Review of 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' 1 & 2
Great Characters, Actors, and Stories
I saw the first two episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+ late last night and really enjoyed them. More than Picard and a lot more than Discovery, to rank the new Star Treks that Paramount+ has been rolling out. Strange New Worlds brought back a lot of the verve and joy of watching TOS aka the original Star Trek series. And here are some of the more specific reasons why:
[No big spoilers ahead ... ]
1. It was wonderful to see so many of the TOS characters brought back, in their younger days, as befits a narrative about Captain Pike ten years before he suffered the disfiguring injuries that we saw so vividly in one of the all-time best TOS episodes, the two-hour "The Menagerie". Anson Mount's Pike, first introduced in Discovery, is superb. I first noticed Mount in Hell on Wheels, where he also gave a top-notch performance. His Pike is tough, sarcastic, empathetic, and now tormented by the disfiguring future he's seen. Ethan Peck's Spock is also outstanding, providing his logical commentary in perfect pitch, struggling to throw in some lame humor, even being pretty effective in a romantic scene back home before he's called to join Pike on the Enterprise. Cecilia Rose Gooding was great as Uhura, as was her back story, and her affinity for language including music. Jess Bush's Nurse Chapel was also fun to see, especially her crush on Spock. And speaking of Nurse Chapel, she of course was originally portrayed by Majel Barrett, who played Pike's Number One in "The Menagerie" -- Rebecca Romijn's Number One in Strange New Worlds looks to be a strong, literally supporting character whom Pike can confide in. And just for good measure, Sam Kirk, James T's brother, was on board as well as an anthropologist.
2. The new characters were excellent, too. My favorite was Christina Chong's La'an Noonien-Singh. She's tough-minded and tough to beat in a fight, and will make a very effective Security Chief. From what we briefly saw of the new doc and the new engineer -- as always, a bit behind the eight ball with beaming -- will be bringing a lot to Strange New Worlds, too.
3. I've been saying for years now, ever since cable and then streaming television emerged, that I much prefer continuing narratives throughout a season to standalone stories. But I thought the first two standalone episodes of Strange New Worlds -- the first with the same title as the series, the second aptly named "Children of the Comet" -- worked great. The first episode did violate the Prime Directive, though in all fairness, the don't-interfere-directive was not yet named Prime, and only became Prime as a result of what Pike did in this episode. The second, about (I guess) an AI-driven comet, and the belief of its protectors that the comet was a vehicle of a higher power, was one of the best religion in space stories I've ever seen, a really fine and intelligent job. And this made me realize I prefer religion treated in Star Trek to the way it's treated in, for example, Raised by Wolves. I guess that amounts to a preference for intellectual ingenuity over blood and gore.
So I'm really onboard with this new Enterprise. Its position, a decade before Sam Kirk's brother took the helm, is in many ways ideal. In particular, what Pike does to follow Number One's good advice to resist and contest what he saw in the future and those of us who are old enough first saw in 1966, will be fun and exquisite to see.
And I'll see you back here next week with my next review.
About the author
Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; his LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up. His nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan have been translated into 15 languages.