Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – La’an Noonien-Singh is related to the infamous Khan Noonien-Singh, and feels some kind of way about it. As a child, she was harassed, as others assumed she was an augment, and she was furious when she learned Una was a genetically-modified Illyrian. Last week, we learned that La’an does carry the genetic augmentation of her family, and is afraid that makes her inherently dangerous.
It’s just another day in the life of Security Chief La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong). She has to settle a fight between crew members, tell Spock (Ethan Peck) that he’s been practicing his lute too loudly, and search the very large number of belongings that Commander Pelia (Carol Kane) is attempting to bring on board – some of which may actually belong to the Louvre. (Someone who’s lived through as much as she has is bound to become a packrat – in fact, she still has a bunker in Vermont, “in case this whole no-money socialist utopia thing turns out to be a fad.”) For exercise, La’an spars with Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun, who is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt), who tries to get her to open up about everything she’s going through. But she doesn’t want to talk.
As La’an walks through an empty corridor, there’s suddenly a flash of light and a stranger (Christopher Wyllie) with a bullet wound appears. He tells her that there’s been an attack in the past, and she – specifically – has to stop it. He hands her a strange device with a glowing green button, tells her to get to the Bridge, and disappears again.
When La’an arrives on the Bridge, Captain James Kirk (Paul Wesley) wants to know who she is and how she got there. Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) reports a hail from a Vulcan ship. Kirk orders it on screen, where we see Spock in a black leather getup, and Kirk introduces himself as captain of the “United Earth Fleet ship Enterprise.” Spock is there to ask for help in the Vulcan war against the Romulans. Their fleet is close to total annihilation, but Earth has its own issues with the Romulans and doesn’t want to get involved.
With that settled, La’an suggests she and Kirk speak in private. Whatever changed in the past has shifted her into this timeline, and it must be the strange tech that allowed her to keep her memories. The stranger told her to get to the Bridge, and she thinks that means Kirk is supposed to help her. Kirk isn’t sure he believes it, and tries to take the device from her. In struggling over the device, they activate it, and are transported to an alley somewhen/where.
The green light on the device has turned red, and pushing the button now does nothing. La’an figures that the device put them where they’re supposed to be and won’t let them leave until they fix the timeline. So they take a look around and find themselves in Toronto in the Mid-21st Century. Kirk doesn’t recognize it – he’s never been to Earth.
The team pops into a Roots to get warmer and less conspicuous clothing, and have to cause a distraction to get out without paying. They’re going to have to find a way to get some money. Walking along the marina, Kirk spots someone at a chess board, and starts playing for cash. I didn’t know I needed a chess montage in Star Trek, but I did. Like the Kirk we know, he regularly trounces his first officer at 3D chess, so this 2D game is a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, now that they have money, they can get some food.
After some hot dogs from a street vendor, they get a room for the night, but neither can sleep. In the morning, La’an makes a list of every historical event she can remember from this time period. She asks Kirk to do the same, so they can figure out what’s changed. But he knows enough about temporal mechanics to know that fixing La’an’s timeline will destroy his. While they debate which timeline has the right to exist, there’s suddenly an explosion on a bridge outside the window. So that’s what “Get to the bridge” actually meant…
Kirk and La’an rush to the bridge and get as close as they can without crossing any barricades – both remember this event from history, so their timelines haven’t diverged yet. La’an sees a photographer near by, and asks to see the photos to get a closer look at some of the debris. Some of the charring looks like the result of a photonic bomb, which definitely should not be in this time period.
Workers are removing the debris, and La’an wants to follow them. Kirk Vulcan-neck-pinches someone getting into a car – a trick learned from a Vulcan cellmate in a Denobulan prison – and they’re on their way in a red sports car. La’an tells Kirk to be more discreet, and he insists that “Discretion” is his middle name. La’an’s feeling comfortable enough to make fun of his actual middle name. He jabs back, pointing out the oddity of a name like “La’an Noonien-Soong.” She corrects him, and then realizes that Noonien-Singh is not an infamous name in his timeline. His history does not include the Eugenics Wars.
Suddenly, the van they’re following makes a “wrong” turn at a detour. Stuck in traffic several cars back, Kirk decides to turn out and speed through the city to catch it again. The van gets away and Kirk gets blocked in by police cars. The police intend to arrest Kirk for driving without a license and failure to obey traffic laws, but the same photographer from the bridge is there, live-streaming the encounter. She asks if they haven’t met their quota this month, if their bodycams are on, and if they’re targeting Kirk for being American. Or maybe they’re profiling him for being a famous civil rights attorney. The cops decide to let him go with a warning.
La’an and Kirk thank the photographer, Sarah (Adelaide Kane), who was also following the van. Obviously, the bridge was targeted because it symbolized international cooperation. If it gets blamed on terrorists, humanity will go back to fighting each other instead of the real threat: Aliens. Sarah realizes she’s gone too far and starts to walk away, but Kirk yes-ands her and says that his wife, Vanessa (La’an) was abducted. She saw all kinds of advanced technology, including a photonic bomb. And now Sarah’s really interested.
Sarah believes that many significant events human history – Chernobyl, Tunguska, the JFK assassination – are the result of alien intervention intended to slow progress and keep humanity on Earth. La’an thinks Sarah is “unhinged,” but then she shows them some of the photos she’s collected – one of which clearly includes the silhouette a Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Sarah also bought the surveillance footage from one of the shops near the bridge, and found that one of the men who took the wreckage was lurking around before the explosion. She thanks them for listening, and abruptly goes her own way.
La’an didn’t recognize the Romulan ship, but Kirk did, and it jogged his memory. In a few days, there will be an attack on a cold-fusion reactor in the city and destroy all of Toronto. It’s the first strike from the Romulans in the war he’s still fighting. So how to they find the reactor? It would be easy if they had a tricorder… then La’an remembers something. And they head to Vermont.
A cab drops La’an and Kirk off at The Archeology Department, a closed antique and rarity shop. La’an bangs on the door until Pelia answers. Once La’an drops, “I know you and I know your secret,” she lets them in.
Pelia wants specifics: La’an knows she’s a Lanthanite, and that she stole a painting from the Louvre. After some pleading, Pelia agrees to help, but there’s one problem – she isn’t an engineer (yet). She thought cold fusion was pretend (“like Bigfoot, or lasers”) and hasn’t “taken a math class since Pythagoras made the crap up.”
La’an, ever-focused, says they don’t need to understand cold fusion itself, but just detect the biproducts – excess heat, neutrons, tritium… Tritium is in old diver’s watches from the ’80s! And of course, Pelia has some. The watches used to light up, before the tritium in them degraded, which means the hands were coated in reactive material. La’an pries the glass off the watch face, exposing it to the air. If there’s tritium present, the watch hands will glow. And now it’s back to Toronto.
Kirk and La’an wander around Toronto at night, waiting for the watch to light up, and Kirk finally admits that he thinks La’an’s timeline should be saved. He knows it doesn’t exactly work this way, but that’s the one he’d choose to live in. La’an thinks maybe she can bring him back, too, and the device would protect him from temporal paradox. She likes him, and she’s comfortable with him. They stop walking and kiss. And kiss again. Then notice that the watch has started glowing. They’re close.
They locate the facility with the reactor, and it has a hand-scan security system. Fortunately, it’s the Noonien-Singh Institute for Cultural Advancement. La’an tries the scanner (with her sleeve halfway up her hand?), and it works. Sarah appears behind them, with a gun, and thanks them for getting her inside. Kirk puts it together – she’s from the future, too. A Romulan. Everything she told them is true – Romulans have been slowing human progress. But she thinks they should have done even more. That’s why she’s here.
Kirk and La’an refuse to get out of Sarah’s way, so she shoots and hits Kirk in the torso, killing him. Alarms start blaring. La’an rushes at Sarah, and is immediately overpowered. Sarah grabs her by the neck and forces her inside the Institute.
At gunpoint, Sarah leads La’an through the corridors, shooting at any guards who come near. The reactor was plan A. It’s time for plan B: Killing Khan Noonien-Singh while he’s still a child. Without him, the Federation will never be formed. People keep trying to change and delay these events – in fact, entire temporal wars have been fought over this. Sarah’s been on Earth since 1992, waiting to get her shot at Khan. She needs La’an to use her handprint to open the door to his room, but she refuses. “My real name is La’an Noonien-Singh. My ancestor is Khan Noonien-Singh. And his legacy is genocide, torture… and me.” But Sarah reminds her that she has a device that will protect her from changes in the timeline – she could live any life she wants, free of “the scarlet letter.”
La’an fakes towards the door controls, then turns and hits Sarah, knocking the gun from her hands. They fight until Sarah gains control and forces La’an’s hand against the scanner, opening the door. La’an grabs her before she can go inside, and they fight some more. La’an’s eventually able to grab the gun, and shoots Sarah twice in the chest. When she hits the floor, she taps an implant behind her ear, and disintegrates.
La’an pulls the time travel device from her pocket and the button is green – she can go home. But first, she goes into Khan’s bedroom. From a hiding space behind his bed, Khan (Desmond Sivan) asks if she’s there to kill him. No, she’s not. She sits with him for a moment, tells him that he’s exactly where he needs to be, then walks out of the room and presses the green button before more guards can arrive.
La’an finds herself back in the corridor where this all began, and decides to head to the Bridge. She walks in to find Pelia speaking with Pike (Anson Mount) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) about a certain item in her collection, insisting that “the statute of limitations passed decades ago.” Pike asks La’an to weigh in, as a representative of Starfleet Security, but she’s going to let this one slide. Anyway, she was just stopping by to check on something, and she’ll be going now.
When La’an arrives in her quarters, Agent Ymalay (Allison Wilson-Forbes) from the Department of Temporal Investigations is waiting for her. La’an’s never heard of them – because they don’t exist yet. The man who gave her that device was one of their agents. Ymalay thanks her for completing his mission, and asks her not to share the experience with anyone. She takes back the device, and leaves La’an to reckon with the fact that she killed in order to protect a mass murderer.
La’an picks up a PADD and calls Lt. Kirk on the Farragut. He assumes Sam is in some kind of trouble. She didn’t think this through, and stammers and explanation for the call – she needs to confirm Sam’s place of birth for his security file. You can never been too thorough. Despite the odd request, Kirk confirms – but offers that if La’an wants the real dirt on Sam Kirk, all she needs to do is buy Jim a drink the next time they’re on Starbase together. La’an closes the channel and cries.
Bechdel-Wallace Pass: Noonien-Singh and Pelia discuss her possessions.