Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Children Of The Comet, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Children Of The Comet, Review

Matthew Kresal reviews episode two of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Having bridged the gap between The Cage and Star Trek: Discovery's second season for new viewers, Strange New Worlds' debut episode was nothing short of a triumph. The opening hour lived up to the promise of capturing the franchise's past with standalone storytelling with a 21st-century sensibility for character development and production values. With introductions out of the way, the series now has to deliver upon that promise. If Children of the Comet is any indication, it's going to with aplomb.

Like the debut episode, Children of the Comet offers a plot that could have come straight out of the sixties heyday of the Original Series. The Enterprise discovers a comet their studying is about to crash into a planet with a pre-warp civilization. Soon enough, this comparatively simple diversion becomes increasingly complicated thanks to a stranded landing party and an increasing list of complications, adding to the episode's ticking clock.

As that summary might suggest, there are a few classic Trek tropes here. Something which feels appropriate given this is a series working hard to capture a classic Trek feel and a new adventure each week. Even so, it's to the credit of writers Henry Alonso Myers and Sarah Tarkoff that they found a way to teach an old dog new tricks with their script.

One of the ways that Myers and Tarkoff manage to do so is how the events of the episode shine a spotlight on a young cadet named Uhura. As incredible as it is, given how iconic the character and Nichelle Nichol's performance in the role has become, TOS never did a Uhura-centric episode. More than five decades later, with Celia Rose Gooding, Strange New Worlds does so with spectacular results. Children of the Comet allows Gooding the chance to be cemented in the role, putting Uhura in the landing party with the inexperienced linguistics prodigy at the heart of the mystery. From Uhura's unease going to the captain's dinner to interactions with Spock, Goodings captures in their performance one of the best depictions of "imposter syndrome" this reviewer has ever seen. In doing so, Gooding and the writers reveal the beginning of Uhura's journey to becoming the Trek icon she's become.

How Strange New Worlds handles its characters inside standalone stories is also coming across strongly. Anson Mount's Pike continues to wrestle with his fate, something that the episode finds ways of tying into thematically as it goes along. There are scenes expanding on other characters, including Melissa Navia's Ortegas (who gets to show off some piloting skills), an expanded role for Rebecca Romijn's Number One, and our first scenes with Bruce Horak's Hemmer, the Enterprise's Aenar chief engineer from Andoria. We've not seen much of Hemmer, even here, something set to change as the series seems to be taking a "character of the week" approach to its focus, not unlike the earlier Trek series it evokes.

Somewhere where the mix of old and new comes together with spectacular results is in the effects and production values. Children of the Comet is a visual feast, bringing production design and special effects together, both for the comet itself and a sequence with Enterprise involved in a situation requiring some delicate flying, setting the stage for the episode's climax. The latter is something that even the feature film incarnations of Trek would have struggled with once upon time. Here it showcases how effects, plot, and Nami Melumad's score can come together to present a thrilling sequence.

From classic Trek storytelling realized with modern production values to developing upon iconic characters, Strange New Worlds is delivering upon its promise in spades after a mere two episodes. Children of the Comet is proof of that, with its superb blending of yesterday's visions of tomorrow with the sensibilities of today, realized with solid production values and a fine cast. Not to mention setting a standard that the episodes that follow will have to live up to.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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