Star Trek, Strange New Worlds - Spock Amok, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Trek, Strange New Worlds - Spock Amok, Review

Matthew Kresal is here for hijinks.
Think of Star Trek's original 1960s incarnation. What episodes come to mind? Iconic outings such as The City at the Edge of Forever or Mirror, Mirror? Dramatic ones such as Balance of Terror or Amok Time? Or more comedic episodes such as the Mudd duology or The Trouble with Tribbles? Strange New Worlds, which has very much pitched itself as the modern-day successor (and prequel) to early Trek, has taken a stab at most of these in its first four episodes. With its fifth, it tries its hand at the comedic with Spock Amok.

Not surprisingly, given its title, the episode opens with a play on an iconic TOS episode and sequence. The lengthy opening sequence sums up Strange New Worlds to date: Looking to the past for inspiration and realizing it with a 21st-century eye. It's clear even from the music, with composer Nami Melumad skillfully recreating and broadening the sound of an immediately recognizable piece of music to underscore it. The scene also helps establish one of the episode's themes while setting much of the plot for this week's outing in motion.

A plot summed up by a recurring word in the dialogue: hijinks. Oh boy, are there a lot of them! Ethan Peck's Spock finds himself reunited with fiance T’Pring (Gia Sandhu), leading to an attempt to resolve tensions between them that don't go according to plan. Anson Mount's Pike finds himself working through a diplomatic situation with a seemingly inconsistent alien race, while Jess Bush's Nurse Chapel deals with a thorny personal situation. Finally, Rebecca Romjin's Una and Christina Chong's La'an spend time aboard the Enterprise while everyone else is on shore leave, trying to lighten up a bit.

After last week's tension-filled battle with the Gorn, Spock Amok will undoubtedly come across as light-hearted. Perhaps too much so for some fans. Yet, that's precisely the point. If there's a criticism leveled at the two other live-action series of Modern Trek, it is that they've perhaps taken themselves far too seriously in some eyes. Strange New Worlds, in keeping with its roots in the franchise's earliest days, is proving that it doesn't have to be that. And unlike Una and La'an, it doesn't struggle to be so, either. On the contrary, it effortlessly moves from the dramatic opening into more comedic territory, setting the stage for the conflicts that will play out across the episode and letting events unfold. That the script finds plenty of laughs and even some points to make along the way is even more to its credit.

Spock Amok also offers plenty of places for the large cast to shine. Peck's Spock, while frequently front and center by virtue of being Spock, and Sandhu's T’Pring are the most obvious example of this. Taking on established roles, especially an iconic one in the case of Peck, can be a thankless task, but it's something that both of them do with consummate ease that makes the comedy between them all the more effective. Elsewhere, Peck, Romjin, and Chong each show a lighter side to their characters, who have all been through dramatic events in recent episodes. That's true even for characters who don't garner larger amounts of screentime here, such as Bush's Chapel or Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga. It's a chance for the characters and viewers alike to catch their breath, enjoy the sights, and get to know each other better.

As such, the episode succeeds wonderfully. Indeed, Spock Amok's hijinks makes for a nice change of pace after the dramatic events of recent weeks, that aforementioned opportunity to catch one's breath. It might not be something one would like the series to do often, but if such occasional hijinks live up to this standard, they'll be welcome from time to time.

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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