Why Strange New Worlds is the show Star Trek – and the world – needs right now
The Star Trek: Strange New Worlds crew
What's in a name When it comes to Star Trek TV shows, one title says a lot. The opening credits from The Next Generation were enough to tell us that it was Trek for a new generation. Voyager implied a crew on a long trip; Picard immediately made it clear that the mission was a man. The prequel series Enterprise tried to make a statement by completely removing Star Trek from its name - although it reintroduced it for the third season when the producers realized that their mediocre efforts at subterfuge did not deceive anyone.
The recently announced Star Trek: Strange New Worlds probably has the most impressive title of the lot. From James T. Kirk's original five-year mission statement - you know, that is the search for new life and new civilizations - it conjures up the spirit of adventure, this formula of an intrepid crew that bravely remains unexplored regions of the galaxy. It has the potential to be the purest distillation of the original Star Trek ethos since The Next Generation was last screen-blasted in 1994, and could be just what the franchise - and Planet Earth - needs in these unusual times .
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Strange New Worlds certainly seems to be the show the Star Trek believers want, with fan power driving the series green light. The audience was so excited about Captain Christopher Pike, Science Officer Spock and First Officer "Number One" when the USS Enterprise entered Star Trek: Discovery last year that they received the command codes for their own spin-off. Think Angel, Frasier or - um - Joey, but in the 23rd century.
"When we said we heard the fans love Pike, Number One and Spock when they boarded Star Trek: Discovery last season, we were serious," said Trek executive executive and TV commander, Alex Kurtzman, opposite StarTrek.com. “These iconic characters have a long history in the Star Trek canon, but so many of their stories have yet to be told. The Enterprise, their crew and their fans are facing an extraordinary journey to new frontiers in the Star Trek universe. "
Of course, these limits are not entirely new. Pike, Spock, and Number One even pre-date Kirk himself after leading the enterprise crew in the original Star Trek pilot. The only film from 1965 that was only shot in "The Cage" did not find a place among network executives and was only broadcast decades later - although the pilot turned to canon by flashbacks in the two-part series "The Menagerie" of the original series has been. The suits had seen enough to give Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry an unlikely second chance, but when the series left Spacedock in 1966, only Spock was on the Enterprise Bridge.
With less than an hour of play, the original Pike Jeffrey Hunter never really had a chance to stand out. Indeed, despite his good looks as a matinee idol, Hunter's Pike is too dry and too narrow to convince as the main character of an action TV show - there is little evidence that he ever became an icon of Kirk's pop culture - shaped dimensions.
But in just one season aboard Discovery, Anson transformed Mount Pike into one of Starfleet's most memorable commanders, a man whose decency as a boy scout never stood in the way of his innate charisma. The contrast to the evil mirror universe CO Gabriel Lorca could not have been stronger - this pike is so honorable that he has painful visions of his tragic future on his chin for the good of good - but he immediately made the captain's chair his own.
When Discovery set off into the far future in season two finale, established continuity made Pike lag behind. So Strange New Worlds offers a welcome excuse to keep him - and Spock and number one - on TV. This is good news, because Mount, Ethan Peck (as Spock) and Rebecca Romijn (as number one - a comparative blank board at the time) have already done enough to indicate that they have sufficient chemistry on the screen, to broadcast a show. Treated wisely, the trio was even able to reproduce the legendary Kirk / Spock / McCoy axle, which was the engine room of the original series.
Classic Star Trek values
If either Discovery or Picard was your introduction to the Star Trek universe, you might be wondering what executive producer Akiva Goldsman was talking about when he said Variety: “We'll try to fall back on some classic Trek values to be more optimistic and episodic. "
In Trek terms, however, the recent highly serialized, morally ambiguous shows are the anomaly, as many contemporary products as the half-century-old franchise from which they emerged. In this era of top-notch television - dominated by gray anti-heroes and complex moral choices - Roddenberry's idealistic vision of the future felt out of date, an anachronism of old-school network television. But now that Trek has proven it can escape its roots, there is no reason why it shouldn't return - why should you apologize for being part of one of the largest pop culture franchises ever?
Standalone stories of the week are part of Star Trek's DNA. Shine on a new planet, solve a few problems, go home and forget everything - that's been part of the mix since day one. But like Doctor Who, the ability to be a new show every week and tell a different story in a different place with a new cast of supportive players has always been the key to Trek's longevity. There are still a lot of strange new worlds to explore and a lot of debate about the pros and cons of violating the Prime Policy. Who wants The Orville to have all the fun?
Furthermore, there is no reason why Spock's old adage about "infinite diversity in infinite combinations" should not apply to Star Trek TV shows. After Kurtzman told the Hollywood reporter that "the intention is to have some Star Trek in the air all the time," Discovery, Picard and Strange New Worlds are accompanied by the animated comedy Lower Decks and the spy drama Section 31 on the screen. This means that even more trek shows are running at the same time than in the glory days of the 90s - and if they all want to survive, they have to be different.
In front of strange new worlds ...
(Photo credit: Netflix)
... we have Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 that we can look forward to. Click this link to find out everything we know about S3.
The rulers realized that in the 90s and early 00s, Deep Space Nine's space station was a huge departure from next-generation spaceship adventures, while Voyager lost in the Delta Quadrant (theoretically) messed things up again. But - aside from DS9 - these shows were often accompanied by a "What Would Roddenberry Do?" - hindered approach that kept the ongoing storylines and conflicts between the ship's crew to a minimum. Even Enterprise, a century before the original series, struggled to break free from the franchise's longstanding conventions. At the very least, there should now be the freedom to have five shows that all determine their unique course in the Star Trek universe. Everything trek but everything different.
With Discovery and Picard moving the franchise into the 21st century, the course is free for Strange New Worlds to celebrate the past of Star Trek, the modern franchise's anthem of positivity. The depressing state of planet earth does not mean that every television program must be a joyous celebration of life. There will always be room for a complex drama that explores the dark side of human condition. But the optimistic ideals of future trekking - a world of tolerance, listening to other points of view and working towards a common goal - are all messages that we could use now. If Star Trek can't work outrageously in this room, what is it for?
Do you want more Trek reporting? Here is our guide to the Star Trek timeline
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