In many ways, this is a historic episode Strange new worlds, as we have two first encounters between characters we know will be very dear to each other in the future history of this fictional setting. And there’s another first meeting between the characters that will probably have a jaded part of the fanbase screaming “ALTERNATE TIMELINE!” at the top of their lungs again because they don’t understand how fiction works.
The great thing about it, though, is that these things happen pretty much on a regular basis Star Trek episode. Which is totally fine.
All meetings include James T. Kirk. Although this is Paul Wesley’s third appearance as the younger of the Kirk brothers after “The quality of mercy” and “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” it is his first (substantive) as we know of this timeline. The Business and Farragut both are involved in the commissioning and operation of the deuterium collection station inside the star nursery. Said station is horribly delayed and engineers from both ships are dispatched to assist the station crew.
Jim is about to be promoted to first officer Farragut. It comes to Business say hi to your brother. And here we get something SNW it can give us what the original series never really could (because dramatic adventure TV didn’t do that kind of thing much in the 1960s), which is background immersion.
Jim rose to the rank of first officer faster than anyone in the fleet since George Samuel Kirk Sr Kelvin. Meanwhile, George Samuel Kirk Jr. still a lieutenant in science, and apparently Elder Kirk doesn’t think it’s all that great. The tension between Wesley and Dan Jeannott is played very nicely as Jim doesn’t see what the problem is and Sam very obviously feels the weight of parental disapproval floating right over Jim’s head.
After Sam rumbles, Jim goes and talks to Uhura, who pretty much blows him off. Uhura heard strange noises and also hallucinated a decomposing Hemmer (a welcome return from Bruce Horak, both as Uhura’s hallucination and in footage of Hemmer showing Uhura how to recalibrate things). As she leaves the bar, she has a much nastier hallucination that involves a lot of dead people, and it ends with her being attacked by an image of herself, which she resists.
Except it’s actually Jim checking on her to make sure she’s okay, and he gets a bloody nose for his trouble. They return to Uhura’s cabin to fix his nose, as going to the infirmary would require an official report that she assaulted a superior officer, which neither Jim nor Uhura want to do.
Uhura is initially believed to be suffering from some sort of deuterium poisoning combined with not getting much sleep due to being overworked. But then at the station, Pelia discovers that the reason the station has been delayed in connecting to the internet is sabotage.
The saboteur is one of the station’s crew, Lieutenant Ramon (Michael Reventar). He also heard strange noises and hallucinations just like Uhura, but he heard it longer and it led to him trying to stop the station from coming online.
It’s only after Ramon causes some serious damage and kills himself in the process that Uhura is able to figure it out: Inside the deuterium is a life form that is being killed by the mining process. All of Uhura’s hallucinations involve death, with an emphasis on Hemmer (although she also hallucinates her family’s death in a space shuttle accident, as revealed in “Children of Comets“). When, at Uhuru’s insistence, Business and Farragut destroy the station, the image of Hemmer changes from an image of him decomposing to what Hemmer looked like alive – and smiling.
In the process, Jim meets Pike and this is “OMG THEY’RE BREAKING CANON, HOW DARE?” moment. in”MenagerieJim said he first met Pike when he took command of the ship from him. That technically breaks it, but it’s one line in one episode. Trekking always revised as Capt. James R. Kirk of UESPA Business and his Vulcan first officer Spock can attest. Is it worth twisting the plot into knots so that Chris Pike and Jim Kirk don’t meet? SNW satisfy one line of dialogue? Obviously, the producers of this show don’t think so, and so do the producers Star Trek generation they thought it would be worth not having James Doohan appear in the opening credits of their film to satisfy one line of dialogue LPGYippee “Relic” when Scotty thought Kirk was still alive. EDITED AND ADDED: As several people have pointed out in the comments, the exact line Kirk had in “The Menagerie” when asked if he met Pike was, “When he was promoted to fleet captain,” and in this episode, Pike gets a temporary promotion to fleet captain because he’s in charge of both. Business and Farragut. It’s one part clumsy, one part clever, but at least it’s true to continuity.
Along the way we get some fun stuff with Number One and Pelia as the First Officer has a real problem with his new space hippie Chief Engineer. Pelia does things her way and doesn’t always follow orders – in this case to good effect, because she doesn’t do things the way Chin-Riley wanted to allow her to expose Ramon’s sabotage – and the former herself, according to the book, doesn’t like that.
I especially love Pelia cutting through the bullshit. Number One tries to show that she is upset that Pelia gave her a low grade at the Academy years ago, but Pelia has been around too long to fall for that. She knows that she is replacing a loved one who died tragically in Hemmer, and that some people have trouble warming up to her because of it. (Pelia has a similar conversation with Uhura earlier.) However, Pelia has also been around long enough to know a psychological coping mechanism when she sees one, so she tells One to go ahead and continue to resent the C grade Pelia gave her if it’s too uncomfortable to think about Hemmer. It’s a beautifully acted scene by two great actors in Carol Kane and Rebecca Romijn. (Romijn also has one of the best lines of the episode at the beginning, when Pike waxes rhapsodic about the next great age of exploration, and Number One rolls his eyes and says, “Well, I was afraid I missed that speech!”)
Finally, we have the third and final first meeting between Jim Kirk and Spock. Uhura and Jim are having a drink after it’s all over, and Jim mentions what a pain in the ass his brother and Spock—who just last week he was seen scowling at Sam’s inability to clean up after himself – his approval was heard. Uhura then introduces them and Spock joins them for a drink. The final shot is these three legends sitting together waaaaaaaaaaaay before they became legends and it’s kind of awesome.
And wonderfully unobtrusive. There is something about these three historical introductions that happens in a very simple way during what, it must be said, is very swamp-standard Star Trek story line. The We-accidentally-hurt-strange-strangers plot was a staple Trekking from the original series”The devil in the dark” and has been used constantly, since LPGYippee “Nightmares“to DS9Yippee “Playing God“to VoyagerYippee “Heroes and Demons” to its inversion Discoverythe story of the fourth season.
But it’s still an important story to tell because of the hallmark Star Trek there was always compassion and conversation over violence and ignorance. The resolution of this story is exactly as it should be on a Trekking show: saving people and being nice to each other.
Keith RA DeCandido will be a guest author on ConnectiCon XX in Hartford at the Connecticut Convention Center this weekend. He will have a table selling and signing books and also doing some panels. You can find his complete schedule here.