Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Episode 3 is titled: “Ghosts of Illyria.”
Many types of ghostly revelations come out in this episode.
In fact, this episode is one reveal after another reveal after another.
An Enterprise landing party consisting of Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Number One (Rebecca Romijn), Mr. Spock (Ethan Peck), and several other crew members is on the surface of an Illyrian colony planet that was abandoned for no apparent reason. The crew is attempting to figure out what happened and why. In her opening monologue, Number One notes that Illyrians ran afoul of Star Fleet regulations because they used genetic modifications to enhance their capabilities, something Star Fleet forbids.
Fans have seen Illyrians in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. In that appearance, the Illyrians had sets of ridges across their foreheads and skulls, giving them a distinctive look. In the Strange New Worlds episode, the audience quickly learns that Number One is, in fact, an Illyrian, though she looks human. Because of the Illyrian’s predilection for genetic modification, both episodes leave it open as to what Illyrians really do look like in their original form. Such notions might be food for thought in future episodes/seasons of the current show.
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Pike foreshadows much of the show’s plot while the landing party is still on the planet when he says to Number One, “It’s funny how genetic modifications put everyone on edge.”
Indeed, captain. Indeed.
Appearance of a huge ion storm injects a huge sense of dramatic urgency into the episode in the form of a huge ion storm approaching the Illyrian’s colony settlement. This storm makes a Cat-5 hurricane look like a dust devil. To transport anyone back, Emmer harnesses emergency power from the warp core. With extra power, everyone returns to the ship except for Pike and Spock. Spock’s search for knowledge delays the two of them just long enough to trap them at the settlement; Lt. Kyle (Andre Dae Kim) tries but can’t get a good lock on them. They take refuge in the nearby library facility.
The predicament that soon engulfs the Enterprise’s crew is one that everyone knows who endured the past two-and-a-half years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Isolation. When some form of virus manages to evade the transporter filters, it spreads quickly through the crew. Number One remains immune from its effects (anyone contaminated needs to be near a bright light source or they suffer horrible symptoms). At this point the story splits into two parts. Part one is how the ship’s crew reacts to the contagion and tries to understand, contain, and defeat it. Part two is Pike and Spock deciphering what might have happened to the colonists on the planet’s surface.
Both groups discover more than they thought they would.
The Plot(s) Thicken(s)
Without giving up too much, the crew unlocks the unusual method of transmission that the virus uses to spread from person to person. This helps them to develop a cure. After reading through some previously unknown records, Spock and Pike arrive at their own set of conclusions by the time the ion storm passes, and they can return to the ship.
Diving deeply into the “ghostly” reveals gives too much of the story away. Rest assured, however, that these reveals are very satisfying and help to show the backgrounds, prejudices, and deep-seated fears of three major characters: Number One, Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), and La’an Noonian-Singh (Christina Chong). The nicest part of these reveals is that they cascade through the final act of the show like dominoes progressively knocking into one another. One informs the next, which informs the next. This kind of writing is clever without becoming too cloying.
Hemmer Has Fun (And So Do the Fans)
The “Ghosts of Illyria” episode succeeds in that there is a balance struck between action and thoughtful character exposition. It is this balance that makes the show seem so familiar to viewers who remember the original Star Trek series. Similarly, that’s what makes it so attractive to viewers who may have never seen any of the TOS. The other element that is present in droves is humor. As with the first two episodes, humor is displayed at odd, interesting moments. It really makes these characters come off as real people and not cardboard cutouts.
For example, when Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) provides the power to boost the transporters, Chief Kyle exclaims, “How did you …? Hemmer replies, “I AM a genius …,” then quickly adds, “Move quickly.” These lighter moments serve as counterpoint to segments that are more dramatic. The humor works really, really well.
With such a brilliant combination of action, exposition, and humor in one episode, the average viewer stands a ghost of a chance to dislike this episode.
* Feature Image Source: YouTube – “Sunshine 2007 vs Star Trek Strange New Worlds 1×03”
** Image Source: YouTube – “Easter Eggs You Missed In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 3”