After nine episodes of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” the season ends with the episode “A Quality of Mercy.” Written by the co-showrunners Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers, this episode puts Captain Christopher Pike in the middle of a no-win scenario unlike any other.
Some who saw the episode before it premiered on July 7, 2022, had nothing but praise. In fact, CinemaBlend writer Mick Joest shared his thoughts on the episode in a July 1 tweet:
“I know I’ve said this A LOT all season, but the upcoming finale of ‘Strange New Worlds’ is far and away my favorite episode of the season,” Joest wrote. This was an unbelievably strong season for a ‘Star Trek’ series, so it should speak volumes that what’s coming blows all that away.”
ATTENTION READER: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS AND INFORMATION ABOUT “STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS” SEASON 1: EPISODE 10, “A QUALITY OF MERCY.”
The episode begins with Pike (Anson Mount) cooking for his love interest, Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano). They discussed their mission: to resupply Outpost 4, which is positioned along the Romulan Neutral Zone.
Later, Pike, Spock (Ethan Peck), and Una (Rebecca Romijn) met with the director of the starbase, Commander Hansen Al-Salah (Ali Hassan). As they spoke, the director’s son popped into the ready room and announced that he wanted to meet Captain Pike. It turns out that this child was one of the cadets Pike will save in the future. That scenario is the same place in time where Pike becomes disfigured and is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Episode 10 Trailer
Pike is aware of his horrible fate and even saw it happen, thanks to a Klingon time crystal. Viewers might remember that all this happened in the “Discovery” Season 2 episode “Through the Valley of Shadows.” Pike was eventually taken to Talos IV by Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the classic TOS episode, “The Menagerie, Part 1.” It was there that Pike was able to live out his days, not in a robotic chair, but thanks to the mental powers of the Talosians, Pike was able to spend his time as he would have before the accident.
After seeing the child he’d nearly die trying to save, Pike dictated an “e-mail” to the child’s father, warning them of the danger. But before Pike could hit send, a new being suddenly arrived in his quarters. It was Admiral Christopher Pike, from the future!
NOTE: Admiral Pike was wearing the classic “Monster Maroon” uniform, which Bob Fletcher designed for “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Eagle-eyed fans will note that the older Pike is indeed an admiral, as signified by his rank pin.
The admiral warned the captain that sending the letter would begin a chain of events that would cause a terrible future. Captain Pike argued that if the admiral stood before him, then he was able to cheat death, and all should be well. Admiral Pike said that the only way for his younger counterpart to learn was by using a Klingon time crystal to see for himself.
When Captain Pike touched the crystal, he was whisked into the future — about seven years ahead. Pike finds himself officiating a marriage aboard the Enterprise. While the audience watching this episode does not hear the names of the two crewmembers tying the knot, old-timer Trekkies know that these two are Mr. Robert Tomlinson and Ms. Angela Martine. They are the two who Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) was set to marry in the episode “Balance of Terror.”
Pike and the Time Crystals
Incredibly, Pike found himself in an episode of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” This episode, which Inverse’s Ryan Britt ranked as the third greatest of the TOS era, started with Kirk starting the wedding, which would be interrupted by news that a mysterious enemy was destroying starbases.
Pike stumbles through the emergency and meets with Spock (Ethan Peck). Pike asks for a mind meld, allowing Spock to understand what is happening and help figure out a solution. Spock explained that something terrible would happen, which would have been different had Pike been injured as he should have. Spock said that “some other captain” assigned to the Enterprise after Pike’s accident (Kirk) would have handled this situation differently.
Spock advised Pike to go forth with the mission the best way he knew. After the mind meld, Pike said:
“So the only way to understand to discover the terrible future… is to live it.”
Soon, the Enterprise got a message from Outpost 4. It was Commander Al-Salah (originally, this character was named simply “Hansen”). Al-Salah told Pike that Outposts 2, 3, and 8 had been destroyed by a mysterious craft, which could not be detected. As Al-Salah relayed the message, his Outpost 4 was also destroyed — by a Romulan Warbird!
‘Balance of Terror’
In this era, the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire were at an uneasy peace after a devastating war of 100 years. Humans had never seen a Romulan in the flesh before, and their cloaking technology was also brand new.
After the explosion, the Enterprise was met by the U.S.S. Farragut and her captain — James T. Kirk! This is the first appearance of Paul Wesley as Kirk. That was quite the move, as Wesley was announced as Kirk for Season 2 of “Strange New Worlds,” not Season 1.
Together, the Enterprise and the Farragut figured out a way to track the Romulans — just like in “Balance of Terror.” That episode is known for so much, including the first appearance of Starfleet’s most deadly foe. Still, it also marks a moment when Kirk defended Spock from the bigoted attacks of Lt. Styles (Paul Comi). In “A Quality of Mercy,” it is Lt. Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) who acts angrily toward the Romulans.
In “Balance of Terror,” Kirk famously tells Styles that he can “leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge. Do I make myself clear?”
Bigotry on the Bridge
Kirk suggested that the Enterprise and Farragut “shadow” the Romulans as they travel back toward the Neutral Zone. Eventually, the Farragut was destroyed by the Romulans, and Kirk beamed aboard the Enterprise. Kirk yelled at Pike for not acting swiftly enough — it was at that moment that the “terrible future” had been sealed.
In “Balance of Terror,” Kirk was willing to take risks. Even Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) said Kirk was “taking an awful gamble.” In “A Quality of Mercy,” Pike was unwilling to take the same risks, resisting Kirk’s aggressive tactics. Thanks to this episode, the argument of Pike vs. Kirk might be settled.
Pike eventually negotiated a short truce with the Romulan Commander (Matthew MacFadzean), allowing both ships to repair the damage. While working on the Enterprise, Spock can be seen in a Jefferies Tube, asking for help from a particular Scottish engineer. While viewers don’t see Scotty, they hear his voice (as portrayed by Matthew Wolf).
Eventually, the Enterprise is met by a fleet of Romulan ships at the border of the Neutral Zone. Pike shares that he tried to make peace with the commander, and the Praetor ordered his ship to be destroyed. The Romulans attacked, but Kirk allowed a wounded Enterprise to escape by using a fleet of robotic mining ships.
Though the Enterprise escaped, the Romulans declared war on the Federation. Pike found that the attack had horribly disfigured Spock.
Admiral Pike returned and told Captain Pike that he “traded [his] fate for Spock’s.” He also told the younger Pike that millions died because of those poor decisions and that the only hope of peace between the Federation and the Romulans was Spock — who was “lying in a bio-bed.”
NOTE: This was a reference to the “Next Generation” two-parter, “Unification,” which featured Spock (Nimoy) joining forces with Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) to try to make peace in the 24th Century.
Admiral Pike left again as Captain Kirk entered the scene. Kirk and Pike drank together, and Pike said, “You’re a good captain, Jim Kirk. Enterprise would be lucky to have you.” The two then chatted quietly as the scene faded. Kirk told Pike about his father, George, who served aboard the U.S.S. Kelvin.
One last cliffhanger happened in the episode, which we won’t reveal here. Watch, and you might also agree that this final episode of Season 1 is truly “magnificent.”
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