Thursday, June 16, 2022

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - Emotions Are Used to Manipulate Spock's Logical Nature in 'The Serene Squall'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 1.07 "The Serene Squall"

While on a dangerous humanitarian mission, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise stumbles into a harrowing game of leverage with the quadrant's deadliest space pirate.

"The Serene Squall" was written by Beau DeMayo & Sarah Tarkoff and directed by Sydney Freeland

Spock and T'Pring's romance has offered a narrative through line during this season. Each episode is mostly contained to an individual plot. However, some elements have carried over. These two characters have been more prominent than many of the other ongoing concerns. They were bonded together as soulmates. They are challenged by what this relationship requires from each of them. The audience is also meant to infer sexual chemistry between Spock and Nurse Chapel. He's willing to seek advice from her. He does so because he needs a friend. He's very honest about his relationship. Meanwhile, she's pining after him. She acknowledges the benefit of having a Vulcan friend. She knows he is always going to be upfront about what's going on. That's the quality he needs to embrace. However, he gets lost so much in the duality of his identity. He is always expected to be at war with himself because of his hybrid nature. Human and Vulcan aren't suppose to mix well. At least that's what has always been told to him. He embraces human emotions. That doesn't mean he's suddenly consumed by human culture and wanting to display it at all times. T'Pring researching it shows how genuinely she cares for him. It reveals a willingness to make this relationship work no matter what. However, the climatic moment is built around the dissolution of this relationship in order to advance a goal to save the ship and protect lives. It states overtly that Chapel's feelings for Spock are genuine. She would enjoy acting on them in a more serious way. She also recognizes that he would never betray T'Pring by hurting her like that. As such, she has to bury her feelings. It's not good to hopelessly pine after an unobtainable goal. Of course, it's also positioned as a story of these women understanding Spock so well even though the narrative wants to continually profess that he is confused about himself. That self-reflection is often more difficult to achieve than those who are merely objective outsiders. T'Pring and Chapel have their own understanding of Spock and feelings for him. The ruse is not meant to come across as believable. It's simply trusting that he has made a realization and is enacting a plan to achieve everyone's shared goals. A threat has emerged that targets Spock's family in a new way. The narrative uncovers the existence of his half-brother who is imprisoned under T'Pring's care. Captain Angel wishes to free him. She loves the Vulcan who has given into emotion over logic. She sees that as so much healthier than the conditioning the rest of the civilization undertakes. Spock sees the honor in maintain those ideals. He can't be swayed by her arguments. Instead, it's simply about creating a realistically enough solution to ensure he can retake control of the Enterprise. He can do so skillfully. He is loyal to the ship and its crew. It's simply more daunting when it comes to actually understanding himself and others.

All of this occurs because the Enterprise is led to a mission beyond Federation territory to save a colony under attack. Captain Angel has gone undercover as a revered former Starfleet officer who needs help from the most experienced crew in the galaxy. It's all a trap. Spock is required to trust his instincts when the situation turns dangerous. He can't reckon with being put in a situation like that. However, he has to think quickly on his feet. That's what this job constantly requires of him. It's a very slow learning pattern. He has expressed growth. It always leads him safely back to T'Pring. They simply have to carry out a new bonding ceremony. They are completely committed to doing so. They face no doubts whatsoever. The only uncertainty comes from Captain Angel making her escape. She will strike again in the future. The crew can be more prepared for what she truly wants to achieve. The famed pirates she talked about in the region though could be defeated relatively easily by the rest of the crew. It's precarious when Pike is being tortured. The leader of the pirates wants the codes to unlock the safety systems on the Enterprise. Pike never takes the threats too seriously. Instead, he immediately recognizes this crew as fractured. All it takes is some meddling and implanting of ideas to tear the two sides apart. Afterwards, he and his friends can take advantage of the chaos. It's a plan he has done many times before. Una even has a name for it. It's exhausting and unoriginal to her. However, it works every time. This won't be the last time the crew will find themselves in this exact predicament. As such, they know how to behave moving forward. No one ever loses their cool. They remain collected about what needs to be done. Backup isn't coming to offer further support from Starfleet. The crew embarked on this mission knowing it wasn't officially sanctioned. They felt the duty to save anyone reaching out for help. Angel took advantage of the Starfleet regulations. She knows how the systems operate. As such, she is a sly manipulator. She notes how she used emotion to override logic throughout the entire mission with Spock. It was easy for her to convince him to protect her no matter what. She could plot out how these Vulcans would react. She doesn't see them as a species capable of going against their basic emotional rationalizations. She is fighting to offer that enlightenment through her love of Sybok. She doesn't achieve that goal here. She has an escape plan ready for when things go awry. She is impressed by what Spock accomplishes. The awareness of these circumstances is now known. That's invigorating for the characters and the audience even as the certain themes of this episode aren't too different than what has already been done in the season.