Review: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 3 “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”
The third episode of this season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a double-edged sword, as “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” offers too many eyebrow-raising plot contrivances to tell a story set on modern-day Earth, but otherwise offers one of this show’s most fascinating new characters a chance to shine.
The angsty La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) is walking the corridors of the Enterprise when a man with a bullet wound suddenly appears in front of her. The man warns of an attack in the past, and after cryptically telling La’an to “get to the bridge,” gives La’an a device that, when activated, takes her into an alternate reality. In this reality, James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) commands the Enterprise, and the Vulcans and Romulans are at war. It’s a different timeline, for sure, as Starfleet doesn’t even exist, which leads to some irritation between La’an and Kirk about the veracity of La’an’s story and how to proceed.
In trying to wrestle the strange timeline-changing device from La’an’s hands, Kirk accidentally shunts the pair back in time – modern-day Toronto, Canada. Trapped in the past without useful tools like tricorders, communicators, or phasers, the duo must find why the device sent them to this place and time, while La’an wrestles with why the mysterious time-traveling man visited her in the first place.
The two must make their way through 2020s Toronto, and they actually get by fairly well. Kirk, the skilled multi-dimensional chess master he is, makes some money by winning regular two-dimensional chess. This affords the pair food and a hotel, and it’s during this initial time in Toronto that the hints of a romance start to form between La’an and Kirk. It’s no surprise the ever-desirous Kirk can attract even the most hardened security officers, right?
“I’ve seen your timeline. You’re at war. Your Earth is in ruin.”
“We’ve made the stars our home. The moon, Mars, Venus, Europa.”
“In my timeline, humanity has spread across dozens of worlds. We’re part of a Federation of species.”
“We don’t need anyone else’s help to survive.”– La’an and Alternate-Reality Kirk.
Do you know what really kills the mood? A massive bridge explosion, which is what the pair witness from their hotel room. La’an realizes the time-traveling man who told her to “get to the bridge” was likely referring to the ill-fated Lake Ontario Bridge, the destruction of which is a commonality between La’an’s and Kirk’s respective pasts. After inspecting pictures taken by a nearby photographer of the damage, La’an deduces (unbelievably) the explosion was caused by a photonic bomb, something no one should have access to in the 2020s. The pair witnessed a piece of blasted debris from the bridge being taken away in a mysterious black vehicle, and they follow it.
Their pursuit of the debris leads to a car chase, which we’re sure everyone loves to see in Star Trek. It’s what made Nemesis such a great movie, after all. After being stopped by the cops, Kirk and La’an are saved by Sera (Adelaide Kane). The conspiracy theorist claims to be tracking the same people as Kirk and La’an and claims the bridge explosion was a targeted attempt to keep humanity fighting each other rather than the true threat: aliens. So, the trio temporarily team up.
Importantly, Sera claims there is a fusion reactor somewhere in Toronto, a result of some partnership between Earth governments and aliens. According to Sera, Earth governments get advanced technology in exchange for help keeping humans out of intergalactic affairs. A key point La’an and Kirk deduce from Sera’s material is that the Romulans played a role in the bombing of the bridge, which clearly doesn’t sit well with the two officers. After parting ways with Sera, Kirk alerts La’an there is indeed a fusion reactor in Toronto because, in his timeline, the Romulans destroy it as a preemptive attack on Earth.
To find a fusion reactor, La’an and Kirk realize they need an engineer with more advanced knowledge of chemistry and explosives than who is available at this time. Luckily, La’an knows someone who is super old and has, at least potentially, such knowledge. However, the appearance of Pelia (Carol Kane) in this episode throws a wrench in the plot.
Let’s consider what happens to get La’an and Kirk to Pelia’s home and back: La’an happens to see a news report on TV mentioning Vermont, which gives her the idea to seek out Pelia. La’an only had that idea in the first place thanks to Pelia mentioning earlier in the episode that she used to live in Vermont. It’s pretty lucky the basically immortal Pelia lives in Vermont at this moment in her long life, isn’t it? Then, La’an and Kirk, without passports, driver licenses, or deep pockets, travel across the Canadian border – apparently bribing some border guards and avoiding undoubtedly heightened security in the wake of the bridge explosion – and make their way to Vermont. Kirk and La’an then make their way back to Toronto with a watch in hand that will illuminate when a specific chemical related to fusion is nearby. And perhaps most unbelievably of all, the pair do detect the chemical in their small part of the massive city; even if they were walking around for hours, as Kirk asserts, that’s still mighty lucky. Taken together, it seems like the writers knew where these characters were supposed to be, but didn’t care how they got there. That really grinds our gears.
“We are maybe hours away from losing [our] future entirely. You are the only person I can trust to help us.”
“We both have brain-melting secrets’ is I guess a good enough reason to help someone.”– La’an and Pelia.
Thanks to Pelia’s help, La’an and Kirk return to Toronto to find the reactor. After a brief romantic interlude, the pair do find a building – the Noonien-Singh Institute (gasp!) – that houses the reactor. The pair are met by a familiar and now unfriendly face: Sera, who must have been waiting forever for La’an and Kirk to show up at the Institute’s doorstep. Thinking his cavalier attitude will win the day, Kirk tries to play down Sera’s threat, but the woman kills him, much to La’an’s surprise and heartbreak. It turns out Sera is an undercover Romulan from the future and has been on Earth for 30 years or so awaiting a key opportunity to slow human progress in a big way. That opportunity is now.
Making their way through the facility, La’an figures Sera must want to destroy the reactor, but instead the Romulan opts for a different plan. Soon enough, La’an and Sera arrive at a door labeled simply “Khan,” and Sera describes her plan to kill the Khan Noonien-Singh to usher in damaging changes to the timeline. Interestingly, Sera rants about how hard it is to predict and change moments in time; she has been waiting since 1992 for an opportunity to kill Khan – which is generally the timeframe we know Khan rose to power in the Prime Timeline – but this particular timeline has the genetically altered tyrant merely a boy in the 2020s, so Sera has certainly been waiting a while for her shot.
Despite the brief allure of living in a future where the name “Khan” doesn’t bog down her family and its history, La’an wises up and attacks Sera. The security officer shoots Sera, and the agent triggers her own demise by disintegrating herself, which leaves La’an with a momentous meeting awaiting her. Entering the room, La’an finds Khan himself, played here by Desmond Sivan. Khan is just a boy, which certainly makes for a striking meeting with the person who would become a mass-murdering despot. Wrestling with history in her grasp, and firm in her conviction, La’an chooses not to harm her ancestor, and with her mission to the past fulfilled with the thwarted assassination attempt, she can return to her time.
Arriving back on her Enterprise, La’an makes her way to the bridge and sees the familiar sight of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) in the center chair. Despite being dressed in 2020-era clothing and sporting an expression born from her recent ordeal, La’an opts to say nothing to her commanding officer and makes her way to her quarters. Being the time-traveling tricksters they are, there’s a Department of Temporal Investigations agent waiting for her, who explains the man La’an met in the beginning of the episode was from the DTI. La’an, of course, is sworn to never discuss the events of her mission. More heartbreaking for her is the memory that a person she was falling for, the alternate reality James T. Kirk, is dead, so she calls up the Prime Universe Kirk, who is still a lieutenant, just to acknowledge his existence.
We appreciate this episode greatly for what it allows Christina Chong to do. She’s in literally every scene. La’an’s emotional spectrum runs the gamut here, and her experiences in this alternate reality will undoubtedly color our perception of the character for episodes to come. We’ve seen La’an vulnerable before, such as during her trials with the Gorn, but having the character come face-to-face with love and loss, and with Khan himself, are certainly fascinating developments.
La’an’s status as a descendant of Khan has always been danced around, brushed upon in the events of “Ad Astra per Aspera” and other select episodes. So, we’re thankful “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” lifts the veil on that dark part of her family history and explores the implications of her heritage. As such, we appreciate the theme this episode is presenting to its audience: You can power through a struggle to come out on top. Earth does it even after the disastrous events of Khan’s reign. La’an does it despite her tortured family history.
Welcoming message aside, we found too many faults with this episode’s script to make it a great entry in Strange New Worlds’ typically strong narrative lineup. We’ve already remarked how the circumstance around La’an and Kirk getting to and from Vermont is a problem. Moreover, small plot holes pop up too frequently, such as:
- WHY did the Toronto police let Kirk go? He didn’t have a license and was clearly driving erratically. No matter what Sera says to them, they should have arrested Kirk.
- Why wouldn’t the DTI device take La’an exactly where and when she could be of most use to stop the past from being altered, such as just outside the Noonien-Singh Institute’s entrance? As it stands, the device takes them to Toronto a day before the explosion, and it’s through luck (more or less) that the pair find their way to the facility at all.
- Why would Khan’s room be unguarded for so long during an intruder alert?
- Why was La’an the one DTI needed to recruit to get the job done? All they really needed was someone who could enter the Noonien-Singh Institute, which only required a specific genetic marker. Other people clearly had that marker and could have entered the facility.
- Why wouldn’t La’an immediately report to Pike her experience in an alternate reality?
As you can see, not Strange New Worlds’ best narrative outing.
However, we do appreciate how Strange New Worlds is able to radically alter its tone based on the episode. The first three entries of the season have been markedly different. The first featured some political intrigue and heavy action; the second featured no action and dialogue-heavy, character-driven performances; and now this episode is a character-driven time-traveling adventure with a dash of romance, all influenced by one of Star Trek’s most notable villains. We dare say no other current-era Star Trek show has that kind of versatility, even if we aren’t always enamored with the results.
In the end, we didn’t walk away from “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” feeling as good as how “Ad Astra per Aspera” left us, but we were pleasantly pleased with Chong’s powerhouse performance. We hope other main cast members get to show their chops as Chong does here, and as Rebecca Romijn did last week.
- Would a Vulcan lute create so much noise through the ship’s walls as to generate a noise complaint?
- Of course, Spock is the Vulcan who Kirk meets on the viewscreen in the beginning of this episode, because how else would the audience know we are in an alternate reality?
- We generally think SNW’s Kirk doesn’t resemble William Shatner’s Kirk, which is okay, although we did note Wesley sometimes tries to add Kirk’s. Stilted. Manner of talking. Into his speech, and we appreciate that.
- The alternate reality Kirk does share with his counterpart Iowa as a birthplace – at least in name only. This episode’s Kirk was born on the starship Iowa, whereas Prime Timeline Kirk was born in the state.
- How much money was Kirk able to make from beating people at chess? He and La’an bought food, a hotel room, transportation to and from Vermont, and bribed a border agent, among whatever else the pair needed to pay for.
- It’s funny how Kirk can render an innocent civilian unconscious and steal his car in broad daylight, surrounded by police, rescue workers, and civilians.
- Kirk makes a crack about La’an’s strange last name and accidentally says “Soong” instead of “Singh.” Soong is a well-known name in Star Trek canon, as it’s Data’s creator’s last name.
- The Lakeview in Toronto, the restaurant where Kirk, La’an, and Sera grab a bite to eat, is a real place.
- Sera must have been practicing with firearms for a while, as she has perfect aim while traversing the Noonien-Singh Institute while holding a captive.
- The other genetically modified people Khan has pictured on his wall likely include those who we end up seeing in “Space Seed” and The Wrath of Khan.
- La’an simply hits a couple of buttons and Kirk immediately appears on her screen. Did she have him on speed dial or something?
- Khan’s (non-canonical) rise and fall are detailed in the excellent The Eugenics Wars trilogy by Greg Cox.
- We would have bet money on Adam Soong’s work with Khan being mentioned in this episode, considering the mysterious tease handed to fans on a silver platter in the final episode of Picard season two. Such a reference would have been some great synergy between the two shows.
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