‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Star and Songwriters Break Down the Emotional Heart of That Musical Episode | How I Did It

“We’re bonded in a way that I don’t know many other ‘Trek’ families are, truthfully,” actress Celia Rose Gooding says

Transporting the crew of the USS Enterprise into the world of musical theater was no easy task. When it was announced that the second season of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” would feature a musical episode, fans were curious to see how the Paramount+ series would pull this off. But as the cast and crew began getting the episode — titled “Subspace Rhapsody” — off the ground, they found this delightful dalliance was rooted in emotion.

Showrunners Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers enlisted help from Letters to Cleo bandmates turned television composers Kay Hanley (“Doc McStuffins”) and Tom Polce (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) to craft the music for the episode.

“I was a staff composer and producer for Paramount so I’ve done a lot of musical situations that fell outside the scope of just normal score,” Polce told TheWrap during a new installment of How I Did It, presented by Paramount+.

“Initially they called me to just sort of discuss what would a musical in ‘Strange New Worlds’ be, and logistically what do we need to know? In five weeks, there’s no way I can do this alone so I called my sister Kay Hanley.”

“We’ve known each other since our early 20s,” Hanley added. “I’ve written for television but I’ve never had to write lyrics or melodies for characters that have such historical depth. Working with Tom, I was able to, as a lyricist especially, really dig deep because I trust him.”

Celia Rose Gooding, who plays Uhura in the series, originally thought the pitch to do a musical episode was a joke.

“I thought it would be cool in theory – we have a lot of musical people, myself and Chrissy (Christina Chong) who plays La’an,” she said. “Then when I found out it was going to be an actual thing, it wasn’t just a joke anymore, I got really nervous.”

Gooding said each member of the cast met with Polce to find their individual vocal range, and from there the songs grew.

“We just wanted to share with him what our voices sound like,” she said. “I remember starting where I feel very comfortable which is in my lower register, and then we just kept singing higher and higher and higher and higher. We sort of found out what my range was so they sort of built the songs to live in that world.”

What began as only five or six songs soon blossomed into a nine-song episode.

Uhura’s big musical moment “Keep Us Connected” was the culmination of her entire arc up to that point in the series, according to Gooding, and even Hanley felt it.

“I’ve never cried writing a song in my life and I cried the entire time,” Hanley said of putting the number together. “In the shower, coming up with lyrics bawling. Writing that song for her was just one of the most powerful experiences in my life as a songwriter.”

While all those songs posed their unique challenges, Hanley said it was the finale “We Are One” that nearly killed them.

“This one broke my brain,” Polce said.

“Everyone needs to sing but what are they saying and why are they saying it?” Hanley said of the challenge in putting it together.

“At one point I was like ‘I need to know what this song is about’ and I said, ‘So is this just we’re all in this together, we need to work as one?’ Akiva was like that’s exactly what this is about,” Polce added.

“Rehearsing ‘We Are One’ with the cast on weekends was probably my favorite part of the musical episode,” Gooding said. “I love being able to try new things, get to see everybody and be silly and funny.”

Gooding said shooting the musical episode was a completely new bonding moment for the cast during Season 2.

“I feel like there’s something intimate and special about singing in harmony with someone else,” she said. “It just creates a bond that is pretty unbreakable and so the fact that we got this moment together as a cast family we’re bonded in a way that I don’t know if many other ‘Trek’ families are truthfully.”

Seasons 1 and 2 of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” are currently streaming on Paramount+.

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