Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was very young. I remember getting home from school every day and rushing to the TV to catch the next episode, which at this point, c. 1971, were syndicated reruns. Most of the episodes were individual stories, and so could be shown in any order, which the local TV stations pretty aggressively made use of.

Except for one two-part episode: The Menagerie. This episode ended up including most of the original Star Trek pilot: The Cage. Even as a boy I was fascinated by this alternate set of characters, some of which, like Number One, were pretty compelling. (Number One being the first of three roles Majel Barrett, later Majel B. Roddenberry, ended up playing in Star Trek.)

It was years later that I learned this was Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for Star Trek, one that included competent women in command positions (and wearing pants), and that the series we later got had a lot of compromises to assuage studio and network executives. Of course, Roddenberry was able to make up for it to some extent by making the cast more multiracial, and the show was groundbreaking for its time.

Anyway, in what has been called the longest pilot to series transition ever, the new Star Trek series Strange New Worlds is actually about that original crew. Of course, this isn’t the early 1960s, so it’s not exactly the same crew in that pilot, but it includes Christopher Pike as captain, a young version of Spock, and Number One with the name Una Chin-Riley, as well as a host of other characters.

I have to say I’ve been disappointed with most of the recent Star Trek material, and so was leery of this series when it was first announced. Hearing that it would be returning to the classic individual episode story format made it sound backward looking. That caution continued even after watching the first episode or two. I decided I wouldn’t post about it until we were well into the season.

Well, we’re seven episodes in, and I feel comfortable saying that this series is working for me in a way Trek hasn’t for a long time. The single story episodes have been more entertaining than I anticipated, and there is continuity between them. There’s also a very good chemistry between the characters. This version of Christopher Pike is a pretty likable guy with a fun sense of humor. And the sets and equipment all resemble the ones from the original series, but updated past the 1960s limitations.

The show is a little preoccupied with the original series, including a cadet Uhura, a young Nurse Chapel, and a lieutenant Samuel Kirk (James T. Kirk’s brother). But it manages to make the first two compelling characters and the third an annoying one, which ends up working in the overall lineup. And the writers came up with interesting back stories for many of the situations in the original series, like Spock’s doomed romance with his Vulcan girlfriend, as well as his connection with Nurse Chapel.

Every episode so far has been entertaining, with very few of the blindingly stupid moments that threw me out of the story in Discovery. The most recent includes a villain I’m completely smitten with and looking forward to seeing more of in future episodes.

So, if like me, you’ve found recent Star Trek underwhelming, if not outright hard to endure at times, and have been holding off on this series as a result, you might want to check it out on Paramount+. It’s reportedly already been renewed for a second season, so there’s more material coming.

Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?

16 thoughts on “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

  1. I’m absolutely thrilled with Strange New Worlds, and I’m very excited about [insert villain name here] making a return. Overall, I enjoyed Discovery and Picard, but they kept making odd creative choices that would kind of throw me out of the story. So while I did enjoy them, I also understood why other fans weren’t so happy. But Strange New Worlds is excellent. I feel like this is what the J.J. Abrams movies should have been.

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    1. I’m actually more smitten with that villain’s wife, but it is good to see him brought into the story.

      I soured on Discovery pretty early. I did make an attempt to just jump over the mirror-universe stuff and see if I could get into it at a later point, but it never worked. I occasionally think about trying to start with a later season. It took effort to finish the first season of Picard, and the first episode of this season didn’t really draw me in. But I might eventually try another episode or two.

      I’m totally with you on on the Abrams movies, and Strange New Worlds being excellent in a manner they should have at least tried to be.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Discovery season four was really good, if you’re looking for a place to jump in again. It’s still got some issues, for sure, but it was a huge improvement over what they were doing before.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It should go without saying, “To each their own!” but I said it anyway just to be clear. I think you know I decided I’d had enough Star Trek for one lifetime around the 50-year mark. Certainly, nothing since the early days has called me back. In general, for me most modern storytelling uses a value system that doesn’t interest me anymore. In contrast, I didn’t find recent Star Trek underwhelming, but unwatchable. On that scale, I’d probably find this underwhelming. ๐Ÿ˜

    For me, Star Trek is caught between a rock and a hard place (so is Star Wars and all sequels). If they stay within the early-established bounds, they eventually drain the well. If venturing into new territory, well then why confine oneself to the franchise at all? Why not be original? Maybe I’m fickle, but even something I love(d) as much as Star Trek… I’ve moved on to greener pastures. (Like Farscape, for instance, or Octavia Butler.)

    “It’s dead, Jim! I’m an old, tired fan, not a doctor, damn it!”

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    1. Definitely to each their own. And with your strong resolution, I won’t attempt to convince you.

      I agree it would be better if they poured the budget for these shows into something new. But since they’re going to put these things out anyway, I’m more willing to give them a try. That said, I can definitely understand not wanting to sink time or subscription money for either the Star Trek or Star Wars franchise.

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      1. My “strong resolution”? ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜ More like just weary of the same stuff. I’m just not into franchises. I see them as self-limiting, repetitive, and often very commercial, but I don’t have an attitude about it (to each their own!), I just don’t find value in them.

        Star [Trek|Wars] or the Marvel franchise. I don’t have Disney+ or Paramount+ (or HBO Max), so I’m actually free from the siren song of most mega-franchises. I already have such a long list of stuff to read and watch that I don’t miss them at all. (Maybe an occasional, “Gee, it would be kinda nice to watch…”)

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        1. Sorry. Didn’t mean to imply anything with “strong resolution”.

          Yeah, all this exclusive content, and the proliferation of subscriptions, is becoming a real drag. Everyone wants their cut of that subscription revenue. I wonder how well it’s working though. I know a lot of people who rotate their subscriptions to keep the monthly outlay down. I suspect that’s at least part of the calculation involved in moving back to weekly releases of episodes, to keep subscribers for a longer stretch.

          It doesn’t help that a lot of these services also force us to watch a commercial before the show. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was something related to the show we’re starting, but often it’s about totally unrelated stuff I’m utterly uninterested in, like cheap shallow teenager sitcoms.

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          1. I’ve been asking myself if I really need YouTube TV for the few remaining shows I need it for. It’s $70/mo, so it’s a bite; Netflix, Hulu, and Prime, all return way more value (at least for me) for considerably less. I mainly had YT TV to watch Twins games, but they lost those and never got them back. Come to think of it, I should look into BBC America and Comedy Central subscriptions. The two are likely cheaper than YT TV, which I need mostly for Doctor Who and South Park. I’d bet BBC/A and CC have other shows that would interest me.

            But, yeah, it’s the same glut of choice that often plagues capitalism. Not just a glut of content, but a glut of platforms. Modern life — always too much of everything. A cool future would be micro feeds. Build your own personal subscription from only the channels you want and none you don’t. Subscribe by show, network, studio, franchise, whatever.

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          2. $70 is still a lot less than my current cable bill. I’ve often thought of cutting the cord and switching to YouTube TV, Hulu Live, Sling, or one of the other services. It might only be a transitory thing, to get used to not having the live TV feed. But BBC America is one of the few channels I watch a lot, mostly to have something on in the background. But I also make use of my cable subscription for a lot of online services I’d have to get separate subscriptions for, like HBO Max.

            I like the sound of micro feeds. I actually wouldn’t mind having all the content be ala carte, where we only pay for what we actually watch. Since I usually don’t watch that much, I would come out a lot better. (Aside from the rare periods like the anime binge I went on last year.) But it’s probably not a model that would work well for the average family.

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          3. Yeah, you’d want a rate schedule that leveled off as use increased. OTOH, providers might see it as small potatoes, but OTOH, they might also gain business they’d otherwise lose. I think the music business has evolved that way, towards small granularity. Given the technology and cost, there’s no reason providers couldn’t so something similar.

            But the news industry has talked about that for years, subscribing to only articles of interest. I don’t know how that business model has fared. It really does depend on an infrastructure. I gotta hand it to Apple. They make buying books or music almost too easy. Couple clicks, now you “own” it.

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          4. I’ve often wondered why providers haven’t forced us to commit to a yearly subscription. I suspect it’s what you’re describing. They get a lot more subscribers by allowing people to come and go. And they know a large portion of the population are like me, too lazy to bother once we’re used to having it on demand, even though it’s costing us.

            I hadn’t heard that about the news industry. Interesting. It seems like the biggest problem they have is that there are just too many sources for news, and not enough ways to add unique value. The Wall Street Journal and NY Times are able to provide it to some extent, but most aren’t.

            Amazon has the easy buying thing down too. They get a lot of money from me.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Haven’t had the opportunity to look at it, but it is nice to read some of your reactions. As for my own nutshell Trek Litany assessment… I could not convince myself to watch the recent series (I’m so out of it I do not even recall the name) where Michelle Yeoh is a captain and a black woman named Michael is her 2nd. I saw two episodes and checked out. Just did not feel like Star Trek to me. And there are five zillion other conspiracy laden streaming series on offer, and it seems to matter little the context, future, sci-fi, spy intrigue, etc. I enjoyed the spoof ‘The Orville’ for a while, though I could not last a season with it. Not really Trek either, but I think the genre needed that goofy take as a remedial. Far as the “classics” go, I loved the original series in childhood, was dissappointed by the Next Generation — seven years was way too long and it relied too heavily on the amped-up holodeck for material. Plus it was too new-agey in moral tone. The one where Janeway and company gets lost in the wrong side of the galaxy had okay moments, especially the arcs involving the Borg and Species 7942 (or whatever), but still, seven years way too long for the same ideas. I quite liked the other two: DS9 and the one with Archer and the Vulcan space babe. They featured interesting stories and aliens plus some nice characterizations and story arcs in the former.

    Much like with the baffling proliferation of Star Wars offshoots (or superhero varieties for that matter), I just cannot get interested anymore in the endless efforts to morph this delightful 20th century fiction idea into its own self-parodying genre. Think of something truly different, for pete’s sake.

    “Arrival”, for example, was a neat and compelling sci-fi film yarn of a few years back. So was “Ex Machina”. About 5 years ago I read “The Sparrow”, a wonderful sci-fi novel by Mary Doria Russell (?), and it would make for a truly interesting short series. At one poit Brad Pitt was interested in developing it and obtaining the rights. Not sure what happened.

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    1. I’m with you on Discovery (the one with Michael in it). I got a few more episodes in, but yeah, I agree on it not feeling like Trek. I actually watched a few episodes of the second season yesterday, specifically a couple involving characters, like Pike and Spock, who are in Strange New Worlds. But the difference in feel was immediate and visceral. ST:SNW feels like classic Trek in a way that Discovery seems to actively dismiss.

      I struggled with ST:TNG when it first started. It took a couple of years for me to warm up to it, and get beyond the “This isn’t Star Trek” reaction. I also recall it feeling excessively woke in the late 80s, although by contemporary standards it seems pretty mainstream. It appears to have aged well.

      I was never able to get into Orville. It seems like a show that can’t decide whether it wants to be a full-on spoof of Star Trek, or something more serious. It never clicked for me. I don’t think I got more than a couple of episodes in.

      I had issues with DS9 during its initial run, mainly related to how much it ripped off from Babylon 5. But it grew a lot on me during rewatches, and it now feels like peak Star Trek, or at least the peak of the TNG era. Voyager and Enterprise were okay, but I actually never watched them consistently.

      Yeah, when it comes to franchises, TV and movie productions are big, expensive, and therefore risky endeavors. Which I think explains the attraction of developing within a “proven” concept. But it seems to mostly be an illusion. A movie or show with “Star Wars”, “Star Trek”, or “Marvel” in the name may have some guaranteed appeal to a die-hard fan base, but I think history shows that isn’t sufficient and each story has to have its own appeal.

      I agree it would be good to see them adapt other books or try other concepts. The trick is convincing the money people that it’s a good investment.

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  4. Thanks. I too was captivated by the original series which I watched at my boarding prep school in the late 1960s. I hate to say this you you of all bloggers but there was a distinct mystical element to some of the episodes. All powerful strange beings, some good some evil. Gods in all but name.

    I have not enjoyed anything much of Star Trek ever since. But I will take a look since you seem to be enjoying the latest incarnation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember reading someone years ago (actually decades ago I think) complaining that Roddenberry basically only had two types of plots in his toolbox:
      1. Humans meet one or more gods
      2. Humans meet a society with false gods
      My boss from a few years ago, who had never seen the originals, was working his way through them, and had a pretty similar observation. Still, Roddenberry got a lot of mileage with those types.

      One reason this new series may be working for me is that the stand alone episodes allow for stories where the fate of the whole galaxy isn’t on the line. It’s usually down to just one planet, or sometimes just the ship and crew themselves in danger. It also just allows for more variety than a typical season long story does.

      Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

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