The latest Star Trek: Short Treks episode, Ask Not, has just aired. Captain Pike finds himself in trouble when he is taken prisoner… by a cadet? Let’s dive in and review this episode.
Over the run of Star Trek: Discovery, there seems to be no end to situations that corner characters against one moral wall or another. Choice is the operating principle in “Ask Not.” What decision will a cadet make, or a seasoned officer make, when the bombs are going off & family is under threat? Who lives & who dies? This is not a new theme in Star Trek: Wesley Crusher’s psyche test. Tom Paris’s water planet. Deanna Troi’s Bridge Officer’s Test. Captain Kirk on numerous occasions.
Thus, the basic question of “Ask Not” is what will a character do when faced with terrible decisions? Will they adhere to Starfleet protocols no matter what, or does the edifice crumble when hearts are involved & there is no one to turn to for guidance?
The opening shots present a conundrum: is that actually Captain Pike? Is Cadet Thira Sidhu stunned after being blasted to the floor? She’s quickly pressured to guard this prisoner while the base is under attack. Can she perform her duty in the face of great odds & and stand up to a heroic superior officer? How could the most battle-decorated & vocal advocate for peaceful resolution be arrested for treason & mutiny?
With skillful use of angled shots & partial perspective, “Ask Not” leads viewers, from the very beginning to mistrust the information coming to their own senses. Who is right? Who is wrong?
We’re dragged into the crisis, not exempt from the unfolding chaos & feeling as confused as Cadet Sidhu. It’s intense: explosions, bulkheads collapsing, a Starbase overcome by Tholian enemies, dust & more choking the air. And one lonely Cadet, given responsibility for detaining this most moral & ethical of captains, now traitor & mutineer. Everyone else leaves.
Facing off against a superior officer she admires, Cadet Sidhu & Captain Pike do a Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, volleying regulations back & forth, each trying to out-cite the other. Pike goes to great lengths, poking unerringly at Sidhu’s soft spots: her husband, her personal history with the Tholians, her fears, her insecurities & loneliness … her lack of rank. And while she wavers here & there, viewers waver too. She does not crumble or fall.
When Pike offers her a loophole that could allow his release, it may take a few seconds, but Sidhu stands her ground, despite the urgings of home & hearth: “We will follow Protocol, Sir!” The phaser may waver, her heart may falter, Pike may get mean, but Sidhu stands her ground, stands by the principles of Starfleet. Almost shoots Pike.
Without warning, the curtains are pulled back. It’s a shock when the Wizard stands exposed: Spock & Number One, armed with her trusty tablet. Shock visible on her face, Sidhu stammers “This was a test?” Pike responds, “Sorry I had to put you through all that. Your husband’s fine.” Everything’s okay.
“I know that a challenge like this might seem extreme, even inhumane. But war is both of those things. We need to know that you’ll honor your commitment to Starfleet, even when those you hold dear are on the line. Even when old wounds are triggered and loopholes appear.”
Cadet Thira Sidhu, in the end, realizes her dream of working on the Enterprise, her reward for steadfastness, & we are treated to some views of the Engineering deck. But as Spock says: “We’ve all learned to expect no mercy from Number One.”
Welcome to the new Enterprise. Spock likes science & will keep his freaky to himself. Pike is utterly unsentimental, infinitely flexible, & knows far more than he lets on. Number One does not show mercy, & Cadet Sidhu can hold her ground with the best of them. It sounds like the beginnings of one fantastic crew, should CBS decide to produce a Pike series.
Watch our review and analysis of Star Trek: Short Trek “Ask Not”, right here.