Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 8 - "The Elysian Kingdom"
In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode 8, the USS Enterprise encounters its first space god in the 23rd century and the show even offers a compelling explanation for the cosmic being. Strange New Worlds episode 8, "The Elysian Kingdom," sees the Starship Enterprise and its crew transformed into the fairytale characters from the bedtime story Dr. M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) reads to his young daughter Rukiya (Sage Arrindell), who is dying of terminal cygnokemia. But Rukiya's life is saved by a sentient entity in the Jonisian Nebula that possesses extraordinary powers over reality. This makes "Debra," the name Rukiya gave the cosmic power after her late mother, chronologically the first space god the Enterprise has crossed paths with since Strange New Worlds is a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series.
The classic Star Trek led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) was known for the Enterprise meeting several all-powerful space gods. Kirk's Enterprise literally met Apollo (Michael Forrest) and learned that the Greek gods are really aliens who came to Earth in the distant past. Kirk has also dealt with the Organians, who evolved past their corporeal forms and used their powers over matter and reality to halt a potential war with the Klingons. Kirk was also forced to fight the Gorn on Cestus III in a contest arranged by the seemingly omnipotent Metrons. These are just some of the cosmic deities that inhabit Star Trek's galaxy, though most haven't been seen since the 23rd century. Star Trek: The Next Generation eased up on introducing many space gods but the series made Q (John de Lancie), an omnipotent being from the Q Continuum, a beloved recurring character who later returned to alter reality in Star Trek: Picard season 2. Meanwhile, the Prophets, who are the gods of Bajor, were central to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), the Bajoran Emissary, ended the series by becoming a demigod who exists in nonlinear time.
Before Dr. M'Benga met "Debra" face-to-face in Strange New Worlds episode 8, Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) theorized that the Jonisian Nebula entity was the result of a theory called the Boltzmann Brain, which is a spontaneously generated consciousness. As M'Benga boiled it down, "One day, out of nothing, an all-powerful being just... appears." This seems to be the case within the Jonisian Nebula as Debra manifested itself as a consciousness with the power to bend reality but lacking a physical body. When Hemmer used his Aenar telepathy to host Debra's consciousness, M'Benga learned the cosmic being took Ruikya to be its friend and created a fantasy based upon her fairytale for her, turning the Enterprise crew into characters from "The Elysian Kingdom."
Thanks to "Debra," Rukiya is now able to exist beyond the need for her deathly sick physical body, and the nebula entity even allowed Rukiya to age into an adult (played by Makambe Simamba). But the catch is Rukiya has to remain in the Jonisian Nebula with Debra and can never return to her physical body since she'll die. Dr. M'Benga also had to make the impossible choice to let Rukiya go and change her fate, knowing his daughter will live on as a cosmic being, rather than let the Enterprise remain trapped inside the Jonisian Nebula and Rukiya's fairytale. In a way, the symbiosis between Rukiya and Debra resembles the bond that formed between Zephram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett) and the Companion, which kept Cochrane from aging in the TOS episode, "Metamorphosis."
Star Trek has largely shied away from meeting omnipotent space gods since the franchise's 1990s golden age but Strange New Worlds has returned to the classic style of TOS with gusto. Strange New Worlds' lauded episodic style allows the series to tell any type of sci-fi story it wants, from broad comedy to intense space battles to the fantasy of "The Elysian Kingdom." With the Jonisian Nebula entity, Star Trek: Strange New Worldshas kicked open the door to meeting more space gods, setting the stage for Captain Kirk's future encounters with omnipotent beings.
Star Trek: Strange New Worldsstreams Thursdays on Paramount+.