Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: A Quality of Mercy
July 7, 2022 9:48 AM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

A ghost shows Captain Pike the shadows of the things that may be. (Season finale)

Memory Alpha was my business!:

• With the addition of this episode, Paul Wesley becomes the fifth actor to portray the role of James T. Kirk. William Shatner originated the role, actress Sandra Smith portrayed Kirk while in Janice Lester's body in TOS: "Turnabout Intruder", while Jimmy Bennet and Chris Pine portrayed his alternate reality counterpart.

• The U.S.S. Farragut was established as a ship Kirk served on prior to the Enterprise in TOS: "Obsession".

"So the only way to discover the terrible to live it."
- Pike [know how ya feel buddy --ed.]

"He's a huge pain in the ass."
- Sam Kirk, on James Kirk

"It is customary to kneel."
"As I'm not a Romulan, you'll forgive me if I don't."
- the Praetor and Pike

Poster's Log:
The TOS episode to rewatch in preparation for, or just after, this one is "Balance of Terror" (featuring an excellent performance by Mark Lenard).

Nice shorthand, putting Alt-Future Pike in the maroon uni: it immediately suggests his future isn't this Pike's.

I'm reminded of how Chris Pine managed to pull off the Kirk character in a way I found satisfactory. Mannerisms-wise, voice-wise, and appearance-wise, I just do not buy Paul Wesley as Jim Kirk, but I would buy him as Rod Serling. He does look very much like he could be the brother of this show's Sam Kirk.

Anyway, lots of good fun here otherwise, with some of that cool ship action I asked for in a recent thread. I liked many of the visual choices here—the bridge lighting, the comet stuff—but the steadicam shot at Pike, not so much.

Story-wise, I find myself wondering if this was meant to sort of wrap up Pike's angst about the future—if maybe The Chair is going to have much less prominence in season 2. I can imagine a writer's room feeling a little hamstrung by DISCO having showed Pike his future, and looking to wriggle out of that constraint.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Am I confused, or did this script refer to 100 years of war AND 100 years of peace between the Federation and Romulans?

Whenever SNW returns, I'm looking forward to an episode or two about Starfleet jurisprudence!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (80 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My big issue with this, at least on first watch, is the ending.

I could quite happily have settled without the coda of Una, and just have Season One doing what it has does best... finishing the story at the end of each episode and not do soap-opera styled 'guess what happens next, aren't we smart producers!!!'. I understand why the modern TV landscape feels the need to not trust us to come back, so it manufactured a cliff-hanger that, importantly, wasn't fully earned. One throwaway in the future is not enough justification.

I think I'll be editing the video so that *my* next watch stays on the bridge and just fades into the credits with Melissa Carper's Makin' Memories still playing.
posted by ewan at 10:12 AM on July 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Am I confused, or did this script refer to 100 years of war AND 100 years of peace between the Federation and Romulans?

From what I understood, the script referenced a devastating war "100 years ago", so that would track with 100 years of peace. I don't think the length of the war was made clear.

Overall I really liked this one. Even having not seen the relevant TOS episode, I understood what they were going for. I agree that the whole Una-gets-busted subplot felt needless, but ah well.

Really strong first season, all in all! Eager for more.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 11:04 AM on July 7, 2022

I didn't love the big picture implications of this episode -- it feels a little too convenient that Pike can't do anything to avoid his fate or save other people's lives because now he knows for sure that if he tries that he will fuck up the timeline and cause a terrible war (and cause other bad stuff down the line because Spock is Space Jesus, or something). Pike has technically already changed the future by behaving slightly differently as a result of the knowledge he has, which he has shared with (IIRC) at least two people -- but in Star Trek Time Travel Logic the timeline is very elastic, so that probably doesn't count.

I don't mind the Una cliffhanger. I do think that the Illyrian episode adequately foreshadowed how serious the Federation's prejudice against genetic modification is, and that her deception was a Big Deal which was going to come back to bite her in the future.
posted by confluency at 11:20 AM on July 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

“... and Erica Ortegas as Lt. Stiles.”

Ortegas remains weirdly of our time. Everyone else on the bridge of Pike's Enterprise (or the Discovery, for that matter) seems like they might belong there. Ortegas seems like she is the bass player in the band in a quippy rom-com where, I dunno, Rooney Mara plays the lead singer involved with a soulless record executive played by Asa Butterfield.

I'm not sure if "Balance of Terror" is the best episode to show Kirk as the total maverick. He's pretty much the anti-Chris Pine in that episode. I was pleased to have Pike dropped into the wedding that Kirk officiated, right in the middle of JTK's speech (one that Picard would himself deliver a century and change later).

I do like them bringing Kirk in so that he's still the one to come up with the clever ideas like being an echo, etc. His tactical gifts get post hoc augmentation a decade and a half later with the tale of the Kobayashi Maru.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:37 AM on July 7, 2022 [7 favorites]

I think that SNW ended the season by doing what it does best, and has consistently done throughout the season: set up something very familiar, and then done the most amazing head-fake with it and ended up doing something very different. "Balance of Terror" is one of the most renowned TOS episodes, and while it itself is kind of a deliberate callback of sorts--a submarine cat-and-mouse hunt IN SPAAAAACE--it's also pretty great, suspenseful while providing a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of the Romulan crew. However, it's also ultimately just about the fate of two ships, while this alternate future posits that there was way, way more at stake, and further, that it wasn't even just about the war, but the futures of the Romulan and Vulcan people. (And maybe beyond that, if you think of all the other things that might go differently if the Enterprise isn't available to intervene, either because it's prematurely destroyed or distracted by an ongoing war.) And, ultimately, the necessary person isn't Pike; it's Spock. SNW has already played with making the show less Pike-centric with "The Elysian Kingdom", and if The Chair is going to have less prominence in S2, it's less "you're gonna get disabled and that cute kid is gonna die" and more "you've got to make sure that this guy lives."

Other things:

- In addition to "Balance of Terror", there's also an aspect of TNG's "Yesterday's Enterprise" because of the necessary sacrifice to avoid the sucky future.

- Kind of agree with you on the assessment of this Jim Kirk. (I was stuck on who he reminded me of; Rod Serling just nails it.) On the other hand, it's a pretty serious situation, so that could justify his more serious attitude; what I really missed here was Kirk generally enjoying his job more, which was always a feature of Shatner's and Pine's portrayals. If they stick with this guy, maybe he'll get some good notes and modulate his performance accordingly, without (hopefully) just doing a Shatner shtick.

- I think that S1 was long in the can before the first episode aired, or even had those character previews online, but I find it remarkable that La'an's change of hair and make-up seem to address the complaints about her looking too much like a character on The Expanse, unless it was meant to be part of the character's arc all along.

- Not sure how I feel about the epilogue twist with Una. A century later, Julian Bashir escapes serious punishment for doing something similar, but that had something to do with his dad taking the fall for the rogue genetic engineering.

- Lots of fun bits, of course; Scotty's cameo (complete with reference to "miracle worker"), the wedding, the Wrath of Khan-era uniform, Ortegas doing the Stiles bit. (OK, maybe not "fun", but the idea that there would probably be someone who would give Spock the stink-eye when they finally found out what Romulans looked like tracks.) I did wonder about so many of the crew still being in place, in the same positions, ten years hence. (And where some of the other TOS crew was. Sulu? Chekov? Rand? Was really expecting McCoy to be in sick bay...)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:50 AM on July 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Was really expecting McCoy to be in sick bay

He's probably still on Capella IV. In any event, it would be too much in the way of fanservice: we already get James T. and a vocal cameo from... an unnamed Scottish-accented engineer. Maybe Doctor Piper alongside M'Benga.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:05 PM on July 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Oh, also, I think that the 100 years of war/peace thing meant that there was a sort of armistice between the Federation and the Star Empire, with the Neutral Zone being the equivalent of the Korean DMZ.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:29 PM on July 7, 2022

I say this at the end of every season of new live-action Star Trek, but: can’t wait for more space exploration episodes next season!

This time I have the significant advantage of “it’s even a plausible thing to hope for”
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:12 PM on July 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

Quite enjoyed this one and I think they aged up Pike quite believably.
posted by Marticus at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

first off, thanks for posting, CheesesofBrazil!

next, i will say that i truly enjoyed this season and look forward to more adventures in Strange New Worlds. i found myself anticipating the new episodes each week, and though it is far from great or groundbreaking, it is a thoroughly entertaining show.

however, this first season has been really very uneven, and has some major problems - which were apparent in this final episode. the series, overall, has a disjunct with casting and character tone. it's trying too hard to match up with TOS, while also pandering to Millennials and/or Gen Z. the result is a maddeningly uneven one. i can accept it swinging wildly from a campy TOS-style episode to a dark take on Aliens; i can even enjoy it. but where character portrayals are concerned, i feel like i am watching a mash-up of two different shows.

i deeply disliked the ST reboot films, but i do think Chris Pine channeled Kirk with an amazing subtlety. you may well laugh at that word when applied to that character! but he managed to embody Kirk, without parodying or aping Shatner. it was really remarkable, and thinking back on it made it all the harder to maintain suspension of disbelief while watching this episode. Paul Wesley really did try, but he makes for a terrible Kirk. granted, it must be difficult to hold one's space when Anson Mount is doing such a brilliantly Shatner-esque portrayal of Pike (LOVING him in this series! it's been a revelation). Wesley's portrayal just kept pulling me out of the story.

i do agree he would make an excellent Rod Serling. but he's a poor physical match for Kirk - too slender/angular/lanky, even for a very young Kirk. plus, he did a lot of mugging and wiggling that felt as though he was acting the role of Kirk, rather than being Kirk.

Ortegas just doesn't fit. i like her, and really appreciate that they are embracing diversity; and think that Melissa Nacia is giving it her all. but the character just doesn't fit. i agree, it's like she is in an entirely different show, and agree with Halloween Jack that The Expanse has had an influence - perhaps too much of one.

Ortegas would fit right into that universe, and La'an - from personality to eyeliner style - verges on outright theft of Cara Gee's Drummer character. i am glad for the changes they made in the "future" La'an and hope that actually happens, because Christina Chong just ain't hard enough. also, i simply cannot stand what they have done with Nurse Chapel. again, another actor is giving it their all, and i like Jess Bush. but the character is just. not. Christine Chapel. that white outfit is awful. the hair? awful. she looks like an instagram influencer. i appreciate that they are giving the character some sexual liberation, but dammit - they can do that without completely erasing any attributes that Majel Barrett Roddenberry lent the role. Even Rebecca Romijn's stiff version of Una is a better tribute.

speaking of which: i did not mind the epilogue arrest. it opens up an interesting philosophical opportunity for Pike, addressing that very aspect of "you can't change the future" that might bog down future seasons. Una was still imprisoned in the disastrous false timeline; Pike is obsessed with saving those whom he can. it is his ultimate undoing. so he's for sure gonna go full-tilt getting her ass outta prison, because who truly knows what the actual future holds? Pike thinks he's seen his death - we know better. i bet he comes to the conclusion that he needs to hew true to his nature, because not doing so could also change things for the worse. he'll do what he can to "save" her and that will open up some interesting narrative potential.

i am glad the writers showed just how committed he is to that trait, with his sacrifice for Spock, and the lives of millions. and oh, yeah - i am totally diggin' Ethan Peck's portrayal! it's is respectful without being slavish, and damn, is he fine-lookin'! even if those wiggly sideburns are ridic.

Lt. Uhura is another one of the few who've struck balance between old and new, and i've really enjoyed Celia Rose Gooding's work in the show; Babs O/M'Benga is another.

i loved, loved LOVED the Praetor! the repartee between her and Pike was delicious. yow! hope to see more of that harsh Romulan mistress, hah!

i do wish they would stop with the cooking, or make it clear that it's akin to a holodeck for an eating pleasure/perk reserved for the higher-ups. frying pans and open fire on an interstellar spaceship is silly.

hopefully, there will be many more seasons in which the cast will have the opportunity to adjust to one another and their roles, and the writers will fine-tune as they settle in to a groove. i know i'm gonna feel the absence now that this season is done - though not as sharp as the one created by the death of Hemmer.
posted by lapolla at 5:18 PM on July 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

After last week's gut punch I was wondering what they were going to do to wrap this season up. I was not expecting "Yesterday's Enterprise" meets "Balance of Terror" but I am not complaining. Just... wow... I really, really can't wait for Season 2.
posted by SansPoint at 5:20 PM on July 7, 2022 [7 favorites]

I loved this as an episode. I loved this as a cap to the season. I loved this as another strong argument for even doing a prequel series like this at all. Smart, insightful, bold and very moving. Proving again that standalone episodes that add together to mean something is a really good structure for a TV show. I'm glad the franchise finally figured this out.

Pike knows his future and TOS fans know his future. But we also know a lot of the other characters' futures as well. But Pike has to wrestle with that knowledge. Now he knows that changing his future will affect Spock - and we all know that can't happen. Spock is important to Pike. (Anson Mount's reading of that line killed me.) And we know it can't change. We've seen it. TOS is fixed.

To play with this notion, by sending this prequel into an alternate future where we get to see Balance of Terror played out under Pike instead of Kirk is a genius way to tackle this whole idea. We know what is "supposed" to happen. We may have watched that episode multiple times and I kinda wish I'd watched it again after Memento Mori a few weeks ago.

But it's not just Pike instead of Kirk, Kirk is along for the ride, too. Yeah, Paul Wesley is different to previous Kirks. But what we just witnessed was a Kirk still on the Farragut; maybe he resents being there still and not on the flagship Enterprise? I am willing to forgive this slightly different portrayal under the "alternate timeline" caveat. Will be interesting to see where he takes him in season two.

Cara Gee's Drummer character

Has someone said this every week? I think so. I want them to change La'an next season just so people stop saying this every week like it's some insightful commentary that no one has thought of before.
posted by crossoverman at 6:00 PM on July 7, 2022 [13 favorites]

The lighting in the future is so good. Very reminiscent of TOS but with just enough more subtly to bring it to modern sensibilities. So many hard cuts across the face to highlight the eyes.
posted by Uncle at 6:46 PM on July 7, 2022 [11 favorites]

It's all Federation propaganda. /s

I really enjoyed this property. Damn, but Anson Mount really led the heck out of the rest of the crew.
posted by porpoise at 7:30 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I truly appreciate that they went for such a literal reprise of "Balance of Terror" and thought they did that part well, but the earlier episode "BoT" homage episode with the Gorn had more tension and suspense they way the original one did. I kinda thought this episode didn't have much energy, especially for a season finale.

I agree with the comments that the conclusion with Una felt very tacked on to give the show a cliffhanger. It doesn't really belong in this story at all. They should have saved it for the S2 premiere.

I also mostly agree that Paul Wesley may not be the best choice for Jim Kirk. With some other roles, they've done an amazing job of coming up with actors who uncannily echo their original counterparts, but nothing about Paul Wesley says Captain Kirk (particularly in contrast to Chris Pine, who is nearly the perfect choice). At least they wrote Kirk well. I also very much liked the little mention of his father on the Kelvin, just to tie that timeline into all of this.
posted by briank at 7:36 PM on July 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

wow, crossoverman... i don't appreciate that comment one bit.
i very specifically put my comparison of La'an/Drummer in context of both shows, and how the characters in SNW have a big disconnect in style. don't be a dick.
posted by lapolla at 7:36 PM on July 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

I thought this was lovely. It did a lot of very nice setting up for the episode where Spock steals the Enterprise to go rescue Pike. I always enjoy Star Trek's general approaches for how people can talk to each other.

I really like the approach they took to casting, so they just went with actors who would be convincing in the role instead of having to look a certain way. It gives the show its own authenticity rather than being an imitation.

I think the acting on this series is so great. I did not know that there was a look that said "We both watched my sister speed-skate her ship into a time void and we can never mention it", but they found it.
posted by bleep at 7:43 PM on July 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

*which I say with love
posted by bleep at 7:44 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

The actor playing Kirk was terribly miscast. Everything from how he held his head (he was looking down in a way Kirk would never do) to the way he delivered his lines was just so jarring as not-Kirk. Yes, he was a great match for Sam's brother, but that's about the best I can say about him.

The only other positive I can mention with regards to the Kirk character is that the writers did a good job of going out of their way to make Spock and Kirk be on the same wavelength, or at least to get along pretty well despite not even knowing each other thereby underlying the fundamental importance of their relationship and their personal feelings for each other.

The real reason I'm posting though is that nobody else has brought up the question of the Klingons. Why and how would current Pike have any kind of interaction with Klingon monks? I can forgive them name dropping a bat'leth. Just because they were never mentioned by name on TOS and they were developed for TNG (IIRC), I can handwave that away, but I can't come up with a suitable head canon that allows friendly interaction between Klingon monks (or the known existence of Klingon monks in this era) with Federation members. Nope that seems like way too hard a swerve.

As for a time stone, I can't say I recall anything similar -- at least in the aspect of "there is this weird magical rock that we all know about and accept as having the power to alter time (or our perception of it)" and that seems kind of out of character for the Trek universe (or at least, my perception and understanding of it).
posted by sardonyx at 9:33 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

That stuff was referring to things that happened in Discovery.
posted by bleep at 9:43 PM on July 7, 2022 [14 favorites]

Yeah, the Klingon monks and the time stone was the setup for how Pike came to see his future in the first place. But it's pretty rough to expect folks to remember an episode of a completely different show that aired 3 years ago, without even including it in the "previously" montage.
posted by Banknote of the year at 10:17 PM on July 7, 2022 [9 favorites]

I think there was something like it in Voyager. The now Admiral gets a klingon time thing, to grab someone out of a predicament, maybe even bring Voyager home. I can't remember the exact thing.

This episode was so great, the emotional power of it, was superb. The Pike, mirroring Pike and the Pike waking up in a different timeline was fabulous. The Romulan tired of war, was engaging, and the evil Praetor, such a badass.

I really enjoyed Pike this time around, and the warning that Una would be imprisoned for years, gives him some real time edge to get her out of that, in later episodes, maybe even an escape and a new place to live out her life.

A great episode, well done.
posted by Oyéah at 10:23 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

And while I'm bringing up episodes of other Trek shows: This isn't even the first time a magical time rock sent someone to revisit a classic episode of TOS

It's hard for me to buy the Romulans going to open war after just one recon mission against the Federation. They're the sneaky ones, the ones who don't like tipping their hand. They'd find a subtler way to damage the Federation.
posted by Banknote of the year at 10:58 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

oh right did anyone else feel like the Romulan captain looked 100% exactly like the one guy from Galaxy Quest, or was it just us
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:40 PM on July 7, 2022 [16 favorites]

'Galaxy Quest' guy might be the 'Veronica Mars' guy who's the 'Person of Interest' guy - Enrico Colantoni?

Big fan.
posted by porpoise at 12:53 AM on July 8, 2022 [9 favorites]

oh right did anyone else feel like the Romulan captain looked 100% exactly like the one guy from Galaxy Quest, or was it just us

Yes! I thought it was him! I only just realised that Galaxy Quest happened over 20 years ago and he looks a bit older now (although that's probably not that noticeable under Romulan makeup). But it was in fact this guy (courtesy of Memory Alpha).
posted by confluency at 1:32 AM on July 8, 2022

For a minute there, I thought it might have been Jack Coleman (Glasses Guy from Heroes).

If we must have Kirk show up in SNW, I actually prefer it be as Just Some Guy. Maybe they should have got James Cawley.

Something I heard or expected to hear, this episode, but nobody actually said:
It is possible to commit no errors, and yet still lose.
(or however that quote goes)

Worf, holding teacup:
Nice show. Good season.
posted by bartleby at 2:49 AM on July 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

however, this first season has been really very uneven, and has some major problems - which were apparent in this final episode. the series, overall, has a disjunct with casting and character tone. it's trying too hard to match up with TOS, while also pandering to Millennials and/or Gen Z. the result is a maddeningly uneven one. i can accept it swinging wildly from a campy TOS-style episode to a dark take on Aliens; i can even enjoy it. but where character portrayals are concerned, i feel like i am watching a mash-up of two different shows.
hopefully, there will be many more seasons in which the cast will have the opportunity to adjust to one another and their roles, and the writers will fine-tune as they settle in to a groove.

Yeah, looking back on the whole season, I think this is a fair critique. I'm certain that the "wildly swinging styles" of each episode was fully intended, to give the show an unpredictable (critical for a prequel show) and swashbuckling feel. But balancing that with establishing characters in a show's first season is a tough tightrope!—compare with TNG, DS9, VOY, or ENT and you realize that the complexities of the main cast characters (well, of those who had any) were almost nonexistent in season 1, and took at least 2 or 3 to develop.

SNW can't do that, of course, because they get so many fewer eps. They had the shortcut of not really needing to establish much about Pike or Peck-Spock (Speck?), but then they went ahead and added way more new characters, more than I at least expected. I went into the premiere thinking the show would have a Pike-Una-Spock triumvirate-type focus a la TOS. Instead, there are 10 main cast characters—which is 1 or 2 more than any of the Berman treks, depending on how you count, and with less than half the eps per season to establish them. Phew!

But there's reason to expect this show to be up to this challenge it created for itself, because (A) as you say, they have plenty of seasons to work through this, and (B) having a large main cast of distinct characters adds to the freewheeling quality they clearly wanted for the whole show*. In view of that, I'm really OK with Ortegas sometimes reminding me of the red-headed guy from Orville. DS9's show concept also benefited from a highly heterogenous main cast (and VOY's…should have).

(* = My real dread is that SNW takes a hard turn into a totally different mood and tone in S2, a la PIC.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:59 AM on July 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

I will say that, WRT the notion of "pandering", TOS had a second-season replacement character (Chekov) who was given a very un-Starfleetish Beatles wig (ironically, about the time that the Beatles themselves were going full hippie). No one in TOS' Starfleet had a beard or even a mustache (we saw Sam Kirk when he was a civilian), but if the show had indeed been revived in the seventies, we might have seen some facial hair. TNG had one character in the first season with facial hair, Commander Quinteros, but then Riker grew the beard. I'm OK with wanting to make it seem reasonably like the future, with various visual cues such as the pointed sideburns and civilian clothing, but I'm not in the Gene Roddenberry school of hating zippers and pockets, and I think that it's OK to have one or two characters that aren't just regular ol' buttoned-down Starfleet.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:09 AM on July 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

I've been having such a great time with this show, I'm really sad it's over for the season! Do we know when Season 2 drops? I think I read somewhere that it's already in the can.

I'm apparently pretty rare in that I actually enjoyed the new Star Trek movies - I can understand the criticisms, but I'm a huge fan of both Star Trek in and remixes, in general. I like to see this universe through other eyes, even if the overall take isn't something I would have done myself or want to take on board as mental "canon" for the franchise. Plus, I mean, everything was really pretty and a bunch of stuff blew up, and I find a baseline of joy in that kind of thing that requires a whooooole lot of bad to disrupt.

I think one of the things I've enjoyed most about SNW is the skill with which they've integrated it into the universe, in a way that enhances your knowledge and understanding of ST:TOS but doesn't violate the canon. It's almost like a sonnet, in that it has to fit itself into an existing structure but has (and takes excellent advantage of) complete freedom to operate within that structure.

I'm also deeply appreciative of Pike and the way his character has grown; he does things with a vaguely Kirk-like flair, but his command style seems to be more collaborative and flexible. The best way I can think of it is that Kirk always called his people to the conference table to strategize, but was also always at the head of that table; you always knew he was the shot- caller at the end of the day. Pike, on the other hand, calls all his people to the dinner table, and at least gives the impression of being a facilitator more than a shot-caller. Both ways are highly effective; I mostly just appreciate that they're different.

I also appreciate that in this episode, Pike didn't actually do anything wrong in the future; as bartleby quoted, he committed no errors... but still lost. I found it really interesting to watch him go through this particular plot making choices just a little different from Kirk's, totally in line with Starfleet's ideals and totally understandable... but choices that, in this particular context, just weren't effective.

(I also laughed at the head Romulan from the first ship, who said the same thing to Pike (could have been friends) that he said to Kirk in TOS. I feel so bad for him - that guy really needed to get out more.)

I felt bad for Ortega being forced into the role of Plot-dictated Xenophobe. We don't know much about her, but we do know doesn't really mesh with the Stiles-role they shoehorned her into. I hope we get more about and from her next season!

Re: Paul Wesley as Kirk... I accidentally spoiled myself for this a couple of weeks ago, and I've been wondering ever since how it would play out. I think... maybe he played it a little too Stefan Salvatore. Even when he was angry, he wasn't expressive enough, didn't feel open enough. Whatever Kirk was throughout the series and the movies after, he never felt closed off; his emotions were always right on the surface. Also... whyyyyy the dark hair??? He was WAY more blonde in Vampire Diaries.

Finally, since this is already a novel, I just want to say that I have LOVED Ethan Peck's take on Spock, and would happily watch him in this role forever. Like Nimoy, he is able to convey humor and warmth even through this supposedly "unemotional" lens, without compromising his Vulcan reserve. He comes across as comfortable with himself in the same way Nimoy did, and in a way that Zachary Quinto never managed. (I always had a sense that Quinto's Spock was just at the edge of flipping out and murdering everybody, but that may owe somewhat to that one season of AHS...)
posted by invincible summer at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2022 [19 favorites]

Pike didn't actually do anything wrong in the future; as bartleby quoted, he committed no errors... but still lost.

This is my favorite aspect of this episode—and not only that, both Pike and the Romulan commander acted with trust and in good faith with hope for actually stopping forever war, they showed vulnerability, they really communicated and that was what actually caused the huge war, because it was also weakness, an opportunity to strike for the fearful around them.

I really appreciated the way that Pike’s and Kirk’s fundamental natures and impulses were so clearly contrasting (reconciliation vs. fighting) but that neither was right or wrong, and both grew from the experience of being both right and wrong about different aspects of that particular situation. This also created genuine story-telling reasons to introduce Kirk into this episode. (I thought I would really hate too much contextualization of SNW in the TOS canon, was fearful of weekly fan-servicing, but they have both integrated SNW into canon, and played around within it, masterfully thus far. Though Scotty’s voice cameo was a wee bit too much for me, actually.)

As a character, I love the way that Pike actually, really listens to people. It is inspiring to watch a show (any show) where characters listen to and value one another unselfishly. That, to me, is essential to any Star Trek show.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:46 AM on July 8, 2022 [26 favorites]

I can't even tell you how warm it feels to my soul to see a captain like Pike. Who believes in his people.
posted by bleep at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2022 [10 favorites]

That stuff was referring to things that happened in Discovery.
posted by bleep at 9:43 PM on July 7

Thanks bleep. I noped out of Discovery pretty hard during the first season so that explains how I missed the reference. (The only other ST series I couldn't watch in its entirety was Voyager, and even then I watched a significant chunk of it.) I probably should have gone back and watched the Pike et al introduction episode, but I figured anything important enough would be explained in the show. Apparently not.
posted by sardonyx at 10:33 AM on July 8, 2022

Well, I recommend it! It was great fun.
posted by bleep at 11:17 AM on July 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

I want to watch the Discovery first season again. Maybe all of them. I like how Pike treats his crew, too.
posted by Oyéah at 2:02 PM on July 8, 2022

I noped out of Discovery pretty hard during the first season

In retrospect, a good decision - - although perhaps if your future sardonyx had brought you a Klingon time stone, they might have been able to convince you to hang in there for just one more season.
posted by fairmettle at 3:04 PM on July 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Let the Engineer be like the drummer from Spinal Tap or the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts - let's change it up every year until Scotty comes in for the final season.
posted by crossoverman at 9:22 PM on July 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

When I saw where this was going, I immediately stopped it and re-watched Balance of Terror before I continued. BoT really was an outstanding episode of television! Good call on leaving Yeoman Rand out of the new version.

That might have aggravated my dislike of this portrayal of Kirk, but nevertheless I don't see it as similar to the Kirk we've known almost at all. Did this guy smirk even once?

Personally, I am okay with the Una twist because I felt like the earlier episode had set up the blithe "we won't tell anyone and it will be okay" as bound to fail.

Did anyone else prefer the older, wiser Pike? The aging was convincing but Mount's portrayal was especially so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:37 PM on July 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

I rewatched Balance of Terror today and will probably rewatch A Quality of Mercy again soon because I think what they've accomplished here is quite special.
posted by crossoverman at 12:00 AM on July 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Uhura’s earrings... broke me.
posted by mrgroweler at 6:02 AM on July 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

This was the best episode of the season, by a country mile.

Before I saw it, I was beginning to realize a nagging feeling I've had about the series up to this point. Much of the time, in prior episodes, I felt as if the characters were almost always a little too breezy and glib and quippy. It was as if everyone was sort of holding the idea of "Star Trek" at arm's length, and being a little ironic about it -- as if too embarrassed by it to play it straight. (Obviously that was the fault of the writers, not the actors.)

That breeziness was totally missing from this episode. And as a result, it felt completely grounded in its reality, and the stakes felt much higher. I'm very glad they played it like they did.

I too thought that Mount played older Pike well; the makeup and lighting helped, but his performance sold it. The TOS movie era uniform helped too -- one of the best uniform styles of the entire franchise.

Unfortunately, that uniform exemplified something that keeps taking me out of the show: the art department's need to pointlessly bling things up. Why did they need to put little bits of reflective stuff on the sleeves (like they do on the "current day" uniforms)? They make the unis look like figure skating costumes.

The same is true of the Enterprise interior generally, from the bridge to sickbay: pointless visual flair that makes everything more shiny and visually complicated, but also more muddled and distracting.

This extended to the Romulans. The simplicity and austerity of the TOS Romulan uniforms was completely screwed up here by layering on all kinds of different random textures. Same with the Romulan ship's bridge.

This design philosophy -- which really feels more like a lack of a design philosophy -- seems to be endemic to Kurtzman-era Trek, alas.

Agree with everyone that Kirk was grievously miscast. If you're going to bring in one of the most iconic characters of the franchise, make the effort to get someone who can embody the character reasonably well. That guy is a fine actor, I'm sure, but he was just not meant for this part.

But overall, a strong finish to the first season.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 7:42 PM on July 9, 2022 [5 favorites]

I think they were just trying to go for a high-tech athleisure look, otherwise I don't think it would make sense to us visually why they were wearing big yellow t-shirts.
posted by bleep at 9:14 PM on July 9, 2022

Really enjoyed this episode, was kind of hoping for Pike and Kirk to have a conversation like the end of Burn After Reading. Though I will never turn down a mention of Riverside, IA. (I wonder if they still sell "Kirk Dirt" there? It's been a long time since I've been.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:51 PM on July 9, 2022

Absolutely loved this episode, and I think it was a great wrap up to an excellent first season. (Although I remain baffled at the wild miscasting of Kirk, would love to hear the thinking behind that!) Really looking forward to next season!
posted by Space Kitty at 12:30 AM on July 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

fifteen etc., I didn't see "Kirk Dirt" when RAGBRAI went through Riverside a few years ago. I did see the statue, which doesn't quite resemble any of the people who have played him, including Wesley. Here's a pic. (And I swear that my fingers aren't as stubby as they look here.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:26 PM on July 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't think Ethan Peck was as comfortable in the role of Spock when he first started on DISCO. I expect Paul Wesley to warm up to Kirk in season two.
posted by crossoverman at 4:57 PM on July 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

Ugh. That's depressing news.I was really hoping that was the last we were going to see of this James Kirk. Look if you told me this was a previously unmentioned third Kirk brother, say Bob A. Kirk, I'd have thought the casting was really good, but I don't want to have to sit through another episode where I'm watching Bob and having to pretend he's actually his older brother James.
posted by sardonyx at 7:04 PM on July 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

After a season of resurrecting old TV tropes, the show ended with one last chestnut: the sheer life-affirming audacity to go to credits on a fourth wall break. I literally laughed out loud. I love this show so much.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:38 PM on July 10, 2022 [9 favorites]

Not sure if it was good or bad, but having Spock just do a mind meld completely short circuited that time travel trope of trying to convince someone.
posted by Marticus at 10:16 PM on July 10, 2022 [8 favorites]

Honestly, I thought it was a pretty clever way to get to the good "competency porn" part of Star Trek, much like how I appreciated the way that Spock came clean with Pike pretty quickly even after deciding that hijinks were the only logical option
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:32 PM on July 10, 2022 [12 favorites]

I found this a remarkably complex and deft bit of writing. I normally hate time travel shenanigans, but trading off our memories of so many versions of this story in Star Trek really paid off here.
posted by Nelson at 10:42 PM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I’d like to report that this episode was legible to people who were unfamiliar with Trek before this series. I, on the other hand, admire the sheer gall in reusing the “we could have been friends” line. This show is more Trekky than the Trek episode of Futurama, and that’s saying a lot.

I was a little surprised the bad future was as simple as “big war starts immediately and Spock dies.” Earlier it felt a bit more like Pike’s example was going to radicalize Kirk away from ever offering mercy, and HE would start a big war later—or just not be around to stop V’ger and pick up some whales at the shop when it counted. I don’t think you can get that nuance across in a single episode and that’s a tough space to drop a two parter.

But it does feel a bit like the future knowledge is piling up in a weird way. Kirk commands La’an in this universe, yet has little idea who Khan is in Space Seed. Pike has knowledge that Vulcans and Romulans are the same species and that Romulans have cloaking devices. Spock is super-critical. This all seems like … important information that will have an impact on the future as we know it? Are we even in the classic prime universe at this point, or are we off by a few degrees?

Anyway, they better drop season 2a early and realize that there’s a lot of demand for another 10 episodes in season 2b.
posted by thecaddy at 8:04 PM on July 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

man I genuinely hope that they notice the universal acclaim for this show and retool Discovery season 5 to be basically this, but 900 years in the future, because I suspect that everyone would love it
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:07 PM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Ian A.T.: props for pointing out the fourth wall break. I just re-watched it and it’s cracking me up.

How does this show manage to take Trek perfectly seriously, but not drown itself in that same seriousness?

Someone in a previous episode thread commented about how nice it was to have “filler”-TV back (not the correct wording but something like that). Not everything needs to be The Wire.
posted by hototogisu at 1:39 AM on July 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Ian A.T.: props for pointing out the fourth wall break. I just re-watched it and it’s cracking me up.

I also missed that! It's completely fantastic and the perfect camp ending.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:05 AM on July 14, 2022

I just rewatched the ending to see what you're talking about with the fourth wall break. For anyone else who missed it: after Una beams out the camera zooms to Pike looking concerned , focussing slightly up and to the right (where Una was). Then he smoothly turns a few degrees to stare directly into the camera for about two seconds, and end. It felt like a bit of a challenge to the viewer, "let's find out what happens next shall we?"
posted by Nelson at 10:36 AM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

I, on the other hand, admire the sheer gall in reusing the “we could have been friends” line.

I think the actual genius of reusing this line - apart from the recognition factor - is that the whole line is "in a different reality, I could have called you friend." And this is a different reality and it still didn't work out for him or anybody really. Is there a reality where they are friends? Who knows, but two down and no such luck.

Then he smoothly turns a few degrees to stare directly into the camera for about two seconds, and end.

I mean, his last line is "This isn't over" which screams TO BE CONTINUED... even without onscreen text. If the look at camera is camp, so is hanging a lantern on the fact that this might be the end of the season, it's not the end of the series.

Having rewatched "Balance of Terror" and the last shot - after Kirk comforts the grieving widow - is just Kirk wandering through the Enterprise, life going on. He's still wandering as the credits roll. That's some nonchalant television.
posted by crossoverman at 10:02 PM on July 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned comparisons to Tapestry; that was the clearest parallel to me-- captain makes the decision to revise his future out of self-interest, and his future suffers for it. In fact, that's what kept going through my mind for how low-key the SNW Kirk was. Yes, he was still a captain, but not promoted to the flagship prematurely, lacking some swagger. Kelvin Kirk had a bunch of other stuff to instill the swagger. This was.. probably not intentional, and I'm just justifying it in my head. This Kirk characterization was very "tell instead of show" for how gutsy and impulsive Kirk is.
posted by supercres at 12:03 AM on July 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

Addendum: SNW succeeds best when it's an updated version of TOS, a prettified version of campy straightforward non-serialized storytelling. That's why the cliffhanger feels so tacked on, a prosthetic feint towards serialization. It probably WAS tacked on, an easy scene to leave on the cutting room floor in the case they didn't get renewed.

It's why Ortegas works for me. The characters in TOS *are* a little silly and do shit that's very TV-of-their-time, and Ortegas is the (sigh) Whedony wisecrack, and La'an is the brooding badass.
posted by supercres at 12:07 AM on July 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Showrunners Talk Kirk, Scotty, A 'Bigger' Season 2, And Beyond" (w/ intimation that Kirk miiiiight be recast)

This Kirk characterization was very "tell instead of show" for how gutsy and impulsive Kirk is.

The article "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Showrunner Explains Why This Kirk Seems So Different" seems to answer that a bit. (And also contains apparent confirmation of my guesses about the Pike Chair arc and what may be the reason for Bruce Horak's return.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:39 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

CoB - your first link is broken, but I assume it's this:

I didn't read that as "we might recast Kirk" at all, just that they are aiming to play him very differently in S2.
posted by briank at 5:30 AM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

For those awaiting any trek fix at all, ST:LD season 3 will begin airing on August 25.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 6:27 PM on July 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Next season, there will be a Strange New Worlds / Lower Decks crossover episode.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:37 AM on July 25, 2022 [5 favorites]

I don't see how we get a SNW/LD crossover without timey-wimey hijinks: LD is set after the end of TNG, after all.

That said, I'm looking forward to seeing Boimler in the flesh, complete with purple pompadour. He can have a pompadour-off with Pike!
posted by suelac at 2:22 PM on July 25, 2022

I enjoyed it.

Mostly well thought out and well executed.

I did not emotionally buy New Kirk. Agree with above commenters that Chris Pine did a better job. This guy….the eyebrows…the expressions. It didn’t hit me right.

As for the cooking (and the washing up!) I rationalize this as the future’s version of elaborate cosplay.

One thing I’ve noticed more than once during this season (and the first couple seasons of discovery) and really appreciated, is that the writers seem to be writing between the lines of TOS and underscoring them. What if there was another reason that Sarek and Spock were so estranged after Spock rejected Vulcan Science Academy? What if Spock and T’Pring had a relationship that existed behind the boundaries of Pon Farr? What if there was actually a reason Nurse Chapel stares longingly at Spock (besides Leonard Nimoy’s hotness)? What if the reason Spock risked his career and break multiple laws to help Pike in Menagerie - not just because he served under him, but because he feels a deep sense of obligation and suspects he might have been mutilated in Pike’s place if Pike had made different choices?
posted by bq at 9:30 PM on August 14, 2022 [8 favorites]

Oh, I forgot, I wanted to speculate on who else and what other plot lines will show up next season! I noticed they’ve got a Jenna Mitchell on the bridge; that would be a fun one to play with. And what about Dr. Philip Boyce, if not Dr. McCoy? (We had The Cage on VHS when I was a kid).
posted by bq at 9:37 PM on August 14, 2022

I somehow found a way to find this show outside the US and managed to finish the season and I enjoyed it. I thought Paul Wesley's Kirk worked, he seemed to be going for a reading of the character that Nu!Trek totally forgot about (and I enjoyed Pine's version, but he wasn't Kirk either - well, maybe on this William Shatner will disagree with me, if you catch my meaning). And I think you need the contrast because Anson Mount's Pike pretty much seemed to be more of a fanon Kirk anyway, and speaking of that, the entire season's theme really does revolve on a more religious notion of fate and fatalism ('what will be will be') which will be a very interesting trajectory because I don't think modern western storytelling sensibilities are entirely comfortable with it. On the other hand, the continous retcon of Spock as some kind of Trek Chosen One is entirely within that worldview, which amuses me to no end. But I am enjoying the emotional retcon over the depth of his relationship with Pike, I'm going to enjoy rewatching TOS with this new awareness.

(on that tangent, this show is like how the star wars fandom, especially after a particular piece of canon is a fan favourite (e.g. obi-wan; rogue one; the entire clone wars gang) is RIFE with time travel fix-it setups except this time it's Mace Windu who knows the future, not Obi-Wan, and it's not chapter after chapter of him rearranging the past to defeat the Sith, because not only he can't, his entire revelation is that he's not even the Main Character.)
posted by cendawanita at 1:38 AM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Have you all seen this picture of Anson mount without a ridiculous bouffant? He is UNRECOGNIZABLE.
posted by bq at 3:51 PM on August 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

The biggest news from 2022's Star Trek Day IMO was the reveal that Carol Kane is playing Pike's next engineer. See the link above for a great publicity still of her character. The hair game will remain strong in season 2, it seems.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:48 AM on September 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Someone in a previous episode thread commented about how nice it was to have “filler”-TV back (not the correct wording but something like that).

This is so true. I just watched DS9 for the first time (omg). It's daunting to approach an old-school network TV show with 26 episodes a season, but those filler episodes are how you fall in love with the characters. Would a 10 episode season have had an entire episode about Nog? (Not saying that was a filler, but they made that episode because they had the time and space to do so.)

I am absolutely loving SNW.

(Sisko cooks.)
posted by Mavri at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

I doubt anyone will ever read this comment, but I just finished watching the whole series over the last five days and I loved it (except the costume episode, though I was happy they gave M’Benga’s daughter a happy ending, and the episode with the kid who gave up his life to run the planet). I appreciate the comments of everyone who has written about these episodes (particularly the real world Canadian filming locations).

But the main reason I am commenting is that I didn’t mind Paul Wesley’s Kirk! I actually bought him as a version of Kirk from that point in his (Kirk’s) timeline.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:33 PM on March 26, 2023 [5 favorites]

“I doubt anyone will ever read this comment...”

I regularly use the "recent activity" page, so I see new comments on older FanFare posts (in which I've commented). I always read them and I enjoy the new insights and discussion.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:24 PM on March 26, 2023 [6 favorites]

Season 2 trailer
posted by Etrigan at 11:59 AM on May 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

Finally watched this episode last night, and while we enjoyed most of it, it was hard to get past just why oh why in the hell why did they cast Paul Wesley as Kirk? I appreciated that he wasn't trying to do Shatner, but...

Look at Ethan Peck. Now, Spock is a tough-ass character to play. You've got to demonstrate warmth, subtle humor, inner conflict between human and Vulcan natures, and the whole range of emotions, all within the extremely tight confines of, well, those Vulcan natures. And you've got to do it with charisma. And Peck manages to absolutely kill it - embodying Spock utterly - without doing Nimoy. It's incredible, honestly.

This isn't to say that playing Kirk is easy - I definitely couldn't pull it off - but the amount of telling us Kirk's personality here while showing absolutely zero... swagger, is just unreal. And I can't blame Paul Wesley for it, even. This seemed like a bizarre confluence of writing, directing, and casting that led to them basically saying "THIS IS KIRK" over and over while showing us somebody who super wasn't, and it kept tearing me out of what was otherwise a really solid outing.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:40 PM on June 15, 2023 [8 favorites]

All 3+1 of the main TOS characters were larger-than-life, really taking up the whole room (especially Kirk), though Spock was a dark horse in this respect.

So it's weird to me that all new casting of these roles have also played them expansively (McCoy, Scotty, and Peck's Spock, though differently) with the exception of Wesley's Kirk.

I guess the problem is that Shatner's Kirk had a lot to do with his theater background and his own personality and the character-as-written in ways that are difficult or impossible to recreate. Shatner's actually a talented, trained actor though people assume Kirk's Kirkness had a lot to do with Shatner being a ham. But while I thought the same for like thirty years, I now think that's doing Shatner a disservice.

So I think it comes down to the fact that the imperfect Chris Pine portrayal is the best we'll get. I'm not exactly a fan of it, but I recall wondering at the time how any actor could possibly play Kirk and being grudgingly surprised. It's an attempt you can't risk completely failing in a risible way. SNW might be wise to just avoid trying.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:55 PM on June 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Ethan Peck NAILED that eyebrow raise. My god.

I spent every minute Paul Wesley was on screen trying to figure out what I've seen him in but while I was brushing my teeth just now I realized he just looks a lot like Guy Smiley to me. I feel bad saying the guy looks so much like a Muppet to me that I literally thought I had seen his previous work but looking at his filmography I honest to god think that was it. Anyway I'm going to just be glad Guy Smiley is still getting work and enjoy the performance for what it is
posted by potrzebie at 11:59 PM on July 24, 2023 [3 favorites]

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