Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One: Retrospective
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Sorry but unavoidable spoilers alert! RAISE SHIELDS!
At the time of writing, the latest spin-off from 1966’s Star Trek just left our screens with the season one finale, ‘A Quality of Mercy’. Star Trek as a franchise has long had an iron clasp on the first season or two of its shows not being very high quality and this is usually down to the writers, directors, actors and producers not having ‘found’ the characters yet. So should you watch this?
Well, that was a quick article. Editor, can I go home early?
OK, real article time. My word yes, you should take time out over 2 or 3 days to binge this great first season. I have written about the Star Trek franchise on here before and in particular, given my thoughts on different new shows like Star Trek: Discovery season 4 and the criminally underrated Star Trek Picard season 2. Also, a handy sort of ‘best of’ that is anything but exhaustive (but bless anyone utilising these).
Strange New Worlds began life as a part of Star Trek Discovery season two. Captain Pike, Spock and Number One (Anson Mount, Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn respectively) came on to that show for a few episodes and since they first appeared, that show (definitively ‘not bad’ in its freshman season) saw a definite uptick in quality to the strength it now enjoys. I and a fellow Trekkie at work in 2018 loved the results and both of us agreed the next live-action spin-off should star these three and tell you the story of their days on the U.S.S. Enterprise before James Tiberius Kirk became the skipper.
At a convention a few months later, I told Spock actor Ethan Peck (who is the spitting image of his Grandad, just as Sean Pertwee is of his father, who is also renowned in sci-fi circles) this, and he gave me a knowing smile and replied with ‘oh I hope we do too’.
No one can tell me he didn’t know it was already in pre-production by that day in very late 2019. When the pandemic is taken into account and the sheer length of time some Trek spends in development - looking at you Abram’s 4th Star Trek film and the development hell that is the Section 31 show!
The sets are positively oozing with the vibe of remaining faithful to their counterparts from The Original Series. The U.S.S. Enterprise just looks exactly like if Star Trek was a mere curio of the 1960s and was remade for modern audiences (the same helped me absolutely love the last James Bond film, No Time To Die) It more than met my expectations. I also want to add I hope the sets were made of cake, in episode 8 the actors absolutely chew all facets of the scenery.
The actors all embody their characters. It is such a hard task to pick the most valuable player of the cast due to their strengths. Indeed, like Trek has done in the past at least 4 times (The Original Series’s ‘The Naked Now’, The Next Generation’s ‘The Naked Time’, Deep Space Nine’s ‘Dramatis Personae’ and ‘Move Along Home’, they have characters playing against type. Trouble is that by these episodes, we barely know them so our responses are somewhat muted. Strange New Worlds takes this risk in episode eight, but due to the actors and writers just hitting the ground running, the results are just spectacular.
Speaking of spectacular, I am going to highlight just a few performances here. However, to give an exhaustive list of the great performances, I may as well just list all the ten episodes.
Our Captain is Christopher Pike, played by Anson Mount. Who I have met and is nothing short of lovely and class. Their acting is incredible, Pike just oozes confidence and approachability but is very much a human at the same time as not a human. He knows he is fated to be disfigured and bound to a life in his wheelchair, this season is his path to accepting this fate and the realisation disability really is not the end of the story.
One of the many very notable aspects to Robot Republic is how it has not shied away at all from Disability Pride. It is probably a coincidence at best that this show ended in Disability Pride Month. Star Trek has had disabled characters before (perhaps most notably Geordie La Forge, Melora and Dr. Julian Bashir) but seldom are the characters played by actors who share their character’s disability. As a disabled person myself (Ataxia and Asperger’s Syndrome), that never irked me. I doubt Mount is wheelchair-bound.
Doctor Julian Bashir. Very likely my 24th Century Grandchild
Geordie La Forge
However, it is a very valid criticism of able-bodied people portraying disabled characters. The Chief Engineer is Horak of the Aenar species, and as legally blind as their actor, Bruce Horak. Hemmer in fewer appearances than I would have liked brings such warmth, expertise and humour that it is a very safe bet that you dear reader, will love this character too.
The episode count is a very svelte ten. These seemingly enjoy the same budget as one of the aforementioned J.J. Abrams films or the best part of a 22 to 26 episode Star Trek series made from 1987 to 2005. Very reminiscent of Star Treks Picard and Lower Decks. Whatever the reason, this just benefits the show to nearly no end and above all, helps provide it with being yet another ‘in road to Trek’. Something that neither season of Star Trek: Picard (as much as I praise them) and definitely not Lower Decks (again, a show I will praise to death for something mentioned in the next paragraph) could lay a claim to.
The Easter Eggs are never obtrusive, but they are there. My word, there are so many and (to borrow a phrase from wrestling parlance) each which I noticed (undoubtedly there are many others) made me mark out. Very hard, no more than the Easter Egg in episode eight to my favourite Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine. It is a blink and you’ll miss it, but helps this show immeasurably link to the past shows while providing the aforementioned ‘in road’. Completely unobtrusive to those boldly going [for the first time] where no one has gone before.
Overall, I would definitely, 100% recommend this very episodic show. Currently, it is being pieced out one episode a week on Wednesdays on Paramount Plus (that won’t age at all … ) and soon all ten will be on there. Otherwise, it is safe to say this is a day one purchase when it hits DVD and Blu-Ray.
One final thing: while I share the level of enthusiasm this show gets, some fans have taken to saying it owes its success to being very episodic, unlike Discovery and Picard. While this it is true that it is episodic with implied arcs like Star Trek has done before, this really does the show a disservice and I feel it is fewer people reviewing it and more telling you what they think your opinion should be. My thoughts have been made clear in this article (somewhat painstakingly so based on this article, but as my friends at the Trek This Out podcast can attest, I can speak about a show I love for days). I invite you to once again tell me your thoughts on this season.
If you do take anything away from this, I’d like it to be me giving it a very glowing recommendation. And how I dodged all but the broadest of spoilers.
I would argue the aforementioned long-standing weakest seasons of each Star Trek show are firmly in their grave if this and Lower Decks are anything to go by. Personally, I hope not, as if the quality and representation of disability get somehow higher, as I said in this article, it is still a good day to be a Trekkie and moreover, I can’t wait for the new fans which Star Trek more than deserves.
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