In the vast and intricate universe of Star Trek, we often find narratives that reflect our own realities, despite their setting in the distant reaches of space. One such narrative is found in the eighth episode of the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, “Under the Cloak of War.” This episode offers a profound exploration of the psychological aftermath of war, serving as a mirror to our struggles with trauma and recovery.
Our guide through this exploration is Dr. M’Benga, a medical officer aboard the USS Enterprise. His character provides a raw and unfiltered look into the lingering effects of war. Upon seeing Dak’Rah, a former enemy now turned ambassador, M’Benga experiences a visceral reaction, a stark reminder of how the past can intrude upon the present. The sudden resurgence of his traumatic memories from the war is a vivid portrayal of the lingering effects of PTSD, a condition that affects many veterans long after the battles have ended.
The episode also delves into the concept of moral injury, a term that has recently emerged in the field of psychiatry. It refers to the deep psychological distress that arises from actions, or lack thereof, that violate one’s moral or ethical code. M’Benga’s internal struggle with his past actions and the relief he feels at Rah’s death, despite his role as a healer, is a testament to the profound impact of moral injury. This concept is a reminder that the wounds of war are not always physical, and that the psychological scars can be just as, if not more, debilitating.
The conversation between M’Benga and Ortegas, another military officer, serves as a window into the healing process. Their shared experiences and open dialogue about the war are reminiscent of peer support, a strategy often employed in trauma-focused therapy. It’s a reminder that healing often comes from connection and understanding. This scene underscores the importance of creating spaces for open dialogue about trauma and the role that shared experiences can play in the healing process.
The transformation of Rah from a war general to a peace ambassador is a narrative of redemption and change. It’s a testament to the power of reshaping one’s narrative as a form of healing. Yet, it also raises questions about the authenticity of such transformations and the potential for manipulation, adding a layer of complexity to our understanding of trauma and recovery. This transformation serves as a reminder that the path to recovery is not always linear, and that each individual’s journey is unique.
“Under the Cloak of War” is a powerful and nuanced narrative that explores the psychological impacts of war, the manifestation of trauma, and the potential pathways to recovery. It’s a reminder of the importance of understanding these complex issues and developing effective treatment strategies for those who bear the psychological scars of war. As we navigate our own universe, it’s narratives like these that help us better understand the human condition.
Sean Wilkes is a psychiatrist.