Short Treks Recap: “Children of Mars”

Two girls in futuristic school uniforms

“Children of Mars” — Episode SF #008 — Pictured (l-r): Ilmaria Ebrahim as Kima; Sadie Munroe as Lil; of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previously on Short Treks: Many things happened, all of which were adorable

Well Season 2 of Short Treks is wrapping up with an episode meant to prep us for the premiere of Star Trek Picard. Let the mining for clues commence!

Gif of woman saying "I'm very excited"

The beginning of the episode shows us parallel stories of two little girls: Kima (Ilmaria Ebrahim) and Lil (Sadie Munroe). Kima tells us her mom works at Utopia Planitia on Mars, and we see a video call between the two of them where they make funny faces at each other and laugh. After a cutaway to a shot of a bustling orbital spacedock above a red planet, Lil introduces herself seemingly much less happily. She says her dad is a Quality Systems Supervisor at the Mars Orbital Facility.

In their video call, her dad tells her that it’s too busy for him to make it home this year. Which, really? A year? I may be wrong but it looks from her view like she lives on Earth, or perhaps terraformed Mars.

Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec narrowing his eyes skeptically

Maybe Lil’s dad met Worf and is like, “How can I be a worse dad than this guy?”

The two girls leave their literal padded rooms. The beige rooms have an aesthetic that can best be described as bridge of the Enterprise-D-meets-bouncy castle. In their uniforms: maroon blazers, white collared shirts, grey pants and grey slip-on rubber-soled shoes, the girls make their way to a shuttle to class. On the way, Lil deliberately knocks into Kima and causes her to drop her backpack. As a result, she misses the shuttle and is late for school.

Can I pause here for a second and ask if we’re supposed to think all schools have uniforms in the 24th century? Or is this some Starfleet Academy prep school? If so, they definitely missed out not having kids in yellow and blue blazers too.

Cue the beginning of the song that will take us through most of the rest of this Short Treks – a slow, emo-y soft rock song with a refrain about being heroes just for a day.

The interior of the building looks like the test centre from the Brazilian sci-fi show 3% – very sterile and bright-white with electronic display screens, in this case trumpeting the fact that it’s First Contact Day.

All the teachers are in black with white collars, given them an authoritarian religious look that is not helping me with my dystopian associations.

Rodolfo from the show 3% saying it's not fair that only 3% of the population gets to live on the offshore

Kima arrives late to class and shoves Lil as she passes behind her desk, before sitting down. Kima glares at Lil, who doodles a caricature of the teacher on her tablet and sends it to Kima. Kima gets caught by “Mrs. K” (people are still using “Mrs” apparently).

In the library later (but still during the same song), Kima hides and sticks her leg out to trick Lil, then runs away. Lil gets up, furious, and stalks down the hallway. When she finds Kima at her locker she shoves her and the two get in a big fight in the hall, while other kids egg them on.

And frankly I found it disturbing, which I hope was the intended result. At one point Lil punches Kima straight in the face and blue blood drips out her nose.

But as a placeholder here are two pandas wrestling.

Baby pandas wrestling

The teachers pull the girls off each other and they sit in the foyer, backs to each other, under glowing signs that read “Grow” and “Achieve.”

The song finally ends and a balding Vulcan administrator is walking towards the girls when he receives an alert on his handheld communicator. Another teacher gets the same message and runs over to him and they look at each other in shock. They make a non-verbal decision to broadcast the feed on the large screens and then everyone in school sees the news: there’s been an attack by “Rogue Synths” on Mars and an estimated 3000 people are dead.

Some very Romulan-looking ships are flying over the planet – bird-like with glowing green emblems. Kima flashes back to her last video call with her mom and Lil regrets hanging up on her dad.

We see the ships destroy a space station and then Picard’s face on the screen with the caption “Admiral Picard reacts to Mars Attack.” Only I thought it said “Attacks” and I was imagining Picard reacting to the 1996 movie Mars Attacks.

So I don’t have a ton of clues about what’s going to happen in Picard but we have a much clearer idea of the series’ premise. Having read the first two issues of the Star Trek Picard: Countdown prequel comic from IDW I’m wondering whether we’re going to see Geordi killed in the attack on Utopia Planitia – the comic establishes he’s working there overseeing the work of fleet-building. I guess we’ll know in a couple of weeks!

Also, I have a ton of questions about Federation primary schooling.


  8 comments for “Short Treks Recap: “Children of Mars”

  1. I am confused as to whether the girls are living on Mars or Earth. The hand holding is either “Our parents are dead!” or “”Our parents are dead and we are are going to die in the next few minutes too!” I still don’t know the answer.

  2. I enjoyed it. It was a clear simple story that seemingly was designed to show the human/alien cost to the attack. Hardcore trek fans are absolutely losing it over an apparent Discovery ship design in the shipyards.

    It’s all about story for me. I thought this was a nice inventive human way to show an attack that will likely be heavily referenced in the show.


  3. I was confused and wondered if I had missed a TNG episode about synths attacking the shipyards. Also I confess that I spent much of the time trying to figure out If they were using a Bowie song for the soundtrack. Marginally better than the two Disneyesque shorts preceding it.

  4. This one hits home for me. I was a senior in high school when the 9/11 attacks happened at a school in northern Virginia. So, when we heard the news about the *Pentagon* it really struck a bigger blow to us than what was happening in New York. Many of the students at our school had parents or other family that worked there, military or civilian. Pretty much every class through the end of the day has a call come in for a student who was in that situation to let them know about being safe (I’m personally unaware of anybody at my school who lost somebody). It was pretty surreal and our minds were all distracted. Some teachers tried to keep to the lesson plan while others didn’t (my AP government teacher defied the ban in TV news by pulling out her radio).

    I know that I was much older than the girls in this one yet it was an experience that I felt in a very visceral level.

  5. Although, like all of the second season of Short Treks, I haven’t been able to see this because I’m not North American, I did see the trailers and (starved of new Star Trek until Picard starts!) And have been reading reviews such as this one. I too thought the uniforms were a rather 20th Century thing! Although it sounds as if this piece might have an anti-racist message (maybe?), as the two girls support each other in the face of the crisis, aspects of it do sound a little dystopian. Maybe it reflects the apparent changes in the Federation suggested by the Picard trailers. It seems from those that Picard is furious with either the Federation or Starfleet for turning it’s back in “what it should still represent!” And as for the further future of Discovery Season Three…

    This darker trend feels very current, and if course there are precedents all over Star Trek, even in TNG (The Drumhead, The Pegasus, and especially Insurrection). I’m sure (I hope) that the writers will make something positive and hopeful out of both Picard and Discovery, as the integrity and utopianism of our heroes provide a shining light in dark times. After all, we unfortunately live in dark times. It’s part of the job of Star Trek to comment on the present day, as it always has done, while also providing the hope that most TV science fiction doesn’t have. I just hope that CBS allows the writers to finish telling these stories without cancelling them; ever since Enterprise, I’ve been nervy about the obsession with ratings and whether any Star Trek series can continue to their natural ends. Imagine if DS9 had been cancelled after, say, five seasons! Thankfully, it was a different time and they let it continue despite concerns about its apparent lack of popularity at the time.

    Sorry, went off on a big tangent! 🙂

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