Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) returns to Rigel VII in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 4. “Among the Lotus Eaters” was written by Kirsten Byer and Davy Perz and directed by Eduardo Sanchez.
Captain’s Personal Log Stardate 1630.1. The Enterprise is assisting the USS Cayuga in a joint mission charting a binary star system. Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano) and Pike are attempting to steal some personal time together. Pike is cooking Batel his mother’s spaghetti sauce. Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) contacts Pike over comms, but barring an emergency Pike asks to be left alone.
Batel presents Pike with a gift. Then, she’s contacted by the Cayuga through Enterprise Comm Officer Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). She asks not to be bothered unless contacted by the Admiral. The present she’s given Pike is an Oppelian mariner’s keystone. Ancient Oppelians wore them to guide lost sailors home. That’s when the Admiral does contact Batel.
After the transmission, Pike asks if everything’s okay. Batel confirms it is, but she has to be back in 10 minutes. Pike implies Una’s recent trial may be why Batel was passed over for promotion to commodore. He says he’s worried their relationship may be hurting her career. Pike suggests they pull it back a little. Batel says his timing is perfect. She departs for her ship. As she does so, Una informs Pike that Starfleet Command has contacted the Enterprise about Rigel VII.
“Among the Lotus Eaters”
In the observation lounge, Una explains they visited five years earlier during a routine M-Class planet exploration mission. They found the Kalar, a Bronze Age caste-based society with a formidable warrior class and a secretive ruling class. No further information is available.
This is partially because the mission only lasted four hours. The landing party was ambushed. In addition to losing three crew members, Spock was nearly fatally injured and had to be evacuated for treatment. Scans are unable to penetrate Rigel VII’s atmosphere, so periodic flyby missions must be conducted. A recent flyby mission revealed the Starfleet Delta prominently displayed in a palace garden. Conclusion: something must have been left behind by the Enterprise. Their mission is to locate and remove any cultural contamination.
Doctor Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) asks why a doctor is needed for the extraction. Pike says they need him. He further states it will be an undercover recon mission, to avoid further contamination. Also present are Chief of Security La’An Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) and pilot Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia). Everyone but Una leaves to prepare.
Una observes that the Cayuga left quickly. Pike says he and Batel decided to spend some time apart. Una suspects he pushed Batel away because they were getting too close. She asks why Pike torpedoed the relationship when they had a good thing. She says he deserves joy in his life. But for the moment, Pike must deal with the return to Rigel VII. The events of their previous mission still haunt him. He says the Enterprise must clean up its own mess.
In her quarters, Ortegas records a Pilot’s personal log for Stardate 1630.3. Multiple starship models appear on her shelves. She’s putting on her disguise for the away mission. As she explains in her log, the nature of Rigel VII’s atmosphere means her piloting expertise is needed for the shuttle. She is excited because she rarely gets to join the landing party.
But after meeting up with La’An and M’Benga, Ortegas gets some bad news. According to Spock (Ethan Peck), data indicates the debris field will intersect multiple points along the intended flight path of the Enterprise. The field is most likely the result of the collision of two large celestial bodies that once orbited Rigel VII. Because of the debris field, Ortegas will have to remain aboard the ship to pilot Enterprise by hand. Meanwhile, Pike (who was a test pilot) will fly the shuttle.
The shuttle passes a smoking asteroid crater. According to readings, the impact occurred thousands of years ago. The shuttle flies under cloud cover. Once they’ve landed, they’ll hike twenty kilometers through hostile territory. After landing, Pike informs them that they can’t risk further contamination. As such, rather than the usual tech, they’ll be equipped only with some items Spock mocked up to be consistent with Rigel VII’s current development.
Pike says the Kalar warriors are fierce. La’An and M’Benga were selected for the mission because they can defend themselves without a phaser. He says all they’ll need are their subdermal universal translators. As they begin to set out, La’An hears a ringing in her ears.
Suddenly, she is standing in the middle of a snowfield instead of in the shuttle. She’s disoriented. M’Benga asks if she’s all right, and she shares the tinnitus. But then she’s surprised to learn it’s been six hours since they left the shuttle. They continue, hoping it’s nothing. When they arrive at the palace, they discover the Starfleet Delta on the gate, as well. La’An has a headache. Pike suggests M’Benga’s idea of returning to the shuttle.
But La’An sees that the palace guards are armed with phaser rifles. Pike admits he might have left some gear behind during the previous visit’s escape. M’Benga alerts them that they have company. Six warriors appear. Pike attempts diplomacy. The warriors identify them as Starfleet and apprehend them.
Inside the palace, Pike begins experiencing tinnitus. The crowned High Lord of the palace is revealed to be Zack Nguyen (David Huynh), former Yeoman on the Enterprise. He was one of the three left for dead during the previous mission. Nguyen reveals he recognized the shuttle in the sky and had been awaiting their arrival. However, he’s angry at what he perceives to be his abandonment. Pike asks if he hadn’t used the Delta to attract their attention. But Nguyen reveals that the locals had simply adopted it as his sigil. The garden will be torn out the next day.
Pike says it must have been difficult for Nguyen to survive. Nguyen says Pike has no idea. He asks if Pike hasn’t noticed how hard it has become to think or the tinnitus. Nguyen explains that the planet’s radiation affects the brain. This leads to tinnitus, lost time, fear, and amnesia. Furthermore, because he armed the locals with Starfleet tech and took over, he won’t consider a return to Starfleet.
“The Cage” Crew
Nguyen has the Enterprise trio put in an outdoor cage. The tinnitus and lost time persist. Soon, La’An has forgotten Pike and her name. Then, neither Pike nor M’Benga can explain why they’re in the cages. On the Enterprise, Uhura is distracted by tinnitus and experiences lost time. At first, Ortegas dismisses this as a side effect of staying up late translating Tellarite sonnets. But Uhura’s disorientation prompts Una to send Uhura to sick bay. Una takes the helm and sends Ortegas to accompany Uhura to sick bay.
Soon, Uhura is describing her symptoms to Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush). Chapel says she needs to run a complete diagnostic on the unprecedented situation. While Chapel is perplexed, she says they should be able to handle it so long as it remains confined to Uhura. But that’s when Spock contacts her to inform her that six crewmembers in Engineering are reporting acute memory loss.
Rigellian warriors open the cage containing Pike, M’Benga, and La’An. Although they are ordered to move or starve, the trio remains in the cage. However, another prisoner, Luq (Reed Birney), intervenes. He says they’ve “had a rough forgetting.”
Luq explains that while there is no totem, he can help them re-center. He explains that green clothing indicates M’Benga should chop wood while blue clothing indicates PIke and La’An’s blue clothing indicates they work in the stone quarry. Lu says he will explain the totems later. He urges them to live in the moment.
La’An resents being forced to work in the quarry. However, Luq says that their work affords them purpose. Luq that while they had a hard forgetting the previous night, he will guide them to an easier one tonight. Pike asks if he means “sleep,” and Luq says sleep is the providence of the Kalar in the palace. La’An demands answers.
Luq explains that they are the Kalar from the field. Every night, they have their “forgetting.” While they retain the “deeply known things” like language and movement, they lose their other memories. Luq explains that they have pictures and each other to guide themselves. He displays an arm tattoo that informs him of his name. However, neither La’An nor Pike have tattoos. Furthermore, Pike concludes his hands don’t reflect work in a stone quarry.
La’An wonders if they could be Kalar from the palace. Furthermore, Pike recalls his necklace (from Batel) as a gift. He also recalls that M’Benga is part of their party. The Kalar warriors restore order. When Pike resists, they fight him. La’An joins the fray and sustains a wound to her torso. M’Benga’s medical knowledge suggests he’s a doctor.
On the Enterprise, Chapel explains the situation to Una. Meanwhile, Una is experiencing the symptoms herself. And a third of the crew has already been affected. Spock suggests they should carry PADDs with their own personal information. He calculates only an hour until the ship cannot function. Chapel postulates some kind of exotic radiation may be the cause. Rigel VII may be the source. But they can’t abandon the landing party. Spock takes the con and directs Ortegas to relocate the ship into the debris field.
Lotus Eater City
Luq demonstrates how the sign on a shelter matches the mark on his arm, indicating it is his home. Inside, they arrange a place for La’An to lie down. M’Benga believes he can treat her, but only with his restored knowledge. Luq urges them to allow La’An to die in peace. However, La’An says she isn’t yet prepared to shuffle off the mortal coil. Pike says they can’t let her die. But Luq says they won’t suffer the pain of her death thanks to the forgetting. La’An further protests the fatal prognosis.
Then Luq explains his totem to Pike. He says it tells the history of the Kalar. Luq says that it helps them make sense of their world each morning. According to the totem, the gods decreed there would be two types of Kalar. Those that would remember and rule their world, and those that would forget and “keep the work of the present continuing.”
Pike observes it’s convenient that some do all the work while others don’t. But Luq insists that the palace Kalar shoulder the burden of memory for the rest of them. M’Benga says memories are worth his ability to heal. Luq cannot explain how the palace Kalar retains their memory. He cites a legend that they keep memories inside a casket.
Undeterred, Pike says they must retrieve their memories to save La’An. Luq says they must act now, before the next forgetting. Because of Pike’s strong emotions, Luq is convinced to assist. Pike informs the others they’re going to the palace to get their memories back.
Follow the Path
M’Benga and Pike help La’An to walk as they follow Luq to the palace. According to M’Benga, La’An should be close at hand when his memories return. They ask Luq to watch of La’An while they’re gone. While Pike offers to retrieve Luq’s memories as well, Luq demures. When questioned, Pike admits he associates a feeling of love with his necklace. Luq explains that those emotions survive the forgetting.
Then Luq reveals scratched-out arm tattoos. While he doesn’t remember the story, he has no one to whom he can pass his totem. This is traditionally an intergenerational gift. While Luq feels the loss, he doesn’t want to know the full story. He says knowledge won’t ease his sorrow. Luq says he is past the need to remember. He admits he’s too afraid of the pain.
On the Enterprise, Ortegas and Spock have both lost their memories. Furthermore, Spock cannot remember how to read who he is off of the PADD. Ortegas gets the sense that they were trying to make something better but instead made it worse. Both are experiencing headaches. Ortegas leaves the bridge in search of somewhere “safe.” Although perplexed by the functionality of the elevator, Ortegas instructs it to take her home.
When she arrives on deck 6, she finds the hallways crowded with confused and fearful crewmembers. The Enterprise computer (Alex Kapp) provides an illuminated path to Ortegas’ quarters (Section G, Room 629). Ortegas follows the path and reaches her quarters. While she feels safe there, collisions with the debris outside make things rather unsafe.
The Palace Kalar
Pike and M’Benga arrive at the palace. They engage and incapacitate the Kalar guards. M’Benga sustains a minor injury. He tells Pike to go ahead without him. Meanwhile, M’Benga will hold off the Kalar.
On the Enterprise, a disoriented Ortegas begs the computer for help. Ortegas says they need to get out of there. When the computer asks if she wants to plot a course, Ortegas recognizes the phrase. The computer informs her she is Ortegas and the pilot of the ship. “I’m a pilot?” repeats Ortegas. “I fly the ship?” She concludes that as the pilot, it’s her job to fly the ship out of the dangerous situation. She repeats her name and duty as she works her way out of her quarters and onto the bridge. Ortegas sits at her station and declares that she believes she can get them where they need to be.
Inside the palace, Pike and Nguyen exchange phaser fire. Soon, Pike incapacitates Nguyen. He demands to know the location of the casket. But Nguyen begins laughing at Pike’s credulity regarding a local myth. There is no casket. In orbit, Ortegas demonstrates her acumen as a pilot.
Nguyen surrenders his crate of Starfleet equipment. The palace Kalar retains their memories because of the asteroid ore from which the palace is constructed. Helmets are made from the same material.
Pike realizes Nguyen knows Pike’s identity. Nguyen says Pike’s memories will return soon. Pike, not yet in possession of his mental faculties, begins beating Nguyen. But before killing Nguyen with one of his own weapons, Pike regains his memories and lowers the weapon. Pike says Rigel VII shows who we really are. Although he apologizes for leaving Nguyen behind, he says what happened after was Nguyen’s responsibility. They’re bringing him home. Starfleet will decide his fate.
Soon, M’Benga administers medical care to La’An inside the palace. Pike collects the Starfleet equipment. Meanwhile, Luq sobs nearby. La’An tells M’Benga that some memories are worth the pain of others. They exchange their “index finger under eye” hand signal. Pike speaks with Luq, who shares that he had a family and a son. He thanks Pike for returning his memories and says he was wrong to prefer forgetting. “The story of your life, the details, they matter,” says Luq.
Personal log, Stardate 1632.2. Ortegas explains that the crew’s memories returned upon clearing the debris field. The elements found in the field were the cause of the memory effects. Pike resolves to remove the asteroid that is the source of the effect from the debris field, thus alleviating the effects on Rigel VII. Ortegas uses the tractor beam to accomplish this mission.
Later, Batel questions Pike’s decision to detour two starships for a routine prisoner transfer. Pike tells her she knows it’s more than that. Pike apologizes to her. He says Batel brought him home from Rigel VII and asks for forgiveness. Batel is flippant, but they kiss before the closing credits.
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