facebook-pixel

‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ is pretty great — so the impossible-to-please fans should just quit whining

The latest series is a lot like the original, with vastly better special effects.

(James Dimmock | Paramount+) Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura, Melissa Navia as Ortegas, Ethan Peck as Spock, Bruce Horak as Hemmer, Anson Mount as Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Una, Jess Bush as Chapel, Christina Chong as La’an and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds."

I am totally sick of alleged “Star Trek” fans who do nothing but complain about the new series.

Yes, “Discovery,” “Picard,” “Lower Decks’' and “Prodigy” are different from the original series, “The Animated Series,” “Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise.” But the whiners have forgotten that the older shows had become so repetitive that when “Enterprise” ended in 2005, we had to wait 12 years to get another “Trek” TV series.

I’m not going to argue that the newer series have been flawless. But the older series — even the original — were far from perfect. They each produced bad episodes, even bad seasons. So I have no problem at all with trying something different. Some seasons have been better than others, but there’s been a lot to like in “Discovery” and “Picard.”

I know people who love “Lower Decks.” I’m not one of them. But I’m not going to fault the show’s producers for their efforts.

Having said all that — and at the risk of sounding hypocritical — “Strange New Worlds” looks like the best of the five “Trek” series we’ve gotten since 2017. It’s also the most similar to the older bunch. It is, in many ways, the original series with vastly better special effects.

(The first episode starts streaming Thursday on Paramount+, with an additional new episode on each of the nine successive Thursdays.)

Unlike “Discovery” and “Picard,” the 10-episode Season One of “Strange New Worlds” is not one continuous narrative. It’s 10 separate stories featuring the pre-original series U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount); Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and Mr. Spock (Ethan Peck).

(Marni Grossman | Paramount+ ) Rebecca Romijn as Una/Number One, Anson Mount as Pike and Ethan Peck as Spock in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds."

Those three characters were reintroduced in Season Two of “Discovery.” Mount was great as Captain Pike, and a lot of people — including yours truly — called for a new series featuring Pike/Mount and the Enterprise. “The fan reaction has been unlike anything I’ve experienced in my career,” Mount said. “To get that kind of feedback is both surprising and deeply encouraging.”

In the first couple of episodes of the new show, Pike is morose and obsessing about his future. In “Discovery,” he learned his fate, which we’ve known since 1966 — that he will end up hideously disfigured and completely disabled from exposure to radiation while saving the lives of a group of cadets. His feelings are completely understandable, but, at times, threaten to overwhelm the humor and charm Mount brought to the character on “Discovery.”

The powers that be behind “Star Trek” — led by executive producer Alex Kurtzman, the current godfather of the franchise — were smart enough to know a good thing when they saw it. And, almost 56 years after “Star Trek” premiered, they’ve done a marvelous job of recapturing the spirit of the original in “Strange New Worlds.”

“Our show speaks to the final frontier when it was really in its infancy,” said Kurtzman, pointing to a “sense of nostalgia that very much permeates the show: The sense of hope, the sense of optimism, the sense of exploration, and the spirit of adventure.”

(Marni Grossman | Paramount+) Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura and Ethan Peck as Spock in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds."

The crew of this Enterprise also recasts three roles we first saw in the original series — Jess Bush as nurse Christine Chapel; Celia Rose Gooding as Cadet Nyota Uhura; and Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M’Benga, who appeared in two TOS episodes. And if you’re wondering if security chief La’An Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) is related to Khan Noonien-Sing, well, what do you think?

No spoilers here, but there are multiple appearances by or references to characters from TOS and a movie or two. They’re Easter eggs for Trekkers, and — at least in the five episodes screened for critics — they’re fun without being distracting or feeling gimmicky.

This is, of course, a prequel, which presents the same problem experienced in “Enterprise” and “Discovery” — maintaining “Star Trek” canon from the shows that came before it but are after it on the timeline.

Just remember: These are TV shows meant to entertain. They’re not documentaries.

Executive producer Akiva Goldsman said “canon is almost always delightfully challenging, except when it’s really a pain in the ass. But within reason, we still try to skew as closely to it as possible. Although we will body English around a thing if we really think that it’s hurting the drama.”

(James Dimmock | Paramount+) Jess Bush as Chapel and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds."

Let’s not pretend “Star Trek” canon has remained immutable. In TOS in the 1960s, we learned that World War III was fought in the 1990s; in the 1996 movie “First Contact,” we were told WWIII started in 2026. I’ll bet that, in some future “Trek” narrative, that’ll get moved even further ahead.

I have to admit that I’ve got some questions about whether canon is being violated in regard to the lizard-like Gorn in “Strange New Worlds,” but that didn’t make the Gorn-heavy Episode 4 any less enjoyable.

(Total geek moment: The admiral in Episode 1, Robert April, was the captain of the Enterprise before Pike.)

I swear some “Trek” purists want us to go back to the days when the Enterprise sets were made out of cardboard and plywood, and the crew visited planets populated by plastic plants and Styrofoam rocks. The ship on “Strange New Worlds” is more advanced — the effects are absolutely gorgeous — than those we saw in multiple series set more than a century later. It’s part of the appeal of the new show.

You’re not required to like the new “Star Treks.” If you’re completely devoted to the earlier shows, by all means go back and watch them. You’ll be missing out — “Strange New Worlds” is really good — but that’s your choice.

But, in the immortal words of the original Capt. James T. Kirk, William Shatner, in a 1986 “Star Trek” sketch on “Saturday Night Live” — “Get a life.” You’ll be happier if you stop obsessing, and you’ll be far less annoying to the rest of us.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

Return to Story