Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - A Quality Of Mercy, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - A Quality Of Mercy, Review

Matthew Kresal finds balance (and SPOILERS) in the Strange New Worlds season finale.
It's difficult to believe that just ten weeks ago, the first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds began streaming on Paramount+. Yet, after encounters with the Gorn, a moral dilemma or two, and even a fantasy-inspired outing, here we are. It's been a solid opening season, built nicely not only on the original Star Trek pilot from 1964, Trek's sixties incarnation, and nearly six decades of advancements in production ability. Will the season finale, A Quality of Mercy, be able to cap that off in style?

Without spoiling anything, the answer is a most assured yes. But to explain why requires going into spoilers. So consider yourself warned from this point onward.

As noted in reviews across this season right back to the series opener, one of the things that Strange New Worlds has predicated itself upon is being a prequel (and spiritual successor) to Trek's Original Series. From using characters from the first Trek pilot to bringing back the Gorn in a canon-friendly way to the types of stories it's told, the series has lived up to that premise. A Quality of Mercy takes it one step farther and does something utterly audacious: it re-imagines an episode from TOS.

Not just any old episode, either. Writers Henry Alonso Myers and Akiva Goldsman use the season finale to re-imagine Balance of Terror, an iconic outing from TOS that introduced the Romulans to the series back in 1966. Not only was it iconic, but it's also one of the most influential episodes in all of Trek, having already influenced the earlier Strange New Worlds episode, Momento Mori. Myers and Goldsman's respect for the original is evident throughout, going so far as to keep much of writer Paul Schneider's dialogue and incidents in their episode. The rest of the production follows suit, from visual effects sequences that bring a cinematic take to a piece of sixties television to shot choices made by director Chris Fisher and composer Nami Melumad skillfully recreating and broadening equally iconic pieces of Trek music. If all that wasn't enough, another starship enters the story with a familiar name as her captain: James T. Kirk, played by Paul Wesley.

On the surface, their choice of TOS episode and the inclusion of Kirk might seem particularly fannish, something that Strange New Worlds has certainly leaned into at times. Why they chose that Balance of Terror becomes apparent as it unfolds. In its nine proceeding episodes, the series has highlighted the different approaches and leadership styles between Pike and his eventual successor. Pike, the seasoned and more considerate approach, versus the younger and brash Kirk seen throughout TOS and its successor films. A Quality of Mercy highlights that even further, putting Pike into so well-known and loved a TOS episode as Balance of Terror with much of the same crew still in place seven years later. True, it's that fan discussion of "How would X captain this handle a situation instead of Y?" done with a budget that allows it to look borderline cinematic, asking how that episode might play out today with a bigger budget and scope. Yet, as has been so often the case with Strange New Worlds to date, it finds a perfect story reason for doing so.

That reason is something else this series promised when it started: doing character arcs across episodic storytelling. Here, that means Captain Pike (Anson Mount) continues to deal with being aware of his eventual fate. It's been a character subplot lingering in the background of several episodes now, and events in the opening of A Quality of Mercy bring it to the fore. Namely by leaning into another classic Trek trope: time travel. In this case, an older Pike in a red TOS movie-era uniform turns up as this series' present-day captain prepares to take a step that could avoid his fate. But at what cost? That becomes the question as events move into the future and familiar events play out in increasingly unpredictable ways.

A glimpse of the future and the Enterprise at a pivotal point in history that could change the fate of worlds brings to mind both the Next Generation's Yesterday's Enterprise and Enterprise's Twilight, among others. Like them, this episode gives Mount a chance to shine in an episode full of world-building and a character coming to terms with what could come to pass and how to alter it. Seeing Mount's Pike interacting with Wesley's Kirk, one who never had the chance to form friendships with Spock and McCoy, is just the icing on the cake with Wesley following much of the series cast is bring forth aspects of the original performance while also finding his own take on the role.

A Quality of Mercy does as a finale what Strange New Worlds has done for its entire debut season. It brings a modern sensibility to classic Trek (literally in this case) with yesterday's visions of tomorrow superbly blended with today’s production values and a fine cast. With the second season having only recently wrapped filming and this finale's ending, it's clear there's more to come in the same vain.

And may it live and long and prosper doing so, especially if it's as good as A Quality of Mercy and this season has been.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad