While on a mission to study a comet near Persephone III, Cadet Uhura and other officers gather for a very informal dinner with Captain Pike. While Pike shares a humorous story about chasing a Nausicaan during his brief time in the security division, Uhura expresses doubt regarding her future in Starfleet. Vaguely reminiscent of Hoshi Sato’s own uncertainty in the early days of the NX-01’s maiden voyage, the cadet’s trepidation stems from a tragic accident that killed her parents and brother. We also learn that Uhura’s love for languages emerged when she sought to study all dialects in her native Kenya.
All is well until simulations predict that the comet will strike Persephone III, a planet inhabited by millions of people from a pre-warp society. The crew is shocked to discover that, despite not registering any lifeforms, the comet possesses a security force field and a structure of some kind. Spock, La’an Noonien-Singh, Uhura, and Samuel Kirk beam down and find an egg-shaped object. As brave as his brother, Sam Kirk steps forward and receives an unexpected shock that temporarily stops his heart.
With the comet’s defense screen reactivated, the U.S.S. Enterprise can not retrieve its personnel. Before Pike can make a rescue attempt, a vessel belonging to a group called the Shepherds fires upon the Enterprise for interfering with the comet, which the aliens describe as an arbiter with a preordained path through the universe. The Shepherds see it as their sacred duty to allow the arbiter to proceed wherever it may lead, even when it puts itself and others in danger.
As Spock tries to give Uhura a pep talk on her first away mission, the cadet exhibits an interest in singing in music that her future self will showcase on many occasions aboard James T. Kirk’s Enterprise. However, these musical musings cause the comet’s interior to react with brilliant lights, helping Uhura and the landing party realize that music is the key to interacting with the controls. With the alien starship overpowering the Enterprise in ship-to-ship combat, Uhura and Spock sing in a fashion that would make Leonard McCoy wonder why Spock was not aware of the lyrics to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” during their shore leave in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
Uhura’s insight pays off, as the comet lowers its shields and the Starfleet crew return to the Enterprise. Still faced with the stellar body’s imminent impact on Persephone III, Pike and his officers concoct a brilliant scheme. With skill that would impress Tom Paris, Erica Ortegas takes the starship through an intricate course and brings it to a stop in front of the comet. Communications officer Ensign Christina (Jennifer Hui) remarks that the Shepherds are hailing, so Pike pretends his vessel has lost power and requests these “space monks” use a tractor beam to save Enterprise.
Meanwhile, Spock covertly takes command of a shuttle, executing a flight plan that goes much smoother than his later missions in episodes such as “The Galileo Seven” and “The Immunity Syndrome.” The sublimation caused by Spock’s heat shields shears a section off of the comet, diverting it away from Persephone III while also releasing a significant amount of life-sustaining water vapor into the atmosphere. In the Shepherd’s point of view, this fulfilled the comet’s destiny.
Just as James Kirk speculated about the presence of other planet killers in “The Doomsday Machine,” Pike ruminates on who created the comet and how many others there might be. After further analysis, Uhura uncovers a star chart encoded in music transmitted by the comet. Sent before Spock’s shuttle mission, the chart nevertheless includes an exact likeness of the piece of ice that broke off from the comet and altered its course.
Uhura theorizes that the comet “knew” its fate, a concept that brings a smile to Pike’s face as he clearly thinks of that news in terms of what he learned about his own future on Boreth. Over a drink, Number One points out that just because Pike received a message about his future, it doesn’t mean he truly understands it. Una argues that Pike’s fate could be what he makes it, a statement that the captain takes to heart. Sometime later when he is alone, Pike pulls up the files of the people he is determined to save in the training accident that is still almost a decade away…
“Children of the Comet” demonstrates that we must challenge our perceptions, even when the alternatives seem highly unlikely. The combination of the dinner party and the away mission provided an excellent opportunity for us to truly be introduced to who Cadet Uhura is, what she values, and what motivates her. Once again, despite its standalone status, the episode drops hints about Nurse Chapel’s romantic interest in Spock and explores Captain Pike’s approach to what he perceives to be his destiny. Is Pike’s fate preordained? There’s only one thing to do, and that’s to await the Enterprise’s next adventure: Hit it!
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer and consultant who has contributed articles to StarTrek.com, Star Trek Explorer, and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and StarWars.com. Jay serves as a BoldlyGo Campaign Ambassador for The Roddenberry Foundation. Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., Latin America, Australia and the Nordics. The series airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada with additional international availability to be announced at a later date. The series is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.