Most reviews of SNW say that it feels “like the good old days of Star Trek but still fresh”. We love the crew, don’t we? They bring their humanity into space with them.

Most importantly, they care deeply for one another and handle various threats/dilemmas in exploring strange new worlds.

SNW S1E2 – Uhura’s first Mission tells the story of Uhura, the Ship’s communication officer, helping the away-mission team stuck on a mysterious Comet C/2660 in the distant Perosphene system. Uhura confronts her purpose in assisting the team’s safe return to Enterprise.

Life gives you lemons!

Uhura: My parents were killed in a crash.

Uhura, the communications officer, is bubbly, honest and friendly (in her own words, “unburdened by conversational boundaries”) and prodigious in language skills. Uhura’s entry into Enterprise is impressive. However, she has a heartbreaking story to tell. Uhura had wanted to learn alien languages. She was set to go to the University in Nairobi, where her parents taught. However, her parents got killed in a shuttle accident barely a week before she was to begin her studies.

Eventually, she dropped out because she felt her parents’ absence everywhere. Her heartbreaking story shocks the crew. You begin to ask, “why do things like this happen”?

Going with the flow

Captain Pike: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Uhura: “I guess the truth is I am not sure.”

Uhura moved in with her grandmother, but someone couldn’t fit in. Her passion for languages and her grandmother’s stories about Starfleet gets her to join Starfleet Academy. Uhura, with her chosen specialist skill in alien languages, was one of the best at Starfleet Academy. She had to beat several thousands of aspirants to get into the Enterprise.

Although she had impressive language skills, she did not believe that “she’s all that Starfleet”. She was only trying to fit in and probably “ran away to Starfleet.” She had no career goals, let alone life goals. And worse, she did not fully understand the privilege of being on the state-of-the-art Starship Enterprise! Uhura’s answers surprise the Captain and the Ship’s officers.

Captain Pike exclaims: “That’s not something I have heard from a Cadet”. Spock gently advises Uhura: “Star fleet has been a lifelong dream for many, myself included. If it is not your path, you might consider making way for someone else who wants to walk it.

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Life is what you make of it!

Uhura: I did not know what else to do!
Captain Pike: So, you ran off to Starfleet?
Uhura: Yes.
Captain Pike to Uhura: “I sincerely hope you’d find a place you will fit”.

Uhura is passionate about learning languages. More importantly, she has an ear for them. The Comet presents an occasion for Uhura to put her skills to good use. And yet, she does not see it as an opportunity. The away-team recognises and affirms her language skills: “you are here for a reason”. Uhura is hesitant mainly because she is filled with fear.

But life constantly throws opportunities at us, and often we don’t grab them due to low self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. Spock sees the need for a pep talk. Spock reminds Uhura: “Confrontations with our mortality often cause us to see ourselves as if from outside. Such perspectives can be a unique opportunity.”

Sometimes, Purpose finds you.

Spock to Uhura: “You did not intend on being here. But you are here. Hypotheticals are irrelevant. Today you are simply the only person for the job. Will you rise to see it through?”

The away team in the Comet faces a situation wherein Uhura’s linguistic skills come in handy. The markings on the egg-shaped rock on the surface are not decorative but linguistic codes. Uhura soon finds that she is on the Comet for a reason. Her Kenyan roots and linguistic abilities come in handy to decipher the code, at least to shut down the force field for the ‘away-team’ to return to the Enterprise.

Just imagine this! Uhura gets to be on the Enterprise and in the specific exploratory assignment. She wasn’t sure if the Enterprise or Starfleet was where she would fit in. She wasn’t sure of her purpose. She runs away to Starfleet but purpose finds her.

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It would be best if you didn’t throw away your life.

Spock (to Uhura): “I understand you have not come to Starfleet the way many of us have and that you do not wish to stay here. But having observed your actions on the Comet, I am certain, should you choose to, Starfleet will be proud to have an officer like you.”

Uhura did not think she was all Starfleet. Her colleagues thought otherwise. Uhura had speciality expertise and was driven by passion. What she lacked was a sense of purpose.

The choice to fulfil our (divinely-appointed) purpose is entirely ours. Let’s not simply throw it away! Ironically, Captain Pike asks her, “where would you be in ten years”? First Officer Una recognises that life is too precious to be wasted either for an unclear present or fear of an inevitable future. She tells the Captain, “Don’t throw away your life, Chris.

Uhura, the prodigious communication officer of Star Ship Enterprise, was fluent in many languages. She was keen to learn about alien ones and had a genius spirit.  Uhura enjoys the privilege that remains a lifelong dream for many. Starfleet will be proud to have an officer like her. Would she embrace her purpose? It would be best if she didn’t throw away her life.

Questions for further conversations

  1. What do you think made Uhura feel that she was not all Starfleet? Was it an understatement or an honest confession?
  2. Uhura got the opportunity to be part of the Enterprise crew. Why do you think she was unsure about her future in Starfleet? Why do you think Uhura lacked ambition?
  3. Captain Pike is struggling to come to terms with an inevitable future. Why do you think Captain Pike asked her, “Where would you see yourself in 10 years”?
  4. Should Uhura make way for someone else who wants to be on Starfleet? What do you think?
  5. What would you advise Uhura should you meet her for Coffee?
Samuel Thambusamy is a PhD candidate with the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.