TL;DR – One of the strongest opening seasons I have seen, jumping from genre to genre like it was nothing
Disclosure – I paid for the Paramount+ streaming service that viewed this episode.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Review –
In 2019, I wrote about how we were entering ‘A New Golden Age of Science Fiction on Television’ and back then, we only had Discovery and the coming Picard. We had no idea of the explosion of Star Trek that was about to come our way, and at the core of that new wave was the announcement of Strange New Worlds, a show that would explore Captain Pike’s time at the helm of the USS Enterprise. Another prequel series led to more than a bit of concern, but now that we have seen it, I can say this might be one of the best opening series of Television that I have seen in an age.
So to set the scene, after the event of Star Trek Discovery: Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2, Pike (Anson Mount) has been hiding out in his cabin in Bear Creek, Montana. He has been dealing with the revelation that he will be badly wounded in the future. To the point, he is very much considering leaving Starfleet. That is until Admiral Robert April (Adrian Holmes) takes a shuttle and unambiguously tells Pike that Number One (Rebecca Romijn) is missing and if he wants to leave, he can do it after this. Well, one, unfortunately, timed phone call to Vulcan to pick up Spock (Ethan Peck), and the Enterprise is on to Kiley 279 to find out what happened to the USS Archer. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
The first strength of the series is the characters, where we get a fantastic cast that hits the ground running in the first episode. Pike, Spock, and Una got a leg up with being able to craft their performances on Discovery, but even for those who didn’t, it still sings. Anson Mount stamps his claim as one of the best captains in Trek history, a height only outmatched by his hair quaff. Ethan Peck brings a new side to Spock as someone who does not have complete control of his emotions and tries to find his place as half-human, half-Vulcan. His scenes with T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) were one of the season’s highlights and helped bring more context to the one-sided representation of Amok Time. We didn’t get as much of Rebecca Romijn as I thought we would, but she still makes an impact and is more of a calming force on the show.
There is not a weak link in the entire cast. Celia Rose Gooding has some big shoes to fill with her portrayal of Nyota Uhura, and she instantly nails it, being both a bridge to the future but also bringing us the road getting from here to there. Even though we knew where she would end up, it felt like a genuine exploration for her about where her future may lay. Jess Bush also brought something new to the role of Christine Chapel, which could not have been easy given the legacy of Majel Barrett. Bruce Horak immediately connects as Hemmer the Aenar from Andoria. He is equally grumpy but also cares deeply for those under his watch; every moment was a delight. I instantly believed that Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) was a pilot, that La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) had seen some stuff in her past, and that Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) is a doctor working on the cutting edge.
While the individual characters are great, they shine when they work together, which signifies a great ensemble cast. I mean, we even get to know interesting details about supporting characters like that Chief Kyle (André Dae Kim), who is quote ‘so mean’ in a tone that captures everything. Just about every member of the main cast gets an episode where they are the focus [everyone bar Ortegas, but hopefully that comes in Season 2]. For example, in Children of the Comet, on her first away mission, Uhura must unlock a puzzle through the power of her voice. This is then supported by a guest cast who all 100% know what show they are in and what role they need to play. The standout for me was Jesse James Keitel as Dr Aspen. She brought the perfect energy to the role both before and after the turn, and I hope we get more of her in the next season.
These episodes that focus on one character have helped the show move away from the serialised format that has been the hallmark of Discovery and Picard and become more episodic. For me personally, I like a mix of episodic and serialised episodes that we see in, say, Cowboy Bebop or Deep Space Nine. Here we get a light version of this, where each episode is primarily self-contained, but everything that happens impacts the rest of the season as running threads. For example, Una being genetically modified, or how Pike still knows that he is on the road to his own demise. What I didn’t expect was how much the show’s tone would shift from episode to episode. This season, we get both a body swap episode, where Spock and T’Pring get to walk a mile in each other’s shoes, and an episode where an alien has taken over the ship and turned it into its own playthings. Which gives the cast the chance to ham up every moment of the pseudo-fantasy moment, and they take that chance with gusto. Then we hard cut to a moral play about sacrificing children, in which they don’t cheap out narratively and commit to killing the kid at the end. The show does not mess around when it wants to step into allegory. Also, a ‘homage’ about Alien on a starship, where in every moment, a redshirt had the potential to bite the dust. Every moment of this show was a surprise and was better for it.
This first season concluded with a future version of themselves coming back in time to warn against going down a particular path, which might be the most Star Trek premise on a show that already knows what it wants to be. Seeing how Balance of Terror would have played out without James T Kirk (Paul Wesley) at the helm of the USS Enterprise was an interesting thought experiment and an excellent character piece for Pike. While I did enjoy the season, that is not to say that every part of the narrative worked. M’Benga’s storyline with his daughter Rukiya (Sage Arrindell), while it ended well, was filled with odd moments that didn’t connect. Also, I am not entirely sold on the new direction they have taken the Gorn, but I think they just need to fill in a couple more gaps in the depiction.
The narrative and cast were core strengths of this season, but I can not take away just how much work the production team did to make this season pop. I think this is the best use of the ‘Volume’ screen since probably the first season of The Mandalorian, with the crew knowing how to use its strengths [for example: depicting the Vulcan countryside outside the windows of a restaurant]. All of the sets have been designed with the TOS era in mind, but they have also been updated to make them feel realistic for a modern audience. I would 100% live in Captain Pike’s quarters and be happy for the rest of my life. Every planet and system they visited was rendered in extraordinary detail, which helped in the visual storytelling at every turn. Seriously, this is one of the most gorgeous science fiction tv shows I have seen.
In the end, do we recommend the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Absolutely. The first episode, Strange New Worlds, was a blast, and everything that followed went from strength to strength. Frankly, I can’t wait to see what they do in Season Two.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen Star Trek: Strange New Worlds yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Directed by – Akiva Goldsman, Maja Vrvilo, Leslie Hope, Dan Liu, Rachel Leiterman, Andi Armaganian, Sydney Freeland, Amanda Row, Christopher J. Byrne & Chris Fisher
Written by – Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet, Henry Alonso Myers, Sarah Tarkoff, Akela Cooper, Bill Wolkoff, Davy Perez, Beau DeMayo, Robin Wasserman, Beau DeMayo & Onitra Johnson
Created by – Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet
Based On – Star Trek Created by Gene Roddenberry
Production/Distribution Companies – CBS Television Studios, Roddenberry Entertainment, Secret Hideout & Paramount+
Starring – Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Jess Bush, Christina Chong, Celia Rose Gooding, Melissa Navia, Babs Olusanmokun, Bruce Horak & Rebecca Romijn with Adrian Holmes, Dan Jeannotte, Gia Sandhu, Melanie Scrofano, Sage Arrindell, Jesse James Keitel, Paul Wesley, Rong Fu, Jennifer Hui, André Dae Kim, Daniel Gravelle, Shawn Ahmed & Alex Kapp and Samantha Smith, Rong Fu, Thom Marriott, Andre Colquhoun, Curtis Legault, Genevieve Adam, Angela Besharah, Ava Cheung, Kaylee Harwood, Atticus Mitchell, Alden Adair, Ron Kennell, Graham Parkhurst, Tahirih Vejdani, Carlisle J. Williams, Lindy Booth, Ian Ho, Husein Madhavji, Michael Hough, Phil Huynh, Roderick McNeil, Makambe Simamba, Carlos Albornoz, Jessica Danecker, Cameron Roberts, Teddy Kellogg, Emma Ho, Mathieu Bourassa, Ali Hassan, Matthew MacFadzean, Ian Rayburn, Chris River, Megha Sandhu, Carolyn Scott, Matthew Wolf & Runa Ewok
Episodes Covered – Strange New Worlds, Children of the Comet, Ghosts of Illyria, Memento Mori, Spock Amok, Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach, The Serene Squall,
The Elysian Kingdom, All Those Who Wander & A Quality of Mercy
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