The Serene Squall, episode 107 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, provides an in-depth study of how people often struggle to reconcile the different aspects of their lives, especially with those around them.
The Set-Up, Part I
Working at the Ankeshtan K’Til Vulcan Criminal Rehabilitation Center, T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) opens the episode by announcing (remotely, via tablet) that she has something to discuss with Spock (Ethan Peck). She has begun a study of human sexuality by reading “Tropic of Cancer,” by Henry Miller, “Fear of Flight” by, Erica Jong, by and “Argonauts,” by Maggie Nelson. Each offers a different perspective on the subject.
Taken aback, Spock, who is half human, has read none of these books. He suggests that they might pursue such readings when they are next together.
Working hard to formulate a response, T’Pring says, “As you wish. But you are half-human … I thought the onus was on me — as the full Vulcan — to better understand the culture that makes you … you.”
This is the perfect table setter for an episode that brings out much more of Spock’s struggles with being half Vulcan in a mostly human world, even as the rest of the show is about traps, pirates, subterfuge, foodies, and escapes.
The Set-Up, Part II
The episode itself starts off with the Enterprise escorting Doctor Aspen (Jesse James Keitel), an aid worker (and former Starfleet Counselor) to a spot on the edge of Federation space. Refugee ships out there are in danger from pirate actions. She needs help and she got it. What other reason does one need?
Upon reaching the specific spot in space specified by Doctor Aspen, Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) finds wreckage from what appears to be two of the three refugee ships, but no bodies. Perhaps they were transported onto the third ship and escaped farther into non-Federation space. On the horns of a particularly thorny dilemma, Pike sends a subspace message to the nearest base and takes Enterprise into unfriendly territory.
Doing More With Less
The title of the episode, The Serene Squall, invites explorations of duality in various parts of the Star Trek universe of characters.
EXTRA CREDIT: What Sci-Fi Shows Do Science Well?
In one insightful scene, Doctor Aspen talks to Spock about the two halves of his life: Vulcan and human. She counsels him about not allowing himself to be pulled in two directions. Doctor Aspen is herself a character that exists in two worlds, but Spock doesn’t know this yet. The episode itself takes on more layered meaning because Keitel is a trans actor, and episode director, Sydney Freeland, is a trans filmmaker. What better episode is there to thoroughly explore the complex nature of trans living in today’s society? What better set of characters to use for this discussion than Doctor Aspen and Spock?
In the specific scene, Spock is trying to explain why he is uncomfortable with “going with is gut” to solve a recent problem. “It’s guessing,” he says.
Aspen: What’s wrong with guessing?
Spock: They are derived from incomplete premises … It is illogical.
Aspen: Says you.
Spock: Says all Vulcans.
Aspen: Well, aren’t you half human?
Spock: That is merely genetics. I was raised on Vulcan.
Aspen: And that’s geography … Spock. You know all species put things into boxes. It’s like you’re either this or you’re that. And … sometimes we act a certain way to fit people’s expectations, but that’s not necessarily who we are. And sometimes, like on the bridge just now, it can limit us.– Aspen and Spock, as Spock endeavors to understand the pirate’s trap
The conversation continues on a bit, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone, including Doctor Aspen herself, that the dialogue will help Spock to overcome the show’s biggest challenge, but that’s much later.
Pay To Play
When Pike and the Enterprise crew find the derelict ship, it appears to be empty and Pike makes a determination to lead an away team to investigate what’s going on. With shields lowered, part of a band of alien pirates simultaneously beams aboard the Enterprise. Because they are pirates, after all, they quickly storm the bridge, take the crew prisoner, and take over control of the ship. In a similar way, pirates appear aboard the derelict transport and make Pike & Co. their prisoners.
Everyone is now a captive, except quick-thinking nurse Chapel. She maintains her cool, subdues some stray pirates, and plays in important, and hormonally charged part in eventually saving everyone. What it means for future inter-ship relations is anyone’s guess.
Actually, it’s no guess at all; things are going to get a lot hotter.
A Few Sticking Points
Major flaws abound in this episode, and they stick in one’s craw. While that’s sad, this is still very, very fun episode to watch. Here is a short list of the aforementioned craw cloggers:
- It’s mind-blowing that a hoard of space pirates should be able to beam aboard Star Fleet’s finest vessel and take it over so completely in just a few moments.
- While “identity theft” is a problem for today’s humans, surely it has become almost impossible to accomplish by the 23rd century.
- Doctor Aspen (or whoever she is, see #2 above) is motivated by a goal that, while somewhat contrived, can only be explained by her involvement with the brother of an existing Star Trek character, one that was previously introduced by the movie: Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country.
- How surreal is it for Captain Pike to convince the pirate’s leader to postpone killing his crew because he should first whip up a gourmet meal for them? It is surreal, and yet it is also extremely amusing to watch this scene play out.
Casting For Type, Anyone?
Actor Jesse James Keitel is amazingly good for the part of Doctor Aspen. She is very competent in her portrayal of an intergalactic aid worker that once was a Counselor providing services to a Federation Starbase. She really sells it. When she flips her role over during the episode’s second half, she is equally effective.
That she bears an uncanny resemblance to an MCU character who also does a major career flip-flop can’t be an accident. That character is Loki (Tom Hiddleston). He starts off being mischievously bad and then flips into a dashing, if confused, good guy to help the TVA, Time Variance Authority, figure out who’s corrupting the time stream and for what reason.
Wicked it would be to lure one of these actors into the other’s show. There would be so many opportunities to continue, and amplify, the mischief.
But Wait, There’s More!
Based on the clever plot twists so far, let’s all look forward to episode 108 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. New episodes air each Thursday on Paramount Plus.
* Source: YouTube – Star Trek Strange New Worlds – Episode 7 Breakdown & Review!
* Source: YouTube – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds S01E07 Easter Eggs, Breakdown, Ending Explained [Who Is “*SPOILER*”]
*** Source: YouTube – Marvel Studios’ Loki | Official Trailer | Disney+