“Ad Astra per Aspera”
I hadn’t planned to say anything about this particular episode. Not because it wasn’t excellently delivered by special guest star Yetide Badaki, playing the role of the intense attorney, Neera Ketoul. From where I sat: There was nothing more to say. Yetide Badaki stole every scene she appeared in, smoldering with intensity, pathos, understanding, mystery, depth and suppressed rage, sometimes all within a single scene.
SHE WAS EVERYTHING. Get her a spin off.
Star Trek: Neera Ketoul
Galactic Law and Order
I hadn’t planned to review it because I had already made the mistake of traveling the Internet to listen to the dozens of hate-watching UN-FANS lamenting the poor quality of the story. The apparent failure of Neera Ketoul to make significant inroads toward repairing the challenges of the Genetic Modification Laws of the Federation.
Remember, we have seen the Federation promote a biased perspective toward anyone genetically-altered such as Dr. Bashir, artificial intelligences born on the holodeck, holographic medical professionals or embodied by renegade scientist creating mechanical men.
The Federation is a slow-moving beast, mired in its fear of another Eugenics War.
Why wasn’t I going to review this one? Because it hits too close to home. There were so many subtle issues which were revealed in the story presented where Lt. Commander Una Chin Riley has been arrested for being revealed to being a genetically-modified individual who has fraudulently entered Star Fleet service.
The nature of the conversation about various oppressions, whether they be LGBTQIA, racial, or cultural denigration, racial abuse, prejudice, isolation, and needless cruelty reminded me too much of my own existence.
Star Trek is my chance to escape the horrors of my own day-to-day existence, where as a member of a class of society implicitly not allowed to enjoy real equality, due to embedded social oppressions which are denied to exist whenever they are examined but always apparent when someone who looks like me seeks opportunity in an arena previously denied to us.
Thus, my escapism was poisoned by the revelation the future wasn’t any better than the present, which is normally what Star Trek offers me: hope for a better future. I also knew when I read the Internet what to expect from an audience which has also expressed hatred of Star Trek: Discovery, which has a more diverse crew than most shown in the franchise. They did not disappoint.
- “This episode was a complete waste of time. Genetic engineering isn’t as powerful as they like to make it out to be. But what I hated most was the woke conversation, making this about race.”
- “Did you see the Black lawyer? They aren’t even trying to be subtle. They just want to promote their woke agenda.”
- “This was the worst episode of the series thus far.”
Normally, I try not to take what mouth-breathers have to say seriously. There are after all at least 81 million of them out there, who voted for a man who would make being a racist, mysogynistic, asshole, something to be proud of. Ergo, there are few spaces where they don’t feel entitled to remind us how their lives are being eroded by anything or anyone which doesn’t promote whiteness.
Thus, my intent was to just let this Emmy-award winning episode alone, because I didn’t want to address how angry it made me feel because I knew already what would be the outcome, both in the story, and in my world. Chin-Riley would be returned to the cast and racism would continue, effectively unabated. Meant to make use feel good without changing the status quo.
F*ck. (He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-f*cking where! Roy Kent!)
WHY ARE WE HERE?
Because of this photo of Yetide Bakaki. I have seen it 20 times on Facebook and only half of those photos listed the name of the artist or the character she portrayed in the text. I thought that was a goddamn shame given the quality of the performance given by Yetide Badaki as Neera Ketoul.
Yetide Badaki is a hardcore Star Trek: The Next Generation fan enthusiast who has waited for an opportunity to appear in a show she has watched since she was a child. Like me, she loves Star Trek because it is not a future dystopia, it is a place where diverse people can exist and thrive in the future. This was her dream coming true.
Put some respect on her name and her photo whenever you talk about “Ad Astra per Aspera,” because she brought her entire creative being to this performance.
It made me remember my love affair with the Federation, much like my present day life, is not a perfect one and she drove home the idea that the law is not an excuse to be viscous or cruel, just because the law will allow it, no matter how many times I see it in my day to day existence.
This episode was a thing of beauty. Respect!
Images: Ethan Peck as Spock and Yetide Badaki as Neera in episode 202 “Ad Astra per Aspera” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.