Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Season 2 Episode 6

Jul 20, 2023 | Posted by in TV
Strange New Worlds

“Lost In Translation”

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds tasks Uhura with handling burnout when she suffers from intense hallucinations that dredge up painful memories.

Burnout is an all too common problem in our world. There is constant pressure to be productive, deliver more and sink more hours into work or other projects. This all comes at the expense of free time and, more importantly, rest time. Human beings can only take so much and even the steeliest resolve will be eroded away by taking on too much and the inevitable consequence is exhaustion.

Star Trek

It’s a nebula sort of day

A typical unhealthy coping mechanism is to immerse yourself in work so that you keep yourself too busy to properly process whatever trauma needs to be dealt with. In Uhura’s case, she has thrown herself into her work to avoid dealing with the death of Hemmer at the end of the previous season. Her grief is just beneath the surface and she is masking it by moving from project to project in an effort to keep the loss from the forefront of her mind. This is all well and good as a story but also highlights that Strange New Worlds is failing to use serialised storytelling where the characters are concerned.

Uhura’s mental state could have been seeded throughout the season to build to the payoff that this episode provides. At no point in prior episodes is Uhura shown to be struggling in any way so her unprocessed grief relating to the loss of Hemmer does appear to come from nowhere. This was typical of Star Trek of old but Strange New Worlds exists in a TV landscape where serialised elements are expected, even in an episodic show so more could definitely be done with this and other character work. That isn’t to say that the coverage provided in this episode was bad, far from it but it could have been so much stronger if there was a throughline in the background of the season.

Hemmer’s death is highlighted by Uhura and Una which reinforces that it’s a significant loss on the ship. Pelia’s presence allows for natural coverage of his absence in two ways. One is that she was once his instructor so Uhura is able to talk to her about their shared experience of knowing him. There was a nice subversion of the trope of a dead character being the best student of a teacher when Pelia admits she only said he was one of her best because he died when the reality is that he was just ok. It was a strong comedic beat and a meaningful tribute to the character as she delivered an honest account of him according to her memory. The second way of covering his absence is Pelia recognising that some of Una’s hostility towards her is because she is the new engineer meaning that she reminds Una of the fact that Hemmer is gone. Some of the hostility is also founded on bitterness over a grade that Una considers harsh but her connection to Hemmer is mostly what forms the basis of her impatience around Pelia.

Star Trek

That’s not what you want to see!

As has been repeatedly mentioned, the short seasons and Una’s rare appearances mean that there is limited time to lay any groundwork for character relationships which means these things have to be taken at face value. Una and Hemmer shared barely any screen time over the course of the previous season so it’s difficult to accept that she has a profound connection to him as there is no prior evidence of that but it’s played well in this episode and feeds into the larger theme of loss mostly explored through Uhura.

Uhura making use of video tutorials showing her how to modify and repair the communications systems was a nice touch. It’s a strong reminder of their mentor/mentee dynamic and it shows that she values everything she learned from him. Being able to consult videos that he made is also an opportunity to see him and remind her of how they interacted. He facilitated her being able to do things for herself so contributed to her growth both as a Starfleet officer and as a person. It also sets up that he has been on her mind since his death and provides a natural inroad to her facing that over the course of the episode.

After a minor accident when tinking with the comm system, she experiences a visceral hallucination of a zombified Hemmer attacking her in the turbolift. M’Benga attributes it to deuterium poisoning and old-fashioned exhaustion but Uhura is less than convinced. She ultimately ends up being right but it’s also true that she needs to slow down because she is rapidly heading for burnout. The aliens reaching out to her amplifies what is already a problem and forces her to deal with it before she is driven insane. Tension is created through a ticking clock and emotional investment is encouraged by making the crisis very personal to Uhura.

Star Trek

Logic dictates the audience would like us to discuss our relationship

Helping her deal with her grief is none other than Paul Wesley’s James T. Kirk; not from an alternate timeline for the first time aside from a single scene earlier in the season. The Farragut is assigned to the same mission as the Enterprise and he comes aboard to visit Sam but ends up striking up a friendship with Uhura after they talk briefly in the bar and Kirk ends up being punched in the face when Uhura is experiencing another distressing hallucination. Fortunately, he decides that she needs help rather than putting her on report for assaulting a superior officer. He recognises that Uhura is going through something and pledges to help her deal with whatever it is.

Kirk’s characterisation is immediately striking. He is shown to have experienced enough unusual things in his career to believe that Uhura is telling the truth when she claims that something more is going on than her diagnosis. At the very least, he’s willing to support her while she explores the possibility. This is in line with the classic Kirk trait of being willing to think outside the box and accept that there are things in the universe beyond his understanding. In short, he’s an explorer and his mind is open to a wide array of possibilities. The empathy he displays shows his leadership potential and his commitment to Federation values is displayed in every action he takes.

Much has been said about Paul Wesley’s portrayal of James T. Kirk. Other than a short scene, this is the first time he has had an opportunity to portray Kirk not belonging to an alternate timeline so this is the first taste of Prime Timeline Kirk as played by Paul Wesley -accounting for the alternate timeline this show already takes place in- so this is the basis for judging how he takes to the role.

Star Trek

Kirk catch-up

Based on this episode, he’s a good choice for the role. Like Ethan Peck with Leonard Nimoy, he isn’t trying to emulate William Shatner’s performance but there are shades of it in the way he plays the role. He has a similar swagger and some of his line delivery evokes Shatner but he’s also putting his own spin on the Kirk character. One thing to note is that Paul Wesley is 40 years old and is playing Kirk in his mid-20s which could be seen as a confusing casting decision, especially when the plan is likely for Wesley to embody the role for a long period of time. It does work as Kirk comes across as a character with experience under his belt befitting his recent promotion to a position of responsibility.

Another thing to note is that Paul Wesley is playing Kirk as he actually is rather than the erroneous perception of the character that has made its way into pop culture. Many consider him to be a reckless womanising maverick with no regard for the rules who skates by on dumb luck and raw talent. That perception crept into the Chris Pine version of the character but the reality is that Kirk is an intelligent, thoughtful and knowledgeable commander who takes calculated lists based on his knowledge of his ship, crew and whatever he’s facing. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” featured dialogue that described him as “a stack of books with legs” when at the academy and he described himself as “positively grim” when studying in “Shore Leave”. Kirk took his studies and later his career very seriously. His ship and crew were always his priority and he led them with knowledge as well as skills that made him a great leader.

The writers of Strange New Worlds understand that and have factored that into the way Kirk is written. Reference is made to his womanising reputation when Uhura assumes that he’s hitting on her at the bar but he counters that by expressing concern and pointing out that she sat next to him. It could be a reference to Kirk and Uhura’s first meeting in Star Trek (2009) where he does approach her and tries to hit on her. In this show, he’s simply enjoying a drink at the bar and reaches out to someone who looks to be in distress. Notably, this is the first meeting of Kirk and Uhura in the prime timeline and it establishes a closer connection between them than is suggested in The Original Series. As I’ve said in prior reviews, it’s better when characters are given the opportunity to interact and develop together rather than being slavish to canon. In the case of Kirk and Uhura, there’s almost nothing to suggest what sort of relationship they have beyond her being his subordinate.

Star Trek

That’s a lot of drinks for one woman!

Kirk and Pike meet for the first time in this episode. This is actually consistent with canon as Kirk states in “The Menagerie” that he met Pike when he was promoted to Fleet Captain. Pike has been promoted to that rank in this episode -albeit temporarily- so that is consistent with established canon though if canon is to be rigidly adhered to then this can be their only meeting. It’s unlikely this will be the last time they share screentime as a single line of nearly 60-year-old dialogue written with no idea what Star Trek would become is something I feel shouldn’t be taken as gospel. There is far more potential to be explored in allowing Kirk and Pike to repeatedly interact so keeping them apart to satisfy a throwaway line of dialogue would be short-sighted. So far, the writers have demonstrated a willingness to take liberties when the end result makes for engaging viewing. As repeatedly stated, this is already an alternate timeline so things can and should play out slightly differently.

Unfortunately, Kirk and Pike’s interactions are underwhelming and don’t service the story being told in any way nor do they further either character. Based on this, their first meeting could have been left until later as nothing is gained by their interacting under these circumstances. The focus is on the Kirk/Uhura dynamic as it should be but it takes up time in the episode unnecessarily when that time could have been better spent elsewhere.

Pike is better used in another capacity. He supports Uhura when she insists that the station needs to be destroyed and pledges to face the inevitable consequences of that action. One of his duties as Captain is to accept responsibility for those under his command. Uhuru can’t be expected to answer for destroying the station even though it was her idea because it was done with Pike’s permission. He is the one to answer to his superiors and explain why something Starfleet placed high importance on was destroyed. It’s another example of Pike being the embodiment of Federation values as he supports Uhura, understands the necessity of what she insists needs to be done and wholeheartedly agrees with it despite the loss of resources and the tactical advantage they represent.

Star Trek

I think canon says this is ok!

There’s a brief yet meaningful slice of characterisation related to Pike. His temporary promotion to Fleet Captain inspires a running gag where people congratulate him and he dismisses it as being no big deal. Humility is a consistent trait for Pike. He isn’t one to boast about his accomplishments or seek praise in any way. Pike is someone who lets his actions speak for themselves and expresses discomfort when people compliment him on them. This says a lot about the sort of person he is and informs his leadership ability as he is more concerned with celebrating his crew rather than himself. It’s perhaps something that has settled as he has gotten older as he would have had to stand out to get where he is in his career but there’s a mellowness to his command style and a lack of ego that is admirable.

Kirk’s advice to Uhura about facing and dealing with death as a Starfleet Officer is excellent. He comes from a position of knowledge and is able to impart wisdom based on his own experience dealing with loss. He is brutally honest and tells her that they have to face death because it comes with the territory of the job they do. He encourages her to fight back against it and not let it taint the memories of those she lost. This comes after she opens up to him about the death of her parents and her admission that she has no idea how to face death because she ran from that experience and has tried to push her grief down after losing Hemmer but has been unable to. This makes Kirk’s advice more poignant as he is imploring her to develop more healthy coping mechanisms so that her grief doesn’t consume her. The stakes are palpable because she is on the brink of insanity and Kirk is offering her a way to not fall into that trap.

This advice gives Uhura the clarity she needs to interpret her hallucinations and figure out that they are a cry for help from the lifeforms that inhabit the nebula. Extracting deuterium is killing them and they are reaching out to anyone willing and able to listen in the only way they can. Uhura is one of two people the aliens could communicate with and the only one to survive the attempt. This makes sense given her linguistic background and her well-established intelligence. Without achieving the necessary clarity she was unable to see the hallucinations as anything other than horrific nightmare images that preyed on her deepest fears but once she was able to accept the loss of her parents and Hemmer she could think critically about what she was seeing.

Star Trek

Be cool La’an, don’t mention the alternate Kirk

The vision where she goes inside the shuttle crash that took her parents from her is a particularly powerful step forward as she has been running from that event her entire life. This is a good example of character-driven serialisation as this flows from something that was established in the second episode of the series. Her reaction to Hemmer’s death hasn’t been in the background at all so it isn’t as powerful but the hallucinated Hemmer no longer being monstrous when she starts to deal with his death was a really strong and moving touch. All of this amounts to a great development point for Uhura combined with a compelling Star Trek plot involving a new lifeform trying to communicate and being misunderstood. It’s a good example of how character-driven storytelling can meaningfully combine with science fiction concepts.

Kirk is used well in other ways. His relationship with Sam is a believable sibling rivalry. They discuss Kirk’s recent promotion to first officer of the Farragut and it’s clear that Sam is envious of Kirk’s rapid rise through the ranks. The root of this is their father as Jim Kirk is following more directly in his footsteps whereas Sam has followed a different path. They talk about how Sam was given their father’s name, George which carried the implied expectation that he would be the one to follow his example. Sam resents his brother for being their father’s favourite because he followed the same career trajectory and did it faster while Sam comparatively languished.

A lot of this is implied but it seems like George Kirk is a difficult man to please and both of his sons have been competing with him for his approval their entire lives. Whether that’s something their father encourages or not is up for debate but it’s undeniable that the brothers feel as if they’ve been pitted against each other and Sam’s perception is that his brother gets their father’s approval more effortlessly. Kirk mentions that he was determined to break those records and put in the necessary time in order to do so. As far as he’s concerned, his accomplishments are self-motivated though that may not be the case based on the conversation. There is certainly friction in their relationship because Sam feels like the inferior brother in the eyes of their father and takes it out on Jim.

Star Trek

Time to stop running

Paul Wesley and Dan Jeannotte have a lived-in brotherly dynamic. Having them start being pleased to see each other with the resentments coming to the surface once they have a quiet moment to talk is believable and Sam apologising to his brother only to not be met with it being reciprocated was a good comedic moment that also frames Kirk in a less than favourable light as he’s too arrogant to admit that he is far from blameless in that situation. Sam reacting by storming off underscores that the tension still exists and Kirk has ways to go before realising that he has also made mistakes. Well-written flaws make characters interesting and Jim Kirk shows himself to be flawed in that moment.

Kirk and La’an cross paths after their distance conversation earlier in the season. The drink she owes him is referenced but their interaction also ties into Kirk’s complicated feelings about his father. Kirk tells La’an about his childhood spent following his father from post to post and rarely seeing him. His mother would always say that his father was “helping people who really need it”. This was something that Kirk was unable to understand as a child and believed that his father cared more about strangers than his own family and dealt with it by telling himself that his father’s work must be important. La’an identifies herself as one of those strangers who wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for Starfleet Officers sacrificing time with their families to help others and assures him that the work is important. It’s a brief yet strong interaction that is dripping in the same chemistry that made La’an’s adventure with the alternate Kirk so engaging. The setup was clumsy as La’an didn’t do enough to prompt such an intense personal anecdote but that doesn’t alter the fact that it was a strong moment. It also suggests that La’an may be just as motivated to be comfortable with this iteration of Kirk and sets up the potential for this to be explored at a later point.

After beginning their relationship in the previous episode, Chapel and Spock discuss the current status of it. Spock wants to inform Starfleet because regulations state that romantic entanglements have to be on record but Chapel wants to keep it between them from now. This is all perfectly in character as Spock has been established as being a stickler for protocol whereas Chapel has been established as preferring a more casual approach to relationships. She references Schrödinger’s Cat even knowing it’s an imperfect example to illustrate her point but she is concerned that if their relationship becomes widely known it’ll adversely affect its development. She would prefer to explore their connection privately before publicly declaring that they are together which suggests a discomfort with full commitment on Chapel’s part that she needs to work through despite her strong feelings for Spock. He does respect her point of view and agrees to keep things as they are for now. It may seem like a fairly nothing exchange but it’s remarkable in how unremarkable it is. Instead of the coverage of their relationship being confined to drama or milestones, it’s a simple reminder that it exists and both are adjusting to it. This is good characterisation because it’s a more sedate example of their connection.

This episode features the first meeting of Kirk and Spock in -this version of- the prime timeline and it’s wonderful in its simplicity. It isn’t treated as an epic moment signifying the beginning of a legendary friendship, it’s an unremarkable meeting of two officers serving on different ships. It is given a sense of occasion in the presentation of them shaking hands but the circumstances are informal and the episode doesn’t dwell on the moment. The restraint is appreciated and it’s a memorable note to close on.

Star Trek

Wouldn’t it be great if I ended up being your Captain one day?


A strong episode that meaningfully explores Uhura’s unprocessed grief while providing a good showcase for Paul Wesley’s James T. Kirk.

  • 8/10
    "Lost in Translation" - 8/10


Kneel Before…

  • the realistic display of burnout in Uhura’s story
  • highlighting the impact Hemmer’s loss had on both Una and Uhura
  • Hemmer’s video tutorials acting as a strong reminder of Uhura and Hemmer’s dynamic
  • Uhura’s visceral hallucinations
  • internalising Kirk’s advice and interpreting the hallucinations in line with her skills
  • the Hemmer hallucination no longer being monstrous once Uhura accepts she needs to deal with her grief
  • Paul Wesley’s portrayal of Kirk
  • Kirk being characterised more in line with how he truly was rather than the reputation the character had outside of the franchise
  • the believable sibling dynamic between Jim and Sam Kirk
  • the implication of their father being difficult to please and setting them up to compete
  • Kirk showing himself to be flawed when he doesn’t apologise to Sam
  • a brief yet poignant exchange between Kirk and La’an
  • Chapel and Spock discussing their relationship and their positions being perfectly in character
  • Kirk and Spock’s understated meeting that still held a sense of occasion


Rise Against…

  • no previous indication that Uhura was struggling before this episode making it more difficult to invest in as an ongoing problem
  • Kirk and Pike’s interactions being underwhelming and not serving the story


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User Review
7.83/10 (3 votes)

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