Thursday, July 20, 2023

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - Uhura Responds to a Distress Call When No One Else Can in 'Lost in Translation'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 2.06 "Lost in Translation"

Uhura seems to be the only one who can hear a strange sound. When the noise triggers terrifying hallucinations, she enlists an unlikely assistant to help her track down the source.

"Lost in Translation" was written by Onitra Johnson & David Reed and directed by Dan Li

The discovery of a new species sometimes requires people who know how to listen. That is Uhura's job on the bridge. She informs the crew of every signal happening elsewhere. She is the lifeline for communication. She is how the Enterprise is visible no matter where it goes. When she hears a sudden and jarring noise, she has the training to immediately make it known. However, she was the only person who could hear it. It wasn't happening on the systems she monitors. Instead, it has burrowed into her head. It produces vivid hallucinations that are quite vicious and brutal. They are terrifying. M'Benga has a simple explanation. It's a textbook case of poisoning from the fuel the ship picked up at the edge of the known universe. Starfleet has prioritized this mission. The organization needs this new station up and running in order to continue monitoring the threat from the Gorn. What exists beyond this edge is completely unknown. No one has ever experienced it before. It's beautiful because it showcases the creation of the galaxy. It's also horrifying because of what Uhura is meant to endure. She is losing her mind. The crew is in danger if a cure isn't found quickly. No one offers a rational explanation for what's happening. The mission has been sabotaged. It doesn't make any sense. A Starfleet officer goes rogue. He dies in a massive explosion because no one can figure out what's happening. Uhura fears that fate will happen to her too. Fortunately, she has friends and allies in high positions willing to solve this mystery. Moreover, they trust her expertise. All it takes is a change in perspective. Uhura sees the hallucinations as recreations of her personal horrors. In reality, they are how her brain is processing the basic emotions being transmitted from another species. The ship can't pick up any known lifeforms. Those that have yet to be discovered are present though. They are reaching out in distress. Starfleet's actions are torturous. The fleet has protocols. They have a code for how to conduct business when exploring new worlds. In this case, their exploration is doing more harm than good. Uhura has to be trusted to get this message right. She succeeds in translating the dire warning. She doesn't want these fates to befall her friends. She doesn't want to be responsible for the death of a species Starfleet didn't even know existed. Sam writes up his report of this discovery. That will be shared throughout this system. It all relied on Uhura reaching out with empathy and understanding. That's difficult because of the tragedies that have happened throughout her life. She doesn't know how to process death. She has tried to forget about those she lost. That's simply too impossible of a goal for her to ever pull off healthily.

This adventure serves as the official introduction of James T. Kirk to the Enterprise. Chronologically, he is touring this ship for the first time. However, Pike and La'an have both had transformational experiences with him. That history informs their actions. Those didn't occur with this version of the character. Instead, he's in a rivalry with his brother where Sam cares more about the progress in their Starfleet careers than James does. It infuriates Sam even though he is proud of his brother. Meanwhile, James always helps strangers he sees in distress. That applies to Uhura. She needs someone to listen to her concerns. More is happening to her than a lack of sleep combined with a mild radiation exposure. James serves as that guiding light. He looks out for her. He also works seamlessly alongside the rest of the crew. La'an is startled upon seeing him again. This isn't the man she fell in love with. He is a complete stranger. She has a story to tell. She simply can't. She carries that burden instead. It makes it more difficult when she has to work alongside him. Fortunately, she has a mission to serve as a convenient distraction. Plus, the story is never fundamentally about her struggle. Instead, it's focused on Uhura. This serves as her acknowledgement of grief. She has to allow herself to mourn the loss of her family as well as Hemmer's sacrifice. This is the first time anyone truly mourns the loss of the ship's engineer. Pelia has stepped into that role now. Her sheer presence is enough to annoy others simply because of the affection the crew had for Hemmer. He couldn't be replaced. He had to be though in order for the ship to function. The Enterprise requires an engineer. The post allowed Pelia to be of service to Starfleet once more. She no longer had to serve as a professor. She is precisely where she wants to be. She is at peace with that. Meanwhile, others project many emotions onto her. They aren't a reflection of what she has done. It's just the awkward way in which they grapple with the cost of these adventures in space. Starfleet officers are willing to sacrifice their lives for the greater good. Everyone aboard the Enterprise is devoted to the ideals of this organization. They seek out strange new worlds to better understand what brings every civilization together. It's a quest for personal enlightenment and understanding. It's a noble ideal. One where the crew doesn't always live up to. It's all in pursuit of that more perfect reality. The Enterprise destroys the station that held so much promise for future discoveries. The cost of that exploration was too high. Pike takes responsibility for that. However, it was all directed by the orders of the one person who could listen to the concerns of those who struggled to communicate with these invaders to their home. All of that occurs while still maintaining an intimate focus on these characters - both as they currently exist and as they are destined to one day become. The final image of James, Spock and Uhura together is sentimental for that nod to the future. It's also rewarding for the present because of the many ways in which their perspectives enrich the crew no matter what adventure unfolds.