This is it. The final episode of season one “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” A Quality of Mercy. Yes, it was good. Yes, it had problems, big fat furry ones.
We start off being reunited with Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano) who we saw in bed with Pike in the series pilot. They’re near the Romulan Neutral Zone. Batel has a mission some distance away while Pike, Spock, and Number One meet with one of the Commanders of a Neutral Zone outpost Cmdr Hasen Al-Salah (Ali Sassan). Things seem to be going well until the Commander’s young teenage son bursts in to meet Pike. Pike recognizes him as one of the two cadets he doesn’t save during his fated accident just seven years in the future. He internally freaks out and leaves.
Una follows him and yes, it’s another “my fate is haunting me” scenes.
Back in Pike’s quarters, he meets his older Admiral self, complete in the Rear Admiral’s uniform (maroon monster) we saw Kirk (William Shatner) wearing in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. He still has the Johnny Bravo hair, as big as ever for both of them.
The Klingon monks sent older Pike to younger Pike telling him not to warn the boy he just met or anyone else about the future and that saving himself and those cadets will have unforeseen consequences. Older Pike brings a time stone or whatever and when younger Pike touches it, he’s immediately involved in the events we saw in the 1966 Star Trek episode Balance of Terror. It’s the wedding scene and Pike hasn’t the faintest idea who these two kids are. As an aside, in “Terror” Angela (Barbara Baldavin) knelt briefly at the altar, showing respect for God (or so we assume). In modern entertainment, there’s no room for that.
In “Terror” there was this wonderful balance between Kirk and the Romulan Commander (Mark Lenard), and as I’ve previously mentioned, the episode pretty much was a rip off of the 1957 film The Enemy Below (it’s a good film and I recommend it).
Because Pike has to struggle with what he’s supposed to do under these circumstances, the focus of the episode is changed and the balance is lost. So is the slow build up to the final conflict. Everything felt rushed.
There were tons of differences which Pike remaining in command of the Enterprise wouldn’t have changed.
First off, the accident happened six months previously. But that would mean Pike was not promoted to Fleet Captain and handed command over to Jim Kirk. Therefore, he wouldn’t have been on an inspection tour of the old starship where the accident happened. Presumably, it did happen and Pike wasn’t there to see it, so all he really has to do is refuse promotion.
Ortegas is still on the Enterprise and takes the place of Stiles (Paul Comi) who has a major prejudice against Romulans (and eventually Vulcans) thanks to his family history in the previous Romulan / Federation war a hundred years previously. That doesn’t ring true because Ortegas doesn’t have the same history so having her go into warmonger mode makes little sense.
Pike confides in older Spock asking for a mind meld so Spock would believe him. This was really THE test of Ethan Peck’s ability to emulate the Spock we all know from the original show. It doesn’t work, even though he probably has (or should have) watched those episodes a hundred times to get Nimoy’s presentation down.
Celia Rose Gooding is now Lt. Uhura at communications. Nichelle Nichols wore a distinctive pair of green hoop earrings as Uhura, but Gooding wears one green and one black. I know it seems an odd detail to track but it bothered me for some reason.
Another oddity is that the USS Farragut is nearby, a ship upon which La’an is serving and commanded by James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley). If I were an actor, I’d have avoided that role like the proverbial hot rock. Unless you can nail Shatner’s performance as Kirk, forget it. It didn’t work for Chris Pine in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies either.
Actually, with both the Enterprise and the Farragut there, two warp driven starships against an impulse driven Romulan bird of prey, they should have beat the enemy easily.
That’s another inconsistency. The Romulan ships were warp driven in this episode, but it was abundantly clear that they weren’t in “Terror” and that Romulus or at least a military base was near the Neutral Zone.
Due to a screw up, the Farragut is destroyed but Kirk and most of his crew are able to beam to Enterprise. La’an turns out to be a hugger, and Pike is told that Una was put in prison seven years ago because she’s an augment. Actually, I’m calling bullshit on the Farragut being destroyed. Throughout the over fifty year history Kirk has with the Enterprise, in the original canon, it’s only destroyed once. Kirk is the master of getting out of no-win scenarios. He would have beaten this somehow.
The crew mix is odd. Spock is the first officer/science officer, Chapel is still a nurse, but as I mentioned, Ortegas is still at the helm. M’Benga is still Chief Medical Officer, but Scotty is the engineer (we only see a red-shirted arm and hear a Scottish accent). Matthew MacFadzean plays the Romulan Commander and again, doesn’t nail the part. There are parallels between him and Mathieu Bourassa who plays the Subcommander, but instead of being the Commander’s old friend, he mirrors the role of Decius (Lawrence Montaigne) who is ambitious and thinks the Commander is weak.
Speaking of M’Benga, in the original episode A Private Little War, M’Benga (Booker Bradshaw) is a doctor on McCoy’s (DeForest Kelley) staff so it suggests that if McCoy becomes Chief Medical Officer on the Enterprise at some point, M’Benga takes a demotion.
On my TikTok review, I mention that actors with certain facial characteristics make the best Vulcans and Romulans. Nimoy, Lenard, and Montaigne have those faces but Peck, MacFadzean, and Bourassa don’t. There were other episodes in the original series where Romulans were played by actors without what I would consider “Romulan” faces, but I guess that’s just a matter of style.
In “Terror,” Kirk always knows he has to destroy the Romulan ship and even Spock agrees. In “Mercy,” Spock still agrees but Pike makes another call, his traditional call of negotiation. He fails. Kirk was right and Pike was wrong. That’s really the point being driven home here.
I mentioned a bunch of Romulan warp driven ships show up with the Praetor in command. In ancient Roman history (which the Romulans are styled after), a Praetor “was the title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to a man acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, and as an elected magistratus (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties.” The former definition fits the best, but it would be like having Dwight D. Eisenhower taking a tank battalion into battle during World War II. It’s pretty much nonsense.
There are times when the Romulans are cloaked so they might miss the Enterprise beaming Kirk on board or the survivors of the Farragut, but when they weren’t, how did they miss Kirk’s leaving the Enterprise on a shuttle. Also, his shuttle went to warp when, in the original series, shuttles only travelled sub-light, just like Romulan ships.
I know it seems like I’m playing the canon game, but if you’re going to draw direct parallels between an original series episode, then you have to make it a little more seamless.
Kirk saves the day with a bunch of robot mining ships, all warp driven although I can’t imagine why, and even risks his life, putting the robots between the Romulan fleet and the Enterprise. I almost expected Kirk to die, but Pike had a greater sacrifice to make.
In “Terror,” Spock pulls Stiles from the phaser room when there’s a coolant leak threatening him and Tomlinson. Tomlinson didn’t make it, but Stiles did, learning a lesson in resolving bigotry. In this case, Spock is trying to repair phasers when he’s critically injured and not expected to live.
Younger Pike meets Older Pike again who tells him every single time Pike tries to change his fate, Spock pays for it. It’s also suggested that Spock won’t survive to do all of the galaxy saving stuff Spock does in the movies and as an unofficial ambassador to the Romulans.
Pike has one last conversation with Kirk in which he reveals that this is the “Kelvin timeline” shown in the aforementioned J.J. Abrams films.
Pike, back on his Enterprise in his present, is reviewing Lt. Kirk’s service record when Spock comes in. They share enough that Spock determines he’s supposed to be grateful to Pike, though he doesn’t know why.
Pike, back on the bridge and accompanied by some sappy music, is looking around at his “home.” Problem: Uhura is there. In the previous episode, it was supposed to be the end of her rotation on the Enterprise. She even looked at the communications station foreshadowing the future, but someone forgot she was really supposed to be back at Star Fleet since she hadn’t graduated yet. Also, before becoming a Lieutenant, she’s have to serve as an Ensign first, probably on a different ship or star base.
It looked like the episode was going to wrap up more or less neatly when Pike and Number One are called to the transporter room. Captain Batel and several security officers have beamed over to place Una under arrest because she’s an augment and lied about it. Pike goes so far as to assaulting one of the security men when Una gets him to stop.
This is the real ending. Uhura shouldn’t be there, Hemmer was just killed, La’an is on an extended leave of absence, and now Number One is under arrest. Seems like there are a few positions to fill aboard the Enterprise.
I’ll write up a season summary in a bit giving my overall impressions.
In the meantime, enjoy my three-minute or less TikTok review and remember to support your indie authors and publishers. In the near future, we might be the only source of good storytelling left.