‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ “Spock Amok” & the Joy of Vulcan Hijinks
What happens when an affianced couple body swaps? And what happens when happens when said couple are Vulcans on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Answer: hijinks.
Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was a serious submarine battle. In delicious opposition, “Spock Amok” is a wacky comedy. Star Trek is known for playing into sci-fi tropes. Sometimes that’s great! Other times.. well, let’s just say that body swap is not Star Trek‘s strong suit. “Turnabout Intruder” infamously ended TOS on a whimper. “The Schizoid Man” is no one’s favorite Data episode. And while Jeri Ryan’s Robert Picardo impression in “Body and Soul” is impeccable and the Doctor struggling with suddenly be attractive to everyone is hilarious.. you know what? I take it back. “Body and Soul” rules.
Can Spock and T’Pring top that high water mark? Let’s find out!
To Boldly Recap
“Spock Amok” begins on Vulcan where Spock and T’Pring begin their wedding ritual. Suddenly, Spock is human. T’Pring requests kal-if-fee which is a fight to the death over who gets to marry her. Spock’s combatant? His Vulcan self. Vulcan Spock is about to kill human Spock but then actual Spock wakes up. It was all a dream.
Enterprise is back at Starbase One after the ship was nearly destroyed by the Gorn in the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode “Memento Mori”. Spock and Captain Pike must attend to a diplomatic mission, but Spock’s primary focus should be T’Pring who is also at Starbase One for work stuff. As a matter of fact, T’Pring brings a work wing man to take care of all the professional duties (she brings Vulcan dissidents back into the fold) so that she and Spock can get it on like Vulcan Diddy Kong.
Spock places professional duty first, but promises T’Pring he won’t be gone for long. Admiral Robert April tasks Pike with opening diplomatic negotiations with the R’ongovian Protectorate. The Protectorate is in a part of space that is important to the Federation due to its proximity to the Romulan Empire. The Tellarites already failed to open negotiations and the Klingons are gearing up to try their hand. Pike is supposed to have time to prepare, but then the R’ongovians just kind of show up!
While Pike and Spock begin negotiations with the R’ongovians, a few other plots are set into motion. Most of the crew are on shore leave – a first for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Ortegas and Chapel discuss the nurse’s plans for a booty call. M’Benga also has big plans: flyfishing. That entire squad heads for the transporter where La’an and Una are personally seeing everyone off. M’Benga lets it slip that Una has a nickname among the yeoman: “Where fun goes to die”.
Meanwhile, Spock biffs it big time with T’Pring by choosing the negotiations over her. T’pring cooks Spock dinner and everything and she wonders if Spock really respects their relationship. At this point there are two other branching plots: one with Chapel and the other with Una and La’an. We will talk about them a little later, but right now we need to focus on Spock and T’Pring.
Chapel talks with Spock about T’Pring. She thinks T’Pring feels misunderstood. Spock’s solution is to perform a Vulcan soul sharing ritual so he and T’Pring can hear each other’s innermost thoughts. And that is when things go a bit.. wrong. Instead of sharing souls, Spock and T’Pring swap bodies – and they have no idea how to switch back.
To Boldly Hijinks
The R’ongovians are unhappy with Pike, but, good news, they will speak with Spock. Less good news: Spock is in T’Pring’s body. Spock and T’Pring explain to Pike that they have accidentally swapped bodies. T’Pring agrees to take on Spock’s duties as diplomat in order to both foster a relationship with the R’ongovians and better understand Spock’s professional obligations. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds loves itself some shenanigans.
Spock tries to reverse the body swap but is interrupted by T’Pring’s co-worker. It turns out that T’Pring is needed in returning a renegade Vulcan back to the realm of logic. Naturally, Spock agrees to take on T’Prings job because this is a comedy episode. Spock seeks Chapel for advice. Chapel recommends that, since T’Pring is doing Spock’s job, the logical course of action is for Spock to do T’Pring’s job.
Spock brings Chapel with him to secure the renegade Vulcan. His solution to the problem is, shall we say, unique. After the Vulcan insults T’Pring, Spock, and all humans, Spock punishes that man in the face. Meanwhile, T’Pring struggles with the R’ongovians because she is too fixated on Spock. She does not understand why Spock values Starfleet so much. Pike steps into the R’ongovian negotiations to defend Spock, an act which the R’ongovians are impressed by.
M’Benga uses crystals and goo to force Spock and T’Pring’s katras back into alignment. Spock admits to T’Pring that he is afraid she doesn’t see him as Vulcan enough. T’Pring admits that she is afraid that Spock only sees her as a duty and not a lover. They both realize they are being ridiculous and kiss. It is deeply adorable.
Meanwhile, Pike meets with the R’ongovians one last time. Pike tells the R’ongovians they are absolutely right to not want to join the Federation. He acknowledges that, while joining the Federation does offer positives, it does mean that all the Federation’s enemies will become the R’ongovian’s enemies as well. And because Pike admits that the price may be too high to pay, the R’ongovians decide to join the Federation after all.
Pike realizes that the R’ongovians use radical empathy as a bargaining technique. All they wanted was for someone to see it from their perspective.
Enterprise Bingo and Chapock
Enterprise Bingo is a game ship cadets play in order to have fun on the ship. Una and La’an have no idea Enterprise Bingo exists until they catch two cadets committing flagrant ship violations in order to cross off a proverbial bingo square. In an effort to feel connected to the crew (and not like the place fun goes to die) Una and La’an play Enterprise Bingo themselves.
At first the game is fun, but eventually Una and La’an realize it’s not the same for them. The point of Enterprise Bingo is to break the rules, but Una and La’an make the rules. Ultimately, the pair get inventive and create an atmospheric corridor on the hull of the ship so they can walk on it without spacesuits. Una and La’an sign their names to the “scorch,” a piece of hull plating which remains part of the Enterprise no matter how many refits it gets.
Meanwhile, Christine Chapel’s booty call is looking for something more serious. As a result, Chapel winds up spending a lot of time helping Spock instead of having fun. Except, Chapel really likes helping Spock. Like, she really, really likes being with Spock.
Nurse Chapel is in love with Spock. Did that come across? This is going to be a whole thing.
To Boldly Review
“Spock Amok” has very big shoes to fill. In the pantheon of beloved Star Trek episodes, “Amok Time” (the episode this week’s adventure is connected with) ranks among the highest of the highs. And “Spock Amok” avoids any attempts to fill those shoes entirely by being a ridiculous comedy. The result is the best episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds all season – and that’s really saying something.
Spock and T’Pring are a couple Star Trek fans know very little about. Officially, they were selected for one another as children. And we know from “Amok Time” that T’Pring eventually falls in love with (and leaves Spock for) another Vulcan named Stonn. But, other than that, the two are a total mystery. How brilliant of the Strange New Worlds team to pull back the curtain vis a vie wacky hijinks.
Ethan Peck and Gia Sandhu subtly playing each other’s roles is just about the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on Star Trek. But “Spock Amok” also serves as a great character building story for both of them. Each of them lets down their defenses in their own way, they learn more about each other, and, as a result, we also know and like them even more.
Una and La’an
Most of the plot of “Spock Amok” revolves around Spock. However, that doesn’t mean the B plot isn’t also a hilarious romp. In the previous Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episodes, a lot of focus is placed on La’an and Una’s respective tragic backstories. This week, the pair spend the entire episode trying to prove they can also be fun with delightful results.
La’an emphatically tells Una she is fun. And that’s true! They are fun! They just aren’t fun to the people who work for them! And because we’ve spent most of the time watching these two have to play it safe and professional, we haven’t had a chance to dig deeper into what makes them, you know… happy. “Spock Amok” fixes a problem I hadn’t even realized the show had – it shows the joyfully goofy side of Una and La’an.
The good cop/bad cop routine with the ensigns is priceless. Transporting while chewing gum is hilarious. And Una’s yelp of pain after getting shot on the lowest phaser setting was downright adorable. There’s not capital “I” Important about any of this except that it tells us so much about these women’s friendship. And that’s worth more than its weight in gold-pressed latinum.
About Chapel (and Spock, Too)
In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Naked Time”, Nurse Christine Chapel confesses to Mr. Spock that she loves him. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is embracing a lot of Trek canon, and that now seems to include Chapel’s romantic feelings towards the Enterprise’s chief science officer. And if there’s anything I am uneasy about from “Spock Amok,” it is this.
Throughout the first five episodes of Strange New Worlds, we’ve gotten a better sense of who Christine Chapel is than we ever have before. She’s flirted with Spock on a few occasions, but this is the first time we see her actively mooning over him. And, fair play to her, Ethan Peck’s Spock is arguably the hottest Spock of them all. But, at the same time, I’m not sure I want a love triangle between Spock, Chapel, and T’Pring.
This version of Chapel is free-wheeling and disinterested in romantic attachments and I love that for her! I think there’s a world where her attraction to Spock is compelling and adds to the characters and the narrative, but I also think it will be very easy to mess up. Provisionally, Jess Bush and Ethan Peck are dynamite together. But I’ve got my eye on you, show.
Stray Observation Deck
Obviously the entire opening of “Spock Amok” is a love letter to “Amok Time”. Even the music cue is directly from the TOS episode.
Apparently Chapel dated a woman but it was a one-time thing? Now I know that I misheard that because Nurse Chapel is our requisite chaotic bisexual and no one can take her away from us!
Apparently chewing gum while in the transporter causes the gum’s flavor to return. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but I can’t help but feel this raises some other issues about the nature of the transporter as it pertains to sentient life. When someone is transported, is what materializes on the other end the original person or not? I think this show just made me a transporter truther!
Enterprise Bingo includes a number of interesting challenges including: setting the universal translator to Andorian, sitting in the captain’s chair, and sneaking a tribble into the transporter buffer. One other item reads “Medical Tricorder Challenge: Vulcan Marsupial”. This is a reference to the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Lifeline“. Yes, really.
Questions, Queries, Quibbles
Look, obviously we’re all wondering the same thing: is Spock going to cheat on T’Pring with Nurse Chapel during Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? And, I mean.. not to gossip, but T’Pring does eventually leave Spock and she seems like someone who wouldn’t just up and bounce on a relationship, you know what I’m saying? I’m saying Spock’s got a wandering eye and if he hurts T’Pring and/or Christine Chapel I will reach through a TV screen and slap him. I know you read these recaps, Mr. Spock! 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.