Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2, Episode 10 – Debuted Thursday, August 10, 2023
Written by Henry Alonso Myers
Directed by Maja Vrvilo
The season comes to close with a taut finale full of thrills and chills, and a few fun surprises too.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Sometimes a monster is just a monster.”
The USS Cayuga is assisting Parnassus Beta, a colony just outside Federation space designed like the old midwest USA. Nurse Chapel hitched a ride on her way to her new fellowship, so after doling out some vaccinations, she beams back up to the ship, right before the small town tranquility is disrupted by a crashing shuttle—followed by a big scary alien ship breaking through the atmosphere. Cut to the Enterprise receiving an emergency transmission from Batel requesting help with a warning: “…under attack by the Gorn.” Pike sets a course, but Admiral April reminds him this isn’t a Federation colony. He is concerned about starting a war, not to mention Pike’s personal connection to Batel. Reaching the colony, the bridge crew arrives to find the Cayuga destroyed. Making things worse, a Gorn interference field is preventing any scans, communications, or transporting, so they have no idea if there are any survivors on the ship or surface. Oh, and a Gorn hunter ship shows up, timed with a new message from Starfleet, forwarding a map from the Gorn with a demarcation line cutting the system in half. Parnassus Beta (and the Cayuga) are on the Gorn side of the line, and April orders Pike to stay on the other side of the line. Well, that sucks.
Pike gathers his team to let them know he is going to cross the line anyway, and everyone volunteers to join him. He picks Ortegas to pilot a way in, La’an for obvious reasons, plus Sam Kirk (who wants to make up for the last time he wimped out when faced with the Gorn) and Dr. M’Benga, who is ready to do some harm. And it appears Starfleet has been busy since their last encounter with the Gorn, as Pike reveals he has a special “Gorn Protocol Box” with new phasers and nitrogen grenades, and a tricorder upgrade that can detect the lizards. The plan is to make a shuttle look like debris from the Cayuga so they can just drift right past the Gorn and burn into the atmosphere, which has Ortegas excited and everyone else terrified. Once on the surface, they spot a huge Gorn beacon causing the interference, and the quaint colony town is deserted after what looks like a short, brutal battle. Soon enough, a Gorn youngling shows up, and phew, the new phasers work just fine. But when dozens of the little cold-blooded creatures are detected, the team retreats to hide in the barbershop. Even in a desperate firefight, Pike’s hair must be maintained.
“Sometimes hope is a choice.”
On the Enterprise, Spock struggles to find signs of life on the Cayuga, revealing to a sympathetic Una that things didn’t end well with Chapel. Making things worse, two more Gorn hunter ships show up. Uhura has a crazy idea to fool the Gorn that Pelia loves, so they sell Number One on a plan to crash the Cayuga’s saucer into the source of the interference field on the planet and make it look like it happened naturally. This is going to require complex computations and someone to place rockets on the Cayuga, and Spock declares he is the only one who can do it. The science officer says he has not given in to grief yet—which is good, because it turns out Christine is alive on the Cayuga. After buying herself an hour of life support, she sees the Enterprise through the window—and a spacesuited Spock flies by too, but he doesn’t notice her and lands on the saucer to start his work. She grabs her own spacesuit: If the Vulcan won’t come to her, she will have to go to the Vulcan.
In the barbershop, La’an wonders why the Gorn younglings are not fighting each other for dominance as she has observed in the past, making Pike wonder if there is more to learn and maybe they can find some way to reach them. After the lizard pack moves on, Sam detects a human signal and tracks it to a building full of signs of gory fighting, only to find a Starfleet device instead of a human and the whole team locked behind a forcefield. A young Starfleet officer pops out, surprised to find them in his “Gorn trap,” and introduces himself as Lt. Jg. Montgomery Scott, “at your service.” OMG, it’s Scotty! He was on the USS Stardiver, attacked by the Gorn in another system, and managed to crash-land that shuttle seen earlier. He is the sole survivor because he jury-rigged a Gorn transponder. Scott takes them to a diner where the few remaining colonists are holed up, and Pike is relieved to find Batel there. The captains confer on a plan and learn from Scotty that the Gorn swarmed into the system the Stardiver was studying after the star erupted in a series of coronal mass ejections, and since we know the Gorn use light to communicate, it could be they have some instinctual reaction to solar activity. Fascinating, but not really helpful now, so probably something to file away for season 3.
“I came all this way to find you”
Pike decides to go find Scotty’s transponder to use on his shuttle, figuring they can save at least some people, with Batel and the young engineer joining him. At the ruined shuttle, they encounter a little Gorny who gets face-to-face with Batel, then leaves. Marie doesn’t want to talk about it, but Pike presses her, and she admits she has been infected with Gorn eggs, set to mature in a day. Her plan is to take Pike’s shuttle and fly it into the beacon, sacrificing herself Hemmer-style, since she’s not going to make it anyway. Chris is so not cool with this plan.
On the Cayuga, Christine hears the sound of someone working a computer, but her Spock hope is dashed when she spots a huge adult Gorn in a spacesuit, frustrated by the computer’s constant “command code invalid” responses. Spock is actually on the bridge, where he places the last rocket, and the saucer starts moving. The big Gorn shows up and throws Spock across the bridge with a snap of its powerful tail, and when Christine arrives she gets tail-thwacked too. Spock flies across for a zero-G tackle only to get strangled by that tail, Christine uses Spock’s phaser to distract the Gorn enough for Spock to shove a piece of the bridge into its helmet, and it’s lights out for the lizard. Spock and Chapel escape the crashing Cayuga and hold hands in space… aww.
Once the Cayuga saucer crashes into the beacon, things begin working again. Spock and Chapel are beamed aboard the Enterprise, followed by Pike, Batel, and Scotty. Batel is put right into a stasis field by Chapel, who’s told by the Cayuga’s captain to take her out if she has to. Pelia, who knows Scotty well, is tasked to work with him on his Gorn transponder. Pike arrives on the bridge, and things escalate quickly with the arrival of a fourth Gorn ship, a big destroyer class, plus there are more on the way. The real bad news: Before the Enterprise could get to them, the Gorn transported La’an, M’Benga, Ortegas, and the rest of the survivors away to an unknown fate. The Gorn ships attack and the Enterprise starts taking heavy damage as Starfleet radios in orders to withdraw. Pike is faced with an impossible choice as his bridge crew awaits his order. And we, too, will have to wait because fade to black and “TO BE CONTINUED…” Cliffhanger! See you in 2025?
Just like a good finale should, this one was packed with action, tension, and emotion. The galactic stakes were high but also very personal, especially for Pike and Spock, concerned over the fates of Batel and Chapel. Their character arcs this season earned the extra jeopardy and informed their actions through the episode, with Anson Mount and Ethan Peck delivering impactful performances. Exciting visual effects and impressive set redressing for the destroyed Cayuga also helped lift the level of threat. While a number of the plot beats were somewhat predictable, good pacing kept things moving all the way to the cliffhanger, allowing the episode to stand on its own, even with a number of frustrating questions remaining.
Most of the characters had their moments to shine, like Ortegas finally getting to go on an away mission and showing just how crazy she is behind the wheel, but Melissa Navia’s best scene was the quiet moment with Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga as the two comforted each other by talking about Christine, who they thought was probably dead. And the show has finally got a handle on how to use Rebecca Romijn’s Number One, who is very much in charge when Pike is away. Jess Bush also continues to be a highlight as she switches from action to emotion, with a subtle but powerful performance in her brief scene with Spock after being rescued and her acceptance of the dire situation with Batel.
The introduction of the legendary character of engineer Montgomery Scott was a delight, with Scottish actor Martin Quinn showing a believable younger version of the beloved character. Strange New Worlds doesn’t like to tech its way out of a crisis, but his jury-rigged Gorn transponder provided a key character moment with Batel and Pike having different views on how to use it, primarily over her attempt to sacrifice herself. It also felt right that Pelia was the first to call him “Scotty,” assessing him as her best student with some of her worst grades. Bringing him onto the show makes sense, but hopefully, it won’t come at the cost of losing Pelia so soon, as Carol Kane has been a fantastic addition to the season and we have barely gotten to know Pelia.
Gorn to be wild
The genre swing for this week had a horror bent, which is how the show has handled episodes related to the Gorn before. A number of monster genre tropes were used, and it even got meta with the mention of zombie movies. The gore and ick factor was high, yet the episode never really delivered on any true frights, mostly hinting at the off-screen carnage of the attack on the colony. That being said, the fight scene with the adult Gorn on the Cayuga bridge was still quite exciting. This was the first time a full-sized Gorn has been seen on the series, and it was a whole lot scarier than just a guy in a rubber suit, although tradition was honored as this new adult-gorn was done with practical effects, including a guy in an elaborate suit. If the Gorn are going to be the big bad of this series, then it is time to move past the Alien-inspired younglings and start dealing with the real Gorn, the ones flying all those big scary ships and dropping high-tech beacons. Although how smart can these lizards be? They drew a demarcation line through the middle of a solar system. Don’t they know planets rotate around stars?
So far in this series, the Gorn have been depicted as mindless monsters, and even in this episode, everyone (even the doctor) is lining up for a chance to kill them. This is not very Star Trek, but there are some hints that maybe there is something new about the Gorn going on and there might be a chance to make a connection. Hopefully, this spark of “hope” Pike talks about comes to fruition in season 3 as he finds a way to resolve this crisis. This idea of finding a new way with the Gorn could also hint at Kirk’s mercy in “Arena.” And speaking of that classic TOS episode, we are well past making Kirk’s ignorance of the Gorn make any sense in terms of canon, something acknowledged by the showrunners in a TrekMovie interview from earlier in the season. Regarding that cliffhanger, the episode did a good job of building up a “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1” dilemma with the ship under threat and the Gorn holding members of his crew and more hostages, however, there was something a bit unsettling about how Pike seemed so indecisive at that climactic moment.
A solid finale does a great job of wrapping up a season full of emotion and, of course, big swings. A cliffhanger is a classic for episodic Trek, however, it is all the more painful as it is likely going to be well over a year before we get resolution on this one due to the strikes.
- Starts with Captain Batel’s log, Stardate 2344.2.
- Pike notes he is happy not to be “bursting into song every 10 minutes,” referencing the previous (musical) episode “Subspace Rhapsody.”
- When Pike’s call with Batel is cut off, he is seen holding the Opelian mariner’s keystone she gave him in “Among the Lotus Eaters.”
- Batel mentioning how Hemmer dealt with being infected by the Gorn referenced his sacrifice in the season 1 episode “All Those Who Wander.”
- Pelia telling Una she would have given her an A+ is a callback to “Lost in Translation,” when it was revealed she gave her a C grade in Starship Maintenance 307.
- The title of the Gorn government as the “Gorn Hegemony” was first established in canon in the Enterprise episode “Bound,” but was previously used in (non-canon) books and games.
- The USS Stardiver had a “Hubble K7C Stellar Assessment Array,” named for astronomer Edwin Hubble, like the Hubble Space Telescope.
- Parnassus Beta was filmed on a backlot in Pickering, Ontario, originally built for the Amazon TV series Reacher.
More to come
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Season 2 episodes drop weekly on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Season 2 is also available on SkyShowtime elsewhere in Europe. The second season will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in South Korea, with premiere dates to be announced.
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