Let’s face it. Paramount has a massive hit on its hands with “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” The show has an incredibly high ranking by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. It is the number one most streamed show in the United States (since the second episode).
Some fans might grumble that there are technological advances featured in the U.S.S. Enterprise, which were not present on William Shatner’s show, “Star Trek: The Original Series.” But those are quickly swept away when fans start watching the characters and getting into the story.
ATTENTION READER: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS AND INFORMATION ABOUT “STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS” SEASON 1: EPISODE 3, “GHOST OF ILLYRIA.”
“Strange New Worlds” has introduced a couple of new faces to “Star Trek” canon, including La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), Lt. Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia), and Hemmer (Bruce Horak). Still, most of the characters were from “The Original Series” or “The Cage.” This latter story was Gene Roddenberry’s first attempt to make “Star Trek” for television back in 1964.
Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Una (Rebecca Romijn), and Spock (Ethan Peck) all came from “The Cage.” Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush), Cadet Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), and T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) all appeared in “The Original Series.” The first two appeared in the majority of “Original Series” episodes, while T’Pring’s appearance was just on the episode “Amok Time,” which set the tone for so many Vulcan storylines in the future.
One of those recast, classic characters from “The Original Series,” which fans don’t know too much about, is Dr. M’Benga, who is now portrayed by actor Babs Olusanmokun. Fans likely know more about Mr. Olusanmokun, as he’s been featured on “Law and Order,” “The Defenders,” and last year’s blockbuster hit — “Dune.” Olusanmokun’s Jamis battled Paul Atreides (played by actor Timothée Chalamet).
Babs Olusanmokun in ‘Dune’
Olusanmokun told reporters that he prepared for the role by watching Dr. M’Benga on “The Original Series.”
“I think I watched one other show, and I left it at that because you don’t want to be doing what everybody else has been doing,” said Olusanmokun. “Or you don’t want to get too many influences, so to speak. I just tried to craft something new and different, something that I can bring my qualities to, whatever they may be.”
Dr. M’Benga was originally portrayed by Booker Bradshaw, and the character appeared in episodes “A Private Little War” and “That Which Survives.” The first appearance of Bradshaw as Dr. M’Benga has him in charge of sickbay. At the same time, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was busy on an away mission. Dr. M’Benga worked to revive Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who had been injured on the mission. In a memorable scene, Dr. M’Benga also slapped Spock back to consciousness.
Dr. M’Benga Slapping Mr. Spock
This episode demonstrated that Dr. M’Benga might have just been one of many physicians working aboard the Enterprise under Dr. McCoy, who served as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). In the third episode of “Strange New Worlds,” Dr. M’Benga is clearly in charge, as Chappel, Una, and all other senior leadership turned to him to cure the crew infected with a mystery illness. He even said that he was “Chief Medical Officer” on the flagship of Starfleet at the end of the episode.
This illness caused the crew to be drawn to light and heat, and those affected would do anything to get to that light and heat. Eventually, Hemmer and Una figured out that the illness was not screened out of those beamed up the ship’s transporters because Dr. M’Benga had done something to his medical transporter.
Una Confronts M’Benga
When Una confronted Dr. M’Benga about this, he confessed that he’d been using the medical transporter buffer to preserve his daughter’s life. She had an incurable disease, and Dr. M’Benga said she had just twelve weeks to live.
Una told Dr. M’Benga that the girl would be allowed to continue to survive in the buffers and would provide power directly from the warp core to keep her alive. At the end of the episode, viewers saw Dr. M’Benga spending time with his daughter.
While Dr. M’Benga did not get into trouble for this incident, Una said he was willing to sacrifice everyone aboard the Enterprise to protect his secret. For Dr. M’Benga, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many, and this is likely why Dr. McCoy was promoted to CMO when he was assigned to the Enterprise years later.
Those who scoff at Dr. M’Benga’s daughter surviving in the transporter buffer should rewatch the classic “Next Generation” episode “Relics.” The Enterprise found an old Starfleet vessel, where someone rigged a transporter to repeat a signal until found. That person was the legendary Montgomery ”Scotty” Scott (James Doohan).
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