This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers.
When engineer Pelia strutted her way onto the Enterprise bridge in the premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season two, blatantly ignoring the evacuation warning and acting Captain Spock’s orders, viewers simply assumed she was just another one of the delightfully odd characters played by Carol Kane. From The Princess Bride and Scrooged to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Taxi, Kane has established herself as a master at playing wonderful oddballs, squeaky-voiced agents of chaos who disrupt the status quo simply by showing up.
And to be sure, that’s exactly what Pelia does. Not only does she see right through Spock’s (literally) textbook plan to falsely sabotage the ship and steal the Enterprise but she also offers a much more elegant solution, helping the skeleton crew answer a distress call from the erstwhile Lieutenant La’an Noonien-Singh.
Why is Pelia so quick to help Spock? Because she’s never known a Vulcan to act without a good reason and, more importantly, because of the respect she holds for Spock’s human mother, Amanda Grayson. After all, Amanda was the first human who ever learned that Pelia is in fact a Lanthanite.
What is a Lanthanite, you ask? Well, that’s a good question, and honestly, we know as much as you do. Lanthanites are a completely new Star Trek species, so the only information available about them is found in “The Broken Circle.” We know that they’re humanoid (not a surprise, see the Next Generation episode “The Chase”), but unlike most other Trek aliens, they lack distinguishing foreheads, noses, or ears. This obvious similarity to humans allows Lanthanites to live on Earth undetected.
But the key aspect that defines Lanthanites, at least in this episode, is their very long life-span. We learn that Pelia has lived for over one hundred years and that she carries the weight of watching loved ones pass away. In her extended existence, Pelia has met few people like Amanda Grayson, the woman who not only won the heart of forward-thinking Vulcan Ambassador Sarek, but also helped direct the course of Spock and his adopted sister Michael Burnham of Star Trek: Discovery.
At this point, it’s unclear exactly how long Lanthanites live and why that’s significant. While some species definitely have shorter lifespans than humans (remember, the Ocampa Kes was only two years old when she and Neelix were introduced as a couple in Voyager), many outlive humans by a great deal. Vulcans, Andorians, and Denobulans all live well into their hundreds, with some, such as Guinan’s species the El-Aurians, living several centuries.
Given the Enterprise crew’s reaction to Pelia’s revelation, it’s clear that the Federation knows a bit about Lanthanites, but we’re only given little bits and pieces of this new addition to the canon. Over the next nine episodes of season two, we’re sure to get to know this new species better, as Pelia becomes the ship’s new chief engineer. It’s hard to think of a wackier guide than Kane to lead us into the undiscovered country of the Lanthanites.