Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’“Among the Lotus Eaters” shows Pike’s Enterprise has an almost-forgotten tech edge.
One way Star Trek: Strange New Worlds asks long-time Star Trek viewers to suspend their disbelief is by accepting that the gleaming, spacious, high-tech starship we see on screen is the same vessel we see in Star Trek: The Original Series, which is set about a decade later.
While the Enterprise Anson Mount’s Captain Pike commands share more or less the same exterior contours established for the NCC-1701 way back in “The Cage,” its interior looks almost nothing like those of the “Big E” either Jeffrey Hunter’s Pike or William Shatner’s Kirk commanded.
Personally, I’m more than happy Strange New Worlds gives us a redesigned Enterprise. Expecting an early 21st-century TV series to represent a 23rd-century starship exactly as a mid-20th-century TV series would be, as a Vulcan science officer of our acquaintance might say, “highly illogical.” The Strange New Worlds design and production teams have paid enough visual respect to the Enterprise as we saw it in the original series (the bright red railing ringing the bridge, for example) to make the innovations easier to accept.
But in Strange New Worlds’ most recent episode, “Among the Lotus Eaters,” we discovered Captain Pike’s Enterprise is apparently just as advanced as Captain Picard’s Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Indeed, if we see Pike’s Enterprise do again what it did in this episode, it may even be more advanced!
Pike’s Enterprise does something we only saw Picard’s Enterprise do once
Toward the end of “Among the Lotus Eaters,” Lieutenant Ortegas (Melissa Navia) loses her memory along with the rest of the crew, thanks to the strange energies emanating from Rigel VII.
She eventually helps save the day by piloting the Enterprise through a dangerous debris field by muscle memory alone. But before that heroic moment, she has trouble even locating her own quarters.
Fortunately, the Enterprise computer guides her home by lighting her path with illuminated strips in the ship’s corridors. A little like Dorothy following the Yellow Brick Road, all Ortegas must do is “follow the illuminated path” to go home.
In “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we saw the NCC-1701-D computer illuminate panels in the Enterprise corridors to guide Commander Riker to the holodeck. The ensign assisting Riker (played by Evelyn Guerrero) speaks of the feature as though it is common to all Galaxy-class starships, and seems surprised the first officer doesn’t know about it.
Check out the scene for yourself at the start of the video below. (Also, check out the ensign checking out Riker’s posterior as he walks away!)
The “Encounter at Farpoint” scene seems to suggest the computer lighting a path for the crew to follow was intended to be a regular feature on The Next Generation. But if memory serves, though we saw the computer tell one person where another was any number of times, we never saw it give visual directions again.
No doubt production restraints are the real-world reason we never saw illuminated paths on the NCC-1701-D again. But what might an in-universe explanation be? That’s more fun to think about!
Perhaps the feature was a Galaxy-class option some crews chose not to use. Or perhaps it ended up misdirecting crewmembers. Certainly, the Enterprise-D computer had a tough time telling when someone wasn’t aboard the ship simply because they’d left their com-badge behind. Maybe it’s internal GPS needed some glitches worked out, too.
Aboard Pike’s Enterprise, at least in “Among the Lotus Eaters,” the computer’s illuminated pathfinding feature worked just as it should. It not only helped Ortegas get back to her quarters but also indirectly helped inspire her to “follow the path” out of the debris field.
Was the computer on Pike’s Enterprise more advanced, at least in this regard, than the computer on Picard’s? Will we see it guide more crewmembers in future episodes—or will the feature be some of that technology Captain Pike expressed skepticism about back at the start of season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery? And why would the computer not even have had the option to light up a path on the walls when the NCC-1701 was refit (retrofitted?) before James T. Kirk took command?
We’ll see if any of these tech teasers about Pike’s Enterprise are answered as Strange New Worlds’ second season continues to stream, with new episodes arriving every Thursday on Paramount Plus.