Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Season 2 Episode 1

Jun 15, 2023 | Posted by in TV
Strange New Worlds

“The Broken Circle”

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds begins its second season with a plot that may reignite the Klingon War.

Strange New Worlds‘ mission statement is to return to the kind of episodic storytelling that characterised Star Trek in its heyday. Every episode is about something distinct and very little continuity exists between them. Deep Space Nine bucked that trend by introducing long-running arcs and making greater use of continuity in events and character relationships. Every episode still stood alone but there was a sense of cohesion largely absent from the other shows. These things were present in the others but to a far smaller degree as the continuity clearly wasn’t considered to be important to those producing them.

Strange New Worlds

A tortured soul soothed by music

This show has to find the balance between making every episode stand apart from the others while embracing the modern audience expectation that there should be some sort of continuing thread. In essence, the Enterprise embarks on a different mission in each episode but character relationships should change and evolve with strong continuity associated with those crewing the ship. Season one attempted this with varying degrees of success so it remains to be seen if season two can deliver on this.

Another way of delivering a continuing thread is to have background arcs that are revisited periodically. An example of this in the first season is the reveal of Sybok at the end of an episode as a tease of something that will be returned to at some point in the future. Other examples included Pike wrestling with the inevitability of his horrible fate, La’an’s PTSD following a horrific experience with the Gorn in childhood and Spock’s relationship with T’Pring running alongside flirtatious exchanges with Chapel setting up a love triangle of sorts. All of these things developed over the course of the season but knowing about them wasn’t essential to enjoy a given episode of the show. Usually, enough information would be provided to catch anyone unfamiliar up on the high-level details with the focus being on the events of the episode itself. This is different to the approach of Strange New Worlds‘ contemporaries. Discovery and Picard favoured the season-long arc meaning that missing an episode could in theory make it difficult to follow what’s going on.

Strange New Worlds pledges to continue with its approach in the first episode of its second season. The early part of the episode succinctly reminds viewers of everything that was lingering at the end of the previous season. Una’s arrest and upcoming trial are mentioned both as a reminder of her arrest and to provide an excuse for Pike to be absent for the rest of the episode, Spock’s emotions being close to the surface following the encounter with the Gorn is referenced to set up what he will be dealing with over the course of the season and there is a reminder of the attraction that exists between Spock and Chapel as part of that. This gives the show a sense of cohesion that sells the notion that none of the episodes are disposable as the characters will evolve while making it clear that every episode will offer something different.

Strange New Worlds

First command

Another interesting piece of continuity extending beyond the show is the coverage of the Klingon War that took place in the first season of Discovery. Strange New Worlds is set not long after those events so exploring the fallout from that brutal conflict makes sense. Doing so reinforces that it was a significant event that has both galactic and personal consequences rather than being something that is forgotten about after it ends. Those familiar with The Original Series will know that the Federation and Klingons were engaged in a Cold War with a lot of hatred and mistrust on both sides but no widespread conflict. Strange New Worlds is ideally placed in the timeline to set up the establishment of that dynamic between the two powers and this episode goes some of the way towards doing that.

The plot that the crew of the Enterprise become involves in is masterminded by an alliance of those from the Klingon and Federation sides looking to reignite the War because the peace as it exists now is bad for business. The idea of some being unhappy with the War being over because a revenue stream is diminished or cut off by a peace treaty is an interesting one and the suggestion adds texture to the universe through the suggestion of a range of opinions. The episode leaves it as a background detail to allow the events of this episode to happen but it adds extra weight to the Klingon War as a story by showing that the consequences of it are widespread.

It goes without saying that nobody on the Enterprise wants to be at War with the Klingons -or anyone else- but a more personal connection to that desire exists through M’Benga and Chapel who fought in the War and will be forever dealing with PTSD brought on by that experience. There’s a heaviness to the delivery of any dialogue on the subject from Jess Bush and Babs Olusanmokun, indicating how deeply they are affected by what they experienced. This mission brings back unpleasant memories for them so they are highly motivated to ensure that the War remains in the past. It’s important detail mostly delivered in strong performances from the actors supported by persistent reminders that the wrong choice made at this crucial moment will result in backsliding to a situation that still lingers heavily in the hearts and minds of those who experienced it the first time.

Strange New Worlds

The Enterprise has been stolen…again

M’Benga and Chapel’s experience fighting the Klingons is used to good effect throughout. M’Benga treating a Klingon and knowing how to verbally spar with one when challenged is a clear indicator of experience and the constant vague references to their history fighting together deepens their connection by alluding to a relationship that existed before their time together on the Enterprise. There’s trust between them that was forged by fighting together and almost a shorthand that comes with it.

The drug they take that temporarily enhances their strength so that they can match Klingons in hand-to-hand combat makes sense as it is well-documented that Klingons eclipse Humans in physical strength so this is arguably necessary if Humans hope to even be in with a chance of winning a War against them. It was unsettling in a good way to see M’Benga and Chapel fighting their way through a number of Klingons with no hint of remorse on their faces. It’s as if they disassociated in order to do what they needed to do to survive the current situation. It’s especially impactful knowing that they are a Doctor and Nurse; people who have sworn to do no harm. It’s a chilling example of the horrors of War and how survival often means compromising yourself.

A significant misstep is that the drug gives them the necessary strength to fight the Klingons but there are no visible consequences to taking it. M’Benga does almost get consumed by bloodlust until Chapel snaps him out of it but that could be accomplished by simple adrenalin in any combat situation. The drug wears off and the only negative consequence is that the strength is gone rather than some sort of lingering medical effect that explains why it has to be used sparingly. Making it dangerous would have added greater heft to its use even if a drug that has to be used sparingly due to the negative effects that come with its use is something of a trope. The alternative is this example where it’s something that has no drawbacks that isn’t widely used for reasons that are never explained. Despite that, it’s an interesting background element that adds more scope to the War.

Strange New Worlds

Blending in

Another interesting background element is the difference in perspective that exists on the Enterprise. It was established in Discovery season two that the Enterprise wasn’t involved in the War due to a combination of being too far away from the fighting to get involved and a desire to preserve the best of Starfleet by keeping them out of it. M’Benga and Chapel fighting in the War highlights that there have been personnel changes which means that some of the crew will be veterans and some won’t. This creates a difference in perspective among the crew and allows for more nuance in the motivation to prevent hostilities from breaking out. It’s not explicitly explored but it neatly forms part of the background and subtly adds scope to the show.

Reigniting hostilities by using a Starfleet ship to fire on a Klingon one is an easy way to shatter the fragile peace that exists. The fear is that the Klingons will take any indication of aggression as an act of War so an attack from a Starfleet ship would only end one way. This forms the basis of an engaging set piece where the Enterprise chases the commandeered Starfleet ship and has to destroy it before it can open fire on the Klingons, There’s a strong sense of urgency to the chase with the stakes clearly outlined. Adding to the stakes is M’Benga and Chapel being aboard the Starfleet ship meaning that destroying it will result in their deaths. This gives the set piece both widespread and personal stakes to invest in which combines neatly with the stunning visuals to deliver something memorable.

There are some logical issues with the sequence. Dialogue points out that the Klingons can’t see the Enterprise or the commandeered Starfleet ship at first and later can’t see the Enterprise when they can see the other ship, That doesn’t make sense as the Starfleet ship is clearly firing weapons at something behind them so the notion of the Klingons not being able to detect the Enterprise is a difficult one to buy into. It distracts from what is otherwise an exciting and effective sequence as it relies on accepting things that don’t add up.

Strange New Worlds

Ready for death

The resolution where the Klingon Captain doesn’t take the situation all that seriously works well enough. He takes a personal interest in Spock because of how un-Vulcan he comes across. It’s a curiosity for someone who has a very particular idea of what a Vulcan should be and exploring it ultimately interests him more than starting an interstellar War. It’s certainly a contrivance as anyone else in command of the Enterprise would have probably failed to diffuse the situation but it ties into the persistent highlighting of Spock’s uniqueness brought on by being half-human and half-Vulcan. There are things he could do that a Human or Vulcan couldn’t and this is one of them. The low-key resolution of Starfleet and Klingons sharing a drink before going their separate ways made sense in context and was entertaining.

Another thing the resolution feeds into is the difficulty Spock is having suppressing his feelings after the Gorn encounter. An early scene details this internal struggle along with the harsh reality delivered by M’Benga that there is no magical solution and he’ll have to find a way to live with it. M’Benga’s advice is strengthened later in the episode when his PTSD is established. It’s advice that comes from a place of bitter experience which allows him to empathise with Spock on a deeper level. He understands that Spock is struggling with his feelings because he is someone who struggles with his so they are of a similar mind even if the source differs.

M’Benga does suggest that he take up playing music as many people are soothed by taking up this hobby. It’s shown to immediately work and sets up Spock’s musical hobby depicted in The Original Series. His serenity is also quickly interrupted by the arrival of Chapel which serves as a reminder of the attraction that exists in both directions. Chapel is still resigned to never having her feelings reciprocated but Spock’s reaction to her arrival suggests that it’s far from certain that he is as unattainable as she believes he is. His very passionate reaction to the possibility of losing her furthers this idea. Ethan Peck is routinely impressive playing Spock with volatile emotions. His facial expression when Spock realises that he hasn’t lost Chapel is a pitch-perfect display of relief and evaporating terror.

Strange New Worlds

Keeping the peace

A significant aspect of the plot involves stealing the Enterprise as Admiral April forbids them from investigating the lead that La’an provides them due to the political volatility attached to it. Spock leading the Enterprise crew in open disobedience of that order is another example of the theme of loyalty trumping protocol that exists throughout the franchise. It’s reasonable that the crew would be such a tightly knit unit that would throw away their careers -and possibly lives- for one another but the small number of episodes makes it difficult to accept that loyalty at face value. In Berman era Star Trek, the seasons were upwards of 24 episodes so there was plenty of time within a season to organically build the crew along familial lines which makes it easier to believe that there is nothing they wouldn’t do for one another. That simply isn’t there with this show because there hasn’t been enough time to organically establish it. Attempts have been made such as Pike hosting dinners for the crew and details such as Enterprise bingo but that sort of on-screen loyalty is something that can only be achieved over a long period of time. As such, it’s impossible to accept that the required loyalty exists on the Enterprise so the plot point doesn’t have the power that the episode needs.

Stealing the Enterprise also lacks any stakes of its own. There is no mention of evading pursuit and April’s reaction is very understated when talking to Spock. It’s justified to a degree by the prevention of War with the Klingons being a relief because it’s looking likely that War with the Gorn is imminent but it’s another example of the persistent disregard for protocol and authority present elsewhere in modern Star Trek. It seems that disobeying orders is the best way to progress in Starfleet judging by how it has been handled. Autonomy should be possible and orders shouldn’t be blindly followed. This example proves that as the crew of the Enterprise disobeying orders ends up averting a War but the result could have been far less favourable and the franchise as a whole is doing a poor job of interrogating that. The most frustrating thing about many things the various shows address is that the potential exists for nuanced exploration of an issue with no easy answer but they are rarely treated with the depth required to explore them.

Strange New Worlds

Mission accomplished


A solid start to the season that impressively adds texture to the universe while delivering engaging characterisation and a well-executed action climax.

  • 7/10
    The Broken Circle - 7/10


Kneel Before…

  • addressing the aftermath of the Klingon War and showing it to be a significant event
  • excellent background texture added around the Klingon War
  • a personal connection created through M’Benga and Chapel
  • the low-key resolution that comes about thanks to Spock’s uniqueness
  • developing Spock’s difficulties suppressing his feelings
  • also developing the Spock/Chapel attraction and highlighting that it’s mutual


Rise Against…

  • logical issues in the action climax
  • the lack of stakes associated with stealing the Enterprise
  • aspects of the episode relying on acceptance of a crew dynamic that there hasn’t been enough time to cultivate
  • no consequences to the drug Chapel and M’Benga takes


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User Review
5.88/10 (4 votes)

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