Published May 6, 2022
RECAP | Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 101 - 'Strange New Worlds'
The adventure begins for Captain Pike and his crew
By Jay Stobie
Spoilers for the premiere Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode to follow!
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has finally arrived, and we are ready to boldly go! Following Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck), and Una “Number One” Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn)’s appearances in Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, Trek fans clamored to see more of the early exploits of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew… and their excitement reached the powers-that-be, resulting in one of 2022’s most anticipated new shows.
Several months after the showdown with Control that sent the U.S.S. Discovery into the 32nd century, the events continue to weigh heavily on a bearded Captain Pike, who remains uncertain about his future in Starfleet. Spock also misses his sister Michael, but a marriage proposal from T'Pring, who will go on to be the subject of the science officer's affection in the classic episode "Amok Time," and some Vulcan romance help distract him.
A live-action debut! We finally meet Robert April (Adrian Holmes), who was the Enterprise's first captain and Pike's predecessor. Now an admiral, April convinces Pike to grab the center seat again by informing him that his Number One had gone missing on a first contact mission to Kiley 279. A quick ride aboard the shuttlecraft Stamets (because Paul Stamets perished in the fight against Control, of course), and Pike is back aboard his repaired and upgraded starship.
Pike's arrival coincides with introductions to security chief and acting first officer La’an Noonien-Singh (played by Christina Chong; this character's name has intrigued Trek fans), communications Cadet Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), and pilot Lieutenant Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia), though the crew must leave before taking aboard their chief engineer and someone named Lieutenant Kirk… fascinating.
In a private chat, Pike reveals to Spock that he saw a vision of the horrible training accident that will severely injure him when they visited the Klingon planet Boreth during the search for a time crystal in Discovery season two. Upon arriving at Kiley 279, the Enterprise finds the U.S.S. Archer abandoned but intact, with local space giving no signs that the planet has achieved even rudimentary spaceflight. The population hasn’t created warp drive, it has created a warp bomb!
In sickbay, we welcome the cheerful Doctor M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) and the energetic civilian Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) to the show. Chapel’s civilian status cleverly explains why she will later choose to officially sign on with Starfleet in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” As fate would have it, Chapel pioneers the genetic manipulation technique that Starfleet so often used in the TNG-era to blend in with pre-warp species and infiltrate enemy encampments (think of Captain Sisko’s tenure as a Klingon in “Apocalypse Rising”). The transporter also has a nifty feature: it can change a landing party member’s clothes and outfit them with equipment during a beam down.
Pike, Spock, and Noonien-Singh arrive on a divided planet with two warring factions that seek to wipe each other out. Despite some obstacles, the trio make their way into a secure facility and rescue Number One and her two cohorts. Unfortunately, Una informs Pike that their battle with Control took place so close to this planet that it allowed them to study and reverse engineer warp technology. To correct this unintentional influence, the captain makes a bold decision to reveal his crew’s alien origins and the presence of the Enterprise to the locals.
In true Trek style, the episode addresses the current societal divides on 21st century Earth by showcasing them through the lens of 23rd century Kiley 279. Pike explains that the United States underwent a second Civil War and the Eugenics Wars, conflicts that led to Earth’s catastrophic World War III. Complete with archival images, Pike’s presentation convinces the local factions to make peace and turn their eyes toward the stars.
Revelations continue to come at us at lightspeed. La’an has a history with the Gorn. As an ensign, Number One was involved in La’an’s rescue. Chief Kyle beams aboard the Aenar engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) and a Lieutenant Samuel Kirk (Dan Jeannotte), complete with the epic mustache his corpse sported in the TOS episode “Operation — Annihilate!” The addition of James T. Kirk’s brother to the crew is a splendid surprise, particularly as he will be Spock’s subordinate.
“Strange New Worlds” addresses the aftermath of Control’s defeat while setting a new course for Captain Pike and the Enterprise in marvelous fashion. The episodic nature stands in contrast to Discovery and Picard, but there are clearly ongoing threads (Pike’s trauma, Spock’s romance, Noonien-Singh’s past) that the producers will continue to pull on during the show’s voyage. From a Jonathan Archer reference to memorable guest appearances from Melanie Scrofano, Gia Sandhu, André Dae Kim, and Rong Fu, the premiere expertly weaves Strange New Worlds into the tapestry of the 23rd century, yet it also sets out to forge its own path in this time period. As we await the Enterprise’s next adventure, there’s only one thing to say: Hit it!