Director: Chris Fisher, Amanda Row, Andi Armaganian, Christopher J. Byrne, Sydney Freeland, Akiva Goldsman, Leslie Hope, Rachel Leiterman, Dan Liu, Maja Vrvilo, Valerie Weiss
Writer: Akiva Goldsman, Henry Alonso Myers, Akela Cooper, Beau DeMayo, Davy Perez, Sarah Tarkoff, Robin Wasserman, Bill Wolkoff, Onitra Johnson
Cast: Melissa Navia, Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Jess Bush, Christina Chong
Streaming on: Voot Select
“The quality of mercy is not strained…It blesseth him that gives and him that takes”. Most may recognize the famous lines from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Quality of Mercy, the season finale of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, aired on Voot last week, taking this Shakespearean concept and recontextualising it in a way that begs the audience to think about its absolute nature. Does mercy always remain an honourable trait, or does it strain under the pressure of a billion lives and a civilizational war? Should mercy be delivered to those unworthy of it? Is a good leader defined by his moral fortitude, or by his ability to do what is necessary without delay, even if that decision means violence?
It’s a bold move, but a fitting one for a show whose original premise was: To boldly go where no one has gone before. Okay, to be fair, others have gone there before – just look across the Pond at Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is faced with a similar conundrum, to either save a young Davros, who will go on to create the fearsome Daleks, or to let him die and save the universe some trouble. Mercy towards known evil has always been a complex choice – and showrunner Akiva Goldsman nails that complexity in the show’s finale, with action, emotion and top-notch CGI spectacle thrown into the mix.
Quality of Mercy is the perfect example of why Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (ST: SNW) is a masterclass in sci-fi TV and storytelling. Set on the iconic USS Enterprise, it follows the adventures of Captain Pike and his crew as they undertake routine and peaceful exploratory missions for the Federation, a union of like-minded spacefaring races.
ST: SNW mixes compelling storylines and philosophical heft with humour and action-adventure. The ‘Prime Directive that won’t stick’ quip, for example, made me snort out loud. The added seasoning is an ensemble cast that is comfortable in its own skin from the get-go. Ethan Peck’s Spock, Jess Bush’s Nurse Chapel, Bruce Horak’s Hemmer and Celia Rose Gooding’s Uhura shine in their roles. ST: SNW boasts fantastic production values too, with use of near-perfect CGI and that outclass many current Hollywood productions.
The show’s decision to stick to the ‘story of the week’ format, with an overarching character arc, harkens back to the Classic series and The Next Generation. This sets ST: SNW apart from the current crop of black holes like Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. It allows the show to ask and deliver on varied contemporary and classic themes and questions, that a Star Trek show (or any good sci-fi) should be asking. For example: How can competing concepts of liberty co-exist and not end in mutual destruction?, Or: What good is it to know your own fate, when the ending that is written is indelible? And: Is a ritual child sacrifice worth the fate of an entire civilization?
Heavy as it all sounds, ST: SNW balances it with the adequate amount of levity and Photon-torpedo-blasting, bridge-shaking space action to keep the general audience hooked. ST: SNW’s greatest weapon is its lead, Anson Mount’s Captain Pike. Compassionate, charming, funny and daring – Mount’s turn appeals across the spectrum. It’s hard to find faults in his delivery, and his representation of a man who has seen his own dark fate. To its credit, the finale truly captures what makes the show and Mount’s Pike so good – even though it doesn’t really have any ‘real world’ ramifications. The introduction of a fan-favourite Captain feels well-earned, and not just fan-baiting (looking at you, MCU.) It adds heft to the story, and Pike’s growth. Of course, cheering for Captain (spoiler)’s typical save-the-day moves are an added fan-bonus.
The final verdict? Whether you are a sci-fi fan or not, binge this show. In fact, it serves as the perfect gateway to the Star Trek franchise for new audiences. It isn’t just great science-fiction – it is futuristic, compelling, visually stunning and imaginative television at its best.