Star Trek has a long-standing tradition of the Chief Medical Officer being a part of the main ensemble cast. Starting from Bones Mcoy from The Original Series to the Emergency Medical Hologram in Voyager to Bashir in Deep Space Nine. Star Trek doctors get a lot of importance and focus in their respective series. Star Trek: Picard season 3 even uses The Next Generation’s doctor Beverly Crusher as the main plot point that kicks off that story. So it’s only fitting that the Strange New Worlds doctor seems to be getting quite the highlight in this new season. The Strange New Worlds season 2 premiere saw the doctor in a new light, and with it, they seem to be teasing a dark past. Which begs the question that, what exactly is the Strange New Worlds doctor hiding?
Please note the following will contain spoilers for the Strange New Worlds season 2 premiere episode.
Strange New Worlds Doctor Has A Dark Past
When the Strange New Worlds season 2 premiere episode aired, I remember thinking how nice it was to have Dr. M’Benga’s (Babs Olusanmokun) calming and soothing presence back on the screen. Throughout the first season, the doctor has gotten a great emotional arc with his daughter. Not to mention being the consistent rock that the rest of the crew looks to for support of all kinds. And he definitely starts season 2 in the same way, helping Spock with his emotional issues and basically acting as his therapist.
However, when the story of the episode puts the crew in a position to interact with Klingons, things get dark, quick! We learn that, along with Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush), M’Benga served in the Klingon War years ago. An experience he clearly hadn’t gotten over given that Chapel asks him if he’s okay, reminding him that the war is over. To which M’Benga replies very ominously, asking if war truly is ever over. Dark stuff, folks.
More Than War PTSD?
While this new revelation about the Strange New Worlds doctor’s past is a very interesting character history to include, there is seemingly more to it than that. There are some usual storytelling tropes that come along with a character who has a war background; they may have PTSD, they may now be a pacifist or have trouble reconciling things they did under difficult circumstances that they are guilt-ridden about afterwards. All of these could be in play with M’Benga’s depiction of someone who was at war. But a certain interaction suggests that there is more to his past.
When the crew meets up with La’an (Christina Chong), there’s talk of a certain kind of radiation making the inhabitants sick on the planet she’s in. M’Benga immediately identifies this radiation to Photon Torpedoes, a kind of weapon, causing Spock to be surprised at the Strange New Worlds doctor even has this kind of knowledge. Nurse Chapel quickly interjects revealing that they both served in the Klingon war and that ‘doc likes to read up on weapons systems is all’. It was subtle but almost felt like an explanation to questions no one really asked. Yet.
Strange New Worlds’ Doctor Is A Low-Key Badass
While this scene on its own doesn’t really mean anything, it’s what happens in the rest of the episode that definitely raises some eyebrows. Klingons at one point capture and force Chapel and M’Benga to provide medical assistance to their crew. However, realizing that these Klingons are trying to restart the war, they take things into their own hands. M’Benga brings out a vial of green liquid saying it can help them achieve their objectives. When Chapel asks does he ever not carry this, M’Benga replies in the negative. What this mysterious green vial contains is anyone’s guess right now. Once injected, it seemingly gives both Chapel and the doctor powers, or advanced strength to take on an entire crew of Klingons with ease. Also seems to bring about some violence in the good doctor as well.
Now is this what Chapel asked about, that M’Benga apparently always carries? And if so, why? Why would the doctor constantly need to carry a vial of super strength potion with him at all times? But an easier explanation could also be a less literal one. Chapel could have asked he always carries the weight of his past on him. But given the sequence of events and the direction of the conversation, it feels less likely.
I’m hoping season 2 explores this dark past and reveals what it is that the Strange New Worlds doctor is hiding, and how it ties into the character we’ve come to love from season 1.
Strange New Worlds season 2 is airing weekly on Paramount+.
Do you think that the doctor is hiding something too, or am I just spinning wild theories out of dilithium? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @theshahshahid.