Thursday, August 3, 2023

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - A Musical Reality Makes the Crew Address Their Emotions in 'Subspace Rhapsody'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 2.09 "Subspace Rhapsody"

An accident with an experimental quantum probability field causes everyone on the U.S.S. Enterprise to break uncontrollably into song, but the real danger is that the field is expanding and beginning to impact other ships - allies and enemies alike.

"Subspace Rhapsody" was written by Dana Horgan & Bill Wolkoff and directed by Dermott Downs

A newly discovered subspace quantum field carries the potential to dramatically expand the limits of communication throughout the Federation. Worlds could be brought together in an instant. And yet, an experiment results in the Enterprise crew being thrown into a musical world. They can't launch torpedoes to destroy the field either. That would wipe out everything connected to their communications network. That system is already a lifeline in so many ways. Uhura and Spock explore the possibility of something new. Instead, the crew is forced to reckon with their private emotions. They no longer remain grounded. They can't abide by the importance of the mission coming above all else. The entire crew has gone through changes this season. This episode brings all of their stories together. It would be reasonable to assume the performers with extensive musical training and talent should take the spotlight of this episode. Celia Rose Gooding is a Tony Award-nominated actor after all. The finale builds around the revelation Uhura makes. She is trusted with bringing the crew together for the big number to break free of this altered reality. However, the show does a phenomenal job at providing a spotlight for everyone to address their emotional journeys. La'an was warned that she could never share her time traveling adventure with anyone. Kirk keeps visiting the Enterprise. As such, she is forced to acknowledge what he once made her feel. This Kirk is different from the man she knew. He's not the one who gave her his broken watch which still provides an emotional focal point. She could be vulnerable with him. She confesses how much she enjoyed taking that risk. She appreciates how Kirk still looks at her. The connection is obviously there. La'an bursts into song believing she needs to take this risk. She receives encouragement from Una. Number One has been trying to command differently now that she no longer carries her most personal secret. She is free and accepted. Others should embrace those same qualities. Their authority won't suffer because they choose to be open and vulnerable with their crew. Those bonds will only strengthen. Sure, Una and Kirk receive stares as they perform down the corridor. It's never a distraction from the task at hand. They accomplish that while also enlightening each other on responsible leadership. La'an doesn't need a big musical number to express how Kirk made her feel. She has those words to properly communicate with him. She is trusted to do so. She doesn't need that push from this new reality. She doesn't want the crew's personal emotions to jeopardize the ship's security. She knows how to cut off the musical numbers. She wields that power. Not everyone is saved by that shutdown of emotions. La'an takes a risk. It doesn't pay off. It's hard. She isn't defeated. This just motivates her to see the world from a different perspective. She doesn't have to change everything about herself. She should at least be open to exploring risks from time to time. That's what her interactions with Kirk and Una ultimately teach her.

Elsewhere, Chapel feels bad about celebrating her acceptance into a fellowship program at the Vulcan Science Academy. It also represents a radical change that opens a world of possibilities for her. She has explored so much of the universe serving on the Enterprise crew. She will miss these experiences and friendships. She's also excited about the potential of delving completely into her field of choice. That brings her so much joy and passion. Her talents are acknowledged. She also destroys the Vulcan closest to her. Spock was giving her space. She needed time by herself to process her emotions. He believes she chose not to share the good news with him. Her big number showcases how massive this is to her. The celebration doesn't include Spock. He joins in the singing occasionally. In fact, his voice kicks off the entire production. In this moment though, he wants to better understand Chapel. She no longer holds back her emotions. The music requires everything to flow completely. The message is delivered with absolute bluntness. Spock believes he was foolish for allowing himself to feel these emotions. They are even more extreme for him. It's a personal journey. One others can certainly relate to. That requires them to open up and share their experiences. Right now, everyone wants to bottle these emotions. They don't want to share them with the entire crew. These are private conversations that deserve to remain that way. It's not out of embarrassment. It's simply how they are conditioned to behave. They are all expected to be professional on this job. Bonds of friendship have formed. People are genuinely happy when good news is delivered. They are terrified whenever a mission brings them to the brink of death. That happens a lot on this ship. The threat is present here because the Klingons have a different response to the musical field. They haven't conducted an experiment or are willing to listen to the warning Spock issues. Diplomacy still maintains peace in the sector. However, all of this requires the crew to work in unison. The storytelling follows the basic structure of a musical reality. Everything is driven by big emotions. Those explanations are easy to follow and understand. It ends with a big show-stopping number. It forces everyone out of their comfort zones. That too is required from time to time in order to perform well in this job. They all have expectations of the behavior they need to display to rise through the ranks. Everyone is unique though. Not everyone leads similarly. Compromises have to be found sometimes. So many stories are being told in the same space. The crew can't possibly know about all of them. They still summon the strength to face this threat together. That is the ideal of Starfleet. It's applied in a different situation here. It's still absolutely joyous and life-affirming. It's a break from the norm. Sometimes that's needed in order for people to see clearly what they truly feel and believe in. Those realizations occur and will undoubtedly shape conflicts in the forthcoming season finale.