Did we mention that this episode was originally released around Halloween? Or that it was one of the first times voice-overs were used in missions?
The new voice actor's performance is even more deranged, and Cryptic tweaked the distortion a bit to make it sound even more broken and unsettling.
What Lies Beneath was complete nightmare fuel. All throughout the mission, the corridors are so dark you can barely see at all (the optional flashlight doesn't help much), you're assaulted by not-there-before groups of Devidians and these cat-sized spiders, and at the beginning, you and your away team find yourselves not at the level you expected, then next thing you know, the doors close and lock behind you. And that's not mentioning talking to a person through an intercom, suddenly they scream in terror, then silence... and when you force the door open, you find a body with phaser burns so fresh, they're still warm. And your scared tactical officer asks what could have possibly killed her in a locked room...? Sweet dreams!
Furthermore, this mission contains a fair amount of graphical bugs. Like blue outlines of humanoids frozen in place only visible from certain angles.
The Borg Warzones, especially when your rank is low. Sure, you might be able to blow up all the Borg facilities and the lower end ships defending them with a little help, but don't you dare think you're safe after that. At any moment, if you don't mind your surroundings, a cube or worse, a Tactical Cube can come looming out of the debris clouds right behind you and snag you with tractor beams, completely stuck. And that's when the worst part begins: the boarding of the small, helpless vessel by dozens and dozens of Borg drones...
During the Tie-In novel, The Needs of the Many we get treated to understanding what it is like to be an Undine infiltrator. Unlike the Changelings of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Undine don't just copy your body, they copy every part of your body including your internal organs and how your neurons fire in your brain. This means they don't just copy you physically, they copy your soul. Worf in particular had to deal with this threat after he was injured in a battle and Undine tried to replace him, but due to his injuries he had a memory lapse during the struggle and the next thing he remembered was seeing himself be thrown into a Vulcan body disintegrator (a means of disposing dead bodies since the Katra is what matters, not the body). For the next 30 years Worf is horrifying confused as to whether he's Worf, Son of Mogh or an Undine who believes he's Worf and that the Worf personality overwrote his Undine one so thoroughly that he's just complete fake. Jake Sisko notes that he can blatantly see TERROR in Worf's body language. The worst part is, for a reader who's full aware of the trope that Worf made, you know it's highly possible that this is an Undine who thinks its Worf. The Paranoia Fuel of this concept literally is what made the game and the entirety of the STO universe bloody terrifying.
The Fek'Ihri. Alleged demons from the Klingon underworld who have returned to avenge Molor's defeat at the hands of Kahless hundreds of years ago. They take many forms, from ghostly apparitions to massive troll-like beasts, and can field fleets of powerful Eldritch Starships capable of giving the KDF a run for its money. In their introductory appearance ("Blood of the Empire") they bring Qo'noS to its knees, and over the course of the next few missions they nearly conquer the Klingon Empire before the player manages to stop them at the source. But it's hinted in "Mine Enemy" that they aren't done yet and are merely hiding somewhere in Klingon space, waiting for another opportunity to strike...
In Colosseum, a mission in the Cloaked Intentions story arc, you return to your ship from a fairly easy away mission and wake up in a prison run by brainwashed Tal Shiar working for the Iconians. You're left to wonder how you ended up in this predicament when during your escape from the arena, you see it. An Iconian gate. And you realize how you ended up in their arena, they just walked into your quarters or your ready room and took you. The Iconians can literally just kidnap you without anyone ever knowing and take you somewhere no one will ever find you. Pure Paranoia Fuel.
It's more implied they intercepted your transporter beam, but the paranoia remains.
The bad future in the timeline created by the Enterprise-C's jumps to the TNG and STO era. First, the Feds lost the war but continued to fight guerilla warfare. However, at the same time, a Bajor that was never conquered by the Cardassians discovered the Wormhole and the Dominion swarmed in. With no Starfleet, Section 31 or The Sisko to stop them, they cubstomped the KDF and Romulans and destroyed Earth. The Tholians were spared by signing a non-agression treaty (as seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and control Tau Dewa where the player and their starship is now a freighter serving the Tholians. Along the way you meet your 3 most senior Bridge Officers who are run down people who never experience joy in their lives, and meet many of your friends from other STO missions. It says something when Admiral T'Nae, a Vulcan, doesnt even bother being coldly logical anymore and blatantly emotes depression. And to add some Fridge Horror to the mix, because the Romulans were defeated, the Iconians never destroyed Romulus, which means the JJ Timeline ceased to exist. Yes, that's right. The Enterprise-C's time travel adventure nearly caused TWO timelines to face non-existence.
"Devil's Choice" finally gives us a close look at the Elachi...and it isn't pretty. It turns out that they are trying to convert their Romulan captives into creatures like themselves. The results are anything but pretty and anyone you cannot save you decide you need to destroy to be merciful.
For bonus points with Fridge Horror. all those Elachi you killed? They could have been your friends and family from your colony. Though it was probably a Mercy Kill.
And it gets even worse: converting those poor colonists into creatures like themselves? That's more-or-less exactly what theBORGhave been doing - you're simply fighting biological vampires instead of half-mechanical zombies.
At the end of the mission, you manage to destroy the main Elachi base in the Beta Quadrant. Crisis averted? Nope, because the moment the Elachi realize what's happened they send their entire fleet to attack New Romulus. Plus a dose of Fridge Horror: they're not doing it for revenge. They're doing it to replace the troops you just destroyed.
The fourth mission of "The Borg Advance" is merely called "Assimilation", where your captain investigates some unusual Borg activity. There you find out the Borg have assimilated some Undine, something once thought to be impossible.Oh, Crap!. The player stops them before the knowledge can be transmitted, but there's nothing saying it can't happen again...
The disembodied Undine body parts scattered through one room of the Borg Cube are pretty disturbing to look at as well.
Fighting the Borg is always pretty scary, especially if it's your first time since the tutorial and you've forgotten to acquire frequency remodulators. Few things are more Oh, Crap! inducing than a wave of Borg advancing on you when your weapons are having absolutely no effect.
The first time one of your away team gets assimilated is also rather horrible. One of your own team, someone who may well have been with you since the tutorial, is now advancing on you with bits of Borg-tech sticking out of their head and there's nothing you can do about it but shoot them into unconsciousness. Fortunately, you can then revive them as usual, but it's not a pleasant thing to have to do if you've gotten attached to your away team.
The Featured Episode "Sphere of Influence". Thanks to dumb luck and disaster, you've tossed yourself into the Iconian Gateway System. Even worse, there's evidence that they've been watching everyone - the Federation, the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Republic, the Dominion. You've found their plans and what they want to do with everyone, including wiping out everyone in the Sol System, wipe out the Romulans (with the hint that they may kill Empress Sela if they can't brainwash her) and when everyone's conquered, head for the Dominion and destroy them, too. They even have gateways in the Delta Quadrant.
Even worse, that disaster that dumped you there? Their fault.
And worse than that? Them having well explained reasons for why they're taking each action. The Sol System and Humans? Too creative and hate captivity (in a nice Call-Back to The Cage). Klingons? Well, their warrior society has already turned everyone into a walking soldier and ease of taking orders: take control of the Great Houses and install puppet leaders and control them that way. The Romulans? Tried it once, didn't work out. We underestimated them. Not this time, eliminate them OR get Sela pacified in captivity and send her back as a new Hakeev. The Dominion? Both sides are fighting to a stand still. Do what the Dominion failed to do and take the Alpha and Beta Quadrants and use the resources to take them out (which says everything about the Dominion in hindsight). The Kelvans? Stick some gateways in Andromeda and keep them busy and out of this. Once everyone's pacified and the Iconian Empire rules again? Make the servant races terraform the homeworld back to it's native beauty in the cosmic equivalent of making the dog smell his own duty on the rug.Damn.
Just the concept of the Iconians having a massive foothold in Andromeda is scary. Prior to this, if shit got really bad and we had to leave the Milky Way, it was implied they couldn't follow via gateway. Looks like that's not possible anymore, the universe is their oyster and they will hunt us down.
If they are all over the Milky Way and are confirmed to have territory in the Andromeda galaxy (which is 2.5 million light-years away from us), just how many other galaxies do they have in their grip? Are many already successfully taken over other galaxies with billions of races at their whim?
Hell, the Iconians used to come to Earth to spread plagues and internal strife for study on us since the ancient past.Paranoia Fuel for Real Life.
Yet another reason to be paranoid? The Iconians have fingers ineverything that's happened in STO: from inciting the Undine's attack, causing the Klingons to go to war with the Federation, getting the Tal Shiar and the Elachi to kidnap races from all over the galaxy for study, and so on. And soon we might add the Voth to that list too.
Speaking of the Voth, the ending to "Sphere of Influence". What's on the other side of that Iconian gateway? If you said the Dyson Sphere, you haven't played the mission. There's an Omega Molecule on the other side. A threat so horrible that the Federation tosses out the Prime Directive and goes in guns blazing to destroy it. This is the equivalent of a WMD and if someone else gets a hold of it...
Actually the Omega Molecules are ON THE DYSON SPHERE. It's a system-sized manufacturing facility. It makes everything from toys to Omega Molecules. The Voth are trying to claim them.
The Dyson Rep makes this worse. The first Rep cutscene is a message from a rogue Voth scientist. The Voth have encountered evidence suggesting the Iconians are in the sphere RIGHT NOW! His government is covering up due to the doctrine and attacking the Joint Task Force to be a distraction. Even worse, occasionally you're attacked by Iconian Probes or Solanae Swarmers in the Sphere. They're here. NOW.
Or those could just be still-functioning defenses from when the Sphere was built. Better hope it's that.
At Tier 3 of Dyson Reputation you learn a bit more about the Solanae. You know how they're made of Solanagen? A material that can't exist in real space? And how subspace really isn't a habitable environment regardless? They're not naturally made of Solanagen. They're from our galaxy, built that dyson sphere and then it went horribly wrong altering the star and altering they're chemical composition. Imagine one day being so irradiated you stop being carbon-based life. Brrrr.
Dyson Reputation Tier 5 has the ultimate What the Hell, Hero? towards the Voth: They want to weaponize Omega molecules for the express purpose of defeating a foe. They don't care if they end up isolating themselves or harming other races - they want to win, no matter the costs.
"A Step Between Stars" gives us the frightening idea that the Romulan Republic, the Federation and the Klingons might be on a collision course for an all-out war with each other over the new Sphere. And it's all thanks to the Undine.
Another frightening thing? The Undine can now waltz on into the Alpha Quadrant without opening rifts.
Well, supposedly. That's what Tuvok says, but it doesn't actually make sense based on the other information available — the Undine now have an easy gateway for their apparently massive already-in-normal-space fleets in the Delta Quadrant to the Solanae Sphere — but the Solanae Sphere is in the Delta Quadrant, so the Undine would still have to get past the Dyson alliance-fortified (assuming the alliance holds) gateway to the Beta Quadrant (the gateway is in Romulan space).
As well, despite the best intentions, it seems that D'Tan's dream of a peaceful Romulan existence may be nothing but a pipe dream, especially the way Commander Jarok was automatically willing to claim the second Sphere as Romulan property. If not Undine infiltration, then it seems that the Romulans of New Romulus are just as power mad as the Romulans of the old Romulan Star Empire.
That may be overreacting; if anything, the treaty New Romulus had with both the Federation and the Klingons likely helped end that old, bitter war by forcing them to work together in neutral space, and the Romulan people are no doubt acutely aware of all the help they've received. One ambitious general does not a power-mad society make. Also, you know. The Republic isn't torturing people, brutally terrorizing colonists into submission, threatening to drop thalaron weapons on their own people, conspiring with soulless monsters that convert innocent people into brainwashed soldiers....
"Surface Tension" shows us an Iconian. And they are OP as hell. One Iconian casually kills all six members of the High Council without a second thought, then gives this line:
Iconian: We give you a single warning: Do not attract our attention again.
Hey, remember the neural parasites from the TNG episode "Conspiracy"? They're back and they've infected the Vaadwaur! Even worse? They have bigger, badder and uglier forms!
Watch throughout "Dust to Dust" and see how the original Harry Kim slowly transforms into a Kobali. It's really unnerving.
"Uneasy Allies", Sela notes that it's night in the Iconian's dyson sphere because the Iconian fleet covers the entire sky. And then...
Iconian: I SEE YOU.
*little later, as you're fleeing*
YOU WERE WARNED. YOUR GALAXY IS FORFEIT.
In the same mission, Gaius Selan's body is hijacked through his Borg implants as part of Sela's escape plot. When the player rescues him, it's made clear that he was conscious the whole time but unable to control his actions at all.
There's also the fight with the Herald. If one of them gives you a hard time...!
The fate of the Krenim, as revealed in "Time in a Bottle". Their Imperium fell to a genocidal Vaadwaur invasion that saw nearly the entire species exterminated to ensure their temporal technology could never be used against the Iconians. The only surviving colony worlds, Kyana Prime and its moon, had to shift themselves out of phase with the rest of the universe to escape destruction, and now they're forced to live in a terrifying Phantom Zone where the slightest malfunction in the system could either return them to normal space where they would be wiped out by the Vaadwaur within hours, or collapse their pocket of spacetime altogether and doom them to Cessation of Existence (or worse).
For all those who are tired of watching the Na'kuhl failing at everything they try, My Own Worst Enemy is here to remind us all what competent evil time travelers can do. And it'snotpretty.
Remember the Sphere Builders? Turns out they haven't been idle since their defeat in Star Trek: Enterprise: the "Agents of Yesterday" expansion reveals that they've been experimenting with better ways to create Expanses, and they're just about ready to come back to the Milky Way for round two... this time with new allies in the Vorgons, Na'Kuhl, Krenim, and Terran Empire.
And those experiments? They wiped out entire alternate universes in the process, murdering countless civilizations and god-knows-how-many trillions of people in cold blood. They see this as perfectly justified at best, and completely irrelevant at worst. They may be the best example of Omnicidal Maniacs in the whole Star Trek franchise.
"Do we not have a right to return home? We were all but exterminated by the Alliance and its allies. We fled their actions, only to find ourselves trapped in this pocket of space. Do we not have the right to try to set things right for our people? And if a few universes are altered or, yes, even destroyed along the way, this is perhaps the price we must pay. There can be no higher priority. This is the very cornerstone of our culture."
It's worth reiterating that their ultimate goal is to terraform the galaxy to support their new extradimensional physiology. Not the planets, space itself.
They've also been messing around in the Kelvin Timeline, and appear to have turned at least some of the Klingon factions there into proxies, just like they did with the Xindi. Considering how strained Federation/Klingon relations are in that time period, this alliance does not bode well for anyone living in that universe.
There's also the Battle of Procyon V (the climatic battle between the Sphere Builders and the Federation), which due to Timey-Wimey Ball is constantly replaying itself every time the timeline is tweaked, but with subtle changes each time. What worked for Starfleet in one iteration of the battle may not work in the next one, so they constantly have to be on guard for shifts in the timestream that could turn the tide against them. Even worse, the battle is a perfect case of Evil Only Has to Win Once: if the Sphere Builders ever do manage to prevail, there will be no way to hit the Reset Button because their victory will allow them to create a galaxy-wide Expanse that completely ruins our laws of physics and makes time travel impossible, dooming all that lives to a horrific death.