SPOILERS follow for “The Serene Squall,” the latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Sometimes bringing back an old villain in Trek is absolutely epic. Bringing Ricardo Montalban to play Khan Noonien Singh for 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan resulted in arguably the best film of the franchise. Most fans will name 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact, which brought back the cybernetic Borg, as the best of the TNG-era films. And while it was a different actor playing him than the late Roger C. Carmel of the original Trek series, Rainn Wilson’s Harry Mudd was one of the best things about season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery. But in “The Serene Squall” — the most recent episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — the return of one of the most hated villains of the single worst franchise movie is teased. That’s right: we’re talking about Spock’s brother Sybok, of 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
In the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode released this week, Jesse James Keitel (Queer as Folk) plays Dr. Aspen aka Angel — a disguised pirate who lures the Enterprise to the edge of known space under false pretenses. It turns out Angel’s goal is to take Spock (Ethan Peck) prisoner and use him as leverage against his fiancee T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) in order to have a prisoner she calls Xaverius released. However Spock guesses Xaverius is, in fact, a pseudonym for his Vulcan half-brother Sybok.
The closing shot of the episode is what you’ll see below, a view of Sybok in prison, seen only from behind…
Played by Laurence Luckinbill, Spock‘s half-brother Sybok was introduced in 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and, until now, was thoroughly forgotten throughout the rest of the narrative. For example, in spite of lots of flashbacks to younger versions of Spock and Michael Burnham in Discovery, there is no mention of Sybok in that series. And that probably isn’t an accident. The Final Frontier was William Shatner’s first, and thankfully last, directorial effort in the Trek film franchise. To give you an idea of how it was received: its Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 22% is the lowest of any screen project in the franchise, and with a worldwide gross of $52.2 million, it made less than half of its predecessor Star Trek IV‘s take, and didn’t do much better compared to its follow-up Star Trek VI.
Sybok is a kind of psychic self-help guru. We learn from Spock in Star Trek V that he became an outcast from Vulcan by rejecting the traditional teachings that call for abstinence from emotion. Somehow, connected to his embracing of emotion, when we meet Sybok he has adapted his natural Vulcan telepathic abilities to heal subjects of severe emotional trauma, and whenever he uses the power he almost always recruits the subject into his terrorist group — the Galactic Army of Light. In The Final Frontier, he uses his followers to capture the Enterprise to rescue a being he believes is God, but in fact turns out to be a big, floaty lightning head alien played by George Murdock.
The tease seems to be that his face will eventually make an appearance. If that’s the case, it could create a bit of a contradiction. In Star Trek V, we learn none of Spock’s fellow Starfleet officers know Spock even had a brother. The Strange New Worlds crew is mostly different from that of The Final Frontier with one exception — both include Nyota Uhura. If Sybok does appear, we’ll have to see how the Strange New Worlds creators handle things.
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