Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Spock and T’Pring got engaged. But he’s been struggling to control his emotions, and may be developing feelings for Nurse Chapel. Chapel, though, had decided to apply to an archeological medicine fellowship on Vulcan, which would take her off the ship for a few months.
The Enterprise is headed to the Vulcan system to survey the moon of Kerkhov, which was once home to an ancient civilization – long range scans show evidence of an anomaly just above the surface, which might lead them to some answers about what happened to the Kerkhovians. Pike has ordered the ship to travel at sub-impulse speeds, so the crew has some downtime. Chapel (Jess Bush) is using it to prepare for her interview with the Vulcan Science Academy – and her friends are helping her. Until La’an (Christina Chong) asks why she’s not prepping with Spock. Awkward.
For his part, Spock (Ethan Peck) has been making progress in controlling his emotions, and has taken up cooking with Pike (Anson Mount). He can even calmly clean up when Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte) leaves plates and crumbs on the conference room table, and socialize with crewmates. Since they’ll be in the Vulcan system, T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) has arranged to hold their ceremonial engagement dinner, including the V’Shal rituals, during Spock’s visit. It’s a little early, but his Starfleet schedule is a challenge, and her mother is still opposed to their union – this might help smooth things over.
Spock’s preoccupied with thoughts of the dinner, but decides to keep his position as shuttle pilot on the moon mission. He needs to keep busy with work. And Pike informs him that Chapel will be joining him in the shuttle. Again, awkward.
Their conversation starts off tense, but they both relax after a few moments, and Spock tells Chapel that the Vulcan Science Academy would be lucky to have her. That’s all the opening she needs, and Chapel asks why he’s been avoiding her. Oh, but they’re in scanning range – enough personal talk. Scans pick up the anomaly right away – it appears to be a rupture in spacetime. The shuttle’s hit with “gravitational radiation,” which compromises steering, and crashes. Spock wakes up in sickbay. After the crash, the shuttle was returned to space near the Enterprise. Chapel was uninjured, and Spock had been “healed.” Except that he’s human.
Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and La’an investigate the shuttle – it appears to have been repaired and cleaned. La’an finds something on the pilot’s seat. Back on the ship, Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) believes the item to be a calling card. Pike orders Uhura to open a hail, and gets excited at the idea of another first contact. He’s suddenly speaking with a Kerkhovian called Yellow (Anjuli Cain). They say that “remediation” has been made for the shuttle accident, and no further contact is necessary. Pike presses, and Yellow explains that the damage was fixed, and although one of the beings on the shuttle had “mixed instructions,” he was healed – “the beings now match.” No need to thank them. Yellow ends the call.
M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) and Chapel are working on a cure, but for now, Spock is human and full of emotions. Pike’s already reached out to T’Pring and Spock’s family to let them know he was in an accident – but not the specifics – and all parties agreed to postpone the engagement dinner. Since there’s nothing technically wrong with Spock, he decides to return to his regular routine – he laughs with friends in the lounge, discovers the wonders of bacon, and looses his temper with Kirk’s dirty dishes. It’s as if he’s a teenager, lacking in impulse control.
Chapel’s been working through the night. She feels responsible for what happened to Spock, since the Kerkhovians matched his “instructions” to hers. But if she wasn’t there, it’s possible the Kerkhovians wouldn’t have been able to save Spock at all. M’Benga encourages her to take a break – just in time for her interview with the Vulcan Science Academy.
Unfortunately, Durik (Ryan Taerk) was not impressed with Chapel’s application. He’s more concerned with her ability to memorize facts than her field work, discoveries, and proven competence. Non-committal, Durik abruptly ends the call. Chapel runs in to Spock in the corridor – he’s concerned for her and offers a hug. Vulcans can be jerks. She asks how he’s coping with his emotions, and he insists he’ll be fine. But perhaps he spoke to soon. They’re interrupted by Pike, informing Spock that his mother is beaming aboard.
Spock greats Amanda (Mia Kirshner) in the transporter room, wearing a beanie to hide his human ears (nice). She’s confused, but explains that they can’t delay the V’Shal any longer. T’Pring’s parents – T’Pril and Sevet – are not happy with all the delays. If it doesn’t happen now, the wedding is off. Thankfully, they’ve agreed to hold it on the Enterprise. Everything will have to be perfect, as T’Pril is incredibly difficult to please. Spock is unsuccessful controlling his emotions in response to this news, and his mother, concerned, insists that he take off the beanie. Surprise!
The trio relocates to Pike’s quarters to brainstorm. Things are tenuous between these two families. Sevet values the potential connection to Sarek, but T’Pril is “not overly fond of humans” and has particular issue with Amanda. If they found out Spock was human, it would break the engagement contract, and the marriage wouldn’t be recognized by Vulcan law. If T’Pring choses to stay with Spock, her family would disown her. So, Amanda’s going to teach him to lie – with the help of the crew.
M’Benga creates some ear prosthetics (lovely). Uhura, Noonien-Singh, Number One, and Ortegas (Melissa Navia) coach Spock on speech and expression. Amanda takes him through the rituals, from making and serving tea to a mind-meld, and his crewmates offer “constructive” feedback. (As it turns out, Amanda learned long ago to suppress even her own physical pain in order to live among Vulcans – and she’s still not accepted.) Despite their best efforts, she comes to the conclusion that this plan isn’t going to work. Spock will do his best, and hope that M’Benga and Chapel find a solution before the mind-meld.
Things aren’t going well in sickbay – Chapel’s tried everything she can think of, but the Vulcan DNA isn’t holding. And the models indicate that they only have 24 hours before Spock’s genetic modifications become irreversible. They need to get help from the Kerkhovians. She takes her plan to Ortegas and Uhura – the pilot and communications officer. With a little persuading, they’re onboard.
Spock greets T’Pring in the transporter room, and she’s thrilled – well, Vulcan for thrilled – to have even a few moments away from her mother after they’ve spent two days together. Amanda offers to welcome T’Pring’s parents on the couple’s behalf, and they head to Pike’s quarters. On the walk, Spock begins to tell T’Pring what’s going on, but she’s so nervous that he decides against it. T’Pril is looking for any reason to call of the engagement.
When the arrive, Sevet (Michael Benyaer) is complementary of the space, but T’Pril (Ellora Patnaik) calls them “merely adequate” and brings up the unpleasant smell. Sevet quickly changes his opinion. Amanda tries to smooth things over, thanking them for accommodating Spock’s recent injuries. They ask about the accident, but Spock changes the subject – the Captain has been cooking Vulcan dishes all day for this dinner. Pike presents his guests with tevmel, which Sevet quite enjoys, until T’Pril tells him not to.
Ortegas has to get the shuttle super close to the anomaly, but there’s still a distortion field preventing Uhura from contacting the Kerkhovians. They’ll have to go inside… and they find themselves in interdimensional space. Another Kerkhovian, Blue (also Anjuli Cain) greats them. Chapel begins to make her case, but Blue can’t get past the irregularity of a receiving a complaint after the standard response period. Frustrated, Chapel asks to speak to Yellow.
No more delays – it’s time for the V’Shal. Spock makes it through Step 1 – handling a traditional Vulcan teapot with his bare, human hands. On to Step 2 – the future in-laws tell the couple all of their faults and flaws. T’Pril goes hard, calling Spock a disappointment, claiming that he abandons his people and his fiancé, and that Sarek is correct to shut him out. Spock struggles, but doesn’t lose his cool. When the awareness ritual ends, he excuses himself to use the bathroom, and screams into some towels before picking up his communicator to check in with M’Benga, who tells him that Chapel’s gone to find the Kerkhovians.
Yellow appears, and Chapel again tries to explain that they fixed Spock wrong. Since this request is so irregular, they want to know Chapel’s relationship to Spock. She says they’re friends, and Uhura and Ortegas share a look. “Friends” isn’t good enough for the Kerkhovian. But friendship is different for humans, they care for one another. Yellow asks if that’s why Spock diverted the shuttle’s shields to protect Chapel during the crash. That’s news to Chapel. Spock’s her friend, and sometimes she wishes for “more connection” – the Kerkhovians removed the part of him that she felt most connected to.
When Spock returns from the facilities, T’Pril is ready to proceed with the mindmeld. Pike, however, suggests incorporating the very important Earth tradition of charades. He begins to explain the rules when Chapel arrives with a hypospray full of Spock’s “vitamins.” Pike continues, Spock and Chapel go into another room, and T’Pring looks concerned.
The treatment will start to affect Spock’s genome immediately, but his physical characteristics may not return for several hours. He’s just glad she’s okay. They both have a lot of confusing feelings – but before Spock can say anything else, she administers the hypo and leaves.
Spock completes the ritual – a mind-meld with his mother. She shares a memory of an ordinary day, taking Spock to school. T’Pril begins to criticize the choice but T’Pring reminds her that she doesn’t get to judge Amanda’s choice, just acknowledge that the ceremony is complete and all criteria have been met. She does, but not without bringing up Spock’s “many faults beyond [his] control.” She’s impressed that he was able to hold onto his “logical side” throughout the ritual – it would have been impossible for a human to complete.
That’s the last straw. Spock removes his ear prosthetics to reveal that he’s performed these rituals while human. And despite T’Pril calling his humanity a “handicap,” he’s learned that his own mother is more resilient, compassionate, and tolerant than any Vulcan. She’s constantly judged by them, and chooses to live among them anyway.
Later, alone, T’Pring asks Spock why he didn’t tell her about his situation. He didn’t want to put her in a position where she would have to lie. And she was also overwhelmed by her mother, and he didn’t want to add to her burden. She sees the logic in this reasoning, but it’s still bothered that everyone else was involved in the plot. She’s told him multiple times that she accepts him – all of him – and he still keeps secrets. She thinks they should take some time apart.
Durik calls Chapel to tell her she hasn’t been chosen the fellowship. That’s okay. She went to interdimensional space, made contact with beings who’ve been off the corporeal grid for centuries, and convinced them to help her with an ancient medical procedure. Her paper will be published later this year, in case he wants to read it.
Spock shares a drink with Pike before seeing his mother off. He asks about the memory she shared with him. She chose it because it was the first time the Vulcan children asked him to play, the first time he felt accepted. With his new perspective on that moment, he realizes that Amanda has never been accepted on Vulcan – but she sees their judgement as their weakness. Spock has spent so much time focusing on finding his Vulcan-ness that he didn’t see what his mother was going through. But she did it all for love – “It is not easy being a human who loves a Vulcan.”
Spock’s about to go see Chapel when she arrives at his quarters. He wanted to tell her that he and T’Pring are on a break. He knows its necessary, but he’s conflicted, as he has feelings for “someone else.” As we all know, Vulcan feelings are stronger than Human feelings, which is why they work so hard to suppress them. But he doesn’t want to suppress this one any more. She kisses him.
Bechdel-Wallace Pass: Una and La’an investigate the shuttle.