The measure of any entry in the Star Trek franchise should come down to self-sufficiency. An ability to stand alone, despite the weight of a film and television legacy which goes back decades. With Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which launches on Paramount Plus May 5th, audiences are asked to put their faith in the franchise once more and journey back to the source. A time that predates the arrival of James T. Kirk and embraces a different kind of Captain in Christopher Pike.
From the outset, Anson Mount continues to build on his portrayal of this character, which is carried over from Star Trek: Discovery. He is intentionally isolated in an opening that comes on like a revisionist Western, with swathes of snowy tundra and tree-lined mountain ranges. Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman and Jenny Lumet, who spearhead this show, immediately make a statement about the separation between man and machine.
This Christopher Pike is disillusioned about his place in space, counting down the days until his demise is realized. In an introduction that follows some stunning opening credits, Mount depicts a man at odds with his environment, either in the ether or elsewhere. As a friction-filled exchange plays out in the log cabin and his Federation communicator relentlessly vibrates, this imagined utopia is disrupted by a shuttlecraft.
What follows is a series of character introductions which include Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn), La’an Noonie-Singh (Christina Chong) and Spock (Ethan Peck). What becomes apparent as Strange New Worlds progresses is how solid this ensemble feels out of the gate. Ethan Peck, who is another carry-over from Discovery, imbues his Spock with understated masculinity somehow lacking from the Leonard Nimoy portrayal and subsequently Zachary Quinto performance.
Re-introduced on his wedding night at a crucial moment, this Spock is pulled away on urgent business, leaving his loved one wanting. A fact that further defines this version as distinct to this particular Star Trek universe. As the scene plays out, it is apparent that duty and family go hand in hand with this man, creating an essential balance for this culturally conflicted character.
Elsewhere, Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) plays a crucial role in propelling this series into action, by creating a pivotal narrative purpose. Not only unifying the captain and crew in a singular objective but concisely demonstrating a defining tenet for Star Trek fans. In a subtle sleight of hand which is made to look effortless, this first fifty minutes lays the groundwork for what proves to be a great opening season.
Not only does Strange New Worlds provide a platform to demonstrate Pike’s diplomatic skills, whilst commenting on real-world concerns, but gives diehard fans some Easter eggs in the process. It also gives the filmmakers a chance to really immerse audiences in this universe, through some truly breathtaking production design. Employing environments either on board the Enterprise or elsewhere, Jonathan Lee grounds the drama, which in turn lends gravitas to everything else. As this series progresses and a number of escalating anomalies continue to plague this intrepid crew, that sense of reality only grows stronger.
Discussions about race and identity also play an important role in establishing each person onboard the Enterprise, whilst Kurtzman, Goldsman and Lumet utilize their individual skill sets in genuinely inventive ways. Not only serving the overall narrative arc of this show, which seeks to find Pike some peace within himself but hooks audiences early on into a show with limitless potential.
Stand-out performances from amongst the principal players include Celia Rose Gooding’s Nyota Uhura, while Jess Bush equips herself well as Christine Chapel. As this mishmash of complimentary cultures explores the far reaches of space, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds seamlessly blends nostalgic elements with more contemporary themes.
What is also self-evident, beyond the polished production visuals and solid ensemble cast, is a genuine love for the legacy. As befits this veteran tag team of Roddenberry law, Strange New Worlds feels like it was created by fans with other devotees in mind. In those first five minutes, even the most embittered Star Trek naysayers will be silenced, as something truly awesome is unveiled on screen.
With confirmation that a season 2 is already in the works and casting conversations also taking place, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds seems to have made its mark. Early word prior to previews was strong enough to see Paramount Plus flashing its greenlight, while reviews have only confirmed that fact. A reaction that will only be compounded further when audiences welcome Captain Christopher Pike back into the fold on May 5th.
This latest addition to the Star Trek franchise feels fresh, invigorating and endlessly engaging.