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Strange New Worlds 101: Sybok

Spock’s wayward half brother has a tendency for trouble.

An illustration of Sybok from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Sybok has his back turned, and you can just make out his profile.

Welcome back to Strange New Worlds 101! For our second installment, we took a deep dive into the Kirk family. For our seventh, we’re looking at a member of Spock’s family. Spock has always had a complicated family dynamic, but his older half-brother Sybok is especially troublesome. While Sarek, Amanda, and Michael Burnham are all heroes, Sybok tends to be more villainous.

Audiences were first surprised by Sybok’s existence in the film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. During the film’s first act, the crew of the Enterprise-A are summoned to Nimbus III to rescue three kidnapped ambassadors. However, their efforts were thwarted by the Galactic Army of Light — followers of Sybok who have been healed from their emotional trauma. At this time, Spock reveals Sybok is his half-brother, much to the surprise of Kirk and McCoy.

Sybok uses his telepathic abilities to force people to relive their most traumatic memories, then steps in to help them let go of the pain that they are holding. We see this in one notable scene where Sybok helps McCoy let go of his guilt and grief centered around his father’s death. When he offers to heal Kirk, the ever-wise captain insists that his pain makes him who he is, and rejects Sybok’s offer of help, as does Spock.

Sybok prepares to say goodbye to his brother, Spock, in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Sybok’s greatest goal is to pass through the Galactic Barrier and find Sha Ka Ree, the place from which life originated in Vulcan legend and mythology. He claims to have spoken to God, who is guiding him there. However, upon arrival, Sybok discovers that he has been manipulated by a more malevolent entity that had been trapped in the Barrier. This entity needed a starship, which prompts Kirk to ask the age-old question, “What does God need with a starship?” Ultimately, to save the crew of the Enterprise — and his brother — Sybok sacrifices himself to buy them all time to escape.

This marks the second time that Spock has lost a sibling due to a traumatic event. His adopted sister Michael, who he reconciled with over the course of Star Trek: Discovery season two, disappeared 900 years into the future with the rest of the U.S.S. Discovery crew in an attempt to prevent the end of the universe. While Michael was able to send one final beacon to let her brother know she was alive, Spock never saw her again. The records of the Discovery were sealed, leaving him unable to speak about her with Kirk or the rest of the crew.

Sybok himself doesn’t appear as a main player in the latest Strange New Worlds episode, “The Serene Squall.” His shadow looms large over the characters though, as Captain Angel (a.k.a. the fake Dr. Aspen) attempts to use Spock and the Enterprise crew as hostages to free Sybok, going by the alias Xaverius, from a Vulcan rehabilitation clinic. Angel and Sybok are in a romantic relationship, which sets up an interesting question for The Final Frontier. What happened between SNW and the film that led to Angel and Sybok splitting up?

Sybok stands with his back to the camera in the latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

T’Pring, Spock’s betrothed, works at this clinic Ankeshtan K'til, along with her future partner Stonn. In addition, the seeds of Spock and Chapel’s possible romance also takes center stage in this episode. That’s a lot of Vulcan romance.

Ultimately, Sybok is not freed, and Angel escapes the Enterprise, leaving them to menace Starfleet and rescue their partner at a later date. We do get a glimpse of Sybok from behind in the episode, but his face (and the actor who plays him) remains shrouded in mystery. Is Sybok being set up as a future antagonist for Spock to face off against? Will the Vulcan siblings meet prior to The Final Frontier, and will this meeting set the stage for the events of that film?