle accident, Uhura thought she could see the crash site whenever she closed her eyes, despite not being present at the time. Hemmer’s death reopened the old wound for Uhura, who can’t comprehend how other people are able to face death. Rather than tell her a comforting fairytale, Kirk maintains that their Starfleet jobs put them up against death often. They may not like it, but they must face it. Kirk urges Uhura not to let death win, encouraging her to fight back and not let it prevent her from holding onto the memories of Hemmer and her family. Tears stream down Uhura’s cheeks, and James breaks the tension by offering to go get her a cookie from the mess.
Emboldened, Uhura retrieves her PADD and watches Hemmer’s pre-recorded lesson, a smile emerging through the pain. On-screen, Hemmer warns her not to burn out the receiver, and the comment catches her attention in the present. Uhura crosses paths with James on his voyage back from the mess — cookie in hand — and presents a startling theory. Ramon and Uhura experienced increased activity in their brains’ language center, so what if someone had been trying to communicate with them? If their signal was too strong, it might have burned out his brain entirely.
Uhura goes with James to visit Sam in his lab. Sam recalls a fringe theory which proposes that extra-dimensional lifeforms could poke into our space and attach themselves to atoms from our dimension. James puts the information into his own terms, wryly asking Uhura if invisible aliens are using her brain as a universal translator. Uhura believes her mind interprets the simple messages through her thoughts and memories. The visions are essentially a vocabulary, and the ensign reflects on their potential meanings. The walls closing in on her symbolized feeling trapped, and she attacked herself with a knife because the Enterprise’s crew is responsible. Factoring in her visions about the Bridge’s destruction, the dead bodies in the hall, and a zombie-like Hemmer, Uhura realizes that the unknown beings are trying to escape and that the Enterprise is somehow killing the ones they love. The Kirk brothers add that, if the lifeforms live in the nebula and — in a way — are the deuterium, refining the substance is basically torturing them. Uhura immediately contacts Pike to prevent the outpost from going online, but the captain responds that it became functional five minutes ago.
Chin-Riley and Pelia tackle the problem from the station itself, but none of its automated systems will respond. Uhura and James sprint into the turbolift, and the ensign finds herself in the middle of an open field once again. This time around, she spots a crashed shuttle and stands inside of it, summoning the courage to walk forward... and she reappears on the Bridge alongside James. Uhura briefs Pike, expressing that they’re killing the creatures living in the nebula’s deuterium by pulling them into their fuel pods. Ramon died trying to save the beings. The refinery can’t be shut down, so Uhura declares they need to destroy it.
Uhura and James assure Pike that they are certain they are correct. The captain orders an emergency evacuation of the station, and the Enterprise and Farragut vent the deuterium from their fuel pods. Shuttles and escape craft flee the facility until no lifesigns remain. At Uhura’s command, La’An launches a volley of photon torpedoes that rip apart the refinery. The ensign hallucinates a healthy, smiling, and nodding image of Hemmer. Uhura confirms that the beings are safe, and the vision slowly fades. She laments the facility’s destruction, but Pike promises to take any blowback from Starfleet. He admits he could also say someone’s brash influence — he gives James T. Kirk a good-humored glance — had rubbed off on Uhura. Pike outlines the next steps — recover the escape pods, get out of the nebula, contact Admiral Nagawa, and then take a nap.
En route back to the Enterprise, Una confronts Pelia with the truth — the engineer had been her professor when she took the Starship Maintenance 307 course at Starfleet Academy and gave her a “C” in the course. Pelia already knows and insists Number One deserved that “C” grade due to her sloppy final paper. She sees through Una’s facade, arguing that the underlying reason for the first officer’s unease with her is Hemmer. Pelia replaced him, so the sadness returns every time Una glimpses her. Given her lifetimes of experience, Pelia empathizes and smiles, offering not to contradict Una if she wishes to continue believing the “C” is the root cause.
A live band entertains the audience in the Enterprise’s lounge, and Uhura shows pictures of her family to James Kirk. Pondering why the beings communicated with her, James announces they found the perfect person — a good listener. Sam approaches, mending fences by sharing that he is proud of his brother’s promotion. Expecting a similar apology from James, Sam lingers until he realizes James is not taking the bait. Annoyed, Sam tells his brother to have fun on his stupid little ship while he remains assigned to the Federation’s flagship.
James eyes Sam as he walks off, declaring his brother to be — a voice completes the sentence for him — “frustrating.” The Enterprise’s science officer stands next to their table, and Uhura introduces James T. Kirk to Spock. Uhura grins as the two shake hands. James invites the Vulcan to join them, so Spock takes a seat. The three begin to engage in quiet conversation as the band’s music fills the lounge.
* "All Who Wander" - While on Valeo Beta V, the Enterprise's landing party resolves to recover the U.S.S. Peregrine and its crew after receiving their distress call. The Peregrine had rescued survivors from a Gorn breeding planet, but unfortunately, some of them had already been infected with Gorn eggs. As the landing party fights for survival against their ravenous enemy, Hemmer too becomes infected. Remarking on a life well lived, the chief engineer lures another Gorn youngling into a trap, in order to protect his friends. The loss of Hemmer deeply affects the crew.
** Star Trek (2009) - Aboard the U.S.S. Kelvin, George Samuel Kirk, Sr. served as the first officer under the command of Captain Robau. After an incident with the Romulan Nero and the Narada, the timeline split, deviating from the Prime Universe timeline. Following Nero's attack and the death of Robau, George Kirk became captain of the Kelvin, just as his wife was giving birth to James T. Kirk elsewhere on the ship. In his 12 minutes of command, George sacrificed himself and saved 800 lives aboard the Kelvin.
*** "Night Terrors" - In this Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, the Enterprise-D's crew discovers the U.S.S. Brattain, adrift in space, with its entire crew, except for the ship's Betazoid officer, dead. Stuck in the Tyken's Rift, as the Brattain was, the Enterprise's crew is unable to dream, and experience waking hallucinations. Like the Brattain's Betazoid officer, Counselor Deanna Troi is dreaming; unfortunately, all she sees are nightmares. However, Troi discovers these nightmares are attempts at communication from another ship trapped on the other side of the rift.
**** "The Menagerie, Part I" - Established in this Star Trek: The Original Series episode, James T. Kirk and Christopher Pike met when the latter was "promoted to Fleet Captain."
- Written by Onitra Johnson & David Reed
- Directed by Dan Liu