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RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 204 - 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

She is Erica Ortegas, and she flies the ship.

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Illustrated banner of the Kalar Palace on Rigel VII / Rob DeHart

Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Captain Pike was determined to do whatever it takes to ensure the return of his court-martialed first officer, even if it meant traveling to a planet whose atmosphere was not suitable for humans or putting him on opposite sides of his girlfriend and Number One's prosecutor, Captain Batel.

Meanwhile, things have not been going great for the rest of Pike's Enterprise crew along with their past tragedies. The Klingon War still weighs heavily on Dr. M'Benga. And La'An remains isolated, shutting herself off from others and her feelings, due to the losses at the hands of her enemies or the shame of her ancestor's tyranny. When she finally meets someone who sees her for who she is, uninfluenced by her familial surname, she loses them and the timeline where that past never came to fruition.

In "Among the Lotus Eaters," returning to a planet that dredges up tragic memories, Captain Pike and his landing party find themselves forgetting everything, including their own identities as he confronts a ghost from his past.

Illustrated banner with text 'Personnel'

  • Christopher Pike
  • Batel
  • Una Chin-Riley (Number One)
  • La’An Noonien-Singh
  • Dr. Joseph M'Benga
  • Erica Ortegas
  • Spock
  • Zacarias 'Zac' Nguyen
  • Nyota Uhura
  • Christine Chapel
  • Luq
Illustrated banner with text 'Locations'

  • U.S.S. Enterprise
  • Stecora Debris Field
  • Rigel VII
Illustrated banner featuring text 'Event Log'

The U.S.S. Enterprise is assisting the U.S.S. Cayuga chart a binary system, giving Captains Pike and Batel the opportunity for some personal time. Pike makes his mother’s sauce — anything else would be a “crime against tomatoes” — at the stove in his quarters as Batel arrives. The intercom interrupts a kiss, so Pike tells Commander Una Chin-Riley that, short of a Red Alert, he’s incommunicado for the next 30 minutes. Alone again, Batel gifts Pike an Opelian Mariner’s Keystone, a token worn by ancient captains to guide lost sailors home. Pike’s appreciation is cut off by an incoming comm signal for Batel from Admiral Eldon.

Close-up of Pike opening a gift from Batel, revealing an Opelian Mariner’s Keystone in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

An apologetic Batel has the call routed to Pike’s personal station, engaging in a lengthy conversation until finally joining the Enterprise’s captain at the dinner table. Pike pauses to collect his thoughts, then guesses that William Geary was promoted to commodore instead of Batel. She is certain Vice Admiral Pasalk is punishing her for Una’s trial. Worried, Pike believes he is hurting her career and suggests they pull their relationship back. Angered by his words, Batel leaves. Yet another intercom chime intrudes, and Una relays that they have received a sensitive communication from Starfleet Command about Rigel VII.

In the Ready Room, Una briefs Pike, Lt. La’An Noonien-Singh, Dr. Joseph M’Benga, and Lt. Erica Ortegas on the Enterprise’s mission to Rigel VII five years earlier.* They discovered the Kalar, a Bronze Age society organized in a caste system that divided it between a formidable warrior class and a secretive ruling class. The entire mission lasted only four hours, as the landing party ran into complications as soon as they beamed down. Pike explains they were ambushed and cites three crew members — Science Specialist M. Aberth, Ensign C. Plummer, and Yeoman Nguyen — as being killed in action. The Enterprise rushed Spock to Vega Colony for treatment; otherwise, he would have been the fourth casualty. Scans can’t penetrate Rigel VII’s atmosphere, but a recent starship flyby produced surface images that included a vibrant garden shaped into Starfleet’s signature delta. Assuming the first team left something behind, Pike notes that any level of cultural contamination needs to be surveyed and corrected. The captain plans to lead a small strike team to assess the situation.

The junior officers are dismissed, and Una approaches Pike about the Cayuga’s departure. Pike details that he and Batel are taking some time apart, prompting Number One to point out that the captain tends to push people away when they get too close. In denial, Pike uses the excuse that Starfleet captains have other priorities, but Una replies that everyone deserves joy in their life. Pike changes the subject, haunted by his last trip to Rigel VII. In his eyes, Starfleet is sending him a message by offering the assignment — Enterprise needs to clean up its own mess.

Spock briefs the away team (Pike, La'An, Erica Ortegas, and Dr. M'Benga) who are all in native Kalar attire in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

Ortegas preps for the undercover mission in her quarters. Excited for the chance to participate in an away mission, she outlines the wind shear, exotic radiation, and heavy particles that saturate Rigel VII’s atmosphere. Her skills are needed to safely pilot the shuttle. Ortegas catches up with La’An and M’Benga in the corridor, and the security chief wonders why she is actually wearing the hat as part of her local disguise. “The hat is supreme,” beams Ortegas. Her enthusiasm evaporates as she sees Lt. Spock hand a PADD to Pike. A debris field from two orbital bodies is descending, requiring Ortegas to stay behind and fly the Enterprise. A former test pilot, Pike will guide the shuttle to the surface.

The landing party observes atmospheric disturbance and a massive crater during the shuttle’s approach, and the captain states readings indicate impact occurred thousands of years ago. The plan is to land unnoticed and hike 20 kilometers to their target destination. After making it through choppy turbulence, Pike informs La’An and M’Benga that they can’t risk further contamination by bringing the usual tech. He pulls out a box filled with items Spock assembled that match the Kalarans’ current development, such as a spyglass and compass. Equipped with subdermal universal translators, the team will need to rely on their combat experience to survive, a fact that displeases the doctor. La’An hears a ringing sound as she closes the container...

The landing party (M'Benga, La'An, and Pike) on Rigel VII in native Kalar attire in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

...and discovers she is suddenly on the snowy and mountainous path to the Kalaran settlement. Other than being lightheaded, she feels fine — except she can’t recall the six hour walk it took to reach their current position. M’Benga thinks it might simply be tinnitus, and La’An shakes off the confusion so the three can push on. La’An and Pike reach rock formations near the Kalar palace and find Starfleet insignia emblazoned on the structure’s gate. The ringing resumes in La’An’s ears, but she soon spots an alarming sight. Using the spyglass, they can see the Kalar guards wielding Starfleet-issue phase rifles. M’Benga calls out to his friends, alerting them that they have company. Burly Kalarans approach, and Pike tries talking his way out of the situation. The guards don’t give in, announcing they know the intruders come from Starfleet.

Now the ringing strikes M’Benga, as his point-of-view unexpectedly shifts to being in custody within the palace. Pike is stunned to find that the man who is seemingly in charge and wearing a crown is actually Yeoman Zac Nguyen, one of the previous mission’s casualties. Nguyen’s bitterness is juxtaposed against Pike’s relief. In the yeoman’s eyes, the captain never bothered to confirm his death. Calling himself High Lord Zacarias, Nguyen reveals the Kalarans adopted the Starfleet logo as his symbol. The High Lord emphasizes that Rigel VII isn’t a normal planet; the radiation affects your brain, causing ringing, lost time, fear, and “forgetting.” Nguyen believes there’s no going back for him, urging his guards to seize the officers.

The High Lord of Kalar and Pike's former Yeoman, Zacarias, wearing a stylized crown, sits on the palace throne in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

A sonic disturbance clouds Pike’s mind, and he regains his concentration while in an outdoor cage with La’An and M’Benga. The captain moves to help an unconscious La’An, but she wakes with a startle and strikes him. The doctor and security chief don’t remember who they are, and a terrible realization dawns upon Pike — neither does he.

Up on the Enterprise, Ensign Nyota Uhura also begins hearing the ringing sound at her Bridge station. Distracted, Uhura snaps out of it and says she will submit their situation report to a Federation relay. In the center seat, Una professes she issued that order two hours ago. Ortegas jokingly blames Uhura’s confusion on staying up translating Tellarite sonnets instead of sleeping, but Number One orders the ensign to Sickbay. Ortegas escorts a disoriented Uhura to visit Nurse Christine Chapel, who grows concerned over synaptic degradation in the ensign’s frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes. Uncertain whether the cause is viral, bacterial, or environmental, Chapel is alarmed to learn that six more people in Engineering are suffering from acute memory loss.

Outside of the Palace Kalar, with the Starfleet emblem on the castle gate, are several cages, with Pike, La'An, and M'Benga locked in one in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

Still in their cell outside the palace, Pike and his colleagues watch as a guard shuffles a line of Kalarans their way. Seeing they are coping with the neural block, one of the civilians intercedes on their behalf. Assessing that they are having a rough forgetting, the man — Luq — explains that the cages protect them from wandering at night. Though the Starfleet officers are distrustful, Luq convinces them to follow along and be in this moment. While breaking rocks and cutting wood at the nearby mine, Pike and La’An listen as their new friend shares that their group, the Kalar from the field, never lose the deeply known things, such as walking and talking. However, the remembered things — who they are and where they live — go away every night. The Kalar from the palace keep their memories, but those from the field use oils from the “fruit of the gods” to mark themselves with important information, including their names.

Noticing his hands aren’t calloused, Pike is certain that he, La’An, and M’Benga are not from the field. The captain pulls out the keystone given to him by Batel, but Luq insists he live in the moment. Irritated by the commotion, a guard barks at them to get back to work. Refusing to give up, Pike and La’An subdue the two sentries in close-quarters combat. The security chief receives a severe cut to the abdomen, and M’Benga’s instincts tell him to put pressure on the wound. Aware that additional guards will return soon, Luq asks the three officers to come with him.

Pike touches a carved wooden pillar on Rigel VII in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

Back in Enterprise’s Sickbay, Chapel converses with Una and highlights the synaptic degradation across all neural pathways that is causing the crew to lose their explicit memory — information and facts. Implicit memories, such as procedures they learned and can recall by instinct or emotion, remain intact. One third of the crew has already been stricken by the condition, so Spock proposes all vital personnel should carry their own personal information file and hands PADDs to Una and Chapel. Describing it as a band-aid and not a solution, they guess the symptoms were brought on by exotic radiation. Deducing that Rigel VII is the source, Spock receives permission from an increasingly forgetful Una to move the ship toward the orbital debris field, believing the elements present will shield them from radioactive isotopes.

M'Benga raises his hand to feel a wounded and feverish La'An's temperature as she lays down on a cot in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

On the surface, Luq spies a small dwelling boasting a sign emblazoned with his symbol which identifies it as his home. Entering, Pike and M’Benga see that La’An finds a place to rest before mulling over the need to retrieve their memories in order for the doctor to treat La’An. Luq objects, attesting the forgetting is a blessing that frees them from anguished memories. The Kalaran uses the room’s totem, a pole etched with glyphs and figures, to share his people’s history. The palace Kalar retain their memories; legend has it they are kept inside a casket within the elaborate building. The captain is emphatic about saving La’An, and Luq relents.

En route to the palace, Luq is tasked with watching a weakened La’An. He isn’t interested in recovering his memories, gesturing to markings on his arm that he inked over at some point. He feels an absence, but he does not want to know the story. Pike and M’Benga prepare to leave, but a ringing persists.

The Enterprise crew including Nurse Christine Chapel wander the Enterprise corridor in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

The same sound is heard aboard the Enterprise’s Bridge, where Spock and Ortegas have undergone the forgetting. Angry and frightened, Ortegas enters the turbolift and wishes to be taken home, which the computer interprets as her personal quarters. On Deck 6, Chapel and other crew members wander aimlessly. The computer instructs Ortegas to follow an illuminated path. Relief floods over Ortegas as she enters her room, but debris begins pummeling the vessel’s shields.

At the palace’s gate, Pike and M’Benga battle memory lapses and Kalaran guards. The doctor’s leg is grazed by a phaser blast, so he remains behind to buy the captain time to break in.

A determined Erica Ortegas walks confidently down an Enterprise deck in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

Curled up on the floor of her quarters, Ortegas draws on her inner courage and asks the computer to stop the rocks from impacting the ship. Questioning who she is, Ortegas accidentally prompts the computer to mention that she is the alpha shift pilot. Surprised, the lieutenant copes with the idea that she is responsible for getting the ship out of danger and starts to repeat a mantra, “I am Erica Ortegas, I fly the ship,” as she makes her way through the halls and back to the helm. Relying on instinct, Ortegas maneuvers the starship through debris.

Upon entering the palace’s main gathering space, Pike dodges and deflects phaser fire from Yeoman Nguyen. Disarmed, he laughs when Pike asks him about the casket. The High Lord claims the casket isn’t real, sending Pike into an escalating tirade.

Spock and Erica Ortegas at the Enterprise console in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

In space near Rigel VII, Ortegas ignores Proximity Alert notifications and weaves the Enterprise through chunks of rock. Spock indicates the presence of a particularly large obstruction, so the helm officer decides to thread the needle. Ortegas fires phasers and spins the ship, an act which slices a path through the asteroid and permits the vessel to break through it.

Pike’s anger intensifies as he searches Nguyen’s belongings at the palace. He locates a Starfleet-issue storage container filled with tools and supplies, but not memories. The yeoman shares the truth — the palace and his soldiers’ helmets are composed of an ore that protects them from the radiation. Zacarias states that being inside the palace long enough will allow Pike’s memories to return. His nervous laughter draws the captain’s ire, and Pike punches him repeatedly. On the brink of killing Nguyen with a phaser, Pike feels his merciful instincts take over. The captain declares that Rigel VII doesn’t change people, it shows them who they really are. His memories flooding back, Pike apologizes for leaving the man behind.

Christopher Pike stands in defense with a phaser rifle in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

Reunited with their memories, M’Benga and Luc eventually bring La’An into the room. The doctor treats her with Nguyen’s medical equipment, while the Kalaran tearfully recalls the family he lost. Grateful, he acknowledges that the story of your life matters. Gripping the keystone, Pike makes his own confession — it was given to him by someone he needs to apologize to.

On the Enterprise Bridge, Ortegas documents the crew’s recovery. The unknown elements in the asteroids had been causing all the problems. She thinks Spock has a lot to learn, but commends him for devising a shield harmonic to protect the ship. Pike aims to solve the problem for the Kalarans, too. Arguing that the way the asteroid impact’s radiation altered the planet’s society was not natural development, he oversees more of Ortegas’ fancy flying. Two shuttles lift the asteroid from the surface with tractor beams until the Enterprise is able to snatch it with its own beam, slinging the troublesome rock back into the debris field.

Erica Ortegas leans forward over the navigation console in 'Among the Lotus Eaters'

"Among the Lotus Eaters"

The Enterprise rendezvous with the Cayuga, and Batel meets with Pike in his quarters. Pike recognizes that he was wrong about their relationship, now understanding that their bond as starship captains is a strength rather than a weakness. Holding the keystone, he professes that Batel brought him home from Rigel VII. In response to Pike’s request for forgiveness, Batel moves forward and kisses him. Moving back, she replies that they will see how the next 30 minutes go and take it from there. The two embrace once again.

Illustrated banner featuring text 'Canon Connection'

* "The Cage" - In the original pilot episode, the Enterprise copes with the results of a routine mission on a remote M-Class planet, Rigel VII. There, Captain Pike and his crew were ambushed by the Kalar, resulting in the loss of three personnel, including Pike's yeoman, and serious injuries to seven other crew members, including Spock. "The Cage" showed how that disasterous mission made the captain question if he should resign.

Illustrated banner stating 'Log Credits'

  • Written by Kirsten Beyer & Davy Perez
  • Directed by Eduardo Sanchez