“Hegemony” is ‘Star Trek: Strange New World’s “Best of Both Worlds”
“Hegemony” closes the book on Strange New Worlds season two with the three most terrifying words in TV history.
Captain Batel (along with Nurse Chapel) and the USS Cayuga are helping the citizens of the colony on Parnassus Beta when comms go down. There’s a bad reason for it, too: the Gorn are there, ready to wipe out the entire planet’s population.
As Pike and Enterprise max warp speed to help, the Gorn message Starfleet. That message is a map with a simple demarcation line. On one side of it is Federation space, and on the other side is Parnassus Beta. Admiral April expects Pike to stay on the Federation side of the line. Pike ain’t doing that.
Pike’s away team finds Batel, her crew, some citizens, and a young Montgomery Scott. Scott hails from a science vessel who were destroyed by the Gorn after they experienced a specific kind of solar flare. It’s possible those flares are the reason the Gorn are in attack mode.
On Enterprise, Uhura and Pelia find a Gorn device on Parnassus that’s jamming transporter frequencies. Spock brings explosives to what remains of the Cayuga so they can force the debris to land on the Gorn device. While on the ship, Spock finds Chapel and a Gorn.
Spock and Chapel escape and Cayuga destroys the device. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Batel is infected with Gorn eggs. Plus the remaining Cayuga crew along with Sam Kirk, M’Benga, Ortegas, and La’an have all been beamed aboard a Gorn ship.
Pike’s orders are to leave and as Enterprise faces certain destruction he stares into the camera, frozen in fear.
To Boldly Review “Hegemony”
“Hegemony” is a big episode. This is our introduction to Scotty and it’s the first time SNW ends on a cliffhanger. And make no mistake, “Hegemony” is very much pulling from Trek’s most famous cliffhanger: TNG‘s “The Best of Both Worlds“.
In fact, both stories have the same set up albeit with wildly different executions. Both begin with Enterprise heading to a colony under attack. The difference is that on TNG, the Borg are already done and gone whereas on SNW the Gorn are still there.
It’s an interesting inversion of the classic formula. So much of “Best of Both Worlds” builds on quiet tension. “Hegemony” by contrast takes a far more action-heavy approach. And it’s a necessary distinction. SNW at its worst borrows too heavily from the past. And the Gorn are the Borg’s equal opposite number. The Borg are quiet, dispassionate killers. The Gorn literally bare their fangs when they attack.
And while I do think SNW relies too heavily on the visual language of the Xenomorphs from Alien on these new Gorn, “Hegemony” works far more than it doesn’t. The fights with the Gorn keep things tense. And quiet moments where Pike considers the Gorn’s motivations or when M’Benga and Ortegas worry about Chapel remind us of the emotional stakes.
But everything boils down to that cliffhanger.
To Be Continued
There’s a lot I love in these final moments. I love that Pelia is the one who gives Scotty his nickname and that he is one of her best/worst students. When Chapel tells Pike she has no intention of letting Batel die, you really feel Chapel rising to the occasion. After so much time spent on Chapel and Spock’s romance, it’s nice seeing her simply being dedicated and good at her job.
It’s similarly exciting that La’an is back with the Gorn. In fact, while we know M’Benga and Sam Kirk have to live for continuity reasons, it’s entirely possible that La’an or Ortegas may die here. Mostly though this is our chance to see La’an face the Gorn head on and that’s a thrilling note to end on.
But the part I keep grappling with is the final moment where Pike freezes. Yes, he’s in a dilly of a pickle. His crew is trapped. But with the Gorn attacking and orders from Starfleet demanding he withdraw, there’s no easy choice here. So the narrative decision is to leave us not knowing what Pike will do.
And I’m not sure that works as well as if we ended on Pike saying either “get us out of here” or “we’re not going anywhere”.
Pike’s Fourth Wall Break
Star Trek rarely breaks the fourth wall. And there’s only one other occasion where it occurs dramatically–DS9‘s, “In the Pale Moonlight”. Even then, it’s a conceit throughout the episode where Sisko explains to the audience. When Pike stares at the camera in the final moments of “Hegemony” he’s quietly asking–”what would you do?”
While “Hegemony” remains action heavy throughout much of its runtime, it takes a passive approach in its final moment. This is the inverse of “The Best of Both Worlds” where Riker defiantly says “Mr. Worf: fire”. It’s an interesting distinction. As a kid, I remember spending the entire summer after “The Best of Both Worlds Part I” wondering what happens next. “Hegemony” has me wondering what I would do in Pike’s shoes.
My only beef with this narrative choice is that it makes Pike seem weak. Riker taking charge leaves this feeling of momentum over the hiatus. I think Pike’s inaction stymies that.
And while this is not the fault of the writers or the series, one extra element here is the ongoing strike. SNW is not in production. We have no idea when or if the show will ever return. That’s way more stressful than wondering what Picard’s fate is. We know we’ll get that answer. We have no idea if “Hegemony” resolves. Even if it does, will all the actors and writers return?
In the end “Hegemony” is more frustrating than anyone could’ve known, but it’s still one of the best cliffhanger endings in Star Trek history.