Thursday, June 9, 2022

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - Pike Faces the Limits of Which Lives He Can Save in 'Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 1.06 "Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach"

A threat to an idyllic planet reunites Captain Pike with the lost love of his life. To protect her and a scientific holy child from a conspiracy, Pike offers his help and is forced to face unresolved feelings of his past.

"Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach" was written by Robin Wasserman & Bill Wolkoff and directed by Andi Armaganian

A prosperous utopia is built on the suffering of one child. That's the way things have always been. The leaders don't know why that's the case. They don't want to question or challenge it either. That would only invite more pain and suffering into a society that no longer knows those qualities. This civilization is so technologically advance that the various officers aboard the Enterprise are in awe of what they can do. That's most acutely felt in the medical bay. M'Benga believes he has found a cure for his daughter's terminal disease. It no longer is a story about the fates of numerous civilizations as they battle threats. It's now one man's quest to save his daughter from certain death. He wants that no matter what. He will even rob her agency and happiness to keep her alive long enough to find an answer. She can't have fun with anyone who enters her world. Instead, she is always kept in stasis. She only emerges whenever M'Benga wants to go through the motions of being a loving father. He is entirely motivated by his affection for his child. He simply doesn't think about what her life will be like if he does find a cure. Will all of this have been worth it? He believes it must. That's the only way he can justify his behavior. It put the crew in danger once. It may do so again. And yet, many of the officers are personally compromised in some way. They all feel a strong sense of duty to the mission. However, Pike's decisions are clouded by his glimpse of the future. They are further complicated by his romantic feelings for the leader of this utopia. It's incredibly convenient that he happens to be the officer who saves her while her ship is under attack twice. She sees that as miraculous. He is always there to save her. That protection is rare even in a society where people pledge their loyalty to the cause. Everyone has surrendered themselves to the belief that this central sacrifice is necessary. It ensures only one person has to endure a lifetime of turmoil and torment. That child gives up their life so others can life. Many people across this universe can understand that sense of service. It's a completely new understanding when it pertains to a child. He can't enter this situation willingly. It's all coerced. People build up the narrative of it all being noble. It's absolutely heinous. Pike and the Federation are powerless. They extended an offer for this society to join the Federation. The planet declined. It did so because it cherishes privacy. No outsider can see the sacred ceremonies and technology that matter so much to the survival of this race. That priority is propped up because the people inherently understand the horror this choice naturally evokes. They have made peace with that decision. They don't know why the system was set up like this. They continue the practice because it ensures many peaceful lives.

The Federation isn't perfect either. It's a collection of various planets and alien species. They all have their own unique identities and practices. None of them can say their way of life is superior. Starfleet leads with a set of ideals. They have protocols for how to engage with civilizations in the known solar system. They go off to explore. So much is out there that they know nothing about. They hold firmly to their training hoping it can guide them no matter what the situation produces. Even then, no one can fully be prepared for all the unexpected developments of this job. Sometimes it requires people breaking the rules in order to arrive at the truth. People can see the willingness to protect a child from making the ultimate sacrifice. His intellect must be protected at all costs. He survives one attempt on his life only to be whisked away to another lethal situation. That's his reality. That's all he can ever aspire to achieve. His father wants to protect him. He is a doctor who has eradicated pain and suffering. Those aren't concepts on his world. He was fine with the practices of this society. And then, he had to surrender his own child. The person he loved was instead lifted up as a prop to stand in as the sacrifice everyone must recognize and reckon with. A segment of this civilization has broken off. They exist on another planet in a faraway system. Their fates are still connected. The Federation hopes to offer compassion. They want to establish peace in as many systems as possible. But again, the Federation isn't perfect. Plenty of children suffer throughout the worlds they control. It's a convenient way for this utopia to deny the heinous nature of what they do in the name of survival. It instead turns the mirror back at those reacting with outrage. It's still the people of this world acknowledging that some have to suffer so others can thrive. It's people in charge picking who fills in each role in society. No one can ever rise above that. As such, nothing can ever be described as a utopia. Pike may never have been truly tempted away from the ship and to a life of happiness on this new world. He still sought comfort from someone who could understand the peril of him knowing his future. He is still grappling with that. He doesn't want to accept how powerless he is. He has no control over his fate. People want him to embrace that. He can't because he always sees it looking back at him. That's not the only situation he has no control over though. The same applies to this situation no matter how horrified he is. He is allowed to witness it. The truth will escape this planet for the first time. Pike hopes to use that information to stop it from happening. He also has no jurisdiction to ensure that accountability comes. It's all incredibly bleak and fleeting. That showcases how this crew always aspires for the best even when their efforts aren't enough to immediately make the world better. Instead, they simply have to accept what they've done as good enough. That's incredibly difficult in some circumstances - like is blazingly apparent here.