The time will come when a Star Trek show requested a court session. Whether it’s internal Starfleet politics, or the opportunity to promote Federation values to an alien society, Star Trek love an opportunity to create its subtexts to text that it can almost beat a book in it over your head. And so it is not surprising Brave New World has found itself at this crossroads of exploring the franchise’s classic tropes.
“Ad Astra per Aspera” takes the climactic twist of end of season onewhere Number One (Rebecca Romijn), also known as First Chin-Riley, arrested by Captain Batel (returning guest star Melanie Scrofano) for hiding from Starfleet that she is an Illyrian—agenetically modified species whose cultural practice of adapting their bodies to the worlds they colonized went against the Federation’s strict laws against genetic enhancement after the cataclysmic Eugenics Wars.
After Captain Pike (Anson Mount) rested from last week “stealing my own starship” hijinks, we find him visiting an Illyrian colony world to try and help Commander Una’s case go as smoothly as possible. In is perfect Star Trek courtroom episode contrivance, Una has an old Illyrian friend who is now a stellar intergalactic civil rights lawyer. Even even though they had a rough past together, the lawyer—Neera, playing a superstar firebrand turn by American Gods‘ Yetide Badaki-agreed to take the case. Not because she cares about Pike or Una at this point, but because Neera believes she can make a case not only about Una, but against the Federation as a whole for its discrimination against genetically altered species.
This is Brave New World‘ a great twist on the classic walking court format: the advocate for Star TrekThe values of neither are cAptain, or an official of the Federation, but a member of the same marginalized group being tried. A lot of walkingPast courtroom dramas have often been based on the rights of a marginalized person—a Starfleet officer or otherwise—on trial, and the only way to protect those rights is to bring in and educate the someone who is not part of a marginalized group. courtroom if on the other hand, and sometimes even other members of the same group who are isolated. It always works on walkingit’s a favor, because we are like its heroes, and we love them when they get big acting soliloquy moments where they win a champion. Star TrekIt’s the belief in equality and empathy for everyone, and we quickly forget the fact that the person being judged in these moments has to sit there and watch while their rights are asserted.
In fact, “Ad Astra per Aspera” vividly reminds us that a big nice speech from Pike is really the worst thing he could do to help Una’s case, if Batel—who that is, the creation of all interrelated relations. here even more confused, Pike’s girlfriend—reminds him that the moment he stands up any speech will be interrupted, interrupted by HIM, with the simple question that would kill his career: how long had he known that Una was an Illyrian? His personal pride in his First Officer or his penchant for charming wordplay, things that we usually find strong in the case of previous episodes like this, are immediately rendered useless, and in Neera takes things, as well. as his own goals for the case and his troubled past with Una, and synthesized it into a victory.
This makes the allusion to the heart of “Ad Astra per Aspera,” which can have in clumsier framings come as a parallel to racial prejudice where a white woman is judged, stronger, and Neera’s arguments to in court-open with a double-barreled attack on the Federation itself before softening into something more nuanced as the proceedings progressed—made all the more powerful because he was speaking from it’s the same perspective and experiences as his client. As his argument and Una’s revelations about their past push things to work more about the privilege of who could and could not pass in public as an Illyrian (Una revealed that in her childhood, his family was able to avoid persecution by leaving the segregated part of his homeland to live among the people, leaving Neera and visible-changed Illyrians behind), and what Una wants to do with that privilege , social commentary is similarly pushed. Brave New World‘ riff on the courtroom episode so far, focusing on the current moment around things like LGBTQ+ rights and the ongoing federal persecution of trunning people across America.
It is important that Neera and Una start working together to promote changes within the Federation law through their shared background and experiences, so not only Star Trek which figuratively hits you over the head with what its subtext is often, it can be from a two-part approach to marginalized people from within and without the Starfleet apparatus. And, of course, it has its defensese work, because it Star Trek and it wants to remind you that it’s always about the power of infinite variety in infinite combinations … although what actually got First out of prison was Neera niftily whipped from a literal read Starfleet rules and find a technicality to bring Pike back to hide Una’s Illyrian background in an asylum case, rather than an offense against the rules regarding raised persons.
But as good as it all is—and once again well anchored by Badaki’s performance as Neera, every bit in the footsteps of Patrick Stewart in “Measure of a Man” or Avery Brooks in “Dax”—there is something structure Star Trek himself who must make this victory as pyrrhic as it is inevitable. we know Una must avoid being kicked out of Starfleet, because we are know he will be the First Officer of Enterprise for a long time. we ALSO knowing that Federation laws regarding genetic modification cannot be changed the way Neera wants. That’s it Star Trek canon of work-no tension in whether the case goes in favor of Una, because it should be. And so for all the barnstorming talk and championing of the empathetic quality we’ve displayed here, things must come to an end with what is an equally unspoken problem for many. Star Trek courtroom episodes: our heroes have achieved victory for the time being, but the bigger picture of the rights they championed in victory has been pushed aside never to be touched again.
It’s a dampener, yes, but not strong enough to cut through that “Ad Astra per Aspera” is largely a smart, timely evolution of a landmark. walking episode format, in the style that Brave New World finds himself the best so far. But at least, it is—said Neera to herself, escorting Una back aboard the Enterprise to be reunited with his friends—a good step in the right direction, otherwise a complete victory.
Want more io9 news? Check when to expect the latest wonders, Star Warsand Star Trek releases, what’s next for DC Universe in film and TVand everything you need to know about the future of Who is the doctor?.