A Comedy of Manners in Space – Recap of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” Season One, Episode Five “Spock Amock”

One of my favorite types of episodes in fantasy and science fiction shows is “the body swap”. When done correctly, such as in Farscape’s season 2 episode “Out of Their Mind”, it can lead to some wonderful comedic moments. The good news is that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ latest episode, “Spock Amock”, carries on that tradition with a light-hearted episode focused on several key crew members during a period of shore leave.

Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched “Spock Amock”, episode 5 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

After the events of the previous episode, “Memento Mori”, the USS Enterprise docks for repairs and some much needed shore leave. We see several characters excited to go on this extended holiday, including Dr. M’Benga (who wants to get in some fly-fishing) and Nurse Chapel (who is hoping for a fun fling with a young Starfleet officer). Spock’s fiancée T’Pring arrives on the Enterprise hoping to spend some quality time with her betrothed. Unfortunately, her timing is not the best, as Spock is brought in to negotiate an alliance with a new species, the R’ongovians. Meanwhile, La’an Noonien Singh and Una Chin-Riley decide to indulge in a newly-discovered pastime, Enterprise Bingo.

The bulk of this episode explores Spock and T’Pring’s relationship. For those of us that are Star Trek The Original Series fans, we know that this relationship is not going to last. For now, though, we get to see how things began and how they will eventually reach the point in the original Star Trek episode “Amok Time”. T’Pring is frosty, which is typical of most of the Vulcans in Star Trek, but underneath her stoic exterior is a fierce woman who knows her value. The crux of the conflict between Spock and T’Pring is Spock’s duty to Starfleet, something T’Pring sees as a wedge between them pursuing a fulfilling relationship.

On the advice of Nurse Chapel, Spock insists he and T’Pring undergo a ritual to meld their katras (their minds, for lack of a better term) so that each of them can experience the other completely. This is where the body swap happens. Watching the two actors adapt their mannerisms to reflect who is in which body is quite fun, with Gia Sandhu and Ethan Peck handling themselves well in the episode.

One thing I’m quite glad the writers chose to avoid was the mistake of not telling people the body swap occurred. Not long after the swap, Captain Christopher Pike arrives at Spock’s quarters to tell him the R’ongovians will only speak with Spock during the next round of negotiations. Watching T’Pring and Spock try to play things off at first was quite amusing until T’Pring (in Spock’s body) suddenly turns and states they must tell Pike what has happened. Later on, Spock (in T’Pring’s body) must undertake a meeting that only T’Pring can handle (which is where Spock decides to tell Nurse Chapel about the body swap and ask for her assistance). The two Vulcans get a chance to see things from each other’s perspective, particularly T’Pring when she listens to Pike recite why Spock is the quintessential Starfleet officer. For a brief moment, you can see Ethan Peck convey through just his eyes the dawning moment of realization as T’Pring begins to grasp why Spock continues working with Starfleet and why he has such high regard for Pike.

In the midst of all the body swap shenanigans (or as Spock calls them “hijinks”), La’an and Una are left on the Enterprise without much to do. It’s quite a bit of fun to see Una realize she’s considered “where fun goes to die” by the other crew members (mainly the lower ranking officers and ensigns). When La’an and Una find a pair of cadets about to go on an unauthorized spacewalk, they learn about Enterprise Bingo, a game played by the ensigns and cadets as a chance to break the rules a little bit and enjoy themselves. Watching La’an and Una go through several steps in the bingo card (such as using a transporter to add the flavor back to chewing gum or have a quick standoff with phasers set to the lowest level) brought a smile to my face. Both of these women are no-nonsense badasses in their own right, so seeing them cut loose (even just a little bit) enhances their characters even more for me as an audience member. It’s clear watching their scenes that both Rebecca Romijn and Christina Chong had a blast with this episode.

The closing scene between Spock and T’Pring after the body swap has been reversed is a rather poignant one, particularly from Spock’s perspective. Being a child of two worlds, Vulcan and Earth, Spock had to constantly prove how much of a Vulcan he was growing up on his home planet. As Spock points out, in Starfleet he is accepted as both half-Vulcan and half-human. Finding that kind of acceptance after a lifetime of discrimination cannot be overstated as one of the key factors on why Spock continued to hold his Starfleet career as important to him. For this moment in time, T’Pring understands where her mate is coming from and the two spend the night together. Sadly, this understanding is temporary, as those who have seen “Amok Time” know. But for now, we get to see how these two eventually did become married and what brought them together in the first place.

At the halfway point of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, I have yet to encounter an episode I didn’t enjoy watching. The focus on a light-hearted comedy of manners after the grimness of the previous episode was a welcome relief. Too often shows that focus on violence and grimdark subject matter forget to lighten things up once in a while but that is not a failing of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. I’m looking forward to seeing what the back-half of Season One looks like.

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