"Spock Amok" is a low-stakes laid-back comedy that very nearly works because it just allows us to spend time in the company of characters who are shaping up to be very likable, and it doesn't try to be too wacky. It doesn't quite get to the finish line because, well, in trying so hard not to be wacky, despite its fairly wacky premise, it just sort of meanders its way through the hour while basically admitting it has no real ambitions.
This is fine, mostly because the cast gels well enough that they overcome the lack of compelling material. This is essentially a shore-leave episode with some minor inconsequential "Enterprise hosts some negotiations" plotting bolted on to give some of the characters something to do. From a character standpoint, it retreads one of the most examined issues in all of Star Trek — Spock's troubled identity as a half-human half-Vulcan. (It opens with his dream sequence where a human Spock and a Vulcan Spock battle each other in the ring with lirpas, complete with TOS music.)
T'Pring (Gia Sandhu) comes aboard the ship to visit Spock, and the two have the lowest of low-key fights as they channel Vulcan passive aggression over the issue of Spock's inability to take time off work and prioritize their relationship. Their calm monotone finds a sort of humor in the Vulcan absurdity of it all (I was reminded of Lower Decks' "wej Duj," where supposedly distasteful Vulcan emotionalism was indistinguishable from any other state). They ultimately end up trying to share some intimacy through a Vulcan telepathic ritual, which has the unintended consequence of their minds becoming stuck in each other's bodies. (This is the wacky premise I earlier alluded to.) Now T'Pring must do Spock's job and take his place at the negotiating table, and Spock must do T'Pring's job in an attempt to bring in a Vulcan criminal for possible philosophical rehabilitation.
Usually with a body-swapping comedy, the joke is that the actors play the part as if they are the other character, which inevitably involves them taking on the other actor's acting style (see Voyager's "Body and Soul" for the best Trek example). But the joke here is that Spock and T'Pring sound so identical in their Vulcan-ness that you can't really tell a difference in the performances at all. (Spock as T'Pring: "Now that you know, you can likely tell the very clear differences in our mannerisms." Pike: "Yeah, totally.") There's humor to find in the deadpan tenacity of it all, mild as it may be.
Meanwhile, while Ortegas and Chapel and M'Benga go on shore leave, Una and La'an stay aboard the ship to continue their duties. Much to her chagrin, Una learns that her nickname among the junior officers is "where fun goes to die," so she and La'an team up in an attempt to embark on some "fun" aboard the ship. This manifests itself in each of them trying to be the first to call "bad cop" when interrogating some young cadets who have broken the rules, and then learning about something called "Enterprise Bingo." They engage in "hijinks" including a game where they try to phaser each other on the lowest setting. As fun goes, they're not especially succeeding.
Meanwhile, Ortegas and Chapel discuss Chapel's not-so-budding non-relationship with Lt. Dever, who she is bored with and doesn't want to take to the next level. Chapel is more interested in being there as a friend to Spock. In the most riveting development, M'Benga goes fly fishing while wearing a hat everyone hates, and we don't even find out if he caught the big fish.
If you haven't noticed, plot isn't really the idea here, but we do have some rocky diplomacy with some cantankerous aliens who exhibit strange and temperamental behavior at the negotiating table. This is not helped by the fact they ask for Spock (by name) to discuss the matter of allowing the Federation safe passage through their territory at a time when Spock is actually T'Pring. But this does allow T'Pring to see what Spock does for his job and how he is perceived by his captain and shipmates. Similarly, Spock gets to learn some things about T'Pring.
We get some more of Pike's Pondering Glare, which has become an Anson Mount specialty, where his eyes get really serious as he thinks carefully about what is happening around him. But what I haven't talked about much is my appraisal of Ethan Peck as Mr. Spock himself. It's never easy stepping into the role of an iconic character — in this case one that has been significantly occupied by not one but two different actors before him. Peck is actually very good as Spock, and he gets a full showcase here and has to play the role as both drama and comedy; with this character, those things occupy virtually the same space. His relationship with T'Pring develops a bit, as they gain some additional mutual understanding. But given that we know T'Pring will ultimately leave Spock, it remains to be seen at what point Spock will no longer hold her interest.
"Spock Amok" is probably the least of the SNW episodes so far, and "amok" is not the right word for any of the mild-mannered things that happen here. But it's still perfectly fine, and it shows that this cast can get a lot done purely on likability even if there's not a whole lot of meat to chew on.
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