After a celebrated arc on Season 2 of “Star Trek: Discovery,” the U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew are getting a series of their own, titled “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” Anson Mount won raves as Capt. Christopher Pike on the CBS All Access show, and he’ll be joined on the streamer’s new standalone series by Ethan Peck as his science officer, Spock, and Rebecca Romijn as Number One, his mysteriously-named first officer. Peck and Romijn also appeared on “Discovery.”
At first glance, the order of this new series could appear to be backward-looking fan service, a regurgitation of tried-and-true characters that’s boldly going nowhere. But by returning to the earliest roots of “Star Trek” — Capt. Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter, was the captain of the Enterprise in Gene Roddenberry’s pilot episode, “The Cage,” for “The Original Series” — it has a chance to escape some of the prestige TV trappings of “Discovery” and “Picard” and tell standalone stories that are less action-oriented and more philosophically inclined. And unlike those shows, “Strange New Worlds” could put exploration front and center once again, allowing for more episodic tales built around scientific discovery, moral dilemmas, and political allegories.
If not an outright anthology series, “Strange New Worlds” certainly does sound like a more episodic show. The official description from CBS All Access reads: “The series will follow Captain Pike, Science Officer Spock and Number One in the decade before Captain Kirk boarded the U.S.S. Enterprise, as they explore new worlds around the galaxy.” Akiva Goldsman wrote the first episode and will be serving as executive producer — in addition to maintaining his role on “Star Trek: Picard” Season 2 — alongside Henry Alonso Myers.
“Star Trek” franchise overseer Alex Kurtzman said, “These iconic characters have a deep history in ‘Star Trek’ canon, yet so much of their stories have yet to be told. With Akiva and Henry at the helm, the Enterprise, its crew and its fans are in for an extraordinary journey to new frontiers in the ‘Star Trek’ universe.”
In the decade before Kirk became captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Pike sat in the chair. But as seen in the “Original Series” episode “The Menagerie,” Pike ultimately becomes stricken with a paralyzing disease that leaves him unable to move or speak. Whether that will be dealt with on “Strange New Worlds” remains to be seen — Pike received a vision of his sad future on “Discovery” via a Klingon time crystal but chose to accept his fate so as to save his crew.
If there’s been any criticism lobbed at CBS All Access’s new “Star Trek” series it’s that they’ve been extremely dark, a far cry from the optimism of “Trek” past. It doesn’t mean that previous incarnations of “Trek” haven’t been dark — the franchise has been, going back to Edith Keeler’s death in “The City on the Edge of Forever” — but that a spirit of optimism is usually summoned by its characters to meet that darkness. It’s a worldview that actually allows you to engage with more philosophical and ethical issues than just a default, dismissive “Game of Thrones”-style attitude that everyone exists in shades of gray and moral relativism explains away everything. Some would say that optimism was missing in “Discovery” Season 1 — as well as for much of “Picard” — though Season 2 brought that spirit back resoundingly.
In a video released for the announcement of the new show, the cast of “Strange New Worlds” clearly underlines that spirit. Mount said, “It means even more to announce this at a time when so much of the planet is hurting… and we’re going to get to work on a classic ‘Star Trek’ show that deals with optimism and the future.” Peck added, “The ethos of ‘Star Trek’ is so curious and welcoming and unifying.”
Fans are certainly unified in their excitement for this one.