Strange New Worlds‘ “Hegemony” in Review
After a too-quick season, Strange New Worlds reaches its second season finale. It features a long-teased return of the first season’s big bads, the Gorn…
A log entry by Captain Batel of the USS Cayuga nicely explains, in passing, all those 20th-Century-Earth-style colonies in TOS by mentioning that this is a deliberate styling choice by colony designers. Chapel has been helping vaccinate a planet-full of colonists while hitching a ride on the Cayuga, on her way to Doctor Korby‘s fellowship. Soon after she’s beamed up, all communications are cut off and Batel notices a shuttle crashlanding nearby. A gigantic vessel then emerges from billowing clouds. The Enterprise is sent to investigate and, upon arrival, finds the wreckage of the Cayuga.
In addition to communications, the Enterprise’s sensors and transporters are also being blocked. La’an says the Gorn have some kind of dampening field, which is trapping anyone who is either on the Cayuga or the planet. A Gorn warship arrives and sends a signal showing a line demarking Federation and Gorn space… and Starfleet orders the Enterprise to stay on its side of the line. Pike leads a covert landing party by shuttle, with Sam, La’an, M’Benga and Ortegas. On the Enterprise, Spock is eager to search for Chapel but the bridge crew notices that the Cayuga‘s sickbay seems to have been completely obliterated….
Pike and his team find a tower, which may be the dampener. They hide from a group of Gorn younglings but later walk into a forcefield trap, set by one young Montgomery Scott. A lieutenant junior grade and the only survivor of the solar research vessel Stardiver, Scotty was aboard that ship in a neighbouring system when the Gorn attacked. He fled on a shuttle and crashlanded in the colony just before the Gorn arrived. Now, he leads the landing party to survivors from the Cayuga, including Captain Batel.
Scotty and Sam Kirk theorise that, since the Gorn use light for determining their behaviour and for communication (as per Season 1’s “Memento Mori”), perhaps a series of coronal mass ejections that the Stardiver had been observing triggered their attack. Scotty had rigged a device to his shuttle to disguise it from the Gorn.
Spock, Pelia and Una locate the dampener on the planet’s surface. As the Gorn ignore space debris, making the Cayuga’s saucer fall out of orbit onto the dampener would allow the Enterprise officers to disrupt the interference and effect a rescue. Spock will travel to the saucer and place rockets to do this.
Pike thinks the Starfleet survivors on the planet could use Scotty’s camouflage device to enable the Enterprise’s shuttle to escape. On the Cayuga, Chapel regains consciousness. Meanwhile, Pike, Batel and Scott prepare to retrieve the device from Scotty’s shuttle but are found by a young Gorn. Chapel discovers she is trapped with a full-size Gorn.
The Gorn infant gets the jump on Batel but doesn’t attack. Wearing EV suits, Spock and Chapel meet up to defeat a Gorn on the wrecked Cayuga bridge. It turns out that the Gorn youngling spared Batel because she’s infected.
As the Cayuga‘s saucer falls out of orbit, Chapel and Spock leap into space. The saucer hits the dampener, restoring comms, sensors and transporters. Una has Spock, Chapel, Pike, Batel and Scotty beamed aboard the Enterprise, with Batel transported straight to a containment field in sickbay. While Batel shows Chapel the Gorn egg implantation bite on her arm, Gorn reinforcements arrive, ready for war. As though tensions aren’t high enough, they also abduct the other survivors from the planet, making Pike indecisive.
Last season, the Enterprise lost its chief engineer, Hemmer, to the Gorn in a very Aliens-inspired episode, “All Those Who Wander”. The one thing that could have made that classic any better would have been (as I said in my review for that one) if it had been the season finale. This year, we get the opposite bookend to that: a great Aliens-inspired episode which, this time, is the season finale. It also introduces a new future chief engineer, in the form of Scotty.
For the first time, Scotty is actually played by a genuine Scotsman, in the form of Martin Quinn. Quinn has starred in stage versions of Oor Wullie and Let the Right One In as well as appearing on screen in Scot Squad, Annika, and Derry Girls. He’s obviously a younger Scotty, more of an excitable geek, but you can definitely see the character we know and love in his role. His accent’s better than Simon Pegg’s, obviously, and he definitely makes a good student Scotty, as it were. It will be interesting to see his character growth in future. Melissa Navia also gets to shine again, with Ortegas finally getting her season-long wish to go on a landing party granted at the worst possible time.
There are some awesome visuals and horror-ish action scenes, notably the whole sequence with Spock and Chapel versus a Gorn in the ruined Cayuga saucer. It captures that Alien feel again and gives us a new Gorn highlight — an adult Gorn in its armoured spacesuit, which is extremely cool. On the downside, the baby Gorn are less convincing puppets — or at least more obviously so — which don’t work as well as they did last season.
There are many connections to “All Those Who Wander” — from Sam Kirk wanting to make good, to the implanted eggs and hatchlings, to gaining (rather than losing) an engineer — but this time, it’s the finale, as that episode should have been. Does that make it better? Yes and no. It does work as a great finale, with much better cliffhanger elements, but on the other hand we did already see a lot of it last year…
Ultimately, this is a good episode and a good finale, with a suitably frustrating cliffhanger. Jeopardising the likes of Pelia, La’an or Ortegas (none of whom were mentioned in TOS or later time periods) would make a stronger threat than it focussing on occasional guest star Captain Batel, but there is also the prospect of a Gorn war at stake. It certainly leaves the viewer needing to know what will happen and therefore keen for Season 3, which is the job it’s here to do. With fine performances, an epic score, great visuals and good direction, that’s a job it does well, ending the season on a high.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.