Published Jul 26, 2023
RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 207 - 'Those Old Scientists'
Holy Q! These guys look very realistic.
By Jay Stobie
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
- Brad Boimler
- Beckett Mariner
- Sam Rutherford
- D'Vana Tendi
- Una Chin-Riley (Number One)
- La’An Noonien-Singh
- Christopher Pike
- Dr. Joseph M'Benga
- Nyota Uhura
- Erica Ortegas
- Christine Chapel
- Harr Caras
- Jack Ransom
- U.S.S. Cerritos
- Krulmuth-B, home of the Krulmuth-B portal
- U.S.S. Enterprise
- D'Var, Orion science vessel
In the 24th Century, the U.S.S. Cerritos enters orbit around Krulmuth-B, home to one of Ensign Bradward “Brad” Boimler’s favorite portals. On the starship’s lower decks, Boimler explains that the object was discovered by Captain Christopher Pike and the original U.S.S. Enterprise — well, technically the second Enterprise — to his friend, Ensign Beckett Mariner. She expresses annoyance at Boimler’s enthusiasm for scanning the portal, particularly as it hadn’t done anything interesting in the 120 years since “those old scientists” found it.* The dialogue doesn’t deter Boimler, who remains excited over standing where Lt. Spock, Ensign Nyota Uhura, and Commander Una “Numero Una” Chin-Riley had explored. Ensigns Samanthan “Sam” Rutherford and D’Vana Tendi arrive to detail their own passion for the portal mission, and Mariner reveals she is in charge of the away team.
On the planet’s surface, the four ensigns approach the portal’s rings. Tendi confides that the device was actually discovered by an Orion science vessel her great-grandmother had served on, but Boimler’s disbelief results in an awkward exchange related to the notion that all Orions were pirates back then.** “Somebody had to make the starships,” exclaims Tendi, and Mariner voices her support for Tendi’s position. Rutherford’s portal scans detect horonium, which hadn’t been found for centuries, leading Boimler to point out a lesson he learned at the Starship History Museum — the lightweight and durable substance had been used by Starfleet to construct its NX-class starships.
Boimler climbs onto the portal’s platform and does his best Spock impression, reflecting on his wish to experience life in an earlier era. Rutherford lifts his camera to take a holoimage of Boimler, causing the portal — or “ancient thing” — to glow and generate an energy field. The rupture closes right after Boimler is pulled through, but quickly reemerges on the planet once again. However, instead of finding his friends, the ensign looks up to see Spock, Commander Chin-Riley, and Lt. La’An Noonien-Singh as he loses consciousness. Number One reluctantly contacts the Enterprise to let them know they might have a problem.
Having been on a mission to deliver a crucial shipment of grain to a colony on Setlik II, the Enterprise now had a more pressing priority — dealing with a time-traveler. Aboard the ship, Number One informs Captain Pike that scans indicate Boimler’s badge is also a communicator; though her commanding officer declares, “but flipping it open is the best part.” The senior staff assembles in Sickbay, where Boimler awakes to see Pike, La’An, and Dr. Joseph M’Benga. The 24th Century ensign confuses the group by requesting the computer end the program, but he quickly realizes he’s not on a holodeck. Boimler begins to freak out, prompting Pike to assure him they’ve already deduced he’s from the future. Now approximately 120 years in the past, Boimler struggles with the concept of a funny captain and appears startled when he first notices Una. La’An guides Boimler from the room, and Una questions whether the ensign knows something about her future.
In the corridor, the time-traveler continues to marvel at the Enterprise’s retro tech, so Noonien-Singh reviews temporal protocols — no interfering with past events and no sharing knowledge of the future, which Boimler promises not to violate by “Worf’s honor.” Speaking from her experience with an alternate James T. Kirk in 21st Century Toronto, La’An adds one of her own rules — don’t make any attachments. While she does not divulge the specifics of her ordeal, the security chief emphasizes that a small change could destroy Boimler’s friends, loved ones, and future.
Waiting in Pike’s Ready Room, Boimler pulls a ‘Riker’ and mounts the saddle the captain has on display. Uhura interrupts the ensign’s appraisal of the historical saddle, and Boimler explains that his friend Mariner is a fan of the communications officer. Tasked with deciphering the portal’s ancient language, Uhura wonders why Boimler seems surprised that she is so focused on work.
Boimler joins Spock and M’Benga down on the surface, once again conveying his awe over being in the presence of his heroes. The ensign compliments the doctor’s TS-122 tricorder — which is actually a TS-120 — and recounts what happened prior to his jaunt through time. Boimler theorizes the radioisotopes emitted by Rutherford’s camera had inadvertently activated the portal. Spock unleashes a perplexing laugh upon hearing the ensign’s belief that the accident was dumb luck. The mystified ensign asks M’Benga if this attribute is something new, and the doctor confirms it is.
On the Bridge, Pike orders the landing party to beam up after learning that an unidentified ship is approaching. At the helm, Lt. Erica Ortegas notes the vessel might be Orion. Number One states that the starship’s shields and weapons are inactive; though La’An adds some Orion vessels are specifically designed to fool sensors. Uhura, Spock, and Boimler exit the turbolift, giving their visitor a chance to gaze in amazement at the Bridge of the “NCC-1701-... nothing!” La’An is puzzled by what would possibly come after the Enterprise’s registration number, but Boimler has already moved on to geek out about Ortegas, who he describes as a war hero. Having built a model of one in a bottle, Boimler immediately recognizes the ship as an Orion scout, eliciting a concerned look from the captain.
Pike asks La’An to prepare a full torpedo spread as a precautionary measure, but Boimler — remembering Tendi’s claim about her grandmother’s service — struggles to explain his certainty that the unknown ship is a science vessel. Although Una comments that multiple reports of Orion pirate activity in this area had been received, the Orions hail the Enterprise. Their captain introduces himself as Harr Caras of the Orion science vessel D’Var, assuring Pike that Orion pirates give the rest of his species a bad name. As they converse, Spock detects a transporter signal and announces the Orions have beamed up the portal. The Orion ship warps away, and Pike offers a frustrated glance in Boimler’s direction.
At the desk in his Ready Room, the captain admits to Number One that he might have made a mistake by listening to Boimler. Pike elicits a laugh from his first officer when he compares trying to prevent the ensign from altering time with stopping a toddler from knocking over the furniture.
In the Enterprise’s lounge, Ortegas and Nurse Christine Chapel pretend to admonish Boimler for endangering the timeline by handling a PADD. Chapel continues the playful ruse, asking Boimler if he has dealt with the uncontrollable vomiting and chroniton poisoning associated with time travel. Ortegas wonders if there are jetpacks in the future, and Chapel points out they already have them in the 23rd Century. Noticing a pair of Andorian officers, Boimler inquires as to whether life aboard the Enterprise is filled with non-stop excitement. Referring to this period as the "Golden Age of exploration," the ensign expresses solemn jealousy. Ortegas invites Boimler to movie night, and he responds that Pike’s birthday is on Friday — accidentally revealing the captain’s special day will be celebrated as a holiday in the future. Ortegas wants to throw Pike a party and promises to give Boimler credit for the idea. Chapel excuses herself to meet up with Spock, who once again disturbs Boimler when he greets the nurse with a wide, uncharacteristic smile.
Sometime later, the concerned ensign catches up with Chapel as she walks alone in the corridor. The two enter a turbolift, and Boimler nervously shares his worry that he had unwittingly influenced Spock’s personality and changed the past. By making Spock laugh, had he set a butterfly effect in motion? Chapel suggests Spock is just “going through a thing” and having fun, yet Boimler insists history chronicles Spock growing up on Vulcan, his pet sehlat, and his relationship with his parents — but nothing about a “happy, smiley, jokey” guy period. The ensign suspends his excited ramble when Chapel guarantees him that Spock was this way prior to his arrival, intuiting from the nurse’s tearful eyes that she is the person who has affected Spock’s behavior. Chapel sadly proclaims she never believed she would get to influence Spock forever anyway, and a demoralized Boimler exits the turbolift.
Spock, Pike, Chin-Riley, and Noonien-Singh assemble around the Bridge’s science station, where Boimler overhears the Vulcan report he has no way to track the Orions. The ensign knows how to accomplish the task, suggesting they simply not look as he does so to avoid contaminating the timeline. The four Enterprise officers turn their backs, allowing Boimler to root around underneath the console. The ensign, referred to as ‘future boy’ by Ortegas, succeeds, though he briefly becomes trapped in the ship’s wiring. The Enterprise catches up to the science vessel, and Boimler breaks protocol by insisting no Orions be harmed in the process, as Tendi’s great-grandmother is on the D’Var. Hurting the Orion crew could erase Tendi and her future as a junior science officer in Starfleet from history. Citing diplomacy — as well as patience, forgiveness, benevolence and "really great hair" — as one of the captain’s many strengths, Boimler convinces Pike to hail the Orions.
Seated in his captain’s chair, Harr Caras takes offense to Pike’s request to return the ancient portal. The Orion pauses communication in the hopes Pike will persuade him, and Boimler — in a very unsubtle fashion — tells Spock to inform the captain that the Orions want him to trade with them as a sign of respect. The Orions detect an extraordinary amount of tritriticale grain in the Enterprise’s hold, leading Pike to agree to give them the cargo in exchange for the portal.
The Enterprise travels to Krulmuth-B and replaces the portal on the surface, where Spock observes there is only enough horonium left for a single trip through the device. Boimler describes his reality-threatening journey as one of the greatest experiences of his life. As he readies himself to enter the now active portal, Ensign Mariner flies through in an attempt to save “Boims.” Mariner notices Spock, Pike, and La’An, immediately checking to see if her idol Uhura is anywhere to be found.
His problems now doubled, Captain Pike convenes with Mariner, Boimler, Number One, Spock, La’An in his Ready Room. The time-traveling ensigns rapidly debate Mariner’s decision to help Boimler — What if he had been stuck in a dystopian San Francisco in the middle of a riot?*** — and Spock’s unexpected ‘hotness.’ No sources of additional horonium have been known to exist in the quadrant for over 100 years, but the crew will need more to activate the portal and send the ensigns home. Mariner suggests they “cook some up,” and is pleased when “hot Spock” agrees with her, but synthesizing horonium is a dangerous process that could blow up half the ship. With Uhura focused on translating the portal’s ancient text, Mariner claims she has enough linguistic experience to help Nyota. She also volunteers Boimler, who completed a material synthesis elective at Starfleet Academy, to assist Spock. The Vulcan cracks a joke and displays a broad smile, disturbing the two ensigns.
Soon after, as Mariner traverses one of the Enterprise’s hallways, Boimler hurries to catch up with her. Although his friend thought she had done him a favor by pairing him with Spock, Boimler hopes to avoid getting stuck in the 23rd Century, where he’d have to live off-the-grid so as not to change history. Mariner — who thrives on the grid and, in fact, requires grid — is surprised when Number One approaches and causes Boimler to make a hasty exit. Still curious as to why the ensign looks at her as if she’s doomed, Una becomes even more unnerved when Mariner tells her not to worry because Boimler has a poster of her in his bunk. Afraid it could be a pin-up poster, Number One declares she doesn’t want to know.
Now seated in Uhura’s quarters amid a plethora of books and research materials, Mariner describes her impression of the communications officer as a care-free, super-translating space adventurer. Uhura feels weird that Mariner even knows her at all, but the Cerritos ensign elaborates, referring to Uhura as a hard worker who also knows how to have fun. Only 22 years old, Uhura admits these expectations have added pressure to her life. How can she have fun while being aware she must become a universally-known, super-translating, unflappable, hard working badass? Recognizing Uhura’s stress, Mariner quotes Section 48 Alpha-7 of Starfleet’s Labor Codes — "Officers must take meal breaks at regular intervals."
In the Enterprise’s Lounge, Mariner mixes some Orion Hurricanes, though she needed to improvise some ingredients. The green beverage normally contains delaq, an Orion substance which Mariner states will “mess you up” and “truly ruin your life.” Ortegas accepts the powerful refreshment and calls the ensign a “good bad influence,” but Uhura covertly tries to keep working on the translation. The Enterprise’s pilot notices Uhura’s subterfuge and reminds her friend of her service during the war with the Klingons. On the front, Ortegas and her colleagues always seized the opportunity for a break, because you could never get that time back.
Uhura concedes and downs her drink, granting Ortegas a moment to look at her PADD. The lieutenant recognizes the symbols from the time someone tried to trade her a dom-jot set at Starbase Earhart. Mariner notes that Nausicaans are terrible at the billiards game, but Ortegas asserts that this wasn’t a traditional set — it was very old. With this information in mind, Uhura has a triumphant breakthrough. The portal’s glyphs are from an ancient Nausicaan dialect that is thousands of years old. Wearing a smirk, Mariner toasts with Ortegas and implies that taking time to recharge was clearly beneficial.
Working to synthesize horonium in one of the Enterprise’s science labs, Spock informs Boimler that Chapel had told him about their exchange. Outfitted with a protective apron, the ensign appears anxious as Spock hypothesizes that his experiments with human emotion trouble Boimler. Spock believes his future self must have minimized his emotions, to which Boimler responds that the universe needs Vulcan Spock. They finish their preparations and set themselves to activate the synthesizer. Separating fissile isotopes at high speeds, Spock estimates the chances of an explosion are down to a coin flip and — in another attempt at humor — asks Boimler if he feels lucky. The pair don goggles and watch as sparks begin shooting out of the synthesizer, and the resulting explosion elicits terrified screams from the ensign.
A dejected Boimler stands beside Commander Pelia in Engineering and listens to the soothing sounds of the warp core. According to Pelia, losing the grain shipment will force the colonists at Setlik II to be relocated, further deflating Boimler’s spirit. The engineer wryly observes they could always search for a time-travel device to prevent Boimler from messing everything up, though she quickly addresses the ensign’s defeated demeanor. As a Lanthanite who has lived for thousands of years, Pelia remembers encountering a hero who resolved to pretend to be someone he wanted to be until he became that someone.
Inspired, Boimler heads down to the Shuttlebay and infiltrates one of the Enterprise’s support craft. Mariner’s presence at the vessel’s controls surprises him, manifesting a Boimler yelp — Holy Q! Mariner rebukes him for mentioning the Continuum, particularly as Starfleet’s 23rd Century members currently have a Trelane thing going on. The pair duck for cover as another shuttle lifts off, and Mariner explains Uhura indicated the portal’s writing merely translated as “This is a time-portal.” Hoping to be a hero, Boimler plans to contact the Orions with the shuttle’s comms array and retrieve the grain for the Setlik II colony — he wants to help people now. Phaser drawn, La’An gets the drop on both ensigns, who raise their arms in alarm.
The security chief brings them to Pike’s quarters, giving them a moment alone with him. Mariner pleads with the captain to place the blame on her, particularly as being thrown in the Brig by someone he dressed up as for Halloween would be hard on Boimler. Pike changes the subject, asking a personal favor — stop encouraging his crew to throw him a birthday party. Boimler cautiously advises the captain that you never know how many birthdays you have left, drawing a nod from Pike. The captain is already aware of his fate,**** explaining his trepidation over a party stems from the fact he never mended fences with his father prior to his death. This will be the first year he will be older than his father was when he died, so he aims to spend his birthday alone and finally have that talk with his dad. Boimler counters, wondering how many people on the Enterprise will wish they had another day to talk to Pike when he is gone? A solemn Pike reflects on how he would react if he had the chance to step foot on Captain Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise — a comment that ignites an idea in Boimler’s mind.
They retreat to the Ready Room, where Boimler apologizes for judging the Enterprise crew by his expectations of them. Una encourages him to skip a repentant limerick he had prepared, allowing Mariner to fill them in on the time they visited the Starship History Museum, the NX-01’s 24th Century home. At the time, they learned that 22nd Century ships used horonium alloy in their hulls. When Starfleet builds a new vessel, tradition involves starting construction with a piece of the last ship to bear its name — there’s a piece of Archer’s Enterprise somewhere on Pike’s command!
Spock, Ortegas, and Uhura remove the NX-01 relic from underneath the deck in Engineering. Ortegas beams with admiration for Travis Mayweather’s piloting skills, while Uhura applauds Hoshi Sato’s ability to speak 86 languages. Spock accompanies the ensigns to the Transporter Room, where Mariner decides to clarify her remark concerning Boimler’s poster of Number One to the Enterprise’s first officer. It’s actually a recruitment poster — Una is the literal “poster girl/woman” for Starfleet. Relieved, Number One listens as Boimler divulges that she was a big reason why he joined up. Visibly moved upon hearing the poster bears the phrase ad astra per aspera, Chin-Riley thanks Boimler and gives him a wink. Pike and La’An arrive to transport down, and the ensign becomes speechless when Spock bids farewell with the traditional Vulcan hand gesture.
Having received Boimler’s transmission, Caras and two armed Orions stand guard by the portal on the planet. Pike works to diffuse the situation by relaying the truth about the time-traveling ensigns. Mariner mentions she and Boimler serve alongside an Orion science officer who refers to herself as the "Mistress of the Winter Constellations," a name which intrigues Harr Caras. Boimler indicates that their friend Tendi’s great-grandmother serves aboard the science vessel, and the Orion captain responds that one of his colleagues is Astrea Tendi. Pike interjects, proposing he will let history record the portal was discovered by Orions — Orion scientists — if they permit Starfleet to use it once more. Pleased by the recognition for his vessel’s achievements, the Orion captain agrees and departs.
Boimler reactivates the portal and immediately hears Rutherford and Tendi’s voices, but insists they don’t attempt to come to his rescue. Boimler smiles and follows Mariner into the vortex. The two emerge in the 24th Century, where Boimler happily notifies Tendi she was right — Orions did discover the portal.
Back on the Cerritos, Boimler opens the compartment which proudly displays his Number One recruitment poster and thanks Mariner for journeying to save him from the TOS-era, referring to the “those old scientists” phrase Commander Jack Ransom uses to describe the time period. Ransom makes a timely entrance and notices the poster, remarking that “Numero Una” was the hottest first officer in Starfleet history. He then discloses that Mariner had sought out the assignment to survey the portal, gifting Boimler with the gleeful realization that his friend had undertaken the mission just so he could go along.
Meanwhile, in the 23rd Century, Captain Pike maintains he expected the surprise birthday his crew threw for him. Having learned the value of relaxation, Uhura plans to put on an Andorian comedy for next month’s movie night. Pike and his senior staff are drinking Orion Hurricanes made with genuine delaq provided by Caras. The officers begin to feel strange — almost two-dimensional, and Spock’s arm twists in an unexpected fashion. Distressed, M’Benga exclaims, “What the hell is in these things?!”
* "No Small Parts" - Following a second contact follow-up on Beta III, Ransom remarks to Captain Freeman how it's weird when they have to revisit planets from Captain Kirk's time, which he refers to as the "TOS" era (aka "those old scientists").
** "Crisis Point" - Mariner makes edits to Boimler's holoprogram, fashioning it into a movie, Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta. She casts Tendi as a stereotypical Orion pirate queen, which she rebukes as many Orions have moved away from piracy. After all, she herself didn't choose that path and pursued a career in Starfleet instead.
*** "Through the Valley of Shadows" - While on Boreth, Pike sought out a time crystal from the Klingon Timekeepers. Pike sees a vision of his unavoidable future. While on an inspection tour of a cadet vessel, a ruptured baffle plate resulted in a radiation leak. Pike was able to pull the remaining cadets still alive following an explosion, but he himself was stuck in the automatic lockdown. As a result, the severely disfigured and immobilized captain was placed on life support and confined to his wheelchair, as seen in "The Menagerie, Part I."
**** "Past Tense, Part I" and "Past Tense, Part II" - En route to a symposium in San Francisco, Sisko, Dax, and Bashir are lost during transport to Earth. The trio materializes in San Francisco, but in the year 2024. Upon learning the date, Sisko realizes they arrived just days before a crucial event in history — the Bell Riots.
- Written by Kathryn Lyn & Bill Wolkoff
- Directed by Jonathan Frakes