Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Sings with ‘Children of the Comet’
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues exploring the depths of its bridge crew. In “Children of the Comet” Uhura sings. It absolutely rules.
Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Captain Christopher Pike knows how and when his life will end. It’s very scary. Despite his anxiety however, Pike and the Enterprise crew salvage a messy first contact situation. They even prevent a planet of people from destroying themselves! Now that the full crew is assembled, where do we go next?
To Boldly Recap
In “Children of the Comet” Cadet Uhura goes to a shindig in the captain’s quarters. She (and we) meets Hemmer, the Aenar engineer as he shows off his knife skills. Pike asks Uhura what she plans to do with her Starfleet career in the next 10 years and she reveals that she’s not sure Starfleet is for her. It turns out Uhura’s parents and brother died in an accident. Uhura was inspired to join Starfleet by her grandmother.
Afterwards, Spock studies a comet when he discovers that it’s about to explode and destroy a nearby planet. As the planet is M-Class (that’s code for “people live on it”) but not warp capable, the crew has to think fast. Pike gives the okay to manually move the comet using some rigged photon torpedoes. Unfortunately, it turns out the comet has a forcefield. In fact, the comet also seems to have some kind of unnatural structure built on it. Time to investigate!
Uhura joins the away team consisting of La’an, Spock, and Sam Kirk as they beam over to the comet in order to figure out what’s going on. No lifeforms are aboard the heavenly body, however there is a giant space egg covered in alien language. Since Uhura is a linguist expert, she is put on the case to figure out what’s going on here. Unfortunately, Sam Kirk decides to touch the giant space egg. It lights up, explodes, and nearly kill Kirk. In the process the comet’s shields go back up, trapping the away team.
Some Surprisingly Well-Armed Shepherds
In “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is weird” news, not only is the mystery-comet-apparently-egg violent, but is also protected by aliens calling themselves “Shepherds”. According the Shepherds (who are new to Star Trek), the comet is a galactic arbiter named M’hanit who brings/ends life as it wishes. The Shepherds tell Pike that if Enterprise attempts to move M’hanit, the Shepherds will blow the Enterprise out of the sky. Uh oh.
Back on the comet, Uhura struggles to figure out what the comet wants or how to control it. Uhura begins humming a Kenyan song and the lights in the room react. Spock points out the light show and Uhura realizes that the comet reacts to music. In fact, the language on the egg is basically sheet music. Uhura and Spock hum a little tune together, the egg opens, and Uhura works out how to lower the forcefield. Bing, bang, boom and the away team is back on board Enterprise.
However the Shepherds still stand between Pike and protecting the alien planet from global annihilation. Spock hatches a plan to use a shuttlecraft’s heat shields to break off parts of the comet without touching it thus altering its trajectory. Pike has Ortegas distract the Shepherds by flying Enterprise in front of the comet. The Shepherds render Enterprise inert but not before the ship is in the way of the comet, thus requiring the Shepherds to rescue Enterprise while Spock does his thing.
M’hanit: Fact or Fiction?
Spock succeeds in breaking off part of the comet and moving it out of harm’s way. The comet still impacts the nearby planet, however, rather than causing global destruction it changes the environment instead. The once arid world now better supports life – a fact the Shepherds claim is a result of M’hanit’s good will. That may sound ridiculous, but it turns out there is (arguably) some truth to it. That’s right: “Children of the Comet” is dealing with faith… kind of.
Uhura collects a message from the comet while the away team is still there, but does not translate it until after the fact. The message shows that the comet’s trajectory was always going to be what it wound up being. In fact, Spock’s exact flight path is part of the message – which went out hours before the actual flight. In short, it appears that M’hanit does have some foreknowledge of events. Fascinating.
The episode closes with Pike and Number One discussing Pike’s future fate again. Una believes that the M’hanit situation proves that destiny is not always clear and that Pike can save the lives of cadets without sacrificing himself. Pike believes that his destiny is immutable but that the lives he saves make the sacrifice worthwhile. Roll credits.
To Boldly Review
There’s a lot of great things to say about “Children of the Comet”. First though, I have to ask: must everyone in modern Star Trek have a tragic backstory? On Strange New Worlds alone, Pike has foreknowledge of his grizzly demise, Spock lost his sister, and La’an’s whole family was killed by the Gorn. And now we find out Uhura’s parents and brother are dead? Show, are you serious? Damn! Let one crew member be well-adjusted, please. I beg.
That out of the way, everything else is gravy. I absolutely adore Ortegas pranking Uhura. And I love the idea of Enterprise bingo – please let this concept show up again and again! And I love Hemmer instantly. He’s such an affable, little curmudgeon. We love to see it. The way he plays with Uhura a little and how Spock gets into it makes me feel like I know these people already! See, this is how you build characters without killing their parents. It’s possible!
The entire set-up for “Children of the Comet” is delightful. Pike saying he loves his job is sweet and affable. And setting us up for a simple mission we now has to go wrong is just classic Star Trek. Why does a comet have a forcefield? Why, indeed.
The Away Team
Look, get cozy because there’s a LOT of glowing praise to come. It is absolutely wonderful that Sam Kirk is a ding dong whose assumptions nearly get him killed. It’s just so nice that characters have flaws that make sense. And Kirk’s error leaves Uhura and Spock open to team-up in the most adorable way possible. I thought for sure we maxed out on cuteness when Uhura makes fun of Spock’s pep talk. But then the two of them sing together!
You know what else is nice? La’an being largely useless and knowing it. La’an is a blunt instrument so if the solution doesn’t involve her kicking the problem in the face, it’s a no go. And her awareness that her singing voice will break the universe? Delightful. Thank you La’an for the most important kind of representation – people who cannot sing to save their lives.
Is it a little contrived that Uhura figures everything out so fast? Yes. It is especially weird that she basically just knows the “turn off the shields, please” tune. I know she hears the comet sing it first, but it’s a big assumption that everything will work out. So, yes. A mild ding to you, “Children of the Comet” for being a little too clean. But I still love you.
About the Shepherds
It is entirely possible things will change upon airing, but the screener for “Children of the Comet” features some very janky looking CGI Shepherds (note: the CGI does, in fact, look somewhat better in the broadcast version). That being said, the Shepherds are pretty interesting, classic Trek aliens. They are religious and their religion is making our heroes’ lives really hard – I’m game.
This is a predestination vs. free will episode and, tired a concept though that may be, it does mostly work. My only real beef is that we just dealt with Pike’s future drama last episode. I’m not sure we needed two episodes featuring Pike anxiety in a row. Also, when the Shepherds ask Pike if he is “a reasonable man” they follow that up with the most unreasonable nonsense I’ve ever heard. “Listen, babes” (I’m paraphrasing here), “if you are chill then you will let us kill your away team and let a planet die because our comet is totally a god (don’t research this, please)”.
And then the Shepherds are right! This only bothers me a little. Ultimately, the idea of an ancient civilization creating a sentient comet to do the galaxy a solid now and again is too fun to hate. All in all, this is what you call a solid B-grade episode – thoroughly rewatchable but more fun if you don’t think too hard.
Stray Observation Deck
Uhura sings in “Children of the Comet” and there is precedent for this. For one thing, Nichelle Nichol’s version of Uhura sings, plays the Vulcan lute, and does a fan dance (that’s right we’re including “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier). Plus, current Uhura, Celia Rose Gooding, has a Broadway background. And current showrunner Alex Kurtzman has said in the past he wants a musical Trek episode. In other words, the singing makes sense and we should all expect more of it.
Spock laughs in the shuttlecraft. That might seem jarring to passive Star Trek fans, but there’s a ton of precedent for this as well. Spock laughs in the original pilot episode “The Cage” and there are many occasions where he grins like a dang idiot. Ethan Peck is following a proud tradition of Spock being a goofy goober.
Sam Kirk nearly dies in this episode and that is likely some serous foreshadowing since, in Star Trek: The Original Series he is dead. It seems likely Sam Kirk will die before Jim Kirk joins the crew of the Enterprise. Heck, Sam’s death may even be the reason Jim joins the crew.
Questions, Queries, Quibbles
The cynic in me says that the biggest question is, “Who gets a tragic backstory on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds next?” But, obviously, the larger question is over how much stories like “Children of the Comet” will carry forward on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Will we see the Shepherds again? More importantly, will the concept of roaming, galactic arbiters with foreknowledge of the future crop up again? And just how much emotional real estate will Pike’s fate take up on the show moving forward? Also, Uhura calls Nurse Chapel Spock’s girlfriend – I wonder… Let us know what you think of this episode and what you predict for the remainder of the season.
Until then, this is your humble recapper signing off. Live long and prosper.