Spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season one, episode six to follow!
As the U.S.S. Enterprise approaches the remote Majalan System, Captain Pike reminisces about nearly losing his life there 10 years prior and muses that their current cartographic mission will be less eventful. Of course, this is Star Trek, so we know the opposite will hold true! With Cadet Uhura on a rotation through security under La’An Noonien-Singh’s tutelage, the Enterprise soon receives a distress call from a shuttle that is under attack. Forced to intervene, Uhura fires the ship’s phasers and brings the offender down.
When the shuttle’s passengers are beamed aboard, Pike is pleasantly surprised to learn that one is Minister Alora (Lindy Booth), a Majalan he had rescued on his previous visit. Also in attendance are Elder Gamal (Huse Madhavji) and his biological son, who requires a visit to sickbay. Just prior to the pair’s arrival, Doctor M’Benga once again reads to his daughter Rukiya in one of the rare moments they are able to share when she is outside of the emergency medical transporter buffer. The doctor clearly feels time ticking away as he continues to search for a cure for his daughter’s ailment.
Back in the briefing room, Alora explains that the boy is the First Servant, a holy figure chosen by a lottery to serve the Majalan people. Alora suspects the descendants of a nearby alien colony wished to kidnap the First Servant for a ransom, as the child is to ascend to the throne in two days. Pike decides to send a team to investigate the attackers’ crashed ship for additional clues.
In sickbay, M’Benga and Nurse Chapel are stunned to learn that the First Servant has quantum bioimplants which automatically repair his injuries, technology far more advanced than Federation medical science. Upon hearing that Majalas has no disease, M’Benga begins to hope that this could be the breakthrough he needs for his daughter’s condition. As for the First Servant, he demonstrates a keen intellect and an interest in the medical facility’s gadgets.
La’An oversees security at the alien crash site, once again applying her stern lessons to Uhura’s training regimen. Spock locates a curious piece of technology that Alora does not recognize, though the Majalan does notice a coin given to the guards assigned to protect the First Servant in the wreckage. Fearing the assailants had infiltrated the ranks, Alora brings Pike to Majalas for her own protection. Their shuttle approaches to reveal a civilization boasting a wondrous maze of floating structures that may even outshine the hovering Ardanan city from “The Cloud Minders.”
Alora inspects the First Servant’s guards (one of whom is played by Avaah Blackwell, also known for portraying Star Trek: Discovery’s very own Lieutenant Ina!), causing the one who allied himself with the suspected kidnappers to flee. A quick standoff where the traitorous guard claims to act in defense of the First Servant ensues, but Alora kills him after he tries to keep her as a hostage.
Meanwhile, M’Benga brings the notion of using Majalan medical tech to cure a “hypothetical” patient to Elder Gamal, but the Majalan doctor explains that, as the Federation refuses to share certain technologies with outsiders, it is illegal to share their life-saving procedures with nonaligned species.
The romantic tension between Captain Pike and Alora reaches a crescendo, as the two spend the night together in the wake of the confrontation with the rogue guard. Pike reveals what he learned about his future to the Majalan, who says the captain could have access to their medical tech in the event of any accidents… provided Pike would be willing to stay on Majalas. The option to stay on a planet Pike visited ten years before provides an intriguing mirror to the fate the captain eventually chooses when he decides to stay with Vina during a return to Talos IV ten years later.
Acting under La’An’s orders, Uhura analyzes data from the crashed alien ship and, through a linguistic analysis, determines that the inhabitants from the hostile colony where the kidnappers originated were descendants of Majalan settlers. Suddenly, another enemy vessel beams the First Servant off the Enterprise, but it is accidentally destroyed during its escape. Upon hearing the news about the First Servant’s death, Minister Alora states that, without the ascension, Majalas will fall out of the sky and be destroyed by the planet’s lava-ravaged surface.
Courtesy of Uhura’s acute insight and Spock’s observant logic, the Enterprise crew realizes that Gamal had collaborated with the attacking vessel and actually beamed the First Servant back aboard the Federation ship for his own protection. In accordance with Starfleet protocols, Pike returns the First Servant to Majalas and receives an invite to witness the ascension. The captain is horrified to see the petrified body of the previous First Servant being taken away from the “throne,” an ancient device that utilizes a child’s neural network to maintain Majalas.
The enigmatic technology, vaguely reminiscent of that employed in “Spock’s Brain,” is no longer understood by the Majalan civilization, but they believe they have no other alternatives. Upon learning that severing the First Servant from the machine would kill him, Pike resigns himself to return to his starship. Also feeling defeated, Gamal offers to try to walk M’Benga through a treatment that could potentially help Rukiya and eventually lead to a cure.
“Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach'' presents the Star Trek universe through a much bleaker lens than the jovial “Spock Amok,” but the episode’s powerfully tragic ending may prove to be a “The City on the Edge of Forever” moment for Strange New Worlds. The installment poses a devastating question about how far a society will go to ensure the status quo, and given current events, the plot is heartbreakingly relevant to our modern world. The possibility of M’Benga using Majalan science to treat Rukiya remains a ray of hope, but will it bear fruit? Stay tuned as we continue to explore strange new worlds…
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 & the Nordics. The series will air on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel & stream on Crave in Canada with additional international availability to be announced at a later date. The series is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.