If you read my review of The Orville in last month’s issue, you’ll remember that I pointed to Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery as evidence that the Star Trek universe has lost its way. Well, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (SNW)—now streaming on Paramount+ only—is proving that the Star Trek universe is in the process of finding its way again, which should come as good news to the franchise’s fans.
What makes SNW better than the other Star Trek shows currently in production is that it returns to what made the original TV series of the 1960s so enjoyable: episodic programming that is rich in story without the convoluted and big overarching storylines. While it’s fun to see how the various Star Trek series and movies relate to each other, there’s something refreshing about having the challenge at hand dealt with and wrapped up in a single episode, which SNW does well.
This is not to say that SNW doesn’t have any overarching storylines, because it does, but they’re not the driving force behind each episode.
Set in the same time period as “Discovery,” SNW focuses on the crew of the pre-James T. Kirk USS Enterprise, led by Capt. Christopher Pike. The show also includes a couple of characters from the original Star Trek series, namely Spock, Nyota Uhura, and Nurse Christine Chapel. There’s also another big character tie-in to the original series, but you’ll have to watch to see who it is.
There are several SNW characters that bring an undeniable likability to the show, including Doctor M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak), and helmsman Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia). Each adds a richness to the show that only gets better as it progresses and the actors settle into their characters.
The confusion created by J.J. Abrams’ alternate-timeline Star Trek movies is a big stumbling block for some of the franchise’s fans, and understandably so. However, the beauty of SNW is that it stays true to what’s known in Star Trek talk as the “Prime Timeline”—the one established by the original series and its subsequent versions, including The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine, not to mention the various movies.
Several of SNW’s episodes include references and plot tie-ins to the original series, including the Khan storyline and the state in which Capt. Pike eventually winds up in the 1960s TV show. Come to think of it, with SNW’s Pike aware of the state he winds up in (which isn’t good), perhaps something will happen in future seasons that will alter the Prime Timeline. (Yes, there will be at least one more season of SNW.)
So, if you’re a fan of the Star Trek universe, SNW is worthwhile viewing. If you’re new to the franchise, SNW—and Discovery Seasons 1 and 2—are good entry points that will spark interest in the original TV series and its succeeding motion pictures and TV shows. If you’re not a fan of Star Trek, have fun watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix for the hundredth time.