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I know I always approach these things on the late side, but I’ve just gotten around to seeing the first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which happens to be titled Strange New Worlds. Oh, I’ve heard a lot about it, but that doesn’t translate into actual experience. Other people’s perceptions might be different than mine.
First of all, the intro scenes are fabulous. Top notch CGI. Incredible shots of the Enterprise. Worth the price of admission.
The show opens up in Christopher Pike’s (Anson Mount) home in a very snowy Montana. Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano) who apparently is Pike’s girlfriend is shown asleep while Pike is making pancakes and watching The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) on a large, flat screen TV. In fact, if I’d walked into that home, I wouldn’t have believed I was in the 23rd century at all. There was even a dial telephone next to his communicator. I surmised that Pike and Captain James Kirk (William Shatner) both have a “fondness for antiques”.
Pike looks like crap and is obviously carrying a heavy load but refuses to share it with Batel. She leaves for her ship while he says the Enterprise has another week in dry dock before he has to make a decision as to whether or not he’s going back.
That decision is taken from him during a very cold horseback ride when a Star Fleet shuttlecraft lands in the field in front of him and Admiral Robert April (Adrian Holmes) the first Captain of the Enterprise exits. The U.S.S. Archer was on a first contact mission when Star Fleet lost contact. It was being commanded by Pike’s first officer Una or Number One (Rebecca Romijn). April orders Pike to report to the Enterprise which is now scheduled to leave at 1800 hours or probably less than 12 hours later.
Cut to Vulcan and a nice, scenic dinner between Spock (Ethan Peck) and T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) in a very posh restaurant. They are having the most formal conversation I’ve ever heard between two Vulcans in multiple Star Trek series and quite a few movies. Frankly, it was ridiculous. However, T’Pring manages to propose marriage to Spock who apparently accepts.
This is a really big departure from the original Star Trek series. In the original Star Trek episode Amok Time, written by Theodore Sturgeon, it is revealed that Spock and T’Pring were entered into a marriage arranged by their parents when they were both seven years old. They were telepathically linked, but never saw each other again until decades later, Spock’s mating drive forced him to go back to Vulcan or die.
It’s never been absolutely determined if Vulcans can have sex outside of the seven-year Pon Farr cycle. Maybe the Pon Farr is the only time when the mated couple are fertile. “Amok Time” was pretty specific that its purpose was to consummate the marriage and reproduce.
Unfortunately for T’Pring, Spock was only half naked when Pike called from Earth and told him he needed to report to the Enterprise.
Two things: First, there was absolutely no lag in communications between two worlds that are probably dozens of light years apart. Even subspace radio isn’t instantaneous over very long distances. Second, Spock makes it back to Earth in a shuttle in less than a day. Oh well.
Look, I’m going to be bringing up a lot of these inconsistencies. The only way I can resolve them is to say that whatever is occurring in “Strange New Worlds,” in a time frame that pre-dates Kirk taking command of the Enterprise, is happening in an alternate timeline. It’s not the same universe. You really can’t make a television series in the 2020s that will absolutely mirror one made in the 1960s. So, alternate timeline. That’s my resolution. I’ll still point out the differences.
Pike and Spock meet aboard the Enterprise and there’s a reminder that Spock misses his sister Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). I’d completely forgotten about her or about Star Trek: Discovery.
Pike and Spock show a closeness we eventually see in the Star Trek two-part episode The Menagerie. I didn’t realize that a decade or so earlier, they had that kind of relationship. Pike tells Spock of his encounter with some sort of “time crystals” on a Klingon world that let him see and feel the accident which eventually cripples him. This knowledge has a profound affect on everything Pike does for the rest of the season.
We are introduced to the various crew members, Pike uses the phrase “Hit it” when he wants the ship to go, and I find out that the Enterprise seems to have its own “Ten Forward.”
Oh, the crew we see includes Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush), La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), Lt. Erica Ortega (Melissa Navia), and Cadet Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). Just for the record, those names you do recognize from prior Star Trek series have no similarities physically or by personality to the originals. For one thing, Chapel is way smarter, more accomplished, and a lot more sassy than how Majel Barrett played her. But then, in the 1960s, Barrett’s lines tended to be “Yes, Doctor” or “Right away, Doctor.” Not really action packed.
Noonien-Singh temporarily becomes Pike’s First Officer.
Arriving at their destination, they find the Archer in orbit and intact but completely empty. Apparently only Number One and a couple of astrophysicists were on board. How the heck could they even run a starship with so few people?
What led the Archer to attempt to make first contact with this planet in the first place was the detection of a warp field, but this species seems to operate at about 21st century technology. Further investigation discovers they don’t have a warp drive, they have a warp bomb. In other words, they have a matter/anti-matter reactor which, if you mix the two in an unregulated reaction, will cause a big, big explosion and lots of gamma radiation. Now how did that happen?
A quick visit to sickbay and the expert treatment of Chapel, and Pike, Spock, and La’an have enough of their genome altered so they can pass for natives of the planet.
As an aside, it’s established in this universe that any messing around with a person’s DNA on any level is strictly illegal. I suppose that was an outcome of the Eugenic Wars, but it does make it hard to explain why no one bats an eye when she even brings it up. Oh, it won’t work as well on Spock which causes problems later.
The transporters are way beyond what we saw in the original series or any other series through Voyager. You can be fitted for a change of clothes and equipment (tricorders, universal translators) during beaming. Wow. Oh, they also have emergency medical transporters which weren’t introduced until Picard’s Enterprise.
As with the original series, they make the mistake of beaming the Captain, First Officer, and Science Officer down into a dangerous away mission, but what the heck. Needing to get into a high security facility where the bomb and the three missing Archer officers are located, La’an, distracts two guards while Spock “neck pinches” them. He even mentions it was a good thing they had compatible musculature which was a nice touch.
They beam the two aliens aboard the Enterprise where they are supposed to be kept unconscious in sick bay.
It doesn’t work. They both wake up. M’Benga manages to knock out one, but the other runs away, totally freaked out by his bizarre surroundings. Chapel chases him but he gets away in a turbolift. Instead of having the computer disable the turbolift (which they could do in the original series), the guard meets Uhura (who presumably is wearing a translator) and she starts talking about sports. He’s a big fan apparently because he calms completely down and begins chit-chatting away. It’s totally ridiculous and would never happen in actuality. But it’s long enough for the writers to get Chapel into the emergency transporter, beam to the bridge, and sedate him.
You see, he’s a compatible donor with Spock, whose disguise is starting to fail. The transporter crew is ordered to make the transporter beam a booster made out of some part of the alien directly into Spock. It’s not supposed to do that, but it happens anyway.
Our heroic trio locate the captives and are on their way back to the elevators when other people emerge and Spock’s disguise fails. He acts very calm until suddenly crying out in agony, then returns to being calm. Really, that’s not how Leonard Nimoy played him. It was almost comical. Vulcans in this timeline are really weird, or at least they’re written that way.
They subdue the witnesses and Pike orders everyone except Spock to beam back to the Enterprise. Pike leverages Spock’s appearance to get a meeting with the head of state (apparently) and to explain who they are and what happened.
What actually happened was that this system is less than a light year from the cosmic event that occurred during a “Discovery” episode where a bunch of starships expended a tremendous amount of warp energy. These people were able to observe those warp signatures and reverse engineer that info into a warp reactor.
In the Star Trek: Voyager two-part episode Future’s End, astronomer Rain Robinson (Sarah Silverman) observes Voyager’s warp signature orbiting Earth above Los Angeles. She described it as a gamma emission with a very specific frequency. This makes sense if she’s measuring the matter/anti-matter reaction in Voyager’s warp drive.
However, it’s just gamma radiation. Maybe scientists could mathematically figure out that such radiation could only be generated by a matter/anti-matter reaction, but that wouldn’t tell them how to build the reactor. Also, they’d have to generate a lot of high energy plasma and it’s anti-plasma, contain them and keep them separated. How the heck did they do that in a year or two?
The head of state wants to use the reactor as a weapon to put down a faction they’ve been in conflict with for centuries. They don’t give a damn about General Order One (the Prime Directive). Pike decides to go for broke and orders the Enterprise into a low orbit over the city, basically demonstrating that he has enough power to stop her.
The Enterprise is ridiculously low in the atmosphere, maybe five to ten thousand feet tops. In the original episode Tomorrow is Yesterday, the Enterprise, having been shot back through time, ends up maybe 35,000 to 45,000 feet above Earth, low enough to be picked up on radar and intercepted by an F-104 Starfighter, but not low enough to be seen from the ground. I don’t even know if the way the Enterprise is structured would allow it to be that low and appear motionless from a fixed point.
After Singh’s tragic backstory is revealed to Pike, which apparently gives him some motivation relative to the knowledge of his future agonizing “death,” he returns to the surface, beaming into the middle of heated negotiations between the two sides, both terrified of what a Federation starship might do to them.
He gives a terrific “Star Trek” speech about choices and relates Earth’s past conflicts, from the “Second Civil War” (apparently triggered by the real-life January 6, 2021 “insurrection” including video) which led to the Eugenics War, and then to World War Three.
Okay, the January 6th part was a cheap shot on the part of the Showrunners and writers, but I knew it was coming. We’ll move past it.
It works. They accept Pike’s invitation to join the Federation and accept peace and hope. Like I said, it was a classic Star Trek moment and the best part of the episode.
Resolutions. Una, the actual Number One, requests and is granted permission to return to duty aboard the Enterprise. Pike offers a clearly troubled Singh a security position on the ship, and Lt. Kirk reports for duty. That’s Lt. Sam Kirk, Jim’s older brother. Problem is in the original episode What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Kirk’s android double, when asked “Who’s George” by Kirk, responds, “Your older brother George Samuel Kirk, only you call him ‘Sam’.”
Pike called him Sam when he should have said “George.” Oh well.
Wrapping up the episode, Pike actually delivers the “Space, the final frontier” speech on the bridge, which Uhura thinks is awesome. Then he gives the order to go to Warp 2 and “Hit it.”
In “The Cage,” Jeffrey Hunter playing Pike issues an order like, “Time warp, factor five.” I guess “warp” was supposed to be short for “time warp.” Just once, I’d like to hear Mount word it that way.
Oh, I didn’t get the stardate at the beginning of the episode, but by the end, it was 2259. That’s not outrageous and how stardates are calculated depends on a number of things including position in the galaxy and probably Einsteinian relativity, but technically, it’s too late.
It have a very, very beat up copy of the Star Trek Concordance written by Bjo Trimble and published in 1976.
I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Anyway, it has a list of episodes presented in stardate order. Episodes were originally aired in a different order in which they were filmed, so Roddenberry thought of a lot of fake physics for why the stardates were out of order (the stardates for the 1970s animated series are listed, so disregard them).
The second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” has a stardate of 1312.4. “Mudd’s Women” was 1329.1, and “The Corbomite Maneuver” was 1512.2. Not a deal breaker, but they could have used other stardates like 1010.3 or even 0678.1. Oh well.
It was a good first episode over all, in spite of the fact that I seem to be complaining a lot. Like I said, “alternate universe” and all problems (well, most of them) are solved. You still can’t tell me that Spock can get from Vulcan to Earth in a shuttlecraft in under twelve hours.
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For more on this episode, watch my three-minute or less video review on TikTok: