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“Among the Lotus Eaters” Sees ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Deconstruct Episodic TV

8 Minute Read
Jul 6 2023

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds sees the return of episodic storytelling. “Among the Lotus Eaters” cleverly takes that to its extreme.

Star Trek, historically at least, is largely episodic in nature. Kirk faces a court-martial, and the following week it’s as though it never happened. Beverly Crusher has sex with a lamp and nary a soul torments her about it forever after. Janeway turns into a space salamander and has kids with Paris. What happened to those kids? Who cares!

But things start to change around Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Stories take three or more episodes to resolve and have far-reaching consequences. Same goes for Star Trek: Enterprise. And, with near uniformity, this Paramount Plus era of Trek continues the serialized storytelling format.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the exception. Uhura sings to a comet and it’s largely forgotten. Spock and T’Pring Spock bodies and the entire crew doesn’t spend months asking if they had wacky body swap sex. Deeply unbelievable stuff.

However, for every one-off adventure, there are still just as many that carry over. Pike’s inevitable fate. Spock’s anger. Chapel’s crush. These things come up again and again.

“Among the Lotus Eaters” is a meditation on the nature of episodic storytelling. It’s about other things, too. We’ll get to those in a moment. But first things first.

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

To Boldly Recap “Among the Lotus Eaters”

Captain Batel visits Pike for a dinner date. She brings him a gift: a Pelian Mariner’s keystone. It’s to guide lost sailors home. But in the context of Batel and Pike, it’s a token of apology. Batel was prosecuted in the case against Una after all. More than that though it’s a representation of Batel’s desire for her and Pike to find their way back towards romantic love.

Unfortunately, there are other things happening. Notably, Batel loses out on being a commodore because Vice Admiral Pasalk is punishing her over the Una trial. And Pike sees Batel’s relationship with him as harmful to her. Pike says he wants to pump the breaks, Batel gets very angry, and their dinner ends abruptly.

Dinner would’ve ended anyway as Starfleet has a mission for Enterprise. Long-range scans of Rigel VII show a garden bearing the Starfleet insignia. The problem is Rigel VII is not part of the Federation and shouldn’t even know it exists.


Five years ago, Pike had a mission on Rigel VII that went tits up within five hours. Crew members were lost. And now Starfleet is sending him back to deal with the resulting cultural contamination. Pike, M’Benga, and La’an get all gussied up in their Kalar finest for an undercover op and head down to the planet.

What could go wrong?

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Everything Goes Wrong

Shortly after touching down on the planet, La’an hears ringing, develops a headache, and starts losing time. The away team pushes through and isn’t long before they find themselves on the wrong end of some very Starfleet phaser pulse rifles. They were expected and not just by anyone–but by Zac, a former Enterprise ensign. turns out he survived the Enterprise’s previous mission to Rigel VII and now he’s king.

More than that, it turns out that there’s something hinky about Rigel VII. All the Kalar who live outside the castle lose their memories every night. As a result, a caste system exists with the proverbial royals in charge of both the planet’s history and its people. The rest of the Kalar are basically slaves who view losing their memories as a kind of ritual, a welcome one even.

Zac is very mad about being left to die so he leaves Pike, M’Benga, and La’an outside in a cage to lose their memories — and they do! The following day an old Kalar named Luke shows the away team how to exist in their new world even though he doesn’t know them — even though no one knows anybody.

While Pike and Co. work to figure out what’s going on, there’s another problem. Back on Enterprise the crew are also losing their memories. Spock instructs Ortegas to take the ship away from Rigel VII and towards a nearby asteroid field. But that does not help and it isn’t long before no one on the ship knows who they are or how to run Enterprise.

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How Are the Duke Boys Gonna Get Out of This One?

The good news is that emotional knowledge seems to linger. That means Pike, La’an, and M’Benga have a sense of their respective duties and that they at least know they know each other. Unfortunately, as they fight back La’an gets a knife in the belly. Luke takes them to his home and tries to prepare La’an for death. But of course, M’Benga wants to heal her. And Pike wants that, too.


Luke says their memories are kept in the castle. Luke also says he doesn’t want his memories back because he senses they are sad. Pike makes his way over there anyway and fights off basically everyone and nearly kills Zac. And eventually, Pike’s memories come back. It turns out that memory loss is caused by asteroids from the asteroid field. The castle (and the royals’ hats) are made of a material that blocks the asteroid’s effects.

Long story short: M’Benga gets his memories back and saves La’an. Luke also gets his memories back and recalls the son he lost–but he’s grateful for the memories.

Meanwhile, back on Enterprise, Ortegas manages to use the ship’s computer to figure out she is the pilot of the ship. And she uses those piloting instincts to get Enterprise out of the asteroid field. Everyone gets their memories back. Hooray!

The episode ends with Pike telling Batel he doesn’t want to let his fear of the past or future ruin their relationship. Batel takes him back. And Enterprise moves the asteroids near Rigel VII away from the planet so everyone there keeps their memories going forward. The end.

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

To Boldly Review “Among the Lotus Eaters”

“Among the Lotus Eaters” is one of those episodes where the subtext is more interesting than the action. There are two scenes that stand out as exceptions. The moment when Ortegas remembers how to pilot the ship out of the asteroid field is tense and fun in that way Ortegas can. And when Pike deflects Zac’s phaser shot with a platter before discarding it? Big “cool guy walking away from explosions” energy. Love that.

The action otherwise feels a little off. One of the cool things we know about Rigel VII before this episode is that Kalar are warriors. It feels like there’s an attempt to bring that into the episode with M’Benga and La’an getting into some fisticuffs, but the execution is a little tepid.

The Broken Circle” has the opposite problem. M’Benga and Chapel fight off basically an army of Klingons even though it’s just the two of them. Someone between that and the low-impact energy of “Among the Lotus Eaters” there has to be a happy middle where the action moves the plot forward in a way that’s both tense and exciting.

Also, Batel and Pike resolve things awful quick, no? It was only two episodes ago that they were fighting over whether Una gets to have rights. It makes sense for there to be a lot of tension there. I’m hoping the kiss at the end doesn’t mean that the tension is resolved. It shouldn’t be.

Also, also: is this our “Ortegas episode”? Melissa Navia is great in it and she gets a cool arc where she continues to be the best pilot, but gosh I hope she gets more!


Anyway, let’s talk about the subtext and the metatext, shall we?

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

The Evolution of Episodic Storytelling

On Star Trek: The Next Generation Gene Roddenberry wanted the series to feature humans who never conflicted with each other. It’s well known that everyone other than Gene hated that idea.

Similarly, TNG famously uses the reset button. Something huge like Worf taking on a young man as a surrogate child will happen–and then we’ll never see that kid again. But, in some cases, the actors play something not in the text in order to keep stories going. Jonathan Frakes and Mirina Sirtis played their romantic Imzadi connection whenever they had scenes together. Eventually, the writers caught up.

“Among the Lotus Eaters” is about episodic storytelling, specifically in how it pertains to Star Trek. Its hypothesis is that, yes, even if the characters remember nothing from the week before they can maybe still run the ship–but that’s a very sad way to live.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds strikes a balance between episodic and serialized stories. Yes, there are episodes that stand alone. But if something big happens to a character, it’s not forgotten.

Pike and Batel’s relationship isn’t suddenly perfect after “Ad Astra Per Aspera“. Spock still plays the Vulcan lute to deal with the stress from last season. The Kalar of Rigel VII represent how Trek characters of old functioned–with a reset button. It’s not an accident that “Among the Lotus Eaters” resolves with Enterprise making it so the Kalar can retain their memories.

Courtesy of Paramount Plus

Red Shirts Must (Not) Die

Of all the famous Star Trek tropes, arguably the biggest is that red shirts always die. If you’re some nameless ensign on an away mission, you’re a goner. And that dates back all the way to the original Star Trek pilot where Captain Pike loses a bunch of ensigns on a mission to Rigel VII.

As Star Trek: Strange New Worlds seeks to thread the needle between episodic and serialized stories it makes sense that it would ask: what if one of those left-for-dead ensigns wasn’t actually dead? Revenge of the red shirts! It’s a fun idea you expect to see play as a joke on Star Trek: Lower Decks. However, on SNW it’s used as a means of expressing why reset buttons cannot exist. SNW succeeds at better reflecting the real world precisely because there are always consequences.

And one other thing “Among the Lotus Eaters” tackles is the idea of getting older and not necessarily wanting to remember. Luke loses a son and the pain is so much that he sees losing his memories as a blessing. And getting older does often mean reaching a point where life stops giving and starts taking away.

Live long enough and you’ll learn to want to forget. Live even longer and you’ll eventually realize memories, even the painful ones, are worth remembering. Melancholy is not a dirty word. Sometimes you remember someone or something you lost along the way and you smile and cry and then smile again. And all those things are good. All of them.


Ultimately, Luke realizes his life is more full with his memories, even when they hurt. In the end, “Among the Lotus Eaters” is about exactly that.

4.5/5 stars

Lina Morgan
Author: Lina Morgan
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