Saturday, July 22, 2023

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - A Crossover with 'Lower Decks' Threatens the Timeline in 'Those Old Scientists'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 2.07 "Those Old Scientists"

An accident while investigating a time portal sends Ensign Brad Boimler through time from the twenty-fourth century, and Captain Pike and his crew must get him back where he belongs before he can somehow alter the timeline.

"Those Old Scientists" was written by Kathryn Lyn & Bill Wolkoff and directed by Jonathan Frakes

A crossover between Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks features a couple logistical challenges. One is live-action while the other is animated. They are set over a 100 years apart in the Star Trek timeline. The tone of their stories is different. And yet, all of these details are capable of being solved to create a cohesive episode. The audience already operates with the knowledge of what happens to the Strange New Worlds characters. That doesn't detract from our potential enjoyment of the series. In fact, it's rewarding to watch as they find their ways in this world. Ensigns Boimler and Mariner are concerned about altering the future because of what they know about the Enterprise crew. In reality, so much is already known. Starfleet has a protocol in place when time travelers emerge. Pike knows precisely what his fate is destined to be. That once used to inform all of his actions. Now, it's not the excuse he gives for wanting to spend his birthday by himself. These characters are all complex beings. They contain multitudes. Boimler and Mariner grew up on these legendary stories. They were inspired to join Starfleet because of the actions this crew took during the Age of Exploration. In fact, the young officers are jealous of the worlds the Enterprise got to explore. So many discoveries were made. Everyone on this crew is special. They each became famous for how they defined the timeline. Boimler and Mariner carry that context. They know the full history of what happened a hundred years ago. However, they join these characters while they are in the middle of these personal journeys. As such, they are disappointed at first by meeting their heroes. They idolized them for so long that it was easy to overlook their humanity and the struggles they endured along the way. Mariner views Uhura as someone capable of balancing everything that mattered. That doesn't reflect the current struggle Uhura endures. Right now, she finds it difficult to break away from work. The missions are too important for her to ever get distracted. Having fun with the rest of the crew allows her to be better at this job. Mariner helps provide that inspiration. She helps pave the path for who Uhura is meant to be. None of it jeopardizes the timeline. That isn't a concern. It's all about reaching out with empathy even as the situation appears complicated. Boimler and Mariner don't want to be stuck in the past. They are happy with where they are in their lives. They face their own struggles as well. They have a certain interpretation of Starfleet. Now, they receive a glimpse at a different way the organization functions. They always had big ideals for what this service could be. They receive a more complete view of the people who made it all happen.

Furthermore, Boimler isn't to blame for Spock's sudden changes to his personality. That was happening before Boimler journeyed through time thanks to an ancient portal. It's simply alarming to see Spock as someone who smiles and makes jokes. And yes, it is a striking difference from how he usually behaves. His relationship with Chapel is seen as responsible for this deviation. They both want the time to explore what this relationship truly is and can become. However, Boimler has a certain picture of Spock that must be protected no matter what. That comes at Chapel's expense as she is left with the certainty that all of this will have to inevitably end so Spock can fulfill some crucial destiny. Those revelations happen across the ship. Pike and La'an have endured missions elsewhere in time. Both adventures carried personal significance. They shoulder that burden. They can't share it with anyone else. Pike made peace with his future while La'an suffered the pain of letting someone get close only for him to die. They are shaped by these experiences. And now, many in the crew will have to find that balance. It shouldn't be surprising that Pike is famous for his skills at diplomacy. He's a well-rounded captain who knows how to provide for his crew while honoring the mission Starfleet has tasked them with. He trusts the instincts and expertise of others. Complications still emerge. He knows how to navigate that responsibility. Boimler is still early in his career. He's so excited about being in Starfleet. Consequences have emerged for his actions. He's on the bridge of the Enterprise. His opinion is still validated. Mariner runs through the portal to potentially save him. They both get trapped until they realize the ship itself has been hiding the precious mineral they need to activate the portal once more. Everything is restored in the timeline. This is still a transformational experience. It provides solace to Una as her words from her trial resonated with Starfleet. She becomes the inspirational figure used to recruit officers into this organization. The future is a more accepting and loving place because she took a stand. She didn't know if it would have an impact beyond her individual case. Now, she receives that clarity. No one on the Enterprise knows what their legacy will be. They don't know if any action they take will ultimately matter. The show plays into the honor of these characters through these stories. They are finding their paths in life. That's such a relatable and genuine form of connection. Yes, some stories are set in stone. It can still be rewarding to explore how people become those who make history. Episodic adventures matter so much to Strange New Worlds. This is another well-executed example of that. But it's also a way to honor what has come before and what shines boldly ahead. That's true for characters from both series. They are just a small component of the overall Star Trek franchise. And yet, the stories being told matter especially for those who get to experience an evolving world of uncertainty. Hope still radiates at the end of the day. The comedy from the future offers that enlightenment to the past when the Enterprise crew needs it the most.