This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 10
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 is honestly an astounding achievement. It not only pulled off a musical episode and a live-action crossover with a cartoon, its traditional installments were virtually nothing but straight bangers, rattling off war stories, showstopper courtroom trials, and heartrending journeys through time that rank up there with the best the Star Trek franchise has ever offered. We are so lucky to have this show, and it has generally exceeded every expectation I could have ever set for it.
So when I call the season 2 finale “Hegemony” a generally fine conclusion to this run of episodes, I mean it in the most expansive sense of the word. A “fine” Strange New Worlds episode is still pretty outstanding television, and as a season-ender, “Hegemony” is certainly an action-packed adventure, one that sees the horror-tinged return of the Gorn, the destruction of the U.S.S. Cayuga, and the long-awaited introduction of a young Montgomery Scott.
Your mileage will likely vary when it comes to whether you think Strange New Worlds actually needs another legacy character from The Original Series on its canvas at this point—I’m not 100% convinced when Pelia has had so little to do this season already, but Martin Quinn is certainly a charmingly frenetic casting choice, and the show has handled Kirk’s arrival far more deftly and delicately than I expected it to. So, we’ll see.
The hour also ends in Strange New Worlds’ first real cliffhanger, a choice that’s almost guaranteed to immediately draw (likely unfavorable) comparisons between this episode and The Next Generation season 3 finale “The Best of Both Worlds.” In The Next Generation, Riker is forced to make the decision to fire on his own Borg-assimilated captain. In contrast, Pike must choose whether to obey Starfleet’s orders to flee and leave a significant chunk of the Enterprise and Cayuga crew members behind to what are presumably grisly deaths at the hands (claws?) of the Gorn. Yet, despite the obvious on-paper stakes of the moment, “Hegemony” lacks the extreme tension of its predecessor.
Don’t get me wrong, one of Strange New Worlds’ best decisions has been the way the show has reinvented the Gorn, reimagining one of the Enterprise’s campiest Original Series antagonists as something straight out of a horror movie, complete with blood, gore, and a vicious killer instinct. These are aliens that are genuinely terrifying and distinctly not cute or friendly, so the thought of them invading a suspiciously Earth-like planet on a mission to kill all its colonists feels like the show finally getting back to the potential Gorn war the season 2 premiere hinted was coming. (And, not for nothing, but that the full grown Gorn that Spock and Chapel face off with is…something else.)
But the outcome of Pike’s big episode-ending choice seems incredibly obvious. Yes, he’s a goody-two-shoes boy scout who is a poster child for Starfleet values and rules, but we’ve already seen that he’s willing to do anything to save those in his charge (whether they’re his current crew or the cadets whose deaths he knows he’ll one day be responsible for). His hesitation is perfectly in character. It’s a big decision, after all, and one which will risk his crew, the woman he cares for, and perhaps launch that Gorn war his superiors are so worried about.
And Mount certainly does his best to sell Pike’s increasing sense of shock and terror—he looks like he’s about to throw up all over his helmsmen, his face has truly contained multitudes this season—but there’s little question (in my mind, at least) about what he’s going to do. If you ask me, his decision to risk bringing a Gorn spawn-infected Captain Batel onto the Enterprise is a great deal more shocking and potentially dangerous, and something I wish the show had spent a bit more time on in context. I mean…what are the odds that containment field isn’t going to break at the most inopportune moment?
I’ve mentioned this before, but as amazing as Wynonna Earp’s Melanie Scrofano is, one of the weakest aspects of Strange New Worlds season 2 is how little depth they’ve given Batel as a character in her own right. Despite being Pike’s romantic partner and technical equal in rank, she’s often treated as an idea as much if not more than an actual three-dimensional person—an emotional touchstone to ground Pike’s memories in “Among the Lotus Eaters”, an awkward duet partner in “Subspace Rhapsody,” a hostage to be rescued here on Parnassus Beta. Despite initially showing us Batel on an away mission with Chapel, we never really get to see much of her perspective on what happened to her or her crew, which means that the imminent threat of her horrific death matters more in terms of how it might affect Pike than her story. Do I particularly want her to sacrifice herself to save her crewmates from the Gorn spawn she’s now carrying inside her? Not really, but that would at least feel like the sort of active agency this character’s been largely denied.
And although there are certainly a lot of lives at risk on the Gorn ship, we already know that the bulk of the Enterprise team probably isn’t at any real risk. M’Benga and Sam Kirk have the safety of future-proofed plot armor, and while it’s possible the show might choose to kill off La’an or Ortegas, it’s not super likely. The show has barely scratched the surface of either character, and while that certainly wasn’t enough to save Hemmer back in season 1, there’s just no way this show is done with either of these women just yet. Sorry to the array of nameless Cayuga folks who are inevitably about to get eaten, I guess!
In the end, the tension here isn’t so much about the survival of these characters—who are probably mostly going to be fine— as it is what they might discover waiting for them on the Gorn hunter ship. While that’s likely to be full of fascinating discoveries about how these terrifying and bizarre creatures have evolved and/or why they seem to be considering starting a war with the Federation, I guess that’s not as thrilling a moment to hang a “to be continued” tag on. Even if it’s far more likely to have lasting repercussions in season 3.
So where does Strange New Worlds go next? Who knows—and honestly, who cares? If this run of episodes has proved anything it’s that this show can pull off the seemingly impossible, week in and week out, and I’m willing to trust it to take us wherever we need to boldly go next. See you in season 3.