Thursday, July 13, 2023

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - Spock Suffers an Identity Crisis Amidst an Engagement Ceremony in 'Charades'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 2.05 "Charades"

A shuttle accident leads to Spock's Vulcan DNA being removed by aliens, making him fully human and completely unprepared to face T'Pring's family during an important ceremonial dinner.

"Charades" was written by Kathryn Lyn & Henry Alonso Myers and directed by Jordan Canning

Spock and T'Pring were betrothed to each other from childhood. Their current engagement has caused a fair amount of tension simply because Spock's choices stand in contrast to what is expected on Vulcan. He remains true to his nature. However, that has caused plenty of conflict because of his half-human identity. He has tried his best to fit in. He has also provided a service to the Enterprise. He reacts differently than the rest of the crew. And yet, they are all willing to help when the nature of his life changes. He and Chapel simply embark on a mission to explore an abnormality that may hold the answers to what happened to an ancient civilization from Vulcan. This region has been explored before. Pike is comfortable giving his crew downtime during this mission. It still carries significance for Spock. It's at the forefront of what Chapel hopes to do in her medical career as well. Understanding the past and the civilizations that came before can greatly aide medical professionals. Recognizing the cultures of other people provides greater clarity as to how they practice medicine and view one another. Chapel is denied entry into a fellowship program because the Vulcan interviewer only cares to look at the details provided on paper. She has plenty of field experience. She has dealt firsthand with the implications of this research. She provides a crucial perspective. That isn't valued at first. That makes her appreciate those who respect and trust her even more. Yes, those feelings are complicated by her crush on Spock. She doesn't know how to explain what they are to each other. She simply knows that she can't subject him to a life he didn't choose even though it would probably be easier for a relationship to start between them. Spock has always struggled with the inner conflict between Vulcan and human. He thought he had to choose one over the other. In reality, he carries the best of both worlds. It's striking when he suddenly becomes fully human. He is flooded with emotions. He already had to deal with a breakdown in his emotional barriers. But now, he presents as nothing more than a human teenager. He has all of these feelings that are out of control. Each one seems to conflict with another. He can't reckon with them. He has to be taught how to manage these impulses. The pressure is high because he must perform an engagement ceremony with T'Pring's family. That is important. It signifies their willingness to take the next step. This is a relationship both of them have pledged themselves towards previously. Spock manages to accomplish every task laid before him. He boasts about doing so as a human. He challenges the prejudices of T'Pring's mother. And yet, the engagement still falls apart because Spock couldn't actively trust T'Pring with the challenges he faced.

Spock's mother immediately knows something is wrong. She has lots of practice suppressing her human urges amongst Vulcans. She hasn't had an easy life. It's the choice she's made out of love. That overpowers everything else. This makes sense to her. She is willing to help her son navigate any situation. It probably would have been wise to postpone this ceremony. No one has any time to think rationally. That's what allows Spock to trust the bonds he's forged with the crew so completely. He doesn't have to behave a certain way with them. Those relationships are built on their service together. They have endured so much. Meanwhile, T'Pring has been far away for a long time. Spock never prioritized this relationship. It may have always been doomed. Spock was off exploring a different path. It's one that has created a lot of tension. He still sees the noble ideal of what he hopes to accomplish. He tries applying the same beliefs to his engagement. It just doesn't work the same way. It's expected of him to trust T'Pring completely. Various aspects of Vulcan culture make that easier. They can bring their minds together. But Spock still opted to keep T'Pring in the dark. He wasn't honest with her about the injuries he suffered. Instead, he closed ranks. He pushed her out of the circle to help him deceive her parents. Sure, he applies logic to the situation later on. However, that wasn't the rationale he was following when he chose to keep T'Pring oblivious. He was simply too overcome with emotions to know how to talk with her. He was being immature. That's understandable given the sudden change. It also ends this relationship. It needed to end in order for him to explore his feelings for Chapel. She has to be vulnerable and honest too. It's not easy to love a Vulcan. Spock better appreciates that now. He has more empathy for his mother. He is willing to stand up for her and fight for the respect she deserves. His path may lead to him falling in love with a human too. It won't be easy. The choices everyone makes have to be respected. Spock's identity was taken away. A mysterious civilization didn't know the proper protocol to follow. They thought Spock was saved and there would be no reason to maintain contact with the Enterprise. That wasn't true. All of Spock's friends rally behind him. They offer their support. Part of it is just a simple ruse. Charades are the only human tradition Pike can think of in the moment to distract T'Pring's parents. Meanwhile, Chapel embarks on the mission to restore Spock before it's too late. He returns to his normal nature. Chapel provides those results. She reaches out and asks for help. She does so out of love. It's rewarded. Spock and Chapel act on their attraction. It's meaningful even as they face an unknown future together. One where being around each other provides greater opportunities. It also includes emotions that they may not be able to navigate in addition to the pressures of their jobs.