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‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Goes Rom Com With “Charades”

7 Minute Read
Jul 13 2023

Spock is human! The in-laws are coming to dinner! “Charades” is Vulcan shenanigans all over again. Can Strange New Worlds be a rom com?

Action adventure. Courtroom drama. Time travel. This second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds splashes its feet into every genre pool. But whereas those previous story types are well-trodden, something Trek rarely does is romantic comedy. Romance? Yes. Comedy? Sure! But the two of them together in the classic screwball fashion? It’s basically “Ménage à Troi” or bust. Until now.

Last season’s fifth episode sees Spock and T’Pring switch bodies. “Hijinks” T’Pring calls it. “Spock Amok” is, in many ways, the best episode of that first season. So it’s only logical that SNW’s writers would choose to slot the same kind of episode in the same spot in the lineup.

But does lightning strike twice? Let’s find out.

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

To Boldly Recap “Charades”

Nurse Chapel and Spock aren’t talking. It’s nothing official, but the awkwardness between them remains ever since that time Chapel almost died and Spock wept only about it. Unfortunately, Chapel needs to investigate a Vulcan moon, and guess who her chaperone is?

Long story short: Chapel and Spock encounter a spatial anomaly, their shuttlecraft gets pulled in, and Spock gets hurt. Someone in the anomaly attempts to fix Spock’s injuries but uses Chapel as a blueprint and makes Spock human as a result. Uh oh.

A cursory investigation of the shuttlecraft turns up an interdimensional being calling card. Uhura rings up the aliens who “fixed” Spock and they basically say “You’re welcome OK BYE”.

While M’Benga and Chapel try to figure out how to re-Vulcanize Spock, Spock decides to enjoy being human. Spock eats too much, laughs too loud, threatens to kill Sam Kirk, and is horny on main for La’an.

Everything is going fine. Weird but fine. And then T’Pring reaches out and says her mom wants to do a Vulcan marriage ritual. T’Pring’s mom hates Spock. And while Spock tries to put the ritual off until he’s Vulcan again, his mother Amanda Grayson turns up and says it’s go time.


Can Amanda teach Spock how to fake being Vulcan?

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

Fake Vulcan

It turns out that pretending to be Vulcan is hard. And turning Spock back into a Vulcan is even harder. As Amanda teaches Spock how to pretend scalding teapots don’t burn human hands, Chapel realizes that, if she can’t fix Spock in 24 hours, his changes will be permanent. So as T’Pring and her parents arrive on Enterprise, Chapel, Uhura, and Ortegas take a shuttlecraft back to the anomaly to try and get the beings inside it to help.

Spock should tell T’Pring what’s going on, but he doesn’t. Instead, he barely manages to make his way through the ceremony as his mother-in-law T’Prill roasts him, Starfleet, and all of humanity.

Chapel, Uhura, and Ortegas enter the anomaly and Chapel basically asks to speak to the manager. After explaining to said “manager” that she wants Spock to be fixed because she has lovey-dovey feelings for him, the request is finally accepted.

Chapel returns to Enterprise as Pike tries to stall with a game of charades. She asks Spock why he sacrificed his safety to protect her and Spock basically admits he, too, is of the lovey-dovey persuasion. Chapel Vulcan juices Spock up before he can say more.

Spock finishes the ceremony by revealing he is presently human and calling out T’Prill for her bigotry. T’Pring is so hurt Spock hid this information from her that she says they should take a break. Spock thanks his mom for backing him up and acknowledges how hard it is for her to be a human among Vulcans.

And then Chapel and Spock make out! The end.


Courtesy of Paramount Plus

To Boldly Review “Charades”

“Charades” is not subtle in its intentions. It is, quite literally, one letter away from having the same title as an Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant movie. It’s Strange New Worlds going full screwball comedy.

Is this on the level of the all-time great rom coms? No. You know what “Charade” is like? It’s like French Kiss. The Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline movie where Meg Ryan’s trying to get her fiancé back and Kevin Kline is trying to smuggle jewels into France. And then they fall in love instead.

If you don’t remember this very specific late-stage ’90s rom com, the thing to know is that it’s not very good. But it does feature Meg Ryan playing a woman with severe lactose intolerance. And for reasons that make absolutely no sense, she falls in love with Kevin Kline who has a mustache and a very unconvincing French accent.

French Kiss is relatable content. And “Charades” is very much the same. Spock’s emotions go haywire and so he winds up eating too rich and flying off the handle. He makes some bad decisions. And then he makes one bad decision that kind of has to happen. Like I said–relatable content.

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

Whither Vulcan Emotions, Mister Spock?

Here’s the thing about “Charades”: it doesn’t make any sense. And at first, I thought this was me being a pedantic fan. Because I know that Vulcan emotions are way more intense than human ones. So it doesn’t really make sense that Spock cannot handle human emotions.

But this isn’t just a fan thing because they literally point that fact out in the episode! And the only qualifier is that Spock’s experiencing something akin to adolescence. But I don’t buy that he was sexually inappropriate to La’an. And also there’s this part where Ortegas teaches Spock how to arch an eyebrow. And c’mon, man. C’mon. Ain’t no way Spock forgot how to do the “fascinating” eyebrow. It’s cute, yes. But it makes zero sense.

You know what this is like? Star Trek: Generations. In that movie, Data installs his emotion chip, and all of a sudden it’s all hating cocktails and making terrible jokes. It’s so obvious that Brent Spiner wants to stretch his comedy legs and it just goes way too far. It’s the exact same thing with Ethan Peck in “Charades”. Yes, Peck is very funny. But the scene where he laughs way too hard and long about a joke that’s not that funny? It’s too much.

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

Mother’s Day

Leaving aside the comedy of “Charades” the stuff that matters is the drama. So let’s address some of that. And let’s start with the part that works best: Mia Kirshner as Amanda Grayson.

If you’re going to latch onto something from classic Trek to explore absolutely let it be Amanda Grayson dealing with the struggle of being a human on Vulcan. The absolute grace of Amanda Grayson who endures constant bigotry from people who see her as “illogical” just because she’s a human. And all to assure that Spock gets to be who he truly is. She’s just such a deeply caring soul and the way Mia Kirshner portrays that with both wit and charm is easily the best part of the episode.


Unfortunately, the weakest part of the episode involves T’Pring. Last season in “Spock Amok” the Vulcan hijinks involve Spock and T’Pring switching bodies. As a result, they understand each other better and become closer. In “Charades” Spock keeps his turning human a secret from T’Pring. And while she’s absolutely right to put their relationship on pause, I can’t help but feel like this is a forced narrative.

Yes, we know Spock and T’Pring don’t get married in TOS. But so what? Who cares! SNW is a show where the timeline has already shifted. It feels like we’re trying to force two puzzle pieces to fit together and we don’t have to. The biggest weakness of “Charades” is that it’s placing more value on continuity than it is on the actors and stories they have in the here and now.

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

“Charades” is Still Good

Like I said: “Charades” is a French Kiss level rom com. It doesn’t make sense and not all the pieces fit together perfectly, but it’s still fun. And to address the biggest elephant in the room: yes, Ethan Peck and Jenna Bush’s chemistry is on another level. Of course, I want to see them hook up. I’m just not sure I want Star Trek to feed my most base “I’m watching my stories” telenovela needs.

In the end “Charades” is frustrating. For every cool non-humanoid alien and gut-splitting joke that lands, there’s a corresponding downside. T’Prill as this means mother of the bride stereotype feels so played. And while I think Spock eating too much bacon is adorable, I keep wishing his every reaction was not so completely over the top. It’s too much.

As a one-off episode, “Charades” is a lark. As part of an ongoing narrative, it leaves something to be desired. But it’s fun.

3.5/5 stars

Lina Morgan
Author: Lina Morgan
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