Published Jun 30, 2023
RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 203 - 'Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow'
They're on a mission to protect something beautiful - the future of humanity.
By Jay Stobie
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
In the previous episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,' "Ad Astra per Aspera," Commander Una Chin-Riley is acquitted of the charges against her, which included falsifying records, violating Starfleet's code on genetic modification, and two counts of sedition, and granted her request of asylum.
While staying aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise ahead of trial, defense lawyer Neera Ketoul got to know Una's crew as well as their thoughts on the Eugenics War, Augments, and their ship's first officer. Sensing La'An Noonien-Singh's internal shame, Neera assures her that "genetics is not destiny." She wasn't born a monster; just "born with the capacity for actions, good or ill."
In "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," La’An travels back in time to 21st Century Earth to prevent an attack which will alter humanity’s future history. — and bring her face-to-face with her own contentious legacy.
- La’An Noonien-Singh
- Dr. Joseph M'Benga
- James T. Kirk
- Nyota Uhura
- Erica Ortegas
- Sera, photographer
- Khan Noonien Singh
- Christopher Pike
- Una Chin-Riley (Number One)
- U.S.S. Enterprise
- United Earth Fleet ship Enterprise
- Toronto, Canada, 21st Century
- Archaeology Department, Vermont, United States, 21st Century
- Noonien-Singh Institute for Cultural Advancement
As the U.S.S. Enterprise cruises through space, Lt. La’An Noonien-Singh deals with a number of minor crises on the ship, ranging from an argument between a Denobulan cadet and Chief Jay to a noise complaint against Spock and his Vulcan lute. La’An also investigates relics with “suspicious provenance” in Commander Pelia’s possession — one of which boasts a tag declaring it the property of the Archaeology Department, though the chief engineer credits living through every type of natural disaster and economic calamity for turning her into a packrat. Pelia even maintains a bunker she previously resided at in Vermont in case the “whole no money, socialist utopia thing” turns out to be a fad. A security officer brings a painting to La’An’s attention, but Pelia protests that it is a fake and the Louvre must stop calling her.
La’An vents her frustration in a sparring session with Dr. Joseph M’Benga, who notes the security chief didn’t attend the party for Una in the captain’s quarters. Feeling lonely, La’An leaves and wanders the corridors until she sees a bright flash followed by a man in a grey suit stumbling. Wounded by a bullet, the stranger explains that there has been an attack in the past and La’An must stop it. He hands her a piece of tech and tells her to get to the Bridge as a shimmering wave ripples through the hallway. Suddenly, the klaxon siren resonates across the deck, signaling the ship is at Red Alert. The man dies, then disappears; La’An heads to the Bridge — only to discover James T. Kirk in the captain’s chair.
At a loss for words, La’An looks on as Ensign Nyota Uhura announces an incoming hail from a Vulcan ship. Spock appears on the viewscreen, and Kirk identifies himself as captain of the United Earth Fleet ship Enterprise. In command of the vessel Sh'Rel, Spock requests Earth’s assistance in Vulcan’s fight against the Romulan Star Empire. Without Earth’s support, Vulcan faces certain defeat, but Kirk regretfully replies that humanity can’t fight a war on two fronts. Uhura closes the channel, and the Bridge crew stares at La’An until she asks Kirk for a discussion in private.
In the Ready Room, Captain Kirk reacts in disbelief to the notion that La’An is from an alternate timeline. She hypothesizes that the attack mentioned by the man in the grey suit must have changed the future. The security chief brandishes the device he gave her and presumes it protected her from the shifting reality. Believing the stranger wanted La’An to seek out this version of Kirk for help, she denies the captain’s appeal to study the device.* As Kirk attempts to grab the tech, La’An presses a glowing green button — the two vanish in a burst of light…
…and find themselves in a cluttered alley. Now red, the device’s button no longer functions. Kirk is puzzled and panicked, but La’An focuses on the task at hand — preventing a time-traveling assassin from succeeding. Lacking a tricorder, communicator, or phaser, the two enter a crowded square in the middle of a city. Kirk thinks they’ve landed in mid-21st Century New York City, but La’An observes they’re in Toronto, the largest city in what was known as Canada — home to maple leaves, politeness, and poutine. Admitting he’d never been to Earth, the captain reveals he was born on the U.S.S. Iowa. In his time, Earth was left in ruin.
The chilly temperature sends the pair to a nearby department store, where Kirk is befuddled by the concept of a revolving door. They switch their uniforms for suitable casual wear, but their lack of currency proves problematic. La’An slips an item into another shopper’s bag; the unwitting shoplifter sets off alarms as she exits, allowing the two time travelers to sneak out. Back on the street, Kirk employs his “marketable 21st Century skills” in a series of outdoor chess matches to obtain a pile of cash. Afterward, the captain classifies the game’s old-fashioned, two-dimensional version as “idiot’s chess.”
Spotting a food cart, James orders two hot dogs as La’An tries to figure out their next step. Unsure of how to proceed, the pair stumble across a majestic sunset which captivates Kirk. He compares the view to videos from his version of Earth which show clouds of ash that won’t clear for 1,000 years. His timeline also boasts underground lunar habitats that have no view of the sun at all. James laments for another moment before declaring that one shouldn’t skip good hot dogs when you can get them. La’An suppresses a smirk, while a single bite from the hot dog prompts Kirk to head back to the stand and order a second snack for himself.
Settled into a hotel room for the night, La’An tosses and turns in bed, finally casting the sheets aside and walking over to the living area. She gazes silently at James, who appears to be fast asleep on the couch. The security shief lingers, departing just before Kirk stirs and turns toward where she had stood. The next morning, La’An writes a list of 21st Century historical events in the hope of figuring out what has changed. She asks Kirk to do the same, though he seems more interested in the hotel’s shower and mini-bar. La’An pressures him to focus, and James’ mood immediately becomes serious. Considering his knowledge of temporal mechanics, he knows this is a fork in the road — if they fix La’An’s timeline, they will destroy his. She counters, claiming his timeline isn’t supposed to exist.
Kirk believes it’d be best for him to enjoy this century’s comforts and then find a way home. His reality is not ideal, but humans have made the stars their home. Settlements are located on the moon, Mars, Venus, and Europa— La’An interrupts, outlining her Earth’s colonization of dozens of worlds and its vital membership in a Federation of species. The argument escalates, with Kirk asserting other species are needed for survival and La’An questioning whether merely surviving is enough. La’An admits that things got bad in her 21st Century, but first contact with the Vulcans ushered in a utopian era and allowed Earth to help the galaxy. She explains that James could be an explorer, particularly as she had heard stories about him from his brother Sam. This revelation catches Kirk’s attention, as Sam had died in his reality. The debate is interrupted by a thunderous explosion; the two look out the hotel’s window to see a section of the Lake Ontario Bridge consumed in fire and crumbling.
La’An realizes the grey-suited man’s “get to the bridge” comment probably referred to this structure rather than a starship’s command center. An hour later, police officers and rescue workers are on scene as reporters and civilians watch the scene in horror. Despite the tragedy, La’An and James agree that this event occurred in both of their timelines. The security chief notices a suspicious piece of wreckage and asks a nearby photographer if she can inspect her pictures. After spying charring on a piece of debris that she interprets to be a photonic bomb’s tell-tale signature, La’An notes that Earth isn’t supposed to have that technology for another 100 years.
As the burned wreckage is loaded into a van, Kirk jumps into action. He subdues a civilian with a Vulcan nerve pinch to confiscate a sporty red car. James spent six months in a Denobulan prison camp, and his cellmate was a Vulcan. He smiles as he informs La’An that he also learned how to make Plomeek soup in the toilet. James initially struggles with the vehicle, but he works out the issues and drives after the van. La’An emphasizes the need for discretion, and he replies that ‘discreet’ is his middle name. La’An remarks that his personnel file indicated his real middle name was some insane — Kirk interjects, saying that Tiberius was also his grandfather’s name. Calling it the least discreet moniker possible, La’An sarcastically asks if Sam’s full name is “Sam Aurelius Augustus Benedictus Kirk,” but James states Sam is his middle name — most people call him George.
The conversation turns to La’An’s family, and James mispronounces her surname as “Noonien-Soong.” She registers that he never heard of her infamous ancestor, Khan Noonien-Singh. The car chase intensifies — James speeds up to keep track of the van. His wild maneuvers draw unwanted attention from a police officer, who calls in reinforcements to aid him in pursuing Kirk and La’An’s vehicle. The police cars block James’ route, leading to his arrest. Suddenly, the photographer from the bridge crime scene calls out from the sidewalk. She is streaming the encounter from her phone and accuses the officers of purposely pulling over a famous civil rights attorney. As a ruse, the photographer identifies James as a doctor who defends victims of tyrannical law enforcement overreach. Uninterested in the attention, the officer agrees to let Kirk go with a warning.
The police vacate the area, and the photographer introduces herself as Sera, while La’An and James call themselves Vanessa and Jim. She discloses that she was also following the van. She hopes to prove her personal theory that the bridge - a symbol of international cooperation - was destroyed so humanity would keep fighting each other rather than the real threat — aliens! James awkwardly gestures toward La’An and notes that “his wife” had been abducted in the past. The three continue their chat as they walk the streets, and Sera describes an international cabal of world governments that she thinks maintains a facility to study alien tech. She has even heard this group has a cold fusion reactor somewhere in Toronto which powers their entire operation. The photographer hypothesizes that many disasters — the Chernobyl meltdown, Tunguska event, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and many more — are all intended to slow down human progress.
The three grab a bite to eat at a restaurant, and the two time-travelers confer while Sera is away from the counter. La’An remains skeptical and perceives the young woman as being unhinged, but Kirk credits the photographer for her ingenuity. Sera returns and shows off a series of mysterious images she retrieved from the internet, one of which features a vessel traversing the sky. James glares at the photographer’s tablet in recognition, his suspicions increasing when she displays surveillance footage of the man who hauled off the wreckage waiting near the bridge 15 minutes before the explosion.
Exiting the building, Sera voices her appreciation for La’An and James hearing her out and not telling her she was crazy. She walks off, allowing Kirk to tell La’An why the picture of the ship sparked his interest — it’s a Romulan Bird-of-Prey. James confirms that there is an experimental cold fusion reactor residing somewhere in the city, because a Romulan first strike destroyed the facility and wiped out Toronto in his timeline. None of that happened in La’An’s version of history, but how can they locate and defend the reactor without a tricorder? Kirk playfully wonders if she had taken any engineering extension courses and was capable of building a cold fusion detector from scratch. The pair pass a television as it delivers a weather report about Vermont, reminding La’An that she might know someone living in that state.
Sometime later, La’An and James exit a taxi outside of a small building ensconced in Vermont’s snowy backcountry. The shop's name, The Archeology Department Antiques & Rare Finds, is spray painted on its forward wall, and Pelia answers the door. The security chief recounts their journey — bribing a border guard, taking a cab, riding four buses — and surprises Pelia by revealing the engineer’s name. She lets the two into her shop, which happens to be cluttered with artifacts — some of which accumulated in Pelia’s collection on the Enterprise. She divulges that she knows Pelia is a Lanthanite, an ancient sect of beings who live impossibly long lives and had fit in amongst humans for thousands of years. La’An points at the painting she saw on the Enterprise and professes Pelia stole it from the Louvre.
Pelia is visibly confused and curious as to how La’An learned this information. La’An confesses she knew Pelia had worked somewhere called “The Archeology Department,” though she initially assumed it had been an actual archaeology department. A search of universities proved fruitless, but they stumbled upon a guy at an electronics store who taught James how to use an internet search. La’An struggles to detail her exact relationship to Pelia without influencing the timeline, finally settling on outlining her goal to protect humanity’s fragile future. Since they all have brain-melting secrets, Pelia agrees to help. However, she’s not an engineer — she works retail! Pelia has not taken a math class since Pythagoras “made the crap up.” She commiserates with James and La’An over beers, insisting she thought cold fusion was pretend, just like Bigfoot or lasers. Frustrated, Kirk states that lasers are also real. Pelia is insulted, but La’An reasons that they need to search for the reactor’s byproducts — excess heat, neutrons, and tritium.
Pelia associates the term tritium with old divers’ watches from the 1980s. She pulls one off of a shelf, claiming the watches lit up until the tritium ran out after 20 years. La’An continues the train of thought — tritium gives off a small amount of radiation, and the watch’s dials must be coated with something that reacts with it, possibly phosphor. James mentions tritium’s short half-life causes it to decay, and La’An deduces it would leave behind residue of the reactive material. She removes the watch’s glass face with excitement, certain that its hands will glow when near a source of tritium. Pelia ponders the notion of becoming an engineer and making an honest living for a change — not that any of her store’s items were stolen, of course.
Back in Toronto, La’An and James have wandered for hours without seeing the watch indicate the presence of tritium. The security chief concedes that she would never have gotten this far without Kirk’s help, and the two share a laugh until James makes his own admission — if they can only save one future, he thinks it should be La’An’s. They pause under the city’s lights, and La’An deliberates over whether they could bring James to her reality.** She lets her guard down, acknowledging that personal barriers often cause her to feel lonely around others. However, James is different. Genuinely unaware of her controversial last name, James initially pretends not to recognize La’An’s references to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing or the Old Testament’s mark of Cain. Realizing his prank, she starts to object, but James moves forward and kisses her. Breathless, she kisses him back.
The watch’s glow halts the tender moment, and the two ascertain they must be near the cold fusion reactor. Their impromptu detector guides them into a building where they witness a man having his hand scanned and proceeding through a security door. La’An notices the establishment’s sign — Noonien-Singh Institute for Cultural Advancement — and risks placing her hand on the scanner. The door unlocks, and La’An surmises that it perceived a marker in her DNA. La’An and James spin around at the sound of a voice and see Sera aiming a gun at them. Kirk blocks La’An from attacking and reasons that the “photographer” is actually the time-traveling assassin for whom they have been searching.
Embarrassed that she did not identify him sooner, Sera knows of Captain James T. Kirk’s legacy. The story she told them was true, at least to an extent. Her people — the Romulans — had been slowing humanity’s progress, but she believes they should have gone further than blowing up labs and bridges. Disguised as a human, Sera shocks them by shooting James. Alarms ring as he collapses from the chest wound, using his dying breath to request that La’An say hello to his brother for him. La’An barely restrains her sorrow and rage as the Romulan leads her through the security door.
Sera kills several guards, but she is not heading to the reactor. That had been Plan A, but she decides to alter her approach by seeking out the genetics laboratory. They arrive in a hall covered in a child’s drawings, and the Romulan urges La’An to open a door with a single word written upon it — Khan. The spy requires La’An’s handprint to gain entry, but the security chief discerns that Sera is there to assassinate Khan Noonien Singh.*** The Romulan’s cabal built computers to predict how certain changes would alter the timeline. Although Khan becomes a brutal tyrant, she states that killing the boy will prevent the Federation from forming and rivaling Romulus.
Many have tried to influence history, and entire Temporal Wars have been fought over it. Sera's frustration grows as she recounts time’s seemingly relentless ability to push back, allowing events to reinsert themselves after each incursion. This was all supposed to happen in 1992, and she has been trapped here for 30 years. La’An defiantly declares that her real name is La’An Noonien-Singh and Khan is her ancestor. The Romulan argues that the device La’An was given will protect her from changes to the timeline, so executing Khan will free her to live a life away from the ghosts of his deeds. La’An momentarily considers it, instead choosing to use the opportunity and disarm her opponent.
During their struggle, Sera manages to place La’An’s hand on the scanner and opens the door to Khan’s room. The fight resumes, but La’An obtains the gun and shoots the Romulan, whose body disintegrates when she presses an implant in her neck. The button on the device which brought La’An here once again shifts its color back to green, though La’An opts not to return just yet. Summoning her courage, she paces through the doorway and finds a boy hiding behind his bed. He asks if La’An is going to kill him. La’An shakes off her uncertainty and assures him that he does not need to be scared of her. She sits with Khan and wipes away his tears. A photo with other children hangs on the wall, so La’An understands that Khan is not the only one of his kind in the facility. La’An tells him that, while it may never make sense, Khan is where he needs to be.
Hearing voices approaching, La’An touches the device’s button and is transported back to a corridor aboard her Enterprise. She visits the Bridge, exiting the turbolift as Pelia insists to Captain Pike that the statute of limitations for an alleged crime had passed decades ago. Noticing La’An, Pike consults her for her opinion. Remembering Pelia’s assistance in the 21st Century, she encourages him to let the issue slide.
Certain that things have returned to normal, La’An goes to her quarters, only to find Agent Ymalay from the Department of Temporal Investigations**** awaiting her in the shadows. A division of the Federation that investigates and repairs damage to the timeline, the department does not exist at this point in the 23rd Century. Ymalay thanks La’An for completing the mission; though she emphasizes that La’An must not share her experience with anyone. Emotions run high, and a tearful La’An reflects on watching the alternate James die in order to protect a mass murderer. Ymalay warns La’An that telling anyone about what transpired could undo everything she accomplished. The agent retrieves the department’s tech from La’An and disappears in a flash.
Taking a seat, La’An glances at the diver’s watch that remains on her wrist. She clutches a PADD and opens up a channel to Lt. James T. Kirk. La’An introduces herself as the Enterprise’s security chief, prompting James to wonder what his brother did. La’An calms his fears and claims she just needs a place of birth for Sam’s security file. James says that it is the same place he was born — Riverside, Iowa. Smiling, La’An specifies that he was referring to the Iowa on Earth. James confirms the information, offering to tell her the real dirt on George Samuel Kirk if she buys him a drink the next time they’re on starbase together. Kirk closes out the communication, and a wave of uncontrollable grief overwhelms La’An.
* "The City on the Edge of Forever" - In a similar episode, Captain Kirk and Spock travel to the past via the Guardian of Forever's time portal to save not only Dr. McCoy, but their timeline.
** "Yesterday's Enterprise" - On the Enterprise-D, Captain Picard sends the Enterprise-C back to its proper time believing it will divert two decades of war. This episode also sees an alternate Tasha Yar surviving her timeline's erasure.
*** "Space Seed" - Captain Kirk and the Enterprise will meet the warlord Khan Noonien Singh after discovering his spaceship.
**** "Trials and Tribble-ations" - The Department of Temporal Investigations was first introduced in this Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, where two DTI investigators track down the Orb of Time and its involvement in an assassination attempt on Captain Kirk's life in the past.
- "This Is It" - The Home of Happy
- "Modern Art" - The Black Lips
- Written by David Reed
- Directed by Amanda Row