Star Trek: Strange New Worlds sheds light on a dark topic

Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga and Jess Bush as Chapel in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Kharen Hill/Paramount+
Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga and Jess Bush as Chapel in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Kharen Hill/Paramount+ /

Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Under the Cloak of War,” the eighth episode of season two of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. 

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has gone in many different directions this season with both edgy and comedic episodes. There’s been romance and loss, but no episode has tackled a subject quite like “Under the Cloak of War” did.

In the eighth episode of the season, the USS Enterprise is tasked with taking a Klingon Federation Ambassador to Starbase 12. But this isn’t an ordinary transport as the ambvassador is General Dak’Rah, the Klingon responsible for too many deaths to count on J’Gal during the height of the Klingon war with the Federation. Lt. Ortegas, Dr. M’Benga, and Nurse Chapel all take issue with his presence even though he appears to have turned over a new leaf. But they know what he’s capable of and aren’t willing to believe he’s changed. How could anyone who has been responsible for the murders of children and other innocents be redeemed?

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds doesn’t provide an answer to this question.

Perhaps because there isn’t one. Should someone who’d ruthlessly ended many innocent lives be entitled to start over with a clean slate? Dak’Rah comes across as benevolent and passive, wanting only to bring peace to those who’d endured the war, but Dr. M’Benga knows the truth behind the Klingon’s facade. A fight between these two characters ends with the ambassador’s death, and M’Benga tells Captain Pike he’s glad he’s dead.

Dak’Rah was a war criminal, and yet, the Federation appointed him an ambassador and sent him on a mission for peace. The Klingon never had to pay for his crimes. The veterans of that war were constantly reminded of their service and the death and destruction they saw. Yet, they were supposed to trust that Dak’Rah was truly repentant of the atrocities he’d committed when, in reality, they’d seen no evidence of his remorse.

And even if the Klingon was truly sorry for his crimes, shouldn’t there have been some type of punishment for them? M’Benga, Ortegas, and Chapel all had horrible memories that continued to haunt them, and the one responsible for those memories walked around relatively unscathed.

Should Dak’Rah been given a second chance? Was he only as bad as his crimes? And could he ever have been truly redeemed? Can anyone who has committed such heinous acts? Strange New Worlds presented the hard questions that have no clearcut answers, at least not any that everyone can agree upon. Instead, it broached a difficult topic and left it up to the viewers to decide whether Dak’Rah got what he deserved in the end.

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