In the first episode of the second season of Short Treks, Spock starts a new journey. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
AHHHHHH, I’M SO EXCITED FOR SHORT TREKS. After my experience with the previous season, I admit my expectations are high, and this absolutely delivered. It’s such a good idea to do these short stories within the world, and this one in particular was completely unexpected. The very opening scene felt like a fake-out, given that the end of season two saw Spock shaving his beard when he returned to the Enterprise, so that’s what I believed this was. BUT NO!!!! Instead, we got to see THE VERY FIRST MOMENT HE CAME TO THE SHIP WHEN HE WAS AN ENSIGN!
Which gave a completely new context to the opening image: Spock smiling. Number One later calls back to it, but let’s sit with it a moment. I think Spock was thrilled. I think he was excited. I think he allowed himself a moment of humanity because this was what he wanted. He wanted to be a part of Starfleet, to become an officer, to be more than the sum of his parts. It just so happens that someone else happened to witness this moment. But I also want to examine the immediate aftermath. Up until this depiction of Spock, I don’t know that I’d quite seen this level of social awkwardness from him. When Number One greets him, he is too loud. He overexerts. He’s… I don’t know, trying too hard? It’s a very, very brief moment, one which Spock immediately corrects, but I actually loved it. It’s an odd thing to witness, but once it is put into the context of the scene, it’s a chance for the show to give us a glimpse of Spock’s initial integration into this role.
Throughout this, Una—who we’ve known as Number One in the show’s canon as well—provides a fascinating counter to Spock. Here, she’s in a position of authority, and as the new science officer, she wants to make sure that Spock is up for the momental task set before him. Number One utters words that later become almost prophetic: She wants her science officer to ask so many questions of her that she gets annoyed. What starts out as mostly an amusing back-and-forth transforms into something more serious when the turbolift malfunctions.
“Q&A” then takes a beloved trope—two people are stuck in an elevator and slowly begin to bond with one another—to a deeply emotional place. I didn’t initially see where this was going, but that’s not a criticism. It was a delight watching Spock throw one complicated question after another. At times, it seemed that Spock was testing Number One as much as she was testing him. His questions were rigorous and enormous in scope, too! I do want to note that he didn’t start out that way. There was that brilliant question of his where he asked Number One what the “three most salient facts” were about Captain Pike, which was something he was genuinely interested in. Pike would be his very first captain, and I believe this question ties into what he and Number One would eventually discuss.
Number One hasn’t been explored in the various shows and films of the Trek universe, so I appreciated that here, we see how she came to affect Spock and his later temperament in the show. Despite that her life as a human is not the same as Spock’s, she was able to determine that Spock was already struggling with identity and belonging. Thus, it was Number One who nudged Spock in a specific direction, though she did so by singing a song from The Pirates of Penzance. Again, is it the same as what Spock went through? No, and I don’t think Number One meant to equate her musical theater chops with Spock’s internal friction with being both Vulcan and human. Rather, she advised him to keep his true “nature” close, not because it was wrong, but because command positions require a certain decorum. From this point on, Spock would largely avoid from behaving as he does at the start of “Q&A.” It’s a neat episode both because of how entertaining it is and because it gives us some possible insight into who Spock would later become. Plus, Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn have such FANTASTIC energy with one another, and I don’t want to ignore that either!!! THEY WERE SO GOOD TOGETHER.
What a great start, y’all. Who else is going to get an episode???
The video for “Q&A” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
In the second episode of the second season of Short Treks, I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS REAL. But it was!!!! Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
AHHHH HOLY SHIT, THIS EPISODE WAS RIDICULOUS. You know, I’m realizing now that one of the main characters in this episode was just… not great! At all! Lieutenant Larkin’s awkwardness may have felt relatable for the briefest of moments at the start of this episode, but what he chose to do with it… yeah, it’s indefensible, isn’t it? His project for the Cabot to help Pragine 63’s starvation problem was uncomfortable, to say the least. But it took me a few minutes to understand what we were seeing: the actual origin story of the tribbles that I first experienced in “The Trouble with Tribbles” all those years ago.
Throughout this, the writers avoid falling into a cliché depiction of Larkin. I think it could very well have been a lot easier to make him more sympathetic. He was awkward; his ideas were dismissed suddenly; he was moved into work that had nothing to do with his speciality. However, very suddenly after Captain Lucero rejects Lt. Larkin, it’s very clear how irrational Larkin is being. He complains to Noel about how no one likes the new captain, when this clearly isn’t the case. He is obviously jealous of the new captain bonding with another officer. And then… the anonymous messages. The script plays off some of the humor of the situation to the extent that I wondered if the part of Larkin was written FOR H. John Benjamin. It seemed so uniquely suited to him! Yet even amidst the chaos of the conversation, it was clear that Larkin had deeper issues at work. He trampled over the boundary Captain Lucero set like… ten times? At best?
And after he’s told he’ll be transferred, he overreacts. I am not even sure that’s a fair assessment because I feel like I’m underselling what he does. Wouldn’t transferring allow him to stay in the field he wants to work in??? But okay, let’s say he was upset that he was being forced to leave the Cabot. The solution wasn’t MERGING YOUR OWN DNA WITH THE TRIBBLES. OH MY GOD. EDWARD LARKIN CREATED THE TRIBBLES PROBLEM. And what starts out as something that was pretty funny ends up treading in the horror genre. Y’all, the way that the production team managed to animate the tribbles procreating? It’s so fucking funny. And I love that the show kept the same visual cues from The Original Series! That was such a smart choice to make, and the tribbles felt far more realistic because of it. (Also: still not getting over them reproducing. What an image.) It also made them creepier later on because of the contrast between their cuteness and what they were capable of as they grew in number.
In the end, Larkin isn’t redeemed. In fact, I was genuinely surprised that the script kept him unapologetic right to his demise. He truly thought he was besting Captain Lucero the whole time, all because he projected an imagined insult onto the captain. We all saw what happened! She never insulted his intelligence! Yet Larkin couldn’t face the truth: that his poor behavior was what led him to being let go. We don’t find out why other crew members thought that the behavior we saw in “The Trouble with Edward” was typical of Larkin, but clearly, he’s been a toxic force on this ship for a while.
What a first assignment, though. In two weeks, Lucero had to abandon ship, all because Larkin couldn’t accept being transferred. This is possibly the most dramatic overreaction in Trek history? Or at least one of them!!!
Oh, I’m so ready for the next episode of Short Treks. Bring it on!
As a final note: I did end up watching the post-credits sequence, though it’s not on camera. I did not know there was one at all! But I’m glad I did because now I will never forget, “We’re pregnant… with flavor!” NEVER. FORGET.
The video for “The Trouble With Edward” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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