“Subspace Rhapsody,” which is written by Dana Horgan and Bill Wolkoff, also understands the musical episode formula better than nearly any other show that’s tried to walk in the footsteps of “Once More, With Feeling.” With a stellar, meta “Community” Christmas episode as the rare exception, most post-“Buffy” musicals have felt forced — either musically or lyrically sub-par or full of manufactured drama that doesn’t connect well to the rest of the series (does anyone remember why Dr. House sung “Get Happy”? I sure don’t). “Subspace Rhapsody,” on the other hand, clearly draws from “Buffy” in its narrative and structure, even going so far as to include a throwaway line about bunnies. Its musical predecessor very pointedly featured a silly aside in which the demon Anya was certain bunnies were behind the musical reality — a random hypothesis that pops up just after the first big musical number dies down, just like the bunnies reference in “Strange New Worlds” does.
This is a pretty clear homage, but anyone who says “Subspace Rhapsody” is a “Once More, With Feeling Clone” is wrong. The episode features fewer catchy songs than “Buffy” (nothing in the climax quite matches up to “Walk Through the Fire” or “Where Do We Go From Here?”), but the cast is also more musically cohesive, and, surprisingly, everyone seems to be a good singer. More importantly, though, “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” sees the path “Buffy” charted and takes it one step further, using its musical reality not just to convey romantic truths about its characters, but also delightfully geeky ones, too. This may be the first time this beloved sci-fi franchise has ever attempted a full-scale musical, but make no mistake — it’s classic “Star Trek.”