“Let them die!” is an iconic line, delivered in all its brilliant glory by William Shatner in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The three words could only come from the mouth of James T. Kirk, as he spits them at Spock upon learning that the Klingon Empire is on the verge of collapse after the disaster on Praxis.
It cements the central conflict of the final TOS-era Star Trek adventure: Kirk is tasked with negotiating a peace agreement with the Klingons who he harbors a burning resentment for after the death of his son David. This core irony builds to a crescendo in the defining moment of the film (which is seen as the best entry in the Star Trek movie series by a significant number of fans) as the Klingon peace envoy and the crew of the USS Enterprise sit down for dinner.
The underlying friction bursts out in moments as Kirk’s patience wears thin at the niceties while Spock and Gorkon trade quotes from Shakespeare. “Earth, Hitler, 1938,” says the former Admiral (to Spock’s incredulity), comparing General Chang’s comments about Starfleet to the justifications for Earth’s own past atrocities. It’s an unforgettable moment.
Evidently using this as inspiration, the new episode of Strange New Worlds, Under the Cloak of War, centers around an awkward dinner scene too. The Enterprise’s senior staff dine alongside an infamous ex-Klingon general turned peaceful ambassador, and it’s a meal dogged by tension and distrust. Like Kirk, M’Benga, Chapel, and Ortegas can barely stand to be in Dak’Rah’s presence, unable to hide their disdain for him and what he represents despite his new quest for peace.
It serves as a direct parallel to what will come later in the Star Trek timeline, acting as a prequel of sorts. Here, the crew of the Enterprise can’t put their hatred behind them to forgive a single individual. So soon after the Klingon war, they just aren’t ready, and it has fatal consequences. Dak’Rah doesn’t leave the ship alive.
In The Undiscovered Country, after decades have passed (just over three, to be precise), Kirk and his crew must find a way to trust not just an individual but the entire Klingon Empire — and eventually are able to do so successfully. Intentionally or not, when seen as a prequel story to Star Trek VI, Under the Cloak of War shows the progression of this relationship, telling us that peace between enemies requires stepping stones.
Like so much of Strange New Worlds, Under the Cloak of War flicks back through Star Trek’s history (much in the same way that one would browse a furniture catalog) to find old stories which can be repurposed and retold with a twist. This season alone, we’ve had new takes on The Measure of a Man (Ad Astra per Aspera), Yesterday’s Enterprise (Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow), and now we have a hybrid between Star Trek VI and the TNG episode The Wounded.
The fact that Strange New Worlds draws so heavily on the past is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ in and of itself. Some level of repetition is unavoidable in a six-decade-old franchise, and the show has mostly found new ways to explore recurrent themes.
None of these stories from Strange New Worlds have been quite as successful as the original episodes or films they’re aping from (and watching 40 minutes of television only to be reminded of something better is never the best sign). But in their own way, they serve to enhance the connections between the various Star Trek series and films seen to date. The history of peace between the Federation and the Klingons, and the USS Enterprise’s involvement in it, is now more richly textured than ever before.
For more on Star Trek, read our Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 review as well as our interview with Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn before checking out which Star Trek captain would win in a zombie apocalypse, and how Leonard Nimoy came up with the Vulcan salute.
You can also see our ranking of the Star Trek captains and keep up with the status of the Star Trek 4 release date and the Star Trek Section 31 release date before seeing what’s new on Paramount Plus this month, and checking out our picks for the best TV series and best movies of all time.