Recap/Review: ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Gets Enchanted In “The Elysian Kingdom”

“The Elysian Kingdom”

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Episode 8 – Debuted Thursday, June 23, 2022
Written by: Akela Cooper & Onitra Johnson
Directed by Amanda Row

Another fun but perhaps a bit frivolous episode plays with some classic Star Trek tropes, allowing the cast to indulge themselves.

Rebecca Romijn as Una and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga

 

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“But what if we could change the ending?”

The Enterprise is wrapping up a routine nebula scanning mission and Pike is happy to get back to the science and the quiet competence of exploration, with Spock surprisingly reminding the captain of the human superstition of jinxing a good thing by calling it out. And sure enough, as soon as they try to leave, the ship refuses to budge, and one last try with the impulse engines causes a jolt, knocking out Ortegas. This prompts a call for Dr. M’Benga, snapping him back to attention from the distraction of the ongoing plight of his dying daughter—his latest attempt at a cure only resulted in a minor explosion. He’s been especially motivated after putting Rukiya back into the transporter buffer after another heart-tugging bedtime story. “She has so little time left.”

But when the good doctor arrives on the bridge there is something odd… very odd. It has been transformed into a medieval throne room and everyone is dressed for court—including him, complete with crown. “All hail the king!” M’Benga starts to sort out that this is all taken from his daughter’s fairy tale, which makes him King Ridley, Pike is the sycophantic chamberlain Sir Rauth, and Ortegas (now perfectly fine) is the brave Sir Adya. And M’Benga is the only one who realizes they are all LARPing. The ship seems to be running fine, according to the computer (sorry, the “Oracle”), and they are still hanging out next to the nebula, now appearing as a dangerous fog surrounding the Elysian Kingdom (episode name alert!). Playing along, M’Benga announces he must travel to the sick bay (taken as a literal bay) to get a magical device called a tricorder, and thus his quest begins with the two knights coming along, although cowardly Sir Pike expresses some reluctance.

Melissa Navia as Ortegas, Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga, and Anson Mount as Pike

“Welcome to my kingdom.”

The Fellowship of the Tricorder reaches sickbay, now an enchanted forest overseen by the healer Lady Audrey Chapel, who busies herself with an actual cauldron. The scans are inconclusive, but Princess La’an Thalia shows up with a warning about evil Queen Neve, who is after the King’s MacGuffin Stone… sorry, Mercury Stone. The quest gets its next goal as they witness Hemmer (aka the wizard Caster) dragged away by Neve’s Redshirt Crimson Guard, but it looks like the Aenar engineer is still himself. The party heads off to free the wizard… after some princess singing, naturally. On their way they encounter Spock, the dark wizard Pollux who warns them of the Swamp of Infinite Death, which Sir Pike points out is “not a good swamp.”

Thanks to having read the book, King M’Benga uses his knoweldge that Pollux is Caster’s brother to get Spock to lead them around the swamp, so into the secret dark tunnel (actually a Jeffries Tube) they go. And as M’Benga expected, Pollux leads them into a trap, the throne room of Neve herself—well actually Uhura, looking majestic. The levels go to full ham as Pike immediately bends to her “kneel before me.” However, this is all part of the plan as now they get locked up in the dungeon (transporter room) where M’Benga can finally have a real conversation with Hemmer, who reveals he is self-aware due to his telepathic abilities, which blocked an entity inside the nebula from pushing into his mind. Now they just need to get to engineering to sort all this out, and thanks to Hemmer’s handy “magic” cutting tool, they are free again. “Abracadabra!”

Christina Chong as La’an

“You must protect the child.”

After a confrontation with the Crimson Guard, Number One finally shows up as Z’ymira the Huntress, heroically saving and then joining the party. In engineering, Hemmer figures out the nebula is home to a spontaneously formed consciousness that must be using the story in M’Benga’s mind to create the fantasy. But as Z’ymira and Adya bicker like an old couple, the doc figures out the entity is connected to his daughter, who is changing the story: Ortegas’ and Una’s characters don’t know each other in the book, but here they know each other, “like really well.” Okay, we get it, Adya. Rukiya isn’t in sickbay, so she must be in his quarters, where she has always wanted to visit instead of being stuck in that buffer. Outside his quarters, the party is waylaid by Sir Pike, who betrays them for his new liege, Queen Neve. What a toady. It turns out that Rukiya is the Mercury Stone, and the evil queen wants her. Thankfully King M’Benga has a real wizard on his side, as Hemmer—with a nice bit of magician’s flourish—uses a communicator to transport all the bad guys to cargo bay 12.

Father and daughter are finally reunited and she has been having a ball watching him play out the story thanks to her new “friend,” who cured her too. OMG! Hemmer channels the nebula being who did all of this because it felt a kinship with the little girl’s loneliness. It also reveals that if the ship is freed and leaves, Rukiya will get sick again, giving M’Benga the impossible choice: “the crew or your daughter.” The girl breaks our hearts as she agrees to go back into the buffer but there is another way: She can choose to shed her sick body and live in the nebula forever. Reluctantly and full of love, M’Benga agrees to Rukiya’s wish and they say goodbye as she is transformed into beautiful light. I’m not crying, you’re crying. But wait, Rukiya returns—now older and wiser and happy, with tales of her friend “Debra,” named for her mom. Aww. They’re happy having adventures in the years that are just moments for her dad, giving him a more joyous farewell, for now. Hemmer wakes up with the telepathic hangover from hell and no memory; he and the crew all have a five-hour gap. But Joseph (first name reveal alert!) confides in Una about his extraordinary experience starting with, naturally, “Once upon a time.”

Bruce Horak as Hemmer and Babs Olusanmokun

ANALYSIS

Let’s play

“The Elysian Kingdom” is quite a lot of fun, finding a way to do a holodeck-type costume adventure without the holodeck. And by the way, the costumes were amazing. These kinds of stories when Star Trek characters get to inhabit other characters have been done before, of course, but this was definitely a new spin on the sub-genre and the enthusiasm of the cast in their new roles was infectious. While Babs Olusanmokun stepped up to lead the episode with emotional range beyond his quiet steady state, the rest of the Enterprise crew threw themselves into the fantasy, with some really hamming it up, especially Anson Mount who has said this was a favorite for the cast; he particularly seemed to love playing against type as the sniveling chamberlain. Having Bruce Horak finally show up again was quite welcome and he, too, had fun both as the real Hemmer trying to science his way out of this problem and a bit of his own over-the-top wizard. He even hangs a lantern on it all with the question “Too much?” Yes, but it’s fine.

While one might expect the more prominent Spock to be the immune character that saves the day, Hemmer fits in better with Trek lore as the Aenar are much stronger telepaths than Vulcans. Having only two characters being aware of the fantasy through most of the episode, and all but M’Benga having their memories of the experience wiped, takes away opportunities for character development, but it was good to see the episode bookended with Number One, showing herself to be a good first officer with a growing personal bond with her friend, and nicely giving her the honor to reveal his first name.

Rebecca Romijn as Una and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga

The episode also took too long to get to the core sci-fi plot, and even needlessly put up a red herring early on with the failed sickbay experiment as a possible culprit. We never saw our characters struggling with being taken over, and as each of the fantasy characters had no connection to the real characters, there was nothing to learn from them beyond having a good time, which again, was quite a lot of fun.

What kept this episode from rising beyond just a bit of fun was the lack of any stakes or consequences for most of our characters. Unlike similarly themed episodes like TNG’s “Imaginary Friend” or Voyager’s “Killing Game,” no one appeared to be at any risk of harm, even with all the swords and arrows. And there was no sci-fi story ticking clock to save the crew from their fantasy world. Of course, this was to keep all the real drama on the heartbreaking story of Rukiya and the terrible choice faced by Dr. M’Benga. It was here where the tone of the episode took a quick turn to the serious, with a real question on what the right thing choice was for M’Benga and Rukiya. But the mystery of his daughter’s fate and bravery of his bittersweet farewell was lessened by adult Rukiya’s immediate return to absolve him of any concerns or guilt, which did tidy everything up, but really put too simple of a cap on this fizzy drink of a bottle episode that could have been decanted into something more.

Anson Mount as Pike

It’s real!!!

One thing this episode made clear is that while Strange New Worlds is definitely an episodic series with standalone adventures, it is also highly serialized, more so than was imagined before the series arrived. We have seen this pattern in previous episodes of how the writers are playing long games with the arcs for all of their characters, like the introduction of Rukiya earlier in the season and the major elements of her favorite fairy tale bedtime story. Now it all fits well together, bringing a nice bit of closure to this arc for M’Benga, leaving him room to grow as we move on to the rest of the season and beyond.

If this episode has a theme, it might be embedded in the message of the fairy tale itself. King Ridley is faced with a choice to give up the power of the Mercury Stone and to find a way forward on his own. The message about how Rukiya was freed to “create your own stories” is a lesson for the show itself. Since its mid-season, Strange New Worlds has been striking out more and more to fulfill its true mission to tell new stories about new worlds, which it did this week with the Jonisian Nebula. The series does not need to rely on the familiar lore of Trek to succeed; these characters are engaging enough and the universe is literally designed for endless exploration. And for that, “The Elysian Kingdom” is to be praised. But it never forgets where it came from and it beautifully rewards loyal fans with subtle but powerful nods to the past: If you looked closely, you’d have seen that Rukiya’s fairy tale The Kingdom of Elysian was written by none other than Benny Russell. Nicely done, Strange New Worlds.

Bruce Horak as Hemmer and Babs Olusanmokun

Final thoughts

Strange New Worlds successfully delves into the quirky fun filler-type episodes that seemed to go out of fashion with shortened seasons. While there were some missed opportunities, “The Elysian Kingdom” was an undeniable hour of merry entertainment.

Jess Bush as Nurse Chapel

Random bits

  • The episode title is derived from Elysium, an idyllic afterlife in Greek mythology, and the wizards Caster and Pollux are named for twin half-brothers Castor and Pollux.
  • This is the second Strange New Worlds writing credit for co-executive producer Akela Cooper, and the first-ever television writing credit for writers’ assistant Onitra Johnson.
  • This is the first Star Trek credit for director Amanda Row.
  • Stardate 2341.6.
  • McNair Starbase was likely named for Ronald McNair, NASA’s second Black astronaut to fly into space, who was later lost in the Challenger Disaster.
  • Trying to cure his daughter’s fictional disease of Cygnokemia, M’Benga created a substance called 3QND, which is a real synthetic inhibitor that could be used to fight viruses.
  • Dr. M’Benga discovered the crew had levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, just like The Doctor found when the crew of the USS Voyager were under the influence of the telepathic pitcher plant in the Voyager episode “Bliss.”
  • Hemmer’s theory is based on the real Boltzmann Brain thought experiment.
  • The Swamp of Infinite Death is likely a reference to place names In The Princess Bride like the Cliffs of Insanity and the Fire Swamps.
  • Ortegas/Adya’s sword was named “Starfall,” because why not?
  • This episode established M’Benga’s first name as Joseph. In April, Paramount had to retract posters displayed at the Mission: Star Trek Chicago convention that showed his first name as “Jabilo.”
  • We never got to see who the court jester was, but bets are on Sam Kirk.
  • Princess Thalia’s dog Runa was played by Christina Chong’s own dog Runa.

Christina Chong as La’an and Melissa Navia as Ortegas

More to come

Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe and discusses the latest episode. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.

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 SelectStrange 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.


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Worst episode yet, I hope the actors had fun cause I didn’t.

They did

I disagree 100%. I was laughing all along the way and crying by the end. Wonderful storytelling in the classic TOS tradition. Bravo I say.

There’s always one, I suppose.

Crazy how much tastes can differ, I thought this was wonderful

I know what you mean.

Decent Episode with some impressive sets and costumes but strange acting decisions.

The “possessed” crew/crew playing fictional characters storyline is nothing new and and it continues the trend of Strange New Worlds trying on all the Classics for size. But it’s original enough (as in: they didn’t go for a story Trek did before like Robin Hood) and beautiful Sets and Costumes give it some Eyecandy the old episodes barely managed to achieve.

Where it falls apart – as per usual with modern Trek – is the writing and – somewhat surprisingly – the acting: It feels like the crew playing characters. Apart from M’Benga and Hemmer that shouldn’t be. All the Actors should play it straight. Take the world seriously. It is after all their reality. If something of the original consciousness was supposed to shine through, those people should be horrified, not playful with the role.

Now I get, that they didn’t want to make this a horror story. But in a comedy the comedy should still come from the writing, not the actors not taking the material seriously. You can act it like a stage play; maybe get a broadway director in for it. But what they did here was just plain bad acting for all the “possessed” crew members.

Talking about Acting: the Opening between M’Benga and his daughter was really well acted and suitably emotional. Why do they have to ruin that moment by playing unnecessarily loud emotional music to really hammer home what the viewer is supposed to feel? This show (as a matter of fact all the live action Trek shows) constantly does this and it is incredibly annoying. And I’m not even saying the music is bad (except for all of the Jeff Russo Themes). It’s just used in such a wrong way.

On a story note: aren’t Vulcans contact telepaths with highly trained minds? Why couldn’t Spock resist?

Also the ending seems a little weird. For one, we know there is a cure because we were told so two episodes prior. And M’Benga just handing his Daughter over to an entity he knows nothing about just feels uncomfortable to me. For all we know that wasn’t even his daughter talking to him. He might’ve just watched his daughter being disintegrated. Seeing her older a few moments later might as well just have been a mirage or something. Usually this kind of story is done with terminally ill old people and with some more evidence that we’re actually dealing with a benevolent force.

Doesn’t really ruin the episode. It’s just weird.

An finally on a directors note: they had a chance to do a great Oldboy style corridor scene with swords about halfway through and didn’t take it! 😅

Agree with your review, especially other characters not seriously in character and handing over daughter

I get what you mean by “playing unnecessarily loud emotional music to really hammer home what the viewer is supposed to feel”. I’ve so often thought this about movies and shows. It’s strange to see someone express this with just about the same words I’ve had in my head :D

I wasn’t really able to put my finger on it for a long time. I just realised it recently, when watching the new Orville Season. They have a pretty in your face soundtrack too. But in the dialogue scenes they let the actual words do the talking.

I think the overly-broad and hammy acting was a deliberate choice and right in line with previous Trek episodes like “A Piece of the Action.” Additionally, if this fantasy is springing from the mind of a child who is “playing” then of course the character depictions are not going to be naturalistic and serious.

I totally agree with this

I completely agree. It was meant to emulate a children’s play.

>Also the ending seems a little weird. For one, we know there is a cure because we were told so two episodes prior
Because as they explained in the episode, time had essentially ran out

I was a bit disappointed by this episode. It felt like a TOS episode but with a modern style to it but didn’t quite live up to what it tried/wanted to be.

I found it a mostly filler episode except for the ending to the M’Benga/his Daughters story-line which i found to be sad but happy she gets to live but in a different way to what he was hoping for. I hope the last 2 episodes of the season pick up story-wise.

The costume’s though were fantastic.

Like the last episode, this was OK.

But more importantly, I see this now:
With many different types of stories delivered so far, I think SNW is preparing the old time fans for a specific point: The story as written, the rules as stated, the person standing before you (ie: canon)… they do not have to lead to the single, straightforward, inescapable outcome that we all know.

  • The child can rewrite the story (canon) to her liking.
  • The rules (canon) about enhanced humans in Star Fleet can be bent. 
  • The noted Doctor (canon) can actually be a pirate.  

Secret Hideout is saying in many different ways, canon can be rewritten.  

I think that SNW is absolutely going to lead to a rewrite of the stories for all of its core crew, which will lead to a reboot of Trek. I think Secret Hideout views Trek canon as The Cage… or as a Kobayashi Maru, no-win test. Thus, their primary goal is to creatively break the canon constraint that keeps them from doing what they want to do with Trek.  

Imagine being in the Star Trek writer’s room today. They are trying to craft a show in which the critical narrative paths were pre-ordained 60 years prior. Do you give in to what is inescapable, or do you rewrite the test’s code to suit your needs and still save the day?

you do what they should have done in the first place and just call everything from Disco on a prime universe reboot. Then there are no problems.

IMO, ‘Star Trek Continues’ followed the rules of TOS, but were able to still come up with some fresh storytelling and some good social commentary. So it can be done. The writers here are already scraping the bottom of the barrel (Sybok, for example).
But I am not really specifically referring to canon, more the style, which I thought they were intending on capturing with SNW. This batch of Star Trek; Discovery/SNW, and Picard as well, have left canon, if you define canon in terms of sticking to TOS/TNG, way, way, …way behind. So, if you uses terms like ‘reboot’, they were already there and they have already done that, on day one of Disco.
(Embrace the multiverse)

Well, that was disappointing. Next week, the Gorn return! I hope it’s better than this one.

To most people, this episode may seem like a relatively empty, campy fluff of an episode, but to me it means more than any episode since 2017. I’ve written here before about the fact that I was born with a debilitating, extremely painful, extremely rare genetic disorder. Most people with it don’t survive childhood. I’m in my early twenties, and fighting for my life, and the prognosis is not good. Just yesterday I had an exploratory surgery to see if my advanced cancer can be treated at all. 

In other words, I instantly connected deeply to Rukiya and M’Benga. Like Rukiya, my time may be running out. Like Rukiya, childhood stories (hello Star Trek!) have gotten me through the worst of times. So when an alien entity turns the Enterprise into the storybook M’Benga reads Rukiya, I was delighted. Only M’Benga and Hemmer are unaffected, and they romp through the storybook, trying to save the day. 

Normally I’d summarize the whole thing, but I’m feeling particularly weak today. Let me just focus on a few things: the cast is absolutely delightful, and they clearly had a blast acting. Hemmer was a joy, and his line “THE MAGIC OF SCIENCE PREVAILS!” made my day. Christina Chong was hilarious. 

The ending made me sob. The entity was deeply lonely, and sensed Rukiya’s loneliness — the deep loneliness and isolation every medically complex and deeply sick child like me feels in their bones. The entity was trying to give Rukiya the childhood she could never have — the childhood everyone like me could never have. If we’re lucky enough to grow up, we still never had the childhood everyone else had. Even as I’m facing a grim prognosis, my deepest wish isn’t for more years of adulthood: it’s to have had the childhood I could never have. It is our bodies that are sick. I know I’ve dreamed of leaving my broken body behind. Rukiya achieves that dream, at the price of leaving her father. She lives a happy life, free at last. 

Strange New Worlds, how did you understand my deepest feelings? My hopes? My dreams and fears? You gave me the story I always wanted. Thank you.

So sorry to read of your situation, which it seems you are meeting with great courage and fortitude. My sister is currently battling Stage 4 bladder cancer, and her road has likewise not been an easy one. I’m very pleased that this episode was a comfort to you, and wish you nothing but the best.

Thank you. I hope your sister’s journey gets better. It’s a deeply lonely experience, and no one should have to suffer that way.

I cannot say it better than Michael Hall did above, so I will only offer my concurrence.

I would like to echo Michael’s and The River Temarc’s comments here. I admire your perseverance and I I hope Trek keeps providing you inspiration!

Any episode that affects someone so deeply has to be a good one.I look forward to watching it later today.

I’d love to get your opinion on it. I must admit it touched me in a very particular way, as someone who also grew up with a debilitating disease. It’s so rare to see my rather unique experience and hopes play out on television. But the emotions are universal.

Dear General Shran, I am sending you my very best wishes, and even though I did not like this episode so much, I am so pleased for you that it was perfect for you and gave you the story you always wanted! Having read about the experience it gave you, I wouldn’t want to change anything about the episode!

It will be about 5 weeks before we get to see this in the UK but your touching review provides another filter through which I will be able to view this episode,

5 weeks in the UK?! Nah,you can watch it NOW! lol. But I know what you mean of course.

I teared up reading this. I am sorry this happens to you. And while I didn’t like the end of the episode, and still don’t, it made me realize another perspective and I am really glad you found it relatable to you. Just thinking about that ending now with your perspective, I do appreciate it more, if only for the fact that it gave you (and maybe others like you) some kind of peace and something you always wanted.

Thank you.

Thank you for sharing and providing a perspective that most might not consider. I liked tonight’s episode and appreciate your emphasis on the character of Rukiya, her condition and her point of view. Best regards and wishes!

Yes, my sincere thanks to General Shran for sharing their perspective.

I found myself very moved by this episode at the end as well.

I had not been enthusiastic about another comedic episode. However, having known children who have, as General Shran has experienced and shared, never had the opportunity for the childhood all of us want for our children, this was a very classic and special aspirational Trek story in the end.

Sounds like a fun but frivolous episode. I expect and hope the last two episodes of S1 will be much more serious and based on the E9 clip I saw, things will get deadly serious next week. So I will sit back, relax and enjoy tonight’s show.

After watching tonight’s episode, I must say it was much more serious and thought provoking than I expected… and that’s a good thing!

I loved this episode. It was an easy to digest episode. And it was fun. And no canon breaking either. I know this was Babs episode, but without Mount, Navia, and Chong this doesn’t land for me. This episode didn’t just have an optimistic ending. It was another enjoyable romp throughout.

Haven’t seen the episode as I still don’t have Paramount+ (though that’s looking increasingly likely with the largely positive reception of SNW and my real desire to screen THE OFFER). But based on the recap alone I’ll take it any day over VOY’s “The Killing Game,” a padded, pointless two-parter that’s mostly memorable for the absurd image of a race of alien predators dressed-up in Nazi garb.

I enjoyed the episode but I think it’s their first dud, despite being very watchable. I agree with the reviewer that the sci-fi storyline arrived way too late. Also, I don’t know any parent who would be willing to surrender their child to a mysterious entity they just met. Not to mention a child willing to give up their loving parent for a stranger, all of it was just too convenient to the story. The writers try to solve this by fast-forwarding to an adult version (very poorly acted btw) who was there to reassure M’Benga that he made the right decision. So I just sat there in disbelief through that whole resolution, I didn’t feel what they wanted us to feel and came away disliking the episode for mishandling an emotional finale. The rest of the episode was fun, the cast did an amazing job and I had as much fun as they did. It was a risky episode to pull off, but the show feels ripe for it because the show is way more charismatic and fun. If it wasn’t for the consequential finale, the episode would have been overly frivolous, but it should have been more of a problem solving mystery along the way. Again, another episode that feels fundamentally like Star Trek from all generations, not just TOS.

Pretty much my exact thoughts. The writers had no choice but to fast forward to the adult Rukiya to justify what seemed like a weird decision.

Overall a rushed, disappointing conclusion to Rukiya’s story.

Also having the crew have no memory of this – what a boring resolution. Imagine the look on Pike and La’an’s faces if they remembered all of it. And Uhura!

“Joseph (first name reveal alert!)”

For the record, M’Benga’s first name has been Joseph since the very first script in which he appeared, back in 1966. This is not a new name. It’s simply that the novelists used the wrong name, so it’s cool that the show’s writing team chose to honor the name TOS had always intended for the character. When M’Benga was created, his name was Joseph M’Benga, and he was going to eventually star in a spinoff show with his brother Simon M’Benga, which ended up being canceled. I’m actually surprised at how none of the Star Trek fan sites are mentioning this in their reviews. :)

FROM MEMORY ALPHA:
This character was actually created by Darlene Hartman, in her purchased (but never produced) TOS script entitled “Shol”. The notes for that script give Dr. M’Benga’s first name as “Joseph” (confirmed in canon only in SNW: “The Elysian Kingdom”), and stated that he was originally a native of Uganda. His brother, Commander Simon M’Benga, was the first officer of USS Hope, a Federation hospital ship, in the planned-but-never-developed Star Trek spinoff Hopeship.

Have to say, this episode was far from frivolous. It may have seemed pointless, and may have taken some silliness to get there – but ultimately it was a story about pain, loss and redemption. The “fight” over the mercury stone represents the struggle over his daughter’s life. Falling into the hands of the evil queen – his daughter’s cancer – or “rescuing” her by letting her go. As a father, I can’t imagine the choice between the unlikely hope of saving my child, or letting them go to end their suffering. The end had me in tears. Yes, it was a little goofy along the way – but that’s the “one-two punch” – keep you off guard with what seems like a silly story and then knock you out with an ending that brings you to your knees.

See? This is the exact way I interpreted this episode; like you, BMAR, it had me in tears at the end, and at a couple of other places – key dialogue delivering The Message – I just about sobbed as it hit me that what some of the characters were saying things which truly hit home in my life, in deep ways that until seeing this story I had always had difficulty articulating. Sure, it’s, as you say, “goofy” – yet it also has poignant style and poise when M’Benga meets the time when I must make a horrific choice. I also did not expect to see his daughter return like that – in what I choose to call The Redemption Sequence. That was profound, and a great way to turn this romp into a story that is indeed worthy of a bedtime book reading for a child.

Christina Chong’s dog, Runa, stole the scenes it was in….. ‘reminded me JUST A LITTLE BIT of Porthos from ENT, and since I love animals, I couldn’t keep the grin off my face every time it was shown!

Wow, this series just keeps coming with stories that make one THINK about things….. Hey, that sounds familiar. TOS, anyone?

How is it that only Star Trek can take a story that’s so silly and tacky and make you tear up at the end? I have to admit that as I was watching it I felt pretty “meh” about it, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t tear up a bit when the doctor has that last chat with his daughter.

I enjoyed this episode. It was fun to see Pike as the cowardly lord and Hemmer is always cool. Dr. M’Benga’s story with his daughter was touching.

Uhura was playing against character as well. Hemmer was well rounded in this outing as well.

Can we talk about how Hemmer’s antennae moved?!!

My spouse’s number one question for this show is how happily resolved. It was great to see the animatronics used for impact in the “redemption scene.”

Sincerely, our household has been missing Hemmer the past three episodes, so it was good to see him team up to support M’Benga. It was also good to be reminded who are the stronger telepaths in the core Federation species.

And perhaps we’ve been given some insight that Hemmer has had some intense training to give him control of both his telepathy and his antenna that other Aenar and Andorians who aren’t Starfleet officers do not require.

Clearly, they had some fun with this, but it’s also a beautiful episode. Enjoy it for what it is.

Loved the ending but it wasn’t much fun getting there. It’s not often that Trek can make me cry, but this one did.

This show is so frakkin good, I just hope IDW doesn’t do comics based on it. In the past year or so nearly all of IDW’s Star Trek output has been weak and the Mirror War issue about Sisko is filled with typos and continuity problems. Such shoddy editing. I used to love IDW work but the current editor is doing a subpar job on the quality control so I’d be happy to not have the current team screw up SNW. They need to bring back a past IDW editor like Chase Marotz or Chris Ryall or Sarah Gaydos, or they should hire someone from a different Star Trek publisher like Bob Greenberger or Margaret Clark or Denton Tipton or Rich Handley or Tim Tuohy or Mike Barr. Any of them could do a better job of it. Someone needs to fix IDW Star Trek before they lose the license.

If so, that’s too bad. I don’t follow the comics in general, but IDW will always have my thanks for their superlative adaptation of the original Ellison teleplay for THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER. Hope they get their mojo back.

Another watchable episode with a fairly lightweight story to it until the big choices that must be made in the final act. After all the over the top acting and humor the life or death choice at the end felt a little too quick and easy in its resolution. Having M’Benga’s daughter come back to him mere seconds later to assure him he made the right choice felt a little too safe a decision and robbed the story of some drama. Having M’Benga left wondering if he made the right choice would have probably been a more powerful way to end it, even at the cost of not having a happy ending that ties everything up in a nice bow.

Babs Olusanmokun and Bruce Horak have to carry the majority of the load here and both do a good job of it even if the writing doesn’t always keep up with their performances. The rest of the cast were clearly having a lot of fun (Mount seemed to be having extra fun playing the fop).

As has been the case with every other episode of SNW, this one held my attention but I really feel no desire to revisit it again. That continues to be my main issue with the show; the writing is adequate and the more standalone nature of the show is infinitely preferable to the serialized efforts but the plotting and pacing seems fairly tame and not memorable beyond that initial viewing.

I think that this show will get there, and it won’t take 40 episodes to do it.

In terms of the “Je ne sais quoi qui manque” in many of the episodes, it reminds me a bit of Deep Space Nine in the first two seasons before it found its groove.

The writers are relying on legacy characters and established tropes to introduce us the audience to the show and let the writers have runway to establish the new characters and the show.

I’m very glad to see them pushing through to establish M’Benga and Hemmer more fulsomely. I’d like to see more from both of them, as well as Una and Ortegas.

Absolutely mental, and I loved it.

Not my favorite episode but good enough to say I was entertained.

I don’t really connect to this. 2/3 of it was, dare I say it, boring to me, and then at the end M’Benga kind of got strong-armed by his dead wife’s spirit into releasing custody of his daughter for everyone’s good, or did his daughter just name her friend after her mom? (*scratches head*).
Uhura was terrific and believable in her role, but there was a lot of comedic overacting from others. As much as I like Anson Mount, he layed it on a bit too much here, as did others…Having fun and goofing around on set does not necessarily translate to being equally funny on screen ;-). As another reviewer wrote, it did not feel like they were seriously being these characters. It felt more like they were LARPing on set while conscious of having a great time goofing around and being a little self-celebratory about it :-). Again, it seems comedy is not so easy to do…Also I think it might have been early in the series for an episode like that. Usually they work best at a later point when basic characters have already been firmly established, to surprise the viewer by showing a side to these characters that’s unexpected or contrary to what characters are usually like.
At this point, I can’t yet really grasp what is the “DNA” of this show and do not yet really connect to characters (besides maybe Uhura, or Una, who does need more screen time!). What impressed me most about Pike on Discovery was his quiet confidence, his people-oriented and trust-inspiring kindness and team-oriented leadership style (as well as his classic looks that could have just as well gotten him cast as the lead in a 60s show). On this show, they seem to have added other character traits such as his inner turmoil and more brooding side (which is interesting), but also a more Kirk-like side with bravado and a more action-style haircut :-), a “smartest mind on the bridge”-side (it irked me when in one past episode he was he only one to figure out the scientific solution), as well as a goofy comedic side. I am not sure yet just how much of Discovery’s Pike I see in SNW’s Pike. I guess I’ll find out :-)

This episode was disappointing for me. It had a fun premise, tear-jerking ending, AMAZING production (costumes, sets, etc.), great actors, but ultimately was not good. I lay the blame mostly on the director but also the editor. I think the script was solid, but it needed to be punched up a bit and more snappy, fun dialogue.

The pacing just seemed off most of the episode. Like the camera would stay on an actor a bit too long, etc. I just think it had the bones of an amazing and fun episode, but it just needed some more work. What a shame.

Agreed. Some nice moments but it dragged quite a bit.

Aside from the pacing, I was wondering if maybe it would’ve had more life if Hemmer had been the focus instead of M’Benga, at least in the beginning. His not knowing the story or the culture could’ve been fun.

After his initial shock, M’Benga slipped into the role a bit too easily in my opinion. Without much pushback or exasperation, it was just a lot of tedious Ren-faire cosplay.

Yes, this entire episode was from M’Benga’s point of view after the opening bridge scene.

Given that Hemmer, as a representation of different ability, and the actor Bruce Horak,as a survivor of childhood cancer, has an important symbolic role as counterpoint to the missing child, it would have been good to have his point of view too. Even a clip showing him pushing back an invasive telepathic experience, then startled by the change in environment and the behaviour of other crew.

I am honestly surprised that many of you didn’t like this episode. To me, it was one of the best live-action episode of the new shows. Until the end.

It was goofy fun while also dealing with a serious theme. I liked the over-the-top acting a lot! Especially Pike and La’An. They were awesome! It was great seeing La’An as something other than just being overly serious. She did great!

Episodes like these don’t have to be serious all the time, especially when there is a reason for it. The characters are based off a children’s book. Even before knowing who was responsible, it did make sense to me that these characters would be cartoony. But when we learned that a child’s imagination was the culprit, it made even more sense. Of course she would have given cartoonish personalities to these characters, especially since she just wanted to have fun!

Also, I just want to say that Hemmer is the best new Star Trek character in a long time. I want to see more of him and almost hope we see him more than Kirk in season 2 :P

The one thing I had a problem with was with the ending. As someone said earlier in this thread, I have a hard time believing that a child would leave her father for what seems to be forever to be with someone she just met, even if she had fun. I know she was tired of being stuck in the transporter, probably very afraid to die, and was bored and sad etc. Still, she made the choice awfully quickly! Same thing can be said about the father. Yeah, he didn’t have any answers to her sickness and was running out of time. But that entity was still an unknown. How many times in Star Trek have they encountered someone that seem really nice only to be revealed not to be?

For about a second, I thought they would try to get the entity on board the ship somehow, maybe in the transporter buffer too or something else and a few episodes later give them an artificial body. That way, his daughter would have been able to live a somewhat normal life until they find a cure. But it was not to be.

That ending was bad to me in another way. For a few episodes now, M’Benga was trying to find a cure and maybe made some advancement with the Doc from a few episodes ago. But his sub-plot got solved out of the blue, without any foreshadowing and his work had nothing to do with it. All of his research and hope were pointless.

And yes, I get that it is often what happens in real life. But in a fictional story, it makes no sense. I wanted to be invested in his story. Seeing how little by little he finds nuggets and pieces of info that might ultimately save his daughter. But we all got rid of that pretty quickly. That’s a shame.

I guess he can still try to find a cure and come back for his daughter when he finds one, but that seems like cheating. The urgency is gone.

Also, when Pike eventually has his accident, they could just shove him in the entity too :P

Still, I really liked it. It was a great episode!

I think that General Shran articulated it well above: those of us who had mostly normal childhoods cannot appreciate the isolation and loneliness of a child with a serious life threatening illness.

Nor is it easy for us to accept that even young children will come to understand that they are likely to die or that the end of their lives are imminent. It’s even harder for a parent, for whom the prospect of the death of a child seems to be a reversal of the natural order. In many cases, the child may come to accept their death when the parents are still desperate for hope.

This episode could have easily wandered into maudlin or lurid melodrama. It did not. The lightness and camp prevented that. On the other hand, having Hemmer who represents both as a character, and through his actor Bruce Horak (himself a survivor of childhood cancer and vision loss), the differently abled, this episode ended up tackling a very difficult subject with great dignity.

You are absolutely right regarding General Shran’s perspective and I said so in a reply to him. Their story really touched me and made me think about that ending in a different light.

Although I won’t change my mind about the fact that the resolution to this storyline was bad since we were lead to believe we’d see M’Benga’s journey and having difficulties trying to find a cure for his daughter’s illness but still never giving up and ultimately finding a solution (or maybe not? Dark, but it could have happened). That was robbed from us and that’s a sad thing.

I hadn’t thought about Horak and Hemmer fitting into the theme but I guess you’re right.

There’s a big reason why I loved this episode: it was fun AND tackled a serious subject matter at the same time. These themes don’t need to be in an overly dramatic episode to work. I much prefer the hopeful and fun version of an episode like this than a depressing episode with overly dramatic dialogue explaining to us about 12 times in 1 hour why it’s so depressing. Don’t get me wrong, dramatic episode SHOULD happen. But these days in Trek, it’s not that well done most of the time. I prefer if the writers lean on something they are good at and that suits the actors. And comedy is obviously a strong suit for this cast and writers.

I think that this version presented the more challenging and mature journey for M’Benga: he accepted that it wasn’t about him, the priority was his child’s future.

Of course, he would have rather hung on and worked to find a cure so she could live with him as a child and fulfil her potential in human society.

But her time was running out, and they both knew it. More, the quality of her remaining life was poor.

In contrast to episode 6, this conclusion was about putting the life and future of the child first.

That was… a slog tbh. But, its to be expected not every week is going to be great. Disappointed how quick (rushed?) they rectified M’Benga’s daughter, Rukiya, plotline. Feel he was cheated in a way.

Babs Olusanmokun was FABULOUS in this episode! I’ve liked the character since “A Private Little War” and liked the way Babs Olusanmokun plays him since SNW’s first episode. But in THIS episode, he gets to show his range, and boy, does he have a range! Truly excellent work.

And Melissa Navia! She’s just so PRESENT in everything she does; I don’t think Navia knows the meaning of “phoning it in.” :-) And Anson Mount playing against type was just a riot.

Like many other commenters, I think this episode was not just fun, though of course it was great fun, but I thought it had a bit more meat on its bones than the reviewer saw.

Great work, everyone! Can we have TWENTY episodes NEXT season? Pretty please!

Yeah, Babs O. is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

So good!

It was interesting to hear him talk in The Ready Room, since his real accent and his M’Benga accent are different. Just like Jess Bush sounds nothing like Chapel when she speaks in her own voice. Actors amaze me; I could never do what they do.

Liked the episode, but was definitely the weakest one so far by a lot. I really liked the premise and the weirder and trippier Trek gets, usually the better for me. But it was a bit boring, the first one I felt that way about. The cast did great if some chewed the scenery a bit too much.

But I really liked the ending. It was a very Star Trek in nature and what I loved about it. I liked the final scenes between M’Benga and Rukyia. Yeah it probably undercut the story a bit by having her return so quickly as his grown up daughter but I can live with it.

But this episode really did end in a way only a Star Trek story can. It went from ‘whacky’ to a surprisingly somber and bittersweet ending of a God like alien giving a dying human a chance to see the universe on a level humanity is not even close to obtaining yet. Now I’m wondering did Rukiya and Debra ever bump into Wesley and the Traveler and just hung out together in different dimensions or time? I smell another Paramount+ spin-off just writing itself at this point!

Rukiya merging with the nebula was a little reminiscent of Decker merging with V’ger. Additionally, in both cases the decision to merge was made after just a half-minute of consideration.

With TMP Earth was minutes from destruction so at least there was some rationalization for the Decker’s quick decision. Here though it did all feel a little too easy and rushed.

Decker and Ilia had an established relationship. It had been broken off, but never really ended. Both had put their duty to Starfleet first, but merging allowed them to be together and serve StarFleet by saving Earth. Pretty much a no brainer.

8 episodes, 8 times I have watched the “Space…the final frontier…” soliloquy.
And I am still getting getting the goosebumps and a big smile every single time.

Man, I love this series.

Was it my favorite? No, but it was enjoyable. The fact that a television show can strike such an emotional chord with so many viewers is a tester to how important Star Trek is. It has been a companion throughout my life. It has been a comfort through death, divorce, cancer, heartache, and joy. I am simply grateful that we still have a show that helps us escape yet also connect with life. Thank you!

Testament. Damn autocorrect.

Eight weeks of shows and I have to say, eight good or very good episodes!

This one started off pretty wacky and ended as a good science fiction story. I am happy that the last 15 minutes of this episode became much more serious than the first 45 minutes. Yeah, maybe too “hollywood” at the end (even though this was made in Mississauga/Toronto haha), but not a major complaint. Besides, if humans ever did accend to another realm, it is totally plausible that the dimension of time MIGHT not remain linear the way we perceive it to be.

Btw, I really liked seeing the cast get a chance to stretch their thespian skills.

I thought the “funny” fifth episode was bad, but this one really took home the cake for worst episode of the season.

I thought this episode was terrific. The entire cast was wonderful, and I finally enjoyed what Babs Olusanmokun is doing as M’Benga. I was surprised to see Rukiya’s plotline end (?) so quickly, but I think they did a good job of it.

My MVP, though, was Christina Chong, who was completely correct to insist that her dog play a role as well.

Her dog Runa was amazing! But still has nothing on Porthos!

That’s true, Porthos ruled.

They should have kept Janeway’s Irish setter, or maybe shown us Chapel’s malamute. I like bigger dogs.

They have had plenty of good & fun stories.
But, for me, this is the first that I can say would go on my favorites list of of Best Trek Episodes.

Did anyone think, when they showed the map of the kingdom and it was shaped like the Enterprise, to me it looked a lot like the Kelvin timeline Enterprise especially with how the nacelles looked on the map

A painfully dull episode — it literally began putting me to sleep — that managed to partly redeem itself in its poignant final few minutes.

It was somewhat reminiscent of “Qpid” (which, contrary to conventional wisdom, I liked) and “Our Man Bashir”; until those final few minutes, I was about to write “at least those episodes placed the characters in a story *known to the audience*” (Robin Hood, James Bond) and “at least those episodes had something to do with our characters” (Q’s desire to set Picard up with Vash, Garak’s lessons about his service in a real-life intelligence service). Turns out this one had a whole lot to do with our characters, but I still think it missed the mark in setting the story in a fairy tale no one knows or ultimately cares about.

At least it’s an improvement on VOY’s awful Flotter dalliances and “The Killing Game,” about which the less said, the better.

On the ending, though: I think this one should have been held back for season 2. We’re just getting to know Dr. M’Benga, and a mere two episodes ago he came across the possibility of a cure. It was just too soon to resolve Rekiya’s storyline.

And another thing: if this nebula can cure debilitating disease, why didn’t Spock bring Pike *here*, instead of Talos, in “The Cage”?

The nebula itself is presumably not a forbidden destination and would not have required Spock to engage in all that subterfuge.

It wasn’t Spock’s idea. The Talosians contacted Spock and asked him to bring Pike to Talos.

And Spock also knew Vina was there who already shared a connection with Pike and made that decision easier.

First episode of SNW that I didn’t like.. I’m watching it in starts and stops…

I didn’t hate it…. just kind of meh…. Hemmer was cool

Nice ending however… fyi: This is me watching it in starts and stops lol

I really liked the episode, especially the ending, which gave the episode a meaning and not just an excuse to be silly. As a parent, I could understand the dilemma to choose between the certain death of a child and the personal sacrifice to let the child go, not knowing if you will see it again, but knowing that it’s fine.

As parents, our greatest goal is to see our children thrive and grow as adults. It read resonated with me.

I’m glad they resolved Rukiya living in the transporter. I didn’t want to see that continue into next season. Otherwise a mediocre episode.

This episode really resonated with me. My mom battled cancer for 13 years, and I lost her three years ago. I struggled with the decision to place her in hospice. I know it was the right thing to do to alleviate her pain and suffering, but it was still agonizing and the guilt continues to haunt me. The idea presented in this story that you could release a loved one who is suffering from an terminal illness so that they may transform and experience happiness and adventure, well, that thought helped me find a bit of peace. I’m really grateful for the insight.

Thank you for sharing! I am glad that the episode gave you this!

For the first half I was rolling my eyes. However, once the pieces bagan coming together, it became very emotional. 6/10 I would say.

I like the episode because it ends the daughter in the transporter dilemma.It was kind of lingering with borderline logic from the doctor. I think that wasn’t a good plot line from the start and it was more distracting then anything.

I absolutely loved the princess part. It was funny and an absolute joy. If it wasn’t the best episode, it was at least a nice change of story types. And not the worst of -kind of holodeck- story.

If others enjoyed it, great but with all due respect, wow, I really hated that episode and actually couldn’t finish it.

The last few minutes is the only good part and it’s quite outstanding.

Thanks. From this and other comments, I should go back and finish it.

Loved this episode and the show. It is like coming home from school in 1975 and turning on TOS for another adventure. Great writing and I find myself caring for the SNW characters. This and LDS are my two clear favorites among the Paramount + shows.

I’ve read this site’s comments for years, dating back to 2006 when I used to actually read the reviews and articles, too, but as far as I can remember, this is my first time posting.

I’m glad and I respect that some people enjoyed it, but “The Elysian Kingdom” was the worst Star Trek for me since 1998’s Insurrection movie. As for the underlying concept, I prefer 1967’s “Metamorphosis.” With only a ten episode season, wasting one like this is a huge disappointment.

As for the series overall so far, I’d give it a 3/5. I was expecting at least a 4/5 based on seeing Pike, Spock, and Number One on Discovery. Perhaps the final two episodes will pull that average up.

I must say that creating new characters and then burdening them with the names of characters from TOS (Uhura, Chapel, M’Benga, etc.) is unappealing to me and takes me out of scenes involving them.

While “The Elysian Kingdom” is obviously at the bottom, my favorite SNW episode so far is “Memento Mori” – the only one I’d give a 5/5 (this despite the fact that I would have preferred they create a new alien race rather than re-use the Gorn).

The acting, outside of “The Elysian Kingdom,” overall has been superb. As has the production design and effects. The writing holds the show back, but is at least on par with Discovery and better than Picard. I do love the return to a more episodic approach, though some of the character moments used as threads between episodes seem forced.

Well, I probably won’t delurk again until 2038. I wonder what the state of Trek will be by then – assuming humanity makes it that far.

Spot on with respect to the legacy characters acting out of character. I just can’t suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy the show, especially with the incongruous on-screen portrayals of Chapel and M’Benga. I’m hoping for a character overhaul in Season 2 that eliminates superfluous characters (Una, Chapel, Ortegas) and beefs up the roles of the two most interesting new characters (La’an, Hemmer). Una and Spock are too similar (unemotional aliens) and quite frankly they’ve already shown us that Spock is Pike’s #1, so the character of Una seems unnecessary. Ortegas and La’an are also too similar (kick ass women), but Christina Chong chews the scenery so well I’d prefer they hang on to her character. And I’m thankful that this version of M’Benga is not responsible for my medical care. More Hemmer please.

Una not superfluous to me! Just underused. This season she seemed to be reduced a little to her being Illyrian. I am sure she is interesting for much more than that, I’d love for them to focus on her as a personality not an Illyrian, on her qualities and her work role. I don’t connect much to La’an

Same goes for Chapel, she is quite interesting to me, but so far reduced a bit to her role as a love interest in a love triangle.
The part I liked best about Una was were she reflected on whether her work role makes other crew members keep their distance. That’s where I felt we’re getting closer to Una.

This felt too soon as an episode. Too soon as we don’t know the characters well enough to grade the scenario, too soon for the solution to the daughter’s incurable disease. The arc is a bit short here. I hope they don’t wrap up other threads so quickly.

It must be a stipulation in Rebecca Romijn’s contract that she only appear on screen for 90 seconds or less.

Finally an episode where Christina Chong is actually likeable. And kind of cute.

While I usually like phantastical episodes such as this, I had a really hard time getting through this one; it took me three tries over three days to finally finish it.

The pacing choices throughout the episode were TERRIBLE, and while Na’an is my least favorite of the regulars so far, Christina Chong’s Princess Thalia was ESPECIALLY unlikable. Oddly, M’Benga seemed to have hardly any drive to get through all of this (he appeared more subdued than ever for most of the time). I wanted to like it more, but just couldn’t.

RE: “The Swamp of Infinite Death is likely a reference to place names In The Princess Bride like the Cliffs of Insanity and the Fire Swamps.” — …or maybe it was inspired by the “Bog of Eternal Stench” from Labyrinth?!

Yes the pacing, I had the same issue with the shore leave comedy episode

Meh. There was a lot of potential here that just did not get fulfilled. It all fell flat to me. And I did not buy that M’Benga would just let his daughter go. At least Hemmer and Uhura were in this episode. And I was already tiring of the whole situation with his daughter; it seemed badly thought out, and I wondered how long it would drag out. I am glad they resolved it, however badly.
And is Hemmer made to look a lot like Anthony Zerbe? Not a complaint, I like it.
And I feel like these should have an epilogue,, like TOS. Some have (‘please don’t’), but not all, including this one. I was expecting more, and just got credits. I wanted to see Pike act like Pike again, even for a moment. (The forgetting was annoying too).

Just done watching this episode now, LOVED IT!!! Something we haven’t seen in Nu-Trek. This was classic TOS all the way. I laughed, I cringed, I cried, I smiled. Oh, and Anson Mount was priceless!
Can’t believe the season is almost over, for the first time in a long time I am yearning for a traditional 22+ episode season of a Trek show :)