Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery.
Last night, while waiting for my dinner to finish cooking (alright, reheating) I found myself scrolling through Instagram. I don’t follow a lot of accounts – aside from a handful of friends and colleagues, I follow a couple of sports teams and the official Star Trek page, and that’s about it. Tucked in amongst the cat pictures and social-distancing was a post from Star Trek. It was a video, and normally I skip past those. But the soundless preview showed Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn, so it piqued my interest enough to unmute the video and watch it in full. And wouldn’t you know it, they’re only making the Captain Pike show that everyone’s been asking for since Season 2 of Discovery aired last year!
In case you missed it, the announcement video is available on Star Trek’s official website, as well as YouTube. You can watch it below:
The series promises to be, in the words of Anson Mount, a “classic Star Trek show that deals with optimism and the future.” It’s far too early to know exactly what they have in store for Strange New Worlds, but I think we can make a handful of reasonable assumptions.
A “classic” Star Trek show. That’s a very specific way to explain it, and to me what I think it means is that we’re going to see a show with less of a focus on one main character, as Discovery and Picard have been. Past Star Trek series have been ensemble affairs, with other members of the crew besides one primary character being given storylines all their own, and while there were sub-plots in Discovery and Picard, those shows largely followed the story of their designated main protagonists. What I don’t think “classic” infers, at least at this early stage, is that we’ll see a return to wholly episodic television, with a “monster-of-the-week”, in which each episode forms a fully standalone story. Television storytelling has largely left that format behind, so what I think Strange New Worlds will offer will have at least elements of serialisation, including season-long arcs for its main characters.
Speaking of characters, we know of only three right now: Anson Mount’s Capt. Pike, Ethan Peck’s Spock, and Rebecca Romijn’s Number One/Una. All three reprise their roles from Season 2 of Discovery, where I think a lot of fans would agree that they were that season’s breakout characters. Before Discovery’s second season aired, ViacomCBS announced that there would be a spin-off: the still-untitled Section 31 show, starring Michelle Yeoh and (presumably, given where his character wound up at the end of the season) Shazad Latif. That announcement wasn’t the home run that it was meant to be, but it did indicate that the franchise was here to stay. However, when Pike, Spock, and Number One proved to be so popular with fans as the season rolled out, there was a sense that perhaps ViacomCBS jumped the gun and announced the spin-off too early; given the reaction fans had to the season, the obvious choice for a spin-off was one centred around Pike. So for over a year, in almost every interview and at every face-to-face meeting with Trekkies, Alex Kurtzman, Anson Mount, and others involved had been asked the question: “can we please have a Capt. Pike series?”
It took a while, but as Ethan Peck said in the official announcement video: “you asked, we listened!”
It’s definitely interesting to me that Strange New Worlds has a title and has had this announcement with much fanfare, but the Section 31 show remains without a title and with very little official information having come out about it. Hopefully this will be rectified in due course, because a show looking at the shadowy organisation has the potential to be very interesting too, and I am looking forward to it. I wonder if Strange New Worlds will be released first, especially with the disruption to Section 31’s shooting schedule that the coronavirus pandemic has caused. Both shows, I believe, have at least one set already built. In Section 31’s case, the ship used by Capt. Leland in Discovery’s second season was brand new and given that the spin-off had already been announced at that point, it seemed obvious that they were planning to use that set in some form for the new show. The Enterprise’s bridge had also been built for Discovery, and I don’t think that it was just a reworking of existing sets so perhaps that can be reused too. We’ll have to wait and see!
I love the title – Strange New Worlds. Obviously this is taken from the famous phrase spoken by Captains Kirk and Picard at the beginning of their shows, and it encapsulates what Star Trek has always sought to do – to find these worlds, to explore the unknown, and to meet whoever is out there. This show sounds like it will be one in which exploration makes a return. Discovery has definitely had elements of exploration, bringing in new races like the Pahvans and the Kelpiens, and visiting their homeworlds. But it has largely been a show that followed its main storylines – war with the Klingons, escaping the Mirror Universe, and of course unravelling the mystery of the Red Angel. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to explore the galaxy for Burnham and the crew with all that to accomplish! Picard, of course, didn’t see La Sirena’s crew engage in any exploration, really. They did eventually travel to Coppelius and meet the synths, but those synths were human-built, so I don’t think we can really consider that to be a significant “first contact”! In short, it will be absolutely wonderful to get a Star Trek show where exploration is a key story element.
We’re still missing a lot of key information at this stage, information which I’m sure will come out over time. With the lockdown keeping production across the industry stalled right now, perhaps a 2021 release is a tad optimistic, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn Strange New Worlds is slated for a 2022 launch. One season has been ordered – and yes, it will be a show with multiple episodes and not a one-off television movie. While we don’t know how many episodes that will entail, recent Star Trek productions have offered 10-15 episodes per season. I’d guess they’re aiming for 12, like Discovery was, but perhaps with the potential to add an extra one or two if necessary – as Discovery did in both of its seasons.
There is perhaps the potential for crossover characters from Discovery’s first two seasons, provided those characters didn’t travel into the far future at the end of Season 2. Aside from obvious ones like Ash Tyler and Georgiou, we could perhaps see a return of Harry Mudd, Sarek, Tilly’s Xahean friend Po, Klingon Chancellor L’Rell, or Saru’s sister Siranna. We could even see the Prime Universe version of Capt. Lorca… somehow!
There will also be several spots for main characters, and if we’re thinking about “classic” Starfleet roles, there will need to be a chief engineer, helm officer, communications officer, doctor, and perhaps a tactical/security officer too. Some of those roles existed in The Cage – Star Trek’s original pilot which introduced Pike, Spock, and Number One. Perhaps those same roles could be recast, bringing us a return of Dr Boyce, José Tyler, or Yeoman Colt. I’d wager that there will be unique and original characters joining the crew too, of course.
The team behind Star Trek’s recent successes, including overall head of Star Trek Alex Kurtzman, will be involved in Strange New Worlds. Akiva Goldsman, who wrote and directed the two-part finale to Picard, as well as serving as that show’s executive producer, will taken on a similar role for Strange New Worlds – and has already written the show’s premiere. Given how great Picard was overall, that’s something genuinely encouraging (even if the show’s first-season finale wasn’t exactly the best part!) And Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry, will also be involved behind the scenes, as he has been for Discovery and Picard.
There’s not a lot more to say at this very early stage, except how pleased and excited I am for this announcement. I keep saying it, but it really is a great time to be a Star Trek fan at the moment, with so much new content on the horizon. This series joins Picard’s second season as being what I’m most excited for, and I hope you’ll stay tuned here because as and when we get more news about Strange New Worlds – and other Star Trek projects – I’ll be sure to write about it.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will stream on CBS All Access in the United States. International distribution rights have not yet been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.