Fairy Tale Fanfic – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: “The Elyos Kingdom”

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One of the most popular tropes in genre television in particular is the episode where the characters all act wildly. star trek has indulged in this trope dozens of times before, though the reasons for this out-of-character behavior are legion: illness (the original series “The Naked Time”, GNT‘s “The Naked Now”), strange telepathy (DS9“Dramatis Personae”), an alternate timeline (the original “Mirror, Mirror” series, DS9“Crossover” and its sequels, Company“In a mirror, darkly”, Discovery“Despite Yourself” and its sequels), biased historical records (Traveler‘s “Living Witness”), holodeck shenanigans (DS9“Our Man Bashir”, Traveler“The bride of Chaotica!”). And now we can add extraterrestrial interference to the list…

In this particular case, the setting is the one we saw before. Every time M’Benga rematerializes his dying daughter Rukiya from the transporter pad, he reads her a YA fantasy story called The Elyos Kingdom.

The Company explored a nebula, and just as they were about to leave, the ship stopped moving forward quite violently. M’Benga is called to the bridge to treat Ortegas, but when he arrives he finds himself dressed in the robes of King Ridley, the main character of The Elyos Kingdom. If M’Benga knows who he is and remembers his life as a 22nd century human, the same cannot be said for others. The bridge was modified in part to match King Ridley’s throne room, and Pike and Ortegas assumed the roles of his chamberlain and Sir Adya respectively.

For most of the episode, M’Benga is forced into live role-playing of The Elyos Kingdom on a Company which has been modified just like the bridge. The hallways and layout are the same, but there are fantastic additions to each space. Number One (Zymera the Huntress), Spock (Beaver, a wizard), La’An (a princess), Uhura (Neve, the queen of a rival nation), Chapel (a healer), Mitchell (the chief soldier of Queen Neve), and Hemmer (Pollux, another wizard, the twin brother of Spock’s wizard) all have roles to play, but the latter’s telepathy allows him to retain his own personality. (Why the equally telepathic Spock doesn’t is left as an exercise for the viewer.)

Picture: CBS

Hemmer’s engineering skills allow M’Benga to discover the truth, which is that the aliens who live in the nebula created this scenario. This gives us two more Trek tropes, the general one of beings of pure energy, which we’ve seen all over the franchise, and the specific one of those aliens who shine on human children and try to help them (the original “Charlie X” series, GNT‘s “The link”). The aliens saw Rukiya in the transporter buffer and tell him his favorite story.

Getting there, however, is a pure exercise in self-indulgence, and I have to admit I love it, mainly because the actors have so funny play a role. Some more than others, of course; Ethan Peck seems particularly fond of playing Castor, the untrustworthy wizard who betrays King Ridley, while Rong Fu very obviously takes on a meatier role as a soldier than she often says “Yes, sir” as Mitchell, and Melissa Navia and Rebecca Romijn are both fun as both badass.

But the most amazing work is done by Anson Mount and Christina Chong, who go completely off their usual. The Chamberlain is a coward, a fat and a schmuck, and Mount plays his shameless cowardice with enthusiasm. And man, Chong is having fun being a pampered princess, who takes her little dog everywhere with her.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Picture: CBS

Most of the episode is an excuse for LARPing, but eventually the real plot kicks in, and what prompts it is my favorite thing about the episode. Which makes M’Benga realize that it’s not just a recreation of The Elyos Kingdom It’s when Zymera and Sir Adya kiss and make it clear that they’ve been lovers. In the book, Zymera and Adya never even met. But Rukiya thinks they should be friends and lovers, and Yes, the whole thing is Rukiya’s fanfic that she wrote in her headand I love that.

In the end, the aliens take Rukiya with them, as they can remove her from her failing body and give her life as an energy being with them. M’Benga’s thing was that he was hoping to find a cure somewhere in space where there’s all kinds of crazy bullshit, and that’s very Trek Solution for his remedy to be the craziest of crazy shit.

It’s a bittersweet solution for M’Benga, as Rukiya reaches adulthood in mere seconds, thanks to the special nature of aliens. On the one hand, he missed her growing up. On the other hand, she did grow up, and his adult self is very happy and very grateful.

Interestingly, my assumption about what happened at the end of “Ghosts of Illyria” was wrong. I figured Number One must have set up the dedicated power source for the medical transporter with Pike and Hemmer’s knowledge. But in this episode, it’s clear that Hemmer doesn’t even know that M’Benga has a daughter, let alone one that’s stored in the carrier’s buffer.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Picture: CBS

And indeed, it’s Una talking to M’Benga about what’s happening to Rukiya, in parallel scenes at the beginning and end of the episode. Commander Chin-Riley has been criminally underused in the series so far (and yes, I’ll continue to complain about that as long as that remains true), but she’s well used here, both as a confidante of M’Benga and as Zymera the Huntress. I actually expected number one to be Queen Neve, and I think giving Uhura that role was a smarter move (although Celia Rose Gooding was relatively stiff in the role). On the one hand, it meant that the king and queen were played by black actors, which I liked. I also loved that Ortegas played “Sir” Adya, and no one batted an eyelid at that…

SNOW Sometimes embraces the clumsy style of the plots of Trek history, and I agree with that. I don’t need all the new Trek shows to tap into that well – for example, that kind of story wouldn’t really work on Discovery Where picardwhen that’s about all Lower decks done – but i like it SNOW sometimes goes there.

I also appreciate that they don’t drag out the subplots. I was worried we wouldn’t get any resolution on Rukiya this season, and we have it with two episodes to spare!

They also finally gave M’Benga a first name. Much to my disappointment, they went with “Joseph”. Rather than exploiting the fiction linked to his first name (successful with Sulu, Uhura and Number One), which gave M’Benga the first names of Geoffrey (in Jean Lorrah’s The IDIC epidemic) and Jabilo (in the Avant-garde series of novels), they went with Joseph. I would have preferred it to be Jabilo, but alas…

Keith RA DeCandido three short stories will soon be released: “A Lovely View”, a story of Zorro, in Zorro’s exploits, edited by Audrey Parente, Bold Venture Press; “What You May Become Tomorrow”, a story that brings together author Mary Shelley, baseball player Josh Gibson and NASA scientist Florence Johnson, in Three time travelers enter…, edited by Michael A. Ventrella, of Fantastic Books; and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a story about city cops, in Tales of Cloaks and Hoodsedited by CT Phipps, of Crossroad Press.

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