That’s a wrap on the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. We’re ending on an interesting note as well. We’ve got time travel, an homage to a fan-favorite Star Trek: The Original Series episode, some unexpected special guests, and I’ve got more questions than answers! That’s a lot to pack into a season finale! Pour a glass of your favorite strong beverage because this is a heavy one. Let’s chat about Strange New Worlds episode 1×10, “A Quality of Mercy.”
An Original Series Homage
When I first got the screener for “A Quality of Mercy,” I made the (incorrect) assumption that we might be taking inspiration this week from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode 1×26, “Errand of Mercy.” However, the similarity to “A Quality of Mercy” is only in name. The Star Trek: The Original Series episode we ARE drawing from this week is episode 1×08, “Balance of Terror.” I don’t think you need to have seen this episode to appreciate “A Quality of Mercy.” In fact, I encourage you to leave me a comment especially if you HAVEN’T seen “Balance of Terror” because I want to know how well this worked for you on its own merit.
All that being said, “A Quality of Mercy” offers a different spin on the subject material in “Balance of Terror.” “Balance of Terror” in its original airing could easily be interpreted as a metaphor for the cost of war, in particular, the Vietnam War. As my dad was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War, “Balance of Terror” hits me on a very personal level. “A Quality of Mercy” instead of offering a metaphor for war, offers viewers a treatise on fate and sacrifice. Either way, this is a somber topic.
Guest Appearances Galore!
Strange New Worlds fans were treated to a tiny taste of season 2 in “A Quality of Mercy” with the first appearance of Captain James T. Kirk. Captain Kirk is portrayed in Strange New Worlds by Paul Wesley of The Vampire Diaries and Flowers in the Attic: The Origin fame. I think my cohost on this week’s episode of We Are Starfleet, Craig McKenzie, put it best when he says that Wesley is playing James T. Kirk, NOT William Shatner. I think that’s a fair distinction.
But if I’m being honest, I wish he’d put a little more Shatner in it. To be 100% fair to Wesley, this is my introduction to his work, and it’s also an episode in an alternate timeline. It’s quite possible that I’ll like his take on Kirk much better in season 2 in a regular timeline, but we’ll see. For now, I’m just going to wait and find out before passing judgment on Wesley as Kirk.
Montgomery Scott, I Presume?
I quite literally do presume. The second “guest” appearance we get teases long-time Trek fans with another Original Series favorite–our own Montgomery Scott. While we only get a voiceover (courtesy of veteran voice actor Matthew Wolf) and he’s only listed in the credits as “Engineer,” you would have to be living under a rock to not recognize the voice of Montgomery Scott.
Hear me out once more. I LOVE Scotty. I am so not ready for them to add every single character that ever appeared on The Original Series into this show. Are we getting Scotty? I mean, I certainly won’t mind seeing a younger version of the character. But what I really want out of Strange New Worlds is to get to know NEW characters. We’ve already got so many legacy characters or characters with legacy connections in this series and I feel like somebody up top just wants to remake The Original Series. We already know all these legacy characters. Give our fresh faces a chance to shine.
The Return of Captain Batel
Finally, we’ve got the return of Captain Batel, Pike’s hook-up buddy from the pilot episode. Aside from being friends with benefits, it appears that Pike and Batel have a bit of history. She knows him well enough to nudge him in the right direction. And she also knows Una well enough to know that arresting her is a raw deal. I’m sure we’ll see her again in the next season.
Overall, this episode is a bit of a “meh” for me. I appreciate what they’re trying to do with Pike–forcing him to look at the greater good. However, with all the shoehorning in of legacy characters and a copy-paste story structure from The Original Series, “A Quality of Mercy” fell a little flat for me. What could have been a much more poignant exploration of Pike’s impossible choice, felt more like a vehicle for fan service. Don’t hear me wrong; I don’t mind a bit of fan service. But I truly felt it was unnecessary for them to cram a bunch of it into this finale. That and the unexplained air of tension amongst the crew completely distracted me the entire time. I found it difficult to concentrate on Pike’s dilemma because of it.
The one thing in this episode that I’m eager for next season is discovering how Starfleet found out that Una is Illyrian. I also want to know how we’re going to get Illyrians, or at minimum, get Una back into Starfleet. Surely they didn’t hire Rebecca Romijn just to throw her in a Federation prison for the rest of the series? As I said, I have more questions than answers.
This episode marks the end of a 48-week streak of new Star Trek on Paramount+. That’s 11 straight months of new Star Trek! We don’t have release dates yet for the next season of Star Trek: Lower Decks or the second half of Star Trek: Prodigy. While we don’t know when we’ll get more new Trek just yet, we do have some time to get in a rewatch before those shows return.
What did you think of “A Quality of Mercy”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
All episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are available on Paramount+.