SNW Recap s2e1: “The Broken Circle”

Last season on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – With the Klingon War over, the Enterprise was finally able to embark on it’s 5-year mission.  Spock had to wrestle with his emotions.  La’an Noonien-Singh rescued a young girl, Oriana, from the Gorn, and left to track down her family and reunite them.  Una Chin-Reilly revealed her true identity as an Illyrian and was arrested for breaking Starfleet’s regulations against genetic engineering.

The Enterprise is docked at Starbase 1 for shore leave, systems checks, and upgrades.  Pike (Anson Mount) can’t put his finger on it, but the vibes are off.  However, that’ll have to wait: His first officer has been arrested.  Pike checks in with Una (Rebecca Romijn), and neither has been able to get in touch with “her.”  We don’t know who she is… but she’s clearly important to the defense.  Una’s prepared to take a plea deal, which would undoubtedly mean her resignation.  So, Pike decides to take a shuttle to the other side of the quadrant to find “her” and talk to “her” face-to-face.

That leaves Spock (Ethan Peck) is command, with half of the crew on shore leave and without a chief engineer, head of security, or first officer.  No biggie – Spock won’t even have to leave spacedock.

Pike (Anson Mount) leaves the Enterprise under Spock's command.

Spock is stressed out, as confirmed by Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun).  In order to fight the Gorn, Spock removed the cognitive blocks that suppress his emotions, and now those emotions throwing him for a loop.  He doesn’t want them to impact his judgement.  M’Benga suggests Spock relax with music, and hands him a Vulcan lute, which just happens to be in sickbay.  As Spock begins to strum, Chapel (Jess Bush) reports for duty, and things are… awkward.  Spock bolts.  And Chapel tells M’Benga that she’s considering applying for a 2-month fellowship on Vulcan.

An inspection team is on the bridge, annoying our officers.  One doesn’t like how Ortegas (Melissa Navia) customized her pitch and yaw controls.  Another attempts to kick Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) out of her station so he can install a security patch.  She won’t vacate without setting up a backup communication channel, and that’s when she picks up an unusual signal variance originating from a planet near the edge of Klingon space.  After some pattern analysis, she’s able to uncover a distress signal from La’an which warns of an anti-Federation threat.

Spock requests permission from April (Adrian Holmes) to go on a rescue mission, and is immediately denied.  The planet, Cajitar IV, is a dilithium mining planet.  The Federation and the Klingon Empire share custody, and the Klingons are in charge for another month.  Sending the Enterprise would be an act of war.  They don’t need another one of those.  So Spock gathers the gang and proposes a solution – they need to steal the Enterprise.

Down in engineering, Jenna Mitchell (Rong Fu) taps at a console and suddenly the ship detects a coolant leak in the matter/antimatter intermix chamber.  All nonessential personnel are ordered to evacuate.  But Commander Pelia (Carol Kane) doesn’t buy it – her teams have been inspecting these systems for days.  So she heads to the bridge to finish her inspection, which totally throws Spock.  See, Pelia teaches a class on warp core breaches at the Academy, so she’s not scared by a simulated coolant leak, which, btw, violates a whole bunch of regulations.  But a Vulcan wouldn’t be doing this without a good reason – especially not Amanda Grayson’s son.  And she wants to go with them.

So Pelia has Ortegas vent some ionized plasma from the nacelles and make this look a little more realistic.  That gets some attention from Starbase 1, which releases the docking clamps and orders Enterprise to pull away.  Pelia appoints herself Chief Engineer for this mission, excited to get back out there after 100 years.  That was the hint Uhura needed to identify Pelia’s accent – she’s Lanthanite.  As Pelia enters the turbolift to head to Engineering, Spock takes the center seat and begins to workshop his “go” order.  It’s not great.

Lieutenant Spock (Ethan Peck) in command.

On Cajitar IV, La’an (Christina Chong) drinks a Klingon under the table in order to get a meeting with a weapons buyer when she spots M’Benga in the crowd.  Later, the team catches her up on their exploits, and she brings them up to speed on her own adventure:  She was able to reunite Oriana with her family here, but discovered that there’s a new mining syndicate running the place.  They only care about profit and peace is bad for business.  They want to restart the war.  To make matters worse, there was recently an explosion at the mine, which made half the town sick with ion exposure – and both of Oriana’s parents are sick.  Dilithium mining doesn’t create ion radiation… but photon torpedoes do.

Chapel (Jess Bush) and La'an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong).

M’Benga and Chapel head to the med tent to help out, and are immediately by Oriana (Emma Ho).  They quickly treat her parents, and their tech draws the attention of the syndicate.  Their services are needed elsewhere, and they’ll be taken there at phaser-point.

Spock and Uhura watch La’an from the shadows as she meets with a Klingon weapons buyer.  He begins to threaten her when she produces half of the phasers promised and asks for double the price.  But La’an bluffs, and scares him off with a non-existent “anti-matter detonation switch.”  The Klingon is impressed, and accepts her terms. Uhura was able to overhear and translate some other discussions, and determine that something big is planned for tomorrow.

Christina Chong as La’an appearing in episode 201 “The Broken Circle” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

M’Benga and Chapel are lead to a cave that’s housing a ship that sure looks to be Federation design.  They’re taken on to the ship to treat injured workers – good thing M’Benga has experience treating Klingons in the war.  But he’s having an extra hard time in this situation.  How can this war ever truly be over?

They’re able to determine that the photon torpedoes are on this ship, along with a bunch of other stolen Federation tech.  And what better way to restart the way than by having a Federation ship attack the Klingons during their shift on this mining planet?  They have to warn the Enterprise.  To do that, they have to get to the comm system.  So they load up their hyposprays with some kind of stimulant, inject themselves, and head out.

Chapel (Jess Bush) and Dr. M'Benga (Babs Olosunmokun) discuss a plan.

M’Benga and Chapel fight their way to the bridge, each taking on multiple Klingons in hand-to-hand combat.  M’Benga gets particularly rough with one, nearly killing him, asking for details about their plan.  But he gets them.  Numbers, weapons, and the location of the ship’s transponder.  He has a new plan.

With the engines coming online, M’Benga reprograms the transponder to send broadcast an encoded message while Chapel fights off even more Klingons.  He finishes just as more Klingons arrive, this time with phasers.  Next, they need to figure out a way off the ship.  M’Benga pries up a floor panel and they jump to the deck below, where there are more Klingons to fight.  The manage to get to an airlock and lock the door behind them, as the ship takes off.

The Enterprise is in low-power mode, hiding among interstellar debris.  Ortegas detects a Klingon Battlecruiser warping in, but there’s no indication they’ve been noticed.  Noonien-Singh, on the surface, reports in that she hasn’t founding their missing crew members and still doesn’t know what the syndicate is planning.  That’s when a Federation ship emerges from the ground behind her and enters orbit.  Mitchell says the ship looks like a Crossfield Class (really?), and it’s headed right for the Battlecruiser.  But Uhura notices something odd about the transponder signal – it’s flickering.  In Morse code, it’s broadcasting, “Enterprise, destroy this ship.”

Ensign Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) at her station.

Chapel and M’Benga are stuck.  Klingons are banging at the door, and it won’t hold for long.  So they check the lockers for EV suits, but only find pieces – a helmet (with a beacon) and a jetpack.  Jumping into space without EV suits, they’ll have 13 seconds before they pass out, and a minute before they freeze to death.  So it’ll be up to the Enterprise to find them fast.

Spock puts the pieces together, and figures out the syndicate’s plan to frame the Federation for an attack.  He orders Ortegas to follow the imposter but remain out of the Battlecruiser’s sensor range.  The Crossfield begins firing on Enterprise, but they hold fire and maintain pursuit.  Soon, the imposter ship enters the Battlecruiser’s sensor range, which turns and powers weapons to engage.  Spock hesitates, hoping for a signal from Chapel and M’Benga, but finally gives the order to fire, destroying the ship.  As Spock struggled to control his emotions, Uhura picks up the beacon, and beams M’Benga and Chapel aboard.  He’s conscious, but she’s not.  Spock rushes into the transporter room and desperately begins CPR, until Chapel begins to breathe again.

The captain of the Battlecruiser hails the Enterprise, and accuses Spock of destroying the other Federation ship to cover their tracks.  Spock, instead, relays the plans of the mining syndicate.  It’s well-known “fact” that Vulcans can’t lie, you see.  Spock suggests that they finish their chat over some bloodwine, and the Klingon captain accepts.

At the celebration, Spock takes a moment to chat with Pelia.  He’s always been fascinated by Lanthanites.  They were able to live among humans, undetected, until the 22nd Century.  (Foreshadowing, much?)  Amanda Grayson was one of the first people Pelia came out to – but that’s a story for another time.  She’s thrilled to have gotten away from the Academy for a bit – the worst thing about living “almost forever” is the boredom.  Of course, the Enterprise is anything but boring, so she’s going to stick around for a while.

The following day, a hungover Spock is dressed down by Admiral April.  “The result of a peace treaty with the Klingon captain after a successful mission,” he explains.  Spock got lucky.  April won’t punish him this time, but next time it’ll be his commission.  (Or will it?  *cough*The Menagerie*cough*)  There’s just one more thing for Spock to do – visit the recovering Chapel in Sickbay.  M’Benga finds him watching over her, with tears in his eyes, unsure how to process these emotions.  He retires to his quarters to play the lute.

Back on Starbase 1, April’s relieved.  Without Spock’s rouge heroics, Starfleet could have been defending two fronts at the same time.   The system map on the wall detects a Gorn attack ship near Deep Space 2, Galdonterre, and Cestus.


For Nichelle
who was first through the door
and shows up the stars.
Hailing frequencies forever open…
– Episode Dedication


Bechdel-Wallace Pass: Uhura and Pelia discuss her accent.

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