Captain Pike, played by Anson Mount, gets to utter the lines in the last seconds of Star Trek:
Strange New Worlds. You’ve heard about them before, from William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, and even Scott Bakula. They appear immediately after the line “to explore weird new worlds,” implying that they were destined to be the grand finale of an episode titled “Strange New Worlds,” which kicks off a Strange New Worlds series. After 50 minutes of waiting, they finally appear, exactly as expected and promised, with just small changes.
Pike reminds his crew of the USS Enterprise’s purpose as he prepares to take the captain’s chair on the bridge: “We search out new life and new civilizations.” We take risks and venture where no one has gone before.” Every Star Trek fan thinks it’s cool. Cadet Uhura, grinning broadly, says on the screen, “Cool.” Pike, too, can’t help but smile.
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It’s easy to imagine a Star Trek series that calls it quits after the first 50 minutes, hoping to be saved by a cynical, creatively bankrupt recitation of a quote guaranteed to elicit a nostalgic response from any fan. Strange New Worlds isn’t like that. The prequel/spinoff doesn’t take the coolness of the Enterprise’s five-year/continuing/ongoing mission model for granted in the first five episodes, which were handed to critics ahead of Thursday’s series premiere on Paramount+. Rather, it makes a proactive case for its continued coolness.
For at least the first half of the 10-episode first season, the mission remains as compelling as it was when it started on TV almost 60 years ago. Strange New Worlds doesn’t just say the words; it lives by them, which is why it’s the most genuine enjoyment live-action Trek since
Strange New Worlds is technically a spinoff of Star Trek: Discovery, which reintroduced the Pike-commanded Enterprise and established the core cast of Mount as Pike, Ethan Peck as Spock (who is Discovery protagonist Michael Burnham’s adoptive brother), and Rebecca Romijn as Number One in its second season. But the series owes as much, if not more, to The Original Series’ unaired pilot “The Cage” and the first-season two-parter “The Menagerie.” Those episodes established that Christopher Pike was James T. Kirk’s immediate predecessor as captain of the Enterprise, as well as the fact that Christopher Pike was James T. Kirk’s immediate predecessor and that while rescuing cadets on a training vessel, Pike would be disabled and gravely damaged by radiation. Pike’s story was deepened by Discovery, which gave him a vision of his damaged future; in Strange New Worlds, set approximately ten years before the foretold accident, he must either accept or evade his fate. (A version of Pike also appears in J.J. Abrams’ big-screen Trek reboot’s other reality, however, this Pike avoids the worst of the physical impacts.)
Star Trek has always been a show about aspiration. Even the bleakest stories are grounded in hope, in the notion that humanity’s future will be more socially evolved as well as technologically advanced.
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