Strange New Worlds is classic Star Trek at its best

Pike, in his orange captain's uniform, smiles at an Enterprise computer screen.

Picture: Primordial

It’s a weird feeling to be excited about a show that I technically don’t care about. Or at least I shouldn’t. star trek is a franchise I’ve never been particularly interested in, and what I know about it has mostly been gleaned by osmosis over 20 years of covering nerd news. It was just enough for me to consider jumping in hiking when Discovery kicked off his new era, and again when Patrick Stewart returned as Picard for picardbut both felt like they required years of knowing that I just didn’t have.

But the new series, Strange new worldsmade me more interested in star trek that I have never been… ever?

I’m sure part of the show’s appeal to me is its clear and concise premise – it follows the team of the Business during “its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek new lives and new civilizations, to go boldly where no one has gone before”. The fact that SNOW features the same mission, ship and some of the same characters as the original 1960s star trek TV series also certainly had some appeal. But, after watching the first two episodes, I can say what made Strange new worlds one of the highlights of my week: IIt’s incredibly easy to watch, understand and enjoy.

That’s no mean feat for a show in such a big franchise and with such a dedicated fanbase as star trek. Just like all Marvel TV shows and movies are tied together in an inextricable saga, newer hiking shows like Discovery and picard have built on existing parts of the franchise, using them as load-bearing pillars to buttress their stories. Although Strange new worlds has ties to the larger franchise, they’re redundant. For example, I know (by this osmosis) that Strange new worlds is a direct sequel to the adventures of Captain Pike (Anson Mount) after starring in Discoveryis the second season. And of course I know that SNOW serves as a prequel to the original 1960s series, as Pike served as the first captain of the Business, seen in the series’ first pilot before being replaced by Captain Kirk. This and SNOW features younger versions of original series mainstays Spock (Ethan Peck) and Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). But I didn’t need to know all that to understand and appreciate the series.

As far as I know, the only major development that relates to SNOW of either series is that in Discoverythe second season, Pike learned that he was destined to be caught up in a radiation leak that would leave him disfigured, unable to communicate, and almost entirely confined to a survival chair, a future seen in the series’ original episode “The Menagerie, Part 1”. But Strange new worlds explains this quickly, succinctly and completely without becoming beholden to any other part of the hiking franchise. I haven’t seen either of them Discovery nor that TOS episode, and SNOW gave me everything I needed to know in the opening minutes of the pilot episode. I’m sure there are plenty of easter eggs for hiking fans throughout the series; for example, Spock’s fiancée T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) appears briefly for one scene. But the scene doesn’t hinge on knowing the encounter she and Spock will have in the future. Maybe that helps or gives things an extra layer of meaning, but it wasn’t necessary.

Image for article titled Strange New Worlds Is the Star Trek Show I've been waiting for, a non-Trek fan

Picture: Primordial

To say it’s refreshing is an understatement, but Strange new worlds pushes its simplicity even further. As showrunner Henry Alonso Myers promised, the show is episodic, which means that each episode tells a stand-alone story instead of a chapter of a continuous season-long narrative. To put it another way, Strange new worlds follows the classic pattern of The original series and The next generation as opposed to Discovery and picard. In each of SNOWIn the first two episodes, they encountered a sci-fi puzzle, solved it, and moved on. A whole adventure, a complete short story, told in 50 minutes.

The result is that watching SNOW is easy to watch in a way that most nerd franchise series just aren’t. What was the last star wars anything you read that wasn’t based on knowing at less the original trilogy somehow, or introduced a surprise character from the comic or animated series? What’s the last Marvel product you consumed that didn’t require you to watch other movies or TV shows, or read certain comic books, to make sense? There’s nothing wrong with that, and these long stories can be extremely satisfying when told when. But there’s also something hugely satisfying about sitting down to watch an hour of TV and having an entire story told – beginning, middle, and end – in the course of it.

Like any classic fan hiking TV shows know this, this news doesn’t have to prevent character development, and Strange new worlds no more. The eponymous pilot sees Pike struggling with how he should spend his present as he comes to terms with his horrific future, while this week’s episode, “Children of the Comet,” centers on new cadet Nyota Uhura as she realizes that her arbitrarily chosen Starfleet career might have more to offer her than just an escape from her tragic past. I can’t wait to see what Strange new worlds goes for other classic but largely unexplored characters like Number One (Rebecca Romjin) and Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush), as well as her new characters.

Honestly looking forward to new episodes of the show, and actually seeing it to explore the universe of star trek instead of returning to the old ground, even if it is located in some of the oldest grounds hiking has to offer. I don’t know if the show will be enough for me to consider myself a hiking fan, but even though only two episodes aired on Paramount+, I’m absolutely a fan of Strange New Worlds.

Want more io9 news? Find out when to wait for the last wonder and star wars versions, what’s next for the DC Universe in Film and TVand everything you need to know about Dragon House and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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