‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Ends Season 2 With an Old-Fashioned Alien Invasion

The Gorn return in "Hegemony" to wreak havoc on the main cast... yet writing flaws fail to make the story compelling.

Let me begin by saying that this season of Strange New Worlds has boasted some of the strongest Star Trek episodes ever, across all the series from the original to the New Treks. We’ve had high-octane action, deliberative contemplation, heart-breaking tragedy, absolute hilarity, and heart-warming character moments. Overall, Season 2 has been consistently strong whether it’s delivering think-y sci-fi or just having fun with the crew, and is, in my opinion, even better than the already pretty-dang-good Season 1.

Which is why it’s a real bummer that it ended on a weak note.

The very first episode of this season teased a Gorn incursion, and I was worried for a sec that they’d make a conflict with the Alien rip-offs the central story arc of the season. Thank goodness they did not, because, as depicted in Strange New Worlds, the Gorn are the least interesting villains of all time. Scary monster-y aliens that are basically mindless killing machines? Been there, done that, don’t even find it scary anymore, especially on a TV show where you know the leads are armed with impenetrable Plot Armor.

But the Gorn are back to close out the season. The episode opens just outside Federation space, in an idyllic 21st-century-looking midwestern town with shots so generic, I literally thought they were stock footage until the costumed crew of the Cayuga showed up. What a nice little town… a shame if some aliens ruined it…

Captain Batel is leading a mission to help the colonists with, like, vaccines and things. And Nurse Chapel is hitching a ride to her fellowship and lending a hand in the meanwhile. Oh, look, our two main male leads’ girlfriends are both on a mission to a pretty, vulnerable little planet that’s not actually part of the Federation! What could possibly go wrong —

Cue the Gorn, arriving on an ominous black cloud moments after Chapel beams back on board the Cayuga. Shocked faces and alarms abound [Fun fact: my building’s actual alarm went off right as I was watching this scene, and I didn’t realize it was a real-world fire alarm at first because I thought it was part of the show…].

Now, who else would respond but the ship with Batel and Chapel’s respective boyfriends on board? The Enterprise arrives to a devastating scene: the Cayuga has been shattered into a gazillion broken yet recognizable pieces (including, notably, half the saucer section), and the Gorn have invaded the planet. Communications, transporters, scanners, and more are down thanks to a Gorn interference field, which means the crew can’t scan for survivors or beam out in search of them. The Gorn have also sent the Federation a demarcation line: Stay on your side, and we’ll stay on ours. Cross it, and there will be war. Naturally, Pike and the Enterprise are ordered to stay on their side of the line. Naturally, they plan to ignore that to save their people (but they have to pretend to obey at least).

Pike looking concerned on the Enterprise bridge with Spock in the background
Image: Paramount+

Pike leads an away team to the surface to search for survivors. And yay, Ortegas finally gets to go! Seeing her face light up and watching her delight while piloting the shuttle was one of the highlights of the whole episode. To avoid starting a war, Ortegas must disguise the shuttle as a piece of space junk from the destroyed Cayuga, then have it appear to just fall into the atmosphere… pulling up at the very last second. She has a blast. Pike… not so much. Probably the best moment of the whole episode.

Spock and Una in the ready room
Image: Paramount+

Spock remains on board, desperately searching for a way to scan the remains of the Cayuga for Chapel. Not survivors. Just Chapel. I gotta say, despite some excellent chemistry between Ethan Peck and Jess Bush, I just can’t bring myself to care about Spock and Chapel as a romantic pairing. This is the problem with prequels: You know how things will end. Spock will marry T’Pring, and Chapel will become engaged to Dr. Korby, and the two will have some awkward romantic-y interactions due to alien substances. So there isn’t much tension in a will-they won’t-they… they won’t.

Anyway, Pike and company make it to the shattered remains of the town. They trace what appear to be human signs to a building, only to discover they were being emitted by a device, and then get trapped in a force field. Turns out, someone had set a trap for the Gorn, and that someone was… drumroll please… SCOTTY!!! In another highlight of the episode, we’re introduced to a young Montgomery Scott, delightfully played by Martin Quinn (an actual Scot!).

scotty sitting in a dark room
Image: Paramount+

Batel is leading a small group of survivors. There are too many to fit onto the shuttle, though, and again, the transporters aren’t working. Scotty, meanwhile, arrived in a shuttle himself after the research vessel he was working on was attacked, and he had a device to disguise it as a Gorn ship. So of course, Pike, Batel, and Scotty must sneak through the Gorn-infested to reach Scotty’s downed shuttle and retrieve said device.

Batel, Pike Sam, and Scotty in a dark room

Back on the Enterprise, Uhura and Pelia come up with a plan to knock out the signal disruptor that the Gorn planted on the planet’s surface. Since they can’t shoot it without crossing the line and starting a war, they’ll nudge the biggest piece of Cayuga debris, the saucer section, in such a way that it will look like it’s just a piece of junk in a decaying orbit, that will conveniently crash right into that pesky disruptor. To do so, they need someone to go outside in a space suit and plant a rocket. Spock insists that his superior Vulcan abilities make him the only man for the job (this has nothing to do with the fact that the Cayuga‘s sick bay was completely blasted away and he totally thinks Chapel is dead and is being illogically self-destructive…).

Meanwhile, it turns out Chapel did somehow survive the Cayuga getting ripped to shreds… that somehow the piece of saucer she was in still has life support and gravity. Okay, fine. After recovering from getting knocked out, she stumbles about until she reaches a window that just happens to be facing the Enterprise. Pretty coincidental, but FINE. She tries to use her flashlight to emit a light signal but it goes bust. Then who should happen to come floating by, but Spock in a space suit, completely oblivious to her banging on the window even though he passes right in front of the one tiny window she happens to be behind. Uh, huh. Sure, writers, sure.

So she grabs a space suit herself and starts… going somewhere. I don’t know. Somehow, she ends up in the exact same spot as Spock, just as a random Gorn in a space suit is starting some trouble. Why was that Gorn there? What was it trying to do? How, in this giant saucer section, did two tiny little humans end up in the same place without communicating? Who cares, the writers just wanted a Spock-Chapel action scene. Spock plants his device, the saucer heads for the planet, and we get a lovey-dovey shot of the two reunited and floating in space.

Oh, and screw anyone else who might have survived but been knocked out. Chapel didn’t even bother checking any of the fallen crew for life signs, and Spock didn’t bother asking “Anyone else alive?” before sending the whole saucer crashing to the surface. So if anyone else was alive but unconscious, or even conscious but unseen, Spock just sent them to their fiery dooms while Chapel was too heart-eyed to care. Great job, writers. You could’ve fixed that with one line of dialogue from the computer saying that there were no other life signs on board. Though the idea that Chapel was the ONLY survivor, by complete coincidence, is rather hard to accept. See what I mean about Plot Armor?

Pike, Scotty, and Batel make it to the shuttle and get Scotty’s jury-rigged device. A Gorn starts to attack… then backs off after getting up close and personal with Batel. Why? Because Batel has been implanted with Gorn eggs. She’s accepted her fate, but Pike, of course, hasn’t.

After the saucer crashes into the Gorn device, communications and transporters are back. Beam me up, Scotty. Or rather, Scotty gets beamed up, along with Pike and Batel, and Spock and Chapel after their Plot-Armor-fueled possibly-murder-by-negligence-filled space date. Chapel rushes to put Batel into stasis, freezing her to buy them time to find a way to save her from becoming a Gorn incubator. We get another delightful moment as Pelia sees Scotty and says she was his best student… and got the worst grades. Yup, sounds like Scotty.

The other survivors on the planet are beamed up… by the Gorn, which means M’Benga, La’an, Ortegas, and Sam Kirk are now lizard lunch (and the civilians, but who cares about them… clearly the writers don’t think any character that isn’t part of the main cast doesn’t count. I salute you, other crew members of the Cayuga!)

Starfleet orders Pike to leave the area. Things are looking really bad. Pike seems caught in a moment of indecision. Una asks for Pike’s orders. The music gets dramatic, and Pike’s expression gets even more dramatic… you know what’s coming…

Image from Galaxy Quest with Peter Taggart saying "Activate the Omega 13"

Just kidding, we didn’t get that part. But we did get the “To Be Continued.” I doubt Strange New Worlds is meant to echo the fictional final Galaxy Quest cliffhanger, but it’s all I could think about…

I gotta say, that cliffhanger left me cold. The episode as a whole wasn’t particularly compelling, the villains were downright boring, and the stakes somehow felt low even though lives are at stake. I guess it’s because of that Plot Armor that all but guarantees that all our regulars will be back. And the way the Gorn are depicted doesn’t set them up to be an interesting adversary in any way (we get a slight hint that maybe they’re a little bit cooperative, which you’d assume would have to be true for them to develop interstellar travel but is treated as a shocker…).

All in all, a disappointing way to end an otherwise strong season. Beam me back to Episode 1, Scotty.

2.5/5 stars… I was gonna give it just 2 but gave it an extra half-star for Ortegas, Scotty, and Pelia.

Mary Fan
Mary Fanhttp://www.MaryFan.com
Mary Fan is a Jersey City-based author of sci-fi/fantasy. Her books include Stronger than a Bronze Dragon, the Starswept Trilogy, the Jane Colt Trilogy, the Flynn Nightsider series, and the Fated Stars series. She is also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls sci-fi anthologies about girls in STEM.

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Let me begin by saying that this season of Strange New Worlds has boasted some of the strongest Star Trek episodes ever, across all the series from the original to the New Treks. We've had high-octane action, deliberative contemplation, heart-breaking tragedy, absolute hilarity, and heart-warming character...'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Ends Season 2 With an Old-Fashioned Alien Invasion