Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Episodes 8-9 review (a 7 and a 9)By Matthew Martin| July 9, 2022 TV Blogs You can check out our review of Strange New Worlds’ first episode HERE, our review of episodes 2-3 HERE, our review of episodes 4-5 HERE, and our review of episodes 6-7 HERE. 1×08 – THE ELYSIAN KINGDOM I’m not quite sure what to make of this one, other than to say it felt half-baked. If I was to describe my feelings, I would say it was like listening to someone work out the point of a story they were telling in real-time, as though they weren’t sure what the point was when they started but as they kept talking eventually they zeroed in on it and almost made the rambling minutes that preceded it worthwhile. The positives to The Elysian Kingdom are two-fold: The characters and the ending. The negatives are manifold, but those two positives are big enough almost to save the whole thing. In terms of the negatives, the biggest problem with the episode is the odd disconnect between the nature of the story and the pacing. On paper, this is a romp (until the final few minutes, at least). It’s in the vein of the TOS episode “A Piece of the Action,” where the crew goes to the gangster planet, or the TNG episode “A Fistful of Datas,” which is set in an old west Holodeck program, or the Voyager episode “Bride of Chaotica!,” where everyone is acting out as characters in a Flash Gordon send-up. Each of those episodes kept the pacing brisk and snappy because if you dwell too long on any one scene you might start to laugh at it instead of with it. This episode moved too slowly and deliberately to do justice to the fun feel they were going for in the first 4/5 of the story. I found myself growing restless as the characters moved about the ship, dressed like characters from a Final Fantasy game. I greatly enjoyed everyone playing out of character: Pike was an amoral coward, Spock was an opportunistic rogue, Uhura was a scene-chewing villainous, and on it went. The elements were there and they were all realized to great success, but the pacing from scene to scene was so slow the humor ended up fizzling out long before the next scene began. That said, I very much enjoyed the way three lesser characters were given bigger roles than they’ve had lately: Uhura, Hemmer, and M’Benga. Each played their part perfectly, especially M’Benga who was the star of the episode. That takes us to the ending. Most of the story was a nice mix of TOS, TNG, and VOY. What about DS9? As it turned out, there was a little bit of that show here as well, but not in the light-hearted story. Instead, the ending took a page out of DS9’s “The Visitor,” which saw an elderly Jake Sisko from the future work to save his father’s life. Obviously, this episode is not nearly as poignant as that and the details are different too, but the same emotional beats are played, and with aplomb. It provided us a rushed but ultimately satisfying ending to a story that had been played mainly in the background of season one. Had the episode focused more on that aspect of the story, it might have elevated the whole thing to a higher level. Instead, it serves as a surprisingly touching finish to a mostly tedious episode. 7/10 – Most of The Elysian Kingdom is silly, and it doesn’t always land, but the ending does, and that’s almost enough. 1×09 – ALL THOSE WHO WANDER Looking back, I appreciate how the writers of Strange New World took the hardship of a ten-episode, episodic season, and made it a virtue. They clearly made it their goal to play in as many different genres as possible. Over the past nine episodes we’ve had comedy outings, dramatic stories, straight sci-fi tales, fantasy adventure, naval battles, mysteries, and, in this episode, a true-blue horror story. Star Trek has always had great horror elements in its many iterations. The Original Series regularly showed how scary the final frontier could get, whether it’s from the mind-controlling spores of “This Side of Paradise” or the amoeba monsters of “Operation – Annihilate!” TNG had its share of horror episodes, not the least of which involved the Borg, who were essentially cybernetic zombies, nevermind the episode “Schisms,” which is maybe the creepiest hour of TV my young self ever sat through. DS9’s “Empok Nor” dabbled in the genre, as did the sublime “Darkness and the Light,” which focused on a serial killer taking out former associates of Kira. Voyager had “The Thaw.” Do you hate clowns? Don’t watch “The Thaw.” Star Trek has also never been above ripping off a classic sci-fi trope or well-regarded story idea. In this case, we get a nice send-up to both Alien and Aliens and the result is an episode that is up there with some of Trek’s best “scary episodes.” The premise is solid: An away team, led by Pike, travels by shuttle down to a cold, icy planet where the Enterprise’s sister ship, the Peregrine has crashed. Once inside, the team realizes the ship was attacked and taken down by the Gorn, who have settled nicely into the role of this season’s recurring villain, despite only appearing in one other episode (it helps that La’an has a good deal of history with them, keeping them ever on our minds, even when not on screen). I wasn’t a fan of the design of the proto-gorn that terrorized the ship, however. I’m hardly advocating for a man in a lizard suit but the CG creature we got looked a bit unfinished and shiny like an early 2000s-sort of creation. Speaking of “This Side of Paradise,” I very much enjoyed Sam Kirk calling Spock a computer in this episode, as a call-back to the time Jim Kirk did that in the TOS episode, in an attempt to stir up the Vulcan’s human side, specifically his anger. Not coincidentally, I think, this episode gives us a strong display of “angry Spock,” and I appreciate the why and how it is handled here vs the moody, angsty version of Spock depicted in the JJ Trek movies. The real star of the episode, however, was Hemmer. The blind (in the show and the actor too) chief engineer only appeared in a handful of episodes but he left quite an impression on me. I hoped to see more of him as there seemed like a lot more to be mined. He’s a blind, mildly telepathic, pacifist. Like Odo (one of my all-time favorite Trek characters), he’s a curmudgeon on the outside but there’s a genuinely kind person hiding underneath. I wasn’t ready for him to go but I can’t deny his final scene was a powerful one. The episode had a strong “season finale” feel to it, with the death of one character, the evolution of another (Uhura settling her internal debate about her future in or out of Starfleet), and the departure of a third (La’an taking a leave of absence to investigate the gorn and find a home for the Peregrine’s sole survivor. We’ll see where that story goes next season, I assume. And yet, there’s one episode left. The past couple have been a bit underwhelming, but if the creative team sticks the landing for the finale, Strange New Worlds might end up having one of the best first seasons of any Trek show, at least since TOS. That’s quite a comeback for the franchise if you ask me. 9/10 – All Those Who Wander is just a really well-made sci-fi horror story with a sad (but well-done) ending. I’m pleased.