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?