The fourth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, “Memento Mori,” gives us the first glimpse of the wrath of La’an (Christina Chong). It was written by Davy Perez & Beau DeMayo and directed by Dan Liu.
The episode opens on La’an’s Security Officer log entry (Stardate 3177.3) explaining the USS Enterprise is delivering an atmospheric processor upgrade to Finibus III. En route, they honor Starfleet Remembrance Day, which honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
La’an touches an insignia commemorating the S.S. Puget Sound and flashes back on images of a face. In voiceover, Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) explains the holiday: crew members wear the insignia of ships on which they served with those who have died.
As they walk through a hallway, Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) quizzes Cadet Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). When he expresses doubt that she read the assignment material in advance, she demonstrates her familiarity with the material.
Hemmer remarks that most cadets endure their time in Engineering as they dream of Command. Uhura says she enjoys the similarities between engineering and linguistics. Hemmer says she’ll need more than theory to impress him and Uhura accepts the challenge.
Elsewhere, La’an runs into Number One (Rebecca Romijn), who asks about La’an’s missing insignia. La’an doesn’t want to talk about it. Ensign Christina (Jennifer Hui) reports that Finibus III isn’t responding. Spock (Ethan Peck) reports that the cause is a destroyed communications satellite.
Pike instructs the crew not to make assumptions. Number One calls La’an to join her for an investigative away mission. When the away team arrives on the surface of Finibus III, they discover burning ruins and blast marks. Further investigation reveals no corpses, only a bloody trail that shows the bodies were dragged away.
On the Enterprise, an unknown ship approaches, and the away team is beamed back. Lt. Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) reports the ship bears no Federation badges. The ship hails them and Professor Thandie of Finibus III appears onscreen, relieved to see they’re Starfleet.
Pike orders the people aboard the ship beamed to the Enterprise, but Thandie informs them that because the ship was designed for hauling radioactive materials, that’s not a possibility. Instead, the Enterprise must use a deep space transport tube. Thandie explains some unknown assailant attacked their colony and Pike assures her everything will be all right.
Soon the rattled survivors are aboard. Thandie tells Una and La’an that a farmer had seen fiery streaks in the sky before the attack. A traumatized child runs past screaming about monsters, and La’an stops her and asks her what she knows. The child mimics the sounds of the invaders, and La’an stops cold. She contacts the bridge and tells them to scan the area for polarized EM signatures.
Spock reports the presence of a hologram and La’an and Pike both order shields to be raised. Ortegas interjects: that’s impossible with the extended tube. La’an sees an approaching ship from the transport tube, and it confirms her fears: it’s the Gorn. The ship fires on the tube.
La’an flashes back on the same face before coming to as Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) performs triage. Una is bleeding but swears she’s fine. She orders La’an to the bridge, since they’ll need her expertise on the Gorn. In the main cargo bay, Hemmer is securing the processor before he heads to engineering to restore warp.
Ortegas reports that with a damaged nacelle the Enterprise can only travel at impulse at half-speed. La’an suggests ordering a retreat. Pike expresses uncertainty but La’an says it’s the Gorn, and they flew into their trap. She insists they fall back and regroup. Pike listens.
Pike consults with Spock about a nearby brown dwarf (basically a gas giant). The atmosphere will be too intense but a surrounding volatile gas cloud will provide Enterprise cover. But it will force them to “fly dark,” turning off all systems… Even shields. And it’s in a locked orbit with a black hole. As acting Number One, La’an concurs with Pike that it’s their best shot. They head for the dwarf as the Gorn pursue.
In the cargo bay, Gorn weapons have caused damage to the ship and Hemmer’s hand alike. Uhura confirms Hemmer’s supposition that the doors are blocked. In the ready room, Pike, Spock, and the rest of the command crew consult with Hemmer and M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) via the viewscreen.
Hemmer reports he must repair the processor or it will explode and engulf the Enterprise. M’Benga reports a grim situation in sickbay without supplies or operating systems. Una stumbles in and collapses. M’Benga mentions Chapel’s interest in “archeological medicine” then asks how she is at sewing.
In the ready room, the crew runs through possible strategies. With no shields and no weapons, the situation is grim. La’an has flashbacks again. She says the Gorn are evil incarnate and in spite of Federation philosophy, you can’t empathize with them. They view mammals as prey.
Pike tells them to work together and dismisses everyone but La’an. He asks how she’s holding up and she says she doesn’t care what the crew thinks. Pike counsels her that she must recall that part of her job is providing hope. A crew that believes in miracles might just provide one.
He asks her about any other information she can provide about the Gorn but she doesn’t remember. The same haunting figure appears again before she’s dismissed.
In the cargo bay, Hemmer is having difficulties due to his injured hand. But he’s the only one who can analyze the data. He and Uhura will have to work together, even if Hemmer is not fond of teams.
Spock concocts a way to use the systems that are operating to act as a radar for the Gorn. This allows them to track the Gorn in the cloud. A tense moment sees the ship pass closely by. If they fire a photon torpedo inside the cloud, guidance systems will not work. Pike says he’s going to drop it on them.
Ortegas navigates Enterprise to the proper location and the torpedo is deployed. Spock confirms the enemy ship is destroyed. But there are multiple incoming vessels. They wanted them to fire, sacrificing a ship to learn their location. Soon several more Gorn ships approach, including a larger ship.
Pike orders them to travel deeper into the brown dwarf, evacuating decks below twenty to avoid casualties from pressure-induced damage. “Aye aye, Skipper,” says Ortegas. “Dive, dive, dive.”
Everyone reacts to the ship groaning against the pressure. Hemmer advises Uhura to determine which cooling rods are malfunctioning by feeling for temperature. Although evacuation of the lower decks hasn’t been completed, Pike is forced to order the bulkheads to be sealed. Chief Kyle (André Dae Kim) narrowly avoids becoming a casualty but witnesses the death of a crewperson.
The pressure is growing too great for the Enterprise to travel deeper. Pike commands everyone to battle stations and orders a full stop. The Gorn vessel can’t survive the pressure and implodes.
Una continues to be subjected to primitive medical techniques. She nevertheless insists that the last of the plasma be given to another crewperson, not herself.
In a Captain’s Log, Pike notes that seven crew members and three civilians have died under his watch but he’s determined to prevail. Spock reports that the brown dwarf is sliding into the black hole. Enterprise will follow unless they escape, but there’s no way to see if the coast is clear of the Gorn without exposure.
La’an suggests a shuttle be dispatched instead, minimizing risk to the remaining crew. Both La’an and Spock volunteer for what Pike describes as a suicide mission. Pike instructs them to take the Galileo.
From the Galileo, Spock and La’an see the Gorn ships flashing green lights at one another. La’an shares what she remembers of the events on the Puget Sound, and Spock points out that the mind can go to great lengths to ensure survival.
La’an posits a mind meld and Spock says it’s not a shortcut for dealing with mental trauma. She insists any risk is worthwhile to save Enterprise. Both parties witness her memories as they begin to surface.
La’an recalls being brought to a Gorn hatchery planet. A young La’an is told by her brother that the light is how they communicate with one another. La’an recalls the code as the figure she’s been remembering all episode tells her to “run.” Then, her subconscious sets a boundary.
But a mind meld isn’t a one-way street. “I love you too, brother,” La’an hears Spock’s memory of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) say. She asks Spock if he lost someone too. Spock confirms that Starfleet records do not show any record of his sister. She surmises that she sacrificed herself for Spock. Spock ends the mind meld in response. La’an has an idea.
The Galileo uses modified phasers to send signals to one of the Gorn ships. La’an tells them that humans have boarded and taken over the ship. The Gorn ship responds by firing upon its compatriot. “Survival of the fittest,” La’an summarizes the Gorn philosophy. But her expression (and the music by Nami Melumad) recall her ancestor, Khan (and the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan score by James Horner).
Uhura succeeds in rebooting the processor. Hemmer’s injuries are taking their toll. Uhura asks about being a pacifist Aenear in Starfleet. Hemmer says he will not fight for Starfleet but he will defend its ideals. “Pacificism is not passivity, it’s the active protection of all living things in the universe,” he says.
An ensuing alarm means that the unit will be exploding. They have twenty minutes or less to eject everything in the cargo bay. And they have to do it outside the brown dwarf. But the surviving Gorn ship will kill them if they leave cover.
Pike suggests using the black hole to slingshot themselves to safety. While the Gorn may see them, gravitational redshift might be a viable avenue to create an optical illusion. The ship will play dead by dropping the processor into the black hole as they pass, making it seem as though they’ve exploded.
Ortegas expresses doubt but Pike reassures her Enterprise will hold. La’an backs his optimism up. Pike takes the chair.
Uhura and Hemmer are suiting up so they can survive the venting of the cargo bay. Uhura is scared but Hemmer explains the Aenear philosophy that death comes to an individual when they have fulfilled their purpose. Hemmer says fixing what is broken is his purpose. Uhura says she doesn’t know her purpose.
Ortegas says that if they pull this off, it’s the “Pike Maneuver.” Pike gives an inspirational speech about loss in the face of exploration and resisting fear.
The Pike Maneuver
Enterprise approaches the black hole and the pursuing Gorn ship changes course. They vent the hold. When Uhura’s restraints nearly break, Hemmer grabs her. From the Gorn perspective, it seems like Enterprise was destroyed. However, it appears on the other side of the black hole on fire but intact. Suspenseful moments aside, Hemmer and Uhura are fine.
La’an predicts future Gorn attacks. Pike says they’ll be ready for them. Battered but intact, Enterprise continues. To ensure Una got her plasma, M’Benga literally opened his own vein.
La’an pins the Puget Sound insignia to her uniform and records a personal log (Stardate 3177.9). She and Pike share a moment over the coffins of the seven lost crewmembers as La’an states in voiceover, “But, we survived.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available for streaming on Paramount Plus.
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