This review contains minor spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: Season 1 Episode 2, “Children of the Comet.”
It’s Uhura’s time to shine! After appearing in three seasons of the original series and nine films, Nyota Uhura’s backstory and character take center stage in an authentic and heartwarming way in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode two, “Children of the Comet.”
Nichelle Nichols is an essential element of what makes Star Trek: The Original Series iconic. Her Uhura was never given much of a backstory because the original series focuses heavily on the trio of Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and McCoy (DeForest Kelley). One of the promises of Strange New Worlds was to explore and develop the character of Uhura like never before, and I think the episode truly delivers on that promise. Uhura has a long way to go before we see her as the officer she is in the original series, but Celia Rose Gooding earnestly portrays the character’s trademark warmth, intelligence, and excitement over the unknown.
“Children of the Comet” pushes Uhura to the forefront of the episode.
There’s a vulnerability to Gooding’s Uhura; she’s a cadet who is still cultivating her confidence and questioning her role in Starfleet. The episode allows Uhura to beautifully put her linguistic skills and musical talents to use during her first away mission with an emotional payoff by the episode’s end. The away mission in question not only serves as the dramatic pull for the episode but also continues building on the arcs of characters like Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck), and La’an (Christina Chong). Even though this episode focuses heavily on Uhura, the other characters are given small moments of growth and development as they question their beliefs and grapple with ideas surrounding destiny, galactic politics, and faith.
Uhura isn’t the only familiar element re-examined.
The basic premise of the episode follows Captain Pike and the crew of the Enterprise as they try to stop a comet mysteriously protected by force shields from colliding with a planet and killing millions without interfering with the Prime Directive. It’s a dilemma we’ve seen depicted in Trek before, especially in episodes of The Next Generation and Voyager.
While Strange New World‘s pilot episode explored the Prime Directive explicitly, “Children of the Comet” explores the concept by challenging not only what the Prime Directive represents but also how it’s been used in Trek in the past. Throughout the franchise, the idea of the Prime Directive suggests culture develops in a predetermined manner and a failure to advance indicates societal issues. The dividing line between whether a culture is ready to join Starfleet and “advance” basically comes down to warp drive; if you have it, your society is enlightened (unless they use it to construct a weapon of mass destruction) if you don’t, your society is considered weak and susceptible to manipulation from outside forces.
In theory, this is why the Prime Directive exists: to protect cultures until they are ready and to keep Starfleet from abusing their power and interfering in a civilization’s progression. Unfortunately, when that civilization is threatened by a mass extinction event seemingly perpetrated by outside forces, the response from Starfleet is often “this is pre-determined and the civilization is meant to die.”
This episode does a great job deconstructing the Prime Directive with Pike reminding his crew that even though they do not interfere with other worlds, they won’t let millions die.
Pre-determination also ties in with Pike’s arc throughout the episode as he grapples with the knowledge of his impending fate. He knows the names of the specific Starfleet officers he will save in ten years, but he also knows this brave act will have consequences requiring significant adjustment. Through conversations with Number One (Rebecca Romijn) Pike wonders if his fate is written while Number One pushes back against this, arguing that it was only a “potential future” he saw back in Star Trek: Discovery. The episode’s closing moment as Pike looks at the pictures of the people he will save in ten years and memorizes their names brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful moment.
Final Thoughts and Musings
There’s so much to enjoy in this episode. I loved the examinations of Uhura and Pike, the deconstruction of the Prime Directive, the planet-of-the-week, and the small character moments sprinkled throughout the episode which makes the crew feel like living, breathing beings even when they aren’t onscreen. I love how Uhura’s advice to Spock also beautifully pays off by the episode’s end; both characters are brutally honest with one another in a way that carefully builds up their decades-long friendship.
I love how much of a weirdo Nurse Chapel is. Jess Bush shines in the role. She’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters and the episode also hints at her future crush on Spock.
Uhura’s musical talents bring so much heart to the episode. I also liked Spock’s point about the relationship between math and music.
While he appeared at the end of the pilot episode, the new chief engineer of the Enterprise, Hemmer (Bruce Horak) plays a larger role in “Children of the Comet.” He’s a member of the Aenar, a subspecies of Andorians who appeared in the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is streaming now on Paramount+.
What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments. For all things Star Trek and pop culture, check out my website. Stay nerdy!