Thursday, May 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - Una's Secrets Hold the Key to Saving the Crew From a Disease in 'Ghosts of Illyria'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 1.03 "Ghosts of Illyria"

The U.S.S. Enterprise encounters a contagion that ravages the ship. One by one, the entire crew is incapacitated except for Number One, Una Chin-Riley, who must now confront a secret she's been hiding as she races to find a cure.

"Ghosts of Illyria" was written by Akela Cooper & Bill Wolkoff and directed by Leslie Hope

The Federation refuses to accept any genetically-modified species. Anyone willing to alter the development of nature is dangerous. It's a policy informed by conflict in the past. However, it creates plenty of animosity and prejudice in the present. It's one thing to struggle to beam up the crew while facing interference from an ion storm. It's another thing entirely to see a species in a new way after being told in near certain terms about their dangers for a long time. Una Chin-Riley is an Illyrian. She has hid her true nature from everyone. Her dream was to join Starfleet. She accomplished that goal. And now, Pike trusts her as one of the most skilled officers and confidantes in his crew. He won't accept her resignation. He won't force her to leave. And yet, she fears that opinion is informed entirely by her actions in the midst of this specific crisis. She worries how others will perceive her now that the truth is known. To them, she projected a fantasy. They bought into it. It informed their relationships with her. That has all been tainted by this lie. It dramatically alters what they previously thought they knew. That takes time to truly reckon with. Una fears she won't receive that dignity and grace. Instead, she will simply be targeted for violating the rules everyone else aboard must follow. And yet, everyone on the ship has some kind of personal agency. They all carry secrets that hold so much importance to them. The virus enters the ship in the first place because M'Benga is holding his daughter in stasis. He wants to keep her from growing until a cure can be found for her disease. He is motivated by love. However, his actions compromise the crew. They all wish to follow orders in order to maintain the perfectly functioning systems. So many can be exploited though. At a certain point, it's no longer good enough to trace and isolate those who've come into contact with the disease. Instead, it's a mad dash to save the entire ship from catastrophe. Everyone is infected. Una has a certain level of immunity because her body knows how to fight this attack. It's a unique skill set to her. She comes from a people that see the beauty and majesty of the ecosystem around them. As such, they craft their bodies to more closely align with the strength seen in nature. The species wanted to reverse this evolution in order to join Starfleet. In doing so, that only made them more susceptible to the threats around them. They wanted to evolve into what the universe at large dictated them to be. That came at the expense of their collective identity as a species. And so, they were largely lost because the world refused to accept and understand how the world developed differently in another corner of the universe.

Una had the luxury of blending in as a human. And now, she fears she is only celebrated and welcomed by the crew because she was a hero. She moves throughout the ship to stop light-obsessed individuals from exposing everyone to lethal levels of radiation. Everyone craves more. That quickly becomes toxic and detrimental to their health. The audience was made to worry Una carried the same disease. She had a unique reaction to light as well following the mission on the planet. However, that was just pointed misdirection. She is accustomed to the ways in which her body responds to the world. She is capable of handling the various consequences in secret. She can do that without involving anyone else. And yet, she is capable of incredible feats. Her presence is enough to cure the crew. She has to beam more brightly than anything that could blind them from their mission. This is such a personal burden. Una has closed herself off fearing the worse. She has to reveal herself just so the biological answer can be given to resolve the conflict. Meanwhile, Pike and Spock are trapped on the planet. They are at the complete mercy of the storm and the creatures that emerge from it. They wish to defend themselves. However, they must rely on these mysterious forces to protect them. It showcases how the civilization of this world evolved. It came at their personal expense. They still seek to shield others from the pain they've endured. They still aspire to do what's right for the Federation. Two Starfleet officers could have been killed. They were protected by forces that wanted them to survive. They walk away with a new understanding of the history of this world. The people wanted to become acceptable to the ideals of the Federation. This organization seeks to serve as a celebration of the many distinct races across the galaxy. The policy against Illyrians stands in direct conflict with that statement. Everyone has to challenge whether it's rightfully applied or not. That takes on more personal significance because of Una's presence. She won't confide in anyone what she is feeling in this moment. She can't even allow herself to leave a record of what she believes. Expressing it at all is quite difficult. She has formed friendships amongst the crew. She is trusted to lead them when their captain is unable. And yet, that shouldn't be necessary in order to receive acceptance. She doesn't have to be excellent in order to be recognized as part of the world. That may ultimately be the scope of the story though. That's all she can do even though she wants more. She wants to trust the good nature of her colleagues. She radiates the same energy. It's still much more complicated than so many are willing to accept. But the crew can only grow stronger if they trust each other. The secrets they carry may prevent that from happening without some grand conflict that exposes the truth for all to experience.