Strange New Worlds revives science fiction by returning to its roots

Strange New Worlds revives science fiction by returning to its roots

The landing party from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.  (Paramount+)

The landing party Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. (Paramount+)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — streaming on Paramount+ starting Wednesday, June 22 — arrived when Star Trek fans need it most.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Gene Roddenberry’s space opera since it entered the ‘prestige’ TV era.

Recent departures, including Discovery and Picard sometimes I felt a little joyless. More of an effort than a walk. The stories have been flimsy but painstakingly drawn out, as if the writers still haven’t been able to cope with the task of plotting a season arc.

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Where was the mood? What happened to the fun and that sense of optimism that was built into the Original Series and the next generation?

Anson Mount as Captain Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.  (Paramount+)

Anson Mount as Captain Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. (Paramount+)

Well, it looks like all these elements were being saved for this latest iteration, whose title – strange new worlds – can be traced back to James T Kirk’s mission statement. Only it’s not Kirk in the captain’s chair on this gleaming new bridge – it’s his predecessor Christopher Pike, played with homely charm by Anson Mount.

While William Shatner’s buccaneer hero was recognized as a sci-fi Horatio Hornblower, Mount’s captain is a more folksy figure, a sort of futuristic Pa Walton, but with a sculpted topknot that grows taller with each episode.

And despite featuring a main character that isn’t as familiar to the passing viewer as Kirk would undoubtedly be, this is the only show of the five spin-offs currently in production to capture the spirit of what Roddenberry created in the 1960s. .

Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) and Spock (Ethan Peck) in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) and Spock (Ethan Peck) in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

It helps, of course, that we’re back aboard the USS enterprise, a starship appreciated by fans, but also instantly recognizable to the layperson. It’s a great meeting place. A place you instantly want to inhabit. And on board are certain crew members, including Spock (Ethan Peck) and Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), that those with only a passing knowledge of the franchise should already be aware of. All, I might add, wearing enhanced versions of those classic blue, red, and gold Starfleet uniforms.

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But look beyond the set and the costumes and what you have most important is this optimistic spirit of exploration. Of views being beamed. Aliens encountered for the first time. And it introduced us viewers to good old-fashioned episodic TV.

Now this is going to bother Deep Nine Space devotees (of which I am one) who loved the Dominion War seasons, but Star Trek is not at its best when the narrative is serialized. And if the most recent season of Picard proved something, is that the characters deserve better than being stuck in 21st century Los Angeles doing little for weeks on end. The galaxy is a vast place – and strange new worlds is choosing wisely to give us a ride.

Rebecca Romijn's Number One leads a landing party in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.  (Paramount+)

Rebecca Romijn’s Number One leads a landing party in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. (Paramount+)

So despite ushering in the era of binge-watches and multi-part storytelling, what we have here is a welcome back-to-basics approach. Uncomplicated but undeniably elegant, with gripping planet-of-the-week dramas and tricky ethical dilemmas. Because, yes, this is another important feature that strange new worlds is rising again: the allegory.

Sometimes a little exaggerated, but since when was Star Trek moralizing and preaching always so subtle? And at least the episodes feel like they’re trying hard to be about something. Whisper, but the main concern of Picard it seemed to be delaying gratification in order to reach a wet end that failed to reward our investment.

Admittedly, things aren’t perfect at Pike’s enterprise. The inclusion of Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) in the infirmary seems odd, as her personality is at odds with what actor Majel Barrett gave us in the ’60s. Then there’s the use of the antagonistic Gorn, which can leave the fandom struggling to fight back. align your actions here with what is already established canon.

Jess Bush as Christine Chapel in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.  (Paramount+)

Jess Bush as Christine Chapel in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. (Paramount+)

Aenar’s chief engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) is underutilized in the first half of the first season, as is the enigmatic Number One (Rebecca Romijn). And then there’s the massive living quarters and state-of-the-art graphics, which look far more sophisticated than anything featured in Shatner’s era – odd, as this is essentially a prequel to that beloved. Original Seriess.

But these are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. After five years of barely surviving on impulse, it finally seems like Star Trek recharged its dilithium crystals.

This has certainly made this tired old fan a believer again, so hopefully this particular captain’s record will remain open for quite some time.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds boldly launches with three episodes on Paramount+ starting June 22, with new episodes released weekly. Watch a teaser below.

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