Review: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 6 “Lost in Translation”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds offers our communications officer a well-deserved spotlight as our heroes tackle a neat sci-fi challenge, all while offering fans a much-anticipated meeting of classic characters.
On the edge of Federation space, temporary fleet captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) is commanding the Enterprise and Farragut in repairing a fuel collection refinery deep in a deuterium-rich nebula. Deuterium, after all, is the fuel that powers starships, and establishing a “gas station” in this sector of space would lend itself to further exploration efforts. So, getting the collector back in running order is a priority, but that’s easier said than done after Nyota Uhura (Celina Rose Gooding) starts experiencing strange noises and hallucinations. Doctor M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) thinks Uhura has a mild case of deuterium poisoning thanks to her working in a nacelle earlier, but we all know that can’t be the answer.
Helping Uhura through these issues is James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley), and yes, this is the Prime Universe Kirk who would eventually be eternalized by William Shatner. In fact, “Lost in Translation” is the first time we see the OG Kirk for any extended time, as most previous appearances by Wesley’s Kirk have been alternate reality versions. Thus, this episode marks the first time Kirk and Uhura meet; of course, they would go on to serve together for decades.
“Look, I’ve had deuterium poisoning, and I’ve gone days without sleep. But I’ve never punched an officer because of either one. The point is, I’m an exquisite judge of character, and I believe you. There’s something else going on here.”– Kirk to Uhura
Kirk believes Uhura when the latter claims her visions are more than just symptoms of overworking and little sleep. Increasing the urgency of Uhura’s situation is the discovery that a member of the refinery, Saul Ramon (Michael Reventar) also has been experiencing Uhura’s symptoms, and has been actively trying to stop the Enterprise from restarting collection efforts in the nebula. Ultimately, Ramon sacrifices himself to sabotage the Enterprise’s Bussard collectors, which Pike orders used to replenish the ship’s own supply of deuterium. Why the man would sacrifice himself to stop the collection efforts, no one knows yet.
Kirk and Uhura realize the noises and visions Uhura has been experiencing, including disturbing visions of her departed friend, Hemmer (Bruce Horak), maybe the result of an alien trying to communicate through the communications officer; the aliens must also be trying to communicate with the ill-fated Ramon. This is where this episode really got our attention; having an alien race trying to use Uhura’s brain as a universal translator is an intriguing concept, and plays to our fascination with soft sci-fi concepts – concepts that prioritize imaginative storytelling, speculative notions, and fantastical elements.
Knowing there might be aliens involved in this dilemma, Uhura and James Kirk turn to the ship’s resident xenoanthropologist, Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte). Indeed, we see more of Sam Kirk in “Lost in Translation” than ever before, and we are treated to some Kirk family drama as the two brothers continue a rivalry over who can be more successful in their careers, and how they can impress their father, George. So far, James Kirk, newly promoted first officer of the Farragut, is winning, but that doesn’t stop Sam from helping Uhura and his brother when the time comes.
Uhura realizes aliens are using elements of her life, such as painful memories of her family’s lethal shuttle accident, her friendship with Hemmer and its tragic end, and her keenness for languages, to try and communicate how the Federation’s fuel collection efforts in this nebula are actually torturing its residents. Thus, Uhura asserts to Pike that the Federation’s efforts must cease, and the collection vessel must be destroyed. It’s a touching end, then, after the refinery is destroyed when Uhura sees a friendly vision of Hemmer as the aliens are safe from the Federation’s accidental destruction.
“Captain, you told me the point of this station was to help us find new forms of life. But what is the point of exploring if we are just going to kill what we find?”– Uhura to Pike.
“Lost in Translation” isn’t the first time this franchise explores the harmful effects of the Federation’s exploration of the galaxy – see The Next Generation’s “Force of Nature” for a similar plot – but it is, according to our recollection, the first to handle the topic in such a mysterious way. Indeed, “Lost in Translation” leads viewers to a mystery that takes most of the episode to solve, and we were constantly eagerly awaiting to learn what was afflicting Uhura and how the crew would solve the problem. For that alone, “Lost in Translation” was a fun ride, and the fact it was a character-driven story means we got to learn more about the young communications officer, including how she can’t quite get a grip on death just yet – something James Kirk helps her process.
Indeed, two memorable moments happen in this episode that Star Trek fans have surely been waiting for. The first is when Kirk meets Uhura, which happens in a bar and Uhura mistakenly thinks Kirk is hitting on her (and just a few minutes later, nearly breaks his nose). It’s so fascinating to consider this is how Kirk and Uhura’s relationship begins, especially since the two people will go on to serve together for years. Luckily, there’s far more to their initial encounter besides this misunderstanding; Jim quickly becomes friends with Uhura as he helps her through her ordeal.
The second memorable moment is the first meeting between Spock and Kirk. Yes, in theory, it is a momentous occasion. On-screen, it happens fairly anticlimactically, as Spock, on his own volition, uncharacteristically interjects himself in Kirk and Uhura’s conversation by cleaning up after Sam’s mess and offering a one-word assessment of the older Kirk brother: “Frustrating.” Such is the first interaction between Kirk and Spock. It isn’t a glorified meeting save for a lingering shot of the two men shaking hands as a smiling Uhura looks on, and we don’t think it had to be. Strange New Worlds isn’t about Spock and Kirk, after all. We would love to know how this scene came to be in the writer’s room; surely much conversation was had about how to introduce these two legendary characters. Perhaps there’s more to the nascent Kirk and Spock relationship in episodes to come?
While all this drama is happening on the Enterprise, Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) and Lt. Pelia (Carol Kane) are on the collector vessel trying to get it working. The two find themselves at odds fairly easily, and Una makes little effort to hide her disdain for Pelia’s unprofessionalism; this opinion is only compounded when Pelia disobeys Una’s direct orders and investigates a part of the refinery she shouldn’t have.
Pelia sees right through Una’s claim that the younger woman dislikes her simply because Pelia gave Una a “C” in a class back at the academy – which by itself would be an immature reason to dislike someone. Instead, Pelia correctly discerns Una is rubbed the wrong way because Pelia replaced Una’s friend, Hemmer, as Enterprise’s engineer. This is a sensible reason for not liking someone, but we aren’t fond of what this plotline asserts for Una: that she is prone to unprofessional bias because of emotional reasoning.
This seems out of character for the distinguished Una, who we wouldn’t peg as someone prone to being emotionally compromised in this way. Moreover, while we believe Una was certainly friendly with Hemmer while he was alive, we didn’t see them as being particularly close friends. This makes Una’s bias against Pelia even more eyebrow-raising. In the end, Una and Pelia’s plotline was not nearly as satisfying as this episode’s other storytelling, but at least they seemed to put their animosity behind them.
“Lost in Translation” does contain a couple of threads from previous episodes. Firstly, Spock and Chapel try to determine what exactly is the nature of their relationship, which finally sprouted into something real in “Charades,” and how they should or should not hide their fraternization. Lastly, La’an, upon seeing Prime Kirk, remembers her emotionally trying time in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” with the alternate reality Kirk, but to her credit doesn’t let her surprise encounter with him jeopardize her mission. La’an does, however, emotionally relate to Kirk later when the two discuss what drives their respective Starfleet careers – mainly, that they do it to help people. Not a bad first meeting for the two characters – and this episode does hint that more could come from the La’an-Kirk romance. We approve.
Taken together, “Lost in Translation” is a milestone episode in Star Trek canon, as it marks the meeting of officers who would become like family on Kirk’s Enterprise. But in our opinion, that isn’t even the most memorable part of this episode. Having Uhura take the spotlight in a way that showcased her past, her well-established friendship with the late Hemmer, and her brains when it comes to language and communication, makes for a great story when combined with this episode’s neat sci-fi concept. “Lost in Translation” is also a great vehicle to see just a bit of Hemmer, who perished far too soon, but whose death is having lasting ramifications for his crew. Having this emotional throughline over this mostly episodic series serves SNW‘s audience well, as it gives them something to attach to and creates an engaging and heartfelt viewing experience.
- “Lost in Translation” contains the first reference to the ominous Gorn threat since the first episode of the season. Spock surmises that the refinery would be a good stronghold if hostilities broke out with the Gorn.
- We learn in this episode that Hemmer was a “just okay” student of Pelia.
- This may be an unpopular opinion, but seeing Hemmer here makes us miss him over the Enterprise’s newest engineer, Pelia, who we are definitely not as fond of.
- Isn’t it strange that we didn’t see an establishing shot of the Farragut at all in this episode? We do see her briefly when the collector vessel is being evacuated, but she’s in the background and barely distinguishable from the other chaos on screen.
- Sam and Jim talk about their father, George, who in this timeline served on the Kelvin without much trouble. In the alternate universe established in Star Trek (2009), George Kirk (played by pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) heroically dies in the face of Nero’s ship.
- We’ve been impressed with Anson Mount these last two episodes, even though they weren’t Captain Pike-oriented stories. His facial expressions in “Charades” were hilarious, and in this episode, his momentary fear in the face of the cracking viewscreen was brief but powerful.
- These writers know their Star Trek lore. In TOS’ “The Menagerie, Part I,” Kirk asserts he first met Pike when the older man was promoted to fleet captain, which does indeed happen in “Lost in Translation,” albeit it’s a temporary promotion.
- Why couldn’t Ramon be beamed to, say, the brig, when he escaped sickbay, instead of the various crew members starting a manhunt for him?
- Does the Enterprise not need a new warp nacelle after Ramon’s sabotage?
- Considering he knows Uhura’s mental difficulties, Kirk should definitely know better than to let her try and get back to sickbay by herself.
- WHY doesn’t Pike take Uhura up on her offer of confining herself to quarters? He merely dismisses her concern that she could sabotage the ship the same way Ramon did, and he asserts to her it won’t come to that. But confining the hallucinating crewmember to quarters is exactly what he should do!
- Poor Sam Kirk. He rubs it in his brother’s face that he is serving on the Federation flagship, but indeed Kirk will command that vessel in just a few years, and Sam will be dead.
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