Strange New Worlds (S1 Review): Love at First Sight

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds recently wrapped up its incredible first season. I have hope for Star Trek again. Read on to find out why I liked it so much!

Captain Christopher Pike has learned a terrible truth about his future: a tragic accident will leave him trapped inside his destroyed body with low quality of life. This foreknowledge leaves him depressed at first, but he quickly decides to live the remainder of his time doing what he does best: exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no one has gone before! Joining him aboard his vessel– the U.S.S Enterprise– is a crew of Starfleet’s finest, including old favourites like Mr Spock (Ethan Peck), Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) and Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding).

I’ve been hyped for Strange New Worlds since it was first announced. And man, oh man, did it deliver! These are, without doubt, the best hours of Star Trek I’ve seen since the 2000’s. The first episode of SNW caused my family to complain how much Star Trek: Picard sucks. One great and one terrible ST series back to back puts their respective quality in perspective…

In fact: my family remarked on Picard’s lack of quality after EVERY episode of Strange New Worlds. And that’s saying something. We’re a Next Gen family. My mother hates the original series with a passion!

But Strange New Worlds is everything I’ve wanted out of a Star Trek show this past decade: well-written stand-alone sci-fi adventures with universal yet timely progressivist themes. Is that so hard? I just had to slog through Discovery and Picard‘s childish preaching on the latest societal outrages to get these thought-provoking, universally applied moral philosophy hypotheticals for adults.

The former two shows are like literally every other kind of media nowdays (with a sci-fi spin); Strange New Worlds is Star Trek through and through– and good Trek at that. I love it!

Strange New Worlds is, for my money, THE spiritual successor to The Original Series and The Next Generation! It’s colorful, optimistic, mirrors the best of humanity, and isn’t dragged down by modern cynicism.

That said, it’s not afraid to blindside you with some shocking twists. There’s quite a few dark and tragic moments sprinkled throughout this season. SNW’s generally light tone invested me enough in its world that darkness, when it hit, hit me hard.

I ought to be clear about something here: SNW is also friendly to franchise newcomers. It helps to know the central premise of Star Trek: explorers in a paramilitary organization survive and thrive through teamwork and idealism in a harsh and mysterious galaxy. But, barring that, Strange New Worlds is easy enough to follow with no other context.

That said: SNW is also a love letter to Star Trek lore. Its references cover more than merely the franchise’s greatest hits. I caught references from all corners of the era, ranging from fun easter eggs to enticing teases for future storylines. Even little details, like the uniform designs for certain scenes, were appreciated by this fan. The people who wrote this show clearly care about their source material.

Yet they weren’t afraid to expand the lore of existing characters. Franchises which do this often miss the mark, but Strange New Worlds offers meaningful insights to its legacy characters which re-contextualize the original series. For two examples regarding Spock: I didn’t realize he and Chapel were such close friends, nor did I know he was once “happy” with his betrothed (T’Pring). SNW also gives a compelling reason for Spock’s actions in the classic series two-parter The Menagerie.

Rebecca Romijn, Anson Mount, and Ethan Peck: the stars of Strange New Worlds
(Photo credit: Paramount +)

Christopher Pike quickly shot up my ranking of favourite Star Trek Captains. I loved him on Discovery and he’s exceptional here too! Anson Mount was so great on STD, the fanbase practically willed Strange New Worlds into existence. We needed to see more of this guy! It’s only fair considering Pike was cheated out of his own Star Trek show 60 years ago…

Pike’s captaining style is a beautiful blend between Picard and Kirk. He’s diplomatic and by the books Starfleet like Picard, but charismatic and charming like Kirk; he nearly leads by committee (but can still make tough decisions); and he informally gathers his senior staff for dinners in his quarters, which he cooks (which calls to mind one of Captain Sisko’s favourite passtimes).

SNW’s supporting cast shines shines in ways I didn’t expect. Almost every episode focuses on a new character so that, by the end, we know all the main cast well. Thank heavens for a return to episodic formatting!

My surprise at the competence of balance from the writer’s room comes from how badly Discovery handled its cast… They’re in Season 4 and I still don’t know the names of their bridge crew! I learned everyone’s name on SNW within the first two episodes, and understood how each of their minds worked.

The series is relatively light on action, but I hardly noticed. It’s not what I’m here for. But what they have is serviceable. Most every episode had a healthy dose of fisticuffs or laser fights to keep the pace moving.

And I found the CGI to be decent for a TV budget. Maybe that’s because, as I noted, there’s not a lot of effects-heavy scenes. The film-makers used their money shots sparingly, to great effect.
SNW’s vostume designs are beautiful! These outfits are already in my upper echelon of Star Trek uniforms. They’re aesthetically pleasing enough that I could use a few of those outfits in my wardrobe ASAP.

A few criticisms now: most SNW episodes had slow starts, or even slow first halves. People with little patience may end of frustrated or turned off from the series. But rest assured the concepts always paid off and made the build-up worthwhile.

This next critique is completely subjective, but I wanted to see more Number One (Rebecca Romijn) than I received. She was sold to me as one of the series leads, but wasn’t in SNW so much as a first officer ought to be. Just my two cents.

I also know the Enterprise redesign will piss some people off… Fans tend to get touchy about continuity. But I say the production crew found a great blend between old and new. It distinctly remains the ship as we saw in 1966, but retrofitted for modern design sensibilities.

I always used to think of Kirk’s Enterprise as a militaristic place– coldly functional. Whereas Picard’s Enterprise always felt homey– warm and comfortable. The production crew somehow managed to blend these aesthetics into the old vessel, dare I say, improving upon a classic!

I’ll be surprised if Enterprise doesn’t evolve if SNW continues for many years. Maybe it’ll even look like Kirk’s enterprise by the end. Who knows?

I love this show. It’s easily the strongest first season of a Star Trek show since 1966! And it’ll bump out a number of other ST series on my all-times favourite list (once I update it) LINK. It made me think, made me feel, and made me care about Star Trek again. This is one of the most fun shows I’ve seen on TV in a good long time, with quality to back it up.

For Star Trek fans new and old, or newcomers wondering what this franchise is all about, Strange New Worlds is something to Watch A.S.A.P!

What’s your favourite era of Star Trek (Enterprise Era, original, OG movies, Next Gen, Next Gen movies, or Picard)? What did you think of Strange New Worlds? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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