Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Season 2 Episode 10

Aug 10, 2023 | Posted by in TV
Strange New Worlds

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.


Star Trek: Strange New Worlds ends its second season with a Gorn attack and a fight for survival.

Even though Strange New Worlds is clad in the colours and costumes of The Original Series, it’s actually more in line with the Berman era that began with The Next Generation as far as storytelling goes. It tries to be more ensemble-driven with loose throughlines that connect the episodes while being episodic with the main stories being told. Berman-era Star Trek would often present the illusion of arcs by delivering sequels to episodes sometimes seasons down the line. It was the illusion of a plan to progress something but the reality was that the first episode wasn’t written with the follow-up in mind. Skilled writers can build on a previous story and make the pieces seem like they fit.

Star Trek


There’s something similar going on in Strange New Worlds. The first episode of the season set up that the Gorn may be gearing up for open aggression against the Federation which implied that this thread would weave through the season. That didn’t end up happening; the Gorn were only briefly mentioned in the sixth episode with no other indication that they were a looming threat. The tease in the first episode adds extra weight to the events of this one because the Gorn attack doesn’t come entirely from nowhere. It’s an established possibility that could have been deployed in any episode so it isn’t a random occurrence when the finale makes use of them.

Add to that the two prior episodes that feature the Gorn as an adversary as well as La’an’s well-documented history with them and there’s something resembling an arc without any prior knowledge being required to follow this episode. Such an approach rewards persistent viewers by making it seem like an ongoing story is taking place and at the same time casual viewers aren’t alienated by the prospect of homework being required before watching a given episode.

There are drawbacks to this approach such as the continuity being very superficial. None of the previous stories make any material difference to this one because the antagonistic relationship between the Federation and the Gorn hasn’t developed in any way. The Gorm remain reptilian monsters with no actual personality so nothing has been done to shed any light on them as a species. There are things that have been learned about how they breed and what they’re capable of but they are largely as mysterious as they were when first encountered.

Star Trek

This isn’t a good start

When Kirk fought the Gorn Captain in “Arena”, the point of the episode is that Kirk showed mercy to another sentient being and looked beyond the outwardly monstrous to recognise that sentience. The Gorn never appeared again outside of a brief appearance in The Animated Series and a Mirror Universe encounter in Enterprise so their depiction in “Arena” was practically all there was until this show. There are canon issues as “Arena” was unambiguously the first encounter Kirk and his crew had with the Gorn, a previously unknown species but individual tastes will dictate how viewers feel about Strange New Worlds playing fast and loose with certain aspects of canon.

“Hegemony” bears some superficial similarities to “Arena”, at least in its setup. “Arena” begins with an attack on a colony just as this episode does and both episodes feature the Enterprise crew fighting the Gorn after they have become an occupying force. The similarities mostly end there but it’s notable that both episodes would see the Gorn employ similar tactics when attacking.

The problem is that this episode does nothing to develop the Gorn beyond the monstrous presence they previously have been. There is the suggestion of differing perspectives through Pike and April’s conversation. April argues that the Gorn may be a species they don’t fully understand and Pike is definitive on them being monsters. Their points of view make sense as April has never encountered the Gorn so doesn’t have first-hand experience of the terror they inspire. That distance allows him to consider the possibility of opening a dialogue and finding a way to reach mutual understanding. Pike has encountered them and sees no way that peaceful communication could happen so sticks to his belief that they are monsters with no possibility of countering that.

Star Trek

Enter the Scotsman

Interestingly, this puts Pike in the opposite position he occupied when talking to M’Benga in “Under The Cloak of War“. He didn’t fight in the War so had no way to truly understand what M’Benga was going through which allowed him to have a whole hopeful perspective when considering the notion of peace with the Klingons. Now he’s in

the position of having fought for his life against a brutal and -from his perspective- savage enemy and sees nothing beyond the monstrous. April can be hopeful because he hasn’t experienced it. This is such a fascinating connection that offers the opportunity to further that exchange with Pike and M’Benga reflecting on understanding only being gained through bitter experience so it’s unfortunate the episode doesn’t pick up the thread.

Pike and April’s difference of opinion about the Gorn would seem to set up Pike coming to see the Gorn in a different light. He does later suggest that there may be a way to reach them rather than fight them but it goes no further and is left as a glaring missed opportunity to develop both Pike as a character and the Gorn as an adversary. The idea of Pike wavering as the embodiment of Federation values is compelling and it was there to be explored. Seeing him conflicted about his own doubts to the point that he has to remind himself of what he stands for shows how afraid he is and how difficult it is to hold onto his core ideals. “Hope is a choice” is a poignant remark because -as he points out- it’s something he needs to hear and be reminded of.

Hope underpins much of this episode. The entire crew hope that there are survivors to rescue, they also specifically hope that Chapel is alive and Pike hopes to find Batel alive. It’s a good mix of broad compassion and personal connections providing a range of feelings during a crisis like this. Whenever something tragic happens, people can’t help but be focused on loved ones involved in it. This focus doesn’t diminish the importance of those affected that people don’t know on a personal level but it’s understandable and normal to be concerned about those you have a personal connection with.

Star Trek

Keeping busy

Chapel and Batel being involved also creates personal stakes to attach to the situation. The episode opens with a conversation between Pike and Batel that serves as a reminder of them growing closer as a couple which enhances Pike’s emotional connection to the situation. This comes across in how he conducts himself on the bridge such as reminding everyone and himself to make no assumptions when seeing the wreck of the Cayuga. It’s good advice from a personal and professional standpoint as Starfleet officers shouldn’t arrive at conclusions until they gather evidence and people shouldn’t assume the worst before the facts are confirmed. Pike gives that advice as he knows people will draw conclusions based on what they have seen because his instincts are telling him to do the same.

Those familiar with The Original Series may find the fact that the episode spends so much time contemplating the possibility of Chapel’s death tedious as she is invincible as far as canon is concerned. Given that Strange New Worlds has been established as an altered timeline that’s far from certain but it’s likely that anyone who appears in The Original Series is invincible in Strange New Worlds. Waiting so long to confirm Chapel survived may be tedious to some viewers but it’s worth bearing in mind that a chunk of the audience will be new to Star Trek and won’t come armed with knowledge that some of the characters appear in The Original Series so Chapel’s survival may be a legitimate question for many viewers. More importantly, the characters aren’t away of Chapel’s survival being a certainty so the concern is legitimate from their point of view and the episode focuses on their feelings about her potential loss.

Most significantly affected is Spock as he has the memory of their relationship ending on bad terms and is now fixated on never getting the chance to resolve the tension between them. He is open about being upset but keeps his mind on the job and volunteers for a dangerous mission as it will allow him to personally investigate the Cayuga for survivors. He finds Chapel alive and is able to rescue her which ends the uncertainty and gives Spock the chance to deal with his regrets. Spock’s concern followed by the sheer relief at finding Chapel alive was well handled. It was a coherent throughline for Spock that follows on from previously established elements.

Star Trek

I’m flattered but I’m seeing someone

Modern Star Trek has been -not unfairly- accused of prioritising feelings over professionalism. Characters will often allow themselves to be distracted from the mission in order to address a personal issue. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen there. Spock and Chapel acknowledge that they have things to discuss while recognising that they will have to have the conversation at a later time as they are both needed. It’s a neat acknowledgement of their responsibilities as well as their personal connection. The audience is promised that the conversation will happen but not during the current crisis.

There are other character details prompted by concern about Chapel that work well. Ortegas and M’Benga concentrating on keeping themselves busy to distract them from worrying about Chapel as well as the fear of death is a solid emotional beat. It organically develops the characters by showing how they react under pressure while reinforcing how close the crew are. Unfortunately, Ortegas largely fades into the background in this episode overall despite providing the occasion to make her a more prominent fixture by having her pilot the shuttle.

Batel is also found to be alive along with other members of the Cayuga crew lucky enough to be on the surface at the time of the attack and some colonists who were able to be protected. The relief is short-lived as it’s revealed that Batel has been seeded by the Gorn so she is on a countdown before hatchlings come bursting out of her, leaving her dead. This makes her eager to sacrifice herself as she feels that she is already dead while Pike refuses to accept the inevitability of her loss and won’t allow her to make that sacrifice. It’s all very predictable but the actors handle it well and the show has put enough work into creating a relationship between the two Captains that can be invested in. If she does end up losing her life as a result of this situation then there is enough of a connection to the character based on prior development to make it significant though it would be another example of a woman being killed in order to support a man’s development.

Star Trek

Have you seen Alien?

One possibility is that Chapel will find a way to save Batel’s life and the mechanics of that will aid in understanding how the Gorn work. Whether that’s through studying their reproductive process or finding a way for them to be born without killing the host is unclear but there’s a definite opportunity for research in any case. Answers are desperately needed as the Gorn need to be more than savage monsters to be an effective antagonist. Currently, they can do a lot of damage and are relentless in the pursuit of whatever their goals are but very little more than that.

A significant talking point for this episode is the introduction of Montgomery Scott aka Scotty (Martin Quinn). He is established as a resourceful and creative problem solver with a unique grasp of technology and its capabilities. This is consistent with the character as presented in The Original Series and beyond. Martin Quinn is immediately engaging in the role. He’s charming without being over the top and unaware of his own genius. There’s no hint of arrogance in the matter-of-fact way he describes what he has accomplished when under pressure. It’s a good introduction to a younger version of an iconic character and is notable in that this is the first Scottish actor to play the character.

There are some confusing choices in the storytelling. Three options are explored to engineer the escape of those on the surface. One is to retrieve the device that rendered Scotty’s shuttle immune to Gorn detection to install it on the shuttle Pike’s landing party brought with them, another is for Batel to fly the shuttle into the source of the interference field so that the Enterprise can beam everyone out and the third is to crash the Cayuga’s saucer into the source of the interference field so that the Enterprise can beam everyone out.

Star Trek

Mission accomplished

It’s bizarre as two of those options end up being worthless with the saucer section crash being the one that succeeds. Batel’s sacrifice is dismissed fairly early on but working on retrieving Scotty’s device comes across as busy work for the characters involved as it amounts to nothing and doesn’t further the characters in any significant way. Batel’s infection is revealed but that could have been accomplished another way without diverting the characters on a quest that doesn’t add anything narratively. It’s more realistic to have the landing party attempt to get themselves out of the situation they’re in but from a storytelling point of view it comes across as needless.

There are some effective moments that lean into horror such as Spock and Chapel taking on the Gorn on board the Cayuga. It was a tense sequence enhanced by the added danger of Spock and Chapel being in EV suits. There are some direct visual references to the ALIEN franchise that work very well in context and the situation was presented well. More could have been done with Chapel as a lone survivor fighting for her life against a Gorn committed to killing her but what the episode provided was strong.

Anything written above about the lack of payoff on things that are set up comes with the caveat of this only being half of a story. Another thing taken from the Berman era of Star Trek is the end-of-season cliffhanger where an episode is split in two with a long gap between the two parts to encourage viewers to return in order to find out what happens. One of the most famous examples in both Star Trek and television history is the cliffhanger ending of “The Best of Both Worlds” but other examples aren’t quite so impactful. The first parts were typically written with no idea how the second part would play out – “The Best of Both Worlds” included so the resolution would often be underwhelming because the cliffhanger was never crafted with that in mind. There’s no evidence that the resolution of this cliffhanger hasn’t been planned but it’s far from exciting enough to fuel the long wait for a resolution.

There are a number of things in need of resolution such as Batel’s infection, those on the surface being captured by the Gorn including La’an who will be forced to confront them again, the Enterprise being under attack while being ordered to withdraw and Spock and Chapel’s unresolved tension. The building blocks are there for an intriguing follow-up but the episode fails to fully sell the urgency of the situation. It comes across as dated and contrived in its execution and Pike’s hesitation is another example of him being depicted as a less-than-capable Captain. It’s inconsistent as he is often shown to be experienced and competent but there are moments where others have to remind him that he made the right decision or situations like this where he is frozen and unable to make a decision. It’s contrived to build tension but it’s a betrayal of the character to do it in this way. It’s unclear when the resolution will come but it’s likely to be several months when considering the strikes and other factors. This episode does not build enough anticipation to justify splitting the story in two. The episode doesn’t do enough to be considered an effective episode of this show in its own right so the season ends on a whimper.

Star Trek

We need a decision now! Not next year!


An underwhelming finale that doesn’t pay off on things that are set up and brings back an aspect of TV storytelling that should remain in the past.

  • 6/10
    Hegemony - 6/10


Kneel Before…

  • April and Pike’s differing perspectives on the Gorn created by one encountering them and the other not
  • the idea of hope threading through the characters
  • Chapel and Batel’s involvement creating personal stakes
  • the exploration of Spock’s feelings about Chapel’s potential death
  • Chapel and Spock displaying professionalism agreeing to have a conversation at a later time
  • Ortegas and M’Benga’s brief moment
  • the introduction of Scotty
  • effective horror-driven moments


Rise Against…

  • setting things up that aren’t explored or paid off
  • not developing the Gorn beyond the monstrous presence they previously have been
  • the other plans to reestablish communications coming across as busy work for the characters
  • a clumsy and ineffective cliffhanger


What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below

User Review
7.5/10 (3 votes)

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