Star Trek: Strange New Worlds opened a new door in its most recent episode.
Last Thursday, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds revealed a secret about Lt. Commander Una Chin-Riley that could lead to her dismissal from Starfleet were it ever to be revealed. Commander Chin-Riley, also known as Number One, is an Illyrian, an alien race that practices genetic engineering. But it’s not as nefarious as it sounds. It’s more about adapting their bodies to the planets they settled rather than adapting the planets to suit them. Still, Starfleet is against any type of genetic augmentation so Illyrians are forbidden to join. Not only are they not allowed in Starfleet, but they also can’t join the United Federation of Planets.
"“You’re going to see a lot more where that came from… It was such an interesting layer to add to this character who seems to be the most fastidious, meticulous, perfect first officer. And I believe that she hides this horrible deep secret by being as perfect as you can possibly be in the workplace…”"
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds introduced this secret for a purpose.
Akela Cooper, the co-writer of the episode that revealed Number One’s secret, “Ghosts of Illyria,” also appeared on The Ready Room and shared why this secret fits into Star Trek tradition.
No matter how much Star Trek has gotten it right in centuries past, there isn’t really a utopia for the future. Number One’s secret proves that. Illyrians have done no wrong, but they are prevented from moving forward with the United Federation of Planets simply because of who and what they are.
Cooper said this secret was a way of not only exploring the character of Number One but also exploring “how prejudice hinders Starfleet and can work against it.” So Lt. Commander Chin-Riley is going to be forced to hold onto this secret, and trust that others won’t share it, or she could be court-martialed and kicked out of Starfleet…all because she’s different.
Yes, Starfleet already had this rule in place, and Number One enrolled knowing the rules, but any regulation based on prejudice shouldn’t be allowed to remain. So perhaps her story will be the beginning of a change Starfleet needs.