Rob: Hello and welcome
back to Subspace Radio.
It is I, Rob.
Kevin: And it is I, Kevin, ducking phaser
fire as I uh, come in the door here.
It has been quite a, a change of tone
this week in uh, Strange New Worlds.
Wouldn't you agree Rob?
Rob: Very much so.
We this week are looking at season
two, episode eight of Strange New
Worlds, Under the Cloak of War.
And as, to be expected by the title,
it is a Dark and Broody episode,
the like we haven't really seen.
We've had some like intense sort of like
alien esque episodes in season one and
some heart wrenching episodes with the
loss of some crew members like Hemmer.
But this one really goes for it.
And as a fan of Deep Space Nine, I
was very much sitting back going, ah,
this is a land I am very common with.
And come embrace the darkness and
the melancholy and, and the darker
places of human nature right here.
Kevin: Indeed we'll be talking
about uh, some of our favorite
war stories in Star Trek later in
the episode, but this episode here
first of all, I predicted it wrong.
When we were speaking last week, I said
I was predicting Romulans, and I was
thrown by the word cloak in the title.
I guessed wrong.
It turns out it was Klingons.
Should have known.
I was gonna say, this episode feels
to me like a blend of two kinds of war
stories that we often get in Star Trek.
We have the actual like, firefight story
that we don't see that often in part
because it requires quite a visual effects
budget to pull off a convincing, like
in the trenches war story in Star Trek.
But the other one that we have is
the Cold War story or the forces
in political opposition to each
other, and what are people's real
motivations and post-traumatic stress
war story that we get sometimes.
And we got the blend of both
of them here in one episode.
So in a way, I feel like we got
two war story episodes in one here.
Rob: It's still very much a case of,
it's what is said as opposed to what is
shown, to really keep that the horror
that you have in your mind is so much
worse than what you see in some ways.
And it is very much a case of the legacy
of serving, and also big things about
redemption and can you be forgiven for
actions of the past and which actions
are unforgivable and which actions
are stuff that can be dealt with.
And there's big issues of the clear
line between those who served in the
Klingon War and those who didn't.
Kevin: Thematically, I know this
episode is completely up your alley.
As soon as, like 10 minutes
into this, I was like, this
is a Deep Space Nine episode.
Rob's gonna love this.
But beyond the thematics did you enjoy
this episode from an execution standpoint?
Rob: For me, what I really liked about it,
and it's something I touched on a couple
of episodes ago, is that this episode
really showed to, showed and we'll talk
about it a bit later on in detail when we
get to it, about this crew is, we can't
be certain of where this crew will be.
Rob: why these people will ultimately be
moving on to wherever they move on to.
That part is a mystery of where
they end up, but there is a reason
why this crew is not gonna be on
the Enterprise for decades to come.
There is some, there's some
really troubling issues.
I, I loved it.
I loved it.
It's not an easy watch at all.
It's under the banner of war, so you
can do that easy exploration of oh
it's Deep Space Nine, but it explores
something that we haven't seen.
Not only is it from the war point of view,
but it's from the, in many ways, it's
like a MASH episode without the comedy,
Rob: How do we heal?
How do we heal people?
How do we protect people?
How do we, do all this type of
stuff within the battlefield?
And how that they turned that futuristic
technology into such an everyday
process was a incredible achievement.
So like it, the injured soldier
who needed extra supplies and so
they couldn't do anything, so he
was put in the buffer pattern like
M'Benga used for his daughter.
And then that horrifying decision
of that pattern having to be
deleted to save multiple more.
Those decisions, which you look at from a
scientific point of view is fantastical,
but how they brought it back down to
this mundane, realistic human choice
was horrifying and and really powerful.
Yeah I loved what it explored and
how it pushed the boundaries of how
we deal with trauma, how we deal
with conflict, how we deal with war,
and the results of it afterwards.
And like just all the cast knocked
it outta the park, particularly
the cast who needed to play
those veterans of the affair.
Rob: How about you?
Kevin: I enjoyed it.
I think it is a bit over twisty, I think,
and part of that is out of necessity.
Like, the magic trick they achieve that
M'Benga's damage is the mirror image
of the Klingon Rah's damage of like
Rah is secretly ashamed for fleeing
and not engaging in combat, whereas
M'Benga is secretly ashamed for the
mission behind enemy lines that he
did on that green juice, and that they
are neither of them telling the truth
about their war experience as a result.
And that those like two opposing
magnetic poles like are inevitably pulled
together to disastrous effect at the end.
Like the, that big picture is a very
kind of deft and elegant thing that
they've pulled off this episode,
but in service of that, there's
a fair bit of I would say plot
machinations to set that situation up.
And not all of it happens seamlessly.
At the very end, when M'Benga says,
I was the butcher of J'Gal, and the
Klingon says, and you didn't say
anything all this time, why didn't
you say anything all this time?
I don't think that question is
answered in this episode that uh,
M'Benga kind of knew he was lying all
this time and never pointed it out.
The big question in the entire episode
from the very beginning is, is he lying?
Is he being straight with
us or can we trust him?
And the whole time M'Benga knew he
was lying but didn't say anything,
and it's not really clear why,
unless his plan all along is to
murder in sickbay with his own knife.
Rob: Well, That's, yeah.
Kevin: I, I don't get it.
Rob: And that was the thing that
I was alluding to, but let you
know, let's bring it out there.
It does end with the death of the
ambassador and the way that it
is particularly shot, so it is
not done clearly and there's been
a lot of online talk about it.
Oh, the online talk about, it
is seen through frosted glass.
It is seen from Chapel's, so
you see Chapel's reaction to it.
So we know Chapel has a
clear view, but we do not.
And when we come back, we
see the knife within Rah.
People have been going, why was this done?
Why was this choice done?
I think that it hasn't, this is a thread
that hasn't been answered yet, and
this is a thread we will come back to.
Kevin: So you think something happened
behind the glass that we're not allowed to
Rob: I think so.
I don't think it's clear cut.
For it to be shot that way, and to
focus so much on how Chapel saw it,
to have the reaction shot of Chapel.
Kevin: To me it's symbolic of
the fog of war, of like the stuff
that we do in the heat of the
Rob: I, Hmm,
Kevin: It's, it's almost,
you can't look right at it.
And only someone who was
there would understand.
Only Chapel who was there would be
able to see it, and understand it.
Even us as the audience, we need to
be protected from it because you can't
understand it unless you were there.
So I feel like that's what they were
doing is it was a symbolic visual choice,
and if you really wanted to believe that
the Klingon did something to deserve his
own death, or to start the fight in that
moment, you could imagine he did, and that
is what Pike is doing as well, is like
Pike and the rest of the crew in order
to trust M'Benga, are behind that glass
with us, and it's up to us to decide what
we believe happened behind the glass.
Now, I believe what happened behind
the glass is M'Benga snapped and
turned around and stabbed the Klingon
with the knife, and that's it.
But uh, yeah, if that were widely
known or accepted, M'Benga's
career in Starfleet would be over.
Rob: Yeah, it definitely doesn't
have a clear cut, uh, pardon the pun,
ending, but you'll be able to tell me
this 'cause I'm aware that M'Benga has
appeared in the original series, but only
Kevin: He's a guest star in two episodes
of the original series, and he is
second in command of sickbay to McCoy.
So he's McCoy's first officer in sickbay,
which raises an interesting question, why
does, why is M'Benga Chief Medical Officer
now, but not later on the same ship?
Does he get demoted?
Does something come to
light about his past?
Uh, like I think, yeah, that is
where this is leading potentially.
It'll be interesting how they, you
know, how do you believably say, oh,
you were caught murdering a Klingon,
so you accept one level of demotion and
we're gonna hire a new boss for you.
I don't know if we're gonna see that.
There's also another chief medical
officer to come before McCoy.
From Where No Man Has Gone Before, which
is the second pilot for the original
series, with Captain Kirk for the first
time, McCoy is not yet in the show there.
And we have Chief Medical
Officer Piper, I believe.
And we don't know when he will be joining
the crew of the Enterprise, but uh,
even before McCoy, there's Piper yet to,
Rob: Okay, so there's McCoy,
then Piper, M'Benga and
Kevin: Yeah, if you're going backwards.
Going, yeah, going backwards.
And then old sea dog
from The Cage episodes.
I can't remember
Kevin: Uh, Boyce.
Him and Pike talking about, ah, how
about you get yourself a plantation
and sell Orion slave girls.
Kevin: As you do.
Rob: As you do.
The performances were top-notch here.
Babs was incredible, really emoting
this unhinged level of trauma for
M'Benga and just the moments of tension,
Kevin: When he lets loose,
it is so satisfying.
I want more of
But also that buildup of tension like
uh, him, Chapel and Ortegas not coping
well at all within the dinner party.
And Pike spotting that as well,
going how about you go check on
and that moment where Rah grabs,
Kevin: Oh my God.
I was like, don't do it.
Let him go.
You want to what with him?
You want to fight with him?
That's a terrible idea!
Rob: Wanna wrestle?
That is the worst idea in
the history of the universe.
Kevin: There was not a single
moment of levity unless I missed it.
Like, so much of Strange New Worlds
this season has been light and
jokey and fun, and it was like
they borrowed all of that from this
episode so there was nothing left.
This one was played completely
straight and stern and morose.
Rob: Yeah, I mean we've had, we've
obviously, we've had moments of
drama with Una's trial and La'an's
struggle with her emotions, with
with her time travel events.
But there has been that
sense of that lighter tone.
And it's, I think that comes from the
episodic nature of Strange New Worlds.
But this is, it's gone dark and
it's not dark faux alien send up.
This is, real human emotion.
Great to see Clint Howard back
in Star Trek for a, you know,
Kevin: Yeah, I have to go rewatch his
appearance in the drug den in Discovery
and see if there's some possibility
that it could be the same character.
'cause I would love that if, he was
so broken by his experience on J'Gal
that he went and smoked drugs in, in
the Orion slave camp in Discovery.
Rob: I was quite surprised because they
did show a little clip of Discovery, but
we didn't see any Discovery era Klingons.
Rob: But the flashes, they
were very traditional.
And of course, the ambassador was
fully the traditional Klingon a
Kevin: Yeah I think we are
invited to look past that as fans.
Like, human beings who live on Earth
in present day look many different ways
and come in many different shades of
Rob: What are you saying,
Kevin: And so Klingons could
be a many multifaceted race.
And sometimes we see the ones in
Discovery and sometimes we see
the ones that we got here today.
But also it seems clear that every
Star Trek show has its own production
team, and therefore its own visual
language and visual lens through which
it portrays the Star Trek universe.
And whether it is due to fan response
or the tastes of the creators making
the show one way or the other, it
seems they have dialed it back just
a little bit towards closer to TNG,
movie era visual language for Klingons.
Uh, and certainly for that ambassador, it
mirrored to me the ambassadors that we saw
in the Star Trek movies of that stately
Klingon with the powdered complexion.
And uh, it was very
enjoyable for that reason.
Rob: I tell you what, he's no
Chancellor Gorkon, that's for sure.
Kevin: Yeah, no, not at all.
Rob: I mean, I think the greatest
achievement of Under the Cloak of War
this week was no one gets out scot-free.
There is just so much mud or gray
on everybody, from those who served,
those who didn't serve, the lies that
people told, the prejudice that's
held onto, the discussions of how
much is too much to seek forgiveness
or redemption, how much red do you
have in your ledger, as it were.
And everyone is colored by that from,
Pike, the diplomat who didn't serve, and
how his conversations with M'Benga go
about, it's the privilege of not living
through my life and knowing what this
is, to the lies that the ambassador
says to make him more appealing to the
Federation to help with this process, and
the lies that M'Benga says to cover up
the truth of, of that final confrontation.
It's, it's a masterful achievement
where I'm at the end going, I don't
feel comfortable with any of this.
And that's how you should feel
when it comes to big issues.
Kevin: And I think you're right that
there is more to come in that storyline,
like it seemed significant to me
that M'Benga, as is leaving the camp,
gives a vial of Protocol 12 to Chapel.
He like puts it on the case and it's,
it's sitting there on the lid of the case
as he leaves and he says, if you need
to get out, this will help you fight.
We learn what happens when The
Ghost, as he is called, M'Benga,
is in action with Protocol 12.
But given her actions in the very first
episode of this season, The Broken
Circle, I think we have yet to see the
story of Chapel, what pushed her to take
Protocol 12 and, become, used to it or
experienced with it as a tool of war.
Because it, it seems implied in that
first episode of the season that
that's not her first time kicking
Klingon butts in the corridor either.
And speaking of the beautiful,
multifaceted, diverse cultures
of all worlds, we had yet another
different looking andorian.
So I think we've had about three different
types of andorian in Strange New Worlds.
So this one looked more, yeah,
like more stretched and elongated
and refined facial expressions, so
Kevin: I enjoyed that character
because when you first see him in the
camp, you're like, oh, he's bad news.
I'm like, oh, he is
Section 31 or something.
Or he is a spy.
And I realized it was just my prejudice
against Andorians talking, because he
definitely was a soldier willing to
do whatever it takes, but we saw so
many others of those in this episode.
That he would end up dead on a
stretcher just like, everyone
else, um, was shocking.
Rob: So speaking of shocking, and
speaking of the effects of war,
that led us down the path of a
broader discussion of Star Trek.
And of course what we can look
at is warfare and how it is dealt
with within the Star Trek universe.
Kevin: I've got something from
TNG, if you wanna start there.
You know where my base will be set!
Kevin: Yeah I picked a DS9 as well,
but I'll be interested to see if we
picked the same one because there, there
are so many war stories in Deep Space
Nine, and so many kinds of war stories.
But before we go there, I'll just talk
briefly about The Next Generation, season
three, episode 15, Yesterday's Enterprise.
We've talked about this episode
before in another topic, but one
of the things that, that we get to
see that is very rare, here, is a
glimpse of the Federation at war.
And certainly way back here in The Next
Generation era, that is not something
that we get to see really at all.
And it's when the Enterprise C comes
through the spatial rift and changes
history because it is no longer
in its own time to respond to the
distress call of the Klingon outpost.
As a result, time is changed
and the Federation is now
at war with the Klingons.
And Guinan is the only person who knows
something has changed, and that is the
arc of this episode: her convincing
Picard to send the Enterprise C back
in time to die in order to avert a war.
But while the Enterprise C is here
with us, we get to see a version
of the Enterprise, a version
of Starfleet that is at war.
And it is expressed subtly in many
different ways, not least of which
is Picard recording, not a captain's
log, stardate such and such.
He, he records his log starting
with military log, combat date.
And yeah, just slightly
The bridge is much darker.
And paradoxically, Ten
Forward is much brighter.
It's like the place where you go for
recreation is now almost a hospital.
It is lit that brightly.
Whereas the bridge has got that,
those combat dark lighting going on.
And, uh, yeah, it's just fun.
Once they figure out that the
Enterprise C has to go back in
time, they're all ready to do it.
Rachel Garrett is like heroically about
to lead her crew back in time, and they
get attacked out of nowhere by a Klingon
scout ship that decloaks and Rachel
Garrett is killed in the firefight.
But we get to see a few moments of the
bridge crew of the Enterprise D at war
in a firefight, and it's a cool shade
of an alternate version of these people
and this universe that we get to dive
very deeply into in Deep Space Nine.
But way back here in season three
of TNG, it was just a taste of
what could be if we had a Star
Trek TV series set during a war.
Kevin: So let's go to Deep Space Nine.
What did you pick?
Rob: We've already talked about In The
Pale Moonlight in much detail before,
Kevin: And it is very
much a cold war story.
Like there's not any actual
kinda trading of fire.
That is like, how can we do
spycraft in order to avoid a war?
Rob: And that's like how
far you are willing to go.
And what sacrifices to your soul
are you willing to give up for the
Kevin: And that is very relevant
to this episode of Strange New
Worlds with M'Benga talking about
not wanting to go home changed.
Rob: Yeah, exactly.
But the one that really, and it's
another one we've already talked
about before, but it's such a
powerful episode in just how bleak
it is, and there's no real happiness.
It just, holding the line until,
rescue comes The Siege of AR-558.
Kevin: I watched that this
afternoon as uh, also my selection.
Rob: I'm amazed it can be
still so cheerful and smiling.
Season seven, episode eight.
We have talked about it a
little bit before in the past.
Basically the Federation are held up
at this like just outpost of nowhere.
Kevin: Yeah, it's a captured
Dominion communications hub.
And like they're holding onto it
and they know they need to hold
onto it because the Dominion are
fighting really hard to get it back.
But also it's this piece of machinery that
they haven't figured out how to use yet.
And so there's that, that feeling of
futility of meat in the grinder of, we
have to hold the line, we have to die.
But is this thing even worth it?
And it's a case of nothing's coming.
They're not expecting a victory.
You're not expecting the heroic
push forward to drive them back.
Just keep it.
Just keep it.
And whoever has to die has to die,
but as long as this area is kept.
And so we're introduced to, these other
characters who sadly become disposable,
we have the wonderful Bill Mumy arrive.
Kevin: Were you ever a
fan of Babylon 5, Rob?
Rob: I never saw any Babylon 5.
I've been told over and
over again to watch it.
So my Bill Mumy experiences from
Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone,
and his return to the Twilight Zone.
But now with the animated Babylon 5
coming, I'm very much getting that spark
of wanting to get into it, especially
'cause there's so many glorious, it's all
part of nerd legend now, how Michael J.
Straczynski had everything planned,
and then when the show was canceled,
he kind of resolved those issues,
but then he was given another season
so he had to start fresh again.
But this whole, that glorious single
architect vision of of a show is
very much what Babylon 5 is about.
Kevin: And very much a proto Deep Space
Nine as well, the idea of a station on
the fringes of everything, where many
species, some of them sworn enemies to
each other, will meet and congregate,
around a planet shrouded in mystery, where
the commander of the station has a pseudo
religious connection to the local planet.
Like all of that is part of Babylon 5.
It's one of those shows that if
you watched it when it came out,
or shortly after it came out,
it's magical legend to you now.
I have tried to go back and watch it in
recent years and it, much as it pains
me to say, it really doesn't hold up.
Like it is very much
a product of its time.
And so I could not get through
the first couple of episodes
with my partner on board.
I wanted to show it, show her the whole
story, but it's just, it's not good enough
to capture a modern eye, I am afraid.
So I would love to see a full remake of
Babylon 5 someday, and I think that's
what a lot of fans would like to see.
Rob: And Bill Mumy was instrumental
in the part of the ensemble
on that show, of course.
Kevin: That's right.
He was an ambassador's right hand man
and like often doing the uh, things
ambassadors couldn't say directly to each
other, but through their functionaries,
he was one of those functionaries.
Rob: Yeah, so here we have the
moment that sort of like changes
Nog for the rest of the show.
He loses his leg.
We have, Quark is there.
Kevin: Against all reason,
Quark is there like that.
Kevin: That is the thing that is like when
you watch this show the second time you're
like, hang on, they're taking Quark along
because the Grand Negus is sending him on
a fact finding mission to the front lines.
That does not seem very believable at
all, but it is worth it for the, that
last moment where Quark is like defending
Nog, who is lying on his medical bed in
convalescence and Quark, he can hear the
Jem'Hadar coming and at the last minute
he like spins and drops to the floor
and shoots the Jem'Hadar in the chest.
And you, even Quark is not immune
to being changed by this war.
That moment is worth it.
But boy, is it weird for Quark to be
in this episode up until that point.
Rob: Very much so.
So yeah, it's a very bleak episode.
It's a very depressing episode.
We see Bill Mumy cut
down by Jem'Hadar forces.
Ezri Dax is horrified by all this.
And of course, Sisko is in the
middle of it all, looking at this
situation of despair, but they hold
the line until morning and you're
going, what have we achieved?
What have we done?
What is, what have we
lost and for what point?
Kevin: Interesting to see our
crew painted as the people
who have it easy in this war.
Like when they visit those soldiers
and they said they were 150
defending that outpost when they got
there, and they've been there five
months and there's 47 them left.
And there's very much this attitude
of, you get to beam outta here and go
back to your nice cushy space station.
We have to stay here and hold this.
So when Sisko makes the decision that
he's staying, even though the Defiant
is under attack and they have to leave
orbit, and he's like joining the fight,
it is a very heroic moment for our crew.
But also it's interesting to see
them as the ones who had it easy.
Yeah, very much and to see what that
effect has on that ideal of Federation.
It's always great when
that's brought into light.
There can be an argument about, how
Gene saw the utopian future and how
that can be challenged and whether
that's against the original vision.
But it's always, the strength of
a pure hopeful philosophy is only
as good as how it faces adversity.
You can say all that you want
about how good and pure and hopeful
you are, but unless you're really
tested, you can't really judge
how strong that conviction is.
The uh, the contrast between this week's
episode of Strange New Worlds and The
Siege of AR-558 is also just very visible
in the budget, and like what they can
create visually to represent a war.
I've seen some fan remarks that AR
wall, or the volume, or whatever you
wanna call it, that allowed them to
place that medical camp on the surface
of an asteroid with phaser, fire flying
overhead and occasional explosions,
it didn't make a whole lot of sense
that is where a medical camp would be.
Like, bury it underground, at
least give yourself a, a roof over
your head to hide the Klingons.
Whereas in, in The Siege, they
are on that generic, rocky cavern
set that we've seen so many times.
Kevin: And the actual spectacle
of the war is very constrained,
no doubt due to production
constraints of the show at the time.
But there's one Jem'Hadar ship
that gets silently blown up at the
start just to show that they were
facing some resistance on their
way to the base, or to the outpost.
And then from there it is
pretty much all off screen.
There's six Jem'Hadar that walk down a
hallway towards us a couple of times.
They're holograms the first time they come
down and it's a ruse in order to draw the
fire and see what the defenses are like.
And then the real Jem'Hadar come down.
But there's still only
about six or seven of them.
And, and that's, that's pretty much it.
There's a lot of fighting in
silhouette with sparks going off in the
background and that's pretty much it.
Uh, but the emotion is there and
and it resonates nevertheless.
So that's the other thing is as, as
grand as of a spectacle as we got
to see of the Klingon Federation
War in Strange New Worlds, the story
was just as strong in Deep Space
Nine without all of that expense.
Rob: Yeah, it's if you've got a good
script, good actors and good production
crew, you can make anything shine.
And sometimes you know, more money doesn't
necessarily mean, you know, better.
Kevin: There was one scene in this episode
that I was watching especially closely
in light of Strange New Worlds, and
that was Bashir's role in this episode.
What does the doctor do?
And certainly the doctor is patching
up Nog and reassuring him that
he'll get a synthetic leg, although
maybe his nerves are a little too
damaged in order to activate it.
But there's this scene where as the
Jem'Hadar are bearing down, Bashir
has nothing left to do except join
the fight, and he walks to the
barricades with a phaser rifle and he
does something that I've never seen
anyone do with a phaser rifle before.
He pulls the front off of it, and
he blows in it in order to like
clean it and puts it back together.
And he does a few other things and
he basically like field strips, a
phaser rifle in front of the soldiers.
And one of the soldiers goes, I
can see you've done that before.
And Bashir says, too many times.
It's funny, I joined
Starfleet to save lives.
And I thought, yep, the doctor at war,
that's a thing that we're definitely
getting to see this week as well.
And with M'Benga they push the
whole darkness of sort of like,
you know, he was a killer and this
is his way of saving his soul is.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You know, I always refer back
to different franchises, but
I will refer to MASH again.
There was great episodes of
MASH when they'd have to like
Hawkeye, and that would have to
Kevin: Oh, when, when Hawkeye took
those drugs and went behind enemy
lines and killed all the generals.
I loved that episode.
Rob: And the and the Korean Generals
had holograms to distract them
to find how much gun warfare.
Um, But there's an episode where
Hawker had to go closer to the front.
And so they were complaining all the time
about how their MASH unit was, and then
they get closer to the front line and
they're like that MASH unit is getting
shot at and explosions and like they have
less supplies, they have less protection.
And so it is that case of, like with
the Deep Space Nine crew coming in,
going, this is the real frontline
and this is the, know, so yeah.
Kevin: All right.
Well, there you go.
A couple of war stories.
Rob: I am in thorough need of
a of a sonic shower just to
Kevin: Uh, how about a musical episode?
How will that do Rob?
Rob: I think that may wash out any type
of uh, darkness that's still within.
That will clear my soul.
How about you, Kevin?
Kevin: It's just what the doctor ordered.
Because I'm still in Canada on holiday
as we record this, I'll say my parents
and I watched these two episodes back
to back together, and as we finished
the war story and I said to my parents,
are you ready for the next one?
And they went, Whoah, it
better not be like that one.
Rob: Little did they know.