Thursday, May 26, 2022

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - La'an Encourages Major Risks While Facing an Enemy From Her Past in 'Memento Mori'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 1.04 "Memento Mori"

While on a routine supply mission to a colony planet, the U.S.S. Enterprise comes under an attack from an unknown malevolent force. Pike brings all his heart and experience to bear in facing the crisis, but the security officer warns him that the enemy cannot be dealt with by conventional Starfleet means.

"Memento Mori" was written by Davy Perez & Beau DeMayo and directed by Dan Liu

Pike inspires his crew to believe in the miraculous. He leads with so much certainty. That belief comes from his knowledge of the future. He heads into every mission knowing this won't lead to his death. That ultimately informs the risks he is willing to take. He knows the future with certainty. That's his personal burden. He understands what happens to him at a certain point in time. He doesn't operate with that clarity about the members of his crew. He simply holds strong in his belief the ship will always hold. He needs to believe that. He can take these calculated risks because he knows certain death would come for him as well if the ship failed. And so, it never will because he eventually has to arrive at that point in the future. People may warn him the vision he received only represented one version of what might occur. It still informs his leadership. The Enterprise was meant to deliver an air filtration system to a dying planet in the outer range of known existence. They did so to save a species from dying. When they arrive, they only see the aftermath of a ritualistic slaughter. La'an is the only person who recognizes the tactics used. She had a previous encounter with the Gorn. As such, she is immediately treated as an expert. Of course, her memories are blocked by the trauma she endured during that encounter. All of this happens to coincide with the day in which Starfleet honors all the fallen officers who believed in the sanctity of their mission. The crew honor those lives by wearing the pins symbolizing all the ships they've served on. Pike has a great responsibility leading this ship and protecting its crew. Everyone on the bridge has that responsibility. They each have jobs to do. Any day could be the last for anyone. They are willing to make that ultimate sacrifice in service to this greater mission. It's inspiring because the ideals of Starfleet ring so true across the Federation. People vie to join this service. Uhura received her place on the Enterprise not having any clarity in her life. So many people are still finding their ways. And yet, these missions require them to each fit into clearly specified roles. M'Benga and Chapel have their hands full in treating the injured without relying on the supplies that make life in space so prosperous. Hemmer is required to tend to the various engineering needs. Without the mobility of his hand, he feels powerless in a situation that depends on his skillset. As chief of security, it's La'an's job to access the threats the ship faces and advise the captain on the best way forward. She is plagued by her own traumatic past. She hopes it doesn't impact her judgment. It does though. It can only be overcome by forcing the confrontation into happening.

The Gorn are hunting down the Enterprise. It takes so much clever thinking for the crew to rally back and defeat the ships targeting them. La'an details how the Gorn only see humanity as prey. They must be hunted down and consumed. Their blood is treated as sacred and must always be beamed up for some higher purpose. No one has ever survived an encounter with the Gorn. La'an is lucky. She knows they aren't some mythical creatures with abilities that make them more powerful than Starfleet. However, they are now hunting in territory they have never invaded before. La'an sees the threat on the horizon. She tries to warn the crew in time. It doesn't work. She always advises to do the most dangerous maneuver because it's the only way to guarantee life. She will never lie to the crew. She doesn't always have to embrace the most bleak understanding of events. Pike encourages her to be more inspirational. It's easier for him to do. He's certainly had more practice at it. This is the way he commands. He trusts La'an and Spock when they embark on a solo adventure. They can eliminate one of the ships on their own. It still relies on understanding the psychology of their enemy. The Gorn communicate through lights. Tampering with that technology can allow for it to be exploited. Meanwhile, La'an cautions that the Gorn will ruthlessly pursue anything they target. As such, Pike counts on them when he orders the Enterprise to verge deeper into compromised space. The hull may crumble. Lives may be lost. However, it's done under the belief the Enterprise benefits from superior maintenance. It's still informed by the clarity Pike has. Hemmer leads with that acceptance of death too. He doesn't live in fear of it. Instead, it's comforting because it provides his life with purpose. If he should die, then he would know he did something in this world by fixing the various problems that emerged on this journey. Uhura doesn't have that same certainty. She faces death alongside Hemmer. Her voice is heard when Pike calls out for confirmation of their survival. He isn't willing to accept the necessary casualties amongst his crew. Seven people still die. Pike mourns that loss. La'an prepares for the future. She knows escaping this perilous situation with the Gron won't be the end. She knows they are making bigger moves. She worries about that future. However, she leads confidently thanks to receiving clarity about her past. That empowers her to lead with conviction. Risks are still taken. People are willing to gamble their lives in the name of saving others. That unifies the crew at every level of the ship. That's apparent. And yet, so many are on their deeply personal journeys to acceptance as well. They rely on each other in order to survive. They carry the baggage that must be unpacked. Sometimes the crew has to depend on others to face what they've long feared. Only then can they provide stability elsewhere in an increasingly chaotic world. That's true even when the faces of their enemies remain unknown.