Anything goes in the first-ever Star Trek musical episode, “Subspace Rhapsody” (called it). Written by Dana Horgan & Bill Wolkoff and directed by Dermott Downs, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 9 features original songs by Tom Polce and Kay Hanley, music by Nami Melumad, and an a capella version of the SNW theme song by Jeff Russo.
Ensign Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) records the communication officer’s log for Stardate 2398.3. The USS Enterprise has encountered an unusual phenomena at the far reaches of the Alpha Quadrant: a naturally occurring subspace fold. Lieutenant Spock (Ethan Peck) believes this could be used to triple subspace communication speeds in the sector. However, the necessary computer power for his experiment means extra work for Uhura. The rest of the crew will have to communicate the old-fashioned way.
Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) contacts Uhrua and asks if she’s hailed Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano) of the USS Cayuga. Number One AKA Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) asks if the USS Farragut has confirmed the arrival of Lieutenant James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley). Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) asks if there’s a message from Doctor Roger Korby. From Engineering, Spock asks if Uhura is ready to begin their experiment. Batel proposes a touristy location to Pike for their upcoming vacation. Pike suggests they delay the decision for a few days.
Lieutenant La’An Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) meets Una in the transporter bay. Una says James’ captain said to “Show him the ropes.” Then she observes that La’An has “an energy.” James beams in. He expresses surprise that his brother Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte) isn’t there. James says it’s good to see La’An again. Una asks if they know each other. La’An confirms they do but says stammers that she still needs to perform the security clearance. She then tries to leave the transporter bay the wrong way.
But Why Are We Singing?
In sickbay, Lieutenant Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) coaches Chapel on possible rejection. Doctor Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) describes Korby as the “Louis Pasteur of archeological medicine.” Chapel says the opportunity could change her life. She opens the message and is overjoyed to discover she’s been accepted. It means she’ll be gone for three months. She says she has to talk to Spock.
In Engineering, Uhura and Spock are about to begin their thirteenth attempt at sending a message through the fold. Chief Engineer Pelia (Carol Kane) asks why they’re so certain this subspace fold is key to faster communication. Spock explains that frequencies propagate through it three times faster than normal. Uhura says that what now takes weeks could be nearly instantaneous. Uhura turns back to work and hums. This prompts Pelia to suggest they send music through. Spock tells Uhura to pick the song. Uhura chooses “Anything Goes.” The subspace fold responds with an energy wave that engulfs the ship.
Pike arrives on the bridge and asks Jenna Mitchell (Rong Fu) for a report. Mitchell states that there are no other ships in the sector and says it came from the subspace fold. Pike contacts Engineering for a report. Spock begins to sing his response. Pike asks where music is coming from, and as she arrives on the bridge Ortegas says it’s not from the ship. Spock’s lyrics get self-referential: he apologizes for singing and expresses his confoundment at the fact that he’s singing.
From Sickbay, Chapel and M’Benga sing their report in unison. Ortegas sings her report as well. Una sings that systems are normal. Ortegas and Mitchell are confused at their synchronous and choreographed movements. La’An arrives and sings that there’s no apparent security threat. “But why are we singing?”
In the Enterprise ready room, the command crew has gathered to discuss the strange occurrence. James says he assumed it was something they had rehearsed until he began singing as well. M’Benga confirmed that he sang as well, “and I do not sing.” Spock believes the song they sent into the fold dislodged a quantum uncertainty field. This created a new “musical reality.” Spock says they have become tethered to the uncertainty field, and an attempt to fly out will make it wider. Like a zipper. They may be able to close the field by combining field harmonics with the Heisenberg compensator, and manually connecting both to the deflector beam. Pike gives the order. James says, “Mr. Spock, you explained that very well. I almost understood.”
On the bridge, Spock asks Uhura the frequency of the song she sent through so as to match the field harmonics. As she does so, he spots Chapel’s message from Korby. Spock asks Uhura about the news contained within and Uhura as it would be rude of her to violate Chapel’s privacy. Spock admits to Uhura that it would be fair to say they’ve become more than colleagues. Uhura asks why he doesn’t just ask about it. Spock says they’ve had difficulty communicating lately.
Uhura sends the harmonics data to Una and James in a Jefferies Tube. James says his brother has always described Una as “the First Officer that I thought I should be like; someone who keeps a necessary distance from her crew because she knows she has to make the hard decisions.” Una says she’s aware of her reputation but has been trying a more hands-on approach lately. James says the Farragut’s previous First Officer definitely kept his distance, and he wasn’t questioned. Una says she considers that style a mistake, and begins to rhyme.
Una sings about connecting to one’s truth in order to be the best possible commanding officer. In the lyrics, she also concedes that she’s confessing things she wouldn’t normally admit. La’An clandestinely observes the musical number. As La’An heads to her quarters, she sings about the revelation that the songs reveal emotions they’d otherwise keep hidden. Further, she sings about what it might mean for her personally to share her emotions.
As she sings, she looks at the watch from “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.” This leads to a few scenes of her relationship with the late parallel James from that story. In the turbolift, La’An explains to Pike that when they sing, they reveal highly personal and potentially security-threatening information. Pike asks if she’s suggesting their emotions are dangerous. La’An says they are. Pike says he hopes it doesn’t come to that. He says Spock and Uhura have a plan to shut it down.
Uhura contacts Kirk and rushes him. James and Sam, working together in the transporter room, both respond. They then argue over who she was addressing. However, they complete their part and the deflector beam fires. Pike says it’s closing and says good work. But then the fold gives off another energy surge. Ortegas doubts they zipped it. Uhura reports an incoming hail from the Cayuga.
A Private Conversation
Batel appears on the viewscreen, accompanied by music. She begins speaking in rhyme. She sings apologies for rhyming and singing. Pike says he’ll call her back. But Batel won’t let him delay the conversation. They both begin singing about their relationship. While they can contain the lyrics to some degree, their emotions eventually overwhelm them. Only when La’An cuts the transmission does Pike cease singing. Pike asks why he admitted all that. La’An says because of the singing.
Spock reports that the improbability field is spreading through the subspace communications network to the entire fleet. In Pike’s quarters, Una says Admiral April has confirmed that the phenomena has spread to twelve starships. Pike asks why they’re confessing things. Uhura’s theory is that because they’re in a musical reality, they’re actually following the rules of musicals. Since characters in musicals begin to sing when their emotions become overwhelming, so too does the crew.
Uhura says the reality wants their emotions to overwhelm them. This could split them apart. Pike suggests blowing up the fold. Spock says it could work, but they must test it in a controlled environment so as to determine whether or not the resulting explosion would be too big. La’An suggests transporting subatomic particles from the fold. Una says this would take precise targeting, a two-person job. James volunteers himself and La’An.
In the next scene, Una asks La’An why she declined the job, which isn’t like her. Una observes that La’An is afraid of singing around James. She further says that she sees how La’An acts around him. La’An admits she has feelings for him but says those feelings may constitute a spacetime security risk. She says she should tell him before it happens outside of her control. Music begins to play and Una sings to La’An. She sings about the arguments in favor of keeping secrets, but the song ends with her wishing she had never learned to be so good at keeping secrets.
All of Our Yesterdays
La’An and James work together to beam in the particles and send them to engineering. It’s some steamy science. James says they make a good pair and should team up more often. La’An begins to speak with her. But an explosion rocks the ship. Just a few particles nearly blew up Engineering. So blowing up the field isn’t viable. The Enterprise is hailed by Klingons. The Enterprise doesn’t want to answer, in order to avoid spreading the musical reality. But the Klingons have already been affected. Uhura plays back the message from General Garkov (Bruce Horak). He says they have located the source of their “dishonor” and will destroy it immediately. As we learned in the last scene, this is bad news.
In the ready room, most of the command crew discuss the situation. The Klingons won’t answer hails. They could disable weapons but that’s a lot of weapons to disable. La’An and James partner up and head out. Pike says Uhura and Spock need to resolve the situation before the Klingons arrive. He says they’ve been applying old rules to a new reality and need to get it figured out fast.
In an Enterprise hallway, Uhura comments on the brilliance of Spock’s study of the songs themselves. Spock says not just the songs but the circumstances and frequencies from which the songs arise. A field-breaking event may be engineered if a pattern can be detected in the improbability field. Spock says they just need to trigger a song. Uhura says they just need to wait until someone feels overwhelming emotion. She indicates Chapel celebrating at the bar with Ortegas and Sam.
Spock enters as Ortegas says they’re here to celebrate Chapel’s win. He asks Chapel why she didn’t inform him. This triggers a song from Chapel. It’s high-energy. She sings about how the news changes everything. She admits that she doesn’t have any reservations about terminating their relationship in the face of the opportunity. It’s the most toe-tappingly brutal break-up song since Marceline broke Princess Bubblegum’s heart in the Adventure Time special “Obsidian.” Spock leaves the bar in silence.
Elsewhere, La’An and James discuss tactics. James asks her what she was trying to tell him earlier. La’An forces herself to confess the events of “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.” She says that she connected with the other James. La’An further suggests she feels a connection with this timeline’s James. James admits he feels a connection with La’An as well. However, he says he’s currently romantically involved with someone. This is Carol, who is pregnant. “Wow,” remarks La’An.
In Engineering, Uhura helps Spock analyze the data they’ve gathered. Spock continues that he didn’t expect Chapel to be so definitive in ending their relationship. He begins to sing about how wrong he’s been to convince himself that he shared feelings with Chapel. Spock sings that he won’t make that mistake again. He sings, “I’m the ex.”
After Spock’s song, he apologizes and leaves Uhura alone in Engineering. She sings about finding the pattern in the data. This leads to lyrics about her personal history: her parents, Hemmer, and her role in creating connections through communication. Eventually, she determines the pattern.
Big Ensemble Number
In the ready room, Uhura explains to Pike that the state of the quantum improbability field spikes every time someone sings. If they can get that spike to a threshold of 344 giga electronvolts, it will cause the improbability field to reset. Spock arrives and observes that she found the probability-breaking event.
Pike asks how they can make the event happen because two more Klingon cruisers have been detected. Uhura says that songs can be communal, and are used for worship and to keep time at sea. They need to replicate the circumstances of Chapel’s song, but more. Not just an ensemble number but a grand finale. The whole crew needs to sing together. Spock says their challenge is triggering the crew to sing since the emotional foundation must be genuine. Pike says this is a job for the communications officer.
On the bridge, Pike opens an address to the crew. He hands it off to Uhura. After introducing herself, Uhura begins speaking. This soon gives way to singing. Her singing inspires the crew to sing about their respective places among the Enterprise crew. This takes place on all decks. As the threshold approaches 344, they hail the Klingons. It’s awkward. But the command crew all unite on the bridge.
As they sing and take part in a seemingly choreographed dance, the Enterprise and the three Klingon ships also engage in a choreographed movement. The threshold reaches 344 and the improbability field bursts. On the Enterprise bridge, the crew laugh and shake hands as the original Star Trek theme by Alexander Courage plays. Or that is what everyone but Spock does. He gives Chapel the cold shoulder and leaves. Pike tells Uhura to hail the Klingons, as they may have to mend some fences.
In the bar, La’An tells Una that telling James the truth was really hard and hurt. Una says it usually does. La’An says she’s glad she took the chance. She says maybe she could be someone who takes chances more often.
In Pike’s Quarters, Batel tells Pike she doesn’t need a whole to-do. Batel says not even Julia Child’s beef bourguignon itself won’t make her forget he sang about lying to her. She asks why he didn’t just tell her that he hated the idea of her selected vacation location. Further, she says their relationship can only work if he learns to be honest, even when it’s hard. She says they have more time to plan their trip, as she just got put on a priority one mission (ominous). Batel says when she’s back they’ll go somewhere he wants to go. Just no camping.
Communications officer’s log, supplemental. Uhura reports that all Federation vessels are behaving normally once again. The Klingons were placated by Spock’s developing diplomatic skills (administered over bloodwine). Spock is clearly suffering from quite the Vulcan hangover. Uhura reports it’s back to business as usual on the Enterprise. Pike suggests they share their findings with non-Federation ships. Uhura scans the area. She hums as she works. Everyone turns to stare at her. But Uhura explains that it’s simply an earworm.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams new episodes every Thursday on Paramount+.
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