It may be titled Strange New Worlds, but there’s something refreshingly familiar about the eleventh television series to go by the name Star Trek. While the previous four current-generation shows have set out to take the franchise in new directions, this debut episode suggests that the latest iteration is returning to the mission statement that Gene Roddenberry laid out in the 1960s: the USS Enterprise. on a long-term trip. long-term mission to explore the cosmos. In other words, the staff and hardware may have changed, but this is the most the venerable old franchise Star Trek has felt in decades.
This pilot episode, also confusingly titled ‘Strange New Worlds’, picks up after the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, where the Disco team traveled to the 32nd century to save the universe from the megalomaniacal AI CONTROL. While those particular feats remain classified for most of Starfleet, the people left behind still bear scars: Spock (Ethan Peck) is grieving the loss of his sister, Michael Burnham, while Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) has gone off the grid in Montana as he struggles to come to terms with a premonition of his own death. However, it’s not long before they’re back in action, after an unusual First Contact scenario involving First Officer Una/Number One summons them back to the Enterprise bridge…
If you’re streaming a Star Trek show on Paramount Plus, it’s likely not your first trip through the Alpha Quadrant, and Strange New Worlds is steeped in nostalgia. Like in the alternative universe of JJ Abrams star trek In the movies, the primary-colored uniforms are a smart update on Kirk and Spock’s classic outfits, while the series’ original designs and sets get a charming 21st-century makeover. Meanwhile, the opening credits are effectively a love letter to the Enterprise, one of the most elegant spaceships on screen, and are beautifully soundtracked with a clever Jeff Russo riff on Alexander Courage’s classic original theme. There are also numerous more subtle nods to previous Treks, from mentions of aliens from the original Gorn series, to a prominent role for Pike’s in-canon predecessor in the Enterprise hot seat.
Crucially, Strange New Worlds also reminds us that the popularity of the original series was as much due to the chemistry between Kirk, Spock and the rest of the team as it was due to its frequently groundbreaking sci-fi. This new cohort is an up-and-coming group, and they instantly establish the kind of easy chemistry you’d expect in a group of highly-skilled co-workers: if Enterprise were an office, it’s a place you’d want to work.
Of the new faces, Christina Chong’s La’an Noonien-Singh is the most prominent, a coolly efficient newcomer to the Enterprise who isn’t afraid to act first and ask questions later. She also gets a start on a backstory which, as has been confirmed in interviews, ultimately linking her to her famous namesake, Khan.
Meanwhile, doctors M’Benga and Chapel (Babs Olusanmokun and Jess Bush), both reboots of the original series, do enough to suggest that Sickbay will be a fun place to hang out, Lt. Ortegas (Melissa Navia) brings the prankster heart at the helm, and rebooted Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) is filled with wonder as the Enterprise’s latest prodigy cadet.
But unsurprisingly, it’s the previously established characters on Discovery who take center stage, with the possible exception of Rebecca Romijn, who is more McGuffin than a full-fledged character at first. Spock’s entrance, in particular, has great relevance to a classic episode of the original series, we won’t say which one, while Pike can undo the ramifications of that vision of his death.
Anson Mount had already done enough in his stint on Discovery to establish his Pike as one of Star Trek’s great captains, his charismatic portrayal a total reinvention of the original wooden model played by Jeffrey Hunter in the Trek pilot episode ‘The Cage’. ‘. Here, he expertly treads a fine line between introspection and the doubts that would inevitably arise if you knew exactly how and when you were going to die, and being a top-tier Starfleet captain. While he is not as enthusiastic as he is often unfairly perceived to be his successor on the Enterprise, Captain James T Kirk, he is also prepared to break the unbending rules of the Federation for the best results.
While the episode’s plot explores the kind of standalone First Contact/Prime Directive themes The Next Generation might do in their sleep, it has fun subverting expectations that come from Starfleet’s role as galactic peacekeepers. If some of the allegory is a bit too much on the nose at times, the fact that Pike is watching the classic sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still at the beginning of the episode is no coincidence, current world events make it its anti-war sentiments feel even more relevant than they would have when it was written.
Trek purists will no doubt object to the fact that some of the devices don’t match the original pre-series setup, as the team frequently uses technology that, in the Star Trek Timeline, shouldn’t become commonplace until the next generation era. But otherwise, this is an extremely promising start to the latest branch of the ever-expanding Trek universe. Strange New Worlds may boldly go where its predecessors have gone before, but it’s doing it in style.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debuts on Paramount Plus (in the US) and Crave (Canada) on Thursday, May 5. An airdate in the UK is TBC.