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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

Star Trek Strange New Worlds Episode 2 Recap: Trek Courtroom Drama is Back!

Court drama can make for some good TV, and Star Trek court drama can make for some really interesting (though a little on the nose) looks at societal issues through a specific lens or perspective. In the case of Strange New Worlds' fantastic courtroom centered episode this week, Ad Astra Per Aspera, it was a look at the Federation and its draconian laws around augments.


It’s true that Earth had some bad experiences with augmented individuals during the Eugenics Wars of the 90’s. It’s curious, however, that the Federation as a whole and Starfleet still hold onto this stigma even though the Federation has to consist of dozens–if not hundreds–of worlds at this point. While this point isn’t brought up in the episode, Ad Astra Per Aspera does a good job taking a hard look at the “progressive” Federation’s dark side.


Yetide Badaki as Neera and Anson Mount as Capt. Pike in episode 202 “Ad Astra per Aspera” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

For any episodic show that doesn’t rely on an overarching story, it’s hard to make the stakes feel real. Strange New Worlds doesn’t struggle with that, though. Ad Astra Per Aspera (which translates to “to the stars, through difficulty” does a great job making you feel like Captain Pike’s Number one–Una Chin Riley (Rebecca Romijn)--has a serious chance of getting locked up for lying about her augmentation status.


Anson Mount as Captain Pike must suffer for his crew, and that’s no different in Ad Astra Per Aspera, as he visits an Illyrian world which is uninhabitable by humans, but completely comfortable for the Illyrians and their genetic modifications. Pike suffers embarrassment and even the threat of choking to death on an inhospitable atmosphere to get the help of Neera–a high powered Illyrian lawyer and old friend of Una Chin riley–in the help of his first officer’s defense.


Yetide Badaki as Neera in episode 202 “Ad Astra per Aspera” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

While she reluctantly agreed, it appears at first as though Neera, played by Yetide Badaki, is pushing her own agenda, and not looking out for Una Chin Riley–who gave up a sweet plea deal that would have allowed her to retain her freedom in exchange for losing her Starfleet career. Instead, she chooses to fight for her right to be an augment in Starfleet, and Starfleet tries to make an example of her by upping her potential sentence to 20 years in a penal colony.


This new sentence is orchestrated by a prominently eyebrowed Vulcan by the name of ___. There is a particularly hilarious exchange that involved Spock’s meeting with this character, and Doctor M’Benga and pilot Ortega's discussing the intricacies of Vulcan body language. Strange New Worlds does an excellent job balancing tension with genuine levity.


Melanie Scrofano as Batel in episode 202 “Ad Astra per Aspera” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

As an Illyrian, Una Chin Riley’s parents augmented her in what her species considers a traditional way. However, Riley and her parents were forced to hide her augmented status from the Federation, for fear of being imprisoned. Riley’s lawyer expertly uses this story and Riley’s other accounts of prejudice leveled against her to give Riley an exception, and she’s reinstated as a Starfleet officer–though, as a special case.


My original thoughts about this episode was that Deep Space Nine did it better with “Doctor Bashir, I Presume.” However, Ad Astra Per Aspera hits on many points that the DS9 episode didn’t, and makes a compelling argument against the Federation’s status as a utopia. It’s a hard look at a society that harms even when it has the best intentions, and it’s done in a brilliant courtroom turnaround that I should have seen coming, but was delighted to have missed.



Starfleet in episode 202 “Ad Astra per Aspera” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Strange New Worlds continues to be the Trek that a lot of fans wanted–and I can’t think of any Star Trek fan that can hate it. And “Ad Astra Per Aspera “ is a great return to good old fashioned Star Trek philosophizing and soap boxing that I craved. And that isn’t even getting into the fantastic dress uniforms that were a great balance between new Trek and homage to the Original Series. This is the episode that has really driven home that great live action Trek is back.

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