“The Broken Circle”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2, Episode 1 – Debuted Thursday, June 15, 2023
Written by: Henry Alonso Myers & Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Chris Fisher
A fun, action-packed season premiere keeps the focus on the characters, deepening the bond of this Star Trek family.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“We must steal the Enterprise”
The USS Enterprise is back at Starbase One getting a major inspection and the crew is taking leave—including Captain Pike, who reveals his inner Boy Scout as he assures the incarcerated Number One he is willing to do anything to make sure she wins her case “because it’s what is right.” To that end, he is going to leave the docked Enterprise (and surprisingly, the rest of the episode) in the hands of Mr. Spock as heads off to “the other side of the quadrant” to get Una a good lawyer. Spock is a bit concerned about being acting captain, confiding in Dr. M’Benga that after dropping his block to fight the Gorn (back in episode 109), his uncontrolled emotions will impact his judgment. The good doctor says he will just have to deal with it like the rest of us, but he does prescribe some musical therapy to calm his Vulcan nerves… just in time, as Christine Chapel shows up to spike Spock’s wavering control. As for Christine, she is coping with the tension by considering taking a sabbatical… to Vulcan. Hmm, maybe she has a type?
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew are bristling at the intrusive Starfleet inspectors led by the inscrutable Commander Pelia, but during all the hubbub Uhura gets a distress call… from La’an (remember, she left after 109 to help that girl orphaned by the Gorn). Admiral April refuses Spock’s request to render assistance even though the message warned of an “anti-Federation threat” because La’an is on Cajitar IV, a dilithium mine planet that gets traded back and forth with the Klingons per the treaty that ended the recent war. Not willing to wait until the Feds take over again at the end of the month, Spock and team start hatching a plan to get the inspectors off the ship and take the Enterprise on a joy ride. Unfortunately, Commander Pelia sees right through their little scheme, pointing to all the Starfleet regs they just violated. Uh-oh. However, it turns out she knows Spock’s mom and is ready to trust his un-Vulcan like “hunch.” With “If you are going to steal a starship, do it correctly,” she wins our hearts and helps the gang fake the warp core breach right. Pelia—now revealed to be a mysterious long-lived alien—subs in as chief engineer and they undock and warp away, leaving Starbase One hanging. Well, that escalated quickly.
“You sure you want to do this again?”
On rough-and-tumble Cajitar IV, La’an is holding her own against a Klingon in a drinking contest, her reward the securing of a meeting with the leader of “The Broken Circle.” (Title alert!) As the security officer soon expositions to the newly arrived undercover Enterprise gang, this mining syndicate is made up of humans and Klingons who miss the good old days of the war, primarily for all that dilithium money it generated. She ended up on this hollowed-out planet to find Oriana’s parents only to find intrigue involving a mysterious ion radiation explosion at the mine, and an active trade in black market Federation tech. Spock assigns Chapel and M’Benga to help the miners injured in what looks like a photon torpedo detonation while he and Uhura will back up La’an, who has arranged an illicit Starfleet weapons deal. As La’an impressively bluffs her way through the trade with some Klingons who already had to kill a few folks just to make it to the meet, they learn the syndicate is planning something big for the next day with all this Fed tech. That can’t be good.
As for the medicos, their impressive work with the civilian victims of the explosion gets the attention of the syndicate who shanghais them, taking them deep into the planet to help their own wounded. What they find is a huge cavern concealing a kitbashed Starfleet ship under construction by the bad guys with a sickbay full of burn victims. We learn this isn’t M’Benga and Chapel’s first rodeo treating Klingons, as M’Benga remembers “there was so much blood in the air, it turned red.” Struggling to keep it together, they sort out the ship is loaded with photons and built to restart a war. The plan is to fight their way through Klingon warriors to get to the bridge which is of course totally insane, except that since the war Joseph has been keeping a couple of vials of super serum on him… just in case. Jacked up, the two healers turn into fighting machines, effortlessly taking down the guards. M’Benga comes really close to killing a guy as he does a bit of light torture to learn there are 30 more soldiers on the bridge… too many, even in their current Ninja Warrior condition. But there is a transponder they can doctor to send a message to the Enterprise. After Plan B works, they fight their way through a few more goons as the super juice powers run out, leaving them trapped in an airlock… just as the ship takes off. Ruh oh.
“I can’t believe this is how we are going to die”
Ortegas is hiding the Enterprise from the Klingon D7 battle cruiser that just showed up, promising they just look like another piece of space junk floating in a field of ice and rock. The bridge crew spots the “Starfleet” ship launch from the planet, not knowing it’s a fake and realizing it is no match for the Klingons. As they consider rendering assistance, Uhura decodes a message telling them to destroy the ship. Spock, logic sound, works out it’s from the medical team and this ship is how the Broken Circle plans on restarting the war. He knows Dr. M’Benga and (gulp) Christine are on that ship, willing to give their lives to help stop it. As the fake ship starts firing on the Enterprise, they hold their fire but pursue as it heads for the D7. Trapped in an airlock, Joseph and Christine are doing their best to not go down with the ship but all they can find is a few pieces of EV suits. With Klingons about to breach the door, M’Benga’s terrible idea is for them to jump into space in hopes that the beacon on a helmet they found might be just enough to get the Enterprise’s attention. He assures her that they can live a whole minute in the vacuum of space and anyway, they will pass out in 15 seconds. Great bedside manner, doc.
As the Klingons finally spot what they can only assume to be two Starfleet ships headed right for them, an anguished Spock finally gives up his wait for a signal from the two missing shipmates and orders the destruction of the fake ship… just as M’Benga and Chapel take their leap of faith into space. Barely holding it together, Spock is on point when Uhura detects the helmet signal, ordering the transporter room to beam the pair in as he rushes in to find the frozen doctor and nurse. The emotionally compromised Vulcan refuses to let Chapel die, bringing her back with tears and CPR, crying out “I waited for you!” (Oh, and M’Benga is fine too.) An apparently patient Klingon captain hails the Enterprise, asking why he shouldn’t just blow them out of the sky. Spock gives the story of the false flag ship and convinces the skeptical Klingon to meet him over some bloodwine to establish some trust. And there was much drinking and rejoicing down on Cajitar IV. With Captain D’Chock placated (and intoxicated), Spock confers with Pelia, who requests a transfer to the Enterprise because, after centuries of life, she’s bored. Fair enough. Following the party, Spock gets dressed down over subspace by Admiral April, but gets off easy with only his hangover as punishment. We find out why when the admiral admits to his commodore colleague that Spock may have saved them from a two-front war with the Klingons on one side and the … wait for it … Gorn on the other. Dun dun duuun!
The second season of Strange New Worlds starts strong with an action-packed episode that digs deep into the emotional stories of the characters. The plot to save a wayward crewmate and foil a plan to start a war is classic Star Trek. It may not be one of those too-often touted genre “big swings;” however, the show took a big risk by sidelining series star Anson Mount along with Rebecca Romijn and handing the reins to Ethan Peck and the rest of the cast, and that risk paid off. Leaving the resolution of the season 1 finale cliffhanger of Una’s fate to episode 2 (which looks to be a classic courtroom episode) allows the season premiere to lean more into space action, including a quick arrival at an actual strange new world, the alien planet beautifully realized with a fascinating backstory and excellent production design. This makes sense, as this episode picked up on the various threads left hanging in episode 109, including Hemmer’s exit as chief engineer, La’an’s exit to help Oriana, and (primarily) Spock’s struggle with emotion after dropping his block to fight off the Gorn. Director Chris Fisher’s pacing got it just right as the show jumped from action to emotion, although he may have over-indulged on the slow-mo a bit.
Leaning into the ensemble cast allowed for some excellent character exploration. Ethan Peck delivers a powerful performance as he juggles the responsibility of command, loyalty to his crewmates, and his simmering feelings. As the series premiere did with Pike’s existential struggle, this season 2 premiere sets up a new arc for Spock (and Chapel). It also found time to nod to canon with M’Benga giving Spock his iconic Vuclan lute now imbued with more meaning as part of his method for emotional control. “The Broken Circle” also shows how Spock is willing to go to any length for his crew—including stealing the USS Enterprise, as he will do again for Pike in “The Menagerie.” All of this is Strange New Worlds at its best, telling new stories that add to the lore and enriching beloved characters. Unfortunately, the show also indulges in some of its overly meta references when it stops the tense action for the crew to have a chat about Spock’s warp catchphrase. There are better ways to find humor than the overly casual (and often anachronistic) bridge crew banter the show continues to lean on.
Also standing out in this episode is an exploration of the bond between Christine Chapel and Joseph M’Benga, now revealed to be Klingon War vets. Babs Olusanmokun and Jess Bush run with the material, selling us on how they have scars that have not healed and showing off some impressive fight choreography along the way. Super serums are a bit cliché, but perhaps (hopefully) there is more to this story in upcoming episodes. We even got some hints that Ortegas too is a vet of the war, although she seems to miss the action more than being haunted by it. And with the captain and the first officer away, there were opportunities for others to help out including Jenna Mitchell (Rong Fu), who finally got off the bridge and was involved in the ship-stealing shenanigans. All of this enriches the show by filling out these characters and making them more realized.
Speaking of interesting characters, Pelia hit the ground running with Carol Kane immediately stealing every scene she was in. Bruce Horak’s Hemmer was a fan favorite in season 1 and will not be forgotten, but Pelia’s unique story and the mystery of her origins as a “Lanthanite” are immediately captivating. Carol Kane’s kooky energy is perfect for this jaded old soul looking for a bit of space adventure after hiding out on Earth for centuries, and her past connection to Spock’s mother can only lead to more good things (and hopefully a guest spot return for Mia Kirshner as Amanda Grayson). Pelia talking about how she “came out” to Amanda was interesting phrasing and could lead to an allegorical story regarding the Lanthanites hiding their truth amongst the humans on Earth. Other nods to Trek’s long history of inclusivity just in time for Pride Month include Oriana having two moms and the addition of non-binary and transgender actor Noah Lamanna as the new transporter chief. The issue of being true to yourself was also hinted at with Una’s brief appearance and will likely be picked up next week in the big courtroom drama episode.
Today is a good day to return
“The Broken Circle” marks the return of Klingons, their first appearance since season 2 of Discovery. After Klingons (and their new look) caused such a ruckus in the first season of Discovery, it’s understandable that Strange New Worlds producers shied away from them in season 1 as they established the series. But the Klingons are such an iconic part of Star Trek, and the Cold War allegory they were built to represent on The Original Series is just as relevant today, so they are a welcome addition to the show, fitting in nicely with the established franchise style. Not only does bringing the Klingons back help with the character stories as noted above but offers some good worldbuilding with the postwar period, with Cajitar IV akin to divided Germany after World War II. The plot of The Broken Circle, an alliance of greedy humans and Klingons willing to start a war for profit using a “false flag”is also a nice little contemporary allegory for all those who use misinformation and want to profit from keeping people fighting. It also echoes the classic TOS episode “Day of the Dove,” with a similar theme of finding common ground to stand up against a force that is feeding off conflict.
As for the hints of the growing Gorn threat, the season premiere makes it clear the show is far from done with the lizard villains we all thought were first encountered years later in the classic TOS episode “Arena.” There is much to say about this, but for now let’s enjoy the season premiere and deal with them later. (But do keep an eye out for TrekMovie’s upcoming interview with the showrunners talking about the Gorn and how they fit into canon and more).
“The Broken Circle” is one of the best episodes of the series so far and an excellent season opener, tying up loose ends and setting up a series of new character and plot arcs. Strong performances were elevated by excellent music, sound, and design across the board. We got laughs, cries, fighting, drinking, and some-thought provoking ideas. What could be better? After an impressive first season, it appears that Strange New Worlds is not going to have a sophomore slump and it is only getting better. Qapla’!
- Starts with Captain’s Log, Stardate 2369.2.
- Uhura is now an Ensign, so enough time has passed for her to graduate from Starfleet Academy.
- The episode was dedicated to the original Uhura, the late Nichelle Nichols.
- Carol Kane (Pelia) was credited as a guest star in the end credits.
- Emma Ho from episode 109 returns to play Oriana.
- There is a new transporter chief (Jay, played by Noah Lamanna), replacing Kyle, played by André Dae Kim from season 1 who left the show to work on Vampire Academy.
- The Klingon Broken Circle member Jen was played by Hannah Spear, who played Suru’s sister Siranna on Discovery and Short Treks along with another Kelpien character.
- Pike mentions new shuttles can cut his trip from 3 days to 2.5. Some new sleek-looking craft could be seen flying around Starbase One in the opening establishing shot.
- Una calling Pike a Boy Scout is a callback to her doing the same in the season 1 episode “The Serene Squall.”
- Mitchell mentions that the fake Federation ship was “Crossfield class, I think,” giving her some wiggle room as the ship only somewhat resembled the USS Discovery-type Crossfield Class ship, primarily with the saucer. It was probably comprised of derelict ship parts left over from the war.
- The fake Federation interior scenes appear to have been shot on redressed USS Discovery sets from Star Trek: Discovery, which is filmed at a different studio in Toronto.
- Uhura (and her universal translator) had a bit of trouble working out what the Klingons were saying because they were speaking in the “Kach-Ugh” Klingon dialect.
- Hinting at the effect of drinking Klingon bloodwine, the Klingon captain’s toast translates as “may your blood scream.”
- La’an’s “anti-matter detonation switch” bluff was a nod to Leia’s thermal detonator threat from Return of the Jedi, a trick Jack Crusher also used recently in season 3 of Picard.
- Babs Olusanmokun has plenty of experience for the fight scenes as he is a two-time Pan-American Champion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
- In the Klingon War, M’Benga (likely with Chapel) served on the moon of J’gal during the Battle of ChaKana.
- Morse code has been used often in Star Trek, but M’Benga used the previously unknown “Morse Code 2.”
- The Enterprise was being “upgraded” at Starbase One, leaving open the question: what’s new on the ship?
- The “probable” Gorn Attack Ship identified on the admiral’s map was spotted in the vicinity of the Cestus system, where Captain James T. Kirk and the USS Enterprise will eventually find evidence of a Gorn attack years later in “Arena.
- In addition to humans and Klingons, other races spotted on Cajitar include a Tellarite, Vulcan, Bolian, and Orion.
- Also seen close by on the map was the Galdonterre system, first mentioned in the Klingon-focused DS9 episode “Blood Oath.” The Gorn ship was also near Deep Space 2.
- Ortegas is considering “Vámonos” (Spanish for “let’s go”) as her warp catchphrase.
- Does M’Benga have a room full of musical instruments and other useful coping devices in the back of his sickbay?
- The costume La’an wears on Cajitar was first worn by Mirror Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) in season 2 of Discovery.
More to come
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Following the premiere, new episodes of the 10-episode season will drop weekly on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The second season will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in South Korea, with premiere dates to be announced at a later date.
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