The Only Way to Discover This Terrible Future is to Live It

In the season finale of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – A Quality of Mercy, the Enterprise is updating the outpost on the edge of the Neutral Zone. While meeting with the Commander of the outpost and going over the upgrades, Pike is introduced to his son, Maat Al-Salah (one of the cadets in Pike’s vision of the future, one that doesn’t survive).

When he returns to his quarters and ponders his next steps and runs into himself; a much older version in an Admiral’s uniform. He warns against altering the future, even to save the lives of the cadets, which will have a devastating domino effect on the future. He presents Pike with a time crystal to show him what happens if he takes this path. Pike touches the crystal and is transported seven years into the future.

Pike finds himself in the middle of a crisis. He’s at an outpost on the Neutral Zone that has been attacked (possibly by the Romulans). While en route, Spock performs a mind-meld with Pike to ensure he is telling the truth. He learns that he has been transported six months after the accident that disfigures him was supposed to have happened – but it never did.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, 1.10 Quality of Mercy

When they arrive, they learn that several outposts have been destroyed by a mysterious vessel, and outpost 3 is under attack. A Romulan ship decloaks, destroys the outpost, and then cloaks again and leaves. The USS Farragut arrives, headed by Captain James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley), and rendezvous with the Enterprise. Spock is able to track the warp signature of the ship as they head back to the Neutral Zone. They decide to follow the ship (without entering Romulan Space) while they wait for permission from Starfleet to engage. While in pursuit, they intercept a visual communication from the Romulan ship. Eager to see what the mysterious Romulans look like, they quickly learn they look like Vulcans.

Paying the Bill

The crew is clearly disturbed by the physical similarities between the Romulans and Vulcans, even positing that this is some type of misinformation campaign to undermine the Human-Vulcan alliance. They plan to trap the Bird of Prey in the tail of the comet and neutralize the ship. However, it turns out the Romulans lured them into a trap, damaging both the Farragut and Enterprise. As Farragut’s life-support fails, the crew (including Kirk) are transported onto the Enterprise. Pike hails the Romulans and offers them a cease-fire for two hours to repair their ships and bury the dead. They agree – although the crew of the Enterprise is suspicious.

In his ready room, Spock and Pike discuss the potential of the changes on the timeline. Pike learns that Una has been sentenced to a penal colony for “deception.” Kirk arrives and suggests that they need to have a backup plan and fool the Romulans into thinking that there are Federation ships nearby to help and he agrees. As they near the end of the two-hour mark, Pike hails the Romulan ship and attempts to negotiate a truce. However, before they can finish, the Romulan fleet appears. 

The Strength of the Federation

On the Romulan ship, the Commander dresses down his second in command for violating his direct orders against escalation. The Romulan flagship hails the Enterprise and the Praetor demands unconditional surrender. Before he responds, Captain Kirk arrives with backup: an armada of mining ships (to bluff the Romulans). 

Pike shows the Romulans the recording of the Bird of Prey destroying Outpost 4. The Praetor destroys the Bird of Prey to mark their failure and demands Enterprise’s surrender again. When he declines, they fire on “the fleet.” Enterprise takes heavy fire and warps out of the destruction zone as the Romulans declare war against the Federation. As Enterprise suffers multiple hull breaches, Pike learns that Spock was severely injured and disfigured in the attack (suffering the same wounds Pike was fated to have). 

Pike finds himself back in his ready room with his future self. Admiral Pike tells him that the war with the Romulans is devastating with millions dead. He also tells him that every time-change Pike makes, he kills Spock and that Spock has “things to do,” hammering home Pike’s decision to accept his fate. At the end of the episode, Captain Batel arrives and arrests Number One for violations of Starfleet’s protocol on genetic modification.

Strange New Worlds – A Quality of Mercy – Episode Analysis

I really loved this episode and think that it is an excellent way to end the season. We get a glimpse into Pike’s character. While it seemed that he had accepted his fate, this episode reaffirmed that choice – even after he met one of the cadets he will fail to save. It closes the circle of what he has been wrestling with all season. The episode gives us a good look at the character of Captain Pike and what he knowingly sacrifices. 

We also got a look at a young Captain Kirk (Paul Wesley – The Vampire Diaries)! This is truly the first time we’ve seen him set up against Pike in their style. Brash and headstrong, Kirk is the captain the Enterprise needs after Pike is condemned to the chair. And his “throw-away” line that they could have avoided the war had they just chased down and destroy the Bird of Prey proved prescient. Kirk’s brash command style is what the future Enterprise needs. And I can’t wait to see more of it in season 2.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1.10

Additionally, I always love a good exploration of the Romulans. They remain my favorite alien species in the Star Trek universe. Their culture was explored a little more in-depth in Picard Season 1 (although I still believe they merit their own series). We meet several Romulans who operate on their own tenets of honor, faith, and dominance. However, I’m still taken aback at the idea that the way the Romulans “look” surprised everyone. It seems that the Vulcans have known for centuries they were related to the Romulans and the Federation has only been at war with them for a century (hardly before the invention of cameras). 

Ending the season with a cliffhanger on Una is a great way to keep me invested until season 2.