I’ve been an avid fan of Star Trek since I was very young; starting first with Picard and his crew of the NCC-1701-D on Star Trek: the Next Generation. My mom and I would watch the TNG movies together. I picked up from there with Captain Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This became my Star Trek show. I’ve even gone so far as to sync my viewings of TNG, the movies, and DS9 to get that viewing experience. An experience I now share with my wife almost twice a year. I know I have a problem, and I don’t care.
It wasn’t until after JJ Abrams’ Star Trek (2009) that I got interested in the original series’ crew and their misadventures across the Alpha Quadrant. I delved deep into the original series. Even going so far as to watch the unaired OG pilot that gave us Captain Pike in the first place. An episode that, while never directly mentioned as being canon to Trek prior, was used to re-introduce the character on CBS All Access’ (Now Paramount+) Star Trek: Discovery during its sophomore season.
I wasn’t alone in thinking that this character was a breath of fresh air to what had become a bit of a slog through the galaxy. Long-time fans of Trek had started to get burned out by the constant action and drama of what had been deemed “Nu-Trek.” While it had given the franchise a necessary shot in the arm, it also had the unintended consequence of creating a rapid burnout. Fans clambered online for a return to classic Trek formats and types of storylines. Then in 2019, we heard the first rumblings. There was going to be a new show, centered around Pike and his being captain of the Enterprise, and it was going to be in an episodic format, AND it was going to be much more light-hearted than past Treks. It sounded too good to be true.
The long wait is finally over. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds just recently completed its inaugural season on Paramount+, and I’m here to say that it was everything I hoped it would be. I’d even be willing to say that it was almost perfect. Trek is notorious for stumbling out of the gate, but that is absolutely not the case here. While I do have a few minor gripes here and there, overall Strange New Worlds delivers on the promises it made and then some.
Rather than having one plotline connect each episode in the series, Strange New Worlds returns to the episodic format. This was a welcome change of pace, for me at least. Each episode loosely focuses around one character and how the events of that episode effect that character and their personal growth. Uhura, La’an, Number One, M’Benga, Hemmer, and Spock each have at least one episode centered on them which lets us get to know them better. We’re allowed to connect with these people on a basic level and we see them grow. We see what it is that drives these people, or conversely what holds them back and how they attempt to overcome it.
We’ll learn something about a character and it will come up a few episodes later when the show has given it some time to sink in and breathe a little. It helps to keep everyone in the crew interesting and characterize them all slowly throughout the season.
The bridge crew, led by Pike (Anson Mount), each create several smaller character-driven plotlines throughout the season. Each character is very distinct and they all bring a unique perspective to the table that allows them to solve the problems they face. Captain Pike is the paragon of what Starfleet stands for. He is calm, cool, collected, intelligent, charismatic, driven, and so much more. He genuinely enjoys being out in the thick of it and doing the research. He’s not combat driven. He wants to find diplomatic solutions to difficult problems. He’s the best of Picard and Sisko fused together.
Pike’s first officer, Una “Number One” Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn), is calculating while also managing to be kind and mentoring to several of the other crew members. She has an intense drive to help and do the best she can at what she’s doing. She and Security Chief La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) have an interesting friendship that gets explored throughout the season. It was a lot of fun to see them both slowly open and lighten up to the people around them. They both have demons in their past, but neither allows themselves to be controlled or defined by them. They’re the epitome of strong women, and I love it.
We meet Cadet Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) before her famous tenure on the Enterprise with Kirk and the OG gang, and we see her struggles with joining Starfleet and what ultimately brings her around to it. She’s incredibly skilled and the series wastes no time showing that she has every right to be there with the best of the best. Over the course of the season she rotates through each department on the ship, getting to meet all the different department chiefs/leads and seeing where she might be best suited. She bonds with a particular character more than any other.
Lt. Hemmer (Bruce Horak), is a blind Aenar, that is also a genius and the ship’s chief engineer. The show addresses it for a single scene, explaining that he does not require any additional assistance, and then allows him to move forward and do his job like a champion. He’s a bit bland at first, but he grows on you over the season. He seems like he would be a bit mean, but apart from a bit of an ego, he’s a stellar individual. He’s friendly, quick-witted, and resourceful. His job: “To fix things that are broken.” And that’s exactly what he did.
*cries in nerd*
Spock (Ethan Peck) and his betrothed T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) have an interesting romance throughout the season. With his wife-to-be being a full Vulcan, the two often find unique conflicts for their relationship. It’s actually kind of cute in a weird way. It’s like seeing two very nerdy kids start dating and figuring out how it works. Spock is definitely still Spock as we know and love him, but he’s a bit less old and wise. He’s still learning about how to handle himself and the intensity of his feelings. Meanwhile, T’Pring is surprisingly endearing for a supremely logical person. You’d think she would come across as cold, but she really doesn’t. She clearly cares for Spock and wants to learn as much as she can about him and his dual-culture to be a better partner.
There is a little bit of a tease at some kind of romance between Spock and Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush), but it’s not something the show lingers on. Nurse Chapel, herself, is a charming delight. She’s extremely friendly, having some sort of relationship with nearly every other main crew member. She’s light-hearted and fun. She and Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) work well together to solve the various medical maladies onboard the ship.
Dr. M’Benga and his daughter Rukiya (Sage Arrindell) have one of the most emotional relationships of the season, culminating in a particularly great episode, “the Elysian Kingdom.” M’Benga is a devoted father and a wonderfully optimistic man. He’s driven, dedicated, and kind. He manages to take even the most insane situation and find a way to make it work.
The look of nearly everything here is crisp. I love seeing the OG Enterprise redone in a slick polish. The design and presentation of the ship is beautiful. Other vessels look genuinely alien and have their own unique flare to them. Even the Romulans got a bit of a glow-up for their OG Bird of Prey that made it all the more sinister for the finale.
Ship battles are much more subdued and easy to follow here. There aren’t a million shuttles flying around every time the Enterprise has to fight something. Instead, the writers opted for more classic-style ship-to-ship naval combat. One-on-one, the fights are genuinely more engaging and they are so much more interesting because there are clear focal points to the combat initiatives. Even when they’re doing some pretty intense stuff it’s clear what’s happening, and that’s the highest compliment I can give.
The individual worlds that the crew travel to are all very different from each other and give each episode a sense of variety in setting and tone. We have big cities, jungles, deserts, frozen arctics, etc. Whether the crew is going to a new planet or just a different ship you know that it is going to have its own distinct look and feel to it.
Not everything is perfect though. There are definitely some moments where a few of the more CGI aliens don’t seem to fit into the very real world around them. In “Children of the Comet” for example, the opposing aliens look strangely flat and cartoonish. That same episode, however, has some genuinely amazing environmental visuals that I will gush over in my own time.
The Final Word
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is fantastic. Genuinely. From pilot-finale, the first season is exhilarating, insightful, intelligent, and fun. The characters are all distinct and have that classic Starfleet feel to them. Everyone is a professional. People aren’t screaming at each other to get their point across. It finally feels like Star Trek again. What more is there to say?
You can check out the first episode for FREE on Youtube if you’re still skeptical courtesy of the Paramount+ page. Once you’re done there, you can stream the entire season on Paramount+, along with all of the rest of Star Trek. Enjoy, and check back here on GVN for all the news, reviews, and everything you need to stay in-the-know! Hit it!
A Star Trek show that actually feels like Star Trek?! Inconceivable!
I’ve worked my whole life to become a comic book illustrator, writer, and stand-up comedian. Batman and Captain Benjamin Sisko helped put a good head on my shoulders. I spent most of my childhood saving Hyrule and the Mushroom Kingdom and seeing the Justice League save all of creation time and time again. I live in Johnson City, TN with my wife Kary and daughter Laila enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery and occasional show. Three puppies round out the family and take up the rest of the time that isn’t spent debating which Wes Anderson or Studio Ghibli movie to watch. I spend an inordinate amount of time binge watching SVU, Futurama, and Letterkenny, and when I’m not watching I’m listening to “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” or playing the occasional game of D&D. If there’s a nerdy endeavor out there, I’ve probably at least tried it.