Her name is Erica Ortegas, and she flies the ship. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds fans have begged for Melissa Navia's Ortegas to do more than that, and while she had a bigger presence in Season 2, there were still complaints about her not getting enough screen time. Ortegas will return to appear in Season 3 whenever that arrives for those with a Paramount+ subscription, but to say I'm worried about the character when the season actually premieres is an understatement.
I think there's a chance, maybe even a good chance, that Erica Ortegas will leave Star Trek: Strange New Worlds by the end of or during Season 3. I don't know the how or why, though there are some clear indicators pointing toward an exit for the character in the coming episodes.
Erica Ortegas Is One Of The Few Expendable Characters On The Gorn Ship
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2's ending leaves Captain Pike in a bind as Starfleet orders a retreat after a Gorn ship captures a number of his crew. While we don't know which path Pike will choose, we can reasonably assume which characters are in little to no mortal danger considering they're around in TOS. Dr. M'Benga, for example, is still on the ship, and while Sam Kirk will die eventually in a tragic way, it won't be on that Gorn ship.
That leaves La'an Noonien Singh and Erica Ortegas as potential victims who perish during the Gorn capture. One of those characters has already had multiple episodes centered around her and even had a love story of sorts with James T. Kirk in Season 2. The other one flies the ship. Star Trek fans probably don't need me to spell out which is which, nor which one feels more expendable from a storytelling perspective.
We don't know the fate of Erica Ortegas, and as actress Melissa Navia told CinemaBlend, she wasn't sure where her character's fate was headed, but essentially embraced the unknown of what was ahead. That sounds like an actor who may not have been assured their character will make it to the end of the series, which, if Strange New Worlds is meant to set up TOS, makes sense.
Strange New Worlds' Needs To Eventually Make Room For Sulu
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds isn't about Kirk's crew, but following the latest arrival of Scotty at the end of Season 2, it seems like the show is slowly progressing toward staffing the appropriate bridge crew for when the famous captain does take command. Ortegas may fly the ship on Pike's crew, but when Kirk takes over, that's Hikaru Sulu's job.
If we're talking about members of the TOS bridge crew who need their stories better fleshed out at this point, Sulu is at the top of the list. The chief helmsman wasn't given much to do in The Original Series, and while future Trek shows expanded on the character, there's value in learning more about his story. It would certainly make sense for Strange New Worlds to bring on Sulu and tell some of that story before it ends.
I would not be the person on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds who has to make a case of who is more deserving of a story comparing Ortegas to Sulu. Both deserve having the spotlight shined on them, but an argument could be made for Ortegas to be re-assigned to another ship and given the opportunity to appear elsewhere in other adventures. Many have waited a long time to see more of Sulu, but bringing him in will come at a cost. Are fans ready to say goodbye to Ortegas sooner so that he can get his shine?
Erica's Story Arcs And Screen Time Has Largely Mirrored Hemmer's
Does anyone remember in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 when everyone was wondering why Hemmer was getting scenes but barely a chance to expand on his own story? There was a sense of, "Oh, maybe he'll get more stories in Season 2," and then bam, he was filled with Gorn eggs and had to sacrifice himself for the good of the rest of the crew.
Is the reason Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has kept us at arm's length from Ortegas is because they're setting her up for a heroic sacrifice? I know she was given the B-plot story in Season 2's "Among The Lotus Eaters," but she's mostly been relegated to sidekick status for a bulk of the adventures. Sure, she'll be the voice of reason in a scene or spout a funny one-liner, but little to actually progress her character arc.
This feels similar to the path Hemmer took, and we all know how it ended for him. It's entirely possible that Ortegas will need to do some wild stunt in order to free the rest of the hostages of the Gorn, but it will require a tremendous sacrifice on her behalf.
While possible, I'd have to think Strange New Worlds would balk at the idea of killing off Ortegas. Both co-showrunners are aware of the calls for more of her on the show, and it would seem like an easy way to anger a fair chunk of fans who have held out hope she'll have a bigger role in future episodes. Even so, there's no denying that there are some parallels between her and Hemmer's story, so here's hoping the same isn't true for their character exits.
As someone who loves Ortegas and wants to see more of her, I'm certainly hoping she'll be with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds until the very end. For all we know, that might end up being the case, especially since Paul Wesley revealed he doesn't think he'll be taking Anson Mount's job while the series is still running. As long as Kirk doesn't take command, there's always time for "More-tegas," but we'll have to wait and see if the writing staff and co-showrunners decide to give her more storylines.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is renewed for Season 3, but it could be some time before we see it air. Check out the first two seasons on Paramount+ in the meantime, and keep an eye out for upcoming Trek shows on the horizon.