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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds goes back to the beginning with this ferocious alien race

Captain Pike must confront the aliens that caused one of his greatest defeats.

star trek snw -- pike dressed as kalar
Image credit: Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Season two of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has called back to different parts of the Star Trek Universe in different ways. Sometimes, the show does so with fun Easter eggs like Spock's Vulcan Lute or the reappearance of the Department of Temporal Investigations. Other times callbacks to the past can drive the narrative like with La'an Noonien-Singh wrestling with the history of her ancestor, Khan. This week, we go back to the very beginning of the Star Trek franchise as the show revisits a fearsome alien race.

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 4, 'Among the Lotus Eaters.'

The real problem begins five years prior to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, when Captain Pike and a landing party embarked on a routine expedition on the Class M planet Rigel VII. The local inhabitants consisting of primitive humanoids ambushed them, and during the hasty retreat of Pike and his crew, the crew may have left their equipment behind. This is an issue because it could be a breach of the Prime Directive, Starfleet's principle of not interfering with the natural development of alien civilizations.

Now, when aerial imagery of the planet detects structures resembling the Starfleet delta insignia, the Enterprise is sent back to clean up their mess and assess the level of cultural contamination they may have caused. As for Pike, he has reservations about returning to Rigel VII because of his experience with the formidable indigenous people known as the Kalar.

What happened during Captain Pike's first encounter with the Kalar?

star trek tos -- captain pike and spock
Image credit: Photo: StarTrek.com

The behind the scenes lore regarding Pike's first encounter with the Kalar is pretty interesting. The events of that encounter are first recounted in the very first pilot of Star Trek the original series (TOS) entitled 'The Cage.' After the initial viewing, the executives at NBC were not satisfied and reordered a second pilot, which would be the one to air and become the Star Trek that we know today. However, footage from 'The Cage' would be incorporated into the two-part 'The Menagerie,' which are episodes 11 and 12 from season 1 of TOS.

We actually never see what happens on Rigel VII, but hear the story from Pike as he opens up to his chief medical officer, Dr. Boyce, in the unaired pilot. On the planet, Pike led his landing party into a trap set by the Kalar. The failed mission resulted in the death of three of his crew and seven more injured, including Spock.

The traumatic event has a significant impact on the captain. He wrestles with guilt and feels responsible for the loss of his crewmen. In the episode, Pike even considers resigning from Starfleet, though the good doctor talks him out of the rash decision.

Who are the Kalar of TOS?

star trek tos -- kalar
Image credit: screenshot from Star Trek: The Original Series season 1 episode 12 'The Menagerie' pt. II

The Kalar are a primitive humanoid species native of Rigel VII. These people are slightly larger than a human and are fierce warriors, but they are not as advanced and often fight using antiquated equipment such as swords, spears, shields, and armor. Despite their inferior technology, they are still able to catch the Starfleet members off guard and inflict great damage.

Though the story of Kalar encounter is only verbalized, we do catch a glimpse of one in 'The Cage.' In the unaired episode, Pike is manipulated by telepathic aliens called Talosians to make him fall in love with a woman named Vina. One illusion involves Pike saving Vina, under the guise of a Rigellian princess, from a Kalaran warrior.

Who are the Kalar in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?

star trek snw -- luq the kalar
Image credit: Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds expands on the alien race first seen in TOS. The Kalar are described as a bronze age society organized in a caste system. They contain a formidable warrior class hardened by the planet's harsh conditions called the field Kalar and a secretive ruling class called the palace Kalar. According to the ancient stories, the former are unable to retail their memories (and are used as forced laborers), while the latter retain their memories and are responsible for planning the future and recording the past.

The field Kalar are organized based on their particular job set. They are able to keep their implicit memory such as walking and talking while their explicit memories including who they are and where they live go away each day. Yet they do find ways to guide themselves in their regular activities. They are a close-knit community and help each other manage the memory loss. The field Kalar use the oils of their fruit of the gods to tattoo themselves with their important personal information. In addition, they keep a totem of their people's story inside their homes.

Why are the Kalar so underdeveloped?

star trek snw -- la'an, ortegas, and m'benga dressed as kalar
Image credit: Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Thousands of years ago, an asteroid landed on Rigel VII. It contained a form of radiation that causes synaptic degradation of the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes. As a result, the Kalar experience explicit memory loss while their implicit memories such as instinct and emotion are left intact. This neurological condition stunted the development as a people, hence their primitive existence in comparison to Starfleet. The palace Kalar are able to reduce their exposure due to the castle's structural materials and their natural properties that can shield the radiation.

What is the fate of the Kalar in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?

The Kalar are introduced to modern technology by their leader High Lord Zacharias. This High Lord turns out to be Pike's yeoman, Zack Nguyen, long believed to be dead. Zack survived the initial ambush years ago, and gathered the Starfleet gear left behind including phaser rifles to help fuel his rise in power. With the superior arsenal, it wasn't too long until he became ruler. As a sign of reverence, the Kalar erected the structures bearing the symbol on his uniform, the Starfleet delta insignia.

Eventually, Pike and the rest of the Enterprise crew are able to overcome and negate the effects of the radiation. They also able retrieve all of their old tech to clean up their previous cultural contamination, and take Yeoman Nguyen into custody. As a parting gift for the meddling in Kalar affairs, the Enterprise removes the asteroid from the planet allowing the natives to develop unhindered by its effects; an act which some might say disobeys the Prime Directive.

For more on Star Trek and how to understand it all, we have a comprehensive Star Trek watch guide


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