(written from a Production point of view)
When an attack on Starbase 28 leaves a surprise prisoner under Cadet Thira Sidhu’s watch, she is faced with making a decision that may threaten her standing in Starfleet.
Cadet Sidhu is in a small room called “Inventory 2” aboard Starbase 28. The computer repeats: “Yellow Alert!” Ops calls Cadet Sidhu and tells her that they’re under attack. She asks for a status report when the bulkhead behind her blows; her body is slammed to the ground. Two red shirt security officers walk in with a masked prisoner and Cadet Sidhu stands up straight at their command. One of the security officers tells her that there’s damage on Deck 4 that makes it impossible for them to reach the Brig. Until the damage is cleared, they’re leaving this prisoner with her. He tells her that the prisoner mutinied and they put a mask on him because they don’t want the crew to find out this guy turned on them. He gives her explicit orders to not allow the prisoner to leave this room. When unmasked, the prisoner is revealed to Captain Christopher Pike. They hand Cadet Sidhu a Type 2 phaser and leave.
Captain Pike orders her to “open comms” so he can know what’s going on with the battle. Sidhu points out that he’s a prisoner and therefore his orders carry no weight anymore. At this moment the ship is hit again and Pike points out that their emergency takes precedence. She simply tells him to take a seat and remain silent. He explains that several hours ago the Enterprise picked up a distress call from the USS Bouman. The Bouman is in trouble, lives are at stake, and therefore she must let him out of here. Sidhu says that she’s not willing to risk Court martial. Pike continues that when they answered the distress call the ship looked dead in the water. An Admiral aboard the Bouman sent an encrypted hail to the Enterprise alerting them that the Tholians had commandeered the Bouman. The Tholians sent out a fake distress call knowing the Enterprise was in the area and would come to the aid of the Bouman. They set a trap to catch the flagship of the Federation.
The Admiral ordered Captain Pike to steer clear and to not do a rescue mission because they couldn’t risk letting the Enterprise get in the hands of the Tholians. But Pike felt that he couldn’t abandon the crew of the Bouman knowing that they were being held hostage, so he mounted a rescue anyway. After getting the Admiral out, she aborted the rescue mission, opted to leave the crew of the Bouman behind, and then relieved Captain Pike of duty for disobeying a direct order. He resisted arrest because he wanted to continue the rescue mission and that didn’t go so well. The Starbase is hit yet again and Cadet Sidhu is able to surmise that the Tholians must have followed the Enterprise in the Bouman all the way to Starbase 28. Pike tries to appeal to her emotions by reminding her that she has family on the Bouman. He says that he remembers reading her file, because she applied for a position in Engineering aboard the Enterprise. She confirms this but reveals that she was rejected for the job. Her husband was assigned to the Bouman and she was assigned to Starbase 28. Pike says that he remembers now: she and her husband were the only two survivors from the Tholian attack on Berellium just a few years ago. He again appeals to her emotions by saying that if she lets him go, they can mount another rescue attempt, and she can ensure that her husband survives the Tholians once more.
Pike brainstorms by saying that the Tholians only want the Enterprise, so he could lead them away, beam the Bouman crew to safety, and then “blow the Tholians to hell. It’s what they deserve.” Cadet Sidhu is tempted and apprehensive, but eventually states a firm no and a plan to follow Protocol. She also points out that Starbase 28 and the Enterprise remain a united front and that’s stronger than Pike’s plan to split up in order to lead the Tholians away. Pike realizes he won’t get through to her with emotions after she’s turned him down several times and blatantly stated she wants to follow protocol. So he starts rambling off protocol starting with Regulation 191 Article 14 which states that when in combat command falls to the vessel with tactical superiority. In this case that’s the Enterprise, not the Starbase. Cadet Sidhu says that none of it matters because the Admiral relieved him of duty. Pike points out that she can enact the “Reserve activation clause,” which states an officer in good standing can reinstate a discharged officer in cases of emergency. She affirms this is the rule but dismisses it out of hand because it’s a loophole and that’s not her “style.”
Sidhu then cites Directive 010 which states before engaging in battle, any and all attempts to achieve a non-military resolution must be made. He doesn’t like the sound of that and asks “You want to negotiate with the bastards using torpedoes on us?!” But Sidhu remains grounded in her principles and says “Tactical force is always the last resort and vengeance should never be a factor.” Pike takes offense at her implication that he’s not as principled as she is and says “I am all for arguing principles but that crew is in mortal danger!” He mentions her husband again and she says that her husband knew what he signed up for when he joined Starfleet and so did she. Pike gives her a direct order to release him and she firmly says “No.” Pike cites Regulation 208 paragraph 2 which overrides the orders of her senior officers. She rebutts that Regulation only applies to an active Captain which he is no longer. Pike threatens her and says when this is all over, he’ll make sure she never works on a Starship again. He walks to the door and she yells at him to step away from the door as she charges her phaser and points it at him. He is offended she would even point that weapon in his direction and orders her to put it down.
Pike officially ends this charade and calls Number One to tell her that Cadet Sidhu is very good. He tells Sidhu that she did great and powers down the simulation. She’s astonished and asks if this whole thing was a test. Pike says yes and confirms that her husband is fine, none of it was real, and tells her how sorry he is to have had to put her through all that. He also adds that they’ve arranged for her husband to have a brief leave and he’s on his way to see her now. Pike says “I know a challenge like this may seem extreme even inhumane, but war is both of those things. We need to know that you’ll honor your commitment to Starfleet even when those you hold dear are on the line. Even when old wounds are triggered and loopholes appear.” They then beam over to the Enterprise and meet up with Spock and Number One. Pike tells her that she’ll be serving aboard the Enterprise for the rest of the semester and that her rejection was all part of the test. They welcome her with open arms. Pike takes her to Engineering and tells her “In battle any crew member may be faced with a life or death choice, but if you can hold onto yourself like you did today, you’ll be just fine.” She says she’ll remember that and then asks him if the phaser they gave her was operational. He just gives a knowing smile and walks away.
"You want to negotiate with the bastards using torpedoes on us!?"
- - Christopher Pike to Thira Sidhu, as he attempts to convince her to release him
"I know that a challenge like this might seem extreme, even inhumane; but war is both of those things. We need to know that you’ll honor your commitment to Starfleet even when those you hold dear are on the line. Even when old wounds are triggered and loopholes appear."
- - Christopher Pike to Thira Sidhu, as he explains the reason for the simulation
- The title of this episode was first revealed in a trailer released on 20 July 2019 at San Diego Comic-Con.
- The release date was announced on 5 October 2019 at New York Comic-Con. 
- Alex Kurtzman confirmed on 7 October 2019 that this episode would feature Christopher Pike. 
- This is one of two Short Treks episodes that does not have a series title card, the other being "Children of Mars".
- Pike mentions a number of previously mentioned Starfleet regulations. These include Regulation 191 (Article 14), which was previously used by Kathryn Janeway, ("Equinox") and the reserve activation clause, invoked by Admiral Nogura at the request of Admiral James T. Kirk to "draft" doctor Leonard H. McCoy in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. About this clause, McCoy points out that it is "little-known" and "seldom-used." (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Links and references
- Amrit Kaur as Cadet Thira Sidhu
- Steve Boyle as Security Officer #1
- Colette Whitaker as Station 28 Computer
2250s; Berellium; Berellium casualties; Bouman, USS; cadet; captain; Constitution-class (unnamed); Directive 010; engineering; inventory section; lieutenant commander; loophole; mask; mutiny; phaser; reserve activation clause; security officer; semester; Sidhu's husband; Starbase 28; Starfleet; Starfleet General Orders and Regulations; Tholian; war; yellow alert
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