Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach, Review

Matthew Kresal dips his toe into a morality play.
As author Andy Frankham-Allen noted recently on Twitter, 1960s Star Trek was "primarily pulp sci-fi that very occasionally dips its toe into morality plays." Looking at the width and breadth of TOS, it's hard to argue with Frankham-Allen's point. It's also something that Strange New Worlds, which has very much pitched itself as the modern-day successor (and prequel) to early Trek, has kept in mind across the opening half of its debut season. In Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach, the series offers a mix of both in a hefty cocktail of an episode.

On the surface, the episode starts at the pulpy end of Classic Trek. The Enterprise encounters a shuttle returning to the planet Majalis under attack, saving those on board, including Pike's old flame Alora (played by Lindy Booth, leading to a mini-reunion for the cult show The Librarians with Rebecca Romjin being in the Strange New Worlds cast). A conspiracy is afoot, targeting Alora and the child in her care destined for a role in Majalis society. It's an episode filled with investigations, seemingly clear-cut motives, and flirtations that wouldn't have been out of place in TOS or even The Next Generation with a few modifications.

Then the morality play element kicks in. What the twist is isn't for this review to say, though social media indicates a number of viewers saw it coming thanks to variations on this dilemma popping up in several classic SF tales (at least one of which I must admit I've not read, to risk sounding like an uncultured swine). In context of the episode, it made for some powerful viewing, as did the scenes that followed as the repercussions of the revelation play out on a personal level, raising questions connected to that Vulcan maxim about the needs of the many without ever citing it. Trek's long had the ability to hold up an allegorical mirror when its wanted to, those dips into morality play that Frankham-Allen mentioned, as Strange New Worlds debut proved. Rarely has it done so with so many grey areas and unanswered questions as presented here, something that perhaps suits Strange New Worlds and the world it's being made within.

As with the five proceeding episodes, Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach also benefits from how good it looks and sounds. The visuals of Majalis, in particular, are a fantastic mix of location filming and effects work brought together skillfully. Brought together, it brings a sense of both the cinematic and the alien to the episode. Meanwhile, composer Nami Melumad's score brings a sense of both action and emotion to the score, the latter making itself in the scenes between Pike and Alora. It's a mix of the visual and aural that serves the episode and the series well.

Having mentioned Pike and Alora, it's worth dedicating a few lines to Anson Mount and Booth's performances. The Enterprise captain having a love interest is, well, a Trek cliche at this point (and arguably was even by the end of TOS in 1969), but Strange New Worlds finds a new spin on the idea here. It's Mount and Booth who really sell it with their performances, from their first scene with the recognition in their eyes and body language to their final moments. The sense of history, not to mention feelings, between them is palpable, making their scenes and the episode more effective thanks to their chemistry. Adding on moments from Celia Rose Gooding's Uhura continuing her journey and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga, this is a solid episode from an acting perspective.

Indeed, Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach is a solid episode of Trek and, in particular, this incarnation. One that reaches back to the franchises roots, the pulp adventure with a toe in the morality play, brining a 21st-century eye to proceedings. The grey areas and unanswered questions may leave some viewers wanting more, but Strange New Worlds proves itself once more to a worthy successor to the legacy of TOS in a less certain age.

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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