3 times beyond “Children of the Comet” music saved the day in Star Trek

Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS. Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+
Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS. Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ /

“Children of the Comet” is a rare Star Trek tale where music saves the day.

In “Children of the Comet,” the latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, music plays a key role in resolving a crisis. La’an, Spock, Sam Kirk, and Cadet Nyota Uhura—on her first away mission—are trapped under the force field the “comet” M’hanit generates. Sam commits the rookie mistake of getting himself zapped when he gets too close to the large “egg” on M’hanit’s surface. (Did Sam never watch Alien? Maybe the movie didn’t survive Earth’s Third World War.)

Fortunately, M’hanit responds more positively when Uhura hums “Vamuvamba,” a traditional song of the Tiriki people in Kenya. Realizing M’hanit communicates through music, Uhura is able to sing a request that it lower its force field. It does, and the landing party can beam back to the Enterprise.

The original Star Trek rarely showcased Nichelle Nichols’ considerable musical gifts—although no fan will forget her teasing Spock in song (“Charlie X”) or singing “Beyond Antares” to poor Kevin Riley in “The Conscience of the King.” In the Kelvin Timeline films, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is a xenolinguistic genius, fluent in Klingon and Romulan (all three dialects). We’ve yet to hear Saldana sing as Uhura; maybe in Star Trek 4. But on Strange New Worlds, Celia Rose is playing an Uhura whose linguistic and musical bona fides are both firmly established. As La’an quips, they definitely make the uncertain cadet closer to “genius” than “about to get us killed.”

Music and sound don’t save the day very often in Star Trek adventures, but here are three other instances featuring the original characters (not always in their original incarnations) —where success depends upon hitting the right notes.

“The Paradise Syndrome” (Star Trek, season 3, episode 3)

In “Children of the Comet,” the Deleb people are threatened by the “comet” on a crash course for their planet, Persephone III. The scenario broadly resembles that in “The Paradise Syndrome.” A planet populated by descendants of Native Americans, “seeded” there by the mysterious “Preservers,” are threatened by an asteroid headed their way. Like the “egg” on M’hanit, the obelisk on this world is covered with strange symbols that turn out to be musical notes.

Captain Kirk doesn’t exactly sing in this episode (just as actor William Shatner doesn’t exactly sing in real life), but he does speak the correct muscial tones—once unknowingly, once deliberately—to open the obelisk, which proves essential to deflecting the asteroid at the episode’s climax.

In retrospect, one now can’t help but wonder whether Spock is remembering the markings on M’hanit’s “egg” when he deciphers the glyphs on the Preserver obelisk. The “Shepherds” who warn Captain Pike about interfering with M’hanit call it “one of the ancient arbiters of life.” Perhaps this comet is also connected to the Preservers?

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

When the Kelvin Timeline crew needs to destroy Krall’s swarm ships before they can destroy Space Station Yorktown, they broadcast some “classical music”—”Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys (1994)—at a disruptive, 57.7 megahertz frequency.

The scene marks our second hearing of “Sabotage” in the Kelvin Timeline. We heard it first in Star Trek (2009), blasting from the speakers of the antique car young Jim Kirk stole from Uncle Frank. Its use in Star Trek Beyond is a never-fail audience-pleasing moment, and oddly exemplary of the Star Trek ethos. Rather than firing phasers or photon torpedoes, the crew uses music to save the Yorktown. Like Jaylah, we like the beats and shouting.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Earlier we noted two of the three times Nichelle Nichols got to sing as Uhura (not counting her brief, hummed reprise of “Beyond Antares” in “The Changeling”). The third is also unforgettable, although many Star Trek fans wish they could. To distract Sybok’s sentries on Nimbus III, Uhura performs a nude fan dance (!) while singing “The Moon’s a Window to Heaven.” With music by Jerry Goldsmith and lyrics by John Bettis, it was performed by the world music band Hiroshima.

On the one hand, one assumes Uhura performed this dance willingly, perhaps even eagerly. She even makes a quip about “playing for a captive audience.” And Nichelle Nichols, a talented dancer, performed the number herself. (Sadly, we do not hear Nichols singing in the finished film, although she was promised audiences would.) On the other hand, the moment feels like it would have been more at home in a late 1960s Trek episode than a late 1980s Trek movie. Nevertheless, thanks to Uhura’s musical (and physical) appeal, the ruse gets the Enterprise crew the access to Paradise City they need.

Next. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds gives Cadet Uhura a compelling backstory. dark