Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 6 Review – Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach

Alora, now a Majalan leader in her own right, oversees a being known as the First Servant, a holy child chosen by lottery to embody the maxim of their people (“science, service, sacrifice”), though no one is ever too specific about what exactly any of that means. According to the Majalans, the First Servant’s imminent Ascension will usher in a new era for their planet and allow them to continue to live the way they do, complete with luxury floating cities and highly advanced medicine. Given the constant googly eyes she and Pike make at each other whenever they’re in the same room, it’s clear he’s not super interested in what any of this really involves on a larger cultural scale. It’s amazing it takes the two until the episode’s midpoint to hook up. 

After all, a Starfleet captain falling for a pretty if slightly manipulative alien lady is a common enough tale in the Star Trek universe. The addition of a preexisting love connection between them makes this a little sweeter and generally less uncomfortable than some of The Original Series “relationships” we see Captain Kirk engage in (and is, on the whole, less life-changing than the official synopsis of this episode might have had some viewers believe). Yet, Alora’s presence isn’t really about their romantic relationship—however, you choose to define it—or about simply providing a reason for  Anson Mount to take his shirt off, it’s actually another surprisingly powerful window into Pike’s emotional journey, and the weight of the secrets he carries.

The bulk of the episode involves a complicated plot in which the Enterprise crew is charged with helping keep the First Servant alive until his Ascension Day, and though the episode drags out some of its more obvious revelations—of course, it wasn’t actually strangers trying to kidnap him, and, duh, Alora was lying about something—the twisty plot is full of tension and genuine stakes. I’m sure no one was surprised when it turned out that the Enterprise didn’t really accidentally kill a child, but I also doubt anyone expected that “Lift Us where Suffering Cannot Reach” would turn around and sacrifice the boy almost immediately anyway, as the First Servant’s body is literally turned into the battery which powers the bulk of Majalan technology.

To be fair, this is pretty grim storytelling for a Star Trek series, but perhaps a necessary reality check after this first run of Strange New Worlds episodes, which generally involved happy endings, daring escapes, and hijinks all around. Not every story can end well and not every alien race will be good, at least not in the way that we understand the concept. The fact that Pike, who so desperately wants to do something to help upend a civilization that literally powers itself with the lives of children, has no jurisdiction to do anything at all, is frustrating in a way that feels almost painfully realistic. (And, not for nothing, but Alora’s insistence that our human society simply doesn’t want to look at the sins it regularly perpetrates against its weakest members is…well, not entirely wrong.)

Perhaps Pike’s constant desire to tell all and sundry about his (presumably secret?) destiny of suffering and physical agony reflects his need to believe in the possibility of changing it—i.e. If he tells enough people about the future he saw it will force that future to change somehow or if he tells the right person he’ll find the one that can fix it. But, the fact that the first non-Starfleet-affiliated person he tells turns out to be the leader of a culture that powers its own comfort through child sacrifice basically affirms why Pike, perhaps the brightest, most empathetic figure in the Star Trek canon at the moment, is never going to turn away from the future he saw on Boreth. No matter how much some of us (read; me) might wish he would. 

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