Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×04 “Among the Lotus Eaters” is the episode I’ve been waiting for since Star Trek Day 2022. We’re finally getting #MORETEGAS! We’ve also got what I think is the most Star Trek: The Original Series-style episode that we’ve had thus far in the series. Let’s dig into my thoughts on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×04 “Among the Lotus Eaters.”
Return to Rigel VII
There are loads of layers of memory related to Rigel VII when it comes to Star Trek. The most relevant of which is that it is the setting for Star Trek: The Original Series’ original pilot, “The Cage.” If you want more details on the ins and outs, today’s episode of The Ready Room with Wil Wheaton has a nice feature on the planet. That being said, I think this setting fits well not just because of its TOS roots, but because this type of story feels like something that could have been an Original Series episode. A missing crew member, memory loss, an interesting setting, and the Mongolian-inspired costuming all have an Original Series vibe. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×04 “Among the Lotus Eaters” definitely gets some points from me on that front.
Y’all know how much I’ve been clamoring to get more backstory on my girl Lt. Erica Ortegas, played by the brilliant Melissa Navia. And this episode is the promised #MORETEGAS from the teaser clip we got way back on Star Trek Day 2022. I LOVE that they finally gave Melissa something to do. She nails everything given to her in this episode without exception. Everything from her protective big sister care of Uhura to her panic and gut reactions to piloting the ship is just *chef’s kiss.*
Melissa is probably the most underutilized player in the show and I’m glad she finally got a bit of the spotlight. We also get to see different bits of her personality come to life. She supports and cares for her friends, which we see in her interactions with Uhura in sick bay. Ortegas is the kind of person that wants to be in the fray but often gets left behind because she’s needed at the helm. She has good humor and is grinning nearly 100% of the time.
If I have one major critique of this episode, it’s that these are things we already knew about Ortegas. While yes, we get #MORETEGAS in the sense of Ortegas getting more screentime, we don’t get #MORETEGAS in the sense of actual backstory. And the latter is a little disappointing to me, especially when this was billed as the #MORETEGAS episode on Star Trek Day 2022. Here’s hoping this will be rectified later in the season!
Memory Loss and Mantras
The concept of memory loss and identity is one interesting story theme in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×04 “Among the Lotus Eaters.” When on Rigel VII, Pike, La’an, and M’Benga start to revert to their core roles–leader, warrior, and healer. But on the ship, our crew seem to be disoriented to the point that they can’t remember anything about themselves at all. It’s not until Erica is reminded by the ship’s computer who she is that she gains some sense of self. “I’m Erica Ortegas and I fly the ship!” is repeated until she believes it and proves to herself that she does in fact fly the ship.
It’s an interesting idea, to repeat affirmations and mantras, in order to help remind yourself of what’s true. I’m but an armchair psychologist, but as I understand it, this is a counseling technique. People always need reminders of the truth, especially in times of trouble. This aspect of the plot works well for me.
What I wish would have happened though is that the way the memory loss worked had been applied consistently throughout the episode. Maybe it can be justified within the story based on proximity to the planet, but that aspect didn’t land well with me. It also obscures what might be the message or meaning of the episode. How do we think about identity? How do even bad memories shape us? To quote Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, “I need my pain!” But the episode is inconsistent in its handling of the idea, so I think it fails there.
Overall, I didn’t have a bad time with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×04 “Among the Lotus Eaters.” It’s simply not what I expected the episode to be. I also just don’t ship Batel and Pike that much either. They only seemed like they were in a casual relationship to me. But now they’re not? It all happened off-screen, so it was disorienting. It did too much to overshadow what could have been a better exploration of our characters’ psyches.
That being said, I do want to give props to David Huynh for a wonderful performance as Zack. He does a great job of embodying the abandonment and betrayal he feels against Pike. Zack did what he had to do to survive and David plays that very well.
If you want a little extra credit for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×04 “Among the Lotus Eaters,” add We Are Starfleet’s coverage of this episode to your podcast queue. I’m joined by my co-host Craig McKenzie and special guest Clara Cook of The Tales We Tell podcast to chat about the episode. We had a great conversation, so you won’t want to miss it.
What do you think of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2×04 “Among the Lotus Eaters”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.