“Lost In Translation”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2, Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, July 20, 2023
Written by Onitra Johnson & David Reed
Directed by Dan Li
A classic Star Trek story brings a great mix of mystery and heart, adding welcome depth to the show’s characters both familiar and new.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Welcome to the Enterprise”
The Enterprise has been dispatched to a nebula on the frontier to sort things out with a troublesome deuterium refinery. Pike has been temporarily promoted to Fleet Captain to oversee the station and the USS Farragut and tasks Commander Chin-Riley with deploying her unique “managerial fervor” to get Starfleet’s “shiniest gas station” online. Ensign Uhura is in charge of coordinating communications, but she’s distracted due to a lack of sleep and concerned over a strange (and scary-sounding) signal that only she can hear. She takes it upon herself to do a diagnostic on the communication array inside one of the nacelles, guided by a how-to video from her old mentor. (OMG, Hemmer’s back… kind of. Yay!) Pelia shows up and things are a bit awkward as the new chief engineer senses Hemmer’s former protégé has been avoiding her, the pair finally make official introductions and Uhura heads back to the bridge… only to hear that scary sound again. Oh and zombie Hemmer joins her in the turbolift! Yay?
Dr. M’Benga diagnoses Uhura with sleep deprivation and deuterium poisoning, which explains the visions, and orders her to bed, which only results in more fitful sleep. Meanwhile, Lt. James T. Kirk of the USS Farragut arrives for a visit with his brother Sam. After Jim is done jealously eyeing the Enterprise, the two brothers head to the bar to share some scotch and some daddy issues. Eventually Sam storms off, upset his ambitious younger brother is set to beat dad’s record to become the youngest first officer in fleet history. Showoff. Spock is also in the bar, playing chess with Christine as they debate whether to follow Starfleet’s fraternization protocols; for now, they decide to be guided by quantum mechanics and see where the universe takes this new thing of theirs. Uhura shows up to channel her inner Benny Russell with logic that proves her visions are not poison-induced, but the new couple is too self-absorbed to offer any help, so Nyota turns to the bar for solace. Lt. Kirk takes notice and starts up a convo, but she isn’t in the mood. He vows he’s not hitting on her, but Uhura still makes it clear she is “not in the market for friends right now” anyway and makes a hasty exit, only to be hit with the worst vision yet: a corridor filled with dead bodies except for a version of herself who attacks. Delivering an impressive right hook, Uhura takes down her doppelganger only to snap out of the vision and realize she just gave Jim Kirk a bloody nose. Oops.
“Right now death is winning”
Over on the deuterium station, Una and Pelia are not getting along, bickering over the source of all the malfunctions. A dismissed Pelia disobeys orders and discovers the real problem… sabotage. Or is that sabataage? As they search the spooky station—Una’s pissed Pelia hasn’t fixed the lights—they find a huddled, mumbling Starfleet officer who lashes out, questioning if the Enterprise officers are “real.” Oh boy. On the Enterprise, instead of getting Uhura in trouble, Kirk let her fix his nose with her personal dermal regenerator and agrees she isn’t crazy. He leaves her to rest, but she’s disrupted by a red alert that sends her to the bridge only to see the ship in a losing battle and the bridge crew sucked into space through a hull breach… but then not, because actually, they are all fine. Taking her aside, Pike tries to understand what is going on with his troubled communications officer and friend. Luckily, her new pal arrives with a clue. Greeting the Fleet Captain (and ticking that off his canon checklist), Jim says the Farragut’s doctor has spotted a pattern shared by Uhura and sabotage guy who is still freaking out in sickbay and has significant brain damage to his speech center. After attempting to stab Dr. M’Benga, he escapes—claiming none of this is real. This guy needs to chill.
Pike orders teams to fan out to find Ramon who quickly gets back to his sabotage business, starting with Enterprise’s power conduits. Things get even spookier when Pike finds a dead officer and a blood trail leading to engineering. Kirk and Uhura try to help the search, but the auditory screams in Uhura’s head send her back to sickbay. On her way, she follows a blood trail to a nacelle control room and discovers Ramon, who ignores her attempts to convince him she is a real person and blows a hole in the ship, almost taking Uhura with him, but she’s saved at the last minute by a quick-thinking Kirk. Uhura is tasked by Pike to find clues in Ramon’s log, but all of this is too much for her and she breaks down, revealing to Kirk she has been barely holding it together since Hemmer’s sacrifice, which brought back issues that began with the death of her parents in a shuttle accident. Her future captain gives it to her straight: Facing death is part of the job, so if she wants to be in Starfleet, she needs to dig deep and fight it. With wisdom imparted, Kirk exits in search of fresh cookies, leaving Uhura seeking comfort in another Hemmer video lesson, which turns her frown upside down… and gives her an idea! He’s the best.
“They are screaming for our help.”
Hemmer’s video guide warning about burning out the subspace antenna has Uhura sorting out that someone must be trying to communicate telepathically with her (and Ramon), but the signal strength is burning out their brain receivers—hence the visions, etc. Kirk arrives (with a cookie), and after hearing about invisible alien messages, he realizes they need Sam’s help. The Enterprise’s xenoanthropologist picks up on the theory and together they work out how extradimensional lifeforms must be living on the deuterium in the nebula and have been trying to use Uhura as a universal translator. The scary visions are the aliens’ way of saying they feel trapped and the processing is torturing and killing their loved ones. Oops. Uhura calls the captain to tell him not to activate the station, but it’s too late. Even with more bickering (that includes Una calling Pelia a “space hippie”), they’ve already gotten the processor operating and now they can’t shut it down. Zombie Hemmer is not pleased.
On the bridge, Uhura pushes through the visions to convince Pike they have things wrong: This frontier outpost isn’t helping seek out new life, it’s destroying it. Even though only she can see it, the captain buys in, taking her suggestion to evacuate the station and vent all collected deuterium. The ensign even gets to give the order to torpedo the station, destroying the alien torture chamber. Zombie Hemmer is replaced with a vision of healthy Hemmer, smiling, indicating the invisible aliens are happy. Pike’s willing to take any heat from Starfleet and jokes he can blame the “brash” influence of Lt. Kirk, who suggests Uhura might get a medal for discovering a new life form. With everyone in a good mood, even Una and Pelia bury the hatchet, finally sorting out the first officer was also having issues dealing with Hemmer’s death and the new engineer (with all her quirky differences) was a constant reminder of loss. In the bar, Uhura is now able to share some nice family memories and photos with Kirk. The brothers Kirk also do some hatchet-burying, but Sam still ends up storming off… he is so “frustrating,” an interjecting Spock suggests before shaking hands with Jim. Smooth jazz plays us out as Kirk, Uhura, and Spock share the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Something to say
This captivating episode had a bit of everything that makes for good Star Trek. There’s mystery, sci-fi suspense, scares, and inspiration, with dashes of humor and a smidge of romance. The focus is kept on character emotion which has been the touchstone of the season. “Lost in Translation” also celebrated the wonders (and perils) of space exploration more than any other season 2 outing. Uhura’s heartbreaking (and heartwarming) arc through the episode held everything together well, a credit to the crisp writing, well-paced directing, and superb acting from Celia Rose Gooding, who carries the episode’s required action, terror, and emotion. “Lost in Translation” is one of those episodes that had clear messages. It emphasized key Star Trek themes, including the embrace of the final frontier and a strong environmental message, but also explored the challenges faced by loss through both a human lens and as Starfleet officers.
The return of season 1 standout Bruce Horak was a very welcome surprise, with Hemmer’s sacrifice and its lasting impact on the crew reverberating throughout the episode. While Uhura’s emotional journey was at the forefront, Hemmer’s legacy was also nicely woven into the Una/Pelia side, which added a layer to their lighter, plot-focused storyline. Even though it has been a while since Hemmer’s exit in episode 9, Uhura’s breakdown over his loss here felt organic and very human, and tied in nicely with her previously established tragic backstory regarding the death of her parents (which we heard about in season 1’s “Children of the Comet”). She ran away to Starfleet to avoid that pain only to find it again, and it took some frank, but wise, words from her future captain to help get her through it. As we have seen with Una’s big secret and La’an’s nefarious ancestor, this season is confronting the emotional issues set up for each of these characters in season 1. While he was technically an avatar for the invisible aliens, there was still a huge emotional payoff to the moment Uhura and (de-zombified) Hemmer shared on the bridge, resolving this episode’s plot as well as the pain she has been avoiding. Their subtle performances and the stirring music should ensure not a dry eye in the house for fans.
It made sense to bring in an outsider as Uhura’s guide through this emotional turmoil, as she had clearly been hiding her feelings from her friends (and captain), giving the show a good reason to introduce her future captain, James T. Kirk. While this was Paul Wesley’s third time playing Kirk, it was really his first time (not counting a quick scene a couple of episodes back) playing Prime Kirk, and he did an excellent job portraying the brash ambitious younger version of the man destined to command this Enterprise. To tie things up in a bow they got a bit cute by making Pike temporarily a fleet captain to technically skirt canon issues arising from a line of dialogue in “The Menagerie” regarding when these two characters met. In terms of canon, it is curious how the show took the time to sort this Kirk and Pike fleet captain issue when it’s clear there they are headed for more canon-stretching with hints about the looming threat from Gorn, including Lt. Kirk being part of a mission on the edge of Gorn space and seeing all the little Gorn skeletons in his brother’s lab. Oh well… On the other hand, it was nice to see Kirk’s first bit of lust over the USS Enterprise and his first meeting with Spock, taking just the right amount of attention without making too big of a deal over these historic moments. And Kirk first seeing (and commenting on) Spock playing 3D chess was a nice little nod to the opening scene in the second Star Trek pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
Wesley continues to do his own thing as Kirk, for now it’s working, with a few hints of Chris Pine’s rakish style and a tiny bit of Shatner’s manner because really, only Shatner can do Shatner. It’s nice to see a new side of Jim Kirk with the sibling rivalry, along with the looming legacy of George Kirk Senior, offering insights into motivations that will lead him to become the youngest captain in the fleet. Bringing Kirk on also allowed for a bit of a follow-up to La’an’s time travel adventure with a different version of Kirk. It was handled quickly, but we can see the pain she continues to carry over her Kirk’s death and the conflicting feelings that arose from seeing this Kirk on the ship. We also have a nice quick follow-up to the Spock and Christine’s romance that kicked off at the end of last week’s episode, but this too was handled quickly and woven well into the surrounding Uhura/invisible aliens story.
Continuing the pattern in season 2, this episode nicely echoed familiar moments in Trek history, including characters seeing things others can’t, like alt-future Jean-Luc Picard’s sanity being questioned in “All Good Things,” and Uhura going through some similar horror to TNG’s “Night Terrors.” Uhura also gets to join the long list of Trek characters who confront or even get to fight themselves. Her visions also allowed for another one of those moments when we can see our characters killed and the ship destroyed. While Dr. M’Benga doesn’t come off well for his initial misdiagnosis, the “Is she crazy?” storyline was handled well and didn’t drag on too long, with some nice payoffs like how Pike showed his friendship and trust for Uhura even with no real evidence. That said, it would have been nice to learn a bit more about these invisible aliens; that exposition scene in Sam’s lab was a bit rushed as they jumped from conclusion to conclusion. Often on these modern shows, the sci-fi plot doesn’t get as much attention as we might be used to in Star Trek, with the emotional stories taking center stage. But still, there were nice echoes of other classic Trek moments, especially episodes with environmental messages with TNG’s “Force of Nature” being the closest analog with aliens going to extremes to warn against the harm being caused by the Federation. Strange New Worlds season 2 continues to rhyme with the poetry of franchise lore, without relying too heavily on it (for the most part).
“Lost in Translation” kicked off the second half of the season perfectly. Even without taking one of those “big swings,” this episode hit the mark just right with a classic Star Trek story full of familiar elements told in a modern style through these new (and old) intriguing characters. Together, that makes this a quintessential episode of Strange New Worlds and the best of the season so far. With the highly-anticipated Lower Decks crossover coming next (even sooner for those going to SDCC) the future is looking even brighter.
- Episode begins with Uhura’s Communications officer’s log, Stardate 2394.8.
- Bannon’s Nebula was named in honor of Melissa Navia’s late partner Brian Bannon.
- While bussard collectors have long been established as part of Star Trek canon and modified for exceptional uses, this is the first time we have seen how they are used for their intended purpose, to collect deuterium.
- Uhura orders Saurian brandy, a Star Trek classic.
- In the 2009 Star Trek movie, Chris Pine’s alternate time James T. Kirk also meets Uhura in a bar, although that time he was definitely trying to hit on her.
- Uhura’s promotion from cadet to ensign means she no longer has to share a bunk room like last season, and now she’s enjoying very spacious personal quarters.
- Why does Uhura have her own personal dermal regenerator?
- While it sounded like Pike asked Uhura to hail Admiral Nogura (mentioned by Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture), he actually asked her to contact Admiral Nagawa.
- Pelia gave Una a “C” grade in Starship Maintenance 307 at Starfleet Academy. The former professor also told Uhura that Hemmer was a “just okay” student.
- Unu calling Pelia a “space hippy” is a meta-reference to the TOS episode “The Way to Eden.”
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 Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.
Season 2 episodes drop weekly on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Season 2 is also available on SkyShowtime elsewhere in Europe. The second season will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in South Korea, with premiere dates to be announced.
Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.