This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 2
In almost every way, “Children of the Comet,” proves that Strange New Worlds wasn’t kidding around about doing an episodic, self-contained, story-of-the-week old-style Star Trek format. Although the episode continues the emotional arcs of Pike, Spock, and Uhura — as well as introducing Hemmer and taking Sam Kirk on an away mission — the basic story itself is all wrapped up by the end. It’s a classic Trek tale of miscommunication and finds our Starfleet crew challenging their preconceived notions about faith and the basic nature of how aliens would try to talk to us.
It’s also an episode steeped in Trek lore, easter eggs, and callbacks. If you look close enough, everything from Captain Kirk’s favorite booze to something Picard was trying to steal back is referenced in this one. Here’s every easter egg and reference we caught in “Children of the Comet.”
Although the end of the first Strange New Worlds episode (“Strange New Worlds”) ended with Pike recording a “supplemental” Captain’s Log, that episode did not begin with one. Now, with the second episode of Strange New Worlds, we’re back to a very old-school cold opening of having a crew member record a log entry to set the stage. To be clear, Discovery actually does this a lot, very often with log entries from Michael Burnham, or more recently in season 4, Dr. Culber. That said, no live-action Star Trek has ever opened with a log entry recording by Uhura, now played by Celia Rose Gooding. And, to make matters even more interesting, because Uhura is a cadet, and not even a junior officer yet, her entire approach to recording her log isn’t too far off from how the junior officers in Lower Decks record their logs. Is Uhura, now, retroactively, the first lower decker?
The name of the planetary system through which the comet is traveling is called “the Persephone system.” This name is, in fact, a kind of a low-key spoiler for the entire episode. In ancient Greek mythology, Persephone was the goddess of the underworld, and therefore, the dead. But she was also the goddess of fertility. Because the comet both threatens certain death and is eventually revealed to be helping the planet have better, more fertile soil, almost everything you need to know about this episode is right there in the name. Curiously, “Persephone,” was also the name of one of Adam Soong’s (Brent Spiner) genetic “daughters” who died before Kore (Isa Briones) in the recently concluded second season of Star Trek: Picard.
The new chief engineer of the Enterprise, Hemmer (Bruce Horak) may look like an Andorian, but he’s actually a member of the Aenar, who are considered a sub-species of the Andorians. First introduced in the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise — in a season 4 episode called “The Aenar” — seemingly all members of the Aenar are blind. However, as Spock mentions in this episode, Hemmer has very heightened senses, which includes telepathy. This too was established in Enterprise.
This episode also implies that Spock and Hemmer can maybe communicate telepathically with each other, at least, slightly. This matches up with what we know about the Aenar from Enterprise. In that series, in the year 2154, the Aenar were outcasts of the Andorians. Now, in the setting of Strange New Worlds, it’s over 100 years later, in the year 2259, and it would seem, the Aenar are fully integrated into the Federation. Some fans believed that the Andorian, Thelin, in The Animated Series episode “Yesteryear,” was a member of the Aenar. While that’s an apocryphal assumption, visually, seeing Spock and Hemmer interact in Strange New Worlds could scan as a kind of easter egg to Spock and Thelin in “Yesteryear.” If you squint.
Because the Aenar only appeared in the series Enterprise, this marks the first time a species that was exclusively created for that series has become a series regular on a subsequent Star Trek series. (There are no Denobulans or Xindi as series regulars on Discovery or Picard.) Also, from a chronological point of view, Strange New Worlds is, in a sense, a direct sequel to Enterprise in the same way Discovery was for its first two seasons.
This is also the second episode of Strange New Worlds in a row to overtly reference Star Trek: Enterprise. In the first episode, the crew was rescuing the USS Archer, named for Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) from that series.
The Pantless Nausicaan
Pike telling a story to the crew about chasing a Nausicaan with no pants is pretty great. It’s also funny because it establishes that Enterprise captains seem to always be having run-ins with Nausicaans in their younger days. In the famous TNG episode “Tapestry,” we learned that a young Ensign Jean-Luc Picard got into a bar fight with some Nausicaans which resulted in him getting stabbed through the heart. This redirected Picard’s career path somewhat, or at least Q’s alternate dimension in that episode makes us think so.
Funnily enough, the context of Pike’s story seems to indicate he was thinking of going into the security division of Starfleet, rather than command. So, like Picard several decades later, Pike’s Nausicaan totally changed the direction of this Starfleet career.
Number One, Jumping From Department to Department
Pike kids Number One about having different jobs and jumping from different departments. This seems to be an inside joke connected to the fact that Una is both the first officer of the Enterprise, but also, occasionally, the ship’s helmsman. In “The Cage,” this dual role seemed standard, but now, in Strange New Worlds, it seems that Ortegas is the default flight controller, which would probably make Una the navigator, or the “ops” officer. In the pilot episode, La’an became acting first officer as well as chief of security. And of course, in TOS, Spock is the science officer and the first officer simultaneously.
Basically, in the TOS era, at least on the Enterprise, all first officers tended to have more than one job. This idea is also backed up by Discovery, in which Michael Burnham was the first officer of the USS Shenzhou and also the lead xenoanthropologist. It’s not until the era of The Motion Picture that the idea of an XO (executive officer) becomes its own job. Riker didn’t seem to have another job beyond being “Number One,” and in TMP, Kirk mentions Decker will have to “double as science officer.” So, apparently, around the 2270s, being a first officer was its own thing, but here in 2259, it’s still not.
Uhura’s Grandmother Was in Starfleet
Strange New Worlds creates, for the first time, a detailed backstory of where Uhura came from. Although her (late) parents were not in Starfleet, it’s established that Uhura’s grandmother was. This is very interesting as we suddenly now have another person, maybe with the last name Uhura (probably?) who was in Starfleet sometime in say…the 2220s? Who is this other Uhura and which ship did she serve on?
This detail is tossed out casually, mostly because we’re reeling from the very sad story of Uhura’s parents and brother getting killed in a shuttle accident. But still. Star Trek canon has now established another Uhura, beyond Nyota Uhura, who was in Starfleet awhile back. The greatest thing about this easter egg is that we know almost nothing about the 2220s and 2230s of Trek history!
The character of Uhura sings a lot in The Original Series. But, she makes music with Spock in TOS’s “Charlie X”; during a scene in which Spock plays the Vulcan lute (harp) and Uhura sings impromptu songs. In “Children of the Comet,” we are witnessing Spock and Uhura making music together for the first time.
Sam Kirk is the New Michael Burnham
Unlike his slightly more famous brother, we learn that Sam Kirk works in the Xenoanthropology department on the Enterprise. This means that we know now that both Kirk and Spock have siblings who are xenoanthropologists. Weird!
Sam Kirk Plays Dead
Because Sam Kirk comes from the TOS episode “Operation — Annihilate!” and dies in that episode, there’s no way he can die in this episode of Strange New Worlds. However, when Spock, La’an, and Uhura are trying to help Sam after he gets zapped, actor Dan Jeannotte does lay a little like William Shatner did when he played Sam’s dead body in “Operation — Annihilate!” (Of note, Pike talks about Sam’s mustache, which of course, only exists because in TOS, it was a way for William Shatner to play a second character. Albeit, a dead one.)
Nurse Chapel Is Not Spock’s Girlfriend
Uhura notices that Chapel is flirting with Spock before the away mission. This is some deep, well-established canon from The Original Series. In the episodes “The Naked Time” and “Amok Time,” it’s made pretty clear that Chapel has unrequited feelings for Spock. Interestingly, at this point in the chronology, Chapel has yet to meet her roboticist fiancé Roger Korby from the TOS episode, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” In that classic episode, Uhura was seemingly very familiar with Chapel’s love life and seemed to congratulate her when Korby was thought to have been found. So, in Strange New Worlds, we’re arguably seeing the beginning not only of Spock and Chapel’s flirtations but also Uhura and Chapel becoming behind-the-scenes best friends.
Wonky Universal Translator
When the comet-loving aliens arrive and say, “We are the Shepards,” Pike responds incredulously, saying “really?”
This isn’t a diss against these aliens. Pike is questioning if the Universal Translator is getting the translation right. This is a rare moment for the Star Trek canon. We generally accept that the conceit of Trek allows for instant communication with other aliens through a highly advanced language thingamabob called “The Universal Translator,” which is built into pretty much everything. However, as we learned in several of the shows — most famously in TNG’s “Darmok” — just translating the words doesn’t mean you always can derive meaning.
When Pike double-checks with Ensign Christina (Jennifer Hui) she says, “that’s how the universal translator is processing it.” One thing to note here: Ensign Christina is Uhura’s superior, and therefore, seemingly, her direct predecessor as the communications officer.
Guardian of Forever
The Shepards say to Pike that the comet existed “long before suns first burned hot in the sky.” This feels like a direct reference to a line from TOS’s “The City on the Edge of Forever,” in which a time portal known as the Guardian of Forever said to Kirk and Spock, “Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question.”
Escape Pattern April Omega Three
Pike mentions a pre-programmed maneuver called “escape pattern April Omega Three.” This can only be a reference to Robert April, first captain of the NCC-1701 Enterprise, and canonically introduced by actor Adrian Holmes in the previous episode of Strange New Worlds.
Pike makes a deep cut when he bluffs the Shepards into thinking the Enterprise will explode because of “Trilithium resin.” This references The Next Generation episode “Starship Mine,” written by legend Morgan Gendel (who also wrote “The Inner Light.”) In that episode, terrorists were trying to steal Trilithium resin from the ship to sell on the black market to make a weapon.
Trilithium is also the central MacGuffin of Star Trek Generations in the sense that Soren made a weapon out of it. That movie featured Kirk and Picard on horses, and funnily enough, “Starship Mine” also featured Picard being obsessed with horses. And these days, on Strange New Worlds, we know how Pike feels about horses. Pike doesn’t ride a horse in this episode, but Uhura does sing, and in The Final Frontier, her singing enabled Kirk and Spock to steal horses. What does that have to do with Trilithium resin? Ask Hemmer!
Spock’s Solo Shuttle Mission
The interior of Spock’s shuttle has several flourishes that match the interior of The Original Series shuttle designs, too. Most notable of these is the little round scanner that appears to be on an arm that can be swiveled.
But beyond that, Spock flying a shuttle by himself into a possibly intelligent, mysterious space phenomenon feels like a direct reference to the TOS banger “The Immunity Syndrome,” in which Spock flew a shuttle into a huge space amoeba. Like in “Children of the Comet,” Spock even lost contact with the ship briefly!
Saurian Brandy in Pike’s Quarters
While Una and Pike discuss his grim future, and what can be done about it, we see in the background of Pike’s room a bottle of Saurian Brandy. The shape of this bottle is identical to all Saurian Brandy we’ve seen throughout Trek, starting with TOS’s “The Enemy Within.” Other than Romulan Ale and Klingon Bloodwine, it’s easily the most famous Star Trek booze, and we have to believe that’s what Pike is sipping on in the final scenes of the episode.