There was something surreal about watching Strange New Worlds for the first time (the first five episodes, at least). The rebooted Star Trek movies hit the big screen when I was a pre-teen. Having already been introduced to the original movies by my parents, I was hooked, and that’s only partly due to Chris Pine as the perfectly cast Jim Kirk. As part of the younger generation of Star Trek fans, most of the series I’ve watched retroactively. Strange New Worlds, however, is unique for a show. Spinoffs and prequels are common, but usually not a direct response to a request from fans.
Star Trek fans have a long and enduring history, and as Strange New Worlds took each step towards this premiere, it became more clear that this show is possible just as much due to the fans who love it as the creatives. When I received the screener episodes in my email inbox, my smartwatch warned me my heartbeat was too high. That’s the kind of excitement watching Strange New Worlds invokes—it felt like I was a part of something. Luckily, the series doesn’t disappoint—an innate fear of getting more content for anything you’re passionate about.
The series follows characters introduced in Star Trek: Discovery—Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck), and Number One aka Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn). We also meet several other characters from previous Star Trek installments—Cadet Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush), Doctor M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), and La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), a descendent of Khan (You know, from The Wrath of Khan). Melissa Navia also stars as the Enterprise’s Helmsman.
Strange New Worlds does an excellent job at dividing time among a talented and charismatic cast, even with a loaded amount of lore and backstory to explore. Other than the three leads, Strange New Worlds spends the most time with La’an, shaped by a haunting backstory that sets the stage for one of the most iconic Trek scenes, and Uhura, whose story will easily resonate with many younger viewers—not to mention an amazing characterization from Rose Gooding, giving stand-out performances week to week.
Each of the episodes is mostly self-contained, exploring different characters on various scales. The plots of these episodes are great; from civil strife to alien diseases to freaky Fridays, Strange New Worlds implores each of these science fiction tropes in fun and exciting ways that connect back to each of the characters on the Enterprise. It’s fun to grow with these characters, too. Most of them are younger and more inexperienced, for the most part. It’s gratifying to know their future successes and know you’re on the journey to see how young officers and cadets get to the impressive officers featured in the original series and movies.
Strange New Worlds smartly embraces its roots. Pike continues to grapple with the consequences of his time on Boreth and the events from “Such Sweet Sorrow,” which have implications that extend beyond just our main cast of characters. The series also finds a pretty good balance between the spirit and format of the original series while still exploring themes in a way that’s characteristic of the newer Trek properties. The series still hasn’t found the perfect balance, but it’s off to a much better start than Discovery or Star Trek: Picard had in their first seasons.
Taking big swings, Strange New Worlds wastes no time in bringing in elements to the show that may not resonate with every viewer. But the risks are risks well taken, resulting in a Star Trek show unlike any of the others before it. By taking familiar characters and concepts, and shaking them up by exploring a new time frame in their lives, this series has plenty to pull from to sustain itself for seasons to come, especially if Strange New Worlds continues to make a space for everyone. If the first five episodes are any indication, there are more great things to come from this updated spin on a beloved classic, reminding audiences that science fiction is just as epic when hope and love are truly at the center.
Season 1 premieres May 5 on Paramount+. Watch the trailer below.