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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 9, “Subspace Rhapsody,” is a penultimate episode with extra chaos and extra feeling. The musical numbers highlight the emotional beats and showcase some hidden talents. Everything could have fallen off the rails so easily. However, what works about this musical episode is the fact that the characters are allowed to play to their strengths. The fact that the episode also embraces the silliness just makes it fun to watch.
From the beginning, it’s important to acknowledge that musical episodes of TV shows are not for everyone. Here, however, the series makes it work. The numbers could have come across as incredibly cheesy. Instead, by following “musical rules” and breaking into song during periods of high emotion, the episode works. It’s both hilarious that everyone would be so perturbed by the sudden bouts of singing and endearing to watch them discover a new way to express their emotions. On a practical level, while almost everyone expresses their dismay at being compelled to sing, there’s a chorus that’s not at all unpleasant to listen to.
There’s some great character work that shines throughout this episode. Firstly, the development of La’an (Christina Chong) and Kirk (Paul Wesley), which has been set up throughout this season, comes to a head in a truly heartbreaking way. As La’an has been allowed to explore her emotional depth, it’s bittersweet to see her faced with this particular situation. Her experience with Kirk in an alternate timeline has obviously impacted her immensely. It’s disappointing that they are destined to remain apart romantically in this reality.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 9, “Subspace Rhapsody,” also showcases Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) as this entire season has done all along. Whenever the series centres Uhura, it builds on the legacy of this character in really poignant ways. While she may still be early in her career, episodes like this one provide additional proof that she always had greatness within her. Watching her flex her intellect to solve immediate problems just makes her that much easier to love.
If there’s a misstep with the storytelling on this episode, it’s Una’s (Rebecca Romijn) story. While it makes sense that questions of identity and one’s place in the world may never be answered definitively, this episode takes this character too far backwards. The emotions she expresses here are from an earlier iteration of her journey. It would have made sense for her musical numbers to perhaps reflect on her sense of self now, particularly now that she has been through what she has.
Finally, at its core, this episode shows how strong this ensemble is. Outside of a major conflict, it is useful to examine how the team comes together in a fun and objectively silly way. While the emotions may be running high, the stakes are quite low. Watching this crew come together is a really sweet way to see them at their best, even if they’re feeling more than a little vulnerable.
As a penultimate episode, this story sets up this team for an endearing and dramatic finale. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is arguably the perfect series to tackle a musical episode. There is a lot of emotional depth to these stories. There is also a lot of drama associated with these other-worldly stakes. Hopefully, this will not be the last time the series takes a massive creative swing.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Paramount+.