We get a focus on Cadet Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) in the second episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, “Children of the Comet,” written by Henry Alonso Myers and Sarah Tarkoff and directed by Maja Vrvilo.
“Children of the Comet”
The episode opens on Persephone-3, where several D’leb look up at a comet in the sky. In voiceover, Uhura’s Cadet’s Log (stardate 2912.4) informs us that this comet is C-22-60-Quentin. While the Enterprise observes the comet, Uhura is doing rotation and landing team readiness protocols, so in true lower-decker fashion, she’s missing out on the excitement.
However, Uhura is looking forward to dinner at the Captain’s Cabin. At the urging of Ortegas (Melissa Navia), Uhura is wearing her formal uniform, which she soon discovers she was only told to wear for hazing purposes. Ortegas tells her she doesn’t want to be late but can consider it her first “Enterprise BINGO” square.
When they arrive, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) chuckles at the familiar dress uniform before hurrying off to “deal with the ribs.” Uhura is briefly greeted by Number One (Rebecca Romijn) before heading over to the kitchen and offering Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) after noticing he’s blind.
However, as explained by Spock (Ethan Peck), Hemmer is an Aenar who uses his other senses – including telepathy – to fully compensate. As Uhura realizes this is another form of hazing, he tells Hemmer he “needs to get out more” in his language, impressing both senior officers.
Later the crew is sharing a conversation over a meal. Spock questions the human need to laugh in the face of failure (and you don’t have to be Aenar to sense the foreshadowing). As Uhura gets up for a drink, Pike asks her what she’s humming and she says it’s an old folk song from her village in Kenya. Uhura catches the attention of more crew when she admits she speaks 37 languages, in part from her experiences growing up in Kenya, where there are 22 native languages.
Pike asks Uhura where she sees herself in ten years (wincing as he remembers what the time crystals showed him). Uhura admits she’s not sure she’s Starfleet, despite beating out several thousand applicants. She further explains that she had planned to attend the University of Nairobi, where both her parents taught. But they and her older brother were killed in a shuttle accident shortly before enrolling. Afterward, she was raised by her grandmother but never felt she belonged.
After the meal, Uhura and Spock are walking through the halls. He continues that Starfleet is a lifelong dream for many, and if she doesn’t belong, perhaps she should allow them the opportunity to walk that path.
Meanwhile, in Pike’s quarters, he and Number One are washing dishes when the first officer suggests that Pike’s fate might not be indelibly written. Pike cites the names of the people he’ll save, implying his sacrifice will be worthwhile, but Una says there must be another way.
But that will have to wait because the computer simulation suggests that in two days, the comet will collide with Persephone-3. Spock and Number One agree that diverting the comet’s path using ion engines could work, with security officer La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) suggesting photon torpedoes be used as launch vehicles.
But when the torpedoes are about to hit the comet, they’re stopped by a forcefield!
A scene set in the briefing room reveals the Enterprise has found no life on the comet, but a mostly-subterranean structure has been located. Because it is of extraterrestrial origin, Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte) of xenoanthropology has been asked to join. We learn that the shields only activate in response to a threat, so beaming over should be possible.
Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) prepares the away team (La’an, Spock, Sam and Uhura) for the comet’s surface with a painful radiation-shielding injection. She also flirts with Spock a little, a habit she won’t be breaking anytime soon. La’an cautions them about the low gravity on the comet as transporter chief Kyle (André Dae Kim) beams them down.
On the comet, the away team enters the structure and finds an “egg” in a chamber with breathable oxygen. Kirk asks Uhura for an opinion about alien linguistics and says that although she’s a cadet, she’s here for a reason. Kirk approaches the egg, which results in a buildup of dangerous (but not strange) energies that zap the mustachioed scientist. The forcefield activates and the incapacitated Kirk cannot be beamed back to the Enterprise, so Spock must stabilize him using their emergency supplies.
Kirk won’t survive without medical attention. It’s up to Uhura to utilize her linguistic expertise to determine how to deactivate the shield so he can survive. On the surface of Persephone-3, we see a pair of D’leb fearfully contemplating the comet, reminding us that Kirk isn’t the only one facing an existential threat.
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Pike marshalls the crew by underscoring the serious situation. Ortegas suggests utilizing phaser harmonics: the right frequency could cause resonance that would shatter the shield, and Pike seizes upon the plan.
On the comet, Uhura nervously chats with Spock as she works, bringing up Chapel’s flirting with him. Naturally, Spock is humorless about the whole thing, suggesting rigorous logic to diffuse tension.
The Enterprise is about to fire the phasers at the comet when they’re hit by weapons fire! A huge ship floats between the Enterprise and the comet. An alien appears on the viewscreen and Pike demands answers. The alien states that they are the shepherds (or that’s how the universal translator interprets it, says Ensign Christina), and they are guiding the comet. But it is more than a comet. It is actually an ancient arbiter of life. They swiftly threaten to destroy the Enterprise if they tamper with the comet again.
Pike orders the alien ship to be scanned as he suggests changing the comet’s path. The alien scorns: its path is preordained. The alien says the comet is an instrument and an arbiter, and its will shall be honored, even if it means killing a planet full of people. He further explains that species have been protecting the arbiters since before time out of mind.
Pike deactivates the viewscreen and calls them zealots before Number One reports that they have advanced weapons systems. They have to distract them until the landing party can return (and the aliens probably wouldn’t love the idea of Starfleet on their arbiter, either). He reactivates and explains that, like him, Starfleet has a sacred duty: protecting life. But the alien is unimpressed and reveals he already knows about the landing party. He calls their presence “blasphemy” and says the comet will be their tomb.
On the comet, Kirk remains stable as Uhura continues working the language. Spock notes that Kirk has improved their odds by removing an impossible option (a Spock-style “pep talk”). Uhura says they should have had someone who is “more Starfleet” on the team rather than her. Spock deduces that this may be the first time her life is endangered. Spock proffers that brushes with mortality can offer a unique opportunity to understand oneself better. Uhura is the only one for the job; will she see it through? Uhura concedes this to be a better pep talk.
As Uhura hums while working, Spock realizes the music is causing a visual reaction in the chamber. Uhura continues to sing, and onboard the Enterprise, they detect a signal from the comet: it’s a traditional Earth song from Kenya. The comet has amplified Uhura’s song.
La’an asks if the light show is good, and Spock says the comet is controlled by music. Because music can be expressed mathematically, it’s possible the “code” denotes harmonics. After some exposition about math and music’s derivation, not to mention some calculations by Spock, Uhura leads the science officer in a duet that results in the egg opening.
When they get musical tones in response, Spock states that it is logical to assume the comet is attempting to send them a message. Uhura responds with music of her own, and the comet shields lower. The away team is beamed back to the Enterprise and Kirk is taken to medical by La’an and a waiting Chapel.
On the bridge, the Shepherds say Starfleet was warned before firing on the Enterprise despite Pike’s attempts at diplomacy. Ortegas executes evasive maneuvers and La’an urges Pike to jump to warp and escape. Spock suggests a solution amid the chaos. While they can’t move the comet or face retaliation, what if the comet were to move itself?
Pike tells Ortegas to get the Enterprise in front of the comet, and Ortegas initials “Evasive Pattern Oregas Gamma One.” Next, we get some awesome ship action. The Enterprise makes it to their intended destination and goes to full stop, shutting down all systems but life support.
Pike contacts the Shepherds and surrenders, claiming they have suffered complete systems failure. He says if the Shepherds don’t help, the Enterprise will collide with the comet and explode, which will also damage the comet. Pike begs for help. The Shepherds deactivate comms but activate their tractor beam for a tow.
Meanwhile, Spock, who is piloting a shuttlecraft that’s hidden in the shadow of the comet, takes off. He approaches the nucleus of the comet and sets the shields to radiate heat at maximum intensity. As he pilots past the comet, this causes the surface to respond, splintering. This sublimation nudges the comet off course (without Starfleet actually touching it). There’s a tense moment, but Spock’s survival is confirmed when he laughs over the comm, recalling the conversation from the Captain’s Table in the episode’s cold open.
However, an unexpected result occurs from their intervention with the comet. A significant amount of water vapor from the comet enters Persephone-3’s atmosphere. This permanently alters its climate, making it more amenable to agriculture. The arbiter did indeed bring growth.
The Shepherds contact Pike again and sort of gloat, but they do not part as enemies. Down on the planet, rain begins, and the people react with joy. Overhead, the comet continues past the planet.
In a supplemental Captain’s Log, Pike wonders who made the comet, how much intention they guided it, and how many more there might be. The first clue arrives thanks to Uhura’s translation of the musical code. It reveals a star chart showing the comet passing Persephone 3. The comet was telling them it didn’t intend to hit the planet. Stranger still, the comet seems to have foretold Spock’s fateful, diverting flight. Spock catches Uhura in the hall and tells her that if she chooses such a path, Starfleet would be fortunate to have an officer such as her.
In the briefing room, Pike and Number One share a drink. Una observes that just because they receive a message from the future doesn’t mean they understand it. Pike quickly identifies the fact that they’re not talking about the comet anymore. Number One tells him not to throw his life away, but Pike says he has made his choice. Still, Number One asks how he knows he can’t make a choice that saves all of them.
In the final scene, Pike uses the computer to look up the names of the citizens he’ll die saving. The files that appear all show images of children young enough that they’ll still be babies in a decade.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available for streaming on Paramount Plus.
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