In Strange New World: Ghosts of Illyria, the team arrives at Hedamate 9, a former Illyrian colony. The Illyrians were an alien species that practiced Genetic Modification (illegal within the Federation – a result of the Eugenics Wars). On the planet, the crew is trying to investigate what happened to the Colonists. With an Ion Storm approaching the crew starts to evacuate back to the Enterprise. The storm gets too strong, interfering with the transporter system, so the Captain and Spock are stuck on the planet during the storm. 

As the crew waits for the storm to pass so they can rescue Pike and Spock, the crew starts to behave oddly. Several of the away team members start aggressively pursuing light, to the point that they hurt themselves — shocking, electrocuting, or burning themselves. Number One also exhibits some of the symptoms, but not as aggressively as the others. Sickbay is unable to fay a source of the behavior. The team is especially concerned that the biofilters in the transporters didn’t catch this contagion. 

Ghosts of Illyria

Number One continues to search for the source of the contamination and alerts Office Noonian Singh, head of Security. She expresses disgust about the Illyrians and their genetic modifications. Her relationship with Kahn seems to have left a mark on her. During the debriefing, La’an starts to show symptoms of the sickness – turning on and pursuing lights. The doctor confirms that she is infected – even though she was never part of the landing party. It’s contagious! The doctor orders a full lockdown of the ship to prevent further spread.

Back on the planet, Spock and Pike seek shelter from the storm. Spock recovered a series of logs from the Illyrians to decipher what happened to the colony. This group of Illyrians apparently wanted to join the Federation and, to do so, tried to remove their genetic modifications. The storm outside grows worse and it appears that there are… things in the storm.

Does That Have a Setting for Stun?

Back on the Enterprise, the contagion is spreading. Uhura, interestingly, was not impacted. Number one determines that Uhura was uninfected because, when she went to bed, she closed the door. She needs “pitch black” to sleep. The contagion needs light to grow and spread! They decide to sedate the infected crew and turn off all of the lights. While Number One is researching the Illyrians, she gets a notification of a transporter override. She goes and finds Hemmer trying to beam in a portion of the planet’s mantle so he can “feel the warmth.” She stuns him before he can transport the piece (which would have killed them all). 

Pike and Spock watch as the storm gets worse and something tries to enter their shelter. The Illyrian texts tell stories of creatures living in the Ion Storm. As Pike points his weapon at the door, Spock continues to decipher the Illyrian text. As the storm worsens, the creatures break into the room and form a protective shield around Spock and Pike just as the storm breaks into the room. They save their lives.

Number One Fireman carries Hemmer into Sick Bay where she finds the doctor and Nurse Chappel also infected. She confesses to them that she’s immune to the disease. She’s an Illyrian and her genetically modified immune system fought off the virus. Unfortunately, she didn’t create antibodies when she was infected. They can’t synthesize an antidote.

After Unna puts the doctor under, an alarm sounds that the Warp Core Containment Field has been deactivated. La’an woke up and is seeking the “warmth” of the warp core. Number One tries to stop her and, while they’re fighting, La’an calls her an abomination and an augment. Una knocks her unconscious as the room floods with radiation.

Back on the planet, the storm has passed. Pike and Spock head out to hail the Enterprise. Spock tells him that the Plasma Creatures in the storm were the Illyrian colonists. After they were infected with the light illness, they fled into the storms and their genetic modifications combined with the storm turned them into these creatures. 

What Do We Do When Starfleet Finds Out?

On Enterprise, Una wakes up the crew. The radiation exposure combined with Number One’s immune system created an antidote to the virus. Una seeks out La’an to talk about what happened. It’s clear that La’an’s words were not just the sickness. Something has changed between them.

Una next visits Captain Pike and extends her resignation. Pike, however, denies her resignation and tells her that he doesn’t care where she came from, she’s a phenomenal officer. Even though her genetic modifications are illegal, he doesn’t care. 

Una visits the Doctor and tells him that she knows his medical transporters inhibited the biofilters. It turns out that the Doctor has been storing his daughter’s pattern in the pattern buffer of the transporter. She has an incurable disease. He’s trying to keep her alive until he can find a cure. He’s devastated and tells her he will disable the pattern. However, Number One has another plan: they provide him with a dedicated power line for the buffer so that it is separate from the ships. 

Strange New World – Ghosts of Illyria Episode Analysis

This episode tackled some of the hard truths of the Federation, specifically its attitude towards genetic modification. We first came across this with Doctor Bashir on Deep Space Nine. Given that Strange New Worlds takes place not long after the Eugenics Wars, it’s no surprise that this attitude continues. It seems that La’an is not genetically modified… but she has a specific disdain for it. It’s also Star Trek doing what it does best, highlighting how we are suspicious (often needlessly) of “the other.”

We knew very little about Number One (Una). It’s great that we are delving more into her backstory here. Learning that she does have something to hide. However, I wonder how that will play out. The Federation is quite specific about its restrictions on genetic modifications – and with good reason. Will that come back to bite them all? 

This episode is another excellent piece in the Star Trek catalog. I can’t wait to see what comes next! 

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