Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Episode 10 review (season one ends with a whopper)By Matthew Martin| July 9, 2022 TV Blogs You can check out our review of Strange New Worlds’ first episode HERE, our review of episodes 2-3 HERE, our review of episodes 4-5 HERE, our review of episodes 6-7 HERE, and our review of episodes 8-9 HERE. 1×10 – A QUALITY OF MERCY Captain Pike and the Enterprise visit one of the Neutral Zone outposts that guard the Federation side of the Romulan/Federation border. There he meets the son of the outpost’s commander, a young man that he knows will grow up to be one of the cadets who die in the fateful mission that will irrecoverably change his life. The chance encounter stirs within him all of the feelings about his doomed future that he seemingly had put behind him throughout this season. Deciding he could take his fate into his own hands, he begins drafting a letter to the two cadets-to-be, intending for them to avoid the site where the accident will occur. Mind you, Pike is not acting out of a sense of self-preservation. He will live (barely) after the accident; the kids will die. He wants to change things for them, but he fails to consider the ramifications of his decision. Thus, in a twist, he is visited by a version of himself from the future, who returns to warn him of the damage he will cause if he sends those letters. Pike is invited (by way of a “time crystal” — which I refuse to say any more about because it was stupid on Discovery and I still hate it here) to witness the aftermath of his altered future and learns how his particular command style in a particular mission of the Enterprise will spark a war with the Romulans that will cost billions of lives. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds to miss the big picture. Zooming out and looking at his episode as a whole, I think it was amazing. It was a fantastic high-concept idea and the first twenty minutes or so had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. To start with there’s the fact that this episode plays around with the joke: “If what I’m about to do was really terrible then surely a time traveler would appear and try to stop me!” In Pike’s case, that’s exactly what happens. He tries to stop him by showing him how, in this case, by not being crippled and forced out of duty (to be replaced by another Captain of the Enterprise) he will plunge the Federation into war. How? As it turns out, if Pike isn’t horribly injured, then he will remain the top man on the Enterprise, which means he will be the one in the chair when the TOS episode “Balance of Terror” occurs. What will that be like? All season long fans have discussed the very different personalities and command styles between Pike and Kirk. This episode is built entirely around that debate and it drops Pike right into the middle of a tense moment and asks us to observe the differences firsthand. I cannot overstate how much I loved this idea and its execution. When the red alert happened during the wedding, I immediately thought “hey, it’s just like Balance of Terror” and then, within two minutes I was practically jumping up and down with excitement, realizing what was going on. Once things settled down and its mysteries were laid bare, the show zeroed in on the differences between the Captain “that is” and the Captain “that ought to have been.” I admit that I was a bit annoyed when Kirk’s character was oversimplified as “a perpetual rule breaker” when, if you watch TOS, he’s anything but. He’s more of a decisive leader, not a navel gazer, and that can sometimes come off as being a maverick or a rogue, but rarely did he ever disobey commands (at least until you get to Star Trek III). Still, as said, I don’t want to get too into the weeds that I miss the overall idea of the episode. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything like this except for maybe Voyager’s “Flashback,” which saw Tuvok and Janeway relive the events just preceding Star Trek VI. That was more of a spectator sport compared to this. There was also DS9‘s “Trials and Tribble-ations” which saw Sisko and the gang go back to the TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” to stop someone from changing things for the worse. Here, Pike is an active participant in future-history, acting with the full knowledge that his decisions will create a terrible, war-torn future, but without the understanding of how. He’s forced, therefore, to act based on his own instincts, despite knowing that doing so is certainly going to cause a terrible war between the Federation and the Romulans. Meanwhile, there’s Kirk. Jim Kirk makes his nuTrek debut here, and while the actor doesn’t really do much to evoke Bill Shatner, nor does he really command the screen the way Chris Pine does in the new movies, his purpose is not to be the Kirk we know, per se. His purpose here is purely as a plot device. It’d be easy to be critical of the show here, as the writers seem to make the star of the series (Pike) into a less competent, less capable commanding officer than the most famous captain in the history of the franchise, but that would be overthinking it (again, get out of the weeds). Kirk’s purpose here is to show Pike the correct path to take in this cat and mouse game with the Romulan Bird of Prey, and to make him realize that, in a morbid way, it’s okay that he’ll end up a vegetable for life because it means his ship (and the future itself) is in good hands. If anything, it was a brave decision to show the star of this series in such a flawed and vulnerable way. I thought the episode was an amazing high-concept sci-fi idea and it serves as a great capper to a fantastic first season. THIS is the Star Trek show I wanted when the franchise was revived five or so years ago. It’s not perfect. It does things I wish it didn’t, and it doesn’t do things I wish it did, but it harks back to the shows of old, and offers enough new ideas to keep me intrigued, offers good enough stories that keep me asking questions and contemplating answers, and offers enough great character work to keep me engaged the whole episode long, every week. 10/10 – Strange New Worlds wraps up an excellent first season with a great tribute to a classic TOS episode, and an excellent character study of the show’s best asset, Christopher Pike. As far as I’m concerned, you can cancel Discovery and give me a twenty-episode season of Strange New Worlds, every year for the next six or so years, and I’ll be happy as a clam. Here’s to season two!