Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including the most recent seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.
The announcement a few days ago that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was officially in production was genuinely exciting. Along with Star Trek: Picard’s second season, this is probably the Star Trek project that I’m currently most interested to see on our screens, even though it probably won’t be coming until 2022.
After I’d watched the announcement video and read the official release on Star Trek’s website, I got thinking about some of the different directions that Strange New Worlds could go in its first season – a season that will hopefully be the first of many! None of this is official or anywhere close to official, but these are some ideas that I think could be interesting, enjoyable, or just downright good ways to take the new show.
I’ve already taken a closer look at the announcement itself, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.
Number 1: A crossover with the Section 31 series.
Unlike Star Trek shows of The Next Generation’s era, recent Star Trek projects have been wholly standalone affairs. Partly this is because the timeline is so chopped up, with Discovery in the 32nd Century, Picard in the 25th, Lower Decks in the 24th, and so on. There just hasn’t been much opportunity for the shows which are in production simultaneously to share very much of anything – aside from a couple of redressed sets. In my opinion this is a bit of a mistake, not least because it risks the Star Trek franchise becoming convoluted and offputting for newcomers.
One way this could be rectified is for Strange New Worlds to cross over with the other series which is supposedly set in the same era – the currently-untitled Section 31 show. As both series will feature characters who debuted in Discovery, the three shows will be tied together in a way that will be to the overall benefit of the franchise. We know, thanks to the events of Discovery’s second season, that Pike, Spock, and Number One are well aware of the existence of Section 31, and are familiar with both Ash Tyler and Empress Georgiou. While Shazad Latif, who plays Tyler, has not been officially confirmed for the new series, the end of Discovery Season 2 left Tyler as the shadowy organisation’s new director. In any case, however, a crossover with Strange New Worlds could be reciprocated in a second season of the Section 31 show, as both crews work together to accomplish some task or defeat an enemy.
Number 2: Bring back some classic Star Trek races.
The title of Strange New Worlds implies that we’ll be doing at least some exploration with Pike and the crew, and that’s great. Exploration was at the heart of classic Star Trek, and while recent projects have dabbled with the concept, it hasn’t really been front and centre in the way it was in The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Enterprise – those shows, at least in my opinion, are the ones which were most concerned with exploring. However, as great as it will be to introduce wholly new planets and races, as a prequel Strange New Worlds has to be careful how it does so lest the question of “why was this race or that planet never mentioned?” crop up.
It’s a great opportunity to reintroduce some of Star Trek’s classic races, including some we haven’t really seen in any detail since the era of The Original Series. We’ve already seen that the Andorians will feature in Discovery’s third season, so how about bringing back races like the Tellaraties or Catians? The Xindi and Suliban featured prominently in Enterprise but haven’t been seen since, so either of those could make a welcome return. Enterprise saw the brief return of the Tholians and Gorn, both of whom debuted in The Original Series but haven’t been explored in any detail, so those are both possibilities too. And there are races like the Tzenkethi who have only ever been mentioned and never actually seen on screen.
Strange New Worlds could tie itself into the franchise by depicting first contact between the Federation and, for example, the Bajorans or Cardassians. Seeing those races long before the events of Deep Space Nine would be fascinating, and it would be interesting to see how well or how badly first contact went with a familiar race! We could even seen the Bajorans before the Cardassian occupation devastated and fundamentally changed their society.
Number 3: Save the Prime Timeline version of Capt. Lorca!
Jason Isaacs’ portrayal of Capt. Lorca was one of the high points of Discovery’s first season for me, and even though he went off the rails at the end becoming a caricature and a pantomime villain instead of the complex character we’d come to know, the performance was great throughout. The Prime Timeline version of Capt. Lorca was assumed to have been killed in the Mirror Universe, but that was never seen on screen and is unconfirmed at best. A mission to the Mirror Universe to rescue Lorca would not only allow Jason Isaacs to reprise his role, but could potentially set the stage for him to become a recurring character – either in Strange New Worlds, the Section 31 show, or both.
I don’t know exactly how that could work, and I think it’s a story that they might have to find a way for Spock to stay out of given his first encounter with the Mirror Universe was shown in The Original Series. But it could be made to work, and it would allow the return of a great actor and a genuinely interesting character. What made Lorca such an fascinating captain is that he was a hardball, someone for whom the ends justified the means. And given how the Mirror Universe version was able to blend in so well, it seems the Prime Timeline version can’t be too far removed from that. Knowing what we know about Lorca, he could have survived in the Mirror Universe, and if Capt. Pike were to learn he was trapped there, the Enterprise could launch a rescue mission.
Number 4: Recast a couple of classic characters from The Cage or even The Original Series.
Any television show wants to stand on its own, and a big part of that is having new and unique characters. Strange New Worlds already has three of its main roles taken up by recast versions of classic characters, so I would imagine that the show’s creators don’t want too many others. However, even if they were only guest stars or recurring characters, I think it could be interesting to bring back some familiar names. The characters from The Cage – including Number One, really – are practically blank slates, ripe for the new show’s writers and producers to do anything with as they’re characters we only saw once. Spock is obviously much more constrained, and so is Pike. But we could see a return of characters like Dr Boyce, Yeoman Colt, and José Tyler, all of whom were present in The Cage. There’s scope for those characters to be explored and fleshed out; their one-off roles turned into something much bigger in the new series.
We could also see classic characters like Scotty or Dr McCoy introduced – though I’d encourage the team behind Strange New Worlds to tread carefully here. Even meeting a young Ensign Kirk could make for an interesting episode – we’ve never actually seen how Kirk and Spock met in the Prime Timeline, after all.
There’s nothing wrong with introducing classic characters if it’s done in a respectful way and in a way that is organic and natural in the unfolding story of the series. Ham-fistedly dumping a character in just for fan-service is never a good idea, but if it can be made to work it would be a great little throwback for fans of The Original Series.
Number 5: Become a genuine ensemble series.
Discovery and Picard are both quite different from past iterations of Star Trek insofar as they’re both shows that have a very clear main protagonist, with other members of the cast being less important to the overall narrative. While various members of the crews got sub-plots – Raffi got to visit her estranged son in Picard, and Tilly helped a race from the Mycelial Network in Discovery, to give two examples – for the most part the shows followed Picard and Burnham’s stories. For a number of reasons, this worked far better in Picard than it did in Discovery, and therein lies a problem. Burnham has, at least for me, never fully landed as a protagonist I’m rooting for. She can be interesting and engaging, but she can also be aloof to the point that her motivations aren’t really clear or understandable. In short, in a series that so closely follows one character, if that character isn’t as sympathetic and enjoyable as they should be, it detracts from the story.
Past Star Trek shows had episodes that involved the whole crew – stories where no single crew member could do everything and solve every puzzle, with different officers bringing different perspectives and skillsets to the table to tackle what lay in front of them. Call to Arms, the finale of Deep Space Nine’s fifth season, is a great example. Practically the whole main cast, as well as several recurring characters, all have different things to do which all come together to provide a thrilling story.
On the flip side, another format past Star Trek shows used very well were one-off stories in which a single crew member got a turn in the hot seat as that episode’s focus. Interface, from the seventh season of The Next Generation, Barge of the Dead from Voyager’s sixth season, and Distant Voices from the third season of Deep Space Nine are all good examples of how this concept can be made to work. In all three cases, the main cast all had things to do in a story that primarily focused on one character.
None of this necessarily means that Strange New Worlds should be a wholly episodic series – I kind of feel like that ship has sailed in terms of television storytelling in 2020 – but if the show could broaden the number of characters allowed to play major roles in its story, I think that would be to its overall benefit.
Number 6: Don’t use another “the galaxy is about to be destroyed” narrative.
Discovery’s Klingon War and Red Angel story arcs, as well as Picard’s Zhat Vash/synth story all set up potential galaxy-ending threats that would wipe out humanity, the Federation, and life as we know it. While that can be an exciting and engaging premise, not every story has to rely on the threat of armageddon to be interesting.
Some stories, particularly those about exploration, don’t necessarily need an overarching evil villain with an evil scheme planning to doom everybody. With Discovery’s third season looking almost certain to use this kind of story again, it would be nice if Strange New Worlds could just do something different. Not every story has to be about a plucky Starfleet crew saving the Federation and the galaxy – there’s room for completely different adventures that are just as interesting and engaging.
Star Trek shows of the past used this kind of storyline sparingly, and when villains arose they were more likely to be a threat to the ship and crew rather than the whole Federation. Reusing this trope too often can make it less impactful, so it would be great if Strange New Worlds could take a break from threats to the whole galaxy. If there has to be a villain at all, make them something different both in scale and motivation.
Number 7: Show the reality of day-to-day life aboard a starship.
One of the reasons I’m so interested to see what Lower Decks brings to the table is that it will focus less on the command crew of the starship – the people on the bridge taking the big decisions – and will show off some of the “minor” officers who live and work aboard the ship. There’s scope within that show to see what an average day looks like when living and working aboard a Starfleet vessel, and I think that potential exists for Strange New Worlds too.
Not every episode has to be about something big happening to the ship and crew. We have the potential for quieter, character-driven stories as the Enterprise warps between planets, and these kind of stories can be dramatic and interesting just as much as a space battle with the Klingons or an away mission to an uncharted world.
Seeing how the crew live and work together, particularly in those moments where there isn’t some major time-sensitive mission or task to perform, could be really interesting, as well as being something different that we haven’t seen a great deal of in live-action Star Trek.
Number 8: Set up a few recurring characters in addition to the main cast.
Deep Space Nine was the first Star Trek show to have a secondary cast of recurring characters who impacted the show in a big way. There had been a couple in The Next Generation, like Reg Barclay and of course Chief O’Brien, but Deep Space Nine had far more of these characters and had them show up far more often. It worked incredibly well in that show, and characters like Rom, Garak, Nog, Martok, Dukat, Weyoun, and many others became just as much a part of the series as its main cast.
On a starship there are more people than just the handful of bridge officers and department heads. While we can’t possibly expect to see all 400+ of the Enterprise’s crew, we could get to know secondary characters like, for example: someone who works in maintenance, a weapons officer or security guard, a civilian scientist or diplomat, a chef, barkeep, or other recreation provider, an officer from a “minor” department like stellar cartography, etc. This kind of ties in with the point above, showing some of the day-to-day life aboard a starship.
Number 9: Engage in some real exploration.
Strange New Worlds is an interesting title for a series. It strongly implies that the show will be seeking out these worlds – in short, exploring the galaxy like we saw in The Original Series and The Next Generation. In the announcement video, the show was described as being a “classic Star Trek show”, and to me that further reinforces the notion that we will be seeing exploration make a return.
I mentioned above that we could see a return of classic races like the Gorn, Tholians, Cardassians, etc. and even see first contact between them and the Federation. That would be an interesting premise and would fit with the idea of exploring. But I think we do also need to see some new faces to allow Strange New Worlds to stand on its own. There’s a balance there, and it may be difficult to get right.
We should also see the ship visit a number of different planets, moons, and locations in space. It’s called Strange New Worlds, after all, not Strange New World! So we should definitely be seeing a series which visits a few different locations simply for the purpose of exploring and charting those places.
Number 10: Use varied filming locations and/or indoor sound stages.
One of the issues I had with Picard when it aired earlier this year was the lack of diversity in the show’s filming locations. Outdoor on-location shoots have been common in television for decades at this point, and that’s not a problem in and of itself. However, Picard tried to depict a few different locations on Earth, including France and Japan, as well as four planets (Coppelius, Vashti, Nepenthe, and Aia) using locations which were all within a few miles of its Los Angeles base. And that was painfully apparent as the season dragged on, detracting from the aesthetic of the show. During my series of articles reviewing the first season of Picard this was something I commented on, and I said then that if travelling to different places for shoots was prohibitively expensive, indoor sound stages could have been employed to make some of these locations look genuinely different.
A lot can be done with indoor sound stages in 2020 that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago, and with digital effects as well there’s potential to make each visited location look genuinely different. If there’s a choice between seeing four locations that look the same because of where they were filmed or having to use smaller-scale shots because a sound stage is being used, I’ll always prefer the latter if it means we can see some genuinely different scenery.
If Strange New Worlds is to be the kind of exploration show that its name implies, visiting fifteen planets that all look the same wouldn’t be good, so finding different filming locations and using indoor sound stages where necessary is going to be important.
While it’s unconfirmed at this stage, every Star Trek production aside from Picard is currently being filmed in Toronto not California, and while that will be to the show’s overall benefit, if it retreads too much ground the same issue will arise. In the cut-down seasons that current Star Trek shows use, filming locations are even more apparent than they had been in the past. In The Next Generation, for example, there might only be a handful of episodes in a 26-episode season that saw any outdoor filming. In Picard, with only ten episodes and multiple outdoor shoots, the fact that these locations were all in California was far more obvious.
Number 11: Have a DOT-type robot.
Ephraim and Dot was one of two animated episodes of Short Treks released in December last year, and it was an absolutely adorable story. One thing that the episode established is that ships like the Enterprise had a handful of robots aboard to perform certain tasks that humans couldn’t, like working inside the warp core or out on the ship’s hull. These DOT or DOT-7 robots are closer to something like R2-D2 or BB8 from the Star Wars franchise than anything we’d really seen in Star Trek before, but I think there’s scope to bring a DOT-7 into Strange New Worlds as a part of the Enterprise’s “crew”.
It doesn’t mean that such a robot would need to feature heavily in the story – or even in any episode – but seeing a DOT-7 or a handful of them in the background a few times, perhaps performing some repair work or doing something in engineering, would be a cute little nod to Short Treks.
Number 12: Try to respect the overall canon of the franchise.
This doesn’t mean that every tiny little detail needs to be perfect. Most fans will allow any new Star Trek project some leeway in changing minor things. The redesign of the Enterprise is one area where I feel they made a positive change, updating the aesthetic of the show without really “damaging” canon. All that’s required to get around the different aesthetic – if you feel that’s necessary – is to say the Enterprise had a refit between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.
But when it comes to bigger things, like introducing races and factions that had no contact with the Federation prior to The Original Series or The Next Generation, the show does have to be respectful. We shouldn’t see, for example, the Dominion or the Borg brought in, as the history of contact between the Federation and those factions has already been established. In the latter case, Enterprise and Voyager both made the history of Borg-Federation contact quite convoluted and complicated, and trying to insert them into Strange New Worlds would be too much of a stretch, at least in my opinion.
There is scope within canon for a lot of interesting things to happen. We could see, for example, Pike’s Enterprise transported somehow to the Delta Quadrant – provided they make their way home again – as doing so would not really disrupt anything established in Voyager. As long as care was taken with such a story, canon can be flexible, and Akiva Goldsman, who is one of the show’s executive producers, did a great job on Picard keeping the established canon of the franchise intact, so that’s a positive in my book.
So that’s it. A few ideas for Strange New Worlds. At this stage we have very little actual information about the show itself, and with production being suspended across the television industry, it may be a while before it even begins filming. As I mentioned at the beginning, I doubt we’ll see the show before 2022 with everything else going on in the world.
These were just a few of my ideas for what I’d like to see from Strange New Worlds, and should be taken as just that – fan ideas. I don’t have any kind of “insider information”, and there’s really nothing to suggest Strange New Worlds will use any of the ideas and concepts on this list. Whatever happens, however, I’m really interested and excited to see what the show will have to offer.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be released on CBS All Access in the United States at an unknown future date. 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.