Tomorrow is yesterday in the newest “Star Trek” series.
“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” the 12th series in the franchise, boldly goes into familiar territory, following the space adventures of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount); Mr. Spock (Ethan Peck); and Number One, aka “Una” (Rebecca Romijn), all of whom we last saw at the end of the second season of “Star Trek: Discovery.”
Pike, Spock and Number One – along with Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) and Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) – first appeared aboard the USS Enterprise on NBC’s original “Star Trek” (1966-69), for which “Strange New Worlds” serves as a prequel.
The Enterprise’s five-year mission might be the same, but there’s still some newness to the landscape – a new theme song; more intimacy between characters; a gender-neutral title sequence intro changing its final phrase from “where no man has gone before” to “where no one has gone before,” like in the intro of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; and new people to meet.
How many episodes and how are they structured?
“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” created by Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers, premieres May 5 on Paramount+, joining other recent Star Trek series “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Picard” and “Star Trek: Lower Decks” on the platform.
The first season will have 10 episodes, released weekly. Filming has begun on a second season, though no premiere date has been announced.
The structure of “Strange New Worlds” is also more reminiscent of the original series, a contrast to the more sweeping storytelling in some other “Star Trek” entries. There will be character arcs, but most adventures in the episodes will be self-contained and less serialized.
Mount, a lifelong “Star Trek” fan, says the structure inspired the name of the new series.
“When you go to watch a new episode of ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,’ we wanted that sense of excitement from the top,” Mount says. “Not just because you didn’t know where the Enterprise would end up, but because you don’t know where the Enterprise is going to start. That’s what the original series had. You never knew where they’re going to be in the galaxy and what new thing was going to be discovered.”
Who is on the show?
When “Strange New Worlds” starts, Pike is home in Bear Creek, Montana, watching the 1951 film “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and seeming to question whether he will return to command the Starship Enterprise. An unexpected visit from Admiral Robert April (Adrian Holmes) comes with a direct order. Pike’s first officer Number One is missing, and the Federation needs his help to find out what happened to her.
Pike is haunted by what he was shown by the Klingons about his tragic future in “Discovery,” a future we’ve seen partially played out in “The Cage” and “The Menagerie” episodes of the original series. But he’s trying to continue on despite where his destiny leads.
Pike was played by Jeffrey Hunter and Sean Kenney in the original series and Bruce Greenwood in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 and 2013 films, “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
In his relationship to his crew as captain, Pike has some Kirk-like moments where he follows a hunch, but none of it seems spontaneous.
“When we were talking about developing Pike back in the early days of this,” Mount says, “I said to the showrunners Akiva and Henry, ‘All I know is that if Kirk leads with his machismo, and Picard leads with his brain, I think Pike leads with his heart.’ His superpower is empathy. And that’s what makes him such a good leader.”
Science Officer Spock, played by Peck (and originally by Leonard Nimoy), has matured since our time with him on “Discovery.” But there’s a familiarity to this Spock, in his actions and even in how he pronounces some words.
“There are times when there is no other way to play a moment than with some sort of eyebrow expression or with a tilt of the head that just feels like how Nimoy would do it,” Peck says. “I really hope that I’m channeling some version of his spirit of Spock in my performance.”
Number One/Una, played by Romijn, was briefly featured in the first series, mostly through a lens of her relationship to Captain Pike.
“She was really a blank slate,” says Romijn, a longtime “Star Trek” fan. “Our writers have really had this incredible opportunity to flesh out this character. But it comes with some pressure because the ‘Star Trek’ fans are so protective of the canon and so protective of these characters. I feel like I’m just a caretaker. I get to take some artistic liberties and the writers have come up with so many fun layers for her. And we just want to get it right.”
“It’s been incredible to step into this legacy,” says Gooding about taking on the mantle of Uhura. “Every day, I’m awestruck by the privilege that I have to tell the origin story of this legend, this icon in the sci-fi community. I get to show sides of her that are well-loved and also introduce sides of her that maybe there wasn’t space to hold that sort of storytelling in the past.”
New to the crew are chief security officer La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), relative of villain Khan, pilot Lt. Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) and engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak).
What about Captain Kirk?
Look for the other OG captain in Season 2. Paul Wesley, known for his role on “The Vampire Diaries,” has been cast to play a young James T. Kirk.
What to watch
Because “Strange New Worlds” pulls from two other franchise series, it may be helpful to watch or revisit previous series. Here are episodes worth a look to help connect names, plots and other references:
- “The Cage”/”The Menagerie” (“Original Series”)
- “Q&A” (“Short Treks”)
- “Brother” (“Star Trek: Discovery”)
- “Light and Shadows” (“Star Trek: Discovery”)
- “If Memory Serves” (“Star Trek: Discovery”)
- “Through the Valley of Shadows” (“Star Trek: Discovery”)
- “The Naked Time” (“Original Series”)
- “Space Seed” (“Original Series”)
- “Amok Time” (“Original Series”)
- “A Private Little War” (“Original Series”)