Strange New Worlds’ Number One Trial Couldn’t Fix Star Trek’s Ban On Augments

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2, episode 2 – “Ad Astra Per Aspera”Number One (Rebecca Romijn) wins her trial in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2, episode 2, but Starfleet still has to maintain their questionable ban on augments. In the Strange New Worlds season 1 episode “Ghosts of Illyria,” Commander Una Chin-Riley reveals she is a genetically modified Illyrian to certain members of the USS Enterprise crew, including Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). While Pike unequivocally accepts Una, she is later arrested at the end of Strange New Worlds season 1 for lying on her Starfleet application. The second episode of Strange New Worlds season 2, “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” follows up on this cliffhanger with a classic Star Trek courtroom story.

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Though Strange New Worlds season 2, episode 2 ends with Number One reinstated as First Officer of the Starship Enterprise, her victory cannot change Federation laws regarding genetic modification. While the initial purpose of the ban was to prevent the rise of another superhuman dictator like Khan Noonien-Singh (Ricardo Montalban), the law has been used to justify discrimination and persecution. This episode highlights the many flaws with the ban, but Strange New Worlds’ nature as a prequel makes it impossible for the show to repeal the ban entirely.



Why Number One’s Trial Win Only Fixed Her Starfleet Problem

Star Trek Strange New Worlds Una Ad Astra Per Asprera

Based on the trailers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2, it was apparent that Number One would find her way back to the Enterprise. Thanks to the help of her lawyer and childhood friend, Neera Ketoul (Yetide Badaki), Una wins her case and fixes her Starfleet problem. But despite emotional and convincing arguments from Una and Neera, the Federation ban on genetic augmentation remains in place. As a Civil Rights lawyer specializing in the rights of Illyrians, Neera initially intended to use Una’s trial as a platform to go after the Federation ban on genetic modification. Instead, she uses her knowledge of Starfleet law and her knowledge of Una to coerce the court into granting Number One asylum by the Federation.

While the ban on genetic engineering was an understandable response to the Eugenics Wars of the 21st Century, “Ad Astra Per Aspera” points out how the ban has been used to justify discrimination and prejudice. The Starfleet judges at Una’s trial come to the conclusion that individuals with genetic augmentation cannot all be lumped together and that problems should be investigated on a case-by-case basis. The judges made the right decision in this case, proving that the individuals within Starfleet do their best to uphold its ideals whenever possible. Based on the arguments in this episode, it’s apparent that the ban on genetic modifications needs to be revisited, but this is something that will not happen for quite some time.

Star Trek’s Real Reason Number One’s Trial Didn’t Fix The Federation’s Ban On Augments

Star Trek Strange New Worlds Ad Astra Per Asprera

Though Una and Neera make a convincing argument against the augment ban, previous Star Trek series have already established that the ban continues long after the time of Number One’s trial. Though not brought up on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the ban on genetic engineering was still in place by the time of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and even continued into Star Trek: Prodigy. Much like Una, DS9’s Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) lied on his Starfleet application about being genetically enhanced. When Bashir’s secret is revealed in the DS9 episode “Doctor Bashir, I Presume,” his father makes a deal with Starfleet to go to prison so that Bashir can remain DS9’s doctor.

In order to maintain continuity within the established Star Trek canon, Strange New Worlds could not get rid of the augment ban. “Ad Astra Per Aspera” still manages to highlight the clearly unjust nature of the ban, and points out that it goes against what Starfleet claims to stand for. Thankfully, the individuals presiding over Una’s trial see the nuance of the issue and agree that Una should not be punished for being who she is. Still, Starfleet has a long way to go if they want all of their laws to reflect their values. While Star Trek: Strange New Worlds cannot repeal the Federation’s ban on genetic modification, it did take a step in the right direction and provide a loophole for Illyrians to seek asylum within Starfleet.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 streams Thursdays on Paramount+.

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