Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×01 Review: “The Broken Circle”

Ethan Peck as Spock. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds returns for season 2 with “The Broken Circle”, a fairly low-key episode for a season premiere, and absent two of its headliners. With Una still under arrest even months after the last episode of season 1, Pike has set out to try and get her released, leaving Spock temporarily in charge of Enterprise. Naturally, shenanigans ensue.

While in space dock undergoing some routine inspections, Enterprise receives a distress call from La’An, who is still on leave. The message claims that the safety of the Federation is in jeopardy. Yet when Acting Captain Spock requests permission to journey to the coordinates given – a mining colony on the edge of Klingon space – he is denied. Of course, the only logical decision is to steal the ship and go anyway.

Honestly, I think it’s pretty brilliant of Strange New Worlds to have its season premiere lacking in its major star power. With Pike and Una both absent, it gives the other characters a chance. Now, it’s not like this show isn’t great at balancing its ensemble, but it’s one thing to exist as part of a unit, and another thing entirely to figure out how to exist when an established unit is disrupted. Such is the case for Spock in “The Broken Circle”, who finds himself with an ethical dilemma not long after he is placed in temporary command.

Spock’s battle with the Gorn in season 1 has undone all of the careful mental barriers that Vulcans construct to control their emotions. In “The Broken Circle”, he struggles heavily with trying to make the logical decision while dealing with emotions that he’s never really had the chance to deal with before. In that sense, Spock is like a teenager, experiencing feelings that he can’t name and doesn’t know what to do with. Ethan Peck handles this mostly internal struggle with considerable aplomb, managing to do worlds of acting with just his eyes while retaining Spock’s stoic veneer.

Unsurprisingly, most of Spock’s emotional turmoil has to do with Nurse Chapel, something both she and M’Benga have picked up on. These are two who also triumphed in the absence of Pike and Una, with this episode hinting at a deeper, and darker, connection than I think was implied in the first season. The two are separated from the rest of the away team, captured by a rogue band of terrorists determined to reignite the Klingon-Federation War. Chapel and M’Benga, both having served in the war, are reminded of darker times as they are pressed into medical service for the terrorists.

Jess Bush as Chapel and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Their plotline was fantastic in this episode. I have no idea what they dosed themselves with, but you can tell that this is something that they had to do during the war, and they don’t relish being put back in that situation. Chapel and M’Benga, as medical officers, are often largely left out of the fighting. We’ve seen enough of Chapel to know that she can handle her own in a fight, but in “The Broken Circle” we can see that they are both actually quite skilled at hand-to-hand combat, even if their serum gave them an edge.

The use of lighting and slow-motion in these sequences helped ramp up the tension. I kept telling myself that it was only the season premiere, surely they couldn’t kill someone off so quickly, but I was never really sure until they both were beamed about Enterprise. Babs Olusanmokun is another actor on this show whose subtle facial cues reveal a hidden depth. M’Benga is so soft-spoken, but when it comes down to it, he can get it done.

Even with a pretty tense episode, there were moments of levity. The bridge crew teasing Spock about needing to have “a thing” (a phrase right before they go to warp) and Spock completely straight-faced yelling with the Klingons at the end of the episode are two moments I need to highlight. But I think the best is the introduction of Pelia (Carol Kane), who will be the new Chief Engineer. She was a delight, competent enough to recognize a fake core breach and sassy enough to chastise them for stealing the ship improperly.

I’ll miss Hemmer, but I think Pelia will be a great addition to the crew. I’m not recommending that they keep killing off characters (although fans spotted death knells with Pelia already, given her lament about living for so long), but I do think it helps to introduce new dynamics into an established team. And Pelia, being so long-lived, will be able to provide a lot of insight that others may miss. This also has the potential to do a lot of canonical retconning, but we’ll see how it goes.

On a side note, I miss Chief Kyle. Now that Vampire Academy has been canceled, I hope they can figure out a way to bring Andre Dae Kim back.

All in all, “The Broken Circle” was a pretty solid start to what will hopefully be a fantastic season. I think of all the currently airing Star Trek properties Strange New Worlds nails the essence of the original the best. I’m excited to see where these characters go in season 2.

And of course, I appreciated the touching tribute to Nichelle Nichols, the original Uhura, who died last July.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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