Indications are that spoilers lie ahead.
Aside from the recent “Star Trek” trailers that dropped at New York Comic Con, it’s been about seven months since our last “Trek” fix, when the somewhat disappointing Season 2 finale of “Star Trek Discovery” aired.
However, as was announced at the “Star Trek Universe” panel by showrunner Alex Kurtzman, the first of six new “Short Treks” is now available to stream on CBS All Access. Entitled “Q&A,” it’s set on board the USS Enterprise just as Ensign Spock (Ethan Peck) arrives for the very first time.
Following a tweaked, snazzy-looking intro, we see Spock beaming from a very unusual looking transporter room to a much more familiar setting, the transporter room on the USS Enterprise.
We also see first officer Number One (Rebecca Romijn) looking over a PADD (Personal Access Display Device) with what appears to be her name on it… Lt. Cmdr. Una. She welcomes Spock onto the USS Enterprise and together they slowly walk through the corridors of the ship.
“You’ve been on this ship exactly 37 seconds and you haven’t asked a single question. Not what I expect from a science officer,” Number One says. “I expect you to barrage every crewman you meet with questions, starting with me, to the point that you become an annoyance. You have until we reach that turbolift, go,” she says.
“What is your name sir?” Spock asks.
“Just call me Number One,” she replies.
Ever since the inclusion of the Capt. Pike-era Enterprise in “Discovery” and the subsequent return of the character Number One only previously known from the “Star Trek: Original Series” pilot “The Cage” and it’s repurposing in “The Menagerie” (S01, E11 and 12), fans old and new have wondered if she would be given a name in this new incarnation of “Star Trek.” It’s at this point, sadly, we’re reminded of one of the weird, concepts of this new “Star Trek”series: that there’s somehow massive amounts of space between decks. Enough to actually have worker drones in operation, which is absurd, really. Every conceivable space would be filled, even on a starship, but instead a ride in turbolift looks more like a ride on Space Mountain.
This minor grumble aside, the reimagined Enterprise does look gorgeous.
Number One and Spock continue their conversation, discussing various scientific principles until the turbolift breaks down. Naturally, if anyone has been unfortunate enough to be in this position, it’s hoped that the temporary delay will be a short one, but in this instance it becomes clear that they’re going to be there for a while.
The two seem to have some natural chemistry — almost too much — the extent even that the notion of a relationship doesn’t feel impossible. They’re able to finish each other’s sentences and share similar opinions on many things.
Repeated attempts to call Engineering prove ineffective and so the Q&A session continues.
“What are the three most salient facts about Captain Pike?” Spock asks.
“It’s Spock’s very first day on the Enterprise, and that felt like such an honor to play that moment in his life.” @ethangpeck talks about filling in Star Trek history in the newest Star Trek: #ShortTreks “Q&A”. pic.twitter.com/WpZOIfPK4MOctober 7, 2019
Number One ponders for a moment, then replies, “One, his capacity for hearing out another point of view is exceed only by his willingness to change his own once he has heard you out. Two, even though he is the most heavily decorated fighting captain in Starfleet, he views resorting to force as an admission to failure. And three, he is utterly unsentimental. Except when it comes to horses.”
Some time passes and we see the pair resigned to sitting on the floor. Number One attempts to bypass something-or-other in the ceiling panel, but this only results in an unfortunate short circuit. She asks Spock if he was smiling as he transported aboard the Enterprise and tells him she found it slightly disconcerting.
What follows is a monologue of advice about “keeping your freaky to yourself” and the struggles of having to conceal elements of your character; for Spock obviously, this is his emotions. At this point, Number One … er, breaks into song.
This scene feels a little strange and in fact this whole episode is not the best example of what Michael Chabon is capable of writing. Lest we forget the excellent “Short Trek” episode “Calypso.” Moreover, Chabon won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Literature (fiction) for his novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” and wrote the vastly underrated “John Carter.” So, it’s no surprise he’s been recruited as a full-time writer for “Star Trek: Picard.”
But “Q&A” feels contrived. Number One’s rendition of “I Am The Very Model Of a Modern Major General” from “The Pirates of Penzance” to illustrate her “freaky” to contrast against Spock having to quell all his emotion … jars. Are we meant to accept that Spock was comfortable showing emotion right up until he first stepped foot on the Enterprise? What happened to all those years at the Vulcan Science Academy, his struggles when he was young? And why weren’t Spock and Number One just beamed out of the stuck turbolift?
It’s wonderful to have some new “Trek” to be able to watch — even if it is just a few minutes — and we’ve always liked the production design on the reimagined Enterprise (aside from all the space between the decks), plus of course Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn were perfect casting choices for their respective roles, but this first “Short Trek” still feels like a missed opportunity to do something a little more interesting.