“Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, June 9, 2022
Written by: Robin Wasserman & Bill Wolkoff
Directed by Andi Armaganian
Strange New Worlds delivers a focused, thoughtful story with classic overtones, giving new insights into the characters.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Long live the First Servant.”
The Enterprise is back out on the frontier on a routine mission when a distress call disrupts the quiet Pike was enjoying. A shuttle is under attack from a determined cruiser that starts taking vigorous (yet harmless) potshots at the Big E, which returns fire. Uhura inadvertently slices the aggressor in half… oops. When the alien shuttle passengers are beamed on board, Pike faces a blast from his past in the form of the alluring Alora, along with an injured boy and his dour doctor dad. The bad guys must have been trying to kidnap this “holy” child known as the First Servant for ransom as he was headed home to Majalis for his big ascension ceremony. It turns out this is Pike’s second shuttle rescue for Alora, who is impressed with his new uniform and big, um… ship.
The bad guys are said to be from a close-by alien colony, but Pike has to insist on investigating the attacker’s crashed ship over Alora’s objections. Curious. After discovering a link to the First Servant’s personal guard, Pike invites himself to Majalis to help… as a “friend.” On the idyllic planet of sky cities, Alora identifies the traitor, which results in a chase where Pike doing some punching, and a final showdown where Alora stabs the guard claiming to be protecting the First Kid and renouncing Majalis as a “floating hell.” Alora is shaken, wondering if there are more threats, so Pike once again steps up to stand guard, which she welcomes—but prefers he stay close… like real close. After some off-screen “guarding,” the pair has some cute pillow talk that turns serious when Pike reveals his beeping chair fate. Alora tempts him with the chance to save himself in their little utopia, with the only catch being “you have to be one of us to live here, our way.” Something about how she said that last part though…
“I was having fun.”
While Pike is with Alora, his crew is busy tending to the First Servant and the mystery of the attack. The kid is an adorable genius who impresses even Spock with a deep understanding of subspace communications. Doctor dad shows off some miraculous medical tech that has Dr. M’Benga drooling and clearly wondering if it might help his very sick little girl. He had just been reading to her again, and later, his heart breaks when little smarty pants breaks her out of her protective pattern buffer to play space hopscotch. “Do I have to go back in?” Ouch. But this Elder Gamal is a bit prickly, not willing to share his med-tech, and gets evasive when Spock asks him about a neural dampening device found at the crash site clearly fit for the kid.
La’an is running her own investigation and Uhura’s cadet rotation sets her up as a sidekick, struggling to keep up with the stern security chief and a long list of lessons. Tasked with translating some data chips “liberated” from the crash site, Uhura finds “a lot.” Pike is brought back to face a kind of intervention from his officers, who have sorted out that Alora has been lying to him: The “alien colony” is actually just a low-tech struggling offshoot of Majalis on a mining planet called Prospect VII. Pike’s crew is asking the right questions, like “Why would anyone leave paradise?” But Chris still in the warm glow of all that “guarding,” can’t see it and is certain Alora will have some reasonable explanation. Before they can figure it out, Elder Gamal tries to leave the ship with his son, who then gets yanked out of the transporter by another ship from Prospect VII. Red alert.
“We honor his sacrifice.”
The Enterprise jumps into action, grabbing the kidnap cruiser in a tractor beam, but the ship is so determined to escape that it tries to go to warp and explodes, stunning everyone. Alora is understandably upset, but Pike doesn’t understand when she says the loss of the First Servant will doom Majalis to “fall out of the sky.” If this kid was some kind of holy symbolic figure, how does the fate of the planet rely on him? Finally, Pike starts to ask questions. He gets his first answer from Uhura, who sorts out that Gamal was behind the abduction. He’s thrown in the brig. Spock also has good news, using kid genius’ personal subspace frequency to find the little guy hidden in a cargo container, beamed there instead of to that ill-fated ship. The First Servant is ready to go home to meet his destiny. “Majalis needs me.” Adorable. Alora is so happy she invites Chris to the special ascension ceremony, but he isn’t getting any answers from her about all the little things that are starting to not add up.
Number One gets her chance to play bad cop with Gamal, who admits to trying to keep his son from the ceremony, and says he wants to save him… from what? Pike is invited into the “sacred chamber” as his crew futilely tries to contact him. The throne room is more high-tech torture chamber than regal as the First Servant (mostly willingly, until the last minute) is locked into a chair just vacated by a little desiccated corpse. The other shoe finally drops: All the talk of “sacrifice” is literal. Defying the newly-minted Prime Directive, Pike tries to stop it but gets knocked out as the First Servant is plugged in. In her bedroom, Alora tells a revived Chris the tech behind the floating utopia requires the mind of a child—and there is no other option. She doesn’t understand his horror, using relative society morals and his own cultural history as an example. She also still wants him to stay. Needless to say, he doesn’t feel the same way and returns to the ship to ponder his fate over a stiff drink. One silver lining: Before leaving for Prospect VII in the hopes of saving the next kid fated for Majalis’ macabre machine, Gamal gives M’Benga some medical tips that may help his daughter.
Facing your fate
“Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach” lives up to its grandiose title with a thought-provoking episode that feels like classic Star Trek and even classic sci-fi. Stepping back from any reliance on known elements of Trek lore, the series fulfills its mission to bring us a new world, one that got stranger and stranger along the way. In addition to picking up on the recurring theme of fate, especially through the character of Pike, the well-paced episode also explored questions about what is required for some in a society to benefit and the heavy price that gets paid. Mixed in with a little action and some romance, the episode has a somewhat dark tone, with parallels to contemporary issues including poverty, income inequality, and third-world exploitation; the Strange New Worlds writers use a soft touch instead of the hammer that is too often deployed.
The heavy lifting is ably handled by Anson Mount as he takes Pike through quite a journey from rekindling an old flame to confronting his fate to facing some reluctant truths, and Lindy Booth does a great job as his dance partner along that journey. The main plot was nicely woven into Pike’s arc of coming to grips with his fate, with an interesting parallel with the First Servant as Pike is also sticking with his Starfleet duty, knowing that he, too, must eventually sacrifice himself. Even though he was the last one to catch on to there being something fishy about Alora and Majalis, Pike’s motivations and actions all seemed reasonable, and of course, he was the Captain Pike we needed when the moment required it. And that included his willingness to go against the Prime Directive to do what he thought was right.
The La’an/Uhura side mission offered some fun moments to lighten things up a bit, with nice work and chemistry from Christina Chong and Celia Rose Gooding. While the M’Benga storyline about his daughter was more organic than when it was introduced in episode three, it still feels a bit like a distraction and even a bit emotionally manipulative, although the scene with the kids playing hopscotch with noble gasses was admittedly cute… until the sick girl had to be stored away, again. Also, the show still seems to be struggling with how to use Rebecca Romijn’s Number One, who seemed to be immediately skeptical of the visitors, but then disappeared (again) for most of the episode.
A classic story
Perhaps the best thing about this episode is the familiar feeling it evokes and how well it fits into the tone and themes of Star Trek. While an entirely new story, there were plenty of classic elements including the good guy/bad guy reversal, the aliens with a hidden secret, and of course the returning old flame with some new issues. The plot and themes fit well with Star Trek episodes like TOS’ “The Cloud Minders,” TNG’s “Conundrum,” Enterprise’s “Dead Stop,” and the feature film Star Trek: Insurrection. For Strange New Worlds, the alien utopia felt both real and magical, thanks to excellent production design and costumes.
But beyond Trek, this episode has deeper roots in sci-fi, clearly informed by Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1973 short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” While the third season of Discovery was tangentially inspired by this Hugo Award-winning tale, this was almost a beat-for-beat recreation in a more high-tech alien setting. Le Guin’s thought experiment about a society that keeps one child in squalor for the rest to flourish remains just as powerful today, and the writers were smart to keep the details vague, avoiding the encroachment of traditional Star Trek tech fixes to what is really a moral dilemma. And like the short story, the morality isn’t cut-and-dried, as noted by Alora: In their society they acknowledge some have to suffer, and “the only difference is we don’t look away.”
Another strong episode from Strange New Worlds, and importantly, one that continues to show how the series is embracing different styles and tones.
- This is the second Strange New Worlds writing credit for co-producer Robin Wasserman, who co-wrote the previous episode, and the second credit for supervising producer Bill Wolkoff, who co-wrote episode 3.
- This is the second Star Trek credit for director Andi Armaganian, who previously directed an episode for the fourth season of Discovery.
- Stardate 1943.7.
- Once again, Bruce Horak’s Hemmer does not appear, yet Dan Jeannotte’s Sam Kirk showed up again.
- Lindy Booth (Alora) starred along with Rebecca Romijn in The Librarians.
- The First Servant made a hopscotch game using noble gasses and the different colors correspond to the discharge colors of the six different gasses (as seen in neon lights).
- The Majalis location was shot at the Parkwood National Historic Site in Oshawa, Ontario.
- Pike does a decent impression of La’an.
- Prospect VII was Class L, helping sell that it was hostile environment unlike the idyllic Majalis.
- La’an’s Lessons of Security include:
- A Rigellian tiger pounces with no warning.
- There are no breaks in security because threats never take breaks.
- Let your Tricorder do the investigating.
- Know when to bend the rules.
- Leave no stone unturned.
- Pike warned Uhura to “keep an eye out” for lesson 7 and La’an revealed she usually requires people to “look under Mugatan breathing stones,” possibly something to do with the Mugato horned apes.
- La’an warned about Klingons booby-trapping abandoned ships, possibly indicating she is a veteran of the Federation/Klingon War. Pike and the Enterprise were on a deep space mission and missed the war during the first season of Discovery, but La’an was not part of the crew during that period.
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.