CINEMA

STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS (2022)

Series Review

Season 1 (Episodes 1 & 2)

Aired On: Paramount+
Release Date: 05/05/22
Acton/Adventure/SciFi

THE "IMDB" PREMISE:

"A prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series, the show will follow the crew of the USS Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike."

OUR REVIEW:

Star Trek has seen its share of strange new worlds since the let’s-call-it-a-reimagining of the franchise in 2009. The JJ Abrams actioneers were amusing if derivative, while both Discovery and Picard are criminally-inconsistent spectacles. Yet, Gene Roddenberry’s torch-bearers might have finally captured a bolt of that original NCC-1701 dilithium magic with Strange New Worlds.

 

Set five years before Captain James T. Kirk commands the conn, Strange New Worlds follows the adventures of the USS Enterprise. The mission is the same. New life. New civilizations. Boldly going to, well, strange new worlds. All under the command of Captain Christopher Pike.

 

For those perhaps only familiar with Pike and his courageous captaining on season two of Discovery, Captain Pike was first introduced in “The Cage” (1965). This initial Star Trek pilot was then adapted to the fan-favorite two-parter, “The Menagerie" (1966). Through a retelling, Jeffery Hunter played Pike as both a virial-if-stoic Captain as well as a badly disfigured and disabled man, a fate hinted to in SNW’s pilot.  With Strange New Worlds, Pike is affably played by Anson Mount who brings Kirk-like action and warmth to the role, not to mention a totally-rockin’ high-and-tight pompadour hairstyle. Rounding out the command crew are Ethan Peck as a yet-to-impress Spock, Rebecca Romjin as the enigmatic Number One, and Celia Rose Gooding as, wait for it, Cadet Uhura. The show delights in other name drops and cameos including Nurse Chapel, Chief Kyle, Admiral April, and even a Sam Kirk. And for fans enjoying those especially delicious deep cuts? Spock’s fiancée T’Pring is (re)introduced, and the bridge’s security officer sports the all-too-familiar surname of Noonien-Singh. Let’s all hope she has travel bans set for Ceti-Alpha V.

 

The first two aired eps follow in the tradition of Star Trek’s underlying theme of employing science-fiction as a literary tool to explore and provide commentary on contemporary issues. The pilot episode deals with a vaguely familiar pre-warp world whose extremist political views have opposing sides trying to one-up each other with more and more violence. Episode two features the valiant crew negotiating the views of a religious order in contrast to saving a planet in the path of a killer comet. In both eps, the commentary is light, but bites like a Vulcan nerve pinch. Also, and equally important, both are episodic mercifully avoiding that season-long slog.

 

The true star of Strange New Worlds - the Enterprise herself - looks gorgeous. Yes, the set designers could have totally rocked the bridge old school, as was beautifully shown in the iconic Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” – and they probably should have. But the finest looking ship in the Federation fleet is given a fantastic spotlight here.  

 

Hey, does Strange New Worlds take liberties with some of the characters? Are there moments of general eye-rolling corniness? And is this a complete replacement of all the glory of TOS? Yes, God yes, and thankfully no. Akiva Goldsman, whose entire career is littered with cornball projects, and Alex Kurtzman, a geek who gives fanboy cred to all his Trek work, helm the show. With this project, it truly seems like they are trying to appease Trek fans of all – ahem – generations. No doubt Paramount has seen the ridiculous streaming success Marvel and Star Wars both have found. Strange New Worlds is, so far, their best chance for a series to live long and prosper.

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OUR VERDICT:

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