Thursday, July 7, 2022

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - A Journey to the Future Shows Pike the Importance of His Colleagues in 'A Quality of Mercy'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 1.10 "A Quality of Mercy"

Just as Captain Pike thinks he's figured out how to escape his fate, he's visited by his future self, who shows him the consequences of his actions.

"A Quality of Mercy" was written by Henry Alonso Myers & Akiva Goldsman and directed by Chris Fisher

"Balance of Terror" has long been hailed as one of the best episodes from Star Trek: The Original Series. It starts off the entire mythology between the Federation and the Romulans. That conflict has defined so many stories in this world. And now, the iconic episode is completely reimagined to show Pike in command of the Enterprise when all of these crucial decisions are made. He has long been plagued by his glimpse of the future. He didn't want to believe his fate was set in stone. He could change it somehow. That offered him hope. It inspired him to lead once more. He could conduct this job with newfound strength. This concern was always in the back of his head. It probably has been for the audience as well. His survival is guaranteed for another decade. As such, he may be more willing to take risks. His leadership is trusted. The crew respect him making the best decisions to keep them all safe. He can't always keep that promise. He always intends to. That's absolutely crucial. He doesn't want his life to be over. He wants to prevent death for as long as possible. That's such a universal feeling. He has a precise timetable in his head. He has complete clarity over how his life will end. He will transform into a new version of existence. It's one full of agonizing pain. Pike has already experienced that. He doesn't want to endure that brutality again. If he explores his options, a new future can be written. It's all in service to his self-preservation. It may all come at the expense of others who are simply more consequential to the timeline. The audience has long known the fates for some of these characters. Knowing the final destination doesn't detract from seeing these characters lead in the moment. Their stories are still gripping and engaging. This show has found a fun way to execute an exciting and familiar story. A second season has already been ordered. Hopefully, it produces as many episodes as the creative team can handle. It deserves so much more than ten per year. That's the excitement of the Star Trek franchise. It opens a world of possibilities. That was lost for a time because of the increasing serialization. It's now been found with a renewed since of vigor. This season featured longterm storytelling too. It never took away from the episodic pursuits of what matters to these characters. They have a mission to be of service to the various species throughout the Federation. Their actions are incredibly consequential. It's on the audience to experience the true weight of it. That provides so much clarity to the shared human connection. So many threats lurk out there. Some of them can be handled in the moment. Others create ongoing conflicts. Others still are far removed. No one in the Federation has ever seen a Romulan at this point. The whole world is about to change because of their existence. How that first contact goes sets the stage for what comes next. Plus, it determines the mentality Spock and Captain Kirk are in when faced with those questions during their time at the helm of the Enterprise.

Pike lands in a distant future not knowing what to expect. The event that was suppose to remove him from command didn't go as destined. He survived. Everyone was rescued. No one died. Pike can avoid that fate. He saved lives. That's incredibly meaningful. That's especially true for the families who would otherwise have to suffer. And yet, Pike has been warned that the future he created is far worse. He can't imagine such a thing. That's him being driven by ego. He's needed to command the Enterprise. His experience can lead this crew through any hurdle they encounter. So many familiar faces remain on the bridge. Una is notably missing. She was removed from Starfleet for lying about being an Illyrian. That means Pike is in this new situation without his trusted Number One. He still relies on Spock. That trusted bond remains incredibly steady. Captain James Kirk also arrives helming his own ship and crew - including La'an. So much of this plot is familiar. Pike is told to behave exactly how he would if this were any other mission. He promotes the importance of peace and negotiation. He even finds a kindred spirit in the Romulan commander. That still isn't good enough. Instead, this entire conflict is projected onto a large scale that reveals the true extent of human identity. That's a lot of pressure to place on Pike. He has always been trusted to lead. He embodies the ideals of Starfleet. He serves with honor and gratitude. That leadership isn't always the best. Starfleet isn't without its flaws either. Pike will fight to preserve Una's place on the ship. He's betrayed by Batel, who claims she's just following orders. Una can't be trusted because of her abilities. According to the future, she is meant to be disposable. She isn't crucial to the overall timeline whatsoever. She can be written off the show without having an impact at all. Pike diverges from that mentality. He finds peace in knowing his sacrifice will allow others to thrive even if some still have to die along the way. He appreciates the insight into who those individuals are destined to be. He sees the greatness within Spock and Kirk. He acknowledges how the baton needs to be passed to the next generation of Starfleet leadership. That doesn't mean he's ready to step aside now or stop fighting for what he believes in. It doesn't work in this particular situation. He sees the gravity of it all. He can't fight against it. His thinking wasn't right. He could behave differently because of this insight. He could find a way to escape death for his loved ones as well. That's an impossible task. All he can do is reach out with compassion and humanity for the officer who has always been loyally by his side. That may not change Una's ultimate fate. It showcases Pike's priorities and willingness to defend every single member of his crew even when other Starfleet officers refuse to understand. That's the mentality the show embodies and sends its first season out on.