Although he knew the risks of such a stylistic divergence for Strange New Worlds, Downs told Comicbook.com that he drew from familiar influences. For Pike’s argument with Captain Batel, Downs designed “kind of [a] country duet that goes sideways in front of the whole crew.” The Klingon hip-hop moment came about after shooting a version without dancing but Downs decided that it didn’t work. “You want it to be something outrageous,” he explained, arguing that only an act that filled Klingons with dishonor would “help us propel to this final conquering of the anomaly.”
The most complex of the numbers involved Nurse Chapel’s excitement over a career opportunity, even at the cost of her relationship with Spock, which overtakes her in a crowded mess hall. “There were so many elements and interactive elements to that, that that probably had the most full-blown rehearsals, just so everybody would be prepared on the day and you’re not trusting someone’s going to catch you, and on the day they don’t,” said Downs.
But the most interesting of the numbers featured La’an‘s heartbreak at seeing Kirk, who does not know about the romance the two shared in an alternate reality. After watching Kirk and Una perform a playful duet, La’an retreats to her room for an intimate song, one that includes insert shots of the life she and Kirk could have had. “I know it probably has a music video feel, but I was going for something much more like Terrence Malick and emotional,” contended Downs, referencing the vulnerability in movies such as Tree of Life and Days of Heaven.
Initially, however, Downs planned to take a bigger approach. “Originally, that breakout moment, we were talking about doing something like The Sound of Music,” he revealed. “[B]ut it just became too huge and out of step with the episode and it would’ve been fun to go completely opposite of outer space.”
Of course, “Subspace Rhapsody” ends up delivering much more than a worthwhile musical. It pushes the story forward for several characters, while revealing some interesting backstory for Kirk by bringing back Carol Marcus, who you might know best from The Wrath of Khan. It’s an impressive amount of ground to cover for the Star Trek series, especially when doing it in song and dance!