Published Jun 1, 2022
RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 104 - 'Memento Mori'
La’an’s past comes back to haunt her in this action-packed episode.
En route to deliver an upgraded atmospheric processor to the colony on Finibus III, the U.S.S. Enterprise crew honors those they’ve lost in the line of duty with Starfleet Remembrance Day. Upon arrival, Spock notices that the settlement’s communications satellite has been destroyed, so Captain Pike dispatches a landing party to investigate. No people or bodies are found, only streaks of blood, but a cargo ship full of survivors soon approaches the Enterprise from orbit.
Unable to beam the colonists over, Pike tasks Crewman Zuniga (Oscar Moreno) with deploying a deep space transport tube, an enclosed bridge to ferry people between the ships that is quite similar to the ones the U.S.S. Discovery personnel used to evacuate to the Enterprise in Discovery’s two-part season two finale. The survivors’ leader only remembers being attacked from orbit, but a little girl remembers a clicking sound, which La’an Noonien-Singh immediately recognizes from the time she spent as a prisoner of the Gorn.
Suddenly, a Gorn vessel appears and unleashes a devastating volley into the Enterprise, which can not raise shields due to the extended transport tube. In retrospect, the attack fits the mold of the Gorn strike at Cestus III almost a decade later: use a colony as bait, lure in a Federation starship, and fire at will. As casualties mount, Pike orders Enterprise to hide in a nearby brown dwarf that circles a black hole, a tactic which will cause the Starfleet vessel and its pursuer’s shields to not function.
Meanwhile, Cadet Uhura had been continuing her training schedule, now paired with Hemmer to study engineering. The two are securing the atmospheric processor in the cargo bay when the Gorn weapons hit Enterprise, injuring Hemmer’s hands and destabilizing the processor, which could result in an atomic blast. In other jarring news, Number One is in critical condition in sick bay, with Doctor M’Benga and Nurse Chapel needing to use primitive sutures to close her wounds.
The Enterprise is without shields, weapons, or sensors, much like the Starfleet ship’s eventual battle against Khan Noonien-Singh in the Mutara Nebula from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Back to the present, Khan’s descendant La’an emphatically explains that the Gorn see humans as food for their hatchlings. Spock provides some hope, devising a clever method of tracking their enemy with a primitive form of radar. This edge permits the Enterprise to find the Gorn and utilize the brown dwarf’s gravity to drop an unguided photon torpedo onto the ship that eliminates the threat…
…at least until two similar vessels, as well as a massive Gorn capital ship, are detected entering the vicinity. Pike orders the Enterprise to dive deeper into the brown dwarf, betting that his craft can outlast its Gorn counterparts in the high-pressure environment. The theory proves correct, as one of the Gorn attackers implodes. La’an and Spock volunteer to take a shuttle (the legendary Galileo, of course!) to survey the area outside of the brown dwarf.
Aboard Galileo, La’an and Spock witness the Gorn ships illuminating one another with pulses of light. La’an is unable to accurately recall her time with the Gorn due to trauma-induced memory gaps, so she allows Spock to initiate a mind meld. The pair explore La’an’s mind, finding themselves on the Gorn breeding planet where the security chief and her brother were taken as children. La’an remembers her brother sacrificing himself to keep her safe, as well as handing her a guide that detailed the Gorn’s use of light to communicate.
The mind meld gives La’an a glimpse into Spock’s own memories of the last moments he shared with his sister, Michael Burnham, before she traveled to the 32nd century. La’an recognizes that no record exists of such a sibling, prompting Spock to close their connection. Now armed with the Gorn light code, Galileo dispatches a false message to the large Gorn vessel inaccurately indicating that humans had boarded its smaller sister ship. Since the Gorn value strength, they choose to destroy the “weaker” craft.
Upon returning to the Enterprise, La’an and Spock are informed that, despite Uhura and Hemmer’s best efforts, the atmospheric processor will explode in twenty minutes. Pike plans to kill two birds with one stone by performing a slingshot maneuver around the black hole and venting the cargo bay to launch the processor as a decoy. Erica Ortegas describes this as the “Pike Maneuver,” a moniker similar to those of the 24th century tactics emblazoned with Jean-Luc Picard and William T. Riker’s names.
The gambit works, with the remaining Gorn pursuer believing the processor’s explosion was actually Enterprise’s demise. However, La’an believes the Gorn intrusion to be a sign that they are seeking to open new hunting grounds. The incident has inspired renewed confidence in the security officer, but as Spock warned, the mind meld they shared was not a shortcut for dealing with mental trauma. Cleveland “Book” Booker learned the same when President T’Rina explored his mind following Kwejian’s annihilation in Discovery’s fourth season.
“Memento Mori” demonstrates the crew’s ability to come together even when separated aboard their own ship. Uhura learns about Hemmer’s take on the apparent conflict of interest between the Aenar’s pacifism and serving in Starfleet, while Number One smiles upon seeing M’Benga donating blood to her after her operation, a clever nod to their discussion about the bigotry surrounding the mixing of Illyrian and human blood in “Ghosts of Illyria.” Pike supplies La’an with vital advice about leadership and inspiring the crew to perform miraculous deeds. Is La’an’s threat assessment correct, or will this be Pike’s final encounter with the Gorn? Stay tuned as we continue to explore strange new worlds…