“Under the Cloak of War" Strange New Worlds Season 2 Epsiode 8 review

30 July 2023
"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" Season 2, Episode 8, titled "Under the Cloak of War," is a significant departure from the lighthearted tone of the previous Strange New Worlds meets Lower Decks crossover episode. 

This installment takes a much darker turn, delving into the aftermath of the Klingon War and its lasting impact on the characters. The hour explores profound themes such as trauma, justice, and the potential for redemption. Despite being a show that generally seeks to find light and hope in its storytelling, "Under the Cloak of War" delves deep into the complexities of war and its consequences, making it a rather necessary and emotionally charged episode for several characters' arcs.

The central storyline revolves around the arrival of Ambassador Dak’Rah, a former Klingon general who earned the dark nickname "the Butcher of J’gal" during the Klingon War. Dak’Rah, now a Federation ambassador, is on board the Enterprise to help negotiate a ceasefire. However, his presence deeply upsets multiple crew members who were veterans of the Klingon War and participated in the battle that earned him his infamous title. 

“Under the Cloak of War" Strange New Worlds Season 2 Epsiode 8 review

The episode takes us back in time to the Battle of J’gal, where we witness the first meeting between Dr. M’Benga and Nurse Chapel in a Starfleet M.A.S.H. unit. Their experiences in the constant grind of death and loss during the war profoundly affect them, shaping their larger emotional arcs.

In the present day, M’Benga, Chapel, and Ortegas, who was a war pilot, must confront their lingering rage and PTSD as they are compelled to interact with Dak’Rah, who claims to have changed and now seeks redemption through peace. However, their firsthand knowledge of his brutal past makes it challenging to believe his platitudes. 

Captain Pike, in an uneasy position, tries to keep the peace between Dak’Rah and the emotionally strained crew members. The tension between the war veterans and those who were not witnesses to the atrocities they faced adds to the complexity of the narrative.

Babs Olusanmokun delivers a standout performance as Dr. M’Benga, portraying a character who is a mix of rage, fear, and dark determination, contrasting with the kind-hearted medical officer we usually see on the Enterprise. 

Through M’Benga's conflicting emotions, "Under the Cloak of War" paints the character in shades of gray, refusing to simplify his feelings or take a side in his dispute with Dak’Rah. The ambiguity of the fight scene at the episode's end leaves room for viewers to interpret the events and M’Benga's motives.

The moral complexity of the episode is further emphasized in the dynamics between Dak’Rah and the crew members. His claims of remorse and redemption are met with skepticism, and the discomforting question of whether a person like him deserves a second chance becomes central to the narrative. The contrasting viewpoints of the characters on this issue highlight the complexities of dealing with the aftermath of war and the need for justice and closure for the victims.

The script, penned by Davy Perez (54 episodes of Supernatural), brings literary references and heightened storytelling to the forefront. The use of names like Prospero System and Athos draws connections to works outside the Star Trek franchise, enriching the storytelling experience. The character-driven approach, reminiscent of classic Star Trek storytelling, allows for a deeper exploration of M’Benga's past and his decisions during the war.

"Under the Cloak of War" benefits significantly from the guest cast's strong performances, particularly Robert Wisdom's portrayal of Dak’Rah. The character is complex and multifaceted, leaving viewers questioning his true motivations and history. Clint Howard's appearance as the Chief Medical Officer in the flashback scenes adds gravitas to the episode.

The flashbacks to the Battle of J’gal are emotionally charged and among the bloodiest seen in the Star Trek franchise. These scenes effectively convey the brutality of war, adding weight to M’Benga and Chapel's emotional struggles in the present day. The use of war movie tropes and the grim realities of battlefield medicine make these flashbacks impactful and memorable.

"Under the Cloak of War" pushes the boundaries of the show's episodic format, offering a powerful exploration of war's consequences and the complexities of redemption and forgiveness. The episode's focus on the aftermath of the Klingon War and its impact on the characters aligns well with the legacy of the Star Trek franchise, which often uses its narratives to reflect contemporary issues and experiences.

In conclusion, "Under the Cloak of War" stands out as a thematically and narratively ambitious episode of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds." Its exploration of war, trauma, and justice provides a deeper understanding of several characters, adding layers to their emotional journeys. By presenting morally ambiguous situations and leaving room for interpretation, the episode continues to demonstrate the strength and thoughtfulness of the series.

I really enjoyed seeing the 'stabby - gee I hate Klingon - stabby' side of M’Benga...


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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