Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, and Star Trek: The Original Series.
Though we still haven’t seen a trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, which is on the schedule for next year, last week’s Star Trek Day broadcast finally introduced us to members of the crew of the USS Enterprise who will be joining Captain Pike. Along with Pike, Spock, and Number One, who are returning to their roles from Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, we briefly met six other characters.
We’ll look at each of these characters in turn to see what we can gleam and if we can figure out anything about the direction of any of Strange New Worlds’ plotlines, but first I wanted to cover an omission. Ever since Strange New Worlds was announced last year, fans had been speculating about who may or may not join Captain Pike on the Enterprise, but one character I felt had a strong chance of making an appearance was Cadet Sidhu.
Cadet Sidhu was introduced in the Short Treks episode Ask Not in 2019, and played a major role in that story alongside Captain Pike. Though Ask Not was primarily a vehicle for Anson Mount to reprise his much-loved role, almost any story aboard the Enterprise could’ve been invented for that purpose. To tell a story that focused on Cadet Sidhu and her being assigned to the USS Enterprise felt like a deliberate character introduction, and even though Strange New Worlds hadn’t been announced at that point, the series was clearly something that Star Trek was building up to.
I felt that Ask Not was a strong story, and that Sidhu actor Amrit Kaur put in a solid performance. It was a little surprising to see that she wasn’t part of the main cast at Star Trek Day, and while it’s still possible the character could return in some form, the inclusion of Cadet Uhura – whose role we’ll come to in a moment – seems like it’s potentially occupying a very similar space to the role that Sidhu might’ve played. Although the two characters are in different departments – Sidhu in engineering, Uhura in communications – in terms of narrative structure and character roles it seems unlikely that Strange New Worlds would have space to do justice to the stories of two cadets. If Sidhu is included, then, it seems certain that her role will be much less prominent than I’d have initially expected.
Now that we’ve covered one non-appearance, let’s look at who will definitely be part of Season 1! The character about whom we know the least right now is Erica Ortegas, played by Melissa Navia. This lieutenant appears to occupy a role on the bridge, perhaps in either the helm or navigation positions in front of Captain Pike. Wearing a red shirt, however, could mean she has a role as a security officer, tactical officer, or engineer either in addition to or instead of a permanent role on the bridge.
Lieutenant Ortegas does not appear to be connected to any known Star Trek characters, either from The Original Series era or any other Star Trek production, so that speculation is really the extent of what we know! We can assume that she’s of Spanish, Latin American, or Hispanic-American origin simply based on her name and casting, which would make her the first major character in the franchise to be from one of those backgrounds.
Interestingly, the name “Ortegas” is not new to Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry’s original pitch for Star Trek, prior to commencing work on The Cage, included a character named José Ortegas who would occupy the role of the ship’s navigator. By the time The Cage entered production, however, this character had been changed. José Tyler (whose first name wasn’t mentioned on screen) replaced Ortegas. This subtle nod to Star Trek’s origin is incredibly sweet, and if we can infer anything at all from this connection, it could mean that Lieutenant Ortegas will indeed occupy the role of navigator on the bridge.
Up next is the other character who appears to have no connection that we’re aware of to anyone else in Star Trek: Hemmer, played by Bruce Horak. Horak was not part of the announcement of the cast of Strange New Worlds earlier in the year, so his inclusion was a bit of a surprise for more than one reason! Most interestingly, though, Hemmer appears to be an Aenar – an Andorian race first encountered in Enterprise.
Most Aenar were known to be blind, and actor Bruce Horak is himself legally blind. This aspect of Hemmer’s character wasn’t discussed at all during Star Trek Day, which was a little odd considering it’s a significant step for the franchise. The character of Geordi La Forge in The Next Generation was also blind, but in his case a visor allowed him to see. Hemmer will potentially be the first blind character on Star Trek whose sight hasn’t been restored through technological means. What that means for his role aboard the ship isn’t clear, though.
Hemmer was wearing the red shirt of the security or engineering departments, and the very brief clip of him appeared to show him in a different area of the ship. Perhaps we can infer from that that he isn’t a bridge officer and may work in engineering. The Aenar in Enterprise were known to have extensive telepathic abilities, which could give Hemmer an edge when it comes to things like diplomacy or even a medical field. Hemmer is already a fascinating character, and I love the nod to Enterprise. His inclusion is a positive one for the visually-impaired, and for folks with disabilities of all kinds. Not only that, but it was done in a very “Star Trek” way – casting a character who is a member of a blind race of aliens doesn’t tread on the toes of things like Geordi’s visor and the prospect of offering a cure for blindness in Star Trek’s optimistic future.
Now we’re coming to characters who may be a little more familiar. La’an Noonien-Singh, played by Christina Chong, shares a family name with Khan Noonien Singh (albeit with a hyphen, though that could be a mistake). It seems incredibly unlikely to me that that’s a coincidence, so the question it raises is to what extent is La’an connected to Khan? At this point in the timeline, Khan is still in stasis aboard the SS Botany Bay. He wouldn’t be encountered by the Enterprise and awakened until after Captain Kirk assumed command of the ship, so La’an seemingly can’t be a direct relation.
It’s possible that she’s a distant descendant, then. Though Khan was genetically augmented, the practice was banned after the Eugenics Wars and thus it seems unlikely that La’an could be an augment herself. However, genetic traits found in Khan may still be present after several generations and she may have increased strength or mental faculties as a result.
One storyline that could be interesting for a character like La’an is how she might want to move away from her family history. Assuming that she does have a family connection with Khan, the choice to either embrace or reject his legacy could be something we see the character struggle with at points. Some people struggle with a family name and family legacy, and this can be a source of drama in fiction. Though Kylo Ren’s story went completely off the rails in the Star Wars franchise, it began with lofty ambitions of depicting a man struggling with different parts of his family history. Perhaps we’ll see something similar with La’an Noonien-Singh.
Other than that implied connection with Khan, all we can say about La’an is that she’s also wearing the red uniform of either the security or engineering divisions. Either could be a good fit if there’s any kind of genetic legacy from Khan and his augments – a security officer with enhanced strength and endurance would have an advantage, and an engineer whose brain works faster than everyone else would likewise be an incredibly useful asset to any engineering team.
Those three characters are brand-new to Star Trek – even though there are connections to the rest of the franchise. Strange New Worlds also re-introduced us to three other characters who are returning! These three all appeared in The Original Series. We’ll begin with Dr M’Benga, who appeared in just two episodes. When Dr McCoy was absent, Dr M’Benga appeared to be in charge, so he could’ve been the deputy chief medical officer by the time of The Original Series.
Though never confirmed on screen, the character’s first name was intended to be Joseph, and Dr M’Benga would’ve been born in Uganda in Africa. By the time of Geordi La Forge’s birth around a century later, an organisation called the African Confederation was known to exist, so it’s possible that Dr M’Benga may have originated from there as well. The actor taking on the role, Babs Olusanmokun, was born in Nigeria, so it’s possible that Dr M’Benga’s origin could be changed to give him a west African ancestry.
The Original Series clarified one thing about Dr M’Benga – he was somewhat of an expert on Vulcan physiology having spent some time on Vulcan. It’s possible that we could see him strike up a friendship with Spock based on that, or prove useful if Spock requires medical attention. Given Dr M’Benga’s status by the time of The Original Series I’m not convinced that he’ll be the chief medical officer – if so, why would he seemingly have taken a demotion to serve under Dr McCoy a decade later?
Dr Boyce, who we met in The Cage, appeared to be a friend and confidante of Captain Pike as well as the Enterprise’s chief medical officer. It’s possible this character may yet return in some form, and that Dr M’Benga is again a deputy. Or perhaps Dr Boyce has taken a leave of absence leaving Dr M’Benga in charge temporarily. Of the returning characters from The Original Series, Dr M’Benga offers the creative team behind Strange New Worlds the most freedom. We saw him on only a couple of occasions, so his character is still largely unwritten.
Staying in sickbay, we come to Nurse Chapel. Along with Una (Number One), Nurse Christine Chapel was played by Majel Barrett during The Original Series and was a mainstay in sickbay alongside Dr McCoy. Jess Bush is taking on the role for Strange New Worlds, and presumably will share a number of scenes with Dr M’Benga. The two characters knew one another by the time of The Original Series, and even worked together to treat Spock in the episode A Private Little War.
Despite appearing in twenty-five episodes of The Original Series, as well as in The Animated Series and two films, I’d argue that Nurse Chapel is still quite an underdeveloped character open for Strange New Worlds to explore in more depth. Many of her appearances in The Original Series were as an assistant to Dr McCoy, and learning more about her as a person away from her medical duties could be something the new show does.
There’s also the romantic feelings that Nurse Chapel developed toward Spock. Does she have a crush on him at this early stage? If not, perhaps the series will show how that came to be. Though I’m sure her characterisation won’t just be about that – the trope of female characters having nothing to think about but men is a tired one that needs to be retired – it could be one element among many that we see. Chapel was engaged to a man named Roger Korby by Season 1 of The Original Series, and this relationship could also be explored.
As a character that we’re at least a little familiar with, Strange New Worlds will have to tread somewhat carefully with Nurse Chapel. Though there is scope, as mentioned, to dive deeper into her characterisation and learn more about her, there are some constraints based on what we know of her from The Original Series that the show will have to respect.
Finally we come to the character that got many fans incredibly excited. Strange New Worlds was even trending on Twitter for a time following the reveal that Cadet Nyota Uhura will be a member of the crew. With the exception of Spock and, to a degree, Captain Pike, Uhura is the character fans are most familiar with, as she appeared in sixty-nine episodes of The Original Series, all but three episodes of The Animated Series, and all six films starring Star Trek’s original cast. She also appeared in the alternate reality Kelvin timeline films.
As such, there’s less scope to reshape or change Uhura’s character than there is for any of the others. However, as Discovery did with Spock in Season 2, there’s a lot of potential to show where Uhura came from and how she came to grow into the person we came to know and love during The Original Series. She can’t be too fundamentally different, but she can certainly start in a different place and slowly become the person we’re more familiar with. This was Spock’s journey, in some respects, in Discovery.
We know from both her original depiction and her Kelvin timeline depiction that Uhura has a knack for alien languages. Perhaps her unique skillset is what landed her a role on the Enterprise to begin with, as it seems unlikely that a cadet would ordinarily be a regular on the bridge! In that sense we could see her akin to Hoshi Sato from Enterprise – still finding her feet on the ship, but confident in her particular field.
A young cadet or newly-graduated officer is a character archetype that Star Trek shows have used in the past to great effect. Wesley Crusher, Harry Kim, and Sylvia Tilly come to mind first and foremost, but I’d also point to Dr Bashir in his first appearances, as well as Pavel Chekov, D’Vana Tendi, and the aforementioned Hoshi Sato as great examples. These kinds of characters present a strong contrast with the more experienced members of the crew, and can offer different perspectives as a result. Not only that, but any character who’s new aboard the ship makes for a great introduction and point-of-view character for us as the audience. It’s possible that Uhura will fill this role at the beginning of Strange New Worlds.
Before we wrap things up we can also talk about Una Chin-Riley, also known as Number One. She’s Captain Pike’s first officer, and though we spent a little time with her in Discovery Season 2 and Short Treks, there’s still a lot that we don’t know about her. Her depiction in The Cage was as a rather unemotional, straight-laced person. In particular the Short Treks episode Q&A showed us that there is a fun side to her – and this is something we could definitely see more of. Number One seems like someone with a very professional attitude, and perhaps a very clear line between friends and co-workers. Captain Pike and Spock may have bridged that line – but who else will?
Rebecca Romijn, who plays the character, told us that Una is “way more complex” than we might expect, which is tantalising to say the least! She also said that Strange New Worlds will take the opportunity to “flesh out” the character in more detail, which sounds fantastic. Though the original portrayal – and to an extent what we’ve seen in Discovery – does act as a constraint on where the character could go, I think there’s still plenty of scope to explore who Number One is.
The uniforms have been redesigned for Strange New Worlds, with most characters sporting a V-neck variant without the high collar or much of the piping and stitching seen in Season 2 of Discovery. Number One appears to have her own unique variant with a zip collar and black undershirt, and more black or dark patches on the sides of the torso. It’s not clear why she gets a special uniform – or indeed if this is what she’ll wear most often. But it’s interesting, and makes her stand out from the rest of the crew.
Of course we also have Captain Pike and Spock returning as well – but I daresay you know at least a little about both of them already! We didn’t really learn too much more about either of them at Star Trek Day, though there was talk of Captain Pike potentially inviting members of his senior staff to his quarters and cooking meals for them. That seems like a neat addition to his character. In Discovery Season 2 we came to see Captain Pike as the embodiment of Starfleet’s values and the epitome of what it means to be a leader. I daresay that side of his characterisation will remain.
When it comes to Pike, one element of his story that I’m most interested in is how he’s going to handle the knowledge of his impending accident and disability. He chose that future for himself in Discovery Season 2, and now it’s locked-in. As someone who’s disabled and suffers from a complex set of health issues, I’ve been in the position of knowing something is wrong and only going to get worse. I’ve heard bad news from a doctor, knowing there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome. Seeing how Pike will respond to being in a comparable situation has to be one of the things I’m most anticipating when it comes to his role in Strange New Worlds.
However, I’m also looking forward to spending time with Pike himself outside of that. There’s more to him than just one storyline, and we could see him, for example, attempt to make contact with Vina on Talos IV again, or furthering his friendships with Spock and Number One. I’m curious to see him interact with some of the other members of the crew, particularly those we remember from The Original Series era.
Finally we have Spock. As the character we know best, and as someone who’s been a major part of Star Trek for practically its entire history, there’s far less scope to radically change Spock. Additions can be made to his character – as we saw with Michael Burnham in Discovery – but at a fundamental level, who he is as a person is set in stone.
We may see Spock’s human and Vulcan sides in conflict in Strange New Worlds as he tries to bury his emotions. At Star Trek Day, producer Akiva Goldsman made reference to The Cage and how Spock was depicted there. How “smiley Spock” became the character we know, perhaps influenced by the loss of Michael Burnham, could be one element of his character that the new show will explore.
I think it’s more important for Spock to stay true to his past characterisation than it is for any of the others. Spock has appeared in The Original Series and its films, The Next Generation, and the Kelvin timeline films, and was a major character much of the time. There is still scope to explore unknown aspects of his character – and we could see, for example, how or why he came to have a falling-out with Sarek – but generally speaking this is the character that Strange New Worlds has to be the most careful with.
Production has now finished on Season 1 of Strange New Worlds. Though I fully expect a second season is already being worked on behind closed doors, there’s been no official announcement as of yet. If the show follows a similar pattern to Discovery and Picard, it might not be until the first season is about to premiere that we’ll learn a second is going to happen. Regardless, I think it’s a safe bet right now that, after all the effort and work that’s gone into Season 1, Strange New Worlds won’t just run for a single season!
Promising a return to a more episodic format, and bringing back Captain Pike and Spock after their excellent roles in Season 2 of Discovery, Strange New Worlds was already high up on the list of shows I’m most excited for. But I have to say, after seeing the casting announcements (and, perhaps, because Picard Season 2 has dropped down a little) it’s now officially right at the top! 2022 can’t come soon enough, to be honest!
Each of the new characters look genuinely exciting and interesting, and the series seems to be doing a good job at walking the line between staying true to Star Trek’s past and carving out its own niche. That isn’t always going to be easy, and the producers have certainly taken on a challenge by bringing back fan-favourites like Uhura. But everything I’ve seen and heard fills me with confidence that Strange New Worlds is going to be utterly fantastic. I cannot wait to see the show when it premieres next year.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States (and other regions where the platform is available) in 2022. Further international distribution has 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.