It has been a while since we’ve had two episodes to review within a week, but Strange New Worlds has released two following one premier at San Diego Comic Con!
“Those Old Scientists”
The long awaited crossover episode featured the Lower Decks cast in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Boimler, Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford are investigating an old time gate device. Tendi explains how her lineage of Orions were scientists, and they were the actual ones to discover the gate. The gate is accidentally activated and it sends Boimler back in time to when Spock and Number One are investigating the gate in their time. Boimler is taken aboard the Enterprise and confirmed to be a Starfleet officer from the future. Unfortunately, the gate has lost power and they need to find a way to get the supply which is rare. An amount is obtained, and before Boimler is sent through, Mariner is sent back in time to try to rescue Boimler. Now two are stuck, much to the chagrin of the crew of the Enterprise. It is discovered that a piece of previous ships with the name designation are hidden on the new ones, and the NX-01’s hull piece which contains the element needed is aboard. Orions threaten to take the gate, but the Lower Decks crew negotiates with them citing that Tendi’s ancestor is aboard that ship and they can be seen as scientists with credit of discovering the gate. The Lower Decks crew gets sent back and all is well with the timeline.
“Under the Cloak of War”
A Klingon ambassador for the federation is aboard the Enterprise to help negotiate with the Klingons. Dak’Rah, known as the Butcher of J’Gal, has defected to the Federation and serves as their ambassador. He was a general on J’Gal where M’Benga and Chapel had served. They, and Ortegas, are wary of having him aboard. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn M’Benga’s time on J’Gal where he was a doctor and he and Nurse Chapel saw the atrocities of war with the Klingons. There is definite PTSD with him and Chapel and it’s seen that M’Benga had even been asked to fight for the Federation in that battle. He is known as an excellent combatant, and even developed a serum that heightens adrenaline and suppresses pain receptors, but is reluctant to use or make more. After seeing that the Klingons were ordered to kill anyone not a Klingon, even if they aren’t in Starfleet, M’Benga goes to take them all on himself. M’Benga and Chapel are asked to have dinner with the rest of the senior officers and Dak’Rah. Pike is aware of the tension, but asks anyway. Dak’Rah explains he is trying to make up for what he’s done in the war and even asks to join M’Benga in a sparring session. Later on, Dak’Rah visits M’Benga in the med bay and it’s discovered that M’Benga is really the Butcher of J’Gal and Dak’Rah has lived the lie saying he killed Klingons in order to defect and help with peace negotiations. The two start to fight after Dak’Rah insists on making amends. The doctor kills Dak’Rah with a Klingon blade he kept in the war. Chapel lies telling Pike that she saw exactly what happened and that the doctor was innocent. Pike confronts him and M’Benga does admit he’s glad he’s dead for killing children.
And with that we head into our thoughts on the episodes!
Mr. Daps: “Both of these episodes had solid soundtracks. I would loved to have some more iconic scores in both that really stood out but I think in this case that ‘Under the Cloak of War’ might have had the slightly stronger score. It really did add to the tension of the episode it seemed.”
Murray: “Both had a great, though different soundtrack. ‘Under the Cloak of War’ stands out to me more with a slightly ethereal score. It might have had some airy notes, but it also included some tension in its background score, which only heightened the rest of the episode.”
Mr. Daps: “Both of these episodes really had some interesting things to look at in terms of design. ‘Those Old Scientists’ did a fantastic job of connecting two very different looks. On the flip side, ‘Under the Cloak of War’ did a very good job of making a war torn planet. While the tent city was cool, it also reminded me of a campground full of tents a bit and almost made me question if that is what tents in space in the Star Trek world would look like. I think both episodes did a fantastic job of showing off new uniforms in one way or another. ‘These Old Scientists’ also had the portal, both animated and live action. It was like a different version of the Guardian of Forever from Star Trek: The Original Series. I think I’m going to give ‘Those Old Scientists’ the edge for design.
Murray: “It is hard to say which seemed the better use of designs. ‘Those Old Scientists’ had to make cartoon become live action. It also featured a great theme intro with SNW taking on the Lower Decks animation look and tropes. The gate was a unique feature as well. On the Cloak of War side, the look of J’Gal was incredible. It was war torn, and had the intensity of a battle with constant explosions and firing. The tent city showed the hardship and grit of the war. Plus some new uniforms from the wartime! It was gritty and yet grounded in realism for a space battle. I have to give more credit to Cloak of War for all of that.”
Mr. Daps: “I thought both of these episodes were interesting and solid in terms of story. One took a more humor ous approach, the other was a very heavy and serious approach. At the end of the day, I thought that both of them were solid stories that held their own. I did find it interesting how ‘Under the Cloak of War’ ended and I have mixed feelings on it. Part of me really liked it and part of me found myself conflicted and wondering about the repurcussions of the ending. I loved how both episodes were unabashadly what they were. I’m going to say it was a draw between both of these episodes.”
Murray: “Old Scientists was a fun episode, and even about the fun. From Spock trying out smiling to Uhura learning to let loose, it was just a way to show how both shows have some humor in their own way. It had the Trek tropes of time travel with it, but the twist of how Mariner ends up on the Enterprise was a great one. Cloak of War was a psychological episode that was character driven. I was surprised with the end of having the ambassador killed. But, it was a tense and logical conclusion of the episode. The story did not hold back to really show how war affects so many differently, and that those who don’t serve do not understand. And I have to give the credit to Cloak of War for how great and hard a story it is.”
This Week’s Winner
Mr. Daps: “This week I’m finding myself very conflicted on what the winner should be. ‘Those Old Scientists’ was an all around fun Star Trek episode. ‘Under the Cloak of War’ was a very powerful one that addressed some very heavy issues. I am hoping that there is more to the story for ‘Under the Cloak of War’ and that the end of this episode doesn’t end this story arc. If this is true, then ‘Under the Cloak of War’ wins for the week. However, until that happens, I’m going to stick with the one I enjoyed nore which was ‘Those Old Scientists.’ I simply enjoyed it and it was a fun and unique approach to Star Trek. Both episodes were solid and depending on how things play out, my mind could easily be changed.”
Murray: “I would like to give it to Old Scientists because I really like Lower Decks, but it’s ‘Under the Cloak of War’ this week. It did so well at delivering the atrocities of war and the impact it has. It also reminded me of Next Generation episodes but without the diplomacy of Picard. It’s also something we haven’t seen in Trek, at least not to this extent. I enjoyed it, but it was hard to enjoy and I think that’s what makes it the episode it is. It’s not an easy one to get through, and I think that’s the point. Old Scientists was a really fun episode, but Cloak of War was unique.”