Review: ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ blends some old with the new for all fans
Yet another entry into the “Star Trek” franchise has debuted.
Spun off from “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” gives one segment of fans something they’ve screamed for since the franchise veered off its episodic path with “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” nearly three decades ago.
They wanted return to self-contained stories that possessed a definitive resolution inside an hourlong time frame with stories that are optimistic. Based on the first five episodes made available by streaming service Paramount+, “Strange New Worlds” succeeds beyond what any fan could have hoped.
Being a “Trek” fan, I’ve enjoyed something from every iteration of this franchise over time. I’ll confess that the original — featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly as the focal points — ranks in the middle of the pack on my list of the best of “Trek.”
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The problem was in the ideology of “Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry who demanded there be little in the way of conflict among the crew of the USS Enterprise. That can get fairly dull, fairly quickly, which is probably why “DS9,” set on a space station among some of the most duplicitous species the “Trek” universe had ever seen, became and remains my favorite. It was the first “Trek” series to present a serialized narrative and I loved every second of it, even its misses, because Roddenberry’s optimistic vision ultimately shone through, generally brighter than any other series in the franchise, but the show possessed a realistic take on life.
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“Strange New Worlds,” despite those fans expressing a preference for an episodic format, represents a middle ground for those who enjoy it all. That comes courtesy of what was wrought on “Discovery.”
Capt. Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Mr. Spock (Ethan Peck) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) appeared in an emotional 10-episode arc that presented profound issues for Pike and Spock and, given their heft, it would be disingenuous to just plow into a new series without acknowledging them.
It’s proving to be clear, however, that they will continue to be handled. For Pike, he’s a man who knows his heroic, yet tragic future revealed in “Discovery.” That narrative thread will continue to be weaved throughout at least his first season and, I have to imagine, beyond.
For Spock, his future is clouded by knowing a sister with whom he was very close — Michael Burnham, now captain of Discovery — is out there somewhere in time and he’s not allowed to acknowledge her whereabouts.
For both characters, it represents heavy baggage to lug through the series. However, the show’s runners have a firm grasp on what a lot of fans want in presenting those self-contained stories.
In that regard, so far, they’ve delved into “Trek” canon to offer other characters we know other than Spock. In bringing a young Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) as a cadet on the show, they give fans a character linked to the original series and films and it helps that Gooding excels in the role, bringing youthful exuberance, but also, as written, showing Uhura’s wit and intelligence. She is more than a background character.
There are, however, plenty of fresh faces. Hemmer is (Bruce Horak), the ship’s engineer who happens to be a member of a rare race of Andorians initially introduced in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” So far, he’s incredibly crusty and completely compelling, but Horak’s portrayal hints at something more beneath that exterior.
As for Mount and Peck? They have the benefit of having a trial run with the characters they portray and it shows in the easy rapport and chemistry. Will it reach James T. Kirk-Spock levels? That remains to be seen, but it was alluded to in the original series. However, when Lt. Kirk joins during the second season (Yes, that’s been announced), it merits attention.
In the meantime, enjoy “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” for the blending of old and new it represents.
George M. Thomas dabbles in movies and television for the Beacon Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ByGeorgeThomas
Show: “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”
Cast: Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Rebecca Romijn, Celia Rose Gooding
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Review: ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ strikes narrative balance