Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - S1 E4 - "Memento Mori"

  
Via:  Dig  •  one month ago  •  9 comments

By:   Samantha Coley

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - S1 E4 - "Memento Mori"
 

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From Collider

May 26, 2022

'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Season 1 Episode 4 Review: A Heart-Pounding Epic Rounded Out With Emotion

A run-in with the Gorn allows for intense action sequences and incredible character moments.

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S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Season 1 Episode 4, "Memento Mori," introduces audiences to a terrifying and yet rarely explored villain, infamous in the world of Trek: the Gorn. When a rescue mission turns into a surprise attack, our heroes are thrown into chaos and several unlikely pairings must work together in order to save the crew and get themselves out of a dire situation. As an avid Star Trek fan, I would put "Memento Mori" down as one of the best episodes in the franchise. I'm actually shocked that the episode is only an hour as watching it feels like watching a feature film. The creative team of director Dan Liu and writers Davy Perez and Beau DeMayo do an incredible job of balancing intense action sequences with deep, emotional character moments — and the entire cast is firing on all cylinders as they deliver some series-best performances.

We open on Starfleet Remembrance Day as the crew of the Enterprise chooses to honor those they've lost and the previous ships they've served on — an episode remarkably fitting just ahead of Memorial Day. La'an (Christina Chong), who has been fairly emotionally closed off since we met her, has chosen not to wear the insignia of her former ship, the USS Puget Sound. Elsewhere, Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) is set to team up with Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) for her next rotation as a cadet.

La'an and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) lead an away mission down to the planet to after the colony the Enterprise was meant to assist drops out of communications. In some particularly cool EV suits, the landing party discovers a decimated city covered in blood and fire with no discernable survivors — it's a massacre. When a small group of colonists aboard a mining ship flags town the Enterprise, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) must extend a transport tube to bring them aboard. None of the adults can account for what happened, but when a small child starts telling tales of monsters, something in La'an's memory raises alarms. As a threat appears while the Enterprise and the refugee ship are virtually defenseless, a few things become devastatingly clear: the Gorn are here, they planned this, and they won't stop until everyone on the Enterprise is dead.

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In the immediate aftermath of the initial blast, La'an heads to the bridge to confer with the Captain. As the only member of the crew with personal experience with the Gorn, she's uniquely suited to help. For a moment, Pike insists on standing their ground, but he also shows an often overlooked aspect of high-quality leadership in knowing that La'an's knowledge and experience in this situation are superior to his own. Ultimately, he takes her advice to prioritize seeking shelter over a firefight.

As the Enterprise finds a tentative respite inside a brown dwarf we begin to triage emergencies and issues all across the ship. With resources stretched to their limits, and wounded crew members arriving in droves, Med Bay is forced to get creative with its solutions. Number One arrives in dire condition, and Doctor M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) and Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) decide it's time to test their knowledge of archeological medicine. Down in Engineering Hemmer has been wounded. With no way to reach sickbay, and emergencies occurring right in front of them, the stoic Chief must work with Cadet Uhura in order to save the ship.

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This episode excels for many reasons and shaking up a few of the relationship dynamics to allow for deeper character development, while also delivering edge-of-your-seat action, is no simple feat. Hemmer and Uhura are very opposing forces, but with him frustratingly out of commission and her eagerness to help, they're able to find a working rhythm that suits the two of them quite well. In the process, they begin to discover that though they view the world from different perspectives, their feelings about it are not all that dissimilar. Hemmer expresses that while his people are largely considered pacifists, "pacifism is not passivity." He describes the ideal as the "active protection of all living things in the universe." By sharing this he opens up to Uhura, allowing her to better understand him as his respect for her grows. While Hemmer refuses to fight, he does everything in his power to protect the crew of the Enterprise against a deadly threat.

When we were introduced to La'an we learned that she was the only survivor when her family's ship was attacked by the Gorn. "Some things in the universe are just plain evil. Have you ever seen eyes that are both dead and hungry at the same time," she asks the rest of the bridge crew. "Plenty of people have seen the Gorn, they just don't live long enough to talk about it." Though they were introduced on Star Trek: The Original Series, the Gorn have rarely been explored until now. It's exciting to see those gaps in Star Trek history begin to be filled in.

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Strange New Worlds also uses this situation to explore the way our feelings pour out of us whether we think we're in control or not. Spock (Ethan Peck) and La'an represent two types of repressed emotion. Half-human, half-Vulcan, Spock was raised to prioritize logic over emotion — and because of her tragic past, La'an has had to compartmentalize her feelings in order to function and be a good officer, making her very blunt and direct. Pairing the two of them up, and having them face a very intense emotional connection to serve the emergency at hand is incredibly compelling. In order to unlock crucial knowledge needed for their survival, Spock performs a mind-meld on La'an. He witnesses her initial escape from the Gorn, in which her brother gives her the tools to survive and sacrifices himself to save her. While in the mind-meld, Spock's memories of his sister Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) are triggered by La'an's feelings for her brother. As a fan of Star Trek: Discovery, it's nice to see that Strange New Worlds has no plans to simply forget about this relationship.

On the bridge, Pike seemingly goes through the five stages of grief all in the space of this episode. He exemplifies why he's one of the best captains in Starfleet as he expertly relies on the skills and advice of his crew, inspiring each of them to use their unique talents in a desperate situation. In contrast with La'an and Spock, Pike allows his emotions to flow through him and drive him to be an even better leader. The whiplash of one plan succeeding before being immediately faced with an even bigger threat would bring just about anyone to their knees. Pike takes the waves in stride ebbing and flowing through the emergency to find the solution that keeps as many people safe as possible. Because he doesn't cut himself off from feeling the pain of loss or the joy of victory, each of these beats are punctuated by sincerity.

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When their final attempt to escape and outsmart the Gorn means risking Hemmer and Uhura's lives, the gravity of the situation is not lost on Pike. When it works, he doesn't allow the full delight of the moment to sweep over him until it's confirmed that the pair made it out of the situation in one piece. Mount does some spectacular acting through this scene, compelling you to feel every bit of Pike's relief at the knowledge that almost his entire crew has made it out of one of the most dangerous situations they've ever faced.

In Med Bay, Number One sacrifices her plasma to save a junior officer, only to realize when she wakes that M'Benga has attached himself to her using an IV to save her from excruciating pain. Every character with whom we're familiar understands what it means to make sacrifices for their fellow officer. They honor each other by contributing in any way that they can to make life better for everyone around them. Additionally, "Memento Mori" highlights that vulnerability is actually an incredible strength when it comes to the crew of the Enterprise. By allowing themselves to rely on each other, and share deeply intimate parts of their lives with people they aren't necessarily that close to, these characters are able to unlock new solutions through collaboration. It's a beautiful message delivered by a breathtaking, heart-pounding episode filled with very earned moments of triumph and connection.

Rating: A+



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Dig
PhD Guide
1  seeder  Dig    one month ago

Momento mori means "remember death,"  in the sense of "remember that you can die."

A pretty good episode, but the whole hide-the-ship-in-a-gaseous-body thing has been done before, and more than once.

I did wince a bit at the treatment of the black hole and brown dwarf binary system. If I understood correctly, they made it sound like things were fine one minute, and then suddenly the black hole just started gobbling the brown dwarf up. It doesn't work like that. Orbiting a black hole is no different than orbiting any other gravitational body, and if the black hole was pulling in material from the brown dwarf it would have been constant and obvious, it wouldn't just happen all of a sudden like that. Those kinds of systems are fairly well-understood. They're the cause of the Type Ia supernova "standard candles", but with a white dwarf instead of a black hole accreting material from a companion star. Nice visual effects with the black hole, though. I thought that was cool.

I like that the Gorn are being featured in this series. Maybe they'll turn out to be one of the show's main villain species. I wish we could have seen what they look like in this episode, but with La'an's backstory we'll probably see them eventually. La'an's hunter and prey comment reminded me of the Hirogen from Voyager.

After four episodes I have a couple of gripes about the sets:

  • I'm already sick of the ship's corridor set. With one vertical wall and one angled wall and those four window-like things (but I'm not sure they're actually windows) it's just too distinctive to serve as any old corridor on the ship, and they've already used it too much. They need to build another corridor that looks a lot more ambiguous.
  • Also, I can't figure out where Pike's quarters are supposed to be, unless they're right next to the bridge, but opposite the ready room (with the bridge between them). The windows shown in his quarters and in the ready room are the same (and may be the same set), but the ship exteriors we've seen so far only show windows like that (spacing and angle) on either side of the bridge. Not a huge deal, but that would be an odd place for his quarters to be. As far as I know, none of the other ships have had the captain's quarters adjacent to the bridge on Deck 1. If that's where they are, then that's just weird.

But, overall, I really liked the episode. That's four likes in a row.

 
 
 
Dig
PhD Guide
1.1  seeder  Dig  replied to  Dig @1    one month ago

Oh, one more thing – I can't remember who it was, but someone said "crew person" instead of "crew member" in this episode.

WTF is that about? Crew member isn't gender biased.

Who the hell says crew person? I found that odd, and super annoying.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
2  sandy-2021492    one month ago

The sudden change in the black hole/brown dwarf gravitational equilibrium was a bit silly.

The set doesn't bother me as much as it does Dig, but he has a point.  Surely the ship has interior corridors without windows or a need for an angled wall?

I did like the transport tube for evacuation of the colonist's ship.  It seems a bit more practical than multiple shuttle trips when there's some reason the transporters can't be used.

Spock seems to be much more attuned to the emotions of his crewmates than he was in TOS, or even in Discovery.

Why weren't the medical personnel asking for blood donations, if they were so short of plasma?  Surely they'd have records regarding how to match up blood types, even if it was "archaic".  And how is there a generic plasma that can be compatible across species, anyway?  Ilyrian blood plasma (if they even have blood and plasma) isn't likely to have the same components as human blood and plasma.

 
 
 
Save Me Jebus
Freshman Silent
3  Save Me Jebus    4 weeks ago

I like La'an's character, but are they trying to make her look like that badass Camina Drummer from The Expanse (if anyone has watched that)?

 
 
 
Snuffy
Senior Guide
3.1  Snuffy  replied to  Save Me Jebus @3    4 weeks ago

Now that you mention it, yeah.  From the way they are making her look to how she acts (and how little she opens her mouth while she speaks) is does remind me of Drummer.  If they start her with the heavy black eye makeup it will be there.

I loved The Expanse.  Good space opera that used better physics than a lot of shows.  The simple things, like the ships didn't have breaks so they had to flip over & fire the engine to slow down and finally stop.  The effects on the body for prolonged space travel & living in a low gravity environment.  Wish the last season had been better though..

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
3.2  Freefaller  replied to  Save Me Jebus @3    4 weeks ago

Loved the Expanse as well, very dark and much more like how we'd actually behaive to each other in space than the unified humanity of ST

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
4  Freefaller    4 weeks ago

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, easily my favourite so far.  Basic good vs bad, odds against the ship and crew but they prevail.  Definately think the Gorn are going to become the series villians.

Was a little disappointed we didn't get to see an updated Gorn from the muscular, slow guy in a rubber suit from the TOS, but it'll happen eventually.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
4.1  sandy-2021492  replied to  Freefaller @4    4 weeks ago
Was a little disappointed we didn't get to see an updated Gorn from the muscular, slow guy in a rubber suit from the TOS, but it'll happen eventually.

I think the mystery makes them scarier.

That was a problem with "Voyager".  The Borg were too familiar to be scary anymore.  I never got that chill seeing them in the Delta Quadrant that I felt when they were introduced in TNG.

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Participates
4.1.1  Freefaller  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1    4 weeks ago
I think the mystery makes them scarier.

But I wanna see them now!  Just kidding I can wait

I was never a TNG fan so Voyager was my first exposure to the Borg.  I found them to be a good villian (although suprisingly easy to trick)

One thing I don't get about the Gorn is using light to communicate, seems to lack security, open to infiltration (as evidenced in this episode) and really not that useful over distance 

 
 

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