Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Season 2 Episode 7

Jul 23, 2023 | Posted by in TV
Star Trek

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

“Those Old Scientists”

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds crosses over with Star Trek: Lower Decks when two characters accidentally find themselves in the past.

Crossovers are actually relatively rare in Star Trek. Characters would periodically show up in episodes of other shows such as McCoy in The next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint”, Spock in The Next Generation‘s “Unification”, Scotty in The Next Generation‘s “Relics”, Sulu in Voyager‘s “Flashback”. Deep Space Nine would have guest characters who were also guest characters in The Next Generation because of the time period. Lower Decks and Prodigy also featured returning characters from different parts of the franchise Star Trek: Generations was a movie where Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Jean Luc Picard teamed up so crossovers would happen but they are rare when you consider how much Star Trek there is. When they happened they felt like an event that was outwith the norm rather than in something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Arrowverse where characters are expected to cross over frequently.

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What show is this?

Crossing over Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds immediately presents a challenge as there is over a century of time between them but Star Trek is a franchise that features time travel bringing the two shows together is easily resolved. This episode doesn’t waste time in setting things in motion and establishes that there is a time portal capable of throwing people back or forward in time without much trouble. The mechanics of the time travel aren’t the story so it’s established that there is a portal that can accomplish what is required and it’s one of many that exist. The surprise comes from it activating when it has previously been noted as dormant.

The episode opens on the U.S.S. Cerritos in the late 24th century. Viewers of Strange New Worlds who haven’t seen Lower Decks may be confused as the opening is animated and features characters that will be unfamiliar but for those who have watched both shows, it feels very much like a Lower Decks episode with ensigns Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid), Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), D’vana Tendi (Noël Wells) and Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) bantering as they typically do on that show before being sent on a thankless mission that will result in hijinks. Things escalate when Boimler is thrown back in time and ends up meeting the crew of the Enterprise under Captain Pike; at which point he shifts from animated to live action.

Lower Decks focuses on lower-ranked Starfleet Officers on a ship that isn’t remarkable in the ways that the settings of most Star Trek shows are. They exist as fan inserts of a sort who idolise the characters featured in other shows and discuss their adventures while also having some of their own. Various characters have appeared and been regarded as celebrities because the lower-ranked characters see them that way. It’s a charming approach and works as meaningful fan service. Throwing a character like Boimler onto Pike’s Enterprise is a naturally funny situation as he sees the ship and crew as legendary.

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Boimler and boundaries are far apart

What this amounts to in part is a story about what it’s like to meet your heroes. Boimer is an unapologetic fanboy unable to contain his excitement or keep his mouth shut about why he’s excited rather than observing the Starfleet protocols around time travel. There are several charmingly awkward scenes where he struggles to interact with the various characters he considers to be legends.

That routine can only carry a story so far before becoming repetitive and frustrating. The episode strikes a decent balance between Boimler’s fanboy gushing and making meaningful points about the characters and their lives. La’an indirectly references her adventure with the alternate Kirk earlier in the season when she advises Boimler not to form attachments as an addendum to the time travel protocols. It shows that the experience still weighs on her and she’s struggling to process it. This is likely because she isn’t allowed to talk about it which informs her motivation to ensure Boimler adheres to the protocols because if she has to then she’ll make sure everyone else does.

La’an also outlines the stakes for the episode. They are minor as the focus is on making the crossover fun but there has to be at least a small sense of urgency to keep the plot moving. The stakes are that Boimler could alter the timeline so radically that his future no longer exists. La’an comes from a position of bitter experience as she was tasked with restoring the timeline after a change was made that prevented hers from existing. Her words highlight that Boimler has to be careful what he says or does so that he has a future to come back to. The threat comes from the fact that he’s incapable of containing himself and casually drops future knowledge that thankfully a lot of it is bereft of context and isn’t of much use to those who hear it.

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Making things worse

Some of what he lets slip does have impact. His first major concern comes when Spock laughs at something he says and he thinks he’s altered the course of the future by altering Spock from being the emotionally limited person he’s historically known for to being the emotionally expressive person he sees. He quickly learns that Spock’s laughing and smiling have nothing to do with him and fully resolves the situation when Spock tells him he’s figured out that he will go back to limiting his emotional expression at some point but sees no need to alter his current exploration of his Human emotions based on what Boimler said. It’s very much a non-issue but something Boimler worries about.

His presence may end up creating friction between Spock and Chapel. Boimler casually talks to Chapel about all the things he’s read about Spock and doesn’t mention her which leads her to conclude that she isn’t a historically significant part of his life. She is visibly upset by this as Boimler’s words ring in her ears. He speculates that he might be going through “a phase” and it’s not a far leap for Chapel to think of herself as “a phase” that Spock will move on from. She tries to cover it up by stating that she didn’t think she’d hold his interest for that long but to learn that there’s likely a historically mandated end point to their relationship is difficult for her. It shows how strong her feelings are for Spock and sets up anguish that will play out at some point in the future as they  inevitably move apart from one another.

Boimler’s attitude to Spock references discussions that are had in the fandom about the show. In a way, Boimler represents a gatekeeping fan who has a clear idea of how he thinks things are supposed to be. According to him, Spock isn’t supposed to smile or laugh so the fact that he does means that what he’s experiencing is wrong in some way. Boimler ends up accepting Spock as he is and acknowledges that he isn’t the same person at every stage of his life but there are many viewers of the show who are either unable or unwilling to do so. The worst examples will pounce on those who enjoy the show and try to tell them that they shouldn’t because it’s not “real Star Trek“.

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Double trouble

Boimler is a main character in Lower Decks and is shown to have the expected values for a Starfleet officer so having him commit to Spock being “wrong” because he smiles and laughs at this stage of his life would do the character a disservice. That doesn’t happen as he’s able to recognise that he had a misguided idea of what Spock was supposed to be because he read about him as an older man and wrongly assumed he was always like that. It sends a message to the fandom that characters should be allowed to grow and change as they progress through their lives rather than be the rigid idea of what people expect them to be.

From an in-universe point of view, it’s very much a lesson that many learn when they meet or spend an extended period of time with their heroes. Boimler and many of his contemporaries will have put Spock and others on a pedestal and thought of them in very specfiic terms. Spending time on the Enterprise shows Boimler that these legendary historical figures are people living their lives with their own troubles and anxieties. It’s impossible for them to live up to the expectations Boimler places on them because those expectations were never based on reality. It’s an important lesson for Boimler to learn and one he can carry back to his own time with him.

Boimler’s values come into play in relation to the Orions. The Enterprise crew display casual prejudice against Orions by assuming that the ship they encounter is crewed by pirates. Boimler comes from a more enlightened future where it’s considered offensive to assume that all Orions are pirates and points out that one of his friends is an Orion who is also an ensign in Starfleet. Valid points are made about being cautious because the region has a lot of reports of pirate activity but Boimler warns them against the assumption though he knows for a fact that this particular ship doesn’t belong to pirates because of a conversation he has with Tendi shortly before being sent back in time. Highlighting that bias and taking steps to improve furthers Una’s point made earlier in the season about Starfleet not being perfect but striving to be. Recognising bias and taking steps to overcome it is exactly what she meant. Pike recognising the Orions as scientists and giving them the recognition they want being the resolution to the conflict was excellent.

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Something to be learned

Mariner travelling back to the past extends the story beyond when it should have ended. The first attempt to send Boimler back even comes at roughly the point an episode of Lower Decks would end. A complete story is told about Boimler travelling to the past and interacting with the crew for a while before being sent home. Mariner showing up unexpectedly effectively starts the episode again and retreads a lot of the same ground but with Mariner.

It still works because Mariner is a very different character to Boimler and excellent in her own right but there’s an awkward relationship between the two halves of the episode that is noticeable. Boimler taking on the role of the experienced time traveller who understands the need to exercise restraint and attempts to rein Mariner in changes things up to a degree but the repetition does stand out.

Mariner spending time with Uhura and helping her to realise that she can’t bury herself in work all the time was a nice touch as it allows Uhura to develop even if it is similar to the lesson learned in the previous episode. Mariner using Starfleet regulations to get out of work is a nice comedic touch and the scene where she has a drink with Uhura and Ortegas works really well. Uhura not being what Mariner expects of her is an extension of what Boimler learns about Spock and reinforces the idea of people having full lives where they grow and change over time rather than being only what they are remembered for.

Star Trek

One final reassurance

Another strong moment is Mariner and Boimler’s conversation with Pike about the birthday party that Boimler sets in motion after revealing his birthday. Pike’s resistance to having his crew throw a party in his honour is another example of the humility he routinely displays. It leads to a really moving exchange where Boimler highlights that Pike doesn’t know how many more birthdays he’ll have which is a reference to the future he already knows about but the point is extended to his crew not knowing how long they have left with him and he should think about them looking back and wishing they had more time like this with him. It forces Pike to take a step back and consider the scope of his role as Captain as well as the influence he has on the people under his command. It’s especially impactful hearing it from officers from the future who see him as a hero. Whether he wants to or not it’s clear he has made an impact on people and he should let them celebrate him when appropriate.

The insight into Pike’s past when he discusses his relationship with his father was interesting. He is able to understand where Boimler and Mariner are coming from because he never resolved his issues with his father and would give everything to have one more argument with him. It’s a rare peek behind the curtain and it’s telling he’d open up to time travelers that aren’t his responsibility. Not seeing them again is believably freeing and a rare opportunity for him to get things off his chest with no consequences.

Boimler and Mariner’s presence helps the crew see themselves in a different light both generally and specifically. Una finds out that she is on the Starfleet recruitment poster along with the motto “Ad Aspera Per Aspera”; words that are meaningful to her. It’s poignant to her because she wonders if Starfleet would ever accept her and it turns out that she’s on the recruitment poster which could be seen as the ultimate acceptance.

The more general perception shift comes when some of the crew gush over the NX-01 and her crew. Ortegas talks about being a fan of Mayweather, Uhura idolises Hoshi Sato and even Pike is nostalgic for the ship. It’s pointed out that they are as nostalgic about the NX-01 as Boimler is about Pike’s crew, which sends the clear message that everyone has heroes and influences shaping their lives. Every generation is nostalgic for the last.

Star Trek

Everything just got a bit more 2D


An excellent crossover that strikes a good balance between comedic and heartfelt storytelling.

  • 9/10
    "Those Old Scientists" - 9/10


Kneel Before…

  • striking a good balance between Boimler’s fanboy gushing and meaningful storytelling
  • evidence that La’an’s adventure with the alternate Kirk still weighs on her and this experience is a trigger for her
  • minor yet meaningful stakes
  • Chapel expressing concern about her relationship with Spock being doomed
  • Boimler’s attitude to Spock referencing fandom gatekeeping and Boimler learning that Spock is different at different points of his life
  • Boimler seeing what he believes to be legendary historical figures as real people with their own problems to overcome
  • Boimler’s values shining a light on prejudice and bias against Orions held by the Enterprise crew
  • bringing back the idea of Starfleet not being perfect but aspiring to be
  • Mariner teaching Uhura the value of relaxation and not being consumed by work
  • Boimler and Mariner helping Pike to see how important he is to his crew and to allow himself to be celebrated for their sake
  • insight into Pike’s relationship with his father
  • Una finding out that she achieves the validation and acceptance that she wants
  • nostalgia for the previous generation being a continuous idea


Rise Against…

  • Mariner’s arrival creating some repetition in the comedy and storytelling


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User Review
6.58/10 (13 votes)

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