Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Episode 4 – Debuted Thursday, May 26, 2022
Written by: Davy Perez & Beau DeMayo
Directed by Dan Liu
Strange New Worlds pivots to deliver a taut military-style thriller full of action and drama, weaving its way through some Star Trek canon.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“This was a trap.”
The Enterprise is on a routine mission to deliver a much-needed atmospheric processor to a Federation colony while the ship celebrates Starfleet Remembrance Day to honor “those who made the ultimate sacrifice.” Since La’an won the gold in Tragic Backstories, she doesn’t join in on the pin-wearing tradition, telling Una “There’s is no point in looking back.” At Finibus III, they discover a colony gone silent and a destroyed satellite. Adding to the mystery, Number One’s landing party only finds evidence of a massacre, complete with bloody drag marks… and no bodies. Creepy.
In space, Pike encounters some frightened colonists on a struggling cargo ship and agrees to allow them to dock. Led by a professor, the remaining Finibusians tell a hazy story of an attack from an unknown enemy. La’an’s Reptiley Sense tingles hearing a girl’s story of “monsters,” quickly warning the captain of a hidden ship, which is immediately found heading right for them. With a transport tube deployed they can’t raise shields, which Pike realizes in horror as the aliens destroy the cargo ship and severely damage Enterprise. Una is hurt, and orders La’an to the bridge to help where the security chief convinces a skeptical Pike… it’s the Gorn! The captain has his Ackbar moment and takes his new acting first officer’s advice to retreat and “level the playing field.” He orders the crippled ship into the dense toxic atmosphere of a brown dwarf where they will have no shields, sensors, or coms, and the ship risks being crushed… “Perfect.”
“I believe in Enterprise.”
Meanwhile, Uhura has been doing her rotation with Engineering and enduring the bristly Hemmer’s pop quizzes on the atmospheric processor. The pair finds themselves trapped in the cargo bay, the Aenar engineer injured and the air processor damaged and transformed into a ticking clock bomb that will destroy the ship if they don’t fix it. With a broken hand, Hemmer teams up with a nervous Uhura to talk her through the process… and he is “not fond of teams.” Una barely makes it to sickbay with a variety of holes in her gut, only to find M’Benga and Chapel doing triage with only stone knives and bearskins scalpels and sutures. With her wound bleeding badly and in need of surgery, Una is put under only after insisting the ship’s last bag of plasma be diverted to another officer. “Give her mine, that’s an order.” Brutal.
Things are heating up–literally–on the blinded ship with no way to fight back, requiring Pike to dig deep to keep up morale, especially with the fatalistic La’an who is struggling with her bad memories. Spock gets creative and turns the atmospheric sensors “into a radar,” but really more of a sonar for this increasingly submarine-like battle. Pike quickly uses this to “drop” the last remaining torpedo on the Gorn. But the celebration is short; that ship was sacrificed by the wily lizards to give away Enterprise’s position, with three more headed towards them, including a really big one. Pike orders the ship to “dive” despite Spock’s warnings about getting crushed, with the captain seemingly holding Enterprise together on his faith. Pike feels the pain of his creaking ship as another crewperson is lost behind a bulkhead he ordered closed; Spock’s “you made the logical choice” is little solace. It’s time to stop and fight. Battle stations!
“We do not give in to fear.”
It doesn’t come to close-quarter fighting as the Gorn pursuing them gets crushed thanks to Pike using their relentlessness against them. But the cover of the brown dwarf is another ticking clock as it is dissipating into a black hole—oh yeah, there’s a huge black hole. Spock and La’an volunteer to take a shuttle to see if the coast is clear and they soon come upon the last two Gorn ships flashing lights at each other, triggering a hazy memory in La’an. Reluctantly, Spock uses a mind meld to help her remember, and she flashes back to her childhood, where she was hunted on a Gorn breeding planet. Pushing through the pain of the past, she remembers how her brother had worked out the code of the flashing lights before he sacrificed himself to save her. They use it to trick the big Gorn ship into “culling” the little one by spoofing a message about being boarded by filthy humans. Sneaky.
With the AP 350 about to blow and their brown dwarf hiding place fading, Pike has one last trick up his sleeve: science! Taking a page from “snakes, ducks, and possums,” the crazy idea is to slingshot around that black hole to look like they stopped and drop off the atmo-bomb to look like they went boom. Digging deep, Pike goes full Churchill to rally the haggard crew, “I believe today will not be our last mission, but our finest hour.” Together they pull off what Ortegas christens the “Pike maneuver.” Relief washes over the ship, from an elated captain seeing Hemmer and Uhura make it through, to Una recovering due to a transfusion direct from M’Benga, to Spock giving a hint of a smile. And La’an is ready to “stop running” from her past as she finally can embrace Remembrance Day, but the ever vigilant security chief cautions her captain, “What about next time?”
A deep dive
Strange New Worlds shows it can deliver thrills in an action-packed war movie-style episode that ramps up the tension and the stakes. With strong performances, on-point martial music, and outstanding special effects, “Memento Mori” earned a place among other entries in this sub-genre, evoking episodes like TOS “Balance of Terror,” TNG’s “Disaster,” DS9’s “Starship Down,” and, of course, Wrath of Khan. This time the submarine movie parallels were relentless, from pinging scanners and a creaking ship full of sweaty officers to the ill-fated crew trapped behind bulkheads. This went beyond using the style and jargon of films like Crimson Tide, aspiring to bring nuanced character beats of classics likes of Das Boot or Run Silent, Run Deep.
Anson Mount also stepped up, playing out much of the episode’s tension just on his face without saying a word. In “Memento Mori” Pike was everything you want a Starfleet captain to be, saving the day with battle smarts, cunning science, and an unwavering belief in his crew and his ship. You can see the pain he feels for every loss of life, this show is definitely not falling into the “red shirt” cliché of casual casualties (which isn’t really true anyway). And Mount showed that he has the chops to deliver a well-earned rallying speech like the best of them.
Strange New Worlds continues to build on the character ensemble, including a nicely tied-in B-story for Uhura and Hemmer exploring more from both characters, including a little bit of thaw on the icy engineer. Ethan Peck’s Spock continues to be outstanding with the actor and the writers continuing to show a deep understanding of this iconic character, although La’an’s crack about how he won’t speak in “plain English” was unnecessary, even if it was later resolved via their little mini-arc. In general, the heightened stakes actually reduced this show’s indulgence in overly casual language, with Pike even giving Ortegas the evil eye after one of her wisecracks. The back-to-basics scenes in sickbay were also welcome, adding more depth to both M’Benga and Chapel, however, this subplot also revealed how the series continues to sideline Rebecca Romijn’s Number One to make more room for Spock and the focus character of the week.
Perhaps the controversial part of this episode is actually using the Gorn. Going beyond making them part of La’an’s tragic past, Strange New Worlds has thrust this iconic race into the series as a possible recurring adversary. Like making T’Pring a big part of the show, the series is really dancing between the raindrops of canon here. While never explicitly stating the first contact with the Gorn took place in the TOS episode “Arena” set years later, that was certainly the intention, and it is undeniable they were unknown to James T. Kirk. This is one of those instances which co-creator Akiva Goldsman warned the show would be using “body english” on some elements of Star Trek canon. Some fans may not be able to follow along with the canon twists the show is taking, but if you can there still is a lot here that does work including how the Gorn use luring tactics like those seen in “Arena.”
It’s also curious how the episode never actually showed a Gorn, possibly holding that for later, or maybe keeping that first look for TOS (with the exception of Captain Lorca’s skeleton and Mirror Archer’s encounter). It may also be jarring to hear La’an talk of how the Gorn are simply evil and not worth redemption. While that is not consistent with Star Trek’s themes, that was part of her arc as she was still working through her pain. And resolving the fight with the Gorn by showing sympathy and even mercy was left for Kirk, these are still early days dealing with the cold-blooded foes who are described as almost myth and “boogeymen” which again is consistent with “Arena” and the talk of rumors of such a foe. It’s possible that this episode even sets up “Arena,” giving a revenge motive for why the Gorn lured the USS Enterprise to Cestus III.
Just four episodes in, the series continues going strong. Playing a bit fast and loose with canon to bring in an iconic foe pays off by delivering action and character drama. Strange New Worlds adds another style and tone to its repertoire with an excellent thriller of an episode. And if that isn’t your thing, you only have a week to wait for the next color in the box. [Spoiler Alert: next week is a bit of a “rom-com.”].
- The episode title comes from Memento mori which is a classic symbol seen in antiquity used to show (in Latin) “remember that you have to die.”
- This is the first Star Trek writing credit for co-executive producer Davy Perez and supervising producer Beau DeMayo.
- This is also the first Star Trek credit for director Dan Liu.
- The episode started on Stardate 3177.3 and ended on Stardate 3177.9
- Una calls herself Frankenstein’s monster due to being stitched up, and just a week after La’an called her a monster for being a genetically modified Illyrian.
- The large Gorn ship was designated a “Destroyer”
- Pike tells Spock to take Shuttle Galileo, one of many of that name, named for 17th century Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.
- Spock’s program to create the “sonar” was name Vinci 7, after the 16th century Italian scientist Leonardo da Vinci.
- Real science utilized included the look of black holes, Coriolis force, and gravitational redshift.
- Seven members of the crew and 3 civilians were lost.
- Pike’s pain over having to close the bulkheads could have been partially due to witnessing Admiral Cornwell sacrifice herself on the other side of a USS Enterprise bulkhead in the season two finale of Discovery.
- Captain Pike’s Remembrance Day pin was for the USS Discovery, which was reported lost in that episode.
- La’an wore the pin for the SS Puget sound, the colony ship which was attacked by the Gorn when she was girl.
- Other pins included: Spock (USS Kongo), Ortegas (USS Palenque), and M’Benga (USS Cuyahoga)
- Did they go back for the dog?
More to come
Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe and discusses the latest episode. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.
New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debut on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., Latin America, Australia and the Nordics. The series airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada. In New Zealand, it is available on TVNZ, and in India on Voot Select. Strange New Worlds will arrive via Paramount+ in select countries in Europe when the service launches later this year, starting with the UK and Ireland in June.