Spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season one, episode seven to follow!
Despite the progress they appeared to make during their body swap in “Spock Amok,” T’Pring voices concern about her relationship with Spock and researches human sexuality in an attempt to better understand Spock’s human side. After learning this news during a long-distance video chat, Spock once again consults with Nurse Chapel, whose affection for the science officer foreshadows the feelings she will show for him in episodes of The Original Series.
The U.S.S. Enterprise welcomes Dr. Aspen (Jesse James Keitel), a former Starfleet counselor who now assists colonists at the fringes of Federation space. Assigned to help three colony ships that have been stranded without power for nearly a month, Captain Pike commits to the mission with confidence and compassion. Aspen jokingly notes that Pike is Starfleet’s ‘boy scout,’ a reference that reinforces Admiral Cornwell’s assessment of the captain in Discovery’s second season.
Aspen cautions the Enterprise crew that pirates operate in the area they are approaching, noting that those from the Serene Squall vessel are particularly nasty. The warning is justified; Enterprise encounters debris from two of the three colonial starships. Pike valiantly opts to venture beyond Federation space to search for the third ship, but dangers abound. The Enterprise becomes temporarily trapped in a Tholian-like energy web emitted from a cluster of asteroids, narrowly escaping as the beams begin to close in.
In a turbolift, Spock and Aspen have an intriguing conversation about Kolinahr, the Vulcan process of purging emotions that the science officer will eventually seek to undergo at the beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Later, in Spock’s quarters, Aspen offers a fascinating observation about the way all species try to classify things into boxes, theorizing that Spock’s quest to determine whether he is more Vulcan or human is futile… perhaps he is neither. Given that this profound wisdom is postulated by a non-binary character, it carries even more weight and presents an open-minded way of perceiving the universe.
The Enterprise locates the final colonial vessel; but when Pike beams over with an away team, a boarding party of pirates simultaneously transports to the Federation starship. Number One manages to lock out the Enterprise’s control systems, but a fierce firefight ensues and the entire crew is taken prisoner, save for Spock, Aspen, and Chapel. The last colonial ship is actually the Serene Squall, and its Orion leader Remy interrogates Pike. In a move that amuses Number One, Pike initiates Alpha Braga IV — creating discord between Remy and his crew in a bid to stoke a mutiny.
In the Enterprise sickbay, Spock determines that he and Aspen must make their way to Engineering to override Number One’s lockout. Aspen reveals that their husband, a Vulcan involved in refugee efforts, had actually been killed by these same pirates. Upon arriving in engineering, the pair find Nurse Chapel armed with a trusty hypospray. Unlike the computer lockout that Data instituted in TNG’s “Brothers,” Spock manages to quickly use his authorization to assert control over the ship. At least, until Aspen transfers the controls to the Bridge and divulges that they are actually Captain Angel, the true leader of the Serene Squall!
On the Bridge, Angel explains that they deposited the real Dr. Aspen on an uninhabited planet and fabricated the entire story about the colonists in distress to prey on the crew’s emotions and lure the Enterprise into a trap. However, Angel’s actual prize is Spock — they hope to coerce T’Pring into exchanging a patient at her rehabilitation institute (who also happens to be Angel’s paramour) for Spock’s safe return. T’Pring agrees to bring the prisoner to the Enterprise’s location. We even get a brief glimpse of her colleague Stonn, of “Amok Time” fame, before she departs.
T’Pring soon arrives in the same type of Vulcan cruiser that Sarek traveled in throughout Discovery’s first two seasons. Spock initiates a ruse to dissuade her from complying with the prisoner exchange. Bolstered by a passionate kiss, Spock claims he and Chapel are having an affair, prompting T’Pring to sever their mating bond. As Angel prepares to destroy T’Pring’s ship, the pirates learn that Pike’s mutiny aboard the Serene Squall succeeded, allowing the captain the opportunity to gain remote control over the Enterprise.
A defeated Captain Angel beams away to a small escape vessel that had been trailing the Enterprise, while their pirate crew surrenders to their Starfleet counterparts. T’Pring returns aboard the Enterprise to rekindle her bond with Spock, and assure him that she was aware his alleged romance with Chapel had been a ploy to deceive Angel. Following this encounter, Spock approaches Chapel to talk about their kiss, but the nurse avoids the topic. However, Spock does confide in Chapel by sharing the identity of the patient Angel sought to free — the other son of Sarek, Spock’s half-brother Sybok!
“The Serene Squall” takes the classic Enterprise gets boarded theme and infuses it with a brilliant discussion about identity. This story utilizes Spock’s ongoing efforts to balance his Vulcan and human heritage, challenging audiences to stop perceiving all choices as binary. This continues Star Trek’s tradition of presenting forward-thinking ideas subtly embedded into its stories. The episode also continues to hint at Chapel’s feelings for Spock. Perhaps most notably, the introduction of Sybok, the antagonist from the very underrated Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, adds a new layer of intrigue to Strange New Worlds. Will we see Captain Angel again? How will Sybok play into the current narrative? 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.