Subspace Radio: a Star Trek podcast

Rob & Kev squint but fail to spot the USS Farragut in "Lost in Translation", despite its soon-to-be first officer hanging around the Enterprise like he knows he's going to work there someday! After a quick debrief on this week's episode, they consider two other prominent instances of communication difficulties when encountering non-humanoid life: "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", and "Home Soil" (TNG).

SNW 2×06 Lost in Translation
How Long Can Captain Kirk Stay On Strange New Worlds?
Star Trek: First Contact – Millennium Falcon
Red Wedding
SNW 2×04 Among the Lotus Eaters

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
LD 1×01 Second Contact
George and Gracie

TNG 1×18 Home Soil
Jerry Orbach
Project Genesis

  • (00:00) - Episode 36: Understanding non-humanoid life (SNW 2×06 Lost in Translation)
  • (01:37) - SNW 2×06 Lost in Translation
  • (14:20) - Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • (20:59) - TNG 1×18 Home Soil

Music: Distänt Mind, Brigitte Handley

What is Subspace Radio: a Star Trek podcast?

Kevin Yank and Rob Lloyd explore the intersecting wormholes that permeate Star Trek canon, inspired by each new episode to hit the subspace relays.

Rob: Hello.

Welcome back to Subspace Radio.

It's me, Rob.

And joining me is Kevin Yank.

How are Kev?

Kevin: Still uh, on patrol near
the neutral zone, on holiday.

I still sound funny and I have still had
less time than usual to watch Star Trek.

Rob: You are keeping those Romulan
Canucks at bay, which I really appreciate.

There is a new Star
Trek episode out there.

We are here to talk about it, and
the broader themes connected to it.

We are looking at Strange New
Worlds, season two, episode

six, Lost in Translation.


And there is a moment in it right
near the end where where James T.

Kirk, and Uhura get right close
together and he whispers something in

her ear and we don't know what it is.

What i— Oh no, that's a
different Lost in Translation.

Kevin: I was gonna say, I missed that bit.

Ah, yes.

No, that is a different
Lost in Translation.

Although there is, Kirk and Uhura
crossing paths and eventually starting

their friendship is a prominent
element of this episode for sure.

Rob: Definitely.

So we have the first physical
manifestation, not on a

view screen of James T.

Kirk in the prime universe, not an
alternative universe, not a, a connection

with La'an and all this type of stuff
from another timeline or something.

This is the James T.


I cannot do bigger hand gestures
even though we're a podcast.

So, uh, would you care to talk
us through the story, Kev?

Kevin: Oh, sure.

High level, there is a deuterium
refinery that is behind schedule.

And the Enterprise, and the
Farragut we are told, but we never

actually see that ship as far as I

Rob: No, we

Kevin: It is conspicuous how
much we do not see that ship.

These two ships are brought in under
command of Fleet Captain Christopher

Pike, looking after the three
Starfleet vessels in this episode.

As they start to figure out how
to fix this thing and get this

project on track, Uhura hears
weird sounds and sees weird things.

We eventually discover that a member of
the crew of the refinery has also been

seeing and hearing weird sounds and
weird things and is a little further

down the track to madness than Uhura.

Lots of chasing each other
through halls and seeing horrible

things we wish we hadn't seen.

And at the end of it, it's revealed
there were interdimensional life

forms living in the deuterium.

So we blow up the refinery
and we all go home.

The end.

Rob: And we have, yes, we have all
those wonderful storylines and character

connections laid out as we have the
giants of the franchise, James T.

Kirk finally meet Uhura for the
first time, and a tantalizing

first meeting between James T.

Kirk and Spock.

Kevin: Kirk, Spock, and Uhura and also
Pike, like Kirk and Pike meet for the

first time, as far as we can tell.

That's a touchy one from canon because
they say they, they like met once and

this didn't sound like the thing they were
talking about, but that's a minor detail.

People meet and forget to
mention it all the time.

Rob: Exactly.

Even if you are meeting Anson Mount.

You may or may not remember that.

You're caught up in your own
thing on the day, you dunno where

your Farragut ship is because it
never actually is shown on screen.

He was dealing with a lot James T.


Kevin: There was one shot as
they were evacuating the refinery

that kind of zoomed back from the
refinery and all of the escape

shuttles are flying away from it.

And if you squint, I think you
can see two ships with saucer

sections like undoing from the side.

So one of those could have
been the Farragut, but it

was like three pixels wide.

Rob: It's gonna take a lot of work, a
little bit too much work to do that.

But that hasn't stopped Star Trek
fans before to find out those little

Easter eggs, like where the Millennium
Falcon is in the background of First

Contact during one of the fight scenes.

Kevin: They never actually
mentioned it, but Pike is wearing

a different insignia on his shirt.

Like they're all talking about
the fact that he's Fleet Captain.

No one mentions that, like the black
circle background on his insignia

must be there to represent that.

But yeah, just a detail I noticed.

The other thing I noticed and that is
worth calling out is that Hemmer came

back in uh, spectral, hallucinogenic form
and prerecorded form, but it was good

to see a bit more Hemmer from the actor.

And yeah, when they said you know, no
one's ever quite dead in Star Trek,

we've heard the fans and we're looking
at ways we might bring him back.

This sounds like the sort of
thing they were talking about.

And on the one hand, it
was good to see him again.

On the other hand, It still
leaves you wanting more, doesn't

Rob: Oh, look yeah, he was
taken from us way too soon.

Wonderful performance.

And we got, the range of Hemmer from,
video benign, but a little bit cheeky.

And, very much willing to push
Uhura to not be so gullible.

But then also weird, zombie esque
deformed rotting corpse version.

The range of Hemmer is amazing.

And we had lovely little interactions
between Pelia and Una, Number One.

Kevin: Were they lovely?

Because they were pretty this is like my
main objection to this episode, the main

thing that prevented me from enjoying it
as much as some of the previous episodes

this season, was that people were a little
mean to each other These people did not

seem to like each other a lot of the time.

The Kirk brothers fighting,

Rob: We haven't even mentioned that.

The first time we see the Kirk
brothers finally together.


Kevin: Yeah.

Didn't love that.

Although it definitely has the feel of
establishing the start of an arc, so

that when eventually they do embrace
and support each other as brothers,

that it will be earned and it will feel
important, and something that took some

time to get to, but this feels like the
unsatisfying start of the relationship.

Una and Pella, I'm, I did
not love the bickering there.

I did the one thing that made me
think was when Una said, you've

been in Starfleet since before I
was born and I still outrank you.

What does that tell you?

And Pella had no, no rejoinder to that.

She just walked away and said she'd
get to work fixing the refinery.

And that is tantalizing to me.

If there is an arc that we are going
to get to see Pelia go on, where

she becomes her full potential as a
Starfleet officer rather than a space

hippy as she was called in this episode.

I am there for that.

I would love to see Pelia come
face to face with the fact that

she is squandering her potential or
squandering the opportunity or not

bringing her best to Starfleet and
turning into that model officer.

I would love to see that.

I don't know if that's why we have Carol
Kane on this show, but if that's where

we're headed, I'm excited about it.

Rob: Yeah, I guess I was a little
bit starstruck by any time that Carol

Kane comes on screen, but it can
get, it did seem a little tacked on.

It did seem a little bit, and here is
a scene and here is another scene and

they didn't, the stories didn't really
seem to connect that well with Lost

in Translation, if you think about it.

And especially it did seem, let's, we have
Carol Kane contracted for this episode.

Let's put her in here.

And I'm there going, why not put her
in an episode with characters she's

had a connection with, say, Amanda.

Kevin: Pelia's scene with Uhura in the
nacelle was much more interesting to

me of like, why don't you talk to me?

Welcome to the Enterprise.

That there was a lot under
the surface there, and we

could read it as an audience.

We didn't need to be told after the fact
what was behind it or what it meant.

Uh, so I really did enjoy that little one.

Rob: And a beautiful moment of, how
we refer to people who have passed on.

He was a wonderful, great student.

Kevin: He was just okay.


Rob: I love the tantalizing
little taste of stuff.

So when you've got, I think it
was Spock playing four dimensional

chess with Chapel and Kirk in the
background going, oh, he had it, had

him in check and now, and you're,
they're going, oh, that's a drop.

That's a drop right there.

That's, we see that later on.

Kevin: Yeah.

Kirk's a better chess
player even than Spock.

Rob: Exactly.

If you can imagine it.

And yeah, and that whole concept of
I like when Star Trek does that, when

they have that whole element of beings
beyond our comprehension and how finding

different forms of communication there.

I often bring up other franchises
out there and I think I've been

bringing up Doctor Who every week.

There's a great Doctor Who story that I
quite like, it divides fans called 42,

where there's a ship refining energy from
a sun and it turns out the sun that they

are refining from is a sentient being.

So what they're actually doing is,
hurting this sentient creature.

So they have to release back all the ore
and materials they have collected from it.

And I've got very much a
sense of that from this story.

Yeah we've been done doing all
this talking, but we haven't talked

about whether we liked it or not.

So I got the idea it wasn't high
on your rank for the season.

Kevin: No.

It was mixed and I think a big part of
it is the influence of Kirk coming in.

And it reminds me when the Enterprise
came into Discovery in season two, and

as fans who are addicted to fan service
and canon references, we all lean in

and suddenly we are more interested in
the crew of the Enterprise than we are

in the characters that are meant to
be the core of our story in Star Trek:

Discovery, the crew of the USS Discovery.

And I felt a bit of that again
here with Kirk running around

with Uhura this episode.

It felt like Kirk here is not
doing anything that a member

of our crew couldn't have done.

And the only reason Kirk is here is
to play to our, our predilections

as fans who love James T.


And it felt to me like a it wasn't
fatal, it was a good episode, but it

kept it from being a great episode.

And I worry the more they lean into this.

Oh, what these people are going to be in
the original series, let's reference that.

Every time it's at the expense of the
characters we have now, it weakens

the episode and the show for me,
so I suspect this is gonna be the

weakest episode of the season for me.

Maybe with the very
first one still below it.

Rob: Yeah, getting, it is getting us.

I enjoyed it.

But again, I think I am a one-eyed
Strange New Worlds fan, but I am getting

a sense of this season that there's
little hints and teasers and tastes in

the season of going you're used to the
Enterprise crew from Next Gen or Deep

Space Nine where you're go, you've got
these guys for seven years or whatever.

And I'm getting a sense of this season
of going, there's an inevitability here.

Sure we know about Pike and even Pike
knows about Pike and yeah, and losing

Hemmer last season as well going,
we know where the crew is gonna be.

We know the crew that is gonna
stay there for decades on the

Enterprise, like literally.

So this case of, we don't have
that much time with this crew

the way that we have them.

So they're, I didn't know if they'd do it.

I didn't realize they'd
start doing it this soon.

Not going full Game of Thrones, of
going, anyone can go at any episode,

and so if anyone has a long exposition
scene, they're gonna be killed at the

end, or have a Red Wedding episode.

But it is that sense of, we know who's
gonna fill in these roles in a couple

of years, so how these characters
are gonna move on is coming in a

bit sooner than I thought it would.

Kevin: I think I detected in this
episode a theme for the season at large.

And it was when Kirk
gave Uhura the pep talk.

Where he said Death is winning.

It claimed your family, it claimed
your friend, it convinced you to

forget them because it's less painful
than holding onto their memories.

This, to me, was a real strong echo
of the previous episode where people

literally lost their memories of their
loved ones, Among the Lotus Eaters.

And it felt such a strong echo or
such a strong parallel that I feel

like that must be a theme that we're
playing with through this season is

do you choose to remember the people
who have left you and do you choose

to feel the pain that comes with that?

Rob: That's a huge moment in the show.

We've had very little knowledge of
Uhura's past and to have it revealed

within season one of Strange New Worlds,
and now to get a vision flash of that

crashed ship was incredibly powerful.

And it is that overriding sense
of what are you running away from?

What are you accepting, what
are you gonna do about it?

And especially when it comes to
Kirk in the future, he doesn't

like a no lose situation.

Kevin: Yeah, yeah.

Rob: And he doesn't like facing death.

Kevin: The interdimensional entities
that were communicating with Uhura here,

first of all, I need to say I loved the
way that they came up with her receiving

that communication, the sound that they
gave us, that metallic vibrating noise.

It was so tantalizing and I thought from
the very first time we heard it, I thought

I could swore I heard a voice in that
and I was like, oh, this is one of those

sounds that's gonna be a distorted voice.

Maybe it's your own voice projected from
the past or whatever it is, but it's,

there's definitely a voice in there.

And as the episode goes on, it's gonna
gradually clear up until we can make out

what it's saying and who's saying it.

And I'm so glad we didn't go that way.

Like it, in the end, the
noise was just a noise.

And maybe they did make it with
a weird speech synthesizer thing

in post-production, but it was a
beautiful, almost red herring of,

I wanna know what that's saying.

You don't get to know what that's saying.

The message is in the
visions that she's having.

And so that is why we chose understanding
non humanoid communication or

non humanoid life, understanding
what they're trying to tell us.

That is the theme that we're going
to explore in Star Trek here.

Rob: Definitely.

So as always, we go chronologically.

So do you have anything from Enterprise?

Kevin: Nope.

Rob: Do you have anything
from the original series?

Kevin: No.

Rob: Do you have anything from
the original series movies?

Kevin: No, I don't.

Rob: I do, cause any chance I get
to talk about Voyage Home, I will.

Kevin: Oh, of course the whale

Rob: The whale probe.

Yeah, short and sharp is a good one.

I've talked about this so many times,
but it's a great concept to, not

only did Nimoy bring in with this
going, I don't want an adversary.

I don't want an enemy.

I want a problem to solve.

So there's no battles.

There's no Hornblower in space,
there's no conspiracies, there's

no, old racist or underlying
prejudices coming up to the surface.

This is Star Trek at its most purest, we
have an alien problem that needs solving.

It doesn't need to be blown up.

And I don't know if it's mentioned in
any way, shape or form about, or if

it is, it's wiped off because there
isn't any talk about how to kill it.

It's all about how do we stop this thing?

How do we communicate with it?

And they're losing all their power.

Kevin: Yeah there's, there's no scene of
ships swooping in and taking pot shots at

it and going, oh, it's made neutronium.

We can't do anything about it like
that is completely bypassed just by

the fact that you get anywhere near
this thing and your lights go out.

Rob: And, you know that
would be a modern thing.

They would have a scene of fifty
Federation ships going at it,

being wiped out or losing all their
power just to have some sense.

But in, there is none here.

It's just, it's so big.

You can't, it's all about how
we defend ourselves as opposed

to we, how do we kill it?

And the process of Spock going through
how to communicate with it and the the.

The solving of problems let's
go, let's drop it underwater.

Let's hear that

Kevin: Oh, I love that scene where
Uhura gets to mess with the sounds

and eventually it like, through a
believable set of audio filters, it

suddenly sounds exactly like whale song.

I love that.

Rob: It's a great moment, isn't it?

Going okay well, let's do it here.

How's that sound?

And she goes, oh, we'll try this.

Could you do it that way?

I'm not sure.

Let's see

Kevin: Add some salinity.

Rob: Yeah.

And even at the end like they're
going, they'll understand

the songs, not the language.

We'll be talking to them in gibberish.

So it's a case of there's no real
language or a conversation, it's just this

harmony, this unity between these songs to
communicate an update of where they are.

It's a beautiful concept and at
the end it go, it flies away and

we're there going, what happened?

It's a beautiful sequence of the eye
of the humpback whale and the turning.

It's a beautiful slow sequence
that just they go, this was the

highest grossing Star Trek film
for a long time, and there's just a

Kevin: There's no score.

There's just whale song and
cross-cutting between the two things.

And we are left to imagine
message that passes between them.

Rob: It's a beautiful ballet
of creatures and species.

Kevin: So bold, so confident
for the filmmakers at that time

to create this whole thing.

And then in the climax to
trust our imaginations.

Uh, trust that will be
satisfying in and of itself.

I know there is a passing
mention in Lower Decks that the

probe was sent by space whales.

We are left to imagine a species
of super advanced humpback

whales that sent that probe.

I do enjoy the mystery that Star Trek IV
leaves us with a little more than that.

Rob: Not everything needs to be answered.

Kevin: No.

The design of that probe, I remember like
drawing it in my notebook at school after

seeing that film for the first time.

It was, just like the Enterprise,
it was such a simple shape that

it was instantly recognizable and
yet completely like arbitrary.

It was one of those shapes that
could only really exist in space.

That, that, that kind of
thing, it couldn't land, it

couldn't fly in an atmosphere.

It wasn't made for that.

It was a space object.

It felt native to space.

The fact that it was almost invisible
except when the light was glinting off

the black surface really mysterious
and that blue ball that came out of it,

yeah, just so much wonder and mystery
and all of it left open to interpretation

for us to make our own minds up about.

I did love that.

Rob: And just, yeah, the
simplicity of just a, sorta like

a cylindrical tube and a ball.

And when it does move, 'cause it's in
the same sort of we see it shot the same

way, just in like in, in the horizontal.

But then when it starts communicating,
it start, it tilts up and just that

Kevin: Yeah, it dives just like the

Rob: dives like the whale and it, and
they're select matching each other

in their appearance and the ball
goes back in and you're there going

this is, just the simplicity of it
makes it so much more powerful and

a whole language that is so simple.

It is so beyond any complicated
form of speech that we have.

It's a beautiful I love that tantalizing,
enigmatic ending where we don't know.

I love that type of stuff.

Kevin: The effect that the
signal has on the Earth's oceans.

On the one hand, it's
there as a plot point.

There needs to be a threat, there
needs to be something that forces

us to have to deal with it.

But the idea the signal would
vaporize the surface of the water and

cover the planet in clouds and cause
these storms that threaten Starfleet

Headquarters yeah, it was all part of
the mystery that I recall as watching

this, that it yeah, it's a delicate
balancing act to make something that

is threatening but not a villain,

Rob: Yes.

Kevin: I gotta ask you, as Star Trek
IV's biggest fan, what is in your

imagination, the message that passes
between the whales and the space probe

in the end when they finally communicate?

Rob: I think, yeah, like if there's any
source of conversation there or some sort

of connection, I think it literally would
be a case of George and Gracie there

going dudes, we have been on a journey.

We have been in one, now we are
here, we are thrown into this place.

I get a sense of maybe there's
some sort of ancestral connection.

So they can just understand what this
probe wants and what their connection

is, whether they're space whales or not.

It's just a case of, oh, the journey we
have gone on to talk to you right now.

Oh, the journey.

And I think it's just sharing
stories going, we were here,

we were trapped, we are free.

We were gonna get killed.

We are now here.

We're talking to you.

Come back, talk to our, the kids of
our kids in a couple of thousand years.

Hey, you travel safe.

We are fine here.

We're all good.

We were on the brink of
extinction apparently.

Now we're gonna start again.



See you later.

Kevin: Very good.

Alright, I am going to take us from San
Francisco Bay up to The Next Generation

season one episode 18, Home Soil.

Rob: Wow, you're going to season one.

Kevin: Yeah, season one, early TNG.

And it is, this is a very wooden episode
of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But perhaps most memorable, this episode
for the phrase ugly bags of mostly water.

Rob: I've been described
that many, many times.

Kevin: This is so early that
Tasha Yar is still on the

bridge of the Enterprise in this

Rob: Oh, wow.

Kevin: The Enterprise visits a
terraforming project on a planet that

is behind schedule and the Enterprise
is there to get it back on schedule.

Is this sounding familiar, Rob?

Rob: Little bit.

Kevin: The plot of this episode is very
similar in many respects to what we

got this week in Strange New Worlds.

The Enterprise delegation beams
down, gets a very awkward tour of

the terraforming facility, by a woman
who I apologize if she's listening,

not her best work, I'll say.

They're not down there five minutes
before one of the colonists is killed by

a drilling laser that seemingly takes on
a mind of its own and drills him to death.

One thing leads to another and they
discover that the drill was under the

control of a non humanoid form of life
that was present on this planet and

undetected until now, and has been
working against the terraformers in

order to try to preserve its species.

The life form is initially seen as just
a blinking white light at the end of

one of the mining tunnels, and they
beam it on the ship and it's sitting

in a bell jar in the medical lab as Dr.

Crusher scans it with increasing
levels of magnification.

It starts to split and divide, and
eventually takes control of the universal

translator and starts communicating.

When it can speak for itself, it lodges
a complaint that the terraformers

were destroying its habitat.

Picard does some diplomacy, beams it
back down and the story ends there.

Rewatching this episode just today, I was
struck by how it is almost beat for beat,

what we got in Strange New Worlds, but
with none of the character development.

It is truly the first outing of
this plot, and the writers were

like this plot is so interesting.

It is such a sci-fi story
that will stand on its own.

And it is for me, such a contrast with
this week's episode of Strange New Worlds,

which is the same story, but carrying
so much character development weight.

We have Uhura reckoning with the death
of her parents and the death of Hemmer.

We have La'an face-to-face with the
mirror image of her love in James Kirk.

Pelia and Una arguing about what
makes a good Starfleet officer.

None of these things are present
in the Next Gen episode which is

just played completely straight.

And so I would not necessarily recommend
this as one of Next Generation's best.

But it is interesting to look at
just to see how far we've come in,

uh, telling the same kind of story
and how much we get out of it.

Rob: It does sound very much
like just a procedural episode.

Kevin: It is completely procedural.

Rob: So it's comparisons for me is around
in the late mid nineties there was Law

& Order juggernaut going on, but my favorite
cop show was a show called Homicide:

Life on the Street, which was more an
ensemble, developed the characters more,

and Jerry Orbach, who was on Law & Order
at the time, he, they did crossovers.

It was one of the earliest stages
where I became aware of crossovers.

So you had characters from Law & Order
go to Homicide and Orbach always

said he preferred going onto Homicide
because he could expand his character.

He could have little moments
where they're not just—

Cause you watch Law & Order and you've
got these great actors and they, you

never reveal any of their character.

They're just, they're going
procedure, talking through this

type of stuff, and there's no
color or shape or interest to it.

So this episode definitely feels
these are shells of characters just

to push that narrative idea forward.

And when you've got the greats
of Spiner and Frakes and McFadden

and Stewart of course let these
characters, let these actors shine.

They don't need to just
sprout technobabble.

Kevin: Yeah, the closest we get to
character drama in this episode is

that question of like, how much did the
colonists know and when did they know it?

And ultimately what's revealed is
there were signs that they chose to

ignore because they're career-driven
and they didn't want— this is a

recurring plot point in Star Trek.

The worst bit of news to a scientist that
is trying to use this lifeless rock is

that there is life on that lifeless rock.

And that's the tension in this episode is
that these scientists blinded themselves

to the signs of life, because they
did not want their project to suffer.

Rob: As Dr.

Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park,
you spent so much thinking about

if you could, you didn't stop
to think about if you should.

Kevin: Well, There you go.

That's a couple of examples
of non-humanoid life.

Rob: We went from the highs
to the, to, to the wooden.

We had the success of Star Trek IV
to a later episode of season one

of Next Gen, wooden as it may be.

What a, what a wonderful
cavalcade of range and quality

we have in this franchise.

We'll be back next week with the episode
I have been hanging out for Kevin, oh, we

finally get to talk those old scientists.

It's gonna be real.

It's gonna be a crossover.

I'm gonna hear Boimler's
high-pitched scream.

It's gonna be awesome.

It better be awesome.

Kevin: All right.

See you then, Rob.

Rob: See you then.