Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One Finale Recap & Review: Balance of Terror Redux
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds concludes its spectacular first season with a gripping and creative finale. Episode ten, “A Quality of Mercy,” reimagines a pivotal moment in Star Trek lore. Captain Pike (Anson Mount), a man struggling with the knowledge of his exact death, sees what happens if he changes his fate. A glimpse into the future reveals the Federation’s first encounter with the Romulans in a hundred years. However, this timeline has Pike and not James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) as captain of the Enterprise; where Pike dooms the galaxy to a tragic outcome. He learns that his destiny isn’t the most important. Another Enterprise officer is a critical figure to peace and prosperity.
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“A Quality of Mercy” opens with Pike having dinner with his lover, Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano). They’re in the neutral zone en route to Federation Outpost Four. Pike is shocked when the base commander introduces his young son, Maat Al-Salah (Chris River). The boy admires Pike and hopes to join Starfleet. Pike recognizes Al-Salah as one of the cadets he fails to save during the future accident that painfully disfigures him. He abruptly leaves the meeting.
Pike returns to his quarters reeling. He decides to write Al-Salah a warning of what’s to come. Pike gets another shock. His future self appears. Future Pike borrowed a time crystal from the Klingon monastery on Boreth. The same device he originally used to see his death. Future Pike resulted from the actions of this moment. Pike’s letter saved himself and all the cadets. Their survival changed the timeline in a catastrophic way.
Pike touches the crystal. He’s taken seven years into the future. Spock is now first officer. The Enterprise is responding to an attack on Outpost Four. Outposts Two, Three, and Eight have already been destroyed. Enterprise watches as a ship uncloaks, annihilates Outpost Four with a plasma weapon, and then vanishes. Ortegas (Melissa Navia) is convinced it’s the Romulans.
A Way to Track the Romulans
Spock discovers a way to track the Romulans. The Farragut, led by Captain James T. Kirk, joins the Enterprise in pursuit. They decide to use a pincer move to track and engage the Romulan vessel. Kirk wants to attack the ship as a matter of principle. The Federation cannot allow the Romulans to threaten neutral zone bases. Pike wants a diplomatic solution. He talks to Lt. Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte) about his cousin. Sam cautions that James T. Kirk plays by his own rules. He’s a sharp captain but a wildcard.
Their efforts to tail the Romulan vessel fails. A firefight ensues with the Farragut being heavily damaged by the plasma weapon. A furious Kirk beams to the Enterprise. He rails against Pike for not destroying the Romulans. Pike pursues diplomacy. Lt. Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) radios the Romulan Commander. Pike and the Romulan agree to a two-hour ceasefire as both ships are repaired.
Kirk believes this is also unwise as The Romulans could be fixing their weapons. Pike disagrees. They have a chance to stop a war. On the Romulan Bird of Prey, the Sub-Commander wants to attack. Negotiations are a sign of weakness. They must kill while they have the upper hand.
When the time elapses, the Enterprise and Bird of Prey are still at a stalemate. Pike and the Romulan Commander seem to have a breakthrough. Kirk requests access to a shuttle. He has a backup plan just in case the niceties cease.
Kirk’s fears are realized. Pike watches as an armada of Romulan Warbirds warp to their location. The Romulan Sub-Commander betrayed his post and called immediately for reinforcements. The Romulan Praetor hails the Enterprise. She demands their immediate surrender. Pike warns this will lead to war with the Federation. She doesn’t care. The Federation has shown its cowardice.
Kirk’s shuttle returns with a fleet of drone mining ships. His tactical bluff works. The Romulans don’t know the drones are unarmed. The Praetor orders the initial Romulan Bird of Prey between them. They fire and destroy their own ship for incompetence, then turn their sights on the Enterprise.
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The Enterprise dodges a barrage of incoming fire. The ship takes further damage and Spock races to help repairs. The voice of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott is heard. Kirk sends the drones between the Romulans and Enterprise to absorb the fusillade. He then beams to safety on the ship. The Enterprise restores warp power and escapes the armada.
Pike tours a sick bay littered with casualties. He’s horrified to see Spock covered with radiation burns and serious internal injuries. A despondent Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) says Spock will never be the same. A shaken Pike returns to his quarters. He shares a drink with Kirk, who doesn’t blame him for what transpired. Pike was trying to secure peace with an enemy that didn’t want it.
Future Pike returns to the somber scene. The war with the Romulans has cost millions of casualties. Even worse, the loss of Spock devastates the Federation. He was meant for galaxy-saving greatness. Pike now understands that he must accept his destiny. His death will allow Spock and another Enterprise captain to reach their needed potential.
Pike touches the time crystal and Future Pike disappears. Spock enters his quarters. He wonders why Pike left the Outpost Four meeting. Pike expresses his love and admiration for Spock, who then deduces that something extraordinary had just happened. He thanks Pike for whatever actions he took to save him. Pike deletes his letter to Al-Salah.
Pike walks the bridge with a full heart and smiles at his crew, knowing that his noble sacrifice will not be in vain. His reverie is rudely interrupted. Captain Batel returns to the Enterprise to arrest Number One. Commander Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) has been discovered as a genetically modified Illyrian. This mirrors why she was absent from the future timeline. Pike erupts in anger but is stopped by Number One. She knew this day would come. Batel apologizes as she beams away with her prisoner. Pike replies, “This isn’t over.”
A Quality of Mercy remakes classic Star Trek’s “Balance of Terror” in exquisite detail. Where Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) attacked the Romulan Bird of Prey instead of negotiating. Thus showing a deadly enemy that the Federation would not back down. Captain Pike, virtuous in wanting peace, was never meant to be there. His character arc comes full circle in a startling confrontation. Pike embraces mortality as solemn duty to dear colleagues and his beloved Federation.
Related: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Premiere Recap & Review: Set Phasers to Awesome
Closing With Major Changes
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds closes season one with major changes. The Enterprise has lost Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak), who killed himself after a Gorn infestation in Episode Nine, “All Those Who Wander”. Lt. La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) left in the aftermath to help a child survivor find her family. Number One now sits in a Federation prison. None of these characters are present in classic Star Trek. It remains to be seen when or if they will return here.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has surpassed every expectation. It captures the essence of Gene Roddenberry’s original vision while charting its own course. Every character is well-written and acted with a nod to their place in an established universe. The arrival of Paul Wesley as Kirk is a great development. It will be interesting to see how Pike treats him as a junior officer. Set engines at warp factor nine for season two.
Strange New Worlds is a production of CBS Studios, Secret Hideout, Weed Road Pictures, HMRX Productions, and Roddenberry Entertainment. Season one can be streamed in its entirety on Paramount+.