This discussion and assessment consists of spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode 1, “Strange New Worlds.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is at least self-aware in its nostalgia.
The maximum interesting element of the display’s first episode, helpfully titled “Strange New Worlds,” is the way in which the collection situates itself effectively in its relationship to the past. This is, in the end, a prequel collection to the original Star Trek, targeted on the solid of characters from the aborted 1964 pilot, and additionally a obvious try and return to the episodic model of storytelling that defined Star Trek until the 1/3 season of Star Trek: Enterprise.
The most forgiving read of “Strange New Worlds” is that the show is aware this. Building off the second one season of Star Trek: Discovery, Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) is a haunted man. Following his “temporal cognizance displacement” on Boreth, he’s aware about the fate waiting for him in “The Menagerie.” He knows what all Star Trek fans do: that the end of Christopher Pike’s story cannot be a great one.
“I know exactly whilst and the way my life ends,” he explains at one factor. “And I didn’t simply see it. I felt it, each agonizing 2nd.” In essence, Pike is trapped in a prequel to which he already is aware of the finishing. It’s an effective metaphor for the perils of a challenge like Strange New Worlds, built on the understanding that this narrative is hemmed in by the confines of the established canon, deliver or take some ambiguous continuity about whether or not Starfleet knew about the Gorn before “Arena.”
“Strange New Worlds” processes this principal tension in an admittedly intriguing manner. Early in the episode, Pike rewatches The Day the Earth Stood Still whilst making ready breakfast. It is a preference that situates Pike in the franchise’s beyond and destiny. The Day the Earth Stood Still is a made of Fifties American technology fiction, predating the unique Star Trek. However, it become also directed by way of Robert Wise, who could move directly to noticeably redefine what Star Trek may be with The Motion Picture.
To its credit, Strange New Worlds has a higher read on Christopher Pike than Discovery did. Pike is some thing of an oddity inside the Star Trek canon. As played by Jeffrey Hunter in “The Cage,” Pike became a brooding and introspective protagonist, one nursing deep traumas. Part of the trouble with “The Cage” become that it became a story about a man who spent maximum of the tale actively resenting exploration and adventure. Hunter had gravitas and depth, but the display wanted William Shatner’s allure.
As the dwelling embodiment of a model of Star Trek that never genuinely existed, one replaced through “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and clumsily folded again into continuity in “The Menagerie,” Pike has long been an item of fascination for Star Trek lovers. There had been novels and comics written approximately the person. Bruce Greenwood offered a compelling take on the person in J.J. Abrams’ first two Star Trek movies. Pike is a ancient curiosity, a captivating footnote inside the larger canon.
A giant a part of “Strange New Worlds” is given over to reconciling Anson Mount’s portrayal of Pike with the legacy of Jeffrey Hunter. “Strange New Worlds” consciously riffs on of Hunter’s most iconic display roles, performances that could absolutely have fashioned how audiences would have reacted to him because the lead actor in a overdue-Sixties area exploration display.
“Strange New Worlds” offers Pike as a futuristic cowboy, dwelling on his ranch in Deer Creek, Montana. The setup recalls Kirk’s (Shatner) revel in of the Nexus in Star Trek Generations, all the way down to the captain’s education of breakfast for a woman companion before being recalled to active obligation. There are beautiful pictures of Pike on horseback as the trip sweeps in to gather him, drawing a connection to Hunter’s iconic function in John Ford’s conventional western The Searchers.
However, “Strange New Worlds” draws a much more potent connection to Hunter’s other memorable display screen function. Hunter played Jesus Christ in Nicholas Rey’s King of Kings. In its own way, “Strange New Worlds” positions Pike as a Christ-like discern. Not most effective does Pike represent the dawn of the Star Trek franchise, but he’s confused with the foreknowledge of his very own loss of life and the question of whether or not he’s willing to follow through on that self-sacrifice understanding that his struggling will save others. He is even reintroduced with a nice scruffy beard.
The show’s method to Pike is compelling as a individual idea and as a chunk of self-conscious meta-fiction. Pike’s information of his very own fate permits Strange New Worlds to grapple with the truth that the futuristic international of Star Trek has end up increasingly trapped and defined through a nostalgic pull to the past. This is all very acquainted, to the point that the simplest essential Enterprise team member to feature in “Strange New Worlds” with no ties to current Star Trek canon is Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia).
“Strange New Worlds” represents a clean escalation of the nostalgia that has knowledgeable and formed recent seasons of Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks. Largely eschewing long-shape serialization in prefer of self-contained journey, the format of the show takes the franchise again to May 2003. At that factor, Star Trek: Enterprise already felt outdated in comparison to present day tv, even technology fiction like that same yr’s Battlestar Galactica relaunch.
“Strange New Worlds” is decidedly old school, specializing in an undercover project to a primitive alien society. This is a standard Star Trek plot, one that has pushed episodes like “The Return of the Archons,” “Who Watches the Watchers,” “First Contact,” “Civilization,” and “The Communicator.” Indeed, with its allegory approximately the capacity damaging power of an obvious stand-in for atomic strength, it recalls “Time and Again,” an early episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
Even the layout of the aliens feels remarkably old fashioned. “Strange New Worlds” eschews the overall-face masks or frame designs hired by using Discovery, as an alternative choosing the familiar comforts of the “brow of the week” aliens that were so famous on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. The episode is pointedly privy to this. The maximum alien function of the population of Kylie-279 is their outsized forehead.
“Strange New Worlds” is honestly aiming for a traditional Star Trek sensibility, proper right down to constructing its show round a primary allegory. The trouble is that the episode’s valuable allegory feels truly old, a danger that could make extra feel to viewers looking the authentic Star Trek than to modern audiences enjoying Strange New Worlds. The planet is populated by using “ warring factions,” one in every of which has constructed “a warp bomb” by emulating the Federation.
This is a trendy Cold War allegory, evoking conventional Star Trek episodes like “A Taste of Armageddon” or “A Private Little War.” It doesn’t scream present day resonance. To be fair, “Strange New Worlds” does try to tie civil unrest to extra present day occasions. Pike performs photos from the Capitol riots, and Spock (Ethan Peck) makes casual connection with a Second American Civil War, the sort of delightful off-the-cuff global-constructing that recollects franchise allusions to “the Eugenics Wars” or “World War III.”
However, even then, “Strange New Worlds” falls into a number of the familiar traps of old Star Trek storytelling. As with traditional episodes like “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” there’s an unconvincing “both-aspects-ism” to Pike’s “why can’t we all just get alongside?” rhetoric. “Are there groups that refuse to negotiate with you?” asks a neighborhood leader (Samantha Smith). “Powerful agencies?” The episode in no way responds to her factor. It is, in any case, hard to be bipartisan with an uncooperative opponent.
“You’ll use competing ideas of liberty to bomb each different to rubble much like we did,” argues Pike in what the episode provides as a stirring monologue. It’s a relatively trite sentiment that ignores the fact that now not every person is equally responsible for political violence. Just as “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” shows that each oppressors and oppressed should mellow out, “Strange New Worlds” in no way settles on a more profound remark than that everybody have to take a deep breath.