We’re all big fans of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds here at io9, whether we’re obsessed die-hards or just dipping our toes back into the venerable franchise. And we were all delighted to learn, one way or another, that last week’s SNW finale was a retelling of the Original Series’ “Balance of Terror,” arguably the greatest episode of any Star Trek series ever, just with Pike (Anson Mount) sitting in the Enterprise’s captain’s chair instead of Kirk. Now someone has set the two episodes side-by-side in a video that reveals just how well Strange New Worlds honored its source material.
You don’t have to have watched SNW’s season one finale, “A Quality of Mercy,” or the Original Series’ “Balance of Terror” to appreciate this video from miksmart5, but if you’ve seen either or both, I’d call this a must-watch. For those who’ve missed out, here’s why the two series are telling the same story. Pike, who gets horrifically maimed by an accident and replaced by Kirk before TOS begins, sees a chance to avoid his fate. But then a future Pike visits the current Pike, and shows him the disastrous consequences of what would happen if Pike still commands the Enterprise when the events of “Balance of Terror” take place. And yes, that is Captain Kirk—played by Paul Wesley, and serving upon the Farragut—who still manages to be present at the conflict.
Short version of the results: while Kirk attacked a lone Romulan ship and avoided a war, Pike’s attempt to avoid hostilities gets many people killed, including Spock (Ethan Peck), meaning the Vulcan isn’t around to save the universe the many, many times he does during the events of the Original Series and various movies. Basically, things get very, very bad if Pike tries to avoid his fate, and so he ends up embracing it, no matter the cost to himself, because he knows it’s for the greater good.
As the guy who has only returned to Star Trek for Strange New Worlds’ classic feel and episodic storytelling, I’m still delighted by this homage. While I had the sense while watching it that the show was doing something extremely fan service-y, the finale worked just fine for me on its own. In fact, I didn’t know “Balance of Terror” existed until I read io9 Fearless Leader and aforementioned obsessive Trek fan James Whitbrook’s recap, at which point I watched the classic episode immediately, and retroactively enjoyed “A Quality of Mercy” even more.
Alas, Strange New Worlds’ second season won’t appear on the Paramount+ streaming app until next year. But I can’t wait to see what the show does next.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified Captain Kirk’s ship. io9 regrets the error.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.