Star Trek: Strange New Worlds needs to avoid the “Are they dead” trope.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds closed out an up-and-down season two with a solid entry with “Hegemony”. In it, the Gorn went and invaded a colony near the Federation border, a colony that Starfleet was in fact actively helping at the time. The crew of the Enterprise tried to help the crew of the Cayuga but ended up finding themselves in a massive attack against the Gorn as the season came to a close.
The storylines for the episode were, for the most part, good, but one that dragged down the proceedings was the curious case of Nurse Chapel, who was aboard the Cayuga when the Gorn attacked. No one knew if she was alive and for nearly 30 minutes, the writers and editors did everything they could to make the audience think she could be dead.
And it was a waste of an attempt, as Chaple was clearly alive, as she’d go on to feature in the Original series, making so much of this redundant and unnecessary. Clearly, the writing staff ran out of ideas for Chapel and shoe-horned this weak story into the episode.
Now, some will will defend, it clearly, but there’s no defense for lazy and telegraphed writing. If the viewers already know the answer, don’t ask the question.
A better way to serve Nurse Chapel in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ “Hegemony”
Instead of pretending the audience is stupid enough to think they killed off Chapel, a better idea would have been to follow her around more. Show her arrival on the Cayuga, have her interact with some of the people on the ship, and then show the attack. You could then do more with her attempt to survive on the destroyed ship, aside from the few minutes dedicated to it in the actual episode.
You can still do the scenes with Spock and Pike, who are unsure if she’s still alive. You can keep the characters in the dark, but when the answer to the question is so dang obvious, don’t insult the audience’s intelligence.
We could have seen Chapel show off her creativity trying to stay alive, fixing all sorts of things, or jimmy rigging components together to provide air to where she was. More involvement and care could’ve gone into highlighting her fight for survival, as opposed to the same tired tropes that television writers fall into, like doing everything they can to make us believe that established characters who are alive decades into the show’s future are somehow going to die.
Knock that nonsense off.