“Sometimes we act a certain way to fit people’s expectations, but that’s not necessarily who we are.”
– Dr. Aspen
Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Spock’s relationship with T’Pring is strained because he can be “too Human.” Chapel is into Spock, and has also become a close friend and confidant.
T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) is working at the Ankeshtan K’Til retreat, rehabilitating criminals, and helping them to purge their emotions. But she’s still making time for Spock and their long distance relationship, and she suspects he wants to explore his Human side. So, in an attempt to “spice things up” (her words), she’s been doing research on Human sex. That sure catches Spock (Ethan Peck) off guard during their scheduled conversation, as she casually cites “The Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller, “Fear of Flying” by Erica Jong, and “The Argonauts” by Maggie Nelson. Spock’s not read any of these, and suggests that perhaps they should read them together. T’Pring felt the onus was on her to learn about Human culture, since her fiancé is half-Human. Now he understands.
Spock walks with Chapel (Jess Bush) to the captain’s quarters for dinner, but is very distracted. He again confides in her about his relationship trouble – T’Pring is more eager to explore Spock’s Humanity than he is. And he struggles with his mixed heritage. Chapel again encourages Spock to be honest, and not try to be “smarter than the truth.”
Pike (Anson Mount) is hosting dinner with/for Dr. Aspen (Jesse James Keitel), who operates aid missions on the edge of non-Federation space. Several colonial ships have lost power and the passengers have been stranded for weeks. It’s been difficult to get help out to this sector, as Starfleet doesn’t love their ships getting this close to their borders – there’s a pirate ship called The Serene Squall that’s been raiding other ships along the border. Aspen used to be a counselor on Starbase 12, but they saw that not everyone who needs help is lucky enough to be in the Federation – so they left, and started providing aid.
Enterprise has arrived at the location of the damaged ships to find only debris from two of the ships, and the third is gone. But there is a residual warp signature, presumably from the pirates. The colonists had no provisions, but maybe the pirates were interested in the people. It would take 2 days to communicate with Starfleet about crossing the border, so Pike makes the call – they’re going after those colonists.
The following morning, Spock arrives to collect Dr. Aspen at their quarters. They’re feeling guilty that they didn’t arrive sooner. Spock comments that self-blame only results in more anxiety, and to his surprise, Aspen quips that not everyone has had the opportunity to participate in Kolinahr. See, they’ve worked with Vulcans before. But really, they don’t get it. If you naturally have emptions, why purge them? According to Vulcan culture, Kolinahr offers the individual a change to see themselves without bias.
They arrive on a busy bridge. Comms has picked up a distress signal – it could be from the colonists or it could be a trap. Pike orders Ortegas (Melissa Navia) to get them “blind date” close to signal’s origin. They’re flying through an asteroid field; The signal is getting stronger but there’s no ship to be found. One of the asteroids bounces off the Enterprise‘s saucer section, and suddenly the ship is surrounded by a laser net. The net is formed by high-energy EM reflectors, so crossing one of the beams would be very bad. Moving or shooting one of the asteroids would likely cause a cascade explosion. To make matters worse, the net is shrinking. Aspen notes that if the net is formed by reflected beams, each beam will be weaker the farther it is from the source. Conversely, the asteroid emitting the highest energy would be the source. Destroying that asteroid would safely take down the net. A scan finds two possible options. Either could be the source. Pike and Aspen encourage Spock to trust his instincts – He chooses, La’an (Christina Chong) fires, and everyone lives.
As the Enterprise moves deeper into the asteroid field, a small ship begins pursuit.
Spock is in his quarters, further analyzing the asteroids, and Aspen stops by. They wanted to check on him. He seemed panicked when faced with that decision on the bridge. Pike is used to hunches, but Spock thinks a hunch is no better than a guess. Aspen suggests that Spock is trying to put himself in a box, and that box is limiting. He doesn’t have to be Human or Vulcan – he just needs to be Spock.
Ortegas flies the ship manually through the asteroids, and comes across the third disabled colonial ship. There are more lifesigns than there were colonists and all the doors are sealed. It’s reasonable to deduce that the colonists are being held prisoner. The Enterprise is out of range of the ship’s sensors, so Pike plans to use the element of surprise.
Pike, La’an, and a security team beam over, but they don’t see anyone there. Una (Rebecca Romijn) wants to beam the team back, but suddenly there’s something jamming comms.
Walking down a corridor, minding her own business, Chapel suddenly sees phaser fire, and ducks into an alcove as pirates run by, and she heads into the Jefferies tubes.
Sensor logs show that several lifesigns beamed aboard while the team was beaming to the colonial ship – Intruder Alert! Una initiates a security lockdown as the pirates attempt to take the bridge. Spock and Aspen fight their way to a turbolift and escape just in time, but Aspen’s been hit in the shoulder.
Pike and La’an have a bad feeling about this, and are immediately ambushed by pirates. That’s no moon colonial ship, it’s The Serene Squall.
Spock and Aspen are headed to Sickbay, and take cover behind a corridor frame as pirates come down the adjoining hallway, their captives in tow. Spock and Una briefly make eye contact before they’re lead away. Aspen’s afraid of getting caught and just wants to find a place to hide. Spock ignores them and heads to a Jefferies tube.
On the Squall, Remy (Michael Hough) wants Pike’s access codes. Pike, of course, refuses – despite being smacked around by the Orion’s henchpeople. Fran (Sophia Walker), another pirate, thinks Remy’s wasting his time. When Pike snarks his agreement, he gets a face full of gruel. So he proposes deal – his people get food and water, and he’ll cook the pirates a palatable dinner. With a little coaxing from Fram, Remy accepts. But Pike better be a good cook – his crew’s lives depend on it.
Chapel’s sneaking around the ship on her own. She finds herself in an empty corridor and attempts to access the communications system when two pirates turn the corner. She puts her hands up (and has finger and wrist tattoos?!), pleading with them that she’s “just a nurse” and doesn’t have any weapons – except for the hypospray tucked into her sleeve. One of the pirates approaches and grabs her wrist, but she’s able to twist away and hypo them both.
The pirates seem to be enjoying Pike’s meal, but Remy is reluctant to compliment our Captain. Pike’s not afraid though – he thinks Remy is much to intelligent to take “so much lip” from the crew. Remy brushes off Pike’s concern, and brings up the access codes again. Pike levels with him – the Federation generally dgaf about what happens outside their space, until you hijack the flagship. They can reasonably expect that the whole fleet is heading this way. And there won’t be much of a market for a ship that comes with an armed conflict. So maybe Remy should sell the Enterprise crew to the Klingons as slave labor. That catches the attention of some of Remy’s crew, who don’t seem thrilled.
Spock and Aspen safely arrive in Sickbay, where Spock gives them a hypo for their pain. The security lockdown is still in place, but the pirates are on all levels of the ship now. Aspen asks about the escape pods, but abandoning ship is unacceptable to Spock. But Aspen insists he doesn’t understand the severity of the situation – Their husband worked with refugees, and the Squall raided one of his ships. He tried to fight the pirates and lost. He was Vulcan, and skipped his Kolinahr. Although he often worried about being too emotional, they blame logic for his death – “logic probably told him to fight back that day.” They again insist on abandoning ship, running not fighting. Still no. Spock’s plan is to get to Engineering where he can override the lockdown and send a distress call to Starfleet.
All of the captured Enterprise crewmembers are now on the Squall, in large holding cells. Pike is tossed back in with most of his senior staff after dinner, and he has a plan. They’re going to manufacture a mutiny.
When Spock and Apsen arrive in Engineering, Chapel is already there, trying to gain control of the ship. (She points the hypo at them when they startle her, which I really just love.) Spock is able to override the lockout, transfer control to Engineering, and seal the access doors. While he scans the surrounding area for the location of the pirate ship, he asks Chapel to work on Communications and Aspen to focus on transporters. That’s when all systems are rerouted back to the bridge and the doors are unsealed… by Aspen, who has two phasers pointed at the Enterprise crewmembers. Turns out, they’re not Aspen; They’re Angel, captain of the The Serene Squall. The real Dr. Aspen was abandoned on an uninhabited planet somewhere, and the helpless colonists never existed. Angel takes Chapel and Spock back to the bridge, and then takes the Captain’s Chair. As much fun as they’re having, they didn’t come for the Enterprise – they came for Spock.
At Ankeshtan K’Til, Stonn (Roderick McNeil) – yeah, STONN – alerts T’Pring to an incoming message. Of course, that call is from Angel. Their plan is to trade Spock for one of T’Pring’s rehab patients, a Vulcan called Xaverius. If T’Pring were to comply, she’d lose her job, face criminal charges, and disgrace her family. But, by nature of their engagement, she’s also responsible for Spock’s wellbeing. T’Pring cannot be intimidated, even when stuck between a rock and a hard place. Angel’s sending rendezvous coordinates, just in case, along with a warning not to involve the Federation if T’Pring wants to continue to have a living fiancé.
Spock is sure that T’Pring will not come, as Vulcans cannot be swayed by emotion. Except that Angel’s been using emotions to manipulate him all along. Though they never lied about who they are – they lost the man they love, just to a Vulcan prison instead of pirates.
One the Squall, Remy announces that the ship will be meeting up with some Klingons for a sale. Pike, Una, and M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) take that opportunity to oh so casually point out their concerns with his leadership (and they are having entirely too much fun for the situation they’re in). What will happen when things inevitably go pear-shaped with the Klingons? Maybe Fran should be captain. She’s smart. She has friends. And hey, if she needs backup…
That rehab center must be nearby, because T’Pring arrives at the designated coordinates in no time, ready to make the exchange. Based on some of the clues from Angel, Spock has deduced Xaverius’s true identity. He interrupts, telling T’Pring that she can’t release this prisoner or let the Enterprise fall into enemy hands – she has to destroy the ship. So Angel stuns him, then gives T’Pring 10 minutes to transport Xaverius or they’ll set the phaser to kill.
Chapel tends to Spock’s wounds just as T’Pring and Angel are ironing out the final details of the prisoner transfer. He whispers a pre-apology to Chapel, and speaks up again: T’Pring was right, Spock’s been indulging his Human side, and has been having an affair with Nurse Chapel. Chapel confesses as well – They’re in love. Angel finds the whole display hilarious, so Spock proves it, with a rather passionate kiss. T’Pring decides to end their engagement, obviously. And if Angel decides to kill him, that’s his own responsibility now. T’Pring closes the channel.
Angel orders the Vulcan ship destroyed (with their lover presumably on board?), but the Enterprise just lost weapons… and shields. That’s when the Squall comes into view, and the Enterprise gets a hail. Pike called, he wants his chair back. Una was able to use backdoor codes to gain take engines and defenses offline, and Ortegas “gently” fires at the impulse engines to disable them. The Squall is a sitting duck.
Angel knows they’re backed into a corner. They urge Spock again to consider that he doesn’t have to figure out what he is – Human or Vulcan – but who he is. With the press of a button, they escape via personal transporter, leaving several pirates leaderless. Angel rematerializes on a small ship parked on an asteroid – the same ship that was following the Enterprise at the start of the episode – and warps away.
Pike hails again and finds Spock in command, then asks for immediate beam out. See, they maybe have taken over the bridge while the munity was still in progress, so things are getting a little dicey.
Flash forward – Starfleet has taken the pirates and their ship into custody and the Enterprise is warping closer to home, but Angel’s whereabouts are unknown. And Pike is the only person celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day. But did anyone think to go looking for the actual Dr. Aspen?
T’Pring’s stops by Spock’s quarters for a chat. She knew the affair was a deception and appreciates his decision to protect both her reputation and her patient. There’s no way he could have feelings for Nurse Chapel – but luckily, his Human side allowed him to sell that kiss. The couple chooses to preform the rebonding ritual.
Later, Spock stops by Sickbay to thank Chapel, and because he thought she might need to discuss her feelings. But Chapel knows where she stands, and she knows that Spock isn’t going to chase after another woman while he’s engaged. There’s nothing to talk about. Really. No feelings, just good friends.
Except… she wants to know who the prisoner was. Spock explains that Ambassador Sarek had a child out of wedlock, and although he is fully Vulcan, he as rejected logic. It’s Sybok. Effing SYBOK. I have been waiting for Sybok to show up since Disco s2e7. Yes to all of this.