The newest entry in the Star Trek Universe (STU), Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (STSNW), returns fans to the universe of the original Star Trek series. Members of the crew were first introduced when Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock were featured in Season Two of Star Trek: Discovery.
The new series will follow Captain Pike and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise as they explore new worlds throughout the galaxy in the years before Captain Kirk took over the helm of the Enterprise. Strange New Worlds brings back the weekly format of the original series where each episode is self-contained story unlike the current trend of a year-long overarching storyline.
The series premiere, “Strange New Worlds,” was written by Akiva Goldsman with the story by Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet. The episode centers around Pike’s return from a self-imposed exile to save one of his executive officers who has gone missing while on a secret mission. Pike must also struggle with the horrible and devastating knowledge of when and how he will die saving members of his crew.
This first episode introduces the audience to the remainder of the crew of the Enterprise: Jess Bush as Nurse Christine Chapel, Christina Chong as La’an Noonien-Singh, Celia Rose Gooding as Cadet Nyota Uhura, Melissa Navia as Lt. Erica Ortegas and Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M’Benga, and features recurring guest star Bruce Horak as Hemmer. Fans, of course, will recognize the characters of Uhura and Nurse Chapel from the original Star Trek.
The episode opens with what initially appears to be first contact with a new intelligent species but of course it is more. From there, the scene goes to winter in Montana and Captain Pike on his ranch. On his television the classic science fiction movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, is playing. This film foreshadows the conflict that is to come.
In the kitchen, a disheveled Pike is making breakfast for his overnight guest. His appearance contrasts with how viewers last saw him on Discovery. The knowledge of the date and manner of his death clearly has weighed heavily upon him and has resulted in his retreat from his duties as a Federation captain. Pike metaphorically and actually refuses to answer the call to duty as his communicator rings unanswered. Unfortunately for Pike, he cannot hide from his responsibilities as the Admiral (Adrian Holmes) arrives via a shuttle while Pike rides his horse through the snow. The Admiral orders Pike to get back on the “horse” (his command) and save Number One, who has not returned from a first contact mission. This juxtaposition between metaphor and reality works well.
Pike is not the only crew member called back early to help rescue Number One. Pike requests the return of Spock, who is currently on Vulcan with another character from the original Star Trek, T’Pring (Gia Sandhu). Pike interrupts the couple’s romantic interlude (T’Pring asked Spock to marry her) when he calls Spock back to duty to help save Number One. Fans may recall that one of the reasons that T’Pring chose to abandon Spock in the original Star Trek was due to his many absences, as well as his subsequent fame due his exploits on the Enterprise. This interruption appears to be setting the stage for her later decision.
The viewers’ first look at the Enterprise in drydock is impressive, yet brief. After Pike beams aboard, he starts reviewing the status reports, which allows for the introduction of the crew. Most of the crew appears to be relatively young, with the exception of Dr. M’Benga. As the ship prepares to leave to rescue Number One, the vision of his death haunts Captain Pike to the point of paralysis. While Spock brings Pike back to the present, this vision will continue to haunt him throughout the entire episode.
Thankfully, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds does not fall into the tired old trope where the lead protagonist refuses to admit what they are experiencing. Later, Pike confides in Spock regarding what he saw in his vision and his future. He questions his ability to lead; whether he will be too bold or cautious because of his knowledge regarding the time, place, and the cause of his death. The quintessential question humanity asks, even without the certainty that Pike has, is whether our fear of death makes us too bold or too cautious?
Upon their arrival at the planet, the crew notes certain anomalies before they are attacked. Upon further investigation, the Enterprise discovers what they thought was a nascent warp signature was actually the development of a “warp” bomb by one of the warring factions on the planet. In order to save Number One and not violate General Order 1, the away team must undergo a genetic modification to blend in with the inhabitants of the planet.
Pike and his team manage to rescue Number One just as Spock’s genetic modifications disappear to reveal his true appearance. Number One reveals to Pike that the wormhole that they had previously opened to the future provided the data to civilization on the planet to develop their warp bomb, which they planned to use against their enemies and possibly destroy themselves.
The great conundrum for Pike is whether or not to interfere more and stop the warring factions from destroying themselves or leave the planet to its fate. Pike, in true Kirk fashion, chooses to interfere.
Pike’s initial attempt to negotiate with the ruling faction fails miserably. While Pike’s intent and hope were admirable in admitting how the technology had leaked, he incorrectly assumed that the ruling faction would be unwilling to use a weapon which they assumed would end their conflict with their seditious group. Pike should have remembered his Earth history better, since the group with the better weapon rarely, if ever, chooses not to use it.
Pike reveals the Enterprise to show the planet that they had the bigger “stick.” Even with this initial show of force, the two warring groups are unable to compromise. They had centuries of conflict to overcome, even with the knowledge that they were not alone in the universe. Pike finally resorts to showing the planet’s possible future based on Earth’s past. It is a calculated risk on the part of Pike; however, where words are just words, the pictures of the devastation on Earth during its many wars (our future) has a profound effect on the leadership and populace of the planet.
They have to make the choice as to which future they want. Will they destroy themselves or will they go to the stars and join The Federation of Planets? Pike’s gamble pays off. The destruction of their civilization is averted as they choose to journey to the stars and join the Federation.
This episode and the actions of Captain Pike are reminiscent of the best of the original Star Trek. Pike exemplifies the leader who is able to think outside of the box and, with the help of his crew, makes a decision that saves the day. This pilot episode gives viewers a glimpse into each main character and what we can expect from them in the future.
If the pilot is any indication of what is to come this season and the next, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be a welcome addition to the Star Trek universe. It reminds us of the old while giving us hope for the future.