Rebecca Romijn’s Una Chin-Riley and Mystique Have a Lot in Common

The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2, Episode 1, “The Broken Circle,” now streaming on Paramount+.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is back with Season 2, finally elaborating on the huge cliffhanger that saw Rebecca Romijn’s Una Chin-Riley, known lovingly as Number One, arrested for lying to the Federation about her Illyrian Heritage. The show’s first season explored the Illyrians and their history as a genetically modified race, explaining that they are not allowed to serve as part of Starfleet due to their physical advantages.

Una faces immediate backlash from her fellow crew mate La’an Noonien-Singh, and for good reason, as La’an is the descendent of Khan Noonien-Singh, progenitor of the Eugenics War. This revelation about Una immediately harkens back to another iconic character that Romijn has portrayed — Mystique in the X-Men franchise, who is also punished for her genetic differences.

Mystique and Una Are Both Persecuted Because of Their Genetics

Season 1 of Strange New Worlds revealed that Una is an Illyrian, a race historically shunned in Star Trek for using genetic augmentation, which was outlawed after the Eugenics Wars. Unlike Khan’s Augments, Illyrians modify themselves as a means of adapting to otherwise inhabitable planets. However, they are still banned from the Federation as a result of fear from the days of the Eugenics Wars. Una, like Mystique, cannot help her modified nature and must hide it.

The Earth of the X-Men franchise is similarly hostile towards Mutants, meaning Mystique also has to hide to save herself from persecution. Mystique’s wish for much of her timeline is simply to live safely among other humans, and when she is arrested and tortured time and again, she turns to accepting herself and joining more extremist groups to fight for Mutant freedom. Both Una and Mystique try to hide themselves to fit in and contribute to their surrounding world.

Rebecca Romijn Sees Them as an Allegory for Immigrants

In a recent interview, Romijn spoke about her penchant for playing characters that choose to live as their authentic selves and is drawn to these stories because of her background — her father and husband are both immigrants. Una’s status can be easily compared to the notion of ‘illegal’ immigrants, who only wish to contribute to their communities but are often ousted due to long-held prejudices. Much of Mystique’s story also followed her efforts to live safely before being ripped from her life and pushed to more extreme measures.

Both Star Trek and Marvel explore allegories of racism, identity and belonging. Society’s inability to allow Mystique to live peacefully pushed her to fight for herself and take on more of an antagonistic role. Contrastingly, Una seems unwilling to push the issue, taking full responsibility for lying to the Federation and willing to accept punishment. Could this open up an avenue for a change in policy across the Federation? That remains to be seen, as Una and Pike will spend at least some of this season fighting for her freedom and return to the Enterprise. Here’s hoping Una’s fate ends more happily than Mystique’s.

Season 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams Thursdays on Paramount+. The X-Men franchise is available to stream now on Disney+.

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