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This page contains information regarding Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and thus may contain spoilers.


The USS Enterprise encounters a contagion that ravages the ship. One by one, the entire crew is incapacitated except for Number One, Una Chin-Riley, who must now confront a secret she’s been hiding as she races to find a cure.

Summary

Teaser

"First officer's log, stardate 1224.3. The Enterprise has arrived at Hetemit IX, the site of an abandoned Illyrian colony. Illyrians are a humanoid species known for modifying their genes to enhance their capabilities and levels of function. However, because genetic modification is forbidden in the Federation, they have always been outcasts. Our presence here is part of a standing mission to discover what happened to them. Unfortunately, research time on the surface is limited, as the planet is regularly swept by ion storms, one of which is fast approaching."

Hetemit IX enveloped in an ion storm

The USS Enterprise is in orbit around Hetemit IX, an abandoned colony of the Illyrians, a humanoid race considered outcasts by the Federation due to their use of genetic engineering. On the surface, Captain Pike comments on how genetic modification still put people on edge – even Una, who is standing next to him. She replies simply that she doesn't like loose ends. As the storm approaches, both see the flimsy shelters as little protection, and Una suggests returning to the ship. Pike orders the landing party to collect their data and return to the rendezvous point for transport. He attempts to communicate with Spock, but storm interference blocks his signal. He tells Una to gather the rest of the team, while he goes to find Spock. One of the landing party crew, an Ensign Lance is peering into a cabinet full of glassware used in scientific research, noticing it seem to react to his flashlight, when Pike spots him and gestures for him to move out.

Una assembles her team at the rendezvous point and calls up for transport. Transporter chief Kyle struggles to get a transporter lock due to storm interference. He calls to Commander Hemmer in engineering asking for power. Hemmer transfers auxiliary power, then calls the bridge to warn them he is tapping into the emergency backups. In the corridors of the ship, the lights flicker as the power is transferred, while the lights in engineering become brighter. Hemmer tells Kyle to try the transporter again. Kyle is stunned at the amount of power he has, to which Hemmer replies simply that he was a genius, before warning the chief to move quickly. This time, the transport is successful, but Una expresses the hope that Kyle was not out of miracles just yet; the captain and Spock were still on the surface.

Inside one of the colony's laboratories, Pike catches up to Spock, who reports that he has found a previously undiscovered cache of journals that may be of scientific relevance, adding that he looks forward to reading them. Pike urges him to hurry to the rendezvous point before the storm overtook them, so he could read them. They reach the rendezvous, and Pike calls up for transport. But again, Kyle is unable to get a lock, and this time, extra power will not help; the storm is too strong. Una tells Pike to find shelter until the storm passes. Pike acknowledges, and asks Spock for suggestions. Spock simply suggests they run.

Act One

Surface of Hetamit IX during the storm

Una arrives on the bridge to inform the crew that Pike and Spock were still on the surface. Until they could be retrieved, the crew would continue to do their jobs. She asks Uhura if she can get a signal to the surface, but Uhura reports the storm is a communications blackout. Una tells her to inform her immediately once she is able to communicate with the captain. To Lieutenant Wheeler at the science station, Una orders round-the-clock sensor sweeps, and also wants Chief Kyle on standby with the transporter.

Roaming through deck 14, Lieutenant Ortegas finds Ensign Lance removing his uniform and staring at a wall console. He thinks the ship is too dark, and begins to rub his face up against one of the light panels in the corridor, saying he wants to feel the light on his skin, which slightly unnerves Ortegas, who tries to continue on her way. He then runs his head through the glass of the panel, leading Ortegas to call for security. In her quarters, Una is experiencing a similar effect, tearing open her own uniform tunic and basking in the light. Her skin begins to take on a reddish glow, before reason snaps back; she realizes something is wrong. She calls Dr. M'Benga in sickbay, asking about the status of the landing party. M'Benga reports that he has several members of the party in sickbay right now, and in fact was just about to call her. While she assures him she herself is fine, the doctor asks her to come to sickbay anyway, just to be sure. As she heads out, she looks at herself in the mirror, a worried expression on her face.

As Nurse Chapel attends to some of the others, M'Benga tells Una what he has seen: half of the landing party have burned or shocked themselves on sources of illumination, and yet the light was the only thing calming them. Something is attracting them to light, and they will go through any means to get to it. When M'Benga asks if she has experienced similar symptoms, Una falsely tells him she hasn't, before asking if there was any sign of contagion. Though the biofilters in the transporter would detect anything abnormal, the doctor ran viral and bacterial scans anyway, and found nothing. The only thing he detected was a severe drop in their levels of cholecalciferol, or vitamin D. Were it not for that and for their aberrant behavior, no one would have guessed they were sick. He shows Una's vitamin D levels to be normal, but suggests taking a blood sample just in case. She is hesitant for some reason, but agrees nonetheless. M'Benga expresses the hope that the captain and Spock, still on the surface, have not been exposed to whatever is causing the problem, thinking that the landing party came into contact with something on the surface that the biofilters missed.

In engineering, Una brings this possibility up to Hemmer, who dismisses it as "nonsense". The biofilters would have removed any contamination during transport... unless, Una suggests, it was something they wouldn't be programmed to filter out. Hemmer assures her it was impossible, as the transporter would filter out anything it didn't recognize. She then wonders if storm interference could have caused it; short of turning the landing party into "bio-organic stew", Hemmer again denies it. Una then suggests that the emergency power could have affected the biofilters, but again, Hemmer shoots that down. However, sensing her exasperation, he reluctantly agrees to conduct a level 5 diagnostic scan of the ship's power systems, which he grumpily adds would probably take all night.

Back on the bridge, Una is able to briefly speak to Pike; he and Spock are alright, but are trapped in the colony's library due to the storm. Una begins to explain about what M'Benga has discovered, but before they can go much further, the storm interference blocks the signal again. Going into the conference room, she calls up the computer's records on Illyrian genetic modifications, specifically pertaining to disease control; she then specifies any record pertaining to the original Illyrian settlement in the Vaultera Nebula. The computer reports the records are limited. Behind her, La'an enters, having been summoned. Una informs her about the potential contamination brought up from the surface, and tells her to have security on the lookout for strange behavior. La'an sees the computer screen's information about the Illyrians, wondering if they were somehow involved. Una is unsure, saying she is just doing research. La'an thinks the Illyrians' history is one of the reasons why the Federation is wary of genetically-modified species. Una thinks that if the Illyrians were behind the problem, they could also provide the solution, but Illyrian medical technology was banned by Federation regulations, mainly because of the Eugenics Wars. Una knows La'an is all too familiar with that time period: the security chief is a descendant of Khan Noonien Singh, and La'an admits that one could not have a bioengineered mass murderer for an ancestor without growing a thick skin. She studied Khan extensively as a child, and thought the worst of it would be being bullied by the other children. La'an suddenly expresses similar symptoms to the landing party, saying the room was too dark. Una immediately calls M'Benga.

La'an is sedated in sickbay, suffering from the same vitamin D deficiency as the landing party. La'an had not been on the landing party, but Chapel checked the contact tracing, and found she had shared a turbolift with Lance. The contagion seems to be spreading, but M'Benga is unable to determine how. He recommends locking down the ship to keep it from spreading. Una opens a ship-wide channel, and initiates the lockdown. All non-essential personnel were confined to quarters, and all on-duty personnel were to remain in their work areas, all until further notice.

On the surface, the storm rages, and Pike and Spock remain trapped in the library. The captain paces restlessly, to which Spock quotes a Human metaphor about how "a watched kettle never boils". Pike corrects it to "pot", yet expresses the belief that they would still get hit with the scalding water. There were sick people on his ship, and he was stuck on the surface. Spock admonishes him that anxious pacing would not help the situation. Pike stops, looking out at the storm; he sarcastically calls it "fun" and suggests selling tickets. Spock has been reading the journals he found, and learned that the Illyrians on Hetemet wanted to join the Federation, reversing their genetic modifications, or "de-engineering" themselves as Spock puts it. Pike asks if there was any record of what happened to the colony. Spock is only halfway through the records, so Pike tells him to skip to the end before the storm destroys the building they were in. Just then, both look out upon hearing a shrieking sound, and see figures of light moving through the air. Pike asks if Spock saw what he did, and Spock confirms he had… but as to what he saw, he was not sure.

Act Two

Uhura is awakened in her sleep cubicle by light radiating from the closed door. As she opens it, she finds two members of the crew standing around a simulation of a sun, and tells the computer to end the simulation. The two crewmen demand to know what she had done, as they needed light. The contagion is spreading; nearly fifty members of the crew were now in sickbay, forcing M'Benga to open the auxiliary bay to handle the overflow. Chapel reports contact tracing was all over the place; some were getting it from being down the hall from an infected person. Meanwhile, Uhura appeared to be fine, despite her contact with the two infected crewmen. Just then, Hemmer enters, and Una asks if he found anything. The Aenar engineer sarcastically replies that of course he had, because he wandered the ship in the middle of the night running diagnostics for fun; he returns to business, telling M'Benga that he needed to run a check on the emergency medical transporter for excess power usage. M'Benga protests that he was running an experiment while Hemmer runs his checks. As he does, the lights in sickbay suddenly dim, Hemmer noting the systems check should not have affected the lights. M'Benga tells him to stop messing with the system, as he was making things worse. "Point taken," Hemmer replies caustically, as he leaves. After he does, M'Benga reactivates the lights, much to the relief of the distressed crew.

On the surface, Pike notes the source of the sounds seems to be gone. Spock's reading of the journals indicates that the colonists thought there were creatures living in the ion storms, a possibility which appears to have been confirmed. Just then, one of the creatures attempts to enter the open door, but Pike and Spock force it shut. Spock sustains a slight slash to his neck, which was close to hitting where the carotid artery would be on a Human. The creature begins to pound on the door, leading Pike to ask how long the door would hold. Spock suggests weighing probability in their favor; he appears to have an idea.

In the quarters Uhura shared with the two infected crew, Una asks the cadet to take her through why she was not affected when the others were. Uhura explains that she prefers to sleep in pitch black conditions, comparing it to "The Princess and the Pea". As she demonstrates for herself, Una comes to a realization, and returns to sickbay. She explains to M'Benga and Chapel and Uhura was exposed to the same contagion, but she had been in the dark. Electromagnetic scans of the ship showed that the contagion seemed to travel through light waves, something M'Benga considers both insidious and remarkable. The infection they were dealing with affected the pleasure centers of the brain when close to light, but light was literally everywhere. Una suggests shutting down the lights all over the ship, but Chapel points out that sickbay was full of "light addicts". Una wonders if it would be too intrusive to sedate them all, but given the alternatives, M'Benga is forced to concede it was the best option.

With that, all of the lights onboard the Enterprise go dark.

Act Three

In the conference room, Una has the computer narrow the search parameters to Illyrian genetic modifications. The computer warns they were classified, but Una overrides, then narrows the parameters further to modifications relating to disease control, which are again classified, and which she again overrides. She sees a child patient in the records, showing the same red glow to her skin that Una had experienced alone in her quarters. Just then, the computer alerts her to a blackout override in the transporter room, with the added danger of a critical circuit overload. Una calls down to the transporter room, but receives no response, and so goes down there herself. Hemmer is at the controls, having transported a piece of the planet's mantle; he too is experiencing the same symptoms, saying he wants to "feel the radiance on [his] skin". Una sees a phaser on the console, and warns that the temperature was more than a thousand degrees. Hemmer gleefully replies it was closer to ten thousand, and has almost stabilized the signal. As he approaches it, Una grabs the phaser and stuns him, before reversing the beam. She carries him over her shoulder to sickbay.

On the planet below, Pike has barricaded the door and drawn his own phaser, while Spock continues to examine the record cylinder. Pike asks if it too had a stun setting, to which Spock replies he was arming them with knowledge. The captain wonders if the Illyrians knew how to stop the creatures, but even if they did not, Spock thinks they could learn from the colonists' misfortune. The creatures did not kill the Illyrians; in fact, they began to appear just as the colonists were dying out due to a mysterious disease. Pike begins to feel his ears pop; the atmospheric pressure was increasing due to the storm. Just then, the creatures break through the door, disarming Pike; at the same time, the window shatters, forcing Pike and Spock to fall flat to the floor. The creatures seem to shield them from the storm's effects, which gradually dissipate. Pike notes that once again, the creatures were gone. Spock concurs, and adds that thanks to the creatures, they were not.

Una enters sickbay with Hemmer over her shoulder, and tells M'Benga and Chapel to sedate him before he recovers from the stun. M'Benga reports that he will have to be next, as his vitamin levels were also dropping, and now only he and Chapel were left. Una asks about the blood sample M'Benga took earlier, before finally admitting that she was immune to the illness because she was herself Illyrian. But both M'Benga and Chapel are adamant that even with that knowledge, they could not use her blood to help. Going into his office while Chapel attends to awakening patients, M'Benga explains that there were no novel antibodies in Una's blood, consistent with Illyrian biology; her system did not attack the infection, but literally burnt it out, which meant that he had nothing to work with anyway. If he had been present at the moment of her infection, he could have, but now he saw no other option. Una tells him he was a Starfleet doctor, and could figure out a way. M'Benga sees she places a lot of faith in Starfleet, and Una admits they were right about a lot of things, but not all of them. M'Benga understands that prejudice has kept people from helping each other for centuries, with no scientific justification, and even after meeting their neighbors in the stars, they found new bigotries - first about mixing Human and Vulcan blood, and now Human and Illyrian. To M'Benga, that did not matter, as he was a physician; he would beg her to help if she could, "regulations be damned", but he knows she can't. He pleads with her to sedate him before he lost control, and reluctantly she does. As the doctor goes unconscious, the computer warns that the containment field generator on the warp core had been deactivated, potentially leading to a warp core breach. Una rushes out to find Chapel unconscious on the floor, and La'an gone.

Act Four

La'an is at the containment field console, bringing down the containment field. Una pleads with her to stop, but La'an is obsessed with flooding the ship with light. They struggle over control of the console, Una pleading with La'an that she knew her, that she was her friend. La'an spits back that Una had lied to her for years, that she was an Augment, an "abomination", just like what the children had called her because of her name. Una knocks La'an unconscious with a punch, but the radiation levels in engineering have grown toxic to organic life, causing her Illyrian healing factor to kick in as the computer warns of the imminent core breach.

On the surface, the storm appears to have cleared, and Pike again tries to call the Enterprise, but is answered only with static. He thinks it safe to go outside again, and remarks on how the creatures had gone to great lengths to save their lives. If that was the case, why didn't they do so for the colonists? Spock sees two possibilities: Either one, they were not motivated to save the colonists due to some previous interaction... or two, they were the colonists. Spock had found references to odd behavior relating to the previously-mentioned disease. The infected had a compulsion for light, and some were driven to insanity and driven into the storms themselves. Pike wonders if that wouldn't have killed the colonists, and Spock confirms it, though theorizes that the charged particles would have bonded with the colonists' electromagnetic presence, creating what they saw. As they speak, a second record cylinder pops out, as if on its own. It is a thorough account of the colonists' effort to renounce their genetic engineering in order to join the Federation. "It would seem even in death," Spock concludes, "they wanted us to be aware of who they really were."

As they walk out to the rendezvous point, Spock notes how some Illyrians were bioengineered to fight disease. Had they not tried to reverse their augmentation, they might not all have died. "They wanted to join the Federation so badly, their good-faith gesture got them killed," Pike agrees grimly.

In sickbay, Una brings M'Benga back to consciousness, and explains she had an antidote. La'an had tried to jump into the warp core, and both were exposed to lethal doses of radiation, but Una's healing ability was able to save them both before she re-engaged the field. Chapel adds that La'an was not Illyrian, but her proximity to Una created chimeric antibodies in her system, and Chapel was able to synthesize them into a cure before they set. "Don't thank me, I know I'm good at my job," Chapel cheerfully adds. M'Benga tells Una that they all owed her their lives, but Una looks grim for a moment; there was something she had to take care of.

La'an sits alone in the recreation room, eating from a bowl of strawberries, as Una sits across from her. Una remarks she packs "a hell of a punch", which was not meant as a compliment. La'an asks what the penalty for striking a superior officer is, but Una "can't seem to remember", asking if they were still friends. La'an admits that part of what she said was the sickness talking, but part of it was her own hatred of Augments, given how she had been treated being a descendant of Khan, and understanding why Augments were banned in the Federation, as they had nearly destroyed Earth. Una acknowledges the damage Augments had done, but Illyrians were different, seeking to collaborate with nature, not dominate it. Instead of terraforming planets, they adapted themselves instead, and Una sees nothing wrong with that. La'an counters by asking if Una really felt that, why hide it, particularly from her? Una admits she's hidden it from a lot of people, but all she had ever wanted, since first seeing the stars, was to be in Starfleet. La'an knows, as Una had given her that dream, and also introduced her to strawberries as a "comfort food".

Una stands before Pike, returned from the surface, and confesses she is an Illyrian. By hiding her augmentations and enlisting in Starfleet, she has committed a Federation offense, and announces she is resigning her commission and submitting herself for disciplinary action, asking only that her sincere desire to be in Starfleet be taken into consideration. Pike rejects her resignation, saying he doesn't care where she's from, and calling her the best first officer in the fleet. Pike attempts to stop her from going further, but Una warns him that she has broken a dozen regulations, lying to get into Starfleet, and if he shelters her, Starfleet would go after him as well. Pike replies that he would welcome that discussion, and tells her that he learned something on Hetemit IX: Illyrians were severely misunderstood, and Una's actions during the crisis only emphasized that point. Una says that she only did her job, but Pike replies that she defies every stereotype the Federation had about Illyrians. When she asks what Starfleet would do when they found out, Pike chuckles and tells her to let him worry about Starfleet. Before she goes, he tells her to look into fixing the glitch in the transporter's biofilters.

Una goes down to sickbay and confronts M'Benga, knowing that he didn't allow the medical transporters to be upgraded while the ship was in spacedock. She suspects that was because M'Benga couldn't allow them to do so, and reveals that Hemmer's diagnostic showed that something was being kept in the pattern buffer, and whatever it was, he had to preserve it, even if it meant killing everyone on the ship. M'Benga denies that was his intention, and says it was an accident. Una demands to know what he was keeping in there that could have been worth all of their lives. "Not what," he quietly corrects her. "Who." He explains he was keeping his daughter Rukiya in the pattern buffer; she had been diagnosed with cygnokemia one year earlier, and was given twelve weeks to live. He ruefully notes how he was the chief medical officer aboard the Federation flagship, and one would think he could do something about it, but nothing he had tried worked. He explains there was no limit to how long a pattern could be kept in the buffer, only having to materialize them regularly. In the buffer, Rukiya did not age, and the disease did not progress. On a ship that could travel light years in a matter of hours, M'Benga is sure somewhere out there is a planet with the discovery he needed. Nonetheless, he realizes the light virus epidemic had been his fault, never thinking that could have happened, and promises it would not happen again. However, before he is returned to Starfleet, he asks that he be allowed a moment to say goodbye to his daughter. Una surprises him by offering to have a dedicated power source directed from the warp core, to ensure the problem did not happen again. As she leaves, she tells him she looks forward to meeting Rukiya one day. After she leaves, M'Benga activates the privacy screen in his office and brings Rukiya out of the buffer, and picks up a story he was reading her from where he left off. Rukiya protests that he had read the story a hundred times, but the doctor jokes that perhaps the story's ending could change.

In her quarters, Una dictates an entry into her log, mentioning how people had things to hide, yet were revealing themselves. M'Benga had shown what he was hiding, and Una had admitted the truth about herself to Pike, who had defended her. Yet she can't help but wonder: if she had not helped save the crew, would he have felt the same? What if she had not been "one of the good ones"? "When will it be enough to just be an Illyrian?" she wonders... before she asks the computer to delete the log entry. As the Enterprise departs Hetemet IX and goes to warp, M'Benga continues to read from the story:

"If King Ridley would seek out the Mercury Stone and win it as his own, his victory over Queen Neve would be assured. It is said that in the right hands, the Mercury Stone has the power to cleanse the land of evil and bring prosperity to all. But if it were to fall into the wrong hands, the Mercury Stone's power would bring about a terrible, long-lasting dark age across the land."

Memorable quotes

Log entries

Background information

Title

Continuity

  • Chief Kyle is wary of trying to beam Pike and Spock back from the thick of the ion storm, uncertain of what would come back. Beaming through an ion storm has previously resulted in crossovers with the Mirror universe. (TOS: "Mirror, Mirror"; DIS: "What's Past Is Prologue")
  • Illyrians make their first mentioned appearance since ENT: "Damage". However, Number One is confirmed to be an Illyrian, meaning that the species had appeared in every episode she had previously been in.
  • The Federation's ban on genetic engineering – and all the prejudices and stereotypes surrounding it – are a central theme of the episode. (DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", "Statistical Probabilities", et al.)
  • Dr. M'Benga's secretive plan to hold his daughter indefinitely in a transporter pattern buffer, until a cure can be found for her disease, shares the same intent as Montgomery Scott's use of the USS Jenolan's pattern buffer to survive for decades until his rescue in TNG: "Relics".
  • Dr. M'Benga's offhand mention of "Human and Vulcan blood" in reference to past prejudices likely refers to beliefs like those of Terra Prime, who created Elizabeth, an artificial Human-Vulcan hybrid based on Trip Tucker and T'Pol's DNA, to scare Humans about "genetic pollution" and generally discredit the continued presence of Vulcans and other aliens on Earth. (ENT: "Demons", "Terra Prime")

Links and references

Starring

And

Co-starring

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt doubles

  • Avaah Blackwell as stunt double for Rebecca Romijn
  • Sebastian Buitrago as stunt double for Bruce Horak
  • Geoff Meech as stunt double for Anson Mount
  • Dan Skene as stunt double for Ethan Peck
  • Christine Trinh as stunt double for Christina Chong

References

2258; addict; atmospheric pressure; Augment; auxiliary power; bigotry; biofilter; brain; carotid artery; chief medical officer; chimeric antibody; cholecalciferol (vitamin D); colony; common cold; communications blackout; contact tracing; contagion; containment field; containment field generator; cygnokemia; Daedalus-class; DNA; electromagnetic scan; emergency medical transporter; energy-matter scrambler; Enterprise NX-01; Essex, USS; Eugenics Wars; faith; Federation law; figure of speech; flashlight; flight control; fun; galaxy; genetic modification; Hetemit IX; Human; humanoid; Illyrian; ion storm; iron-sulfur alloy; journal; King Ridley; level 5 diagnostic; level 5 lockdown protocol; library; light; light virus; light year; mantle; matter stream converter; memory core; Mercury Stone; miracle; NX-class; operations personnel; pattern buffer; pattern stabilizer; phaser; physician; planet; plasma creature; pleasure center; prejudice; "Princess and the Pea, The"; Princess Thalia; Queen Neve; resignation; shelter; Singh, Khan Noonien; sneeze; standing mission; Starfleet; stereotype; strawberry; superior officer; terraforming; ticket; transporter room 3; United Federation of Planets; Vaultera Nebula; virus; Vulcan; warp core; warp core breach

External link

Previous episode:
"Children of the Comet"
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Season 1
Next episode:
"Memento Mori"
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