Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Brings Back One of Spock’s Weirdest TOS Storylines

The lute that Doctor M'Benga gives Spock in the Strange New Worlds season 2 premiere has a long history in The Original Series.

Ethan Peck as Spock in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2
Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers.

In the season two premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Dr. M’Benga tries a little human medicine with his patient Spock. After letting his emotions flow to battle the Gorn at the end of season one, Spock finds himself experiencing feelings he thought he had suppressed, resulting in a condition that M’Benga correctly diagnoses as “stress.” His treatment? Handing Spock a lute and recommending that he channel his emotions into music.

The lute doesn’t get much play in the episode, save for a later scene in which Uhura takes notice (more on that in a minute). But for fans of The Original Series, the Vulcan lute (identified as a ka’athyra in the supplemental material) is a Spock accessory that’s been a long time coming. Throughout TOS, we saw Spock play the lute as a form of off-duty relaxation, whether it be dealing with his pon-farr-related frustrations in “Amok Time” or bonding with space hippies in “The Way to Eden.” The lute revealed another depth to the oft-inscrutable half-Vulcan, showing an artistic side not always apparent from his furrowed brow.

The Vulcan lute has made a few appearances outside of Spock’s hands, including with Mr. Vulcan himself, Tuvok, who played the instrument in Voyager, and even Uhura gave it a go in the TOS episode “The Conscience of the King.” Uhura was also party to the most infamous scene involving the Vulcan lute, from the season one episode “Charlie X.”

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Most of “Charlie X” involves a teenager with immense mental powers, the first of many god-like creatures in the Star Trek canon. But the standout scene takes place in the commissary of the Enterprise, where crew members enjoy some technicolor downtime. As Spock tries to play his lute, he’s initially annoyed by Uhura, who cannot help but sing along. With a little encouragement from Yoeman Rand, Uhura launches into a sultry little number, this time with Spock willingly providing accompaniment.

“Oh, on the starship Enterprise, there’s someone who’s in Satan’s guise, whose devil ears and devil eyes, could rip your heart from you,” sings Uhura. Aggressive as that might seem, and Spock does let a little annoyance crease his brow, it’s clearly a form of flirtation between the two of them, as evidenced by Spock’s continued participation in the jest.

While Uhura famously shared an on-screen smooch with Kirk and later enjoyed a romance with Scotty in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, she and Spock shared more than a few flirtations in The Original Series. That subtext became text in the Kelvinverse movies, to the point that Spock griped about his lady problems in Star Trek Beyond. Thus far, Strange New Worlds has taken a more subtle approach, making Spock and Uhura feel more like close friends, saving Spock’s official relationship for T’Pring and meaningful flirtation for Nurse Chapel.

But with the lute now in play, Spock may be ready to use his Satanic charms on any astronaut who floats his way.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 is streaming now on Paramount+.