A Return to one of the very first planets in Star Trek is on the cards this week! But how was episode 4 of season 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds “Among the Lotus Eaters”? We have weird exotic radiation causing everyone to forget who they are. Cultural contamination on a massive scale. And lessons on how important it is not only to remember the good memories but the bad ones. The latest episode of Strange New Worlds is an interesting one going back to where it all started. Let’s take a look!
SPOILER WARNING, this is a full review of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ fourth episode in season 2 so there will be spoilers ahead! As such, you have been warned. If you’ve not watched this episode, turn away now!
Pike and Batel
The main underlying plot of this episode is essentially the romance between Pike and Batel. They are struggling because of their roles as Captains of Constitution Class starships. Yes, the debate about whether the U.S.S. Cayuga is a Constitution-Class or a Sombra-Class Starship is still active. Neither really have the time to spend with one another. They have to shirk off those under their command to have a simple meal together.
This is not the only issue between the two. Batel seems to have been punished by Pesalk, the Vulcan Badmiral from the Trial episode. She has been passed up for a promotion that Pike claims “Should have been hers”. It also confirms that Commodore is above Captain. So Pike being given the title/rank of Fleet Captain in the future will be interesting.
Pike does get given a gift by Batel, an Opelian Mariners Keystone. This is an alien necklace that is said to guide sailors home. A nice little throwaway piece of world-building. This actually has narrative significance as well. It does actually help bring Pike and his away team home when they forget who they are. Not only physically, but also reminds Pike about his feelings for Batel. Bringing him home in multiple senses.
We also learn that Pike does like to push people away that get too close to him. He gets some strong words from Una about this. I have to say I love their platonic relationship as Captain and First Officer and as friends. Una is willing to tell Pike to his face what he is doing wrong. Whether in her first officer capacity or her friend capacity.
This episode ties into the original pilot of Star Trek “The Cage”. It adds some new things both in-universe and out-of-universe which are retcons, but work extremely well.
An interesting somewhat-new piece of information is that Spock was injured on their last mission to Talos IV. This explains why in “The Cage” Spock is seen with a limp. As “The Cage” takes place just after the mission to Rigel VII. Other officers in “The Cage” are injured, such as José Tyler with a bandaged hand. This was meant to be the intention, that they were injured on Rigel VII. It is nice to get some concrete evidence of that.
Another retcon in this episode related to Rigel VII is that some people survived. Pike’s former Yeoman, Zac Nguyen, survived. This works as it is also new knowledge to Pike. He believed Zac had died and didn’t go back to rescue him.
What this episode added to the lore with Rigel VII very much enhanced what has changed. Having a weird forgetful society that is now established which still works with “The Cage”, is cool. Even though it is a society that forgets who they are, the work is done to make it seem feasible. This is done throughout the episode in small ways.
People mark on their bodies things they want to remember. Their outfits and the dyes they wear denote what they work on, whether it be Lumber or Quarry work. They have inscribed wooden totems telling them about their society and its history. And there are Palace Kalar with their ore helmets to tell those who forget what to do. It is a society that somewhat works, but you can see why they probably have been in the bronze age for a thousand years.
Another new addition to Rigel VII is this exotic radiation that causes you to forget. This was something that definitely wasn’t mentioned previously in “The Cage”. This is explained that they were not on the planet long enough to start feeling the effects of the radiation. They mention that the last away team was only on the planet for 4 hours. The ship also wasn’t in orbit long enough to have too much exposure.
The ores which the planet’s castles are made up of protect the inhabitants from radiation. A nice little touch is that the Kalar Warrior helmets are made of the same ore, and protect them. A ruling class protects itself in its castles with its own protective force. They use the labor of those who forget. These Field Kalar are kept docile by radiation and the Totems within their huts and the information it provides.
It would be interesting to know where the castle from “The Cage” was. Perhaps it was more south of where Zacarius’ castle was. It would have been a nice little lore piece to have a single dialogue saying “This delta symbol is further north than our previous away team”.
Zacarias “Zac” Nguyen
Zacarias is an interesting character. However, we very much needed some more material to fully explain to the audience why he did what he did. He was seemingly picked up by some Kalar warriors and made their leader. His Starfleet delta was made his sigil. Pike seemingly left a bunch of supplies on the planet. Zac was able to equip his warriors with phasers and he took over control of the region.
It would have been interesting to learn if he had done this during a “forgetting”. Was he wholly cognizant of his actions? I feel that would have been interesting. A man who became a tyrant under his forgetfulness. Then once he realized what he had done, he knew that if he returned to Starfleet he would be trialed for prime directive violations. So from that point, he did what he had to, to remain free.
That could be what happened. However, I don’t think there is enough in the episode to claim whether this was true or not.
This episode is heavily centered around forgetting yourself and who you are. What is fascinating is that a lot of ingrained things still remain. This tells us a lot about who our crew is deep down. Pike really does love Batel, with that core memory being what helps him get back. M’Benga knows he is a doctor and is able to treat wounds because he has done it a thousand times. Ortegas can pilot a massive starship because piloting is an inherent part of who she is. It’s essentially muscle memory at this point.
What is scary, for both us and for Pike as a character, is how his base character is capable of some pretty bad things. He very much injures Zac while not remembering who he is, punching him numerous times. It goes to show how much of his training keeps that under wraps. His morals and principles keep him from that base instinct. It very much reminds me of Quark in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He mentions that humans are capable of becoming as nasty and bloodthirsty as the most violent Klingon without their comforts and their morals keeping them in check.
We saw Spock again taking command of the situation and being more confident as a leader. He devises a plan to help the ship, even when Una is incapacitated.
A very interesting point to note is that, when people on the ship are struggling to remember who they are, Spock provides them with PADDS and personnel files of the crew members. However, Spock can’t read the file when he forgets who he is. This almost suggests that Spock has forgotten how to read English, with Vulcan probably being his first language. The Universal translator was still active, so he might have also been speaking Vulcan at the time. It could also be a repeat of Spock having dyslexia, and struggling to read.
This episode was said to be more of Ortegas. We even first got the outfit scene last year during Star Trek Day. Yes, she featured heavily, but I would not say this was an ortegas episode. I think we still need an episode whose A-plot centers around Ortegas. Ortegas did at least get two personal logs in this episode. We got to see a lot of her character, being very caring towards Uhura and taking her to Sickbay.
We got to see how good of a pilot Ortegas is. Piloting a starship was second nature to her, and therefore not prone to being forgotten. We get a look at her quarters and looks to have a model of a Walker Class Starship. Could this be the U.S.S. Palenque she was seen to honor last season? We also learn that she is from Barranquilla, Columbia’s fourth most populous city.
This episode very much felt like a novel adapted into an episode. As one of the authors is Kirsten Beyer, this felt like her writing style. She is very much a trek author first who has written numerous trek books, and has branched out into episodes.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Some minor characters like Luq felt very fleshed out and emotionally full as a person. They feel like they exist in this weird forgetful society. Whereas some characters like Zacarius really needed more to be fully whole as a character in what we are shown. This would be where a book could shine. We could get a small chapter on a flashback with Zacarius, some internal thoughts, or even some random guard dialogue. Trek Authors are very good with themes. Zac at least linked into that, being someone who has forgotten, and that being physicalized in his environment. Very Sci-Fi.
I will say that Luq was written very well and had that depth that I wished Zac had. He linked with the themes of the episode. However, Luq went from the angle of how it isn’t good to forget painful memories.
Another strength of Trek authors is worldbuilding, and this episode excelled in that. Creating a society in a weird alien way, that feels like it can work.
The Directing itself was very good, with the forgetting scenes being a highlight and putting us as the viewer in the same shoes as the characters. Whenever we met back up with a character it would be moments after a forgetful episode. We as well as they would be coming out of a very blurry screen. Not only would the character wonder where they were and what happened, but we would too.
The fight scenes were quite hit or miss with me, however. Pike using a plate as a shield in the throne room is a highlight. Whereas La’an getting stabbed in the quarry was a low point. One scene felt much more kinetic whereas the other was much more linear and flat.
The Director, Eduardo Sánchez, is known for the Blair Witch Project. Personally, I would have loved to see something more unique for Trek, and playing to the director’s strengths. If we are leaning into the horror aspect with the Gorn we could get that. The crew investigating what happened on a planet through personnel logs and video footage might have been creatively interesting.
Eduardo Sánchez does seem to be a Trekkie, making a Trek fan film in college. So it is nice that we get someone like that to direct an episode of Strange New Worlds. Hopefully, he returns for Season 3 for an episode he can really get creative with.
‘Among the Lotus Eaters”’ is written by Kirsten Beyer and Davy Perez and directed by Eduardo Sanchez. Overall, this was an interesting episode that said some things.
At the end of the day, this episode was about how important it is to remember. Not only the good but also the bad. The pain will still remain as it is part of us, but only by remembering what caused that pain can we move forward as a people.
Overall this was an engaging episode that ties into the very first (unaired) episode of Star Trek and enhances it with its recontextualizations. Pike mourned Zac, and was even so heartbroken over the death of some crewmembers he thought about retiring from Starfleet. Zac’s survival doesn’t take away from that but makes his fall from grace and the feeling of being forgotten himself and left behind all the more painful. Zac was afraid he was forgotten, and this was physicalized by a planet where you forget everything.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 has a new episode released every Thursday on Paramount+
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams via Paramount+ in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Latin America, France, Germany, Brazil, South Korea (via Tving), France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland & Austria. As well as CTV Scifi / Crave in Canada, & TVNZ in New Zealand. And on SkyShowtime in the Nordics, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Central and Eastern Europe.
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