'Star Trek' Explained: The Promise of 'Strange New Worlds'
This article is part of our ongoing Star Trek Explained series, featuring the insights of our resident Starfleet officer Brad Gullickson.
After a bit of a dry spell, we are drowning in Star Trek content. CBS All Access dipped its toes into the franchise with StarTrek: Discovery, and now they’ve waded out into the deep end where their toes can’t possibly scratch the bottom. The third season of Discovery is on the way, as is an animated adventure, a possible Michelle Yeoh sidequest, and the second season of Star Trek: Picard. CBS has picked up a lot of new viewers, but they’re also struggling to maintain those they’ve collected over fifty years.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is designed to please those stalwarts. Spinning out of Discovery‘s second season, this newly announced show will follow the first crew of the USS Enterprise: Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Lieutenant Spock (Ethan Peck), and Number One (Rebecca Romijn). You know them, you love them, you should be happy.
Not so fast.
Star Trek fans have bold opinions. When their series fails to live up to their standards, they happily let the creators know of their frustration and disgust. Ask Star Trek: Deep Space Nineshowrunner Ira Steven Behr how he feels about the control the fandom wields over the fifty-plus-year-old franchise, and he’ll give you a double-barreled answer.
A lot of this power is to be blamed on the studio suits who first listened to their rage. Back when the second season of the original series (TOS) was teetering on the brink of cancelation, a massive letter-writing campaign launched by Bjo and John Trimble saved Star Trek from oblivion, with a third season guaranteeing the show a lifetime on syndication as well as a film franchise. Ever since, Trekkies (like myself, I might add) demand to be heard.
Star Trek: Discovery caused quite a stir when it premiered in 2017. The prequel series introduced incredible technology, weirdly shaped Klingon foreheads, and a war-based narrative that seemingly bumped against the bright ideals and optimism of creator Gene Roddenberry. How could this story exist merely a few years before the events of Captain Kirk and company? The math did not add up.
After a behind-the-scenes shakeup, the second season of Star Trek: Discovery spent most of its arc reassuring fans that one and one does indeed equal two. The reason you’ve never heard of this technology before is a result of the USS Discovery flinging into the far, far future, and our favorite Star Trek characters like Captain Pike and Spock being sworn to secrecy. Sonequa Martin-Green and her team are now free to explore uncharted territories in a period of time never considered by Star Trek lore. Hopefully, the scornful glare of grumpy Gusses will leer elsewhere.
Strange New Worlds will still be straddled with the prequel problem, but considering how sharp the stares were on Discovery, you can bet it will not dare to be as radical or loosey-goosey with the continuity as that first CBS All Access season. We may accept a slight alteration on uniforms or a bridge retrofit, but we cannot handle dimensional hopping within the mycelial network or Starfleet captains who are clearly evil bastards (Captain Lorca, we’re looking at you).
In an interview with Variety, co-creator and executive producer Akiva Goldsman assures us that Strange New Worlds will feature a return to “classical Trek values” as well as episodic storytelling. Do you want sunshine despite the gloom outside your window? You’re gonna get it. He goes as far as to say, “Our plots will be more closed-ended than you’ve seen in either Discovery or Picard.”
That last bit is directed exclusively at folks who grumbled with anxiety as Discovery and Picard trudged into darker waters before breaking the surface with necessary relief. Prior to CBS All Access, fans had never experienced prolonged bouts of arc-based storytelling. Deep Space Nine delved into such structure but only because they were on their last legs and free to steer their ship into the sunset (or wormhole as the case may have been).
Every Trekkie has their favorite Trek (Me? I’m TOS through and through). In the new era, this will not change. Whenever we get to meet at the next Las Vegas Star Trek convention, you’ll find various Next Generation and Voyager tables at Quark’s Bar, and you’ll certainly see Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds tables. We will all get along, but don’t attempt to convince one that the other is better. We know what we like.
CBS All Access is in the business of establishing more tables for us to sit at. Expect more gangs to emerge over the next couple of years.