Thus far, so Star Trek: Unusual New Worlds has given us a very strong system between riffing on basic Trek premises and taking certainly one of its predominant characters for just a little deeper dive alongside the best way. This week isn’t any exception, however with an particularly nice riff: What if trendy Star Trek did its personal “Steadiness of Terror,” with a splash of “12 months of Hell,” and even just a little whiff of The Wrath of Khan,
As a result of actually, that is what “Memento Mori” is: Unusual New World‘s tackle a catastrophe film in simply 50 minutes, principally onboard a single ship, and it sells the hell out of that premise with the collection’ most action-packed and intense episode to date. Set on Starfleet Remembrance Day—a day to mark fallen comrades and Federation residents who died within the title of house exploration—the majority of the episode sees the Enterprise on the best way to ship provides to a distant colony, solely to search out it battered, with only a scant hundred survivors of a mysterious assault. In the midst of transporting survivors from a small cargo hauler with its shields down, the Enterprise rapidly discovers the horrifying nature of the menace the colonists face: a squadron of Gorn vessels, which instantly lance the Enterprise with fireplace and intestine the ship.
It is a correct catastrophe film vibe, and each thematically and visually Unusual New Worlds sells it with aplomb. It’s, like a lot of the collection to date, trope-y as hell—this time leaning into extra customary catastrophe fiction fare relatively than something particular to Trek—however, additionally like a lot of the collection to date, it is delivered with appeal. There’s the aforementioned “12 months of Hell” vibe, as a wounded Enterprise finds programs crippled and issues slowly going from unhealthy to worse because the state of affairs will get extra dire, forcing the battered vessel right into a lethal sport of hide-and-seek within the clouds of a brown dwarf circling a black gap. That setting in flip makes this additionally Unusual New World‘s “Steadiness of Terror”-meets-Wrath of Khan‘s Mutara Nebula battle. Outdoors of their ships, the Gorn are by no means really seen within the episode. They’re nonetheless largely unknown to Starfleet at massive at this level; outdoors of that, Lieutenant La’an is very a lot horrified on the considered ending what is seemingly her second encounter with the species (extra on that later). The Gorn act as a shadow that lingers all through the episode’s catastrophe, an unrelenting menace that pushes the Enterprise crew to their limits as they discover themselves outnumbered and outgunned.
However between these Trek vibes you might have all the nice catastrophe hallmarks—dangerous plans made with restricted choices, large private stakes, queasy medical triage, unlikely allies compelled collectively (on this case, Chief Engineer Hemmer and Cadet Uhura, trapped in Engineering) who should study to be a group to outlive. Unusual New Worlds tackles these with the identical vim and vigor with which it tackles Star Trek‘s most interesting tropes, and since it does so with such earnestness, you rapidly overlook what actually should not make “Momento Mori” work: you are watching a catastrophe film a couple of ship and a crew that you just know goes to flee the catastrophe. Unusual New Worlds may be a largely episodic present, and so the Enterprise will likely be effective subsequent week, regardless of the hammering it takes right here, however the episode by no means makes gentle of the hazard each part of the ship and crew finds itself in. You concern when characters like Quantity One get badly wounded, or when iconic Trek legends like Spock and Uhura are put at risk, although you understand they will not meet their finish going through the Gorn. When Pike tells the viewers and his crew alike that he believes the Enterprise can pull out all of the stops in its sport of house cat-and-mouse, you imagine it by his earnest conviction, not as a result of you understand it will be effective however as a result of it is the goddamn starship Enterprise,
Attending to play with how large it could actually push these stakes and the way a lot of a battering these pristine, gorgeously faux-retro units can take, “Momento Mori” shines as among the best “motion” episodes of Trek in years, maybe the perfect of its trendy iteration, if not up there with the franchises’ cinematic and televisual highs within the style. However what elevates even additional is that the episode is not simply a very killer motion film shrunk right down to an episode of TV. Similar to final week shone a light-weight on Quantity Oneand the week earlier than it Cadet Uhura“Momento Mori” places its coronary heart into one other of the collection’ still-fresh faces: Christina Chong’s La’an Noonien-Singh, Centering the catastrophe film on the tough-as-nails, no-nonsense safety chief is a great thought; La’an is a fighter, and this episode is a battle for the Enterprise crew’s lives. However “Momento Mori” explores the cracks in La’an’s skilled and private armor by rapidly revealing her previous with the Gorn, making what needs to be the right skilled disaster for her to face a deeply private one, compromising her steely exterior in fascinating methods.
As we finally study from a mind-meld Spock makes to safe some key tactical details about Gorn communications from her traumatized reminiscence, La’an’s colony shin (the SS Puget Sound) was a uncommon Federation vessel to come across the Gorn, its colonists captured and despatched to be hunted on a Gorn breeding world. Dropping her household in an tried escape and going through the Gorn is what remodeled La’an into the cool, closed-off lady she has grow to be as a Starfleet officer, and people boundaries start to interrupt down as she now faces them once more. There is a sensible push and pull in her arc throughout “Momento Mori” the place she’s allowed to really feel all the trend, ache, and concern she has buried in her previous over the demise of her household and her brother particularly on the Gorn’s fingers—and the way she then has to re-confront all that and work to do her job, to rally the individuals round her, and show to them that they’re going to make it by the disaster they face. By having this principally unknown-to-us character run the entire gamut of concern into hope, La’an turns into the point of interest that makes “Momento Mori” such a gripping survival thriller, promoting the episode as a lot because the grand spectacle and motion does .
clearly, the Enterprise cannot face such explosive catastrophe each week—excessive stakes, positive, however you could not anticipate a largely episodic collection to utterly bang up the ship week in and week out with out somebody, whether or not textually or metatextually, discovering it just a little bit too bizarre. So if “Momento Mori” was Unusual New Worlds season one’s large Hail Mary into an motion blockbuster that it needed to go all out on as a result of we can’t get one thing prefer it for some time, properly… it set a particularly excessive customary for future episodes to match, to say the least .
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