Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Ending Explained (In Detail)

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Season 1 Finale - "A Quality Of Mercy"

Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) faced a dark future of his own making in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 1 finale as he lived through a pivotal episode from Star Trek: The Original Series. In Strange New Worlds' finale, "A Quality of Mercy," Captain Pike is visited by a future version of himself, clad in the red Starfleet uniform from the films Star Trek II -VI. With the use of a Klingon time crystal, Future Pike showed Captain Pike an alternate reality where he was never injured in the accident in 2266 that leaves him disfigured and trapped in a wheelchair. In this reality, Pike remains Captain of the Enterprise and Captain James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) becomes Captain of the USS Farragut.


Pike learned of his terrifying destiny in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 when he received a vision while visiting a Klingon monastery on Boreth. All throughout Strange New Worlds season 1, Pike was haunted by the tragedy that will befall him in seven years' time. Pike confided his fears to Spock (Ethan Peck) and Lt. Commander Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) about his dark future, and Number One argued that it's something Chris can potentially change. In Strange New Worlds' season 1 finale, Pike was triggered by meeting one of the kids whose life he's meant to save at the cost of his own, and Chris' intention to warn the boy of their shared future led to the Future Pike visiting him to show the terrifying timeline that would result.

Related: Strange New Worlds Exemplifies What Star Trek Has Been Missing

In the Future Pike's timeline, it's Captain Pike who faces the Romulan Bird-of-Prey and lives through the events of the classic TOS episode, "Balance of Terror." However, Pike's noble effort to create peace with the Romulans ended in disaster and sparked a devastating decades-long war that has horrifying repercussions for the entire galaxy. In turn, what Pike learned in Strange New Worlds' season 1 finale has far-reaching consequences, not just for Strange New Worlds season 2, but for Star Trek's entire Prime timeline going forward.

Why Captain Pike Can't Change His Future And What That Means For Strange New Worlds Season 2

Strange New Worlds Finale Captain Pike

Captain Pike learned that his future is inevitable and, if tragedy doesn't befall him, it will instead be transferred to Spock. Future Pike confirmed that in every other timeline caused by Pike avoiding his delta ray accident, Spock dies. This, in turn, has tragic consequences for the galaxy because of how important Spock is to the future. As Future Pike alluded to, Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is the key to Vulcan and Romulan reunification in the 24th century, which is just one of the "important things" Spock is destined to do in the next hundred years.

Ultimately, Pike learned that Una was right and he can change his future, but it would have dire consequences for the galaxy and Spock, in particular. Pike's intention to write a letter to the son of Commander Hansen Al-Salah (Ali Hassan) to warn him of the accident to come in 7 years' time is the flashpoint that creates the future timeline of endless war with the Romulans. Pike chose to delete the letter in order to let the Prime timeline play out as it's meant to. In effect, Pike accepted that his future must happen as he saw in his vision on Boreth. Having struggled with his destiny in Strange New Worlds season 1, "A Quality of Mercy" left Captain Pike at a point where he has to enjoy each moment he has in the time he has left to be in "better places." Potentially, Pike will be less concerned about the inevitable and will focus more on being in the moment in Strange New Worlds season 2.

For his part, Spock comes to understand that Pike is, in effect, sacrificing himself for the Vulcan as well as to save the lives of the Starfleet Cadets in 7 years' time. This provides a new context for why Spock commits mutiny and risks the death penalty after Pike's accident happens to bring Chris to Talos IV in the Star Trek: The Original Series two-parter, "The Menagerie." Spock and Pike affirmed that they are "very important" to each other, and their loyalty and friendship are now fully defined thanks to Strange New Worlds' season 1 finale.

Related: Pike Avoids Kirk's Biggest Captain Mistake In Strange New Worlds

What Captain Pike Meeting Captain Kirk Means For Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2

James T. Kirk Strange New Worlds Finale

Captain Kirk appearing in Strange New Worlds' season 1 finale is a jaw-dropping surprise. Paul Wesley's casting as James T. Kirk was announced before Strange New Worlds season 1 premiered but it was expected his version of Captain Kirk wouldn't debut until season 2. However, Kirk meeting Pike in Strange New Worlds' season 1 finale happens in an alternate future that will not happen now, so technically, Captains Pike and Kirk have yet to officially meet in Star Trek's Prime timeline. Yet the kicker is that Pike remembers meeting Kirk and getting to know the brash young Captain in the alternate reality, which will no doubt color how Chris interacts with Jim when they do meet (again for the first time) in Strange New Worlds season 2. Strange New Worlds' finale also establishes that Kirk becomes Captain of the Enterprise because of Pike getting injured in his accident in 2266, which is a retcon since it was previously accepted canon that Kirk got the Enterprise in 2265, a year before Pike's accident. Strange New Worlds simply tightened the bond between Pike and Kirk and the rationale for why the Enterprise passes between them.

After their team-up against the Romulans, Pike tells Kirk that he feels they were "destined" to meet, and Jim confesses that he feels the same. For Pike, meeting Kirk now isn't just a glimpse of who is meant to replace him as Captain of the Enterprise (if this is knowledge given to Pike by the Klingon time crystal vision, which isn't clear), but it also illuminates' Pike's own failings as a Captain. Jim's brother Sam (Dan Jeannotte) warned Pike that Captain Kirk relies on "charm and luck" and he "doesn't like to lose," which is played as ominous but turned out to be the deciding factor as to why Kirk succeeds in "Balance of Terror" while Pike fails. Although Pike himself is an accomplished and battle-tested starship Captain, one of the best Starfleet has, Kirk symbolizes a changing galaxy that is poised to leave Pike behind. Pike's destiny is to pass the torch and the Enterprise to Kirk, who is a pivotal figure in the future of the galaxy. But that doesn't mean that Pike doesn't have a few years left of his own to make his mark before he cedes the Captain's chair.

How Pike's "Balance of Terror" Is Different From Star Trek: The Original Series

Strange New Worlds Finale Spock Dead

Pike played through most of the key events of "Balance of Terror" but the results were very different. When Pike entered the future reality, he was officiating a wedding between two Enterprise crew members, which Kirk also presided over in "Balance of Terror." The wedding is never completed because of the Romulans' attack on Earth Outpost 4 along the Neutral Zone, but it's Angela Martine who dies in Pike's "Balance of Terror" instead of Robert Tomlinson in Kirk's version of the episode. Further, Dr. M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) remains Chief Medical Officer of Pike's Enterprise while Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is entirely absent from the episode, whether or not Bones became Kirk's doctor on the USS Farragut. Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) is also still on Pike's medical team but La'an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong), who is now a Commander, is stationed on Kirk's Farragut. Lastly, Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) is now a Lieutenant and is the Enterprise's Communications Officer in both realities.

Outpost 4 is destroyed by the Romulan Bird-of-Prey but Captain Kirk and the USS Farragut join the Enterprise to hunt the Romulans down, as opposed to Kirk's Enterprise chasing the cloaked starship alone. In both versions of "Balance of Terror," the Romulans' cloak is exposed thanks to the debris from a comet, but the Romulan Commander (Mark Lenard) faced was weary and less assured than the Commander (Matthew MacFadzean) opposing Pike. In both realities, the Romulans are seen by humans for the first time and the same arguments ensure over their resemblance to Vulcans, with Spock surprising his Captain(s) with his opinion that they should attack. Lt. Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) takes the place of Lt. Stiles (Paul Comi), who is distrustful of Spock in Kirk's version of "Balance of Terror."

Related: Strange New Worlds Sets Up TOS' Classic Tribbles Episode

The deciding factor as to why Kirk succeeds in "Balance of Terror" where Pike failed is that Kirk matched the Romulans' martial philosophy and intended to destroy them. Pike decides to try for "something better" and push for peace talks with the Romulans, but this only convinced the aliens that the United Federation of Planets is weak. Kirk destroying the Bird-of-Prey, the Romulans' greatest weapon, in TOS gave them pause, but Pike wanting to negotiate led to the Romulan Praetor (Carolyn Scott) arriving with an armada to escalate the conflict into full-scale war. The Praetor also orders the Bird-of-Prey destroyed because of the Romulan Commander's weakness. Tragically, Pike striving for something nobler resulted in a war that enveloped the galaxy for decades and led to Spock being severely injured the way Pike will be in his delta ray accident.

Does Scotty's Appearance Mean He's Joining Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2?

Spock Jeffries Tube Strange New Worlds

Although the character is credited as "Engineer," and only his voice played by Matthew Wolf is heard, Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott AKA Scotty essentially debuts in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 1 finale. Scotty is obviously the Engineer with the familiar Scottish accent who helps Spock repair the Enterprise's phaser array in a Jefferies Tube. Unfortunately, Spock is unable to complete the task and he is severely injured when the Romulans' plasma weapon strikes the Enterprise. Whereas, in Kirk's "Balance of Terror," Spock repairing the phasers was the deciding factor in the Enterprise beating the Romulan Bird-of-Prey.

It's no surprise that Scotty is the Enterprise's Chief Engineer in both versions of "Balance of Terror" in 2266, but the question is will Mr. Scott join Pike's Enterprise in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2? Pike's starship needs a new Chief Engineer after Lt. Hemmer (Bruce Horak) sacrificed his life to save his friends from the Gorn in Strange New Worlds episode 9. "A Quality of Mercy" doesn't address whether or not the Enterprise is getting a new Chief Engineer to replace Hemmer, leaving the possibility of Scotty (or a new Engineer) joining Strange New Worlds season 2's cast.

What Number One's Arrest Means For Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2

Strange New Worlds Number One Arrested

Strange New Worlds season 1 ends with a cliffhanger as Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano) arrests Lt. Commander Una Chin-Riley for violations of Starfleet's code of conduct and the Federation's anti-genetic modifications directive. Strange New Worlds episode 3, "Ghosts of Illyria," revealed Number One's backstory as an Illyrian, a race banned from the Federation for practicing genetic engineering. Una revealed to Dr. M'Benga, La'an, and Captain Pike that she is an Augment who lied to join Starfleet. Although Captain Pike refused to allow Una to resign and promised to keep her secret, somehow Starfleet discovered the truth and has taken Number One into custody.

Related: Strange New Worlds Makes A Big Vulcan Change To Spock

In Pike's alternate reality "Balance of Terror," Una has been in a penal colony for the past 7 years and isn't allowed outside contact. It will be fascinating to see how Number One's storyline plays out in Strange New Worlds season 2 and how Una can return to the Enterprise if that's indeed what happens. The Federation's harsh laws about genetic engineering remain into the 24th century, which the genetically-modified Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) faced on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so it remains to be seen how Una can possibly be released or exonerated. For however long Lt. Commander Chin-Riley is away from the Enterprise, it also allows Spock to slot into the First Officer role that he will have in Star Trek: The Original Series, unless La'an Noonien Singh returns and resumes as Acting Number One in Strange New Worlds season 2.

Questions Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Needs To Answer

Strange New Worlds Finale Bridge

By choosing to center Strange New Worlds' season 1 finale entirely on Captain Pike resolving his inevitable future, the series left a lot of plot threads dangling from Strange New Worlds episode 9, "All Those Who Wander," and bills to pay in season 2. At the end of Strange New Worlds episode 9, Hemmer's death leaves the role of Chief Engineer needing to be filled on the Enterprise. Hemmer also inspired Cadet Uhura to reverse course and remain in Starfleet, which was alluded to in the final shot of Strange New Worlds episode 9. Meanwhile, La'an left the Enterprise and was decommissioned so she could reunite a young victim of the Gorn with her family. Pike's "Balance of Terror" future shows La'an as part the USS Farragut's crew, so does she join Kirk's ship in Strange New Worlds season 2 or does La'an return to the Enterprise as she promised Pike - and how? Of course, Una Chin-Riley's arrest is the big cliffhanger Strange New Worlds season 2 will address.

Strange New Worlds' season 1 finale also didn't resolve Spock unleashing and subsequently losing control of his human emotions at the end of episode 9. After Pike returns to his own 2259 timeline, Spock is inexplicably his cool, composed Vulcan self in Strange New Worlds' finale, leaving the question of his unchecked emotions unanswered. Strange New Worlds must also continue the unrequited love Nurse Chapel feels towards Spock, who is, in turn, still trying to make his long-distance relationship with T'Pring work. Strange New Worlds season 1 failed to give spotlight episodes to Nurse Chapel and Lt. Erica Ortegas, so their backstories are still begging to be told. Lastly, the dangerous pirate Captain Angel (Jesse James Keitel) remains at large and they may return to attempt to free their Vulcan husband, Spock's older half-brother Sybok, while the Gorn may return and the Klingons may also appear in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2.