Published Jun 21, 2023
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Showrunners on Approach to Storytelling, Comedy, and Kirk Brothers
Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers peel back the curtain on Season 2!
By Christine Dinh
The sophomore season of the hit series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is here, and the cast and creatives cannot wait for fans to embark on a new set of adventures with the crew aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Pike.
We previously chatted with the ensemble cast ahead of the season’s premiere; now, StarTrek.com welcomes co-showrunners and executive producers Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers aboard the bridge to talk about this season’s comedic tone, special guests, the Kirk brothers, and more!
Their Not-So-Secret Formula for Storytelling
What’s most essential to the co-showrunners and their approach to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is that they’re inviting longtime fans as well as new ones. “The truth is we like to be welcoming to all,” remarks Goldsman. “We make the show for fans and new viewers alike. That’s really important to us because it keeps our storytelling fresh and authentic. As best as we can, we don’t rely on anybody bringing anything to it. Although we are delighted when people do, and they should sit back and have a good time.”
This Season on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds | Season 2 Sneak Peek
“A hundred percent,” echoes Myers. “Watch the show if you’ve never seen Star Trek before. We’re trying to make it for you as much as we’re trying to make it for the people who’ve seen it all.”
This season takes bolder and bigger swings tapping into different genres such as the courtroom drama as well as a franchise-first, the highly anticipated crossover episode with Star Trek: Lower Decks. Goldsman credits the ensemble cast with their ease and success, “We try to honor The Original Series in that way, with how the show moves through genre. It’s a great gift for us because we can use the flexibility of our actors, which was unexpected.”
“We were very lucky to get folks who were so good at drama, comedy, naturalism, and sort of more hyperbolic performative stuff. They can move back and forth, which allows us to move back and forth through genre. We use genre as a kind of carnival mirror to show human and sometimes alien emotions because ultimately our show is just about relationships. It’s relationships in space.
The Infusion of More Comedy
Last year, Myers expressed the desire to inject more comedic swings for its second season. On the ease or difficulty of balancing a comedic tone with a deeply rooted science fiction series, Myers firmly notes, “It never takes away from the sci-fi elements. We are making a show for human beings to watch and experience in human being ways.”
“One of the things that we were delighted to discover was that we have a cast that’s really good at comedy,” elaborates Myers. “In Season 1, we did more pushing them in that direction, and with Season 2, we realized, ‘Oh they’re really good at this. We should try a little more. We should push them a little harder because they seem to be really into it.’”
“We try to be sort of shepherds rather than rulers,” adds Goldsman. “We have at our disposal, shamelessly, this extraordinary wealth of talent. We watch, we listen, as well as we make. When you see something delightful in life, chase it. They’re delightful at being charming and funny just as they are delightful at being dramatic and meaningful. Why not have all these things?”
The comedic tone was certainly welcomed by the series’ cast. “For me, it was a tremendous amount of fun,” states Anson Mount. “I don't always get to use my comedy chops. It's been an enormous amount of fun, and I think it's important for our show. It's important for action, adventure, and drama to know when to not be so deliberate. Otherwise, we don't get a chance to breathe.”
Praising the creative minds, Melissa Navia raves, “One of the many things that Strange New Worlds does well, and again it’s all thanks to the writers and our showrunners, is that we found this beautiful balance of light and darkness. That’s so difficult to capture in a show. It’s difficult to get all the nuances of life in one show, and we’ve managed to do that. We opened up as a cast and what we’re able to do as actors; being able to play the dark sides of life, and then all those moments of life that makes it worth living. The moments of joy is at the heart of what makes Star Trek so lovable and so enduring that we can go back to these stories. We’re looking at characters we love, that we want to hang out with, that we want to learn more about, and that we see ourselves in. What Henry, Akiva, and everybody have been able to do is really bring that to every single episode. Especially in Season 2, we have some huge genre shifts that definitely push the envelope.”
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” Ethan Peck concurs, on the importance of comedy. “We take things really seriously on the Enterprise. In my opinion, Nurse Chapel’s got some amazing zingers and one-liners, as well as comedic situations, and Ortegas as well. It’s a blast.”
Reflecting on the season at large, Christina Chong reveals, “For me, Season 2 was just me laughing for the majority of it, on- and off- camera. That’s due to Carol Kane being hilarious, and me giggling in all of her close-ups, off-camera. Also, Paul [Wesley] and I, just every scene we filmed, every shot we filmed, we were making each other laugh.”
The Addition of Carol Kane, Tawny Newsome, and Jack Quaid
The instant infusion of a more comedic tone can be seen from the second season inclusion of the prolific Carol Kane as the Enterprise’s new chief engineer, as well as Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid bringing their Star Trek: Lower Decks animated roles, Beckett Mariner and Bradward Boimler, respectively, into the live action world.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds | Meet Pelia: The Enterprise's New Chief Engineer
Speaking on the casting for Commander Pelia, Myers explains, “We were trying to think about all the ways in which we had seen an engineer and how could we just take it in another direction, just try something that hadn’t been seen before. Carol Kane came up from our brilliant casting people who were, ‘What about her? She might be perfect.’ Then Akiva and I looked at each other and were, ‘That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what we want.’”
The blending of Lower Decks’ over-the-top style of comedy required more from the creatives. “It was probably more complicated than we anticipated just in terms of tone,” acknowledges Goldsman. “The focus on it allowed us to get something pretty lovely. We were served in the best possible way by Tawny and Jack, and Jonathan Frakes, who was directing. We have funny people there.”
“He just likes to make it a party,” interjects Myers. “It’s a fun place to hang out and everyone started bringing new stuff into it; that’s great to watch. We really wanted to show and have it feel like Lower Decks. We had to find a way to touch on that for people who like both shows.”
“Ultimately, it is a Strange New Worlds episode with Lower Decks joining,” Goldsman crucially notes, “It’s not a Lower Decks episode.”
As for any complications of blending animation and live-action? Goldsman explains, “I read this on Twitter and thought, ‘Well, that’s very smart.’ Someone said that animated characters don’t know they’re animated. That’s just the way they’re presented, and that’s correct. There’s no distinction between toon and not-toon. That’s not a thing we’re doing in this. They’re presented so that we believe our characters are our characters, and they’re just presented in different forms on the different shows.”
The Kirk Brothers
As fans await the first meeting between James T. Kirk, in the present timeline, and Spock, there’s another dynamic we can’t wait to witness. Sam Kirk, as seen in the first season, serves under Pike’s command; will we get to see any more brotherly interaction outside of The Original Series’ “Operation: Annihilate!” when Lt. James T. Kirk boards the Enterprise again?
“We do see them,” answers Myers. “We seem them together. That sort of touches on the fundamental thing of what we are trying to do when we’re using elements from the past.”
“James’ brother was initially just a one-shot of him being dead with a mustache on [in The Original Series],” Myers elaborates. “We never knew anything more about them except some brief things, in some of the books. We wanted to take a moment, ‘Okay, he’s got a brother. What’s their relationship? Why is their relationship like this? What’s it like to be connected to the two of them?’”
“When Akiva wrote the pilot, he put in this [Sam] Kirk thing and tossed it in the air saying, ‘Okay catch. Anyone who wants to catch it, catch it,’” concludes Myers. “That’s what it was; to find moments for them, deepen it, understand what this relationship means. It wasn’t a concern for The Original Series, but how cool is The Original Series now that you know there is actually depth to their relationship?”