Spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One, Episode Eight to follow!
During the U.S.S. Enterprise’s routine survey of the Jonisian Nebula, Doctor M’Benga employs his free time to continue his research into finding a cure for his daughter, Rukiya (Sage Arrindell). Despite her deteriorating condition, Rukiya wishes to hear her father read the ending of The Kingdom of Elysian, penned by the one and only Benny Russell (a special nod for all of the DS9 fans out there), but like any creative mind, she expresses dissatisfaction with the story’s ending. Before putting Rukiya back in the transporter buffer, an emotional M’Benga promises her that she can construct her own stories once she is older.
M’Benga channels his resolve into concocting new formulas, one of which practically blows up in his face. Number One arrives to gently remind him of his duties as Chief Medical Officer, but also orders the doctor to get some rest. With the survey mission completed, the bridge crew attempts to set a course for a starbase. However, the Enterprise is inexplicably stuck in the nebula. Lieutenant Ortegas is injured during the rough ride; Captain Pike calls for Dr. M’Benga, who arrives to find the Bridge adorned with medieval tapestries and the crew wearing regal attire. M’Benga himself is dressed as King Ridley, the monarch from the story he read to Rukiya.
Only M’Benga recalls his true identity, as Pike and Ortegas believe themselves to be the Elysian Kingdom’s Sir Rauth and Sir Adya, respectively. Anson Mount plays Rauth’s bureaucratic cowardice to perfection, sporting clothing whose flair would make Trelane from The Original Series episode, “The Squire of Gothos,” feel right at home. Unlike the U.S.S. Enterprise-D crew’s venture into Sherwood forest in TNG’s “Qpid,” the elaborate costumes come with altered personalities for the Enterprise’s entire complement, save for M’Benga. Has the doctor found himself the victim of a situation similar to the one faced by Dr. Crusher in TNG’s “Remember Me,” where no one else recognized what was truly happening?
While the trappings indicate an ancient setting, the Enterprise’s computer, life support, and other vital systems are all still functional. The vessel’s halls are covered in foliage to represent the Elysian Forest, but the trappings are merely ornamental, as opposed to the probe that transformed parts of the Enterprise-D into actual plants and stones in TNG’s “Masks.” M’Benga heads to Sickbay for a tricorder, encountering Nurse Chapel in the guise of a healer. The doctor finds no abnormalities in his own scan; though, Chapel has elevated dopamine levels.
La’An Noonien-Singh enters the scene as Princess Thalia, another Elysian ruler who happens to be carrying her dog (say hello to actor Christina Chong’s real-life puppy, Runa Ewok!). Noonien-Singh’s dopamine levels are also higher than normal, and she encourages King Ridley to use the powerful Mercury Stone against the evil Queen Neve. A cry from Chief Engineer Hemmer, as the wizard Castor, who is being taken away by Neve’s Guard, interrupts the group. For some reason, Hemmer also retains his true memories, so M’Benga orders his followers to rescue the ‘wizard.’
En route to Hemmer, M’Benga’s forces encounter Castor’s brother Pollux, a sorcerer portrayed by Spock. Although he promises to help in their pursuit of Castor, Pollux leads them through a tunnel, actually an iconic Jefferies tube, and right into the hands of Queen Neve (Cadet Uhura). Now imprisoned alongside Hemmer on the transporter pad, the Aenar explains to M’Benga that his telepathic abilities had allowed him to fight off a consciousness that pressed on his mind; thus explaining why his personality was unaltered. Hemmer believes the entity is part of the nebula and may have extracted the Elysian story from M’Benga’s mind.
Aided by the sorcery of science, the group escapes their cage only to be confronted by Castor and Queen Neve’s Guard. The Huntress (Number One) intervenes, saving the day and permitting M’Benga and Hemmer to reach engineering in order to scan the non-corporeal lifeform. At this point, M’Benga realizes that Sir Adya and The Huntress are quite familiar with one another, even though the characters never meet in Benny Russell’s book. However, Rukiya had always wished for those two individuals to ally with one another.
Running with the theory that the entity took the story from Rukiya’s mind, M’Benga visits Sickbay only to find that his daughter is not in the buffer. Remembering that Rukiya had always wanted to visit his quarters, the doctor eventually makes his way there and finds her free of sickness. Evidently, the consciousness in the nebula sensed Rukiya’s loneliness, relating to her, leading the entity to free her and create this magical world in which they could play. Utilizing Hemmer as a conduit, the being explains that the only way for Rukiya to survive her condition is to stay in the nebula.
Rukiya voices her desire to remain with the entity, and just as King Ridley was forced to make a difficult decision, M’Benga agrees to his daughter’s wishes. Moments after she departs the ship, an older version of Rukiya (Makambe Simamba) returns to let her father know he made the correct decision. Unlike Emory Erickson’s son, who had been trapped in limbo throughout Enterprise’s “Daedalus,” Rukiya expresses her happiness and good health. Following a tearful goodbye, the Enterprise and its crew return to normal, though only M’Benga remembers what happened during the five-hour ordeal.
“The Elysian Kingdom” blends science fiction with fantasy in a manner that only Star Trek can, crafting an intriguing mystery rooted in both whimsical fun and emotional drama. Combining Dr. M’Benga’s resilient pursuit for a cure with his daughter’s wondrous and imaginative mind results in an original story that leaves the audience guessing up until the very end. Will we ever see Rukiya again, or is this the end of her journey with her father? 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.