In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 8, the war is over… But how can it ever be? “Under the Cloak of War” was written by Davy Perez and directed by Jeff W. Byrd.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 1875.4. Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) logs that the USS Enterprise has arrived in the Prospero System to rendezvous with the USS Kelcie Mae. Under Starfleet jurisdiction since the conclusion of the Klingon War, the Prospero system is home to three planets. After “years of infighting,” the three planets have reached a ceasefire thanks to the negotiations of “a unique Federation ambassador.” Enterprise is to make the ambassador feel welcome. This is complicated by the fact that the ambassador is a Klingon, and many of the Enterprise crew fought in the Klingon war.
In the transporter room, Ambassador Dak’Rah beams in. He’s greeted by the bosun’s whistle. After asking about it, Pike explains it’s become a tradition on Enterprise to use the whistle to welcome distinguished guests. Pike says La’An Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) will escort him to his quarters. As La’An and Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) look on, Rah asks Pike for a tour of the ship.
“Under the Cloak of War”
On the bridge, Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) cites multiple accomplishments by Rah, including “negotiating the Perez Accords.” Lieutenant Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) is unconvinced regarding Rah. “A former enemy speaking on our behalf? It’s incredible,” says Uhura. But Ortegas wonders if it could be a long con all along. Ortegas cites several incidents. Just as Rah, La’An, Una, and Pike arrive on the bridge, Ortegas says there’s a reason other Klingons call him “The Butcher of J’Gal.” Una alerts her to their presence by saying, “Captain on the bridge.”
Uhura and Ortegas stand awkwardly at attention. Rah says it’s an amazing view, and says the Federation has better ships than the Klingons. He continues that he bets it’s amazing to fly. Una says Ortegas is their pilot. Rah says it’s a beautiful ship, and he’s sure it’s in good hands. Ortegas thanks him and says she does her best. “As you were,” Pike orders.
In the lounge, Jenna Mitchell (Rong Fu) and Spock (Ethan Peck) are attempting to program the replicator to make a caffeinated Klingon beverage: raktajino. Una explains that Spock got the recipe by parlaying with a Klingon captain. Spock states it has made him more interested in experiencing Klingon culture. Rah says there’s nothing to experience; they’re a warmongering race limited by their ideology. Spock apologizes for broaching a sensitive subject. Rah says his distaste for the past colors his words. He agrees to try the drink, but the mug is so hot it burns his hand.
A Wild Clint Appears
Rah is brought to Sickbay. But both Doctor Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) and Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) have strong reactions to his arrival. Chapel tells M’Benga she’ll handle this. M’Benga moves into his office as he experiences a panic attack brought on by Rah’s presence.
A flashback to a few years earlier at the Moon of J’Gal. Shuttlecraft 12648 approaches. There are no landing pads, so Chapel will be beamed from the shuttle to the ground. She beams in and is greeted by Commander Bob Martinez (Clint Howard), the Chief Medical Officer. Martinez tells Chapel that whatever she needs, they probably don’t have it, but he’s willing to ask anyway. Among other things, they lack an organ regenerator.
Chapel is informed she’s the new head nurse for the location. Martinez shows Chapel “tent city,” and states that “it’s not home, but it’ll do.” Martinez gives Chapel her tent assignment and points out M’Benga. They’re interrupted by the announcement of “incoming transport.” Injured soldiers are beamed in, supported by their peers. But one is lying down. He needs a new organ but they don’t have the generator. Chapel asks if they just give him morphine until he’s dead. M’Benga instructs her to keep his pattern suspended in the transport buffer until the ships arrive. Chapel complies.
Oh, On the Starship Enterprise
On the Enterprise in the present, M’Benga records a Chief Medical Officer’s Log, Stardate 1875.8. He observes that bio-bed two has broken down again. He states that it hasn’t been the same since the Gorn attack at Finnibus. Pike arrives and asks if M’Benga has any more Deltan Parsley in his apothecary. M’Benga hands over a vial and says it’s deadly in large amounts. Pike says in small amounts, it’s delicious. M’Benga says he could have called or sent a yeoman. Pike admits he wanted to check in with him, knowing both he and Chapel were stationed on J’Gal.
Pike explains that there was an incident during Rah’s last transport. As a result, they have direct orders to make him feel comfortable. However, Pike doesn’t want this at the expense of the comfort of his crew. He asks if Chapel is OK and she arrives and states that she is. Chapel says the ultimate goal of the Federation is to make peace with the Klingons. However, Pike points out that it’s also an organization that waged war with the Klingons. Pike is hosting a dinner in honor of Rah, and he requests their presence. They agree but look incredibly uncomfortable.
Chapel says they could ditch it. M’Benga says Pike needs them there. He continues that he’s handled worse than polite conversation. And he doesn’t want Rah to have the satisfaction of his non-presence. M’Benga grips a medical tool. Chapel tells him, “We’ve got this.” This causes a flashback. M’Benga and Chapel work on a patient, which involves manually pumping his heart. “We’ve got this,” M’Benga says to Chapel.
The Captain’s Table
In the hallway outside Pike’s Quarters, Ortegas wrestles with her orders to attend the dinner. M’Benga asks if everything’s all right. Ortegas says the Butcher of J’Gal is in there, but everyone’s acting like he’s the Dali Lama. She says she has a bad poker face when she dislikes someone. M’Benga says there’s a chance Rah has reformed. Ortegas says he’s pretending. M’Benga says that sometimes when you pretend something long enough, it becomes the truth. So he says they’ll pretend the war doesn’t bother them, at least for one night. Ortegas says, “Put on the Starfleet face?” M’Benga replies, “It’s a good face. Plus, Pike made jambalaya with Deltan parsley.”
M’Benga and Ortegas join the dinner party. Spock observes Chapel is under duress. He says he’s available if she ever needs to share. Chapel is unreceptive. Rah is telling the other crew members about his peace talks. Spock can’t control his behavior. However, he does introduce a new topic of conversation, getting Rah to compare Tsun Zsu’s The Art of War to a Klingon text.
M’Benga pours himself and Chapel liquor. Chapel asks why they’re at the dinner. M’Benga says the Captain needs them. Chapel asks why its so hard to explain the war to people who weren’t there. In a flashback, M’Benga speaks with the patient from the previous scene. M’Benga tells him to focus on getting better. The patient says he’s from New Angeles on Terra Luna. M’Benga says he has to check on other patients but wants to hear more when he gets back.
Starfleet Black Ops
Outside, M’Benga is confronted by a tough-looking Andorian. M’Benga says the answer is no, and to stop sending people. The Andorian says nobody sent him; in fact, he was discouraged. M’Benga says they’re done here. The Andorian says they need help taking out the General. He asks why M’Benga is hiding when he’s an accomplished warrior. M’Benga says he’s just a doctor now, preferring saving lives to taking them.
The Andorian says, “Protocol 12.” M’Benga says it was discontinued. The Andorian says Starfleet stopped making it but he heard M’Benga still had some, and could make more. M’Benga says he wouldn’t make more even if he could. The Andorian says he’d rather die tomorrow than today. As M’Benga walks away, the Andorian says his team needs an edge.
Over Pike’s table, Rah continues to recount his experiences. Rah says the Federation saved his life. He continues that J’Gal changed him. M’Benga states that J’Gal changed a lot of them. Chapel admits she was there as well. Rah says they know his pain “all too well. Those were difficult times.” Rah says his ideals shifted and he found the fighting pointless. Ortegas asks if the story about what he had to do to escape is true. Rah says they were all pushed to their limits and toasts the survivors.
But Ortegas says a Klingon phrase. “We are Klingon, may we endure,” translates Uhura. “Remain Klingon,” corrects Ortegas. She asks Rah if he remembers it. He says it was their battle cry. Ortegas says they heard it over the comms, then all the Klingons were dead. Una tells her to stand down. Ortegas stands up. Rah remains calm and says he’s not interested in his past, he’s interested in connecting with others who need healing, like Ortegas. Ortegas leaves the room. Chapel excuses herself to follow.
Pike apologizes. Rah says she will find her own way to peace. Uhura observes his perspective resembles Aenear existentialism. Rah says he loves the Aenear. M’Benga grips his chair. Pike sees this and asks him to check on Ortegas as well. M’Benga stands and begins to leave. But Rah grabs his forearm. Rah says La’An informed him that M’Benga practices full-impact Klingon martial arts, and asks to schedule a session. M’Benga says he’ll check his schedule and departs.
In a flashback, the patient has gotten out of bed and watches the fighting in the distant sky. M’Benga and he discuss why they joined Starfleet. M’Benga says it was to learn how to heal, but he won’t be able to do that if the Klingons win. If they don’t fight, they don’t win, and the disease takes over. Then none of them have a home to go back to. The patient wishes they could stop it without all the dying. M’Benga says they must fight so the people they love can live in peace. “That’s Starfleet.”
Chapel watches as the tough-looking Andorian plans an offensive. She says for Black Ops they talk loud. They’re going after the Klingon generals. She says all they need is meat for the grinder. One of the soldiers joining them is the patient from the past few flashback scenes. M’Benga tells him that fighting is one thing but this is… the patient tells him this is the mission. M’Benga tries to get him reassigned but the soldier demures.
On the Enterprise, Spock apologizes for his part the night before. Chapel says he just sees her going through something and their closeness makes him feel responsible. Spock says that isn’t true. He says his difficulty comes from seeing her experience such obvious distress. However, he is obviously making it worse. Spock says he researched J’Gal and cites the staggering loss of life. Chapel says war isn’t a statistic. She says war makes sense if you’ve been there. Chapel continues that she needs personal time. Spock says he understands that she needs personal time away from him and leaves.
In a flashback, the “incoming transfer” announcement is repeated. Chapel asks where the beam-ins are. The Klingons have hit their power supply. M’Benga reports auxiliary generators are up. Chapel comes up with a way to bring a pad online. But they’ll have to purge the transport logs to do so, where Alvardo’s pattern is stored. M’Benga deletes the pattern and says they’re saving lives.
The Butcher of J’Gal
In the training room, Rah and M’Benga face each other for Klingon judo. Rah says most people only see a murderous Klingon when they see him. M’Benga says he’s put the past behind him. Rah says you don’t leave something like that behind, but you learn from it. He proposes that he and M’Benga become allies. Rah clearly has the upper hand in their practice. He asks M’Benga to join him at his next peace conference as M’Benga refuses to take his proffered hand.
M’Benga asks if Rah really killed his own men. He asks who fought hardest. Rah says it was Commander Kiff. He continues that he stood up for what was right, and that’s why he was designated the Butcher of J’Gal. M’Benga says J’Gal changed them both. Rah says the practice was invigorating and he looks forward to the next round. Soon M’Benga gets into the sonic shower. He has a flashback to the massacre on J’Gal, and the many dead bodies. Chapel’s voice says they’re killing everyone. The tough-looking Andorian, the patient, and a small girl are among the victims. M’Benga picks up his weapon.
In Pike’s Quarters, he reads M’Benga’s file. Una offers an alternate route that will get them to Starbase sooner. Una says crew morale is low. They need to get Rah off the ship. Pike asks how the Federation can work if they don’t let people make up for their pasts. Una says she agrees in the abstract but isn’t sure how the people on the crew that he hurt will find forgiveness so easily. She says they can’t just ask them to let it go, as everyone is on their own journey. Pike accepts the new course.
In flashback, Chapel realizes M’Benga is going to complete the mission. M’Benga gives Chapel a method of being locating and extracting him before he departs. Chapel supports him in this. M’Benga gives Chapel a vial of Protocol 12, in case the Klingons reach the Starfleet base.
M’Benga is looking in a case. Rah arrives in Sickbay. He tells M’Benga they don’t have as much time to get to know each other as he’d hoped. M’Benga says he can accept this, as he doesn’t need to know Rah better than he already does. While Rah continues to speak, M’Benga tells him to go away. M’Benga says Rah just wants validation from him. Rah insists. M’Benga is unreceptive. He says Rah gave the order to kill anyone who isn’t Klingon. Rah concedes this but says he’s been trying to make up for it since. M’Benga says Kiff didn’t fight the hardest, but rather Captain Ruh’Lis. According to M’Benga, Ruh’Lis held M’Benga back as Rah made his escape. M’Benga reiterates that he was there: “I am the Butcher of J’Gal.”
Rah questions why M’Benga has let Rah take all the credit. M’Benga says it’s because he was ashamed of what happened. Rah states he is ashamed of his cowardice. M’Benga says he looked for Rah, and now here he is. “Using the blood on my hands to make yourself a saint?” Rah says he only wanted Starfleet to trust him. “And now look at what I’ve done.” He says people need saints and belief. Rah says the truth would cause his work to be undone. M’Benga says his work is based on lies. Rah never paid for what he’s done. M’Benga opens the box.
Rah says he needs the Federation and they need him. He says he has a purpose now. Inside the box is a Klingon knife. M’Benga asks why he had to come instead of leaving him alone. Rah says he’s here to provide healing. He puts his hand on M’Benga’s shoulder. “I said no,” M’Benga says. Rah tells him not to be stubborn.
Cut to the other side of the frosted glass. The silhouettes of M’Benga and Rah wrestle with one another as they argue. Chapel enters. Rah collapses. In the next shot, the knife protrudes from his chest. In the next scene the blood-covered knife sits in a tray in Pike’s office. Across the table from La’An and Pike, Chapel says she was there and saw the whole thing. Rah wanted to talk but M’Benga “was done.” According to Chapel, when M’Benga said he didn’t want to be involved with a war criminal, it set Rah off. Pike can’t believe Rah would attack M’Benga like that. Chapel says it goes to show that no one really knows what goes on in anyone’s heart.
Pike arrives in Sickbay. He informs M’Benga that La’An is ready to file her report. He states there’s likely to be an inquiry. Pike says he hopes that if M’Benga did someone instigate the fight with Rah, M’Benga would be open with Pike, allowing them to “work it out.” M’Benga states he didn’t instigate the fight. Pike says the situation is complicated. M’Benga asks if it is. He says Rah was living a lie and M’Benga saw his true face. M’Benga asks Pike, “What if I told you he murdered children? Not his men, he did it. What if I started the fight then? Would that be so bad?” Pike says even if he had secrets, that’s why they have tribunals. M’Benga says the diplomatic corps knew who he was and still let him represent the Federation. Pike
Pike says the Federation believes everyone deserves a second change. M’Benga asks about justice and the victims. “Doesn’t everyone deserve to pay for their actions?” Pike asks who decides who pays and gets redemption, and asks where the line is. M’Benga says Pike is correct: they have known each other a long time. They see eye to eye on most things. “But you haven’t lived my life. You have the privilege of believing in what’s best in people. Me? I happen to know there’s some things in this world that don’t deserve forgiveness.” Pike asks what he’s saying. M’Benga reiterates that he didn’t start the fight. “But I’m glad he’s dead.” Pike nods and leaves Sickbay.
Bio-Bed 2 (a metaphor)
Chief Medical Officer’s Log, Stardate 1877.5. M’Benga logs that bio-bed 2 is working again but acknowledges it is a temporary fix. He says some things break in a way that can never be repaired. The bio-bed screen flickers and the music strikes an ominous chord before cutting to the credits.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams new episodes every Thursday on Paramount+.
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