“Children of the Comet”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Episode 2 – Debuted Thursday, May 12, 2022
Written by: Henry Alonso Myers & Sarah Tarkoff
Directed by Maja Vrvilo
A great follow-up to the season premiere with just about everything you want from a Star Trek episode including action, adventure, mystery, heart, and some fun too.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“So you ran away to Starfleet.”
On a routine mission in the Persephone system to study an ancient comet, a few crew members unwind at the Captain’s dinner party, where Uhura has arrived in dress uniform for the casual affair. Ortegas’ devilish outfit recommendation was just part of the cadet’s hazing, which continued as the blind (but “superior”) Hemmer mocks offense at Uhura’s offer of help, getting an assist from Spock, no less. But Nyota catches on quick, calling the Aenar chief engineer out in his own language. The gathered crew bonds over stories of missions gone wrong and Spock’s classic misunderstanding of humor, but things get serious when Uhura reveals she isn’t really sure about the whole Starfleet thing. Awkward. A love for alien languages and a tragic backstory led her to the Academy, but Spock later reminds the cadet that Starfleet is a dream for many and if she isn’t all in, maybe she should make room for someone who really wants to be on the Enterprise.
Also pondering the future is Captain Pike… actually more dreading it. Number One sees how he has changed and he quips “Turns out knowing your future takes the fun out of imagining it.” But Una doesn’t believe in fate, even if Pike knows his own future in detail. Speaking of knowing the future, Spock has sorted out that in two days that comet is going to slam into arid Persephone III, wiping out the adorable pre-warp Deleb. But this is just another day in Starfleet, with a plan quickly hatched to move the big ball of ice with some photon torpedoes transformed into engines to nudge it along. Welcoming the distraction, Pike is back on his game and ready for a “planet to save before breakfast” with his finely tuned crew, but the operation fails—this comet has a forcefield. So it’s going to be one of those kinds of days in Starfleet.
“Maybe we don’t touch anything else.”
Turns out this is no ordinary comet, so La’an leads a landing party to examine subterranean structures in hope of turning off that forcefield. Coming along are George Kirk (xenoanthropologist, has mustache, check), Spock (solid choice), and Uhura (in the rotation, scared). But the cadet’s fright turns to awe as she stands on the surface of a comet. “Woah,” indeed. Soon they find a chamber with a big egg orb thing and after noting some markings, George shows risk is also his business and gets zapped for it. Spock stabilizes him but they are trapped, so it’s all up to the Uhura, who is now openly wondering if she is going to get them all killed. She rallies after Spock’s second attempt at a pep talk: “Hypotheticals are irrelevant. Today you are quite simply the only person for the job.” This turns out very true as humming a Kenyan folk song sends them down the road to a wonderful music-as-math solution with the pair harmonizing, bringing the alien chamber itself to life, and opening up that big egg thing.
Back on the Enterprise, Pike has a whole new problem named “Shepherds” who have a giant powerful ship and don’t like people messing with their holy comet. M’hanit (the comet has a name) is the “arbiter of life” and so if it feels like wiping out a planet, well that is simply “pre-ordained.” And the landing party? “M’hanit will be their tomb.” Wow, these guys are no fun at all. So when the singing sensation of Uhura and Spock perform their forcefield-lowering song and the landing party beams to safety, the Shepherds are pissed… and attack. The Enterprise takes a beating but Pike gets in a couple of good shots, buying them a moment, as a debate rages on about whether they should just escape. Ortegas sums things up nicely with “The crazy space monks will blow us out of the sky if we try anything to move that comet.” But Spock has a cunning plan…
“Just because you receive a message from the future doesn’t mean you understand it.”
Putting the plan in motion, Pike has Ortegas put her mouth where her maneuvering is to sneak the Enterprise past the bad guys. Arriving right on top of the comet, the captain orders everything shut down and surrenders to the Shepherds. Taking a gamble, Pike bets the space monks won’t risk damaging M’hanit… and it works. But all this hullaballoo is just a distraction for Spock, who is hiding in the comet’s tail, swooping in with a shuttle set to broil. The crazy plan is to melt away enough of the comet to change its course… and not get killed by all the shuttle-sized rocks flying at him at the same time. With Spock laughing at the absurdity of his own survival in his flying toaster, M’hanit just skims the planet to the wonderment of the Deleb below—and all that added water in the atmosphere will transform this arid rock into a nice little lush planet. Turns out space monks were right, and the comet literally did bring life. Go figure.
“You have seen the glory and the mercy that is M’hanit” Of course, the Shepherds had to gloat and ruin it. But Captain Monk and Pike bury the hatchet as the Deleb celebrate the rain. In the meantime, Uhura has worked out the musical message: Turns out the comet was showing them it was always going to just kiss the planet, with harm neither intended nor done. But wait, didn’t Spock move it? Now things “get weirder.” M’hanit seems to have known Spock was going to do it all along, it even had a picture of the big chunk of ice that broke off… before it broke off. Mind-Blown-Emoji! Impressed with her work, Spock gives Uhura one last push, telling her how Starfleet-worthy she has proven to be that day, and she is feeling it too. All this talk about what is destined has Chris again pondering his life’s course, now open to listening to Number One who asks, “What if your fate is what you make it?”
After an impressive series premiere, Strange New Worlds comes back strong for its sophomore outing. With the characters and setting introduced last week, “Children of the Comet” indulges in the core premises of exploration and scientific curiosity with not just one, but two groups of interesting aliens along with an intriguing space mystery. And it does this along with the same lighter tone set in the premiere, excellent pacing, and some good sci-fi action. But all along it doesn’t forget the characters, delivering strong development for multiple arcs, all tied together in the recurring theme of fate vs choice.
This second episode puts the focus on Cadet Uhura, in a sort of mirror image to the Pike-focused series premiere. We can see how these two are at opposite ends of their experiences, yet both are questioning their places in Starfleet. Celia Rose Gooding shines as she guides the audience through her (yes, tragic) backstory and the beginning of her journey as we can see the potential in this series as much as she learns to understand her own potential. And her Grammy-nominated talent is on full display, with her beautiful voice helping infuse the episode with some of the awe and wonder of space, along with honoring Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura who knew her way around a tune.
Even with the Uhura story bookending the episode, “Children of the Comet” highlighted the ensemble, giving moments for the Enterprise crew, showing them at work and at play and sometimes both. Ethan Peck continues to step up to the daunting challenge as he helps guide Uhura towards the light of Starfleet, with the writers giving him quintessential Spock dialogue. Anson Mount’s Pike is still clearly the right man for the job even as we can see the turmoil below the surface, this time brought to light through the great chemistry with Rebecca Romijn’s Number One. One quibble: Pike’s “aww shucks” charm sometimes edges to the almost flippant, which combined with the periodic out-of-place casual contemporary dialogue by some of the crew (“take your foot off the gas”?) can snap us out of our Star Trek adventure.
“Children of the Comet” had a classic Star Trek feel with the exploration of a celestial body that turned out to be more than it appeared, finding intriguing new twists. The visit to the comet looked amazing, helping sell the awe it was inspiring in Uhura and even Spock. Finding the solution in a connection between language, math and music was unique yet elegantly familiar, and a great way to showcase those two characters.
The Shepherds, too, were a fascinating new alien race, and everything from the makeup to the visual effects to the florid dialog all showed how Strange New Worlds can deliver on this core component of the new series. And even with all the sci-fi action and a bit of combat, the solution was a bluff worthy of Kirk, a diplomatic loophole worthy of Picard, and some sci-fi science worthy of… well, Spock. Sure Spock’s shuttle flight leaned far from realism into sci-fi spectacle, but the science of triggering sublimation to move a comet was sound, as was a comet transforming the aridity of the planet.
And yet the core mystery of M’hanit remained, allowing for thought-provoking questions about fate and even faith. What more can you ask from an episode of Star Trek? However, while the visual effects help sell all of this, seeing the Big E move around like a fighter jet in Top Gun is a bit jarring to this fan of Trek’s more traditional style of space action. Still, the unbridled enthusiasm Melissa Navia’s Ortegas has for flying the USS Enterprise is infectious and goes a long way toward helping mitigate the unnecessary barrel rolls.
By the way, even though episodes of Next Generation like “Homeward” established that in the 24th century the Prime Directive would disallow interfering to save civilization from a natural disaster even without their knowledge, that wasn’t necessarily the case in the 23rd century. In fact, it was only in the previous episode that Starfleet renamed General Order One as “The Prime Directive,” which will apparently evolve over time.
Strange New Worlds goes from strength to strength. While continuing to build on the characters and relationships, the second episode was simply great, delivering a fun, intriguing story.
- This is the first Star Trek writing credit for executive producer Henry Alonso Myers, who was brought in to be co-showrunner after executive producing and showrunning the Syfy series The Magicians.
- This is also the first Star Trek writing credit for co-producer Sarah Tarkoff, who has worked as a writer and story editor on Arrow and Roswell, New Mexico.
- This is the sixth Star Trek directing credit for Maja Vrvilo, who has previously helmed episodes of Discovery, Picard, and Short Treks.
- Stardate at the start was 2912.4 (last episode ended on Stardate 2259.42).
- The comet’s designation as C/2260-Quentin identifies it as a non-periodic comet discovered in 2260, indicating the series has moved into the year 2260.
- “Quentin” is likely an homage to Quentin Coldwater, the main character from The Magicians.
- Uhura can speak 37 languages and she grew up close to Lake Simbi Nyaima in Kenya. Pike has also visited the same lake, which is said to have healing properties.
- Uhura’s dress uniform was similar to a design from Star Trek Online.
- Pike told a story of a time as a junior officer he encountered a Nausicaan, a belligerent alien species introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Persephone III was part of the same system as Persephone V from the TNG episode “Too Short a Season.”
- A map showed the Persephone system close to the Taliarian Republic (also introduced in TNG) and the Tholian Assembly (introduced in TOS).
- Spock is familiar with the Earth game Yahtzee.
- Tricorders have a defibrillator function.
- Pike uses “Escape Pattern April Omega 3,” presumably named for Admiral Robert April, the first commander of the USS Enterprise.
- Later Ortegas employs “Evasive Pattern Ortegas Gamma 1.”
- The Shepherd captain was played by Thom Marriott, who played a Council Member in the Discovery season two finale.
- The main course for Pike’s dinner party was ribs, but Spock, of course, had the vegetarian option.
- Chief engineer Hemmer is an Aenar, a blind and telepathic subspecies of Andorians introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Hemmer is played by Bruce Horak, who is legally blind, a first for the Star Trek franchise.
More to come
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New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debut on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., Latin America, Australia and the Nordics. The series airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada. In New Zealand, it is available on TVNZ, and in India on Voot Select. Strange New Worlds will arrive via Paramount+ in select countries in Europe when the service launches later this year, starting with the UK and Ireland in June.