Strange New Worlds “Subspace Rhapsody” Review: An Emotionally Charged Musical Episode

Star Trek Strange New Worlds: Subspace Rhapsody

Strange New Worlds Season 2, Episode 9, “Subspace Rhapsody,” is the kind of electrifying penultimate few shows could pull off. Yet, the Star Trek installment does so, bringing to our screens an explosion of emotions with riveting (and slightly discomfiting) performances. The series’ anthology format gives it plenty of space to lift off from various planes, and while last week’s episode was profoundly heavy, this one brings a plethora of feelings with a little more light.

In more ways than one, it’s Uhura’s episode to shine, but Strange New Worlds’ “Subspace Rhapsody” further paves the road for the romances in the series. Three primary relationships stand on the cusp of something meaningful, altering the course of where they are by revealing the importance of transparency. At the same time, the series continues to emphasize the significance of communication, which, if I were a full-blown-Trekkie, I might be able to confirm further. It’s a thoroughly enriching episode with a strong thematic focus to organically nudge the characters to where they’re supposed to be.

L-R Ethan Peck as Spock, Anson Mount as Pike and Rebecca Romijn as Una in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023.
Photo Credit: Best Possible Screengrab/Paramount+

It’s often unpredictable what fans will “ship” in an ensemble cast like this, where everyone has chemistry. And frequently, people tend to root for couples that might not even be canon. Isn’t this how the Kirk and Spock ship was born? The one everyone knows about even if they aren’t a Trekkie. Strange New Worlds is no exception because it’s more effortless to root for Captain Pike and his Number One, Una Chin-Riley, than caring for him and his actual girlfriend. This idea prompts multiple questions because while most of the musical numbers are embarrassing in context because the characters have no idea why they’re doing it, Pike’s odd confession on the deck takes the cake.

If viewers are meant to care for Pike and Batel, the series fails to properly authenticate why. Instead of showing us that they indeed love each other, we’re constantly teetering on the edge with their uncertainties dangling in front of us. There’s no concrete reminder of her from the first episode to the Season 1 finale, where she comes in solely to arrest Una. And when that happens, the air is so thick with longing between seemingly platonic partners that it’s impossible not to look toward how he is more upset about his Number One’s situation than his own. Season 2 heightens this tension by showing the audience how much the two officers care for one another, even without romantic ties. Their chemistry is still far more palpable, and their admiration of one another is more exhilarating. It’s also worth questioning how all romances at the forefront of the episode are essentially doomed. Sure, Pike gets somewhat of a happy ending before the episode concludes, but at what cost? While the performances are fascinating, the scenario is full of faults, with the evident showcase that it’s challenging for the two to be transparent.

Nurse Chapel singing in "Subspace Rhapsody."
Photo Credit: Best Possible Screengrab/Paramount+

Subsequently, another romance that’s doomed after Strange New Worlds “Subspace Rhapsody” is Spock and Nurse Chapel’s. She notifies him of her application’s status via song, revealing yet again how it’s seemingly challenging to communicate like grown adults. The series even notes why people burst out into song during musicals, paying meta-homage to the genre in a way that makes it work and feel beneficial. Yet, as heartbreaking as this is, it brings riveting performances from Ethan Peck and Jess Bush to the surface.

The hindrances in communication that the characters face trudge them forward to the growth they need to meet, but it does so aggressively. This is still engrossing because as jarring as it is and as bizarre as a musical seems for a show like this, the execution works from beginning to end. These bombshells somehow feel natural even when they aren’t. The pacing is all over the place, yet that’s what makes it feel normal, even when it isn’t.

La'an and James Kirk talking in Strange New Worlds 2x09 "Subspace Rhapsody."

Moreover, as heartbreaking as the episode is, there’s a threaded tenderness and warmth between every interaction that makes the sadness feel a little more hopeful. And the majority of that is on full display during La’an’s confession to Kirk. As unexpected as parts of the episode are, this admission in Strange New Worlds’ “Subspace Rhapsody” is inimitable because it stands as a beautifully accurate exhibition of what communication should look like. No, La’an probably shouldn’t tell Kirk about meeting a version of him in the past—everyone and their mother knows how the rules of time travel work, yet for a moment, none of that matters, which is where the episode shines best.

The thematic essence of honest communication is centerfold during this conversation, allowing Christina Chong to bring yet another gut-wrenching performance to our screens by showcasing just how much meeting Kirk changed her. It’s in this scene where a genre series like Star Trek is far more accurate than any drama on air because it brings to the surface profoundly relatable emotions. All anyone ever wants is to be seen for who they truly are—beyond their name and rank. They want someone to look at them and take the time to understand their core, and at the end of the day, they merely want to be enough—to be loved and revered sincerely. 

Paul Wesley as Kirk and Christina Chong as La’an in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds almost kissing.
Photo Credit: Best Possible Screengrab/Paramount+

La’an is more than enough. She always has been and always will be. Still, the version of her that exists with Kirk in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” is the most honest depiction until this very moment where she allows herself to be vulnerable again. And perhaps even more surprising is Kirk’s reaction, save for his confession, which puts a pin in the romance but still makes the scene so beautifully poignant. Paul Wesley and Chong have been magnetic together in the past, and we could say the same about their performances here. The chemistry is not only brilliant, but their vulnerability and silent conversations ensure that their interactions brim with emotions. While everyone’s bursting into song, this quiet conversation happening without melodies brings the episode full circle to a place that screams louder than any note anyone can belt out.

Strange New Worlds’ “Subspace Rhapsody” is a chance to give each actor a place to shine, and they do so thoroughly. There are far too many catchy tunes that might (will likely) end up on Spotify wraps at the end of the year, and it’s certainly one that’ll merit a rewatch or multiple. Every episode in Season 2 has been one hit after another, showcasing that the show’s distinct means of storytelling benefit to create memorable and well-written episodes that consistently evolve the characters. 

Now streaming on Paramount+: What are your thoughts on Strange New Worlds’ “Subspace Rhapsody?” Let us know in the comments below.
First Featured Image/Poster Credit: ©Paramount+


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