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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to boldly explore new worlds and new civilizations. And in the show's third episode, “Ghosts of Illyria,” we boldly go to an abandoned Illyrian colony and learn a secret about Una (Rebecca Romijn), Captain Pike’s Number One.
While Una was one of the first Trek characters created — we saw her, Captain Pike, and Spock in the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage” back in 1965 — we know very little about her background. Even when Romijn first reprised the role in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, we still didn’t get much more about her history (although the Short Trek of her and Spock stuck on an elevator did shed some light on her character in a humorous way).
SYFY WIRE had the chance to talk to Romijn about her character’s revelation in "Ghosts of Illyria" as well as her experience with a big dummy on set. Who’s the big dummy, you ask? Read on to find out! Be warned, however — major spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New World’s third episode lie ahead!
“Ghosts of Illyria” has the Enterprise investigating a seemingly abandoned Illyrian colony in an effort to understand what caused the settlement to collapse. The Illyrians, as Una tells us at the beginning of the episode, modify their genes to enhance their abilities. Genetic modification, however, is a big no-no to the Federation, and so the Illyrians are effectively outcasts.
An ion storm disrupts the Enterprise crew’s investigation, and most of the crew gets beamed back on board with a contagion that travels on light — those infected become desperate to throw themselves into a sun to get additional Vitamin D.
Una, like others on the away team, is infected. She overcomes it, however, because she's Illyrian — a genetically modified individual who, by Federation rules, should not be allowed in Starfleet.
The idea to have Una be Illyrian was something that the show’s creators decided on from the get-go. “The writers floated the idea to me early on in the development of the series,” Romijn told SYFY WIRE. “I just thought it was an incredible layer to add in and I think it really informs the audience as to why Una is the way she is — she really hides behind her work because of this secret that she's hiding and keeps herself slightly intimidating to keep her distance from the rest of the crew so they don't uncover her secret.”
Una revealing her secret was a major decision for her — she obviously would do anything to save her crew, but revealing her past would also jeopardize her career. “The sad thing is I think Una loves Starfleet more than anybody could possibly love Starfleet, but she knows that she is completely breaking the rules by hiding the fact that she's an Illyrian,” Romijn shared. “I don't think she has any shame, I think she's proud of being Illyrian. But she's ashamed of keeping the secret to stay in Starfleet. And then the fact that she brings Captain Pike into it and now he's stuck with the secret also makes her feel terrible.”
And even though Strange New Worlds has a mission-of-the-week structure, it looks like Una’s background will impact future episodes. “It's something that we're going to keep on exploring throughout Season 1 and into Season 2,” she said. “We’re midway through Season 2 now and it's going to continue, and it's been really fun.”
Now that Una’s genetically altered capabilities are out of the bag, it also might mean that we’ll see her undergo further feats of super-strength, such as the moment when we saw her hoist Hemmer (Bruce Horak) over her shoulder like a sack of tricorders.
It’s not surprising to find out that the version of Hemmer she lifted was a dummy (and a very heavy dummy at that, according to Romijn). The dummy was realistic enough, however, that Romijn accidentally assumed it was the flesh-and-blood Hemmer between takes.
“Bruce and I, our cast chairs for when they were doing lighting setups and everything were on the set of Pike’s quarters, which is where Pike's bed is,” Romijn explained. “And so when I walked in, the dummy was on the bed, but I thought it was Bruce because the dummy looked so good — I thought it was Bruce taking a nap. So I was tiptoeing around for like an hour. I was like, ‘Wow Bruce is really tired. What was Bruce doing last night? He's exhausted!’ I was trying to be really quiet … finally Bruce walked in and I was like, ‘Oh, I see what's happening! Okay, got it.’”
New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds drop on Paramount+ on Thursdays.