Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 7 Review – Those Old Scientists

The highly anticipated Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Lower Decks crossover is everything we could have wanted it to be.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 7 Review
Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 7

It’s official: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds really can do anything. Look, most of us probably snorted at the announcement last summer that the show had plans to do a crossover episode featuring characters from Lower Decks. After all, not only is Lower Decks an animated series, but its events also take place 120 years after those depicted in Strange New Worlds, when names like Christopher Pike, Una Chin-Riley, Nyota Uhura, and Mr. Spock had already become the stuff of Starfleet legend. The shows are wildly different in tone and content, and it’s challenging to imagine figures like Brad Boimler and Beckett Mariner existing in the world of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

But I’ve got to stop doubting the folks behind this show. “Those Old Scientists” is one of the best episodes of the season, a ridiculously fun and funny time travel-based old-school adventure that shouldn’t work at all, but absolutely does, largely because it fully embraces the heartfelt and hopeful ties that bind these two very different threads of the Star Trek franchise. 

Directed by Jonathan Frakes, everything about this hour feels like a love letter to the Trek universe writ large, from entertaining commentary about the evolution of tech like comm badges and tricorders to multiple generations of Starfleet crewmembers geeking out about those who came before them (Jonathan Archer shout out!). That the episode title is a sort of in-universe explanation for where The Original Series gets its name and a reference to a Lower Decks season 1 episode is just the icing on the cake. Plus, the animated opening credits are beautiful.

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The hour begins as though it’s an episode of Lower Decks, in full animated style. The U.S.S. Cerritos are conducting a routine check on a dormant portal—famously discovered by Captain Pike over a century earlier—when they somehow manage to activate it, blasting Boimler back to a past in which Spock, La’an, and Number One just happen to be investigating the same artifact. (And turning him into a live-action character played by Jack Quaid in the process.) 

At this point, Pike and his crew are weirdly familiar with people getting sent to or otherwise experiencing other timelines, so they’re less surprised about this than you might expect.  As the crew tries to figure out how to reactivate the portal to send Boimler home, a live-action version of Mariner steps through it, played by Tawny Newsome, and the Enterprise’s problems only get worse from there. 

Quaid has perhaps never gotten the praise he deserves for his voicework as Boimler on Lower Decks, but he is utterly charming playing his live-action counterpart, full of fanboy glee at experiencing the history he’s only read about in books and meeting the Starfleet heroes he’s idolized for so long. Newsome, to her credit, is as much a fast-talking wrecking ball here as she is in cartoon form, as Mariner ogles young Spock and provides surprisingly sage advice over cocktails. Yet, the presence of the lower deckers is about more than just jokes, although there are plenty of those as the pair stumble through trying not to give away enough knowledge to irrevocably alter the future they left behind. They also manage to provide a much-needed reminder for many of the Enterprise crew about why what they’re doing matters.

Pike’s birthday is an official holiday. “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” the phrase that encapsulated Una’s desire to join Starfleet in the first place, adorns recruitment posters. Spock…well, we all know the many necessary things he will go on to do, in this universe and others. Their adventures—triumphs, struggles, and all—will long outlive them. That’s the sort of knowledge that is…possibly a threat to the fabric of reality, but mostly it’s a gift, a broader exhortation to keep pushing forward to one day create the future that Boimler and Mariner now inhabit. 

However, “Those Old Scientists” also deals with more immediate concerns, in ways that will likely continue to play out over the rest of season 2. Strange New Worlds season 2 hasn’t really dealt much with the looming specter of Pike’s dark destiny this season —the last time the topic even really came up was the season 1 finale “A Quality of Mercy”. Pike, flattered by Boimler’s obvious adulation of him, begins to wonder if his regard is somehow evidence that his future isn’t necessarily as dark as he’s been promised. 

It’s a stark reminder of the painful foreknowledge Pike still has to live with day in and day out, even when the show doesn’t explicitly mention it or when he himself seems as though he’s not haunted by the knowledge he carries. But thanks to Boimler’s intervention—and insistence that Pike allow his crew to throw him a birthday party—it’s also a strangely hopeful moment. Perhaps the fact that he does know exactly how much time he has left will push him to put as much as he can into the relationships he has now, rather than worrying about things in days past or yet to come. 

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There’s a similar subplot going on with Spock, though it’s not tied up nearly so neatly. Both Boimler and Mariner are taken aback by how human Spock seems when they arrive in the past: he’s laughing at jokes, smiling, and clearly being flirty with Christine Chapel. For them, this is obviously distressing. They know all the crucial things Spock will go on to be and do, and the version of him that does these things is the extremely Vulcan version that has chosen to suppress most of the sorts of emotion this incarnation is clearly displaying. But when Boimler confronts Chapel about how weirdly Spock is behaving, he awkwardly realizes she’s the person who’s been influencing him to indulge his human side more openly. 

Jess Bush is generally great as Chapel, but her brief scenes this week are some of her best yet, particularly her absolutely gutted expression when she realizes what we all already know—that she and Spock have no future, not really, no matter how much she might want to believe otherwise. Has Boimler inadvertently planted the seeds of their break-up before the Spock/Chapel relationship is even fully off the ground? 

At the end of the day, “Those Old Scientists” is a sillier, lighter hour than many we’ve seen from Strange New Worlds in the past. The rapid-fire humor and ridiculous situations may not work for every viewer, and it’s possible to argue that the final coda, which sees the Enterprise crew themselves turned into animated figures after sampling some real Orion hurricanes at Pike’s birthday bash, is a bit ridiculous. (I am not one of those people, however, I want The Animated Academy Adventures of Christopher Pike right now.) But no matter how you feel about the arrival of Boimler and Marinier in the quote-unquote “real world” of Star Trek, we should all take a second to celebrate the fact that not only is Strange New Worlds a series that’s bold enough to take risks like this in the first place but to make them really work within the confines of the show we’re watching. Because that only means even greater things are in store in its future


4.5 out of 5