Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Star Trek Strange New Worlds: Memento Mori

"Aye aye. Full impulse. Into a giant gas cloud of death. Why not?"

An exceptional episode in the best tradition of Star Trek.

It is Remembrance Day, when Starfleet formally memorializes its fallen. The Enterprise visited Finibus III to drop off an atmosphere processor, and came very close to joining those fallen as they were unexpectedly attacked by the Gorn.

If you haven't seen the original series, the Gorn were introduced in "Arena," an episode where (spoiler warning) god-like aliens forced Captain Kirk into a one-on-one fight to the death with the captain of a Gorn ship. Kirk won the day by showing compassion and refusing to kill his opponent. I don't think that's what they're going for with the Gorn this time, though.

We didn't actually see the Gorn in this episode, but we learned a lot more about them. Essentially, they can't be reasoned with, they can't be bargained with; they just want to eat you. In other words, the Gorn are space sharks.

Most of this episode was a tense, dramatic homage to classic submarine battle dramas (and maybe to the original series episode "Balance of Terror"). The Gorn initially gained the advantage with inhuman tactics, ruthlessly slaughtering human civilians and sacrificing their own ships. Pike countered by hiding the critically damaged Enterprise inside a brown dwarf and dropping a photon torpedo without being able to aim it. Spock got creative using coriolis force readings, whatever they are, as a primitive form of radar.

Pike again showed what an exceptional leader he is. La'an ran to the bridge and actually barked orders at him, and he didn't slap her down – he listened, did what she said, and made her his acting second in command. And he repeatedly made the hard decisions while getting the best out of the crew, encouraging outside-of-the-box thinking while refusing to accept defeat, even while his people were dying and the lower decks of the ship were literally crumbling.

I read an opinion somewhere this week that Anson Mount was born to play a Starfleet captain, and I couldn't agree more. He keeps impressing me. I even wondered about the fact that Pike knows it's not his time to die. Did that play a part in his decisions?

I didn't like La'an at the start of the series, but I like her now. In the opening scenes, she wouldn't wear the Remembrance Day pin because she refuses to dwell on the past, but her memories of her brother during the most traumatic event of her life helped save the day. She kept seeing him in her mind's eye because her subconscious was trying to tell her something.

Which is why La'an initiated an uncomfortable mind meld with Spock while the two of them were alone on the shuttlecraft. That scene became surprisingly intense as they realized they had something devastating in common – that Spock's sister Michael had sacrificed herself for Spock, just as La'an's brother had sacrificed himself for her.

"Memento mori" means "Remember, you must die." Sacrifice was the consistent theme running through this episode, a reminder that exploring strange new worlds can end with death. I thought this was beautifully illustrated by the simple scene in the corridor where the injured crew member pushed the uninjured Kyle to safety before the bulkhead closed. The depth of emotion in a sacrifice like that was something the Gorn, who sacrificed their own ships and crews like game pieces, would never understand.

Meanwhile, Uhura's assignment to the antagonistic Hemmer began with sarcastic banter, progressed through Uhura carrying out his adjustments to the AP350 while he was incapacitated, and ended with the two of them as friends, shackled to the deck and clutching each other as the cargo hold was vented into space. Isn't this so much better than keeping Uhura on the bridge answering the phone?

I also liked the scenes in Sick Bay, overloaded with casualties and lacking supplies so they had to "cut and sew people like garments." Like Pike, Una didn't hoard her power; she sent La'an to the bridge because she knew they would need her knowledge. I also liked M'Benga working away while giving Una a transfusion of his own blood. I guess human and Illyrian blood really is compatible.

This episode primarily showcased Pike, Spock and La'an, but absolutely every character shone: the cargo bay scenes with Uhura and Hemmer, the Sick Bay scenes because yes, Chapel is amazing. Ortegas at the helm made me smile over and over while still acknowledging her obvious brilliance as a pilot. What a fabulous cast, and an exceptionally well-written script.

And the visuals were genuinely impressive. The Gorn ships were twisted and frightening like the Gorn themselves. And the Enterprise "surfing" the black hole at the end wasn't something I've ever seen before.

Have I gushed enough yet? Maybe I should stop now.


— Stardate 3177.3, and the colony planet Finibus III. So far this season, the stardates have been all over the star map. I've never understood how they work. If you know, feel free to explain it to me.

— On Starfleet Remembrance Day, crew members choose pins representing ships on which they served with lost comrades. La'an's was the colony ship USS Puget Sound. I didn’t get a close look at any of the others. If you saw one, post a comment.

— Hemmer told Uhura that he is a pacifist. He won't fight for the Federation, but he will uphold its principles.

— The collapse of the environmental controls made it hot; everyone was sweating. Good dramatic choice.

— La'an and Spock took the shuttlecraft Galileo.

— In the photo below, the Gorn on the left is from the original series episode "Arena." On the right is a CGI Gorn in Star Trek: Enterprise's episode, "In a Mirror, Darkly." Which is the Enterprise episode they were filming when I was lucky enough to visit the set at Paramount. I even saw Scott Bakula in the green wraparound Kirk uniform talking to someone about wrestling the Gorn, although I didn't get to see the actual wrestling occur.


Spock: "It is tethered in orbit around a black hole."
Ortegas: "Like, how big of a black hole?"
Pike: "One problem at a time."

La'an: "Some things in this universe are just plain evil. Have you ever seen eyes that are dead and hungry at the same time?"

Hemmer: "I am not fond of teams."
Uhura: "Get fond."

Chapel: "We can take bets on when septic shock will begin. I hear it's like giving birth out your mouth."
Una: "Who says something like that?"
Chapel: "Me."

Spock: "Atmospheric density is increasing. I believe the singularity is advancing its accumulation of substellar material."
La'an: "Do you ever speak in plain English?"
Spock: "The brown dwarf we're hiding inside is being sucked into a black hole."

Ortegas: "Space really wants us dead."
Pike: "Then why don't we let space win?"

Pike: "What do snakes, ducks and possums all have in common?"
La'an: "When hunted, they play dead."

Ortegas: "We pull this off, it's officially the Pike Maneuver."

I am so, so happy with this show. Four out of four snakes, ducks and/or possums,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. This show continues to impress, in fact this might be my favorite episode so far. Every single actor crushed it, the writing was excellent, the visuals, all of it. I can't remember the last time I saw a show that got off to such a strong start like ST:SNW has.

  2. Patrick, I'm glad it's not just me. Maybe the long pandemic delay gave them the time to get it right.

  3. I'm pretty sure I saw Pike wearing the Discovery pin. I didn't see Spock's but I wouldn't be surprised if it was also the Discovery pin.

  4. (fka milostanfield)
    Wow. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Between a species that wants to eat you and a black hole that wants to eat Everything. The Pike Maneuver. Wow. Was it McCoy who said that fortune favors drunks, fools, and ships named Enterprise?

    Your point, BD, about Pike knowing the future is important. That issue is probably going to come up again.

    Only one minor clunker note in an otherwise perfect episode: that last scene where Pike was waiting to see if Hemmer and Uhura had survived. Kind of a cheap suspense trick like a jump scare in a horror movie. Plus we know that Uhura(!) and a character they spent time building were gonna make it anyway, so why bother. And Pike had already had enough of a bad day. A simple "We're fine, Captain!" would have been better IMHO.

    Nice opening honoring sacrifices made in an episode showing on Memorial Day weekend.

  5. I loved this episode so much but at times I was so stressed I watched it in 5 minute increments.

  6. Let's go, Hemmer! Happy to see pacifism represented in Star Trek! You'd think there'd be a lot more pacifists in a society like the Federation.

  7. This was such a great episode - my favourite so far. I was wondering about Pike taking into account he knows he won't die too, Billie. I felt there was something in the way he delivered the lines that indicated that he was thinking about that. I warmed to La'an in this episode as well, although I still wish they'd give her a different hairstyle. It gives me a headache just looking at it.

    1. Amen to the hair. She’s the one character who’s writing just isn’t up to par with the others. Better this episode but still doesn’t mesh with the rest of the writing.

  8. Rewatching this episode, and I got to the seen where La'an realizes that Pike is going to drop the AP350 as a decoy while slingshotting around the black hole. I've decided that Ortegas' "Captain, are you out of your damn mind?" look is one of my new favorite things :)

  9. Excellent episode like the rest. Still disappointed with the character La’an. The writing just isn’t happening yet. I feel like it’s a mismatch with the actor’s style. They have her looking down too much in general regardless of the plot. They had trouble with Denise Crosby in her early episodes as well. Maybe trying too hard to convince us that a woman can handle that position. But in a way I nit pick. It’s an absolutely miraculous series.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.