Foreshadowing is the hallmark of good storytelling, especially in episodic shows.
To paraphrase words from the Internet, “Storytelling has one ambition at its core: to capture a viewer’s attention and keep them engaged with a story until the end. Foreshadowing is a valuable technique any screenwriter can use to create and build suspense that will keep viewers coming back show after show after show.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds excels in foreshadowing. They’re so good that anyone wanting to be truly surprised by a new show should avoid watching the recap vignettes at the beginning. The show’s eighth episode, “The Elysian KIngdom,” demonstrates this admirably.
The Set Up
In this case, previous episodes foreshadowed that Dr. M’Benga’s daughter, Rukia (Sage Arrindell), has a terminal disease. He has been keeping her in stasis in the transporter buffer. She doesn’t age as quickly, so the effects of the disease are delayed. M’Benga hopes that someday the Enterprise will cross paths with technology that will enable her to be cured.
The Enterprise crew has just completed examination of the Jonisian Nebula. The opening monologue is delivered by Dr. M’Benga, who notes that there isn’t much for the medical staff to do. He has been working on his science experiments and briefly engages with Rukia. He notes that months have become days and now hours, yet there is no cure. Rukia pleads with her father to read the ending to her favorite book, The Kingdom of Elysian. He does, but he and Rukia gently argue over the ending of the book. “But you wanted me to read it to you,” M’Bengo says. Rukia wistfully agrees and wishes that the story could have a different ending.
“Someday …” says M’Benga. “… when you’re a gown-up … you’ll write your own stories. And you can have any ending you like.”
See? Great foreshadowing.
A Magical Kingdom, For Some
When the Enterprise is scheduled to leave the nebula behind, they find that they can’t. Within moments, the script channels appropriate dialog through the following people: Uhura, Pike, Spock, Ortegas, Mitchell, and Emmer. When the warp engines fail, Pike suggests using impulse power to move away from the nebula. When impulse engines are engaged, however, there is a violent shaking. M’Benga, traveling to the bridge to attend to Ortegas’ injury, has a moment and when he emerges onto the bridge …
… everything has changed.
The crew is now in flowing robes, leggings, ornamental hats and headdresses, and other medieval accoutrements.
It seems everyone has been transmogrified into someone related to M’Benga’s favorite fairy tale.
While the show’s first scenes imply this will be a M’Benga-centric episode, we now know it really is. M’Benga has become King Ridley, the central figure in the children’s story. Ortegas is Sir Adya, a noble person. Pike is Sir Amand Rauth, the king’s loyal chamberlain. Other characters appear, as needed to propel the fantasy story forward. At first, M’Benga is the only original crewman who recognizes that everything has changed. That’s as it should be, since the story sprang forth from interaction between him and Rukia
Surely You Jest?
What makes this episode so good is just how willing the cast members are to embrace their new fantasy selves. It is still the Enterprise (and, as such, is another “ship in a bottle” episode), but the set has been dressed in vines, drapes, and runes that could have been purchased for next to nothing on Etsy.
In no particular order:
- Pike the bold is now Rauth the horrifically obsequious. Actor Anson Mount doesn’t hold back at all on turning Captain Pike on his ear! He’s hilarious.
- Ortegas gets to embrace her inner knight by threatening to chop the head off anyone and anything that comes into range
- Noonien-Singh is a princess who carries around her dog (dressed similarly) in her purse
- Chapel is some sort of witchy sorceress encamped in her sanctuary (aka, sick bay)
- Uhura is an amazingly over-the-top evil queen that runs with the phrase, “Bad girls wear white outfits”
- Spock is a wizard channeling pretty much every Lord of the Rings vibe ever created
BONUS MATERIAL: 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY
In Dr. M’Benga’s fairy tale, King Ridley is forced to choose between difficult outcomes. He can give up his greatest weapon – the Mercury Stone – or rescue Princess Thalia. He cannot do both. The show is all about exploration, discovery, and doing just that – sometimes being able to change the ending. While Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is just getting started, this is one of the young show’s most emotionally impactful episodes, as M’Benga bids goodbye to the daughter he fought so hard to save.
He does so with hope and optimism that the two of them will meet again one day, fulfilling the promise that an older, wiser Rukia will write her own stories and craft any ending she likes. Very amazing story telling, indeed.
This undeniably silly episode really stacks up well with anything that Gene Roddenberry might have concocted for his own Star Trek: The Original Series. It also brings tones of sadness, regret, and redemption into the mix that might have eluded the previous show’s writers.
But watch out! A show like this – with all of its wackiness (and foreshadowing) – appearing as it does with two shows remaining in the first season, might require a return to more serious themes. There could be a repeat encounter with the Gorn, certainly more violent than a mythical kingdom full of kings and princesses. Events might take Captain Pike farther down the dark collision course that is his future-to-be. There is even a heretical anti-Vulcan half-brother that Spock now knows to be lurking out in space somewhere.
They’re all worthy courses for the Enterprise to plot. As Pike says when he wants the ship to get going, “Hit it!”
New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds air every Thursday on Paramount Plus.
* Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 8 BEST SCENES – Abracadabra! S01E08
** Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 8 BEST SCENES – The Huntress! s01e08
*** Rukiya Joins the Nebula Aliens • Star Trek Strange New Worlds