Podcast: All Access Visits SDCC And Goes “Under The Cloak Of War” With ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

All Access Star Trek podcast episode 150 - TrekMovie - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds "Under the Cloak of War"

[Review starts at 26:55]

Tony and Laurie have updates from San Diego Comic-Con about Star Trek: Discovery, Prodigy, Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds, and some new animated shorts. They talk about the new clips and trailers as well as some new merchandise coming our way.

After the news, they dig into their review of Strange New Worlds‘ “Under the Cloak of War,” which they agree was ambitious and hit the mark more for Tony than for Laurie, although both felt it had impressive performances, raised important questions, and touched on some key Star Trek themes.

They wrap up with a new tidbit from the Delta Flyers podcast and a new crowdfunded documentary about Star Trek locations, plus a reminder to come see the TrekMovie team’s panel at The 57-Year Mission in Las Vegas next week.


Watch Captain Burnham Fly In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 5 Sneak Peek Clip

Jonathan Frakes, Doug Jones, And Armin Shimerman Voicing New ‘Star Trek: The Animated Celebration’ Short

Watch: The Cerritos Faces A New Threat In Trailer For ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Season 4, Arriving In September

Analysis: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Season 4 Trailer Reveals Ferengi Love, Voyager Goo, Orion Knives & More

‘Lower Decks’ Headed To The Big Screen For Star Trek Day; Interactive Novel Coming In 2024

All 20 Episodes Of ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Season 1 Now Available Digitally

‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Season 1, Volume 2 Coming To Blu-ray & DVD In September

Paramount Exec Vows “This Will Not Be The End” For ‘Star Trek: Prodigy,’ Talks Up Season 2

Jack Quaid And Tawny Newsome Talk Crossover, Tease ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Season 4 & ‘Starfleet Academy’

‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Teases Musical Episode; ‘Lower Decks’ Crossover Dropping Today On Paramount+

Watch: Uhura Gets The Singing Started In Clip From ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Musical Episode

‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Hits Streaming Top 10 Again; Pushes Paramount+ To New Milestone

Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller

The 57-Year Mission convention in Las Vegas


Tony: To Boldly Go documentary on Kickstarter – a documentary about Star Trek locations

Laurie: Ethan Phillips on The Delta Flyers plus bonus episode about the strikes

Let us know what you think of the episode in the comments, and should you be so inclined, please review us on Apple.

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Thank you for the podcast. I have mixed feelings about this episode. First I agree with Laurie about Ambassador Dak’Rah. I would absolutely not trust this guy. Seems like a mealy-mouthed manipulator. As for M’Benga, speaking objectively had he killed the General years before as the objective of his mission it would have been justified, but now the war is over. Dak’Rah did indeed deserve to pay for what he did but since the war is over and M’Benga is no longer a soldier, it wasn’t up to him to enforce punishment.

So that’s one side of the argument. Objective, without nuance. Unfortunately we’re not robots especially not M’Benga who’s additionally suffering from PTSD. He wasn’t originally planning to kill him. The Ambassador showed up in sickbay and wasn’t getting the message that he should leave. His over the top attempts at pacifying M’Benga just made things worse and we know what happened.

I think this episode is doing a great job of provoking thoughtful discussions! I really like all the different takes I’m seeing out there. I felt like the Ambassador’s insistence in sickbay was his former General self combined with his new goal, to ingratiate himself within the Federation. He was being a bully and hiding it behind a smile and a pretense of collaboration. But I get that some people found him sincere. This is one that leaves a lot to interpretation for sure. I would still hope, though, that Starfleet would be more attuned to PTSD in a post-war world.

Yes for sure different takes on this makes for interesting discussions. Reading over my post above I presented two ways of seeing the situation but without taking a stance… that’s the reason why I was saying I have mixed feelings. I don’t know what to think. I’m leaning towards understanding M’Benga’s actions, because it’s not like he could just ignore his PTSD and as I was saying, we’re not robots and the world is not black and white.

As for the Ambassador being a bully, he was definitively pushy and overbearing, all covered up in honey sweet words, but I don’t necessarily think he was insincere, at least his version of sincerity. He may indeed have wanted to redeem himself for what he did, but his core was still that of a war criminal and therein lies my distrust; you don’t really know what someone like that will do, but it’s probably going to be something to help their own interests.

I didn’t buy his redemption because of how he handled himself. It just felt like pretense. I was with Ortegas all the way on him… he just didn’t seem to be carrying the weight, the burden of having defected, of feeling remorse over who he was, any of it. I know I was supposed to think he was sincere but only because of Tony’s interview with the director and not because of what I saw onscreen. I really wish the character had been written or played in a different way.

I’m just annoyed that M’Benga is probably going to face zero consequences for murdering a guy.

Yes this annoys me too, but the extenuating circumstances of his PTSD must be taken into account. I also don’t like his complete lack of remorse when he was talking to Pike at the end. At least he should entertain the possibility that he acted inappropriately. Maybe be more contrite in his tone with Pike.

I think they should’ve had some stuff about how Starfleet was responsible for forcing crew members with PTSD into a situation like that. There should have been repercussions for whoever gave those orders, and Pike should’ve felt guilty for going along with them.

People keep asserting that M’Benga murdered the Klingon. Where is the evidence for that? It was ambiguous at best what happened.

M’Benga stabbed him with a knife.

In self-defense.

Yes, the official line is the Klingon started the fight, so M’Benga is cleared even though it appeared to the viewer as murder.

My interpretation is that Ral seized the knife from M’Benga and committed ritual suicide.

Well, we don’t know that yet for sure. In these new Trek series things that happen to characters in an episode can resurface in future episodes or seasons. The writers might yet revisit this down the road.

tbh I still say this episode also is a little Treachery, Faith and the Great River. Maybe I’m just gay but so many things reminds me of that, including these debates. It feels like the main difference is that Weyoun and Odo had a different dynamic, if Odo said stop Weyoun would actually stop.

I do believe Dak’rah was sincere just as I believe Weyoun 6 was. Dak’rah just went about things super poorly. Both sides handled things poorly.

There’s a lot to like about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Overall, I enjoy it. It’s beautiful, well acted, and most scripts are good. But I hate the Spock-Chapel romance. This storyline messes with cannon when it doesn’t need to. I’m also concerned that Pike (vs. Kirk) is shown as weak when he leans into diplomacy (why is Kirk even in this show?). As for the latest episode – “Under The Cloak Of War” – Dr. M’Benga (by all appearances), struggling with PTSD, murders a man, and the crew seems happy to cover up that their chief medical officer is unfit for duty. I know what Star Trek is and the message it conveys. I cannot figure out what this iteration of Star Trek is trying to say. Anyway, this is a good review from my favorite Trek-related podcast. 

I have the same Pike/Kirk issues you do and I definitely struggle with understanding what it is SNW is trying to say. I have to work harder than usual to enjoy the episodes! I really like the cast and there are always good moments in there even when I take issue with either the larger story or the details. There’s a lot to like, and a lot that frustrates. A mixed bag for sure.

Particularly problematic was Dr. M’Benga’s speech to Pike in which he asserted that Pike couldn’t judge his actions because Pike hadn’t lived his experience. PTSD is not a license to kill. There were better options for telling a story about PTSD and Star Trek. DS9’s Nog arc is a good example.

Well Said!

What they’re trying to say, yes that’s a very good way of putting it. I like SNW too but most of the episodes leave me “meh” precisely for that reason, what’s the takeaway here, or is this just mindless Sci-Fi? Maybe we’re trying to squeeze water from a stone?

I thought last week’s crossover was brilliant.

I liked the ambition of this episode, but it needed one of two things to clarify certain plot points:

1) Michael Piller and his editorial talents, or

2) someone in the writer’s room with firsthand experience in PTSD issues, who wouldn’t have been so reliant on tropes to tell the story.

And Pike really is the biggest boy scout he’s ever been, naive to a fault.

I don’t think Pike is naive. He is sensitive to the people around him that are traumatized by the war, and do not have his trust that the Klingon is really changed. He also eventually realizes that having the Klingon around is toxic and that they need to ship him out ASAP.

M’Benga does give Pike a needed dose of straight talk when he tells him that he has the privilege of optimism where those who experienced the war first hand do not. Whatever naiveté Pke had went away there. Pike knows what he doesn’t know and is receptive to fixing gaps in his knowledge. That was my takeaway about the character.

The only reason he cuts the trip short is because Una convinces him to do it. M´Bengas line at the end about Pike having the privilege of believing in what´s best in people. was a fantastic line. It says so much about Pike as well. He can be too naive sometimes, it´s the same trait we saw in A Quality of Mercy.

Pike can be naive, but he also learns from his mistakes.

Probably the least heroic and weakest leader of all the Trek captains (ignoring Anson Mount’s natural awesomeness that bursts through the screen even though the material he’s given is written in crayon by children), which is probably why he’s beloved by the show’s fans: they can project themselves onto Pike — he doesn’t have to know anything or do anything and everybody still likes him!

Again, great podcast for a very thought-provoking piece of drama. I’m in with Anthony on the strengths, and Laurie on the quips. & There is nothing “inside baseball” that overwhelms it.

To me, this is kind of a “Kendal in the Pond” moment, which could come back again at any time. Thank you Anthony for getting the scoop on how they worked out the ending. I really like the idea they could chose later, which usually feels like an escape plan. Here, as you said, they really went for something that gives us pause.

What is a “Kendal in the Pond” moment?

It’s a Succession storyline that started near the end of the first season. Throughout the series, this important event is often way in the background, and then brought back with tremendous impact.

I’m trying not to give too much away.

All good! Tony filled me in.

M’Benga reminds me of a Kurosawa-like samurai who has lost his way, and now is trying to find his way back to regain his honor and place in the world.

Excellent point yeah as a big Kurosawa fan I see it too.

I see a lot of commenters having difficulty accepting M’Benga’s actions. Here’s a thought: what if this incident comes up again in some way and leads to his demotion as Chief Medical Officer? If Uhura can be on Pike’s crew, maybe Dr. McCoy could show up in season 3.

Demotion? Or, more plausibly, incarceration. He murdered someone, after all!

I thought about incarceration, but M’Benga is on Kirk’s Enterprise albeit deep in the background. I don’t know why, but feel like the show isn’t messing with that part of canon.

I’ve not seen the episode (or listened to the podcast yet), but I’ve noticed comments elsewhere that vets should approach with caution, as PTSD is portrayed.
Most of the comments I’ve seen seem to reflect that PTSD is generally being presented accurately, and that’s the context I’ll take into viewing this episode.

People are saying that Mbenga got away with murder but I personally think in the long run he won’t. This might be the first step or the biggest step that gets him demoted from his position as CMO of the Enterprise. In terms of his interaction with Pike at the end, it is obvious that he and Pike have been long time friends and I saw that interaction more as an interaction between friends rather than officers of Starfleet. At the same time I feel like Pike could have been a bit more hardline in his interactions with both the PTSD suffering crew members and the ambassador himself. He underestimated both sides.

Pike was very disconnected from everything in this episode. It was weird.

Other than the Spock-Chapel scene and the fact that M’Benga isn’t in the brig at the end, this was as close to a flawless episode as SNW has produced. It’s the first ep to take the material seriously and the first not overflowing with cringey moments. It’s what I was hoping for from the series at the start but which it has rarely delivered.

What struck me as odd was that for an episode that dealt with war and its horrifying effects, nothing really happened. By the time we got the dinner scenes nothing had happened and the flashbacks to J’Gal really messed with the pacing. It was an incredibly dull episode that was elevated by Babs’ brilliant acting. He did the best he could with the lacklustre material. And it was great to see Jess Bush being given something to do other than to be a romantic foil for Spock. It’s just a shame that she was once again a supporting character to another male character.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the writers are asking us to believe that a mild-mannered, gentle man like M’Benga is in fact a drug-fuelled serial killer (which, let’s face facts: he is after killing at least three people). I cannot reconcile these two facets into one character. And for Christine to green light him doing it… that’s another stretch too far. It’s absolutely ridiculous. At least with massive canon changes like Michael being Spock’s adoptive sister, there is a pre-existing tendency for Spock not to talk about his family (Kirk didn’t know Sarek was his father, he never told them about Sybok…). But this…. this is a change that I am just struggling with because it’s inexplicable.

I get what you´re saying about M´Benga and I´ve seen others make the same argument. My take is rather that people are complicated and messy and never just one thing. And especially war can make good people do bad things. Especially when you´re dosed up with some sort of drug.

Exactly this. Wasn’t that the point of “In the Pale Moonlight”?

Not sure how a dishonorable Klingon defector would ever be acceptable for the Klingons to negotiate anything with. Seems like that would be a non-starter, but I guess I’ll let that go…

The computer identified DNA blood from the other J’Gal Klingon commanders, so the knife had to belong to Rah, “Butcher of J’Gal”? But I guess fingerprints, of which M’Benga’s would be all over, are no longer available in the future? I guess I’ll let that go…

I am not sure how Chapel’s and M’Benga’s story will hold up under a board inquiry, which presumably would have the lie detector light hand thingy. But it would certainly reveal that Rah was un-armed, even if M’Benga truthfully “didn’t start the fight”.

All that aside, the themes explored of loyalty and the bonds that are developed in extreme conditions was interesting. Chapel confident retelling of what happened in sickbay was certainly stretching the truth, if not an outright lie to support her brother-in-arms. And I thought La’an’s measured side glance over at Pike at the end was also well done. She seemed to be saying “this whole thing is a load of hooey, but Pike seems to be buying it and I’m going to bite my lip so I don’t undercut my crewmates”.

I thought M”Benga’s use of the word “privilege” had a deeper resonance as a Black man speaking to a White man and saying “you have not lived my life”.

As for Pike, this is yet another example of his poor leadership. The writers seem to want to portray him as an affable and empathetic big brother to the crew who likes to please them with cooking. But Pike is not a camp counselor. In his role, and as pointed out by SNW itself last week, the captain needs to make life and death decisions. Time and again, when the crew needs him to lead, he steps back. Number One looks over at him after Ortegas’s outburst at the dinner table and he waves his hand as if to say “well, what do ya do?”.

Nobody will be talking about this episode years from now, except for how ridiculous it was. Everything wrong with nu-trek is within this episode.

It’s embarrassing at this point.

It was an excellent (but flawed) episode. The best SNW so far. It shed all the contemporary slang, f-bombs, poor attempts at ‘humor’, characters not being true to themselves, Kumbaya moments and other embarassments of nu-trek.But it was missing consequences for M’Benga, which strained credibility to the limit at the end. He needed to be thrown in the brig.