Review: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 10 “Hegemony”
As we assumed last week, Captain Batel finds herself in a bit of trouble as the Gorn make their reappearance, and it’s up to Captain Christopher Pike and his crew to save a planet under siege and thwart an all-out war with the violent reptilians.
Captain Marie Batel (Melanie Scrofano) and Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) find themselves on the edge of Federation space on the planet Parnassus Beta, as Christine is hitching a ride to her recently accepted a fellowship and Batel’s crew is assisting the American Mid-West-style community in their development. Parnassus Beta’s colonists seem to be up and running well enough; that is, well enough until a Gorn ship suddenly arrives in orbit and wreaks havoc on the planet below.
Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) receives a distress call from Batel, and of course, he is worried about his girlfriend. Upon conferring with Admiral Robert April (Adrian Holmes), Pike learns the relationship between the Federation and the Gorn is tricky, and Pike can’t do anything to jeopardize the tense peace between the two factions. It’s a delicate line to walk, as Parnassus Beta is technically outside Federation space.
Arriving at Parnassus Beta, the Enterprise is greeted with a dampening field that inhibits transporters, sensors, and communications, a destroyed Cayuga, and a planet under siege. Moreover, the Gorn have communicated their intention to establish a demarcation zone near Parnassus Beta that is strictly enforced. Starfleet must stay on their side, and the Gorn – and the planet – stay on theirs. Of course, Pike isn’t going to sit idly by and allow the planet and his girlfriend to remain in control of Gorn hands, so he rallies his crew to sneak onto the planet below and get the lay of the land.
“If we don’t understand them, that means there’s something about the Gorn we have yet to discover. Maybe instead of finding a way to fight them, we find a way to reach them.”– Pike to La’an, in what may be a bit of foreshadowing.
Evading the Gorn ship in orbit by pretending to be a piece of debris from the ill-fated U.S.S Cayuga, Pike brings an away team down to the surface. The landing party, which includes Sam Kirk (DanJeannotte), Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) – who finally gets to join a landing party – Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), and La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) encounter Gorn younglings who strangely aren’t fighting each other for survival, as we’ve seen previously; rather, they are working together, which is disconcerting. The landing party eventually finds survivors, including Batel. The party also finds a young engineer who managed to evade Gorn capture in an adjacent system and crash onto Parnassus Beta: Lieutenant Junior Grade Montgomery Scott (Martin Quinn). Yep, Scotty is the latest TOS crew member introduced in Strange New Worlds; who would have thought it would be in such a deadly war zone?
Scotty here is naturally younger than when we meet him in The Original Series, and Quinn brings a version of the character that is brilliant, young but tested, and a bit comedic. Indeed, Quinn’s Scotty feels more like a version of Simon Pegg’s Scotty from the newer Star Trek films rather than James Doohan’s original take on the character, which isn’t a bad thing. We certainly hope to see more of the engineer, as we’ll explain later.
Scotty thinks the Gorn originally attacked his ship, the Sundiver, because the system experienced massive solar flare activity, which might have attracted the Gorn. Scotty also explains how he escaped the Gorn in the first place: by creating a Gorn transponder that fools the reptiles’ sensors. The only piece of equipment Scotty can use to create another transponder is on his crashed shuttle, so Scotty, Pike, and Batel go to retrieve it. While on this mission, Pike discovers a disturbing secret Batel has been bravely but foolishly hiding: she is infected with Gorn eggs, something the Enterprise captain only figured out when a Gorn refused to attack her. However, Batel fans can rest easy for now; she doesn’t suffer a gruesome fate in this episode like poor Buckley did last season. She is ultimately put into stasis so Pike and his crew can find a remedy.
Meanwhile, Spock is concerned about the fate of those aboard the Cayuga. He knows Chapel, a romantic interest with whom he didn’t see last on the best of terms, must be on the now-destroyed ship. Spock and the Enterprise command staff establish a plan to destroy the planet-based Gorn jammer: crash the Cayuga’s saucer section into it. To do this, only Spock can place retro-thrusters at key points on the saucer to set it on a course for the transmitter.
Why can only Spock do this? Who knows! It’s shocking we aren’t given an explanation on why no human can place these rockets on the Cayuga. It seems like the writers needed Spock to be on the saucer to rescue Chapel, but they didn’t care how he got there. While placing the rockets, Spock finds Chapel, and the two end up fighting a Gorn on the spaced bridge. This setting is an appropriately eerie and dramatic place for two Starfleet officers to fight the ruthless Gorn, and the alien is eventually defeated before the Cayuga’s saucer heads to the planet below.
We’re comfortable saying the Spock-Chapel plotline of this episode is really weak. Much time is spent on building tension that Chapel might not have survived the Gorn attack, which we know can’t be true. Then, it’s simply unbelievable that Chapel happens to see Spock floating past her window, and then that the two meet on the Cayuga at all, never mind that Chapel knew to go to the bridge at the same time Spock was there. While we thought Strange New Worlds might have been done with the Spock-Chapel romance in favor of Chapel going to a fellowship where she would presumably meet her future fiancé, it seems that’s not the case, as a spark still definitely exists between the two crewmembers.
With the Gorn transmitter destroyed, Pike, Batel, and Scotty beam back to the Enterprise, but soon face another complication: the Gorn abducts the colony’s survivors and Sam, Erica, La’an, and M’Benga. With the Gorn attacking the Enterprise, April orders the ship away from Parnassus Beta, but will Pike follow his orders? That’ll have to wait for next season.
Ending With a Whimper
Despite fancy set dressing and high stakes, “Hegemony” was an unremarkable episode that saw Strange New Worlds fall victim to its greatest weakness: not being bold in its storytelling. The episodes we thought were standouts this season were those that explored Star Trek storytelling in novel ways, and/or had clear takeaways that were befitting the legendary science fiction franchise. Take the courtroom drama in “Ad Astra per Aspera,” which memorably stabbed into the heart of Una’s Starfleet service; the human condition-showcasing episodes like “Among the Lotus Eaters,” “Lost in Translation,” and “Subspace Rhapsody”; or the memorable genre swings like “Those Old Scientists” or “Under the Cloak of War.” All were distinctive; “Hegemony” is not.
For fun, here’s our best-to-worst ranking of Strange New Worlds’ season two episodes:
- Ad Astra per Aspera
- Those Old Scientists
- Among the Lotus Eaters
- Lost in Translation
- Subspace Rhapsody
- Under the Cloak of War
- Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
- The Broken Circle
Season two generally was an enjoyable affair that showcased this show’s flexibility – indeed, we were quite fond of most of the 10 episodes on offer. No other Star Trek show can say it can balance multiple genres so well, and for that reason, this season will stand out in our minds for a while.
Another critique we’ll level against this season overall was the unremarkable utilization of the Enterprise’s new (temporary?) chief engineer, Pelia. What did Pelia offer this season to the crew? The only time she pulled her weight was when La’an and Kirk visited her in the past, as seen in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” and even then we thought her inclusion in that episode was confusing and too convenient. Pelia also provided a way for Una to express her lingering grief over Hemmer’s death, but we opined that the plotline in “Lost in Translation” was uncharacteristic of the first officer. With all respect to Carol Kane’s storied career and abilities, but we were never fond of how she portrayed the character. Even based on the small amount of screen time Scotty gets in this finale, it seems like he, now without a ship and crew of his own, would fit much better in the engineering role.
While we give a thumbs down on the season finale, it at least gives us a few threads to hang onto during the wait for season three. Is Spock and Chapel’s romance rekindled following this Gorn attack, or can we still count on the nurse heading for her fellowship and a new potential romantic interest? How will Captain Pike get his crew back, and what horrible experiences will La’an, M’Benga, and Erica have while in Gorn captivity? Will Batel live through her implantation to fight another day? These answers will have to wait, but here’s hoping season three has stronger bookend episodes than this season, and that Strange New Worlds continues its storytelling experimentations.
- Shouldn’t Batel and her crew detect – visually or otherwise – the Gorn ship long before it parks itself over the town? Sure, it makes for a cool sight, but someone must have been sleeping on the job to not alert anybody beforehand.
- There’s no way Erica wouldn’t know what the Cayuga debris field was on her scanner in the scene where she, Una, and Pike are determining how to get to the surface. Having her ask this makes her seem unaware and ignorant of her job.
- When Uhura finds Commander Pelia, the engineer is working on the deflector shield power conduits, to which Uhura replies, “Yeah, we might need those.” So… can we bet on the Enterprise rescuing its crew from the Gorn using the deflector shield? It’s an oddly specific line of dialogue to include otherwise.
- Why is Pelia so anxious when Uhura tries to talk to her?
- La’an says she doesn’t recognize Scotty’s name from the Cayuga roster… but why would La’an know that ship’s entire crew complement? It seems like this dialogue is there simply to allow Scotty to explain his origins on the Stardiver.
- The chance Chapel wakes up on the wrecked saucer and looks out a window to see the Enterprise perfectly framed is a long shot. The saucer was spinning, remember, and sickbay was only visible to Enterprise every two hours.
- Why didn’t Pike, Scotty, or Batel detect in advance the Gorn youngling that ultimately allowed Batel to live? Pike noted before leaving the Enterprise that the tricorders were now able to detect the reptiles, and indeed they were when the landing party first arrived.
- Even though she knew how much time she had before the eggs hatched, Batel was awfully irresponsible by not sharing her condition when she met Pike. Why hide that and jeopardize your crew and your own performance during a crucial away mission?
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