"The Elysian Kingdom" is exceptionally odd, in that it's such a plodding, boring, test-pattern of a fantasy episode for its first three acts before then becoming really interesting and moving and Trekky in its last act of impossible choices. This was well on its way to being the worst episode of the season before it redeemed itself at the eleventh hour.
That redemption brings it up a few notches, but I still can't endorse this. I want to throw away the first 40 minutes entirely, in which the Enterprise, trapped in a nebula by a mysterious force, turns into a fantasy world where the crew have their minds hijacked and unwittingly play out the parts in the fantasy book that M'Benga frequently reads to his daughter Rukiya (Sage Arrindell). M'Benga and Hemmer are the only ones who retain their personalities and know they aren't the characters in the book.
I can't bring myself to care about or describe any of the plot within the fantasy realm. Suffice it to say everyone has a role to play, and little of it matters except to fill time. It's a rather pointless dress-up adventure. Oh, sure, the cast is game, but they're trapped in a meaningless low-octane "adventure" that takes far too long to get to a point, and yet it dispenses fantasy plot developments as if we care. Pike plays the part of the opportunistic coward. Ortegas is a bloodthirsty ass-kicker. Spock is a roguish prince. Chapel is a fortune teller. Una is a heroic archer. (What about the people who get shot with her arrows? Are they okay?) Uhura is the evil queen, looking for the mysterious, all-powerful Mercury Stone.
This is Role Playing 101, with not a scrap of interest to be found. It's a mystifying mash-up of "Qpid," "Dramatis Personae," and "Heroes and Demons," and probably half a dozen TOS episodes. The comic notes here mostly just fall flat — with the notable exception of Hemmer hamming up the part of the wizard, which is worth a laugh because it's the curmudgeonly Hemmer gamely playing the part on his own conscious accord.
There's a place in Star Trek for this, but it needs to be executed with the right touches of humor and whimsy, and this ain't it. It's especially troubling that, with only 10 episodes to play with this season, SNW has spent three now trying to mine lightweight pseudo-comedy but has yet to find the right formula for doing so. It's about time to go back to playing things straight.
It actually does so in the final act, which manages to be affecting because it agonizingly forces M'Benga to decide no less than the fate of his daughter's cosmic soul. The mysterious entity causing the fantasy elements, you see, is a lonely alien superbeing within the nebula, and it has found Rukiya's presence within the transporter pattern buffer and released her from it, and the two have created this fantasy play realm from the storybook. The entity has also figured out how to cure her terminal illness. The catch is that if she leaves, her illness will return. So the entity gives M'Benga the choice of whether to let Rukiya stay here with it, or return to a very likely death sentence.
Staying here essentially means the end of her humanity as she and her father understand it, by transforming into something else entirely. I found it touching that M'Benga gives this choice to Rukiya to let her decide her own fate, even though it's guaranteed to be a heartbreak for him. And the realization that she lives decades of her life in seconds, returning to her father as an adult to give him a goodbye message (with a dose of maybe-see-you-again), is one of those sci-fi twists that works because it forces you to imagine and empathize with the fantastically hypothetical. There's also something to be said for a child wanting to "change the ending" of a story, when her own life has an ending that perhaps she senses has already been (tragically) written. If it seems like this whole father-daughter illness storyline played out quickly this season — well, I guess that's what happens when you have 10 (episodic) shows to work through an arc.
But, unfortunately, this last act — strong as it is — is too little, too late in an episode that does nothing worthwhile for its first 40 interminable minutes. I'm glad we had that last act, but nothing else here was worth the time spent watching.
Previous episode: The Serene Squall
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