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RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 209 - 'Subspace Rhapsody'

Their voices will rise through space and through time.

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Illustrated banner of James T. Kirk raising his arm out while delivering his update in song on the bridge of the Enterprise in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

In "Subspace Rhapsody," this season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' penultimate episode, an accident with an experimental quantum probability field causes everyone on the U.S.S. Enterprise to break uncontrollably into song, but the real danger is that the field is expanding and beginning to impact other ships — allies and enemies alike.

Illustrated banner with text 'Personnel'

  • Nyota Uhura
  • Christopher Pike
  • Una Chin-Riley (Number One)
  • Christine Chapel
  • Spock
  • Marie Batel
  • La’An Noonien-Singh
  • James T. Kirk
  • Erica Ortegas
  • Dr. Joseph M'Benga
  • Pelia
  • Jenna Mitchell
  • Sam Kirk
  • Garkog
Illustrated banner with text 'Locations'

  • U.S.S. Enterprise
  • Far edge of the Alpha Quadrant
Illustrated banner featuring text 'Event Log'

Uhura sits at her comm stations on the bridge of the Enterprise in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

While traveling at the far edge of the Alpha Quadrant, the U.S.S. Enterprise encounters an unusual phenomenon — a naturally occurring subspace fold. Lt. Spock posits it could be used to triple the speed of subspace communications in the sector, but his experiment requires so much computer power that it temporarily forces Ensign Nyota Uhura to manually coordinate the entire ship’s communications network. Uhura struggles to keep up with the overwhelming task, routing calls and providing updates to numerous crew members.

In his quarters, Captain Christopher Pike conferences with Captain Marie Batel, who suggests their first vacation as a couple should involve visiting Crivo. Pike is hesitant to visit the touristy — and cliché — locale, claiming the time might be right and requesting they hold off on planning for a few days. Disappointed, Batel nevertheless agrees to postpone the chat.

Lt. La’An Noonien-Singh strolls into the Transporter Room, where Commander Una Chin-Riley waits for Lt. James T. Kirk, the U.S.S. Farragut’s future first officer, to beam aboard. Kirk’s captain hopes that, by shadowing Number One, Kirk will maximize his potential upon his promotion. Una senses an “energy” from La’An, observing the security chief had arrived in the room “hot” and “on fire.” Number One engages the transporter beam and greets Kirk, who is skeptical over the need to be shown the ropes. Noticing Noonien-Singh, Kirk playfully reminds her that she still owes him a drink, eliciting a knowing smirk from Chin-Riley. La’An struggles to compose herself and acknowledges she has met James.

Nurse Christine Chapel paces in Sickbay, worrying that she has received a rejection letter from Dr. Roger Korby’s fellowship. Dr. Joseph M’Benga describes Korby as the “Louis Pasteur of Archaeological Medicine,” while Lt. Erica Ortegas maintains she is unfamiliar with him.* Glaring at her PADD, a frustrated Chapel points out that thousands apply to this program each year, with only five being accepted. The nurse summons her courage and grabs the device, a wave of relief washing over her as she learns her application was granted. M’Benga notes she will be gone for three months, and Chapel realizes that a difficult conversation with Spock awaits.

In Engineering, Uhura holds her PADD as music is transmitted towards the subspace fold in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

In Engineering, the Enterprise’s science officer updates Uhura and Commander Pelia — their 12th attempt at sending a message through the subspace fold has failed. Frequencies propagate through the fold three times faster than normal, meaning the weeks it takes a message to travel across the quadrant through their current relay network would be replaced with instantaneous, real-time communications. The thought thrills Uhura, who hums as she works. This sparks an idea from Pelia, as the Lanthanite proposes they send music through. Given they are seeking to communicate through a medium with different laws of physics, Pelia believes fundamental harmonics might be the answer. Curious as to whether the phenomenon is a fan of the Great American Songbook, Uhura boosts a recording of “Anything Goes” toward the fold...

...with unexpected results. The shimmering, ribbon-like phenomenon releases a visible pulse which ripples through the Federation ship. Confusion descends upon the crew, and Captain Pike calls for an analysis as he steps onto the Bridge. Lt. Jenna Mitchell declares there are no other ships in the sector — the distortion must have come from the subspace fold! The captain checks in with Uhura, who is astounded when Spock begins delivering his own report in the form of a song. Visibly perplexed, Spock continues to croon his words, and additional vocals are heard from M’Benga and Chapel, who report no serious injuries among the crew. The peculiar melody strikes the Bridge, sending Ortegas, Chin-Riley, and Noonien-Singh into song as they check in at their stations. All systems are stable and no threats are detected, yet Pike’s concern grows as the Bridge crew harmonizes around him. The captain adds to the chorus, asking, “Why are we singing?”

In the ready room, the senior command crew debate the subspace musical anomaly they're experiencing in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

Captain Pike gathers his senior staff — Spock, Noonien-Singh, Chin-Riley, M’Benga, and Pelia — in his Ready Room, where the music has finally subsided. James Kirk is still shadowing Number One, and he admits he thought the musical interlude was something the crew had rehearsed. M’Benga emphasizes that he does not sing. They turn their focus to the problem at hand, with Spock theorizing that the song they transmitted had created a resonance frequency and dislodged a quantum uncertainty field from the fold. An area of space where quantum uncertainties collapse so rapidly and randomly could create new realities — including one in which people sing uncontrollably. The Vulcan states the Enterprise has become tethered to this particular improbability field, so trying to fly out would most likely widen the disturbance. Pelia and Pike observe the phenomenon’s zipper-like properties, leading Spock to offer a way to close the rift — manually connect the shield harmonics and Heisenberg compensator to the deflector array. The captain approves, and Kirk compliments Spock’s explanation.

Spock and Uhura confer at the ensign’s Bridge station, where the science officer notices the ship’s communications log lists a transmission from Dr. Korby to Nurse Chapel. Intrigued, Spock questions if the message was related to Chapel’s fellowship application, but Uhura doesn’t read personal correspondence. The ensign perceives Spock’s discomfort, and the Vulcan concedes that he and Chapel have become more than colleagues. Uhura’s grin quickly gives way to concern, prompting her to wonder why Spock doesn’t ask Chapel about the transmission. An incoming call from Number One and Kirk interrupts their chat, and Uhura sends her the harmonics data.

James T. Kirk makes adjustments in the Jeffries tube as Una observes from below in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

Chin-Riley watches as Kirk makes a few modifications inside a Jefferies tube. The Farragut officer comments that his brother Sam described Una as an excellent Number One — someone who keeps a necessary distance from her crew because she knows she has to make hard decisions. Una confesses she has recently elected to try a more hands-on approach. Kirk slides out of the junction, and music begins to resonate through the ship. Singing once again, Chin-Riley advises Kirk to connect to his crew. Her musical side causes her to divulge that she could imagine herself performing on stage and sharing her fondness for Gilbert and Sullivan.** The two officers begin dancing in the corridor, and a dejected La’An looks on from afar. Kirk replies to Chin-Riley with his own lyrics, expressing an eagerness to heed her advice and connect with his truth.

In a dream scenario of her alternate timeline, La'An visualizes an intimate embrace between her and James Kirk in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

The song concludes, and La’An quietly retreats from the scene — at least until her emotions start to unravel through a somber song of her own. Noonien-Singh enters her quarters, lamenting her trouble with expressing her innermost feelings to others. She gazes at her reflection in the mirror, moving to the window as she belts out an admission — it might be time to let go of her fears and be vulnerable. La’An pulls the watch she obtained during her time-traveling mission with another reality’s James T. Kirk from a drawer, gripping it tightly to her chest. The security chief pictures herself back in 21st Century Toronto, imagining the life she and the alternate Kirk could have had together. A tearful La’An returns the watch as the music fades.

In the transporter room, an animated Sam Kirk responds to his younger brother James Kirk in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

In the turbolift, Noonien-Singh reports that people are confessing highly personal — and emotional — information when they sing. Skeptical that their emotions constitute a security threat, Pike marches onto the Bridge. Spock and Uhura are ready to initiate their plan to collapse the musical reality back into their standard quantum state. Uhura relays their status to the bantering — or bickering — Kirk brothers in the Transporter Room. The Enterprise’s deflector is activated, and a beam is projected into the phenomenon. Another energy surge bursts out, but an incoming hail from Captain Batel on the U.S.S. Cayuga arrives before Spock can determine what happened.

On the Bridge of the Enterprise, Captain Pike extends his right arm out ahead of him in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

A reluctant Pike orders Uhura to put Batel’s transmission through to the main viewscreen. The musical reality has spread beyond the Enterprise, as the Cayuga’s captain sings about her irritation with Pike over their canceled vacation plans. Pike replies in kind, uncharacteristically displaying his emotions in front of his crew. The private conversation intensifies, with Pike professing his bad habit of hiding in the face of true affection. Pike collapses to his knees, but — recognizing the situation will only escalate — La’An cuts off Batel’s signal. Embarrassed, Pike listens as Spock states the improbability field must be expanding across Starfleet’s entire subspace communications network.

Pike, Chin-Riley, Noonien-Singh, Uhura, and James Kirk discuss the developments in the captain’s quarters. A message from Admiral Robert April — which he delivered in a surprisingly beautiful baritone — indicates the field has spread to 12 Federation ships. The captain questions why this reality is compelling them to reveal their deepest emotions. Uhura theorizes that the musical reality actually follows the rules of musicals, where characters begin to sing when their emotions are so heightened that their words won’t suffice. Emotions have the capacity to overwhelm rational thinking, as well as the potential to drive the crew apart. Pike is eager to blow up the subspace fold, but Spock encourages them to test the idea first. Una assigns La’An and James to beam subatomic particles from the fold over to the ship, a task which clearly unsettles La’An.

In the ship's ready room, Una looks up from her PADD as La'An enters to speak to her in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

Chin-Riley and Noonien-Singh visit the Ready Room, allowing the security chief to confide in Number One. La’An doesn’t believe she is acting like herself, but Una guesses she is actually afraid of singing to James Kirk. Referencing her time in 21st Century Toronto, La’An claims her feelings pose a space-time security risk and decides to just tell James what is on her mind. The fervor instigates another catchy tune, allowing Number One to recommend that sometimes it’s best to be your own best friend and keep your secrets safe inside you. Una deactivates the room’s artificial gravity, ultimately announcing she wishes she had never become so good at keeping secrets.

In the Transporter Room, La’An speaks to James as they work to refine the molecular imaging scanner and isolate subspace particles from the fold. They succeed and transfer the particles to Engineering, inspiring Kirk to say he and La’An should collaborate more often. La’An takes a deep breath, but an explosion rocks the ship.

A concerned Pike, flanked by Spock and Una, look ahead at the viewscreen on the bridge of the Enterprise in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

Standing on the Bridge, Pike, Number One, and Spock assess the experiment in front of a map of the Federation-Klingon border. Hitting just a few subatomic particles nearly blew up Engineering, so firing on the field would destroy everything connected to the Federation’s subspace network. Uhura alerts them to a hail from an incoming vessel, and Spock detects a signal with Klingon encryption. Number One is unenthusiastic about the prospect of singing Klingons, but the tension escalates when Uhura replays a message from the Klingon ship. The improbability field has reached them, and General Garkog of the Imperial Klingon Defense Force calls the disturbance a Federation invasion. The Klingons plan to destroy the fold and warn Starfleet not to oppose them.

Back in the Ready Room, Pike and most of his senior staff agree that — by firing upon the fold — the Klingons would inadvertently destroy the Federation and half of their own Empire. Disinclined to strike first and commit an act of war, Pike wants Noonien-Singh and James Kirk to devise a tactical strategy to disable their opponents’ disruptor cannons and torpedo launchers. The captain turns his attention to the remote prospect of shutting down the improbability field before the Klingons are within range, assigning Spock and Uhura to explore new possibilities.

In the corridor, Uhura marvels over Spock’s scheme to study the songs and the frequencies the moment they begin. Isolating a pattern in the improbability field could reveal how to generate an improbability-breaking event. Wishing to use overwhelming emotion to trigger a song, Uhura brings Spock to see Chapel in the Enterprise’s Port Galley. The nurse celebrates her fellowship with Ortegas and Sam Kirk, who toast to her achievement. In Sam’s view, they can’t put their lives on hold every time the ship is in trouble. Spock and Uhura join them. The Vulcan congratulates Chapel and inquires why she did not share the news with him — was it intentional? Chapel is not interested in talking about it now, but Spock presses the issue...

Christine Chapel, overwhelmed by emotions, erupts in song in the Enterprise's mess in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

The elevated emotions give way to the rise of a new melody, and Uhura seizes the chance to take scans with her tricorder. Chapel croons, elaborating on how the fellowship changes everything — a distant dream has become real. The nurse’s joy spreads to the other officers in the lounge, and the room joins in with song and dance. Buoyed by the possibilities, Chapel acknowledges she’s prepared to let Spock go, a confession which silences the crowd and sends Spock to the exit.

La’An and James utilize the Ready Room’s display to assess the vulnerabilities of the approaching K’t’inga-class battlecruiser, but James revisits what La’An had intended to tell him back in the Transporter Room. Uncrossing her arms, the security chief bravely conveys her time-traveling adventure with the alternate James Kirk. The other James saw La’An for who she really was, and — through his eyes — she could finally see her own potential. As someone unburdened by tragedy, she could be free to take chances and make connections. James ponders her words before convincing La’An to acknowledge that she also likes the way he looks at her. James feels their connection, but reveals he’s in a “sometimes” relationship — and his partner Carol, a scientist on Starbase 1, is pregnant.*** La’An is overwhelmed with speechlessness.

Uhura finds Spock down in Engineering, and the duo analyze their fresh data in search of a pattern. Rattled by Chapel’s certainty over ending their relationship, Spock sees the logic in her decision, yet he is still hurt. The self-reflection turns into song, and the Vulcan admonishes himself for thinking he and Christine shared the same feelings. Now the ex, Spock concludes he must follow reason — his true north. Spock apologizes and departs, leaving Uhura to wax poetically about needing to find a pattern in their data. Loneliness overwhelms the ensign, and she reminisces over her parents, brother, and the late chief engineer, Hemmer. In a life defined by love and loss, Uhura has found purpose by keeping others connected, an observation which sparks a pivotal idea — and rays of exuberance — within the ensign.

Now in the Ready Room, Uhura presents her findings to the captain. Every time someone sings, the state of quantum improbability in the field spikes. If they can push that spike to 344 giga-electron volts, it would shatter the fold. Uhura has found the improbability-breaking event, but two additional K’t’inga-class battlecruisers are headed their way. The singing has caused many relationships to be torn apart on the ship, but Uhura highlights music’s communal properties. Citing the backup vocals she helped supply to Chapel in the Port Galley, Uhura surmises that a grand finale with melodies and harmonies with tone ratios that achieve algorithmic and logarithmic balance on a mass scale — the whole crew needs to sing together. Spock is curious as to how they could rouse the entire crew’s emotions at once, but Pike expresses his confidence in Uhura’s ability to see connections and inspire song.

The Enterprise crew breaks out in song and dance on the bridge in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

On the Bridge, Pike sits in the captain’s chair and addresses the Enterprise via a shipwide broadcast. He entrusts their lives to Ensign Uhura — the voice of the Enterprise. At her Communications station, Uhura speaks to her colleagues, focusing on the threads that connect them. Her impactful speech causes her to start singing, emboldening other crew members to enact elaborate choreographed moves. La’An and Spock join in, and the giga-electron volts reading climbs. The chorus grows, with officers throughout the vessel voicing their dedication to Starfleet and its mission. 

A perimeter alert chimes, notifying the Enterprise that the three Klingon battlecruisers have reached their position. Invigorated and electrified, the crew praise one another. Uhura hails the Klingons, who deliver a pop-infused threat. The music resumes aboard the Enterprise, and various officers lock arms in friendship around the Bridge. The quantum improbability state spike hits 344 giga-electron volts, eliciting a tremendous burst of light and energy from the field. The plan has succeeded! The elated Bridge crew exchange smiles and congratulatory remarks.

Garkog and his Klingon crew appear on the Enterprise's viewscreen as they are also affected by the subspace musical anomaly in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

"Subspace Rhapsody"

La’An broods over a drink in the Port Galley, telling Una about what happened between her and James. Even in the face of her pain, La’An is glad she took the chance to share her feelings with Kirk. Meanwhile, in the captain’s quarters, Pike cooks for Captain Batel, who emphasizes that not even Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon could make her forget Pike singing about lying to her. Batel proclaims their relationship will never work if Pike isn’t more comfortable being honest with her. Pike agrees, but Batel must soon leave for a Priority One mission. The couple promises they’ll decide on a vacation when she returns.

An unsteady Spock wobbles onto the Bridge, having just returned from engaging in diplomacy with the Klingons over bloodwine. At her station, Uhura acknowledges the receipt of a transmission from the U.S.S. Nimerfro. At Captain Pike’s request, the Communications officer scans for nearby vessels to share their fold-related findings. Uhura hums a melody, drawing worried glances from her shipmates. Noticing their unease, Uhura apologizes and assures them the humming was caused by an earworm — not another musical reality! The captain sighs in relief, and Uhura resumes her duties.

Illustrated banner featuring text 'Canon Connection'

* "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.

** "Q&A" - This Star Trek: Short Treks episode reveals Spock's first day aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. While stuck on the turbolift with Number One, the ensign is allowed to barrage her and the other crewmen with questions until he becomes an annoyance. The first officer observed his smile when he beamed aboard the ship and cautions him to keep his "freaky" under wraps if he hopes to be in command one day. She then shares her freaky by singing Gilbert and Sullivan’s “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.” She then forces Spock into secrecy once the moment passes, which he's forced to betray during her court-martial trial in "Ad Astra per Aspera," revealing her secret affinity to musicals.

*** Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Carol Marcus was first introduced this film. Investigating Dr. Marcus' complaint, Kirk and his crew board the Regula I, and then the planetoid below it where he reunites with his old love Carol. A ruse set in motion by Khan Noonien Singh propels David Marcus — Carol and Kirk's son — to discover who his father is.

Notable Tunes

  • "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Main Theme (Subspace Rhapsody Version)" - Jeff Russo
  • "Status Report" - Anson Mount, Jess Bush, Christina Chong, Rebecca Romijn, Ethan Peck, Melissa Navia, Celia Rose Gooding, Babs Olusanmokun, Paul Wesley, Carol Kane, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "Connect to Your Truth" - Rebecca Romijn, Paul Wesley, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "How Would That Feel" - Christina Chong, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "Private Conversation" - Anson Mount, Melanie Scrofano, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "Keeping Secrets" - Rebecca Romijn, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "I'm Ready" - Jess Bush, Celia Rose Gooding, Melissa Navia, Dan Jeannotte, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "I'm the X" - Ethan Peck, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "Keep Us Connected" - Celia Rose Gooding, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "We Are One" - Anson Mount, Jess Bush, Christina Chong, Rebecca Romijn, Ethan Peck, Melissa Navia, Celia Rose Gooding, Babs Olusanmokun, Dan Jeannotte, Paul Wesley, Carol Kane, Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
  • "Subspace Rhapsody End Credit Medley" - Tom Polce, Kay Hanley
Illustrated banner stating 'Log Credits'

  • Written by Dana Horgan & Bill Wolkoff
  • Directed by Dermott Downs