[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 5 “Charades.”]
Just as Spock is about to entertain T’Pring and her parents for their engagement dinner (complete with Vulcan rituals), things go sideways during a mission and he ends up entirely human; an alien from an alternate dimension saved him by fixing the damage (with mixed instructions) to match Chapel. The rest of the crew tries to help Spock pretend to still be half-Vulcan (and he conceals what’s going on from T’Pring). However, by the end of the episode, he and T’Pring are taking time apart, and he’s confessing to Chapel that he has feelings for someone else — and she kisses him!
Without that admission from Spock first, Chapel likely wouldn’t have made that move, Bush tells TV Insider, explaining, “this is a very vulnerable moment for her, and I don’t think that she would’ve taken the step had he not displayed that he was kind of feeling the same.” In that moment, “Chapel is not thinking and just wants to follow her heart.”
But would that conversation and kiss have happened if Spock hadn’t just spent that time exploring his human side? Peck isn’t sure — at least not yet. “In terms of Spock’s personality or, I guess, logic patterns, he may not have [said anything], but I think they were destined to collide at some point either way, whether it would’ve been this week or some other time in the future,” he says.
Spock also isn’t sure what the kiss and Chapel mean to him just yet. Peck compares “connecting, even though his mother is human, romantically with a human” to “rule-breaking — because he’s grown up with so much shame around his human half.” But, he adds, “there’s something in him that’s impelling him to make this connection and go down this path with Nurse Chapel. There’s a lot of conflict around it.”
When Spock asks what the kiss means, Chapel says she doesn’t know. For Bush, it’s that her character isn’t ready to think about what it means. But this episode does force her to be honest with herself and provide clarity as to how she feels about him, as she tells the alien earlier he’s a friend and she sometimes wishes they had more of a connection. “She’s come to realize that he is someone who is very important and very special to her, and someone that she can’t be flippant or casual about,” says Bush.
And, according to Peck, Spock is “at a place in his life where he’s so open to things that are new to him and really outside of his comfort zone, which is pretty narrow, mind you. But they’ve built a lot of trust between one another for not just each other’s feelings, but for each other’s lives. That provides a great foundation to share something sort of risky and unknown and uncertain.”
Why did Strange New Worlds decide to explore Spock and Chapel’s connection and him figuring out how to deal with his emotions in this way? “Why not?” executive producer Henry Alonso Myers asks with a laugh. “One of the things that is so fun about doing Spock now is Spock is not the person who he will yet become, and there’s a lot that he has to go through to become the person who we see in the original series. He’s someone who has always dealt with these kind of things, but that show, being from a very different place, was less concerned with making him deal with that part of himself. We have an opportunity here to show what it’s like to have grown from two different cultures to these ideas. What is the emotion of that?”
Adds executive producer Akiva Goldsman, “Spock suffers from having always been defined by his introduction. It’s as if somebody walked in and punched somebody and then forever they’re the brute, even if it was the only time they did it. So Spock’s life is, if you look at it across the series and movies, a constant battle. He’s trying to reconcile the pieces of himself and that keeps going all the way through. We just happened to meet him at his most logical phase, and even then, he wasn’t that logical.”
On the Chapel side of it, Myers points out that with the Paramount+ series, they can find a way for contemporary audiences to connect with her. “This is about playing something real,” he says. “What’s the reality that could have led to what they sort of did as a throw off in the later series? That’s what we were trying to explore. And how do we make these two really good characters to play with? How do we give our actors something to play?”
As for what’s ahead for the pair after the kiss, “more drama,” Bush teases, with Peck adding, “the complication of their engagement with one another. They’re so different, and they’re going to have to work that out and understand how to be with one another.”
But what does time apart actually mean for Spock and T’Pring? (Is it akin to “we were on a break”?) Peck doesn’t know, pointing out that Vulcans are patient so “it could be years.” Whatever the case, he continues, “I don’t think that Spock cares at this point in time. I think he’s so ready to be done with Vulcan culture and to embrace his life in Starfleet and on the Enterprise and with the people that are there that I don’t remember feeling — if my specialty is Spock and knowing this person — any sort of worry about that.”
What’s happening with Chapel is also “a very natural portal for him to go deeper into his humanness,” according to Peck. As he gains an understanding of his human side in this episode (“a great lesson for anyone watching that we should be accepting of all the pieces of ourselves and to love all of those parts that will make us more whole”), there are also touching moments between him and his mother, Amanda. “Mia Kirshner is so wonderful to work with and just an incredible scene partner and person and personality on set. She’s just got all the goods and she’s so willing to be vulnerable and try new things in any given take and to connect,” Peck raves.
Meanwhile, Chapel was up for a fellowship sponsored by the Vulcan science academy, only to not impress with her essay or during the interview. But after what she accomplishes — she goes to interdimensional space and figures out the treatment Spock needed to bring back his Vulcan half — she realizes the fellowship isn’t ready for her.
“Chapel is extremely ambitious with her work and her commitment to growing in that way will never waver,” Bush shares. “She’s never going to slow down. She’s always going to want to get bigger, better, more knowledgeable, more helpful, be able to help more people. I feel like she’s open to whatever that might look like. She’s flexible in that way.”
Coming up, we’ll see “more of her past,” she previews. “We’re going to see more of her backstory and the ways in which she’s had to face difficult things to get where she is.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Thursdays, Paramount+