Thursday, August 10, 2023

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' - A Monstrous Attack Pushes Pike to Make Tough Choices in 'Hegemony'

Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Episode 2.10 "Hegemony"

When the U.S.S. Enterprise investigates an attack on a colony at the edge of Federation space, Captain Pike and his crew face the return of a formidable enemy.

"Hegemony" was written by Henry Alonso Myers and directed by Maja Vrvilo

A conflict between Starfleet and the Gorn was inevitable. Admiral April was preparing for it from the start of this season. The U.S.S. Enterprise had a past encounter with these mysterious creatures. However, the crew isn't at the forefront of this conflict. As such, it never informed their missions. They are pulled into the drama now because of Pike's personal connection with Batel. They each have a role to do. They are both incredible commanding officers who helm their own ships in the powerful fleet. Their missions sometimes drive them apart. Other times, they are brought closer together because of this connection. They operate with absolute respect even though it's difficult for them to be honest about everything happening in their lives. Pike has opened himself up to the possibility of something good in his personal life. Batel helped pull him out of the spiral upon knowing his doomed fate. He has accepted that part of his future. So much of his story hasn't been written. He still has a duty to honor the crew under his command. He wields plenty of influence in Starfleet. He's trusted with some of the most significant missions. Lives are changed because of his intervention. Batel sends out a distress signal after the Gorn attack a Federation colony outside of their recognized domain. It's initially seen as an experimentation to see how life and civilization develop under these new circumstances. It's a reflection of a simpler time. So much is possible because of the exploration of the known galaxy. New discoveries are being made all the time. Pike only wants to see the Gorn as monsters. That opinion is informed by his past encounter with the species. It was a horrifying ordeal that resulted in Hemmer sacrificing himself to save the rest of the crew. Pike doesn't want anyone to be forced into making that decision ever again. It seems like the only practical choice after Batel has been infected. She knows how to protect the survivors on the planet. She doesn't want to share the truth. She doesn't want the pity. She accepts her fate. She knows any potential treatments are experimental and probably won't work. She is willing to give her life for the good of the mission. That's a sacrifice everyone in Starfleet must be willing to make in the name of exploration and preservation of the overall ideals. Pike believes he can save her. He doesn't know if that is even possible. And yet, so much of the Gorn remains unknown. They have always presented as following the same behavior. They set boundaries and stick to those basic instincts. The invasion plays out like it always has. However, La'an sees cooperation amongst the younglings that don't align with her previous notion of them attacking each other for dominance. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Scott escaped certain death because of how a solar flare affects the Gorn. More mysteries emerge that demand further understanding. It's all wrapped up in a deeply personal conflict.

Pike is faced with many impossible decisions. He can't let innocent people suffer in the name of preserving peace. Nothing about this invasion presents as peaceful. No one can accurately explain the motivations of the Gorn. They are terrifying creatures who attack any human they encounter. That remains a basic instinct. It's a terrifying visual too. It's most personal for Spock and Chapel. Against the odds, Chapel survives the destruction of the Cayuga. The ship was sent to offer supplies and vaccinations. It's ultimately destroyed. That image of Batel's command is completely wiped out. She survives. Chapel joined her on this mission. She wasn't a member of her crew. She's given priority because of the emotional connection she has to the ship that comes to rescue her. The brilliant minds on the Enterprise believe they can fool the Gorn repeatedly if they simply blend into the surroundings. Pike can lead a landing party by blending into the wreckage of the Cayuga in space. The beacon cutting off all communications can be destroyed if Spock accelerates the destruction of the Cayuga so it falls out of orbit. These are convenient stories the crew hopes are convincing to their enemies. They present as such until the final twist. Pike and his unit land on the planet ready to rescue the survivors. This peaceful civilization has been destroyed. Every Starfleet ship is now equipped with technology to track the Gorn and kill them. Improvements have been made. It's all in the name of war. It's not with the intention of better understanding and cohabitation in the universe. Those diplomatic efforts are still vitally important. It wasn't long ago that Starfleet was at war with the Klingons. That relationship is still tense. It could turn perilous and destructive at any moment. However, both sides have the willingness to delve into something deeper and more beneficial. They have formed a lasting peace. That could still break down. However, Starfleet has other problems to worry about. Monitoring the behavior of the Klingons is no longer the top priority. Instead, it's managing expectations with the Gorn. This action is dramatic. A line is created that cannot be crossed. Pike does so anyway. He can't give up on his friends. As such, it's foolish to believe he will abandon them once their ruses are uncovered. Pike believed he rescued everyone from the planet. Instead, part of his crew was actually taken by the Gorn. These aliens always knew where their targets were. That allowed them to act quickly even when the Enterprise managed to destroy the signal blocking this technology. The conflict only escalates as the season ends on a cliffhanger. Everything is chaotic. Everyone looks to Pike for leadership. He must react quickly. That's all anyone can do right now. They don't have the time to process anything that's happening. They are in the middle of it. As such, that doesn't make this episode as multi-dimensional and emotional as this show at its best. It's still entertaining because it plays into the grounded character work built across the season. It also produces some truly creepy and terrifying visuals that ensure this conflict explodes with the Enterprise crew at the forefront in all ways.