Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 4 Review: Among the Lotus Eaters

On a mission to clean up potential cultural contamination, Pike and the Enterprise crew lose their memories, but it doesn’t change who they are.

Anson Mount as Captain Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 4

Because Strange New Worlds is more episodic in nature than many of its recent Star Trek onscreen brethren, one of the most intriguing things about watching this show week to week is wondering what kind of story we’re going to see. The series has gleefully embraced wild shifts in genre, tone, and narrative style over the course of its run so far, giving us everything from courtroom legal dramas to heartbreaking trips into alternate pasts, and while season 2’s fourth episode initially seems like your standard away mission adventure, “Among the Lotus Eaters” actually turns out to be anything but. 

An hour that epitomizes the creative gap filling in terms of its own canon that Strange New Worlds excels at, this is an episode that not only offers new context for one of the few canonical facts we know about Christopher Pike’s time on the Enterprise but one that has plenty to say about human nature and what makes us who we are at our core. It’s also just an all-around great hour of Star Trek, one that mixes classic sci-fi tropes with light horror elements, allowing its actors to play different versions of themselves even as it affirms the power of their characters’ emotional connections. 

The episode revolves around the Enterprise being sent back to Rigel VII to try and clean up an incident of cultural contamination its previous visit to the Bronze Age society five years prior apparently caused. Longtime fans will remember that this mission is one that Pike still mentions with regret in The Original Series pilot “The Cage,” as several crew members were killed in an ambush, which is perhaps why he approaches this second visit to the planet differently. Pike, La’an, and M’Benga go undercover among the Kalar people in an attempt to discover what it is that they left behind, only to be almost immediately captured. The revelation that one of the Enterprise’s presumed dead former crew members has essentially taken over the planet using Starfleet tech and installed himself as High King certainly comes as a shock to Pike (who is clearly tormented by the idea that he left a man behind), but the group soon has bigger problems to face, namely the strange event known as The Forgetting. 

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In Greek mythology—and most specifically Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey—the story of the Lotus Eaters, from which this episode clearly takes its name, centers around a group of island dwellers whose primary food source, the lotus plant, is a narcotic that causes those who consume it to live in peaceful apathy, and which leads to those who visit to forget their lives, loved ones, and previous homes. On Rigel VII, the planet’s strange radiation causes those left outside the walls of Kalar’s primary fortress to lose their memories of the previous day each night, splitting their civilization into two castes—those who remember who they are and those who don’t. After Pike and friends are thrown into a cage and lose all memories of themselves and each other, they’ll have to work to figure out who they are and where they came from. 

“Among the Lotus Eaters” asks intriguing questions: who are we, if stripped down to our most basic selves? What do we value? How do we see ourselves and our place in the world? Which people or identities do we care for most and why? As the effects of the planet’s radiation begin to spread among the crew of the orbiting Enterprise as well as its away team, most of the show’s main characters are given key moments of self-discovery tied to the core of who they are, from Ortegas’ enthusiastic reclamation of her status as the person who flies the ship to La’an’s aggressive default setting and M’Benga’s eventual understanding that while he certainly possesses some kickass fighting skills, at his heart, he is a healer who wants to help take away the pain of others. 

Pike, of course, is…exactly who we all already know him to be, a leader who cares deeply about others and values those he cares about more than himself. (Though there are brief glimpses of a dark streak I hope the show comes back to it at some point.)  A talisman given to him by his sort-of-girlfriend Captain Batel not only helps Pike reestablish and center his connection to both himself and his crewmates, but helps him realize that he owes her a chance at a real relationship, and the episode ends with his apology and promise to make a real go of things with her, despite the fact that their duties as Starfleet captains will likely always take precedence over their date nights.

Granted, it’s not entirely clear that many Strange New Worlds viewers really care all that much about Pike’s romantic situation with the captain of the U.S.S. Cayuga, given that we know so little about Captain Batel as a character. (What is her first name? Did I miss this??) Even in this episode, during which Pike theoretically comes to understand that he cares for her more than even he realized, Batel is almost more of an idea than a person, and a handful of one-off lines about how her career trajectory is somehow being hampered by her relationship with him does not a real character arc make. That’s not to say that this wouldn’t be an extremely worthwhile story to explore, just that Strange New Worlds hasn’t actually done it yet. Here’s hoping that changes—Wynona Earp fans already know that Melanie Scrofano is an amazingly capable actress who can more than go toe to toe with Anson Mount if given the chance. (Give her the chance, is what I’m saying!)

At this point, it seems almost redundant to say that “Among the Lotus Eaters” is another strong installment in a season (heck, a series) that seems to be comprised of nothing but bangers. It’s easy to feel spoiled by the consistently high quality of this show—but we’re so lucky to have Strange New Worlds, which has such a strong command of not just its characters but the stories it’s using them to tell. What a gift, indeed.


4.5 out of 5