Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - S1 E10 - "A Quality of Mercy"
By: Samantha Coley
July 7, 2022
'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Season 1 Episode 10 Review: Maybe in Another Timeline
'Strange New Worlds' takes a page out of the Kelvin Universe for its introspective finale.
For its first season finale, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds takes a page out of the Kelvin Universe and sends Captain Pike (Anson Mount) into an alternate timeline to teach him the necessity of his sacrifice. When Pike meets one of the young people who actually dies in the incident where Pike is destined to sacrifice himself, he sees the opportunity to save both himself and the child from that grim future. Before he can finalize that decision, however, Pike gets a ghosts-of-Christmas-future-style visit from none other than the version of himself that survives the tragic accident.
Future Pike tells our Captain that he does find a way to save everyone by writing them all letters so that they simply aren't present on the day that the accident would've ended their lives. But Admiral Pike — who happens to be sporting the uniform from the original series films — also tells him that that choice causes "catastrophic results." While our Pike is hesitant to understand how bad it could possibly be if everyone lives, the elder Pike offers him yet another glimpse into a possible future in order to explain the severity of the situation, revealing he was sent by the same Klingons that allowed him his first look at what's to come.
With a touch of a time crystal, Captain Pike is sent several years into the future where he's saved by the red alert alarm from performing a marriage ceremony between ensigns he does not recognize. Things immediately feel off when the Number One that reaches out to the Captain over comms is Spock (Ethan Peck) rather than Una (Rebecca Romijn). Right away things seem colder in this universe, more severe, as Pike tries to find his bearings without giving too much away. He confides in Spock immediately, assuming he can still trust the Vulcan at this point in the future. Spock is very deadpan as he tries to suss out whether the Captain has lost his mind or not, and Peck and Mount weave a certain amount of incidental humor into the scene.
Pike proposes a mind meld and Spock sees the Captain's fate in the Prime timeline. He comes to the conclusion that Pike was sent to a turning point in their future where his command of the Enterprise leads to a disaster that might have been prevented by the captain meant to take over after Pike's accident. Their mission is to essentially let the bad thing happen, so they understand why it must be prevented. Things get serious when a ship, complete with a never-before-seen cloaking device, destroys a Federation outpost, seemingly without provocation.
This episode plays like an action movie, similar to the Kelvin-verse titles while offering a new take on an alternate universe derived from The Original Series and Next Generation films, complete with a brand new Captain Kirk (Paul Wesley). "A Quality of Mercy" offers a lot of thrilling references to the franchise it's built upon while also telling an interesting and entertaining story that ultimately doesn't ever actually happen. This introduction of Pike to Kirk will only be remembered by the elder Captain, so it will naturally shape the moment when they meet in the Prime timeline. Pike isn't quite sure what to make of the "brash young Captain," and it makes him suspicious of each of Kirk's decisions.
When the Romulans — whom these characters are all just now learning look mighty similar to Vulcans — attack Kirk's ship, Pike and the Enterprise must fight to save the crew of the Farragut. La'an (Christina Chong), now a commander, comes aboard the Enterprise and is instantly warmer than we've ever seen her be — so maybe this universe isn't entirely gloomy. Kirk and Pike continue to clash because of their differing leadership styles — Kirk is decidedly riskier than Pike is, yet both of their decisions as Captains have merit. Pike, who at this point does still have a significant amount of wisdom over a young Jim Kirk, does still learn that sometimes the risk of something is worth the reward, whereas this version of Kirk begins to see the merits of Pike's more peaceful approach.
This episode also highlights how easily things can spiral out of control when people are more married to "the way we do things" than caring whether it's the right thing — and how easily harsh regimes can crush voices that speak of peace and communication when given the power they demand. Pike and the Enterprise escape, but not without heavy loss and a declaration of war from the Romulans. In this version of the future Pike's optimism leads to unspeakable devastation as he realizes if he saves himself he essentially does doom the entire galaxy. Future Pike returns once more to reveal that the cost of saving himself, in any timeline, leads to him trading his fate for Spock's — all but ensuring that Pike will go through with what is destined for him.
As one of the most beloved characters in the history of media, it's incredibly moving, if achingly melancholy, to learn just how far anyone who knows Spock is willing to go to keep him safe. Pike makes that clear to the science officer upon his return to the prime timeline without ever giving any details away, and it's a very touching moment. As Pike re-enters his own life with a renewed sense of determination to make the most of the time he has left, he's almost immediately faced with another life-altering turning point.
Notably missing from Pike's trip to the future was his trusted first officer Una Chin-Riley. At every point where he could ask someone he trusts, Pike asks: what happened to Una? And each answer paints a more grim version of her future — La'an reveals she's not allowed contact, and Spock later says she's been sentenced to a penal colony for her deception. Upon his return, just as he's basking in the comfort of being back here with his beloved crew, Pike and Una are called down to the transport room to meet Pike's sometimes-romantic interest Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano), who also made an appearance at the start of this season.
Batel reveals that Una is under arrest and Starfleet has learned that she's a genetically modified Illyrian — following up on that particular Chekhov's secret that was loaded in at the beginning of the season. The tension in this final moment is genuinely palpable, as Pike watches the woman he's sleeping with arrest the only person he allows himself to be vulnerable in front of. The captain tries to block the arrest, but Number One doesn't allow him to get himself court-martialed on her behalf. The episode ends on that thrilling cliffhanger, as Pike assures Batel that "this isn't over." Pike knows Una's future in the dark timeline he just returned from, and it's clear that he has no plans of letting that happen in this version of reality.
Watching Pike decide to use every bit of life he has left to save the people that are closest to him, like Una and Spock, makes the already warm and genial captain that much more endearing. Throughout the season, Pike has come off as a very friendly and open Captain, to the point where he's even referred to as Starfleet's boy scout. But beneath that open gentility beats a heart of steel and an unwavering moral compass, making him a formidable opponent for anyone that threatens what he believes is right.
Overall, Season 1 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is incredibly solid, with its main drawback being that the season was too short. While many of the ensemble characters got an episode centered around their backstories, the season relied primarily on the relationship between Spock and Pike. With that particular emotional connection now truly solidified, Season 2 has the opportunity to really dive into these other incredible characters whose stories we've only barely begun to explore like Una, La'an, and M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun). Ending with Una's fate up in the air, albeit with a very determined Captain Pike, is a thrilling way to end the season, while solidifying Pike's commitment to the people he loves and keeping us on the edge of our seats as we await the show's return.
The Ready Room
Ethan Peck On Jumping Into The Future In The Strange New Worlds Finale
I loved this episode. The "Balance of Terror" tie-in really worked. This also pre-sages the episode "The Menagerie", when Spock kidnaps Pike and takes him back to Talos IV. Spock realized what a sacrifice Pike had made to spare him, which would have provided additional motivation to give Pike the only peace he could have.
I do agree about the actor playing Kirk. He just didn't come across as brash and charismatic. That's one point on which I have to give J. J. Abrams some credit - Chris Pine was perfect for the role of Kirk. He out-Shatnered Shatner.
That's one point on which I have to give J. J. Abrams some credit - Chris Pine was perfect for the role of Kirk.
Yeah, he was pretty good. I also thought Zachary Quinto was a great Spock.
I also thought Zachary Quinto was a great Spock.
So did I. And Karl Urban was perfect for Leonard McCoy.
You know, now that I'm thinking about it, I liked all of the main cast in those movies. Best thing about them.
I wasn't crazy about Zoe Saldana, or maybe I wasn't crazy about how Uhura was written. She was so angry all the time.
But yeah, the casting was excellent. I wish the script deserved the cast.
There were three.
Really? Shows how much I cared for the first one.
That would make the last two the only movies I never saw.
I only saw the first two. The first had some definite weaknesses. The second was too bad for me to give the third a chance.
I liked the homage to Scotty, but I feel robbed that I didn't get to see him.
Yep, same here.
I missed the first half of this episode so the part I caught didn't make much sense. I'll have to catch it in repeat on Monday and see what the kerfuffle is about
This is the kind of Star Trek formula I prefer. Real confrontations, cool technology, sensible plot, none of the emotional / comical stuff that makes it difficult to suspend disbelief and thus lose the Star Fleet experience.
Plus we now understand why Pike did not take a route to avoid his ugly future.
Once again I'm in disagreement with this reviewer, who gave the fantasy episode from two weeks ago an A+, and this one an A-. She didn't even name the hugely popular TOS episode "Balance of Terror" that it was based on.
I thought this was the best episode of the entire season, and probably the only one I'd give an A+ to if I were writing reviews. I loved the alternate timeline take on "Balance of Terror", including the CGI Romulan ships and plasma weapon. The only thing I didn't really care for was the choice of actor to play Kirk. I wish they'd found someone who actually resembled Shatner, at least a little. I didn't get a Kirk vibe from this guy at all.
At any rate, I was hoping the season finale would be good, and I got my wish.
What did you guys think?