Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4 Review: Memento Mori

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The title of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4, "Memento Mori," translates from the Latin to "remember that you [have to] die" and, like the High Valyrian saying on Game of Thrones, "Valar morghulis," it sets a tone of grim understanding and underscores the fragility of life.

While the encounter in the brown dwarf is rife with the suspense of the best wartime submarine dramas, it's interesting to note that we never see the Gorn onscreen because -- as horror aficionados know -- our imaginations are much scarier than anything we see on screen.

Furthermore, a deep dive into the narrative structure of the script finds that the external conflict's solution is buried in La'an's internal one. Her stoic exterior shelters a chaotic and tragic mess of memories and emotions that she's only begun to face.

Bridge Crew -- wide - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

Despite the Gorn's place in Star Trek canon, for many, the warp-capable reptilian bipeds are a relative unknown beyond Star Trek: Enterprise Season 4 Episode 19, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 5, and that commercial with William Shatner.

We are learning much more about the Gorn from La'an's experiences of surviving capture, captivity, and release.

They Are Monsters - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

I'm chalking it up to the earlier days of Starfleet that they'd allow an officer with her level of unresolved trauma just to carry on.

I mean, despite the classified nature of Pike's trauma, April pretty much ordered him to saddle up and get back to it on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 1.

Mental health support isn't exactly a traditionally high priority among organizations like Starfleet.

Ortegas: The Gorn? Really? We’re out here fighting the Boogyman? No one has even seen one, so how are we supposed to take them on?
La’an: I’ve seen them. They aren’t supernatural, but they are monsters.

Of course, La'an's stoicism probably covers for a lot of her issues. Una's gotten to know her well enough to recognize intervention is needed, but their friendship is such that she stops short of ordering her to undergo therapy.

Pike: How ya holding up?
La’an: The enemy doesn’t care about my feelings, Captain, so I don’t waste my time having any.

Pike's figuring things out about La'an as well. He both trusts her and worries about her.

Praying? - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

Her literal connection to Spock through their mind meld allows them both to access the memories she's never been able (nor wanted to) revisit with clarity.

I love that the mind meld provides a two-way link, giving her a glimpse into Spock's grief at losing his sister and providing an emotional middle ground that they share.

Exploration can exact a heavy toll. As a captain, there is no loss more devastating than that of a crew member.


Besides the fact that Spock is the only crewmate capable of performing the mind meld with her, he is also someone who -- by nature and culture -- is just as dispassionate about being mission-first.

Spock: If we leave the brown dwarf, they will see us. If we go deeper, it could destroy the ship.
Pike: Good thinking, Mr. Spock. We need to go deeper into the brown dwarf.
Spock: That is not what I suggested.

The show spends a lot of time contrasting Spock with more mercurial and flexible thinkers like Pike and Chapel. It's heartwarming to recognize that he has a type of kindred spirit in La'an.

Spock's Thoughts - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

I had originally bet on Hemmer being paired with Spock, mistaking the Chief Engineer's curmudgeonliness for defensiveness. In fact, he is quite a lot more open and willing to share his thoughts and feelings than the Vulcan Science Specialist.

The scenes with Uhura sow the seeds of a mentor-protégée bond we may see grow in future adventures.

Uhura: Engineering is a lot like linguistics.
Hemmer: Is that so?
Uhura: Sure, both are dependent on how seemingly unrelated systems communicate.
Hemmer: Big ideas. To impress me, you’re going to need to do better than theorize.
Uhura: Challenge accepted.

And since he's a self-proclaimed genius and she's known to be a prodigy, it's a very satisfactory meeting of minds.

Uhura: We’re gonna be a team.
Hemmer: It’s not that simple. There’s a variety of data that only I can assess.
Uhura: And I’m the only one here with a working set of fingers.
Hemmer: I’m not fond of teams.
Uhura: Get fond.

Meanwhile, can we talk about how adorable and kick-ass Ortegas is?

How Big Is the Black Hole? - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

As a wholly original character to the verse -- with no legacy character or canon-soaked surname to weigh her down -- Ortegas is a character with a lot of freedom to carve out a new and unique niche on the crew.

In control of the helm, she's got the confidence and energy of pilots who have come before, but she's also brought her own personality to the role.

Pike: That brown dwarf that you mentioned before. It’s pretty much a gas giant, right? Where exactly is it?
Spock: Two hundred million kilometers away. But, Captain, it is tethered in orbit around a black hole.
Ortegas: Like, how big of a black hole?
Pike: One problem at a time.

If I were to try to nail down the appeal of Ortegas, it would be that she says what we, the audience, are thinking. She's our voice on the bridge. She stands in for the fans of the show, the ship, and the franchise.

Ortegas trusts her crew and captain and puts her all into a job she loves and knows she's ace at.

Pike: Erica, if anyone can surf a wave on a black hole, it’s you.
Ortegas: Now you almost make it sound fun.

She's brilliant without being inaccessible, smart-mouthed without being a smart-ass.

Ready at the Helm - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

I can't imagine anyone more can-do than her, but she also wants to know the lay of the land.

Even when facing ridiculous odds in unbelievable circumstances, she's game and ready to follow orders. And that all comes down to her faith in their purpose.

Pike: Helm, full impulse to Spock’s mark.
Ortegas: Aye, aye. Full impulse. To a giant gas cloud of death. Why not?

But she's always going to put her two cents in, which shows that she knows she's where she is respected and valued.

On par with Ortegas for quick quips (but not nearly as fun-seeming since she's usually sticking needles or other instruments into people), Chapel's been keeping so busy we haven't really gotten to know her.

Chapel: We’re going to have to give it to you via IV.
Una: Do I have a choice?
M’Benga: You can decline. Wait for the systems to be online.
Chapel: We can take bets on when septic shock would begin. I hear it’s like giving birth out your mouth.
Una: Who says something like that?
Chapel: Me.

Not that she's not been memorable. She's the most energetic "nurse" I've ever seen on a Trek show. To be fair, Majel Barrett's Chapel costume didn't really allow her to do the running and (physical) heavy lifting this iteration has been called on to do.

Triage - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

It's telling that the only casualty we see on-screen happens far away from sickbay. This is not a team willing to see a crew member die of injuries.

M’Benga: You said you were fine.
Una: I was mistaken.

It's also the first crew death we've witnessed in the series so far.

It's a weight that Pike will carry despite knowing intellectually that sacrificing one to save many is a Captain's responsibility.

Spock: You made the logical choice.
Pike: Why doesn’t it feel like that?
Spock: For the same reason you made it. Because you value life.

In contrast, consider the Gorn's tactic of destroying their own ship for the offense of being boarded by the enemy.

Talk about reptile brain.

Pike's Game Face - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

That brings me to a rather large quibble with the light language cipher.

Seriously, how likely is it that the Gorn use an alphabet that translates directly into English letters?

In an otherwise crackin' script, that's a pretty harsh fumble.

Your mind is complex. When faced with intense trauma, it can manifest intricate defenses to aid survival.


With the upbeat (for her) log entry La'an leaves us on, the lesson this week appears to be that you must remember you must die but can hope it's not today.

If La'an can find a silver lining, I'd say there's hope for all of us.

Acting Number One - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4

How did this one play for you, Fanatics? Did it hit all the adrenaline buttons, or was it too much too fast?

Be sure to check out our roundtable interview with La'an (Christina Chong), Ortegas (Melissa Navia), and Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) for more insights on the bridge crew we're getting to know now!

Hit our comments with your kudos and critiques!

Memento Mori Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (94 Votes)

Diana Keng was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4 Quotes

As we honor the lives that’ve been given, let us also be grateful to be still on the journey.


Exploration can exact a heavy toll. As a captain, there is no loss more devastating than that of a crew member.