(Note: This interview was conducted on Tuesday, July 11th, before the SAGAFTRA strike)
The very best shows reflect the problems and social commentary of the times they are made. Engaging the viewer to think deeper and have meaningful conversations with other fans. The science fiction genre seems to be able to embody this principle in a more palatable way than most other genres. You can find that promptly on display in Paramount+’s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
SNW has been keeping its pulse on social commentary from diversity and inclusion to skirting the grey areas of “The Greater Good” philosophy. It’s what keeps me tuning back in week after week to see what topic comes up next. It challenges my views and oddly enough, makes me grow as a person. It’s not just these grander ideas of social philosophy either. It dives into more personal conditions that affect individuals as well.
Episode 206 (“Lost in Translation”) is an episode that deals with several heavy and personal problems individuals experience. And it does this through the lens of young Ensign Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). The episode dives into her management of the death of her loved ones and colleagues she has faced so far in her young life. She experiences this as inter-dimensional aliens try to contact her through hallucinogenic visions.
Right away the episode shows its hand to let you know this episode will be about mental health as Ensign Uhura has her visions chalked up to exhaustion. Something many workers in the United States have been combating since the global pandemic. But it doesn’t stop there. The episode goes on to talk about several other topics. I was lucky enough to sit down with Celia Rose Gooding, who plays Ensign Uhura to talk about this episode and the mental challenges her character faces.
Even though Ensign Uhura has shown complete competency in varied fields of sciences aboard the Enterprise, she still has doubts. It’s something that is plaguing young professionals in our own society. Celia expanded on this, “Well, it’s exactly that. It’s imposter syndrome. I think what she as a character is doing is sort of showcasing how unnecessary impostor syndrome can be sometimes. How it can really be an obstacle more than it is a helpful perspective to have on one’s capability. It gives people who see themselves in this character, an opportunity to sort of be kind to their internal imposter syndrome.”
Celia continued to talk about how she personally relates to this version of the character that was famously played by Nichelle Nichols. “I think it gave me an opportunity to sort of play her in a way that is more relatable. To me, at least. As someone who has a lot of similarities with her, including that imposter syndrome. Sometimes, it was really satisfying for me to show that as a natural part of being in her position. As a 23-year-old, it just makes sense to be playing a 23-year-old who also has been given an incredible platform, and an incredible opportunity to showcase the best of my talents. And I love her honesty, it really inspires me.”
Ensign Uhura overcomes her Imposter Syndrome towards the climax of the episode when she makes a realization that the inter-dimensional aliens are trying to communicate with her about death. A topic Uhura would rather avoid after losing her parents and brother in a shuttle accident and most recently losing her mentor, Hemmer (Bruce Horak).
Celia described her challenges with portraying Uhura’s attitude toward the subject of death. “The challenge for me was to sort of put my instincts aside and really show up as the character and not someone who’s trying to protect this character. Because I am very protective of Uhura. Just be honest, and play with whatever feelings bubbled up to the surface. And really just letting those be the things that guide me, instead of my perception of what I think the feeling is. And I think that episode 206 was such a playground for me to navigate. Being 100% Open in such a safe setting, and working with an episode I felt very taken care of. So it was very easy for me, eventually, to bring my guard all the way down and show up.”
The episode concludes with both the inter-dimensional aliens and the crew of the Enterprise alive and well. Before finishing our chat, I asked Celia if we would see Uhura flex her musical prowess again this season. Say in episode 209, which has become the rumored musical episode. Celia, a professional from the musical theater world, had this to tease. “It’s funny that that’s the rumor, especially with a title like “Subspace Rhapsody.” I would say that throughout the season, we can continue to see Uhura flex the many parts of her incredibly capable brain, whether that is specifically musical or not. I love Trekkies’ minds because they’re very smart and they pick up on stuff really quickly.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds can be streamed on Paramount+. From season 1, episode 1 to season 2, episode 6 (Lost in Translation). You can also hear more about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on our The ‘Verse! Podcast, that breaks down all the episodes. Listen to the full interview with Celia Rose Golding below.