Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers are present for Star Trek 2009, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
It’s been a while since we last talked about the currently-untitled Star Trek 2023. The most recent official news we got came back in February of this year, when it was announced that the film would involve a return to the Kelvin timeline that had been established by 2009’s J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek reboot. Since then there’s been very little official news from Paramount – and some of the unofficial news and soundings from some of the actors supposedly involved with the title have been very strange indeed for a film that’s supposedly been greenlit.
Several members of the Kelvin timeline cast – including Karl Urban, who plays Dr McCoy, and Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk – have given cryptic, non-commital statements when asked about the film, and it seems as if Paramount may have jumped the gun and announced Star Trek 2023 before everything was officially in place and ready. That’s certainly the impression I’ve been getting.
Making a film is complicated, and I think it’s imporant to stress that. It takes a lot of effort to get contracts in place, to agree the division of profits, to line up the schedules of actors and directors, and to cover all of the legal, contractual, and economic bases – and that’s before anyone can begin rehearsing and learning their lines, let alone be on set ready to get started. There’s a reason why so many people are named in the end credits of a film; many of those jobs begin years before production gets underway.
One thing that we can say for near-certain is that, as of August 2022, Paramount doesn’t have all of the main Kelvin timeline actors signed on to Star Trek 2023. For a film with a preliminary premiere date of December 2023, that’s not good – and it almost certainly means, at a bare minimum, that we shouldn’t expect the new film to make that deadline. Perhaps we’d better start calling it Star Trek 2024… or more realistically, Star Trek 2025.
Then there’s the question of a script. Last year we got two announcements about a new Star Trek film being written: one by Discovery and Short Treks writer/producer Kalinda Vazquez, and another by Geneva Robertson-Dworet (who co-wrote the scripts for Captain Marvel and 2018’s Tomb Raider) and Lindsey Beer. It wasn’t clear, following the second announcement, whether that meant the Vazquez project is not progressing, whether two Star Trek films may be in early production, or what exactly is going on.
It isn’t unusual for a big film studio to commission scripts, change their minds, and go in a different direction. The film industry can be brutal like that, so we can’t really infer much from the fact that two different scripts appear to have been commissioned – nor that their announcements came within weeks of one another. But the script situation certainly doesn’t help clear things up!
At this point, though, we should be seeing some progress on whichever project ultimately became Star Trek 2023. We’re less than eighteen months away from the film’s currently-scheduled premiere – at which point all three previous Kelvin timeline films were already shooting. 2009’s Star Trek took 141 days of filming (not including reshoots and pick-up shots) between November 2007 and March 2008, and the film wasn’t ready until May 2009.
While I could entertain the notion that Star Trek 2023 is working to a tighter schedule – not unlike some past entries in the cinematic franchise, such as Generations in 1994 – even then we’d expect to have heard a lot more positive noises about the film’s pre-production. At the very least I’d have expected all of the principal cast members to have confirmed that they’re signed on to the project, even if other aspects of production are still up in the air.
As recently as last month (July 2022), Kirk actor Chris Pine said the following about reprising his role: “If it happens, I think all of us would come back.” That doesn’t exactly sound like someone who’s signed a contract – or is even getting ready to sign one. That sounds speculative, hypothetical, and it’s not the only comment from a Kelvin timeline star that raises concerns.
“As soon as they can figure out our moment we can we could all be together, I’m sure we’ll do it.” So said Scotty actor Simon Pegg in June of this year, and a month earlier in May, Dr McCoy actor Karl Urban said “I have heard that it is happening, but I’ve been hearing that for the last three years… All I know is they are developing it, they’re writing a script…” From these comments, it sounds like neither has signed on to the project officially.
While none of the actors have ruled out working on Star Trek 2023, it’s significant at this stage that none of them have committed to it, either. According to some reports, earlier attempts to get the film made in the immediate aftermath of Star Trek Beyond in 2016 were hampered by financial issues, and actors and their agents have a history of using public statements as part of salary negotiations. Perhaps that could account for some of what’s been said – but again, that means the film is clearly at a very early stage with no guarantees of going ahead.
If we were to see Star Trek 2023 arrive on time in December next year, realistically the film should be on the verge of beginning principal photography. That would mean not only would the script be finished but sets would have been built, outdoor filming locations secured, costumes sewn, and all of the actors would need to have cleared their schedules and be ready to go. The fact that we’re still hearing comments from members of the cast that seem to confirm that they haven’t made any significant commitments or made space in their schedules tells me that the film is nowhere near that stage – and that means that its December 2023 release date feels completely unrealistic.
I have to be honest: if I’d been in charge of the Star Trek franchise for Paramount, I wouldn’t have greenlit this project. Don’t get me wrong, I wish it well and I hope it succeeds both as a fun Star Trek story and as a film that turns a tidy profit and brings new audiences to the franchise. But with so much other Star Trek on our screens from Prodigy to Strange New Worlds and beyond… I can’t help but feel that the money thrown at this project could be better-spent.
The Kelvin films were undoubtedly what Star Trek needed in 2009, not only rebooting the franchise but showing that there was still life in it. We would never have got Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, and the rest of modern Trek without the Kelvin films’ success on the big screen. So in that sense I thank them for carrying the torch and paving the way for the current renaissance that Star Trek is enjoying.
But as I’ve argued before on more than one occasion, there are drawbacks to a new Kelvin timeline project. A new film set in the alternate reality risks overcomplicating what can be an already convoluted franchise, with different projects occupying different time periods and timelines. The unique premise of the films also no longer exists, taking a look at “young” Kirk and Spock in their Academy days and youth. And with Strange New Worlds coming online – and blowing up to become the most-watched Star Trek show on Paramount+ in the United States – there’s a real risk that a new Kelvin film would retread too much ground with many of the same characters also appearing in that series.
So if Star Trek 2023 is faltering, could it be for the best? Aside from the fact that Star Trek Beyond seemed to tease a sequel, is there really a pressing need to revisit this alternate timeline right now? With so much else happening in the Star Trek franchise, I think I’m inclined to say “no.”
I will always support Star Trek as best I can, and I always feel that more Star Trek is good news! If Star Trek 2023 manages to get off the ground, I’ll wish it all the best and do what I can on my small corner of the internet to get hyped up for it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be devastated to learn that it isn’t going to happen. With so much other Star Trek on our screens, I just don’t feel that another Kelvin film is a necessary addition to the franchise’s current and upcoming lineup. And with Strange New Worlds in particular including characters like Spock, Uhura, and even Captain Kirk, there’s a danger that it could feel underwhelming, as if the two projects are stumbling over one another without offering anything new to say about these characters.
There’s definitely room in the Star Trek franchise for a new film or two – whether they get a full cinematic release or end up going straight to Paramount+. But maybe it would be better if Paramount redirected its efforts into new projects, or perhaps a film based on Discovery, rather than pressing ahead with this new Kelvin timeline project. If things seemed to be going smoothly I guess I wouldn’t be thinking that way, but if the film is already struggling and looks set not to make its intended release date, maybe that’s a sign that it isn’t meant to be.
Regardless, I’ll keep my ear to the ground! If there’s more news about Star Trek 2023 in the weeks and months ahead, I’ll do my best to cover it here on the website.
Star Trek 2023 is currently scheduled to premiere on the 22nd of December 2023. The Star Trek franchise – including all films and series discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
What can be said about Nichelle Nichols that hasn’t already been said over the last few days? Her loss is felt profoundly by the entire Star Trek fan community – a rare moment of togetherness in what can be a divided fandom at times. But beyond that, news of her passing has resonated across the world of entertainment and beyond. She was a unique person, someone whose influence and hard work may not have been centre-stage for everybody, but whose tireless commitment to the causes she supported – and to fans of Star Trek – will never be forgotten.
At a time when the United States was still in the process of outlawing racial segregation, Nichelle Nichols became an icon for the civil rights movement. The character of Uhura took her place on the bridge of the USS Enterprise not as a servant or a maid, not as a subordinate, but as an equal member of the crew; an officer with the respect of her shipmates. Such roles were incredibly rare on American television at that time, and the statement made by Uhura’s presence on Star Trek was one of racial equality and hope for the future.
There’s a frequently-cited story that it was Martin Luther King who convinced Nichelle Nichols to remain on Star Trek when she considered leaving to return to the stage after the show’s first season. Star Trek, according to King, was one of the few shows he allowed his children to watch – and Uhura’s role was the reason why.
Star Trek told morality tales and gave commentary on contemporary issues of race and civil rights across its three seasons, and Uhura was a powerful presence in many of those stories. Nichelle Nichols brought the character to life with a quiet, understated charm, and quickly became an irreplaceable part of Star Trek.
While we as Trekkies might remember Nichelle Nichols from her role as Uhura, her legacy extends far, far beyond the Star Trek franchise – and even beyond the realm of entertainment itself. Beginning in the 1970s, she worked with NASA to help drive the recruitment of new, younger astronauts from diverse backgrounds. The first African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic-Americans to travel into space joined the space programme as part of Nichelle Nichols’ initiative. She quite literally changed the face of NASA and diversified space exploration.
The documentary Woman in Motion goes into detail about Nichols’ work with NASA, and if you haven’t seen it it’s well worth a watch. I love a good documentary, and Woman in Motion presents her story in an understandable way. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t know much about her involvement with NASA prior to watching Woman in Motion, but it’s a story that absolutely should be told – and I’m glad it was able to be told before Nichelle Nichols passed away.
Over the past few days we’ve seen an outpouring of grief and remembrance from Nichelle Nichols’ Star Trek co-stars, actors and creatives in the Star Trek franchise, many others from the world of entertainment, and countless people who felt inspired by her. Many people have shared their own stories of what it meant to see Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise, how Nichelle Nichols inspired them to get started in their chosen career, or the words of advice she had from those lucky enough to have met her in person.
For one person to have such an impact and leave such a legacy is phenomenal, and the thousands upon thousands of tributes that we’ve seen are just a small fraction of the lives that Nichelle Nichols touched in one way or another. Those lives were changed not because she played a role on Star Trek, but because of what she did with that role, that fame, and the spotlight that was placed upon her. Other actors could’ve happily taken their pay and done nothing more – and there’s nothing wrong with that at all – but Nichelle Nichols went the extra mile. She recognised what her role meant to millions of people across the United States and around the world, and she did everything that she could to make it matter. That’s why it’s been so hard to know what to say, and why her loss hits so profoundly. She wasn’t just another performer – she was so much more than that to so many people.
We’ve been lucky to have Nichelle Nichols with us for as long as she was. It was only in her final couple of years that she began slowing down her activities; she attended her final Star Trek convention less than a year ago. In all of that time she offered to fans and everyone else the kind of boundless, unbridled optimism that defines Star Trek itself: always smiling, always happy to be seen with fans, co-stars, and new actors alike.
I’m going to miss Nichelle Nichols. I’ll miss hearing about her appearances at conventions and the interactions she had with fellow fans and friends of mine within the Star Trek fan community. I’ll miss the stories she could tell about working on the show and its films. And I’ll miss seeing her with the likes of Sonequa Martin-Green, Zoe Saldaña, and Celia Rose Gooding. The comfort I take is that she lived a full life, one in which she put her talents to good use both on-screen and off. She leaves behind a legacy most people could only imagine, and her impact on the worlds of Star Trek, entertainment, and even space exploration itself will outlive her, continuing long into the future.
Some images used above courtesy of Star Trek/Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2 and the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 2, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine Season 3.
With Lower Decks’ third season fast approaching, I wanted to write up a theory that I’ve had kicking around since the second episode of Season 2. Lower Decks’ episodic nature hasn’t lent itself to a ton of theory-crafting so far – although I do have at least one more in the pipeline, so stay tuned for that! – but this one feels plausible; it’s the kind of narrative choice that I could see the show’s writers making.
First of all, let’s briefly recap what happened to Ensign Boimler from the end of Season 1 to the beginning of Season 2. After impressing Captain Riker, Boimler took a transfer to the USS Titan at the very end of Season 1, leaving Mariner and the Cerritos behind and being promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Boimler would serve under Captain Riker for a short while, and one of the Titan’s assignments at this time involved following up with the newly-aggressive Pakleds.
Lieutenant Boimler was assigned to an away mission to the planet Karzill IV as part of this assignment, and after getting caught in a firefight he was able to save the day and allow the rest of the team to make it back to the Titan. However, as this mission drew to a close a transporter accident created a duplicate – or clone – of Boimler, resulting in two identical Lieutenant Boimlers, indistinguishable from one another.
For seemingly arbitrary reasons, Starfleet decided that only one Boimler could remain aboard the Titan, and the other would have to take a demotion back to the rank of ensign and return to the Cerritos. After one Boimler returned to the Cerritos we’ve followed his actions, and the second Boimler hasn’t been mentioned since. But could that be about to change?
Although we were told that the two Boimlers were indistinguishable from one another – totally identical – the second Boimler, the one who remained aboard the Titan, seemed much more outgoing than the Boimler we’ve gotten to know. Not only that, but he seemed more than a little devious in tricking “our” Boimler to return to the Cerritos so that he could continue on the Titan and advance his career. Could we be looking at the beginnings of an “evil twin” (or “evil clone,” I guess) storyline?
It wouldn’t be the first time that such a story has appeared in Star Trek! Going all the way back to The Original Series we had stories like The Enemy Within that split Captain Kirk into two distinct personalities, one “good” and one “evil.” And of course there’s the classic Mirror, Mirror that showed our heroes’ evil alternate universe counterparts.
The Next Generation followed this up by creating Data’s own “evil twin” – Lore. Lore would tangle with the crew of the Enterprise-D on more than one occasion, doing things like allying with the Crystalline Entity and raising an army of abandoned ex-Borg, as well as trying to corrupt Data and sway him to his cause.
Most significantly we have Thomas Riker, the first transporter duplicate in Star Trek and whose character clearly inspired the Boimler storyline in Kayshon, His Eyes Open. Not only was Thomas difficult to work with for William Riker after being rediscovered, but he would go on to rebel against Starfleet, join the Maquis, and even steal the USS Defiant from Deep Space Nine.
Lower Decks has brought back a lot of Star Trek tropes and story beats, and many of them have been used for one-off gags or as cute callbacks to past events. It can be difficult to tell whether there’s some deeper meaning to the whole transporter duplicate story because of that. In the episode Kayshon, His Eyes Open it worked well as a surprising twist, a way to kick Boimler back to the Cerritos, and as a cute wink to fans of The Next Generation, especially considering Riker himself was present. The storyline could end there with Boimler’s twin never being mentioned again.
But at the same time, Lower Decks has used some of these classic Star Trek moments and story beats to set up longer arcs, or returned to them later. There’s a symmetry to some of the show’s episodes and storylines, too. The way the Cerritos saved the USS Archimedes in the Season 2 finale after having to be saved in the Season 1 finale is one of the best examples of this – and we could also point to the Pakled storyline itself as an unfolding multi-episode arc.
I think we’ve laid out how it’s at least possible that there could be something more going on with the transporter clone and looked at previous examples of “evil twin” tropes in Star Trek. So that answers the question of “could it happen?” quite nicely – but that’s really just the beginning.
The matter at the heart of this theory is what direction such a story would take, how it could potentially impact (our) Boimler, and what it could do for the series as a whole.
If we look back to episodes like Datalore or Second Chances, I think it’s not unfair to say that those storylines didn’t go on to have a lasting effect. The creation of twins, clones, and duplicates hasn’t actually come to matter in a significant, ongoing way for any Star Trek character so far. Even when those twins made repeat appearances their stories tended to be confined to a single episode – or perhaps a two-parter.
It was never really explained in any detail what impact Thomas’ emergence had on William Riker after the events of Second Chances. Even when Thomas returned in Deep Space Nine’s third season episode Defiant, the story unfolded from his perspective without any input from his doppelgänger.
Data’s conflict with Lore is perhaps the biggest of these storylines, with Lore being mentioned a handful of times outside of his main appearances. But because of Data’s nature, he wasn’t as emotionally impacted by Lore’s behaviour as other characters in a similar situation might’ve been. Data even expressed confusion in Second Chances as to the nature of the dispute between Will and Thomas Riker!
Although Lower Decks has been largely episodic, we’ve still seen some impressive character work across its first two seasons. The way Ensign Mariner in particular has grown into her role and come to resolve some of her issues with her mother, her friendships, and her position in Starfleet has been wonderful to see – and it’s this more serialised approach to characterisation (a hallmark of modern television storytelling) that could make an “evil Boimler” storyline different to what we’ve seen before in Star Trek.
Boimler’s issues with his transporter duplicate could have an impact on him that extends beyond a single episode – and that could take his character on a journey. Beginning with the sense of betrayal he surely felt at the duplicate’s duplicity aboard the Titan, Boimler could begin to forgive him, only to discover he’s up to no good. He could find it difficult to convince his friends at first, before showing them irrefutable proof of the clone’s misdeeds. And the whole experience of having to face off against someone who literally knows him inside and out and has shared every experience he ever had could both challenge and change him.
We could see a more confident Boimler emerge from under such a storyline – but someone whose friendships have been pushed and stretched before eventually settling. Or we could see Boimler begin to second-guess himself; if the “evil” clone was Boimler himself, perhaps he’d wonder if being “evil” is part of his own nature, and that could cause him to freeze or find it hard to make decisions.
In short, there are a lot of ways that such a story could go – but almost all of them would be good for Boimler’s characterisation in the long run. We’d get a fun episode with the evil twin that could harken back to the likes of The Enemy Within, Mirror, Mirror, Datalore, and others – but the impact of that episode could reverberate across an entire season, giving Boimler a character arc that could be very satisfying to see unfold.
So that’s it for now! The theory is that Boimler’s transporter duplicate will – in classic Star Trek tradition – turn out to be evil!
For the reasons laid out above, I think such a story could be fun and interesting. Moreover, I like the idea of the fallout from Boimler’s conflict with his “evil twin” not being confined to a single episode and potentially setting him on a season-long arc as he processes what happened and what it means for himself and his friends. Going down that road could feel deeply cathartic – with Boimler filling in for other Star Trek characters in similar situations who never got the chance to deal with the longer-term implications of what they went through!
I hope this was a bit of fun. Please keep in mind that I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that any of this will happen in Lower Decks either imminently or in Season 4. I just think it’s a fun concept, and while all the pieces seem to be in place for such a story, it could be that the transporter duplicate will (in the best tradition of Star Trek) never be mentioned again!
Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. Season 3 will premiere on the 25th/26th of August 2022. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Seasons 1-2, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise – including upcoming and unreleased projects.
This year’s San Diego Comic-Con is winding down – and we got a lot of Star Trek news to process over the weekend! I didn’t attend Comic-Con myself, but I’ve been following the event online, and there were several big announcements, a big surprise, teasers and trailers, and comments from Star Trek stars past and present to dive into. I’ll do my best to take a look at all of the major points today!
I’m actually a little surprised that there was so much news coming out of Comic-Con; a Lower Decks trailer and something about Picard felt like certainties, but beyond that I was wondering if Paramount might hold things back and put together a repeat of last year’s “Star Trek Day” broadcast event where the franchise could be centre-stage.
An event like Comic-Con is a double-edged sword in some ways for corporations like Paramount. On the one hand, there’s a lot of attention directed at Comic-Con even from mainstream news outlets, which can be good for promotional purposes. But on the other, Star Trek has to compete for that attention with the likes of Marvel, Star Wars, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series, and many others.
So I hope it was a success from Paramount’s point of view and managed to bring at least some new eyes to the Star Trek franchise. It feels as though Paramount put a significant amount of investment into this weekend’s events and promotional materials, so as someone who hopes to see Star Trek continuing to be a success, I’d like to think it paid off!
So let’s start with Star Trek: Picard. We didn’t get to see a proper trailer, instead getting another teaser that showed off the main cast of Season 3. I’m still quite disappointed with how the casting situation has been handled, and the fact that we aren’t going to get to spend more time with characters like Elnor and Soji feels like a backwards step – at least in some respects – for a franchise that should be moving forward. But that decision has long ago been taken, so let’s consider what we did see instead of what we didn’t!
First of all, Seven of Nine’s field commission seems to have been made permanent, and she’s seen in uniform for the first time. That was neat, and seems to further her wonderful arc from both seasons of the show so far. The design of Worf was perhaps the most interesting to me; after the Klingons had undergone a major redesign for both the Kelvin films and Discovery, the design of Worf shown off in the Picard Season 3 teaser is much closer to the post-Motion Picture Klingon look that Worf had during The Next Generation’s run.
Absent from the teaser was Brent Spiner – so we still don’t know who he may be portraying. It’s tempting to suggest that his absence may be hiding some major design secret (such as a reimagined Data, Lore, or B4) but I’m not convinced of that yet. Altan Inigo Soong (from Picard Season 1) feels like the most obvious choice for Spiner to portray, but we don’t know that for certain.
At the panel, Sir Patrick Stewart indicated that a visit to “more than one” USS Enterprise could be on the cards in Season 3, which could imply anything from travelling through time to a Search for Spock-inspired starship theft! Precisely which Enterprise(s) Picard and the crew may visit wasn’t stated – so could it be Pike’s Enterprise, perhaps?
There’s actually not much else to say about Picard right now. The teaser didn’t give much away, and aside from design choices like several characters wearing leather jackets, we don’t actually know a whole lot more about the show’s final season than we did before Comic-Con. Some of what was discussed – like a potential female villain and revisiting the Enterprise – sounds interesting, and Picard Season 3 is definitely one of my most-anticipated right now. But after an underwhelming Season 2 and the disappointment of the rather callous cutting of under-used characters, there’s no doubt it has serious work to do. Nothing I saw at Comic-Con has me anxious or worried… but because what we saw was relatively barebones, nothing blew me away either.
The upcoming video game Star Trek: Resurgence made an appearance at Comic-Con. Still scheduled for release later this year, the panel didn’t go into a lot of story details for obvious reasons, but the game seems to be shaping up nicely. It looks to be very much in line with Telltale Games titles from the past few years – the likes of Batman, The Wolf Among Us, and The Walking Dead, to name but a few – and considering that developer Dramatic Labs is made up of a number of ex-Telltale creators, that makes sense! I’ll be sure to take a detailed look at Resurgence when it launches, so stay tuned for that!
I wasn’t expecting to see any kind of teaser or trailer for Strange New Worlds Season 2; although filming recently wrapped up we’ve only just finished watching Season 1, so Season 2 is likely ten-plus months away! There was no news about a potential third season renewal either – although I suspect that’s just a matter of time!
The biggest news from the Strange New Worlds panel, though, was the surprise announcement of a crossover with Lower Decks. I’ve been longing for a proper crossover between the current crop of Star Trek shows – so this is great news! Strange New Worlds had moments of humour and comedy in its first season, so the pairing is not as unnatural as it might first appear. I’m not quite sure how the episode will blend live action and animation, though – will Boimler and Mariner appear as cartoons on a live-action set? That’s something to watch out for!
The crossover episode will air as part of Strange New Worlds’ second season sometime next year, and will be directed by Jonathan Frakes. Frakes has directed some of Discovery and Picard’s best episodes and knows the Star Trek franchise inside and out, so I’m really hopeful that this crossover will end up being as much fun as it sounds! I might not have chosen to stick Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds together, but with both shows hitting their stride after successful debut seasons, the time is right for a crossover. Hopefully it will be the first of many as Star Trek’s renaissance continues!
There were some interesting pieces of merchandise shown off at Comic-Con, too. I didn’t see any Prodigy toys or figures, but there were some prototypes from Playmates and EXO-6 showing off their latest figures of the likes of Captain Kirk, Locutus of Borg, and other classic characters. Factory Entertainment also debuted their Motion Picture insignia and Type II “dustbuster” phaser – which I hope will come to the UK!
Alex Kurtzman teased us with news that there may be two unannounced Star Trek projects in early production. With Picard finishing its run after Season 3 next year, I feel like an announcement can’t be far away for at least one new project, but what that project may be is still unknown! One potential series is the untitled Section 31 spin-off that was announced back in 2019, but my gut says that project probably won’t see the light of day. There’s been talk of a Ceti Alpha V miniseries focusing on Khan, and there’s also a rumoured Starfleet Academy series. Any of those could be announced before the end of the year – so watch this space!
I wonder, though, if one of these unannounced projects could be a 25th Century post-Picard series, perhaps even a spin-off focusing on Seven of Nine and Raffi. There seemed to be a lot of investment in new sets built for Picard Season 2 that were only seen at the beginning and end of the season, so could those sets be repurposed for a new series set aboard the new USS Stargazer? It’s all speculation at this point, of course, but I can’t help wondering!
A trailer for Lower Decks Season 3 debuted at Comic-Con, and the series has recently been confirmed to be returning on the 25th of August – in just a month’s time! The trailer picked up from where the Season 2 finale left off, with Captain Freeman in custody and the crew having to figure out what to do next. It seems like we saw several clips from the first episode – at least, that’s the impression I got – so there may be surprises still to come later in the season!
One story will take the Lower Decks crew to Deep Space Nine, and we saw the station and nearby wormhole shown off in the trailer – along with the familiar Deep Space Nine theme. I absolutely adore Deep Space Nine, and after the station was briefly glimpsed in a Season 1 flashback, it will be amazing to head back there for what will be the first post-Dominion War episode in that setting. Series creator Mike McMahan has promised us a look inside the station as well as some familiar faces, too!
One of those familiar faces seems to be the Klingon General Martok – an important recurring character in the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run. It may be too much to hope for to get a real Deep Space Nine-inspired story that picks up some of the dangling threads that series left behind… but I can’t help it! I’d love to see the next chapter in the Deep Space Nine story unfold on screen, and even just getting a glimpse or a tease would be fantastic.
Other scenes in the trailer seemed to show a return to one of the first planets visited by Mariner and Boimler in Season 1, stealing the impounded USS Cerritos (presumably to rescue Captain Freeman), Boimler in Cetacean Ops, Rutherford and Tendi at Sisko’s restaurant in New Orleans, Boimler and Mariner acting as Starfleet recruiters, Dr T’Ana performing an amputation, and more! We saw Captain Freeman in uniform alongside Commander Ransom briefly, so I assume she will be able to escape the false charges laid against her!
The trailer looked like the familiar blend of animated comedy hijinks and throwbacks to The Next Generation era that we’ve come to expect from Lower Decks across its first two seasons. We’ve had some genuinely outstanding episodes so far – and only a couple of duds, really – so more of the same is no bad thing! I’m curious to see how the Captain Freeman cliffhanger will be resolved – will it be a one-episode story or will it rumble on for much of the season?
There was a surprising absence at Comic-Con: Prodigy. There was no mention of Prodigy (aside from a poster as part of the broader “Star Trek Universe” marketing), and that strikes me as odd. We’re supposedly going to be seeing ten more episodes of Prodigy before the end of this year to round out the show’s first season, so it was surprising that nothing was mentioned. We don’t even have an official broadcast date for the next batch of episodes – and there’s currently no new Star Trek being shown for the next few weeks.
It’s possible that we’ll come to learn more about Prodigy’s next steps and some of these in-production but unannounced projects in the near future. The 7th of September will be “Star Trek Day,” for example, and we could see another presentation of some kind to mark the occasion. Prodigy could also follow Lower Decks and kick off the second half of Season 1 in late October or early November – this would keep Star Trek on our screens through the holiday season and into 2023.
There was a comment from William Shatner about Star Trek that a lot of folks have picked up on on social media. At Comic-Con, Shater claimed that Gene Roddenberry would not approve of the direction of modern Star Trek, saying that the franchise’s creator would be “spinning in his grave” at the many of the creative and narrative decisions that have been taken. I think it’s worth pointing out that Shatner was similarly dismissive of The Next Generation, the Kelvin reboot films, and practically every Star Trek project that doesn’t feature his take on Captain Kirk. I don’t think we need to dedicate a lot of time to what Shatner has said; he’s entitled to his opinion, of course, and really the question of whether Gene Roddenberry would or wouldn’t approve of certain shows, episodes, or stories is rather a moot point. Modern Star Trek is doing some great things – and I for one hope it’s here to stay!
So I think that about wraps things up.
For me, the biggest and most interesting piece of news is the Lower Decks-Strange New Worlds crossover. A story like that has massive entertainment potential as both shows have demonstrated respect and reverence for past iterations of Star Trek. It seems to me that the crossover could be a real “made for fans” moment – but perhaps also one that could bring in new viewers to both series. Blending animation and live-action can be a challenge, but Star Trek has always risen to meet technical and creative challenges as it strives to tell new, different, and exciting stories!
The tease of new projects on the horizon is fascinating – but until we start to get information about what those projects may be, it’s hard to get overly excited! I’ve got a few different articles and lists here on the website looking at pitches and concepts – as well as putting together a few ideas of my own – so check those out if you’re interested. As and when Alex Kurtzman and the creative teams see fit to tell us more, I’ll be sure to cover it in-depth and give my thoughts!
So that was Comic-Con. Star Trek put in a decent showing this year, and it seems like we have a lot to look forward to both later this year and in 2023.
The Star Trek franchise – including all shows, films, and properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. Some images used above courtesy of Star Trek/Paramount Global on social media. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, and Discovery. Minor spoilers are also present for Strange New Worlds Season 1.
Strange New Worlds was absolutely fantastic across its first season, hitting ten for ten and leaving me – and many other Trekkies – clamouring for more! This time, I thought it could be fun to put together a list of a few episode concepts that I would love to see in future seasons of the show as Captain Pike’s adventures aboard the Enterprise continue!
There are so many different alien races, stellar phenomena, factions, puzzles, and more from past iterations of Star Trek that I’d love to see a new and different take on that one list may not be enough! While we do have to keep in mind that Strange New Worlds takes place before the events of The Original Series – and thus the vast majority of Star Trek stories – there’s still plenty of room for writers, creators, and fans like us to play around in the vast sandbox that is the Star Trek franchise!
So the obvious caveat here is that I have no “insider information.” I’m not trying to claim that any of the story pitches below will ever make it to screen; I just think they’re neat ideas that I personally would like to see. And as I always say, everything here is entirely subjective! If you hate all of my ideas, or if I don’t include something that seems obvious to you, that’s okay! There’s plenty of room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement and civil conversations – and there’s absolutely no need to get upset about fan-made episode ideas that almost certainly won’t ever make it to the screen.
So with all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!
Pitch #1: Reintroduce the Xindi.
Although a character supposedly representing the Xindi was briefly glimpsed in Discovery Season 4 last year, they’ve only appeared in a big way in Enterprise. The Xindi served as primary antagonists for much of the show’s serialised third season, and had been plotting to destroy Earth under the manipulation of time-traveling aliens. With Strange New Worlds being set a full century after those events, it would be great to catch up with the Xindi and see what came next for them.
As of the 26th Century, the Xindi were supposedly Federation members – so perhaps we could see moves in that direction. Maybe the Xindi have entered a period of isolation, and that could explain their total absence from Star Trek stories set in the 23rd and 24th Centuries – not that such an explanation would be strictly necessary.
Either way, I think it could be fun to bring back the Xindi for a one-off story, particularly one in which they aren’t just an antagonist.
Pitch #2: Save Captain Lorca!
This could be a great way not only to bring back an interesting character, but also to give at least some Strange New Worlds characters a chance to cross over to the Mirror Universe. At the end of Discovery Season 2, Captain Pike heavily implied that he was aware of the existence of the Mirror Universe, so that could be an interesting angle to work if a crossover were on the agenda.
In short, I don’t believe that crossing over to the Mirror Universe was the death sentence for Captain Lorca that other characters in Discovery Season 1 believed it to be. I think that someone with Lorca’s skills could have found a way to blend in and go into hiding, and if he could find a way to send a distress signal from the Mirror Universe that could lead to Captain Pike planning a rescue!
Captain Lorca was one of the highlights of Discovery’s first season, and it would be fun to get a look at the prime version of the character.
Pitch #3: Make first contact with a faction from The Next Generation era.
Captains Picard, Sisko, and Janeway made plenty of first contacts during their respective missions in the 24th Century, but they also introduced us to a lot of factions that Starfleet had already met. We had, for instance, the Cardassians, the Lurians, and the Sheliak – all of whom were new to us as the audience, but not to the characters on the show.
So it could be fun to see a mission of first contact with an alien race like the Cardassians. Did first contact go well? Could there be some foreshadowing of events that will unfold in the 24th Century? How would Captain Pike deal with one of these races that we’ve seen before? I think it could be a neat concept, if done right, and one that would tie together different eras of Star Trek in a big way.
If I had to pick one race or faction for this episode, I’d pick the Cardassians.
Pitch #4: Bring back a main character from Enterprise.
Another “crossover” idea, this episode would bring back one of Enterprise’s main characters for one last assignment. As we’ve seen from episodes like Relics, creative use of technobabble can be used to bring in basically any character, so I don’t think we can really rule anyone out! That being said, there is one character more than any other who could still be alive in this era and who could have a major role to play: T’Pol.
As the first Vulcan to work extensively with humans and Starfleet, T’Pol could have a lot of advice to give to this younger version of Spock. As Spock continues to wrangle with his human and Vulcan heritage, someone like T’Pol could step in to offer guidance. She could do this independently, or we could see her included as part of a Vulcan delegation that the Enterprise has to deliver.
It would be fascinating to learn what came next for the entire crew of the NX-01 Enterprise, but if I had to pick one character this time it would be T’Pol.
Pitch #5: Battle the Borg!
I would absolutely love to see Captain Pike and the crew take on the Borg. I think this one would have to be set in some kind of Borg-dominated alternate reality, though, rather than being set in the prime timeline. Although Star Trek has made a huge mess of Borg-Federation contact, I’d still rather avoid treading on the toes of The Next Generation in that regard.
But it could be amazing to see the Enterprise crew having to figure out how to make it home safely while having to defend themselves against one of the most terrifying adversaries in all of Star Trek. Season 1 already showed us a great take on the horror genre – and bringing in the Borg could really succeed at ramping up the fear factor.
With the Borg having made relatively few appearances in modern Star Trek, this could be a fun and unexpected way to include them.
Pitch #6: Set up a story that will be paid off in The Original Series.
There are a number of episodes from The Original Series that could be expanded upon and given new backstory. We could visit Deep Space Station K-7, for example, from the classic episode The Trouble With Tribbles. Or Captain Pike could escort the lawyer Samuel T. Cogley to his new posting at Starbase 11.
There are dozens of such examples; stories that The Original Series has already told that could be fleshed out. Even if a wholly new story was concocted for a character or location that was visited – as we’ve seen in Season 1 with the Gorn, for example – it would still be a cute nod and wink to longstanding Trekkies.
Strange New Worlds has leaned on The Original Series for inspiration already – so this would really just be more of the same!
Pitch #7: A backdoor pilot for the Section 31 series.
At time of writing, it feels as though the purported Discovery spin-off based around Section 31 won’t be going ahead. But Strange New Worlds could change that by reintroducing the shadowy organisation. After Pike and Spock tangled with Section 31 during Discovery’s second season they might have a score to settle, and it could also be fun to bring back Ash Tyler for a guest appearance – he was named Section 31’s new leader after the battle against Control.
A Section 31 episode that brings back Ash Tyler – and perhaps even Georgiou – could test the waters to see whether the concept still has potential. Strange New Worlds is definitely the Discovery spin-off that fans wanted, but particularly in light of Georgiou’s character development in that show’s third season, the Section 31 idea shouldn’t be written off and feels more viable now than it did when it was first announced.
Even if no spin-off happens, it would still be nice to get some furtherance of the Section 31 storylines that we saw a couple of years ago.
Pitch #8: What happened between Sarek and Spock?
As Strange New Worlds continues to develop Spock’s character, it would be interesting to see his conflict with his father. This was first broached in The Original Series episode Journey to Babel – Sarek’s first appearance – but a canonical reason for it has never been established. It’s been implied that Sarek disapproved of Spock joining Starfleet instead of enrolling at the Vulcan Science Academy, but it’s never been fully confirmed.
James Frain put in a decent performance as Sarek in Discovery’s first two seasons, and with Spock being a big part of Strange New Worlds he seems like a logical choice to bring back. Spock has stated that he and Sarek were “estranged” during this era, but there’s still the possibility of some kind of contact between the two.
I’d be curious to see if there’s more to the Spock-Sarek split than we’ve seen so far!
Pitch #9: Travel back in time.
Time travel stories – especially those that involve visiting the modern day – are seldom my favourites in Star Trek. But time travel has been part of the franchise since its inception, and even more than half a century and 850 episodes later, there are still ideas that haven’t really been tried. We’ve seen practically every Starfleet captain visit modern-day Earth – but we’ve only seen a handful of episodes set in Earth’s past.
I’d be interested to see Captain Pike and the crew visit the middle ages, the 1700s, or the First World War, just to pick three examples. How did they get there? I don’t know. What would they have to do there – aside from figure out a way home? I don’t know that either! But taking time travel to an era that Star Trek has never explored would be fascinating.
Maybe Captain Pike could even view time travel as a way to postpone his inevitable accident?
Pitch #10: A “bottle episode” set during a long voyage.
In Star Trek we often see our heroes warping from one destination to the next at the drop of a hat, and while travel times between locations are occasionally mentioned, we don’t often get to see the reality of some of these long-distance voyages. The Season 5 premiere of Voyager perhaps came closest to this (before it introduced us to the Malon) but if you think about it there must be a lot of downtime for the crew of the Enterprise in between missions.
So this episode would focus on different members of the crew and how they spend their free time. The Enterprise is en route to deliver supplies or conduct a scientific experiment, but that just serves as background to show us how Captain Pike and the crew handle a weeks-long voyage across space with nothing to do. We could see the Enterprise’s recreational facilities, learn some of the characters’ hobbies, and generally slow things down and take a break from the action for a while.
Being set entirely aboard the ship could also cut costs – allowing for more of the budget to be allocated to other, more demanding stories!
So that’s it!
Those are ten of my ideas (or “pitches”) for Strange New Worlds episodes that I’d like to see in future seasons of the show. I doubt any of these will ever get made… but you never know! It’s fun to speculate and come up with episode concepts regardless.
If you missed my spoiler-free review of Season 1, I had an amazing time with Strange New Worlds and I can’t recommend the series highly enough! I’ve been telling as many people as I can to give it a shot, because I feel it has the potential to be a gateway into the Star Trek franchise for newcomers.
So I hope this was a bit of fun for today! There will be more Strange New Worlds content to come in the months ahead as we await Season 2 – so stay tuned!
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries and territories where the platform is available. Further international distribution has not been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, including the season finale. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: Discovery.
This theory is going to get into major spoiler territory for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, including the very last scene of the final episode of Season 1. If you aren’t fully caught up on the events of Season 1 – and you decided to ignore the spoiler warning above – this is your last chance to nope out!
So today I thought it could be fun to speculate about Una Chin-Riley – a.k.a. Number One. Captain Pike’s first officer had an interesting season, with a truly unexpected backstory that connected back to the events of Star Trek: Enterprise while simultaneously setting the stage for some significant development in her relationship with La’an in particular.
The decision for Una to be an Illyrian was a genuinely interesting one, and I felt sure that there’d be something more to come after the revelation of her true heritage in Ghosts of Illyria. It took until the closing moments of the season finale, but eventually we got there! Una’s arrest was the perfect tease on which to end the season, setting the stage for what will presumably be the first part of Season 2 in truly spectacular fashion.
There are a few points to consider before we jump into the main theory list. First of all, the fact that Captain Pike visited an alternate future in which Una is still incarcerated almost a decade after the events of Season 1 does not, in itself, mean that that will be her fate. That was an alternate timeline, after all, one which Pike’s actions have now erased. So I don’t think we can dismiss Una, saying “that’s it, she’s off the show” and close the book! There’s obviously going to be something more to come – though whether it will fully restore her to a leading role in Starfleet is still an open question.
One of the interesting things about a show like Strange New Worlds is the potential it has to explore different aspects of Star Trek’s 23rd Century and answer questions that most fans didn’t even know they had! One such question could be “where was Una after the events of The Cage?” She didn’t participate in Spock’s off-the-books quest to transport Captain Pike to Talos IV, despite being one of only a handful of people who knew about his impending disability and the powers of the Talosians.
Una was also never seen, nor even mentioned, during the entire run of The Original Series and its films. On the production side of things that’s at least partly because Majel Barrett, who was the first actress to take on the role, was playing the character of Nurse Chapel. But again it leaves the question of Una’s fate open-ended. A senior officer with such promise serving on the Federation flagship would usually be gunning for a promotion and their own command; was that what Una hoped to do?
It could be that the explanation for Una’s absence from the events of The Menagerie and other significant moments in the second half of the 23rd Century is that she was either locked up or exiled for her deception and illegal genetic enhancements. That would be a pretty depressing way for the story to go, but it wouldn’t contradict anything we know of from other Star Trek productions. Personally, I’ve never felt any of these absences were glaring omissions that have been crying out to be explained away – but perhaps some of the show’s writers disagree.
There’s also a potential narrative reason to shuffle Una out of the way, and that comes from the character of Spock. Firstly, Spock long ago took over Number One’s original “cool and logical” persona that debuted in The Cage. And secondly, while Captain Pike was surprised to learn in A Quality of Mercy that Spock was his new Number One, as Trekkies we know that Spock’s arc will take him through being Captain Kirk’s first officer and trusted confidante all the way to becoming a captain in his own right, an ambassador, and beyond. Perhaps part of the next chapter of Strange New Worlds will involve setting the stage for Spock to step up and grow into that kind of role, either by serving as Pike’s XO aboard the Enterprise or potentially by pairing him up with a younger Jim Kirk.
However, I’m not convinced that we’ve seen the back of Una just yet. Strange New Worlds already killed off Hemmer – in one of the most shocking and tragic sequences in the entire season – and La’an’s request for a leave of absence to track down the family of Oriana could mean that she will have less of a role to play in future, too – potentially being absent for some or all of next season. With at least one and possibly two characters already gone, it would be one heck of a shake-up to lose Una as well.
With the exception of Lower Decks, modern Star Trek shows have struggled with consistency. Discovery has famously had four different captains across its four seasons, and Picard took two very different approaches to its characters in the two seasons that we’ve seen so far, with some noteworthy absences in Season 2. In short, it would be to the benefit of Strange New Worlds – and the Star Trek franchise overall – to settle down and to find room to breathe; to expand and develop the characters who are already in play before rushing off to make more and more changes. So if I had a vote, I’d find a way to keep Una around!
All of this leads up to my theory list about Una. The first part of the list will consider possible culprits for grassing her up to Starfleet Command and getting her arrested, and the second part will consider possible outcomes and options for Season 2 that could either bring her back into the fold or see her depart the series.
My usual caveats apply: I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything discussed here will be part of Season 2. This is pure speculation from a fan and nothing more! If Season 1 is any indication, Una’s story in Season 2 will go in a wildly different direction that I won’t be able to predict! Secondly, all of this is the subjective opinion of one person. If you hate all of my ideas (or I don’t include your current pet theory) that’s okay! There’s room within the Star Trek fan community for civil conversations and polite disagreement.
With all of that out of the way, let’s look at some theories!
Culprit #1: Captain Pike
I don’t believe that Captain Pike would have intentionally told Starfleet about Una’s Illyrian heritage. But in the course of his duties as captain, he may have had to log or otherwise record Una’s disclosure to him – or may have done so in a personal log. If those logs were then sent to Starfleet, it could be that Captain Pike inadvertently flagged up Una’s true origin.
There was room in Season 1 for more development of the relationship between Una and Captain Pike – a relationship that seemed well-established when they appeared together in Season 2 of Discovery. In a busy season, though, their time together was somewhat limited, and I’d like to see more interaction between the Enterprise’s captain and first officer going forward. Making Pike the one who got her arrested – even if it was completely accidental – would risk damaging that relationship. While that could give them a starting point to rebuild from, it wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice.
Culprit #2: Dr M’Benga
As with Captain Pike above, I don’t believe that Dr M’Benga would deliberately reveal Una’s secret to Starfleet. Just as Una had something to hide, so too did Dr M’Benga, and Una was the only one who knew about his daughter being kept suspended in the transporter buffer. He would have no motivation to expose her, and from his perspective doing so may have compromised himself and his daughter’s safety.
However, Dr M’Benga is responsible for the ship’s sickbay and the health of all its personnel, so perhaps he logged somewhere that there’s an Illyrian aboard. Maybe Dr M’Benga noted that the treatment for the contagion that broke out aboard the Enterprise came from Illyrian antibodies; Starfleet Medical must surely keep records of these dangers and their cures for the sake of other ships and crews.
Culprit #3: La’an Noonien-Singh
La’an is really the only character who would have any motive for deliberately and maliciously telling Starfleet the truth about Una. Although the two had resolved their differences by the end of Ghosts of Illyria – and grew closer over the rest of the season – La’an was incredibly angry at first upon learning who Una really was. It seems possible to me that La’an contacted Starfleet sometime during the events of Ghosts of Illyria, possibly while under the influence of the contagion.
This could set up La’an and Una for a confrontation, but one for which La’an already feels guilt and remorse. If she is responsible, I think there’s a pathway for forgiveness – and perhaps she’ll find a way to make it right, such as by advocating on Una’s behalf or even trying to break her out of prison.
Culprit #4: Spock
On a number of occasions we’ve seen how Spock is a stickler for the rules – particularly at this early point in his life and career. In Star Trek Into Darkness, his decision to be completely truthful in a mission report ended up getting Captain Kirk in a lot of trouble, so even if Pike, M’Benga, and everyone else had chosen to conceal the truth in their logs, it’s possible that Spock wouldn’t. He may not even see it as a bad thing at first, regarding telling the full, unvarnished truth as part of his job.
One of the interesting things about Strange New Worlds is how it’s taking Spock on a journey; building him up to become the character we’re familiar with from The Original Series. Perhaps one of the lessons Spock will learn in Season 2 is how to bend the rules, how loyalty to one’s friends and the need to keep certain things private can superscede the official rules. That could make for an interesting story and a chance for growth.
Culprit #5: Una herself
Maybe Una was sick of hiding. Maybe she wanted to get caught. Maybe she hoped to give herself an opportunity to defend her people against Starfleet’s hardline anti-genetic engineering rule. There are a few different reasons why Una might have turned herself in, or anonymously submitted the evidence to get herself arrested.
This would be a bit of a twist, but it could lead to a wonderfully complex story and character arc for Una if it’s handled well. The idea that she was fed up with having to live a lie, or even that revealing the truth to Captain Pike, La’an, and some of her other shipmates was a weight off her shoulders could be an interesting angle to explore. It would also absolve anyone in the crew of any wrongdoing – intentional or not!
So those are the culprits!
Up next we’re going to look at a few different ways that Una’s story could go from here. As above, please keep in mind that all of this is speculation; I’m not claiming that any of these things will happen.
Theory #1: Una will stand trial with Captain Pike defending her.
Star Trek can do courtroom drama exceptionally well, and perhaps we’ll be treated to an episode that blends the likes of The Measure of a Man and Court Martial. I can absolutely see Captain Pike stepping up to be Una’s advocate – like Captain Picard did for Data or Captain Sisko did for Worf. How exactly this trial would go is unclear, but with Spock and the rest of the crew also working on it, maybe there’d be a way to win – or to convince Starfleet to make an exception for Una.
That wouldn’t be unprecedented in the Star Trek franchise. Dr Bashir, who was also genetically engineered and didn’t disclose that fact to Starfleet, was permitted to continue to serve after the truth came out. Perhaps what Captain Pike will have to do is convince Starfleet that Una is irreplacable and should be forgiven for her deception.
Theory #2: Una will be broken out of prison – but will have to go into exile.
If Starfleet insists that Una needs to be locked up and won’t budge, maybe La’an and some of Una’s other friends will stage a break-out. It wouldn’t be easy – and they could all end up in hot water if things go wrong – but they may see it as a last resort if the alternative is Una being locked up for years in a Starfleet penal colony.
However, even if they succeed it seems unlikely that Una will simply be able to return to the Enterprise. She may have to go into exile, either by returning to the Illyrians or by striking out on her own. Either way, that could mean Una will be departing the series.
Theory #3: Una is found guilty and imprisoned.
With the major caveat that what Captain Pike saw took place in an alternate timeline that has since been overwritten, this was Una’s destiny in that version of the future. Captain Pike, La’an, Spock, and the rest of the crew seemed to have come to terms with her imprisonment by that point, and while we don’t know what happened at the time of her arrest and trial, any schemes that Pike and the others may have had to get her released clearly didn’t work.
Again, this would surely see Una leaving the show, perhaps after one final episode in which she comes to terms with being locked up. I don’t think that would be a fun or satisfying end for her character, though. It would tie up the loose end of Una’s whereabouts as of The Menagerie – but as stated above, I don’t think anyone has ever really challenged or questioned that, making it a solution to a non-existent problem. If Una is to leave the show, I’d rather see her go out in a blaze of glory, saving the ship and crew!
Theory #4: Diplomacy with the Illyrians.
If Una is still in contact with her family or other Illyrians, perhaps the Illyrian government will attempt to intervene on her behalf. Just because the Illyrians are not permitted to join Starfleet that doesn’t mean that formal diplomatic relations between the Federation and the Illyrian government don’t exist, and perhaps they’d have something to say about one of their own being arrested, especially if the reason is basically “because she’s an Illyrian.”
This could lead to some kind of diplomatic mission for Captain Pike, and again it could conclude with Una being given some kind of special exemption and being permitted to remain in Starfleet. Having revealed Una’s true heritage, it would be interesting to see more Illyrians show up in Strange New Worlds – perhaps they still hold a grudge after their meeting with Captain Archer during the events of Enterprise!
So those are the theories!
There are lots of different paths that the story could take from this juncture, and the question of whether Una will be back in a big way in Season 2 feels kind of open right now. Along with the departure of Hemmer and the potential absence of La’an, that would be a pretty radical shake-up of the main characters after only one season of the show.
I suspect that Una will be back aboard the Enterprise before too long, though. There’s untapped potential in her relationships with La’an, Spock, Captain Pike, and everyone else that would be wasted if she were to leave so soon. I’d love to spend more time with Una, perhaps seeing her in temporary command of the ship, leading an away mission, or doing other things that first officers in Star Trek are often seen to do. So it’s my hope, at least, that we haven’t seen the beginning of the end for Una on Strange New Worlds.
I hope this was a bit of fun. I haven’t had many opportunities to dive so deeply into Strange New Worlds thanks to the frustrating and disappointing international distribution situation, but with Paramount+ now here in the UK, that’s all changing. Hopefully by the time Season 2 rolls around we can talk about more theories like these during the show’s run instead of having to wait until the dust has settled!
I had a great time with Strange New Worlds Season 1, and the fact that it ended on this shocking cliffhanger was fantastic. I’m looking forward to welcoming back Captain Pike, Una, and the rest of the crew – and getting a satisfying end to this storyline, too!
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the platform is available. Episodes of Season 1 are being released weekly in the UK. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: Although there are no major plot spoilers for Strange New Worlds Season 1, the inclusion of particular episodes on this list may hint at certain themes, characters, storylines, etc. There are also spoilers below for the episodes and stories on this list.
I haven’t been able to talk about Strange New Worlds as much as I would’ve liked thanks to Paramount taking an “America First” approach to the series, the Star Trek franchise, and pretty much everything else on Paramount+. However, with Paramount+ having now arrived here in the UK, I hope to slowly begin to rectify that situation and make up for lost time. On this occasion, I’ve put together a list of ten episodes that I think make great background viewing for Strange New Worlds Season 1.
You can absolutely watch these Star Trek stories before diving into the show’s first season, but if – like me – you’ve already watched Strange New Worlds Season 1, there’s still value in going back to some of them to expand on what the new show’s first season delivered. Ordinarily I’d have written a list like this before the season aired, but having already seen Strange New Worlds that’s allowed me to adapt the list and include a couple of episodes that I would have never considered!
Strange New Worlds was absolutely fantastic in its first season – and it has me lamenting the truncated ten-episode seasons of modern Star Trek as I could’ve happily enjoyed at least ten more! If you missed it, I’ve already written up my spoiler-free thoughts on the show’s first season, and you can find that piece by clicking or tapping here. At the risk of repeating myself, Strange New Worlds hit ten for ten in its first season – ten outstanding episodes that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I can’t recommend Strange New Worlds highly enough both to fans of Star Trek and to newcomers to the franchise. If you’re new, or if it’s been a while since you last saw some of these episodes, watching them will provide some additional background and backstory heading into Strange New Worlds – or will expand somewhat on some of the stories, factions, and characters if you’ve already watched Season 1. However, nothing below makes for essential or unmissable viewing; Strange New Worlds is a very accessible series that newcomers to Star Trek shouldn’t feel intimidated by!
As always, please keep in mind that all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person. I’ve chosen episodes that I generally enjoy and that I feel connect in significant ways to Strange New Worlds Season 1. If you don’t like my picks or I miss something you would’ve included, that’s okay! There’s always room in the Star Trek fan community for discussion and polite disagreement.
I’ve tried hard to avoid major plot spoilers for Strange New Worlds Season 1, but the inclusion of certain episodes here may hint at the inclusion of factions, aliens, characters, and storylines. If you don’t want to risk any of that, this is your last chance to nope out!
With all of that out of the way let’s take a look at the episodes I’ve chosen, which are listed below in no particular order.
Episode #1: The Menagerie, Parts I-II The Original Series Season 1
Technically speaking, The Menagerie was Captain Pike’s first Star Trek appearance. The episode incorporates most of the footage left over from The Original Series’ unsuccessful first pilot, The Cage, but uses a frame narrative to include Captain Kirk and Spock as they look back on the events of Captain Pike’s mission to the planet Talos IV.
After network NBC had spent a significant amount of money on The Cage, one of the conditions attached to The Original Series’ first season was that Gene Roddenberry and his team find a way to use the footage left over from the original pilot. It was either impossible or prohibitively expensive to bring back The Cage star and original Captain Pike actor Jeffrey Hunter for the role, and the recasting of the character is part of the reason for Pike’s severe disfigurement and disability.
We could do an entire article on the production history of The Cage and The Menagerie – and maybe one day we should! – but for now, the important thing to keep in mind is that this is Captain Pike’s ultimate destination. The Menagerie exists as a reminder of where Captain Pike’s arc will ultimately lead him, but it’s also an interesting episode in its own right.
The Original Series was beginning to find its feet by this point in its first season, and a two-parter like The Menagerie could’ve blown it off-course. However, the way The Cage was incorporated into the story made for a fascinating and somewhat mysterious presentation, and Spock’s characterisation and his dedication to his former captain in particular are noteworthy. It’s a fascinating episode that managed to be so much more than just a recycling of a failed pitch and that found a unique and innovative way to accomplish what could have been a difficult and annoying task.
Episode #2: Trials and Tribble-ations Deep Space Nine Season 5
Trials and Tribble-ations was created for the Star Trek’s thirtieth anniversary in 1996, and it was a fun celebration of the franchise’s roots. The crew of the USS Defiant – led by Captain Sisko – find themselves displaced in time, arriving during the events of The Original Series episode The Trouble With Tribbles.
Sisko and his crew have to preserve the timeline – a nefarious villain is attempting to use a Bajoran Orb to alter the past to his advantage. What results is a genuinely fun romp, and seeing the two crews from two different eras coming together was quite something. I’ve always held Trials and Tribble-ations in high esteem ever since I first watched it!
On the technical side of things, Trials and Tribble-ations was incredibly ambitious for its time. Using the same technology that had been used to place Tom Hanks alongside real-world historical figures for the film Forrest Gump – which had been released only a couple of years earlier – the creative team managed to seamlessly blend the Deep Space Nine characters into The Original Series. Some excellent work with costumes and sets – including a recreation of the original USS Enterprise’s bridge – really sold the illusion.
The only character from Trials and Tribble-ations to appear in Strange New Worlds is Spock, with the episode taking place after Pike’s tenure in the captain’s chair. But as a celebration of all things Star Trek, and one of the few stories to bring together the 23rd and 24th Centuries, it’s one you shouldn’t miss! There are also some interesting time travel and timeline-integrity angles to the story’s frame narrative that may just prove interesting to viewers who pay attention.
Episode #3: Q & A Short Treks Season 2
Q & A steps back in time to before the events of Strange New Worlds and Discovery Season 2 to show us Spock’s arrival aboard the USS Enterprise while still an ensign. It’s a cute short story that shows off a younger Spock while also introducing us to Una – a.k.a. Number One. Una had far less screen time than Spock or Pike in Discovery’s second season, so Q & A was one of the first stories to feature her in a big way.
There are some great shots of the internal workings of the USS Enterprise’s turbolifts – something that a geek like me is always going to be interested in! In fact, Q & A must be one of the very few episodes, along with parts of The Next Generation’s fifth season episode Disaster, to make a turbolift its primary setting. That format could feel restrictive, but Q & A makes it shine through some excellent character work and occasionally hilarious writing.
Q & A was one of three episodes of Short Treks to bring back Pike, Spock, and Una – and these short stories began to expand upon their roles and set the stage for Strange New Worlds. They were also experimental; teases to fans that also served to see whether the much-requested “Captain Pike show” was a viable concept. Short Treks did some genuinely interesting things in its second season – which is why I’ve argued that the concept should absolutely be revived!
Captain Pike is less of a presence in Q & A than he would be in Ask Not, but that’s no bad thing. We got to spend more time with Una, and seeing her in her role as first officer – in part through the eyes of a young Spock, fresh out of Starfleet Academy – was fascinating!
Episode #4: Unification, Parts I-II The Next Generation Season 5
We just talked about how interesting it was to see young Spock when he was first assigned to the Enterprise – so now let’s jump forward in time by more than a century to see a much older Spock in a completely different chapter of his life! The two-part episode Unification brought Spock into The Next Generation in a truly interesting story that built upon the Vulcan-Romulan connection that had been introduced in The Original Series.
I adore crossovers, and aside from a brief cameo in the premiere of The Next Generation, this was the first crossover involving main characters that the franchise had attempted. Its success laid the groundwork for the likes of Relics, Flashback, Defiant, Caretaker, These Are The Voyages, and many more.
Unification found a way to give Spock genuine development to reflect decades of his life that we hadn’t seen on screen. It was great to see him alongside not only Captain Picard but also Data – the two characters share many characteristics and filled similar roles in their respective series. The mystery at the heart of the episode and subsequent revelations about Spock’s work and the Romulans’ schemes made for a story that was tense, dramatic, and exciting.
Strange New Worlds isn’t all about Spock, but seeing what his life would be like decades after the events of the series is worthwhile. It puts into context not only the stories that unfold around Spock, but his own actions, behaviours, and thoughts. The Spock we meet in Unification is different from the Spock of Strange New Worlds – but not unrecognisable.
Bonus Episode #4½: Unification III Discovery Season 3
The two-parter became a three-parter when Discovery added to the legacy of Unification in its third season. Taking Spock’s work with the Romulans as a starting point, Unification III shows us how subsequent generations of Romulans and Vulcans looked to Spock as an inspiration. His legacy is all over this story – and it would carry through into future episodes of Discovery in its third and fourth seasons.
Spock would go on to be an important part of Vulcan history, remembered fondly even centuries after his death for the process that he started. Seeing Michael Burnham react to that was sweet, and knowing that Spock has a legacy within the Star Trek timeline that extends far beyond his own lifespan is something incredibly meaningful.
Episode #5: Arena The Original Series Season 1
An absoloute classic of The Original Series, Arena features Captain Kirk’s iconic battle against an unnamed Gorn captain – the first Gorn encountered in Star Trek. I might be in the minority here, but I absolutely adore the way the rubber-suited Gorn looks. There’s something menacing about its tyrannosaurus rex-like head, its silvery, almost insectoid eyes, and its sharp crocodilian teeth. But at the same time, there’s a light-hearted campiness to the way the Gorn comes across on screen thanks in part to the limitations of 1960s special effects – and perhaps also due to the bold pattern on his (or her?) costume!
There’s more to Arena than just the scuffle at Vasquez Rocks, though! There’s a more philosophical side to the story, one that shows how far humanity has come by the 23rd Century – and how far there is still to go to make progress. Despite the conflict, both Spock and Kirk demonstrate a willingness to try diplomacy and show mercy – something that impresses the highly-advanced Metrons.
The way in which Captain Kirk was able to outsmart and defeat the Gorn captain shows his ingenuity at its best – and presents a contrast between “brains” and “brawn” that made it clear how even a strong and physically imposing enemy can be defeated. There’s a great metaphor there for dealing with bullies!
Arena is one of those episodes that I believe every Trekkie – even those who aren’t fans of The Original Series – needs to see at least once. Despite the Gorn not becoming a recurring villain in The Original Series or even during The Next Generation era, the original design of these reptilian aliens has become iconic, and as a story that fully encapsulates the Star Trek franchise’s approach to science-fiction, Arena has it all.
Episode #6: Damage Enterprise Season 3
Damage comes quite late in the fully-serialised story of Enterprise’s third season, but it’s worth a watch regardless. At this point in the story, Captain Archer and his crew are running out of time to prevent the Xindi from launching a super-weapon against Earth, and Archer’s desperation to do anything to complete his mission forces him down a very dark moral path.
In essence, Captain Archer must choose between failure – which will almost certainly lead to the total annihilation of Earth itself – and his morality, leading to him basically turning to theft and piracy in order to survive in the harsh Delphic Expanse. It’s a fascinating story that features a brand-new alien race, but also one that’s an introspective character piece focusing on Archer’s decisions.
There are other story threads in play in Damage, including T’Pol’s exposure to Trellium-D – a compound toxic to Vulcans that caused her to begin to lose control over her emotions. The way in which Vulcans suppress their emotions in favour of logic is something that Enterprise explored in depth, and it’s a fascinating part of Vulcan culture that subsequent Star Trek projects have also touched upon.
Enterprise’s third season was a tense and exciting one overall – and Damage is one of the highlights for its strong character work and examination of how Starfleet’s enlightened morality can end up falling by the wayside when the going gets tough. Captain Archer is pained by the decision he makes – but that doesn’t stop him from making it.
Episode #7: Through the Valley of Shadows Discovery Season 2
Although I’d encourage you to watch Discovery Season 2 in its entirety, I felt that Through the Valley of Shadows was really the only episode that had a significant impact on Strange New Worlds. It’s here where Captain Pike has to make a decision about his fate and his future that sets him on a particular path – one that will culminate in devastating disability.
Although Pike was willing, in the moment, to make the sacrifice in order to obtain the time crystal, the decision he made has a huge impact on him. With only a couple of episodes left in Season 2, Discovery didn’t have a lot of time to address how this would affect him – but Strange New Worlds certainly does, and this is really the starting point for Pike’s season-long arc.
Discovery’s second season was a big improvement on its first, and I think it’s fair to say that bringing Captain Pike and Spock into the show in a big way was a masterstroke! Through the Valley of Shadows reframes Pike’s accident and disability in an entirely different way, and while there are sci-fi trappings of time-travel macguffins and talk of fate and destiny, what lies just under the surface is a story that I find incredibly relatable.
I’ve been Captain Pike at this moment. Sitting down with a doctor, hearing bad news about my health, knowing that things won’t get better but will get worse, that my ability to do basic things like walking will become increasingly difficult… these are all experiences that I’ve personally had and that I saw reflected in Captain Pike. Whether intentional or not, the decision to have him become aware of his future – and choose to embrace it for the greater good – kicked off a story about disability and declining health that really resonated with me. Its approach to this complex topic was sensitive, understandable, and darkly beautiful.
Episode #8: Prime Factors Voyager Season 1
Prime Factors flips Starfleet’s Prime Directive on its head. The Prime Directive is Starfleet’s most important standing order, and it states that “no starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society.” We’ve seen the Prime Directive – and the principles upon which it is based – play a huge role in episodes of practically every Star Trek series, with captains having to decide whether to interfere, how to interfere, and what the consequences may be.
Prime Factors takes the opposite approach, and asks how it would feel to our heroes if they were on the other side of this kind of policy. How would Starfleet react to being denied a request for help or trade because it conflicted with an alien society’s principles? The resultant episode was absolutely fascinating.
At this relatively early point in Voyager’s run, the fact that Captain Janeway and her crew really are stranded on the far side of the galaxy with no way to get home is beginning to sink in. Prime Factors is one of several episodes that teased the crew with a potential way to complete part of that journey – before yanking it away again.
The episode is also an interesting one for Harry Kim, who we get to see at his most eager to get home, and for the relationship between Captain Janeway and Tuvok. Although Chakotay would really take over the role of “trusted advisor” as Voyager got settled, initially it was Tuvok who was being established as Captain Janeway’s closest confidante and most reliable friend.
Episode #9: Balance of Terror The Original Series Season 1
Balance of Terror is the episode that first introduced the iconic Romulans to Star Trek – as well as revealing their connection with the Vulcans that we talked about in Unification above. Inspired by war films – particularly naval war films and those set aboard submarines – from a generation earlier, there’s a really tense, claustrophobic feel to the conflict between the Enterprise and this new, terrifying threat.
Balance of Terror expertly sets up the background of Federation-Romulan relations and uses that to create tension and conflict on the bridge of the Enterprise when a surprising connection between the Romulans and Spock’s own Vulcan people is revealed. The episode also raises the stakes by giving the Romulans not one but two super-weapons: the devastating plasma torpedo and a cloaking device. This was the first on-screen appearance of a cloaking device in Star Trek.
Of particular note here is Captain Kirk’s approach to the conflict. After discovering the Romulan vessel and its technology, Kirk decides to pursue it, hoping to intercept it before it can cross back into Romulan space. Was this uncompromising approach the right call?
Balance of Terror is a fascinating episode for its tone, for its approach to bigotry and prejudice in the enlightened future Star Trek presents, and for its introduction of a faction that would go on to play a major role in the Star Trek franchise. It’s another episode of The Original Series that I consider to be a must-watch for all Trekkies.
Episode #10: Star Trek 2009 Kelvin Timeline film
Technically a film rather than an episode, 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline with a soft reboot of the franchise. It’s a textbook example of how to write a successful reboot, and after the Star Trek franchise had begun to fade and lose viewership toward the latter part of Enterprise’s run, the 2009 reboot came along and definitively proved that there was still plenty of life in it yet! We wouldn’t have Discovery, Strange New Worlds, and the rest of modern Star Trek without this film and its two sequels.
For our purposes today, though, 2009’s Star Trek shows us a different timeline with alternate versions of Captain Pike – who plays a prominent role in the story – as well as Spock and Uhura. Seeing these versions of the characters and noting their differences and similarities to their prime timeline counterparts could be worthwhile going into Strange New Worlds.
Star Trek 2009 also chronicles the next chapter of Spock’s life after the events of Unification (which we took a look at above). Spock’s relationship with the Romulans and his plan to help them avert a catastrophe are what led to him being dragged into the alternate reality, and the meeting between the older and younger versions of the character is a powerful moment.
Seeing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and others in their Starfleet Academy days was a concept that Gene Roddenberry had toyed with even as far back as The Original Series in the 1960s. 2009’s Star Trek took that concept and put a spin on it, updating the franchise for the 21st Century and introducing it to legions of new Trekkies. It’s a good film in its own right, and one whose legacy is the rejuvenated Star Trek franchise that we’re continuing to enjoy today.
So that’s it!
Those are my picks for ten episodes to watch before Strange New Worlds to prepare for what the series will bring – or afterwards, if you prefer, to lend some context to some of the character arcs and storylines.
There are at least ten more episodes and films that I could’ve chosen; it wasn’t easy to whittle down the list to the ten picks above. Having already seen Strange New Worlds Season 1, I confess that I picked several different episodes that I might not have chosen otherwise. But that’s the benefit of hindsight!
As I said in my spoiler-free review of the first season, Strange New Worlds is utterly fantastic and well worth a watch for Trekkies and newcomers to the franchise alike. I can’t praise it highly enough – and I can’t wait for Season 2!
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available to stream now on Paramount+ in countries and territories where the service is available. New episodes are being released weekly on Paramount+ in the United Kingdom. Further international distribution has not been announced at time of writing. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds and all other episodes, films, and shows discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: Although there are no major plot spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, spoilers are present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including Discovery Seasons 1-4 and Short Treks.
Despite Paramount’s best efforts to keep Strange New Worlds away from fans in 95% of the world, I’ve been able to watch the first season over the past ten weeks. With the finale recently airing and the curtain falling on the show’s first season, I thought it would be worthwhile to share my spoiler-free thoughts on each of the episodes.
I had hoped to write full reviews of every episode of Strange New Worlds as they aired, as well as perhaps concocting a few theories along the way, but the show’s unavailability internationally has made that difficult. As much as I love Star Trek and want to see it succeed, I felt unable to offer Paramount and the series my support due to the offensive and misguided way the corporation has treated its non-American fans – treatment that is regrettably still ongoing at time of writing.
However, stay tuned in the weeks and months ahead, because I daresay I will eventually publish individual episode reviews. Paramount+ has finally landed here in the UK – though it didn’t bring all of Strange New Worlds with it – so I can go back and re-watch the episodes any time. As Paramount+ continues its international rollout, I hope that Trekkies who avoided piracy will be able to watch the show.
The international broadcast situation and Paramount’s failings in that regard feel all the more egregious because of just how damn good Strange New Worlds has been across its first season. This is the Star Trek show that fans have been asking for and waiting for, a show that recaptures the episodic nature of The Original Series and The Next Generation but updates it with season-long arcs and modern trappings. It’s a show that feels so very similar to those classic stalwarts of the Star Trek franchise, and one that definitely has huge potential to reach out across the growing divide in the fan community to bring back into the fold people who felt disappointed or uninterested in Discovery, Picard, and even Lower Decks.
Strange New Worlds updates the look of Star Trek, retaining some visual elements from Discovery and the Kelvin films, but blends that look with a very classic aesthetic with a clear inspiration from The Original Series. After the bland all-blue uniforms of Discovery, the bold primary colours are unapologetically back. The USS Enterprise is brightly-lit and colourful too, with some wonderful sets that have updated the look of areas like the bridge, sickbay, and engineering while retaining key design elements to make it clear that this is a Star Trek show.
The use of practical special effects and puppets has created some really incredible creatures and aliens, some of which have had a genuinely “old-school” feel that reminded me of some of the alien races from The Original Series and The Next Generation era. These effects have combined with some excellent CGI animation and increasingly creative use of the expensive AR wall. It’s clear that Paramount’s visual effects artists are becoming more and more comfortable with this fancy piece of kit, and Strange New Worlds has found some fun ways to blend in the AR wall and make it seamless.
Like classic Star Trek shows have always done, Strange New Worlds tried its hand at some very different genres across Season 1. There was plenty of sci-fi, exploration, and action, but the show also dipped its toes in comedy, drama, warfare, and even horror at one point. Combined with a diverse range of planets to visit and alien races to meet, this gave Strange New Worlds an incredibly varied feel. A worse show might’ve ended up feeling jumpy or even unsettled, but the characters at Strange New Worlds’ heart kept it on track throughout thanks to some truly wonderful writing and world-building.
The theme music that has been composed for Strange New Worlds jumped right up the list to become one of my absolute favourite Star Trek themes. I felt an influence from the classic Superman theme by John Williams that blended perfectly with elements from The Original Series theme to create an exciting, adventurous up-tempo piece of music to really set the stage for every new episode. It’s a wonderful piece of music that I just know is going to become a celebrated part of the franchise.
I’d happily recommend Strange New Worlds to any fan of Star Trek, and I’d challenge even the most ardent Discovery-hater to give it a fair shake. More than that, I feel that Strange New Worlds has huge potential to bring in new Star Trek fans alongside Lower Decks and Prodigy, as it’s a very accessible show. Perhaps folks who’ve tried Star Trek in the past and found it wasn’t to their taste won’t be swayed, but for anyone who’s been on the fence or curious about where to start, Strange New Worlds would make for a wonderful and engaging first contact.
For longstanding Trekkies like myself, Strange New Worlds feels like a return to a long-forgotten format, but not in a way that’s regressive. Strange New Worlds has taken the episodic, exploration-oriented format that was at the heart of the franchise in its golden age but updated it for 2022, keeping things like character growth and arcs while still finding ways to play in different genres and with different aliens and settings. It’s the best of both worlds, and while the series builds on what Discovery, Picard, and even Lower Decks and Prodigy have achieved, for me it surpasses all of them.
I’ll hold up my hands and admit to having found a few nitpicks across the first season, including a couple of character arcs that either felt under-developed or rushed, but generally speaking the quality was high and the episodes outstanding. It’s rare for me to be able to say this, but Strange New Worlds hit ten for ten in its first season – ten genuinely great episodes that I thoroughly enjoyed.
What I’ll do now is briefly summarise my spoiler-free thoughts on each of the episodes in turn.
Episode 1: Strange New Worlds
The season premiere was an episode that showcased Captain Pike. We got to see his internal struggle as he wrangled with the knowledge of his impending disability, and we got to see him at his best as he resumed command of the Enterprise. There are parallels to Picard Season 1, particularly the contrast between where Pike began the story in terms of his emotional and mental state and where he finished it; finding his place and restoring his confidence were absolutely crucial parts of the episode.
Strange New Worlds was a strong premiere and a great way to kick off the series. It took Star Trek back to its roots and showcased the exploration and missions of first contact that were key parts of the shows that we remember. There were moments of action and humour as we were introduced to most of the new crew for the first time, and what resulted was a solid foundation for the season to build upon.
Episode 2: Children of the Comet
Children of the Comet had an interesting premise and pitted the Enterprise against an adversary who was able to easily overpower the Federation flagship – and yes, Strange New Worlds has confirmed that the Enterprise is the flagship in this era! There were some truly outstanding visual effects both practical and animated, and we got to see a really beautiful episode that, as the title suggests, focused in large part on a comet.
Uhura was a big part of this story, and this new, younger version of the character has a lot of space to grow into the person we remember with fondness from The Original Series. Celia Rose Gooding stepped up and put in an outstanding and complex performance as we saw the young cadet navigate her first away mission to a very alien environment.
Episode 3: Ghosts of Illyria
I have to confess that I’d almost entirely forgotten about the Illyrians prior to watching Ghosts of Illyria. The alien race appeared once in Enterprise’s third season – so I really recommend checking out the episode Damage for context before watching this one! Nothing in Damage is essential, but having that extra bit of background was definitely useful.
This was a big episode for Una Chin-Riley – a.k.a. Number One – as well as for the relationship between Captain Pike and Spock. Ghosts of Illyria also told us something important about Dr M’Benga that would go on to define his arc across much of the rest of the season. There were some clever and innovative concepts here, and what resulted was a fun episode.
Episode 4: Memento Mori
Memento Mori raised my first real nitpick of the season! But despite that, it was a tense and thoroughly enjoyable ride that drew inspiration from battles in classic Star Trek stories like Balance of Terror and The Wrath of Khan – as well as the war films that served to inspire those episodes. Throughout Memento Mori there was a sense that everyone was in danger and that not all of our favourite characters would make it out alive.
We got to see Captain Pike at his absolute best in Memento Mori, showing off why he’s long been considered one of Starfleet’s finest commanders. It was also a great episode for Lieutenant Ortegas – the Enterprise’s navigator – and for La’an Noonien-Singh, who had to confront her own inner demons and traumatic memories.
Episode 5: Spock Amok
An episode about Spock confronting his conflicted inner nature and the way he feels about the human and Vulcan sides of his heritage doesn’t seem at first like it would be the foundation for a comedic story, but Spock Amok ended up being absolutely hilarious with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that could rival even Lower Decks for its unapologetic sense of fun. Spock Amok had emotion at its heart, though, with Spock’s struggle played for more than just a cheap laugh.
The episode’s B-plot featured Captain Pike attempting diplomacy with an unusual alien race who felt like they couldn’t possibly be from any other science-fiction franchise. In that sense, Spock Amok is a Star Trek episode through and through!
Episode 6: Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach
This episode’s title feels like it was lifted directly from The Original Series – as does the concept it brings to the fore. Captain Pike finds himself caught between his feelings for an alien woman he met in the past and his duty to the Federation. There’s a continuation of Dr M’Benga’s character arc from earlier in the season, one that flips the idea of the Prime Directive on its head in a way that reminded me very much of the Voyager Season 1 episode Prime Factors.
Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach pushed the limits of narrative complexity within a single episode, with a dramatic mystery involving the attempted kidnapping of a young boy who was destined to play a key role in the leadership and future of his planet. A worse episode could’ve made its central mystery feel convoluted or even rushed, but Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach balanced this complexity perfectly, despite having other storylines in play.
Episode 7: The Serene Squall
I didn’t think I was going to enjoy The Serene Squall based on its premise and the teases we got prior to its broadcast – but I was wrong! The crew face off against space pirates in what was both a tense and fun story that also found time to throw in an unexpected twist. Perhaps the resolution to the narrative was a tad rushed in its final act, but that would be my only real criticism.
There was an incredibly powerful moment with Spock early in the episode that reframed his internal human-Vulcan split, and without giving too much away, it was something I found absolutely fascinating – and more than a little relatable! I think Spock’s characterisation here was the highlight of the episode for me, and pairing him up with Nurse Chapel was a great creative choice.
Episode 8: The Elysian Kingdom
The Elysian Kingdom is two very different episodes rolled into one. On the one hand, there’s a funny, almost pantomime story in which the entire crew – sans Hemmer and Dr M’Benga – take on roles from a children’s story book. On the other, there’s an intensely emotional story with Dr M’Benga.
The Elysian Kingdom follows on from episodes like Mirror, Mirror or Bride of Chaotica insofar as it allows all of the main cast a chance to play around and step out from their usual roles. I have no doubt that it was an incredibly fun episode to work on – and that comes across in the performances from practically everyone involved. My only real gripe is that the final act and conclusion wrapped up very quickly.
Episode 9: All Those Who Wander
Of all the episodes in Season 1, the most important one to go into un-spoiled has to be All Those Who Wander. It’s an incredibly powerful episode with a thrilling horror theme, and there’s clear inspiration from the film Alien throughout. It’s also an episode that builds to a shocking emotional climax – and I won’t say any more about that lest I risk spoiling it!
Star Trek can do horror really well, as episodes like Empok Nor demonstrated years ago. For me, All Those Who Wander takes the horror angle right up to the edge of my personal comfort zone – but never beyond it. It’s not the most kid-friendly episode, that’s for sure, but it’s an incredibly tense and thrilling ride from start to finish with a wonderfully atmospheric setting.
Episode 10: A Quality of Mercy
Captain Pike receives a visit from, well, “The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.” That’s about the best way I can describe A Quality of Mercy! There are some outstanding visual moments that really show off the USS Enterprise, a callback to a classic episode of The Original Series, and a storyline that furthers Captain Pike’s season-long arc.
A Quality of Mercy sees Season 1 end on a high note – and with a little tease for something more to come. It’s an action-packed episode with some real emotional punches, and a love letter to fans of The Original Series in particular. All in all, an absolutely outstanding episode and a great way to close out one of the best seasons of Star Trek ever put to screen.
So that’s it!
Strange New Worlds is off to a roaring start, and I can’t wait for Season 2 already! Good news in that regard – the show’s second season recently finished filming and will be broadcast next year. Here’s to Season 3 – and beyond! Hopefully Paramount will have gotten its act together by then, ensuring that this amazing series is available to audiences all around the world.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the show that fans had been asking for since Captain Pike and Spock appeared in Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery in 2019. Its mere existence would already be a massive win for Star Trek fans and proof that Paramount is willing to listen to feedback, but the fact that the show has been such an amazing experience across its first season and exceeded expectations that were already sky-high is absolutely fantastic!
Not only has Strange New Worlds Season 1 laid the groundwork for future stories with Captain Pike and co. aboard the Enterprise, but I feel it offers a template that future Star Trek projects should take a serious look at. The serialised season-long stories of Picard and Discovery have been interesting – and some have worked better than others – but Strange New Worlds’ more episodic approach has been absolutely wonderful, allowing for a more diverse array of stories that both revisited elements from Star Trek’s past while also introducing us to brand-new aliens, planets, and cultures.
I was bitterly upset that Paramount’s pathetic and indefensible “America First” attitude cut off Strange New Worlds from so many of the fans who campaigned to make it happen, and unfortunately I can’t deny that that has tainted the experience. But if we can look past the corporate nonsense, Strange New Worlds itself has been an absolutely phenomenal show, one that I hope will continue for at least four more seasons to fulfil Captain Pike’s promised “five-year mission.”
Whether you’re new to Star Trek or whether you’ve enjoyed past iterations of the franchise, it’s easy to recommend Strange New Worlds. I sincerely hope you’ll give it a try.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in countries and territories where the platform is available. Episodes are being broadcast weekly on Paramount+ in the UK. Further international availability has not been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There may be minor spoilers for some of the entries on the list below.
The end of June marks the halfway point of the year, and I think that makes it a great time to take a step back. There are a lot of entertainment experiences that lie ahead over the next few months, and with the nights already starting to get longer it’ll be autumn and then Christmas before we know it! There’s a lot coming our way before we must bid farewell to 2022, though, so today we’re going to take a look at a few of the projects on my radar.
Since the vaccine rollout peaked last year we’ve seen an easing of pandemic restrictions, including in the entertainment industry. That bodes well for at least some of the projects that have been in development! While there are still regulations and guidelines being enforced on film and TV sets, it’s much easier for many productions to work than it has been for the past couple of years. There may be disruptions to come thanks to lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine, though… so watch this space!
I’ve broken down my choices into three categories – films, television shows, and video games – and I’ve picked six titles in each category that I’m hoping to pick up and enjoy before the sun sets on New Year’s Eve!
Film #1: Avatar: The Way of Water
I took a look at Avatar: The Way of Water when we got a brief teaser trailer earlier in the year, but suffice to say I’m curiously interested to see what writer-director James Cameron has to offer this time around. I never felt that the original Avatar was the genre-defining epic that its creators hoped it would be, and over the course of the past decade I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the world of Avatar has largely dropped out of the cultural conversation.
The Way of Water has a lot to do, then, to reintroduce viewers to a fictional universe that many haven’t revisited since 2009 or 2010. It also has the task of expanding the world of Avatar beyond the events of the first film, showing us more about the world of Pandora, the Na’vi, and this future version of Earth and humankind. There have been some clever technical feats that have gone into the production of this sequel – including gruelling underwater motion-capture shoots – so I’ll be interested to see if it all comes together when the film releases in December.
Film #2: Jurassic World: Dominion
Technically Jurassic World: Dominion has already been released – but as my health prevents me from doing things like taking trips to the cinema these days, I’m waiting for it to become available to stream! The teaser trailer for the film, which was released back in December, looked great, and the prospect of a reunion of the main cast members from the first film – Sam Neill as Dr Alan Grant, Laura Dern as Dr Ellie Sattler, and of course Jeff Goldblum as Dr Ian Malcolm – is a pretty significant draw.
There is always going to be the question of whether the premise of the original Jurassic Park – which was based on a novel by Michael Crichton – can really sustain a multi-film franchise. The first film was brilliant in both premise and execution, but was it a one-trick pony? I’m curious to see what director Colin Trevorrow can do to make dinosaurs both fun and intimidating once more! I’ve been trying to avoid reading reviews and spoilers for this one, and when it’s available to stream I hope to get a review written here on the website – so stay tuned for that!
Film #3: Minions: The Rise of Gru
Despicable Me was a fun film that managed to be surprisingly heartwarming, and the franchise it spawned has gone on to become one of the biggest animated properties of all-time. The last Minions film was released back in 2015, and this sequel will reintroduce Gru – the antihero/evil villain from Despicable Me – as he teams up with his Minions for the first time.
There’s potential for a lot of fun, kid-friendly hijinks in The Rise of Gru, and I’m genuinely looking forward to another outing with the Minions. Steve Carell has been on top form in previous entries in the franchise, and the film will also feature Star Trek: Discovery’s Michelle Yeoh as part of a star-studded cast.
Film #4: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
I had a good time with Rian Johnson’s “whodunnit” Knives Out a couple of years ago, so this follow-up definitely holds appeal. Without wanting to give away any spoilers for the first film, suffice to say that I’m excited for one character in particular to make a return!
From what I can gather, Glass Onion isn’t so much a direct sequel as it is a follow-up; a film set in the same world and that will bring back at least one familiar face, but that will also introduce an ensemble cast of new characters and perhaps a new setting as well. Hopefully what results will be just as fun and dramatic as the original!
Film #5: Hocus Pocus 2
I missed the original Hocus Pocus when it was released in 1993, and it wasn’t until years later that I finally sat down to watch it at the insistence of a friend. What I eventually found was a fun, even somewhat clever film; a light-hearted take on Halloween that’s just right for someone who isn’t a big fan of horror!
The sequel aims to bring back Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy as the three witches from the original for a new adventure that sounds like it will be a riff on the original concept. Keep an eye out for Star Trek: Discovery’s Doug Jones, who will also be reprising his role from the original film. Hocus Pocus 2 might be just right for Halloween 2022!
Film #6: Beast
Could Beast be “Jaws but with a lion?” Because the marketing material released by the studio makes it sound like that! I quite like a good thriller or monster flick, so maybe Beast will be a bit of fun. I don’t have especially high expectations; it’s unlikely to be a cinematic masterpiece. But it might just be entertaining enough to waste a little time.
Idris Elba is always fun to watch regardless of what he’s doing – see last year’s The Suicide Squad as a case in point! So at least on that front there’s a solid star in the leading role, and the film’s South African setting appeals to me as I used to live there. I’m curiously interested to see what Beast will have to offer when it’s released in August.
Television Show #1: Lego Star Wars: Summer Vacation
Lego Star Wars: Summer Vacation will be the third Lego Star Wars special released on Disney+, and the first two were fantastic! 2020’s Holiday Special was a barrel of laughs, and last year we enjoyed Terrifying Tales in October, a lightly spooky Halloween special featuring Poe Dameron. The trailer for Summer Vacation had me in stitches, so if the special itself lives up to its marketing then we’re in for a wonderful time!
Expect to see some cheeky marketing for Disney’s “Galactic Starcruiser” themed hotel (which hasn’t been doing particularly well) in a special that will star “Weird Al” Yankovic and will bring back Finn, Poe, Rey, Rose, and other Star Wars characters.
Television Show #2: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3
At time of writing we don’t have a confirmed premiere date for Season 3 of Lower Decks, but if it follows the same pattern as it did in 2020 and 2021 we might see it in late summer, perhaps mid-to-late August. Season 2 actually ended on a cliffhanger – which I won’t spoil – and I still have a few theories and ideas kicking around that I’ll try to get written up before the new season arrives!
Lower Decks took a couple of episodes to fully get going, but it’s been an absolute blast across its first couple of seasons. Consistently high quality has left the series with only a couple of boring or unenjoyable episodes, and there’s a surprising amount of emotion at the heart of the Lower Decks crew. It’s a Star Trek show through-and-through, and one I find myself getting surprisingly invested in. I’m hopeful for more of the same when Lower Decks returns.
Television Show #3: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Although The Rings of Power is already (and prematurely, in my view) proving to be controversial in some quarters, I have high hopes for what will be the most expensive television show ever produced! A return to Tolkien’s world is, of course, hugely enticing, but The Rings of Power is aiming to be a spiritual successor to Game of Thrones, telling a multi-season serialised story set in the realm of high fantasy. With a massive budget to back it up, I couldn’t be more excited about that concept!
However, with a high budget and high expectations come dangers. The Rings of Power has a long way to fall if it fails to live up to expectations, and no matter what the producers and creative team try to do, the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy will be the yardstick by which this new series is measured. I hope it can compare favourably!
Television Show #4: House of the Dragon
Take everything I said in the entry above, copy-and-paste it, and that’s how I feel about House of the Dragon as well! This Game of Thrones prequel is one of several projects currently in production, but as far as I can see the biggest hurdle it has to surmount is not its predecessor’s reputation as one of the best television shows of all time, but the deep disappointment practically all Game of Thrones fans felt at its finale.
Just convincing people to show up for House of the Dragon in light of Game of Thrones Season 8 feels like a big ask… but if the show learns from those mistakes and makes changes, we could be in for something genuinely exciting. The first five-plus seasons of Game of Thrones were some of the most tense, atmospheric, and exciting ever brought to the small screen, so a return to Westeros – and to the writings of George R R Martin – could be fantastic. Could be.
Television Show #5: Star Wars: Andor
A prequel to a prequel (or should that be a spin-off from a spin-off?), Andor will follow Rogue One’s Cassian Andor in the years before the events of the film. We might get to see more detail about the early days of the Rebel Alliance prior to the Battle of Scarif, which would be interesting in itself, but more than that I’m curious to see what Star Wars can do with a genuinely different premise. In this case, we’re talking about a spy thriller.
Is there room in the Star Wars galaxy for stories that aren’t just about Jedi Knights, the Force, and lightsaber duels? The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett could’ve begun to show us what the Star Wars galaxy looks like away from those familiar elements, but chose not to do so. So it falls to Andor to potentially become the first Star Wars series to really broaden the franchise’s horizons and show us what’s possible. Is that too much to hope for? Maybe… I guess we’ll have to see!
Television Show #6: Five Days At Memorial
When done well, a miniseries can be a great format for storytelling. Five Days At Memorial aims to adapt the true story of doctors and nurses working at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Based on a book from 2013, the miniseries will take a look at some of the events that transpired – including how patients were triaged when the hospital’s systems failed and supplies ran low.
Most controversially, some patients were euthanised by doctors at the hospital – leading to a legal case against them in the months and years afterwards. Hopefully the miniseries will be faithful in its adaptation and won’t try to over-sensationalise these difficult events. I’m really curious to see how it turns out.
Video Game #1: Star Trek: Prodigy – Supernova
You wait years for a Star Trek video game and then two come along at once! This year should see the release of Star Trek: Resurgence – a narrative adventure game – as well as Star Trek: Prodigy – Supernova, a kid-friendly adventure title based on the new animated series. With new episodes of Prodigy’s first season set to air later this year, the time is right for a tie-in.
I was disappointed (and a little concerned) that Prodigy kicked off its first season with no toys or tie-in products, but that is slowly being addressed. Supernova looks a little last-gen in terms of its graphics, and I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t, but I’m still hopeful for a fun game that ties in with the show, and one that can appeal to the younger audience that the show has been targetting.
Video Game #2: Stray
Stray has been on my radar for a while, and it’s finally due for release in July! Getting to play as a cat is already a huge part of the appeal, but it sounds as if Stray will have a genuinely interesting mystery at its core: what happened to all of the humans in its world? Players will assume the role of a stray cat in a cyberpunk-inspired city, and solving that mystery will be top priority.
I’m really looking forward to what I hope will be a different experience with Stray. Many games do mystery, third-person exploration, and create atmospheric worlds, but Stray feels like it could offer something that I haven’t experienced before.
Video Game #3: Grounded
If a game has been in early access for more than two years, should its “release” even count on a list like this? Regardless, I haven’t played Grounded yet – because I largely avoid early access titles – so I’m looking forward to seeing what the full release will have to offer. I loved Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and even visited the attraction at Disney World… could Grounded let me live out a long-held childhood fantasy?
There are survival aspects to Grounded that could either work exceptionally well… or feel annoying, depending on how good the rest of the game is and how much fun I’m having! But I’ve heard good things from players who’ve enjoyed the early access version, so I’m going to give Grounded a shot when it officially releases in September.
Video Game #4: Return to Monkey Island
Despite loving the first three games in the series, I seem to have fallen behind on my Monkey Island adventures! The fourth and fifth games in the series ended up on my “pile” of unplayed games, and despite meaning to get around to them I still haven’t! Perhaps I should rectify that before Return to Monkey Island – the sixth game in the series – arrives.
Updated versions of the first three Monkey Island games proved that point-and-click adventure titles could still find an audience when they were released a few years ago, and there’s still an appetite for this kind of comedy-adventure. I’m hopeful that Return to Monkey Island will deliver more of the same humour and excitement as the series did in its early days.
Video Game #5: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
After being on my radar for a while, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum has finally set a release window. All being well we’ll see the weird-sounding game in September. I honestly don’t know what to expect from this one, as Gollum would never be the kind of character I’d have expected to build a game and a story around. However, there’s clearly more to his story than we saw in the films – or even the books – so this could be an interesting adventure!
With a renewed focus on the world of Tolkien and high fantasy thanks to the Amazon show and other fantasy films and TV shows, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum could be a surprise hit. I don’t want to go overboard with the hype, but I’m definitely interested to see what the developers have come up with.
Video Game #6: Saints Row
It does the Saints Row series a grave disservice to call it simply a “Grand Theft Auto clone,” even if that’s where it might’ve begun. This soft reboot of the series aims to take it back to its roots, setting aside at least some of the over-the-top hijinks of the third and fourth games in favour of a return to the gangland roots of the original Saints Row from 2006.
With no Grand Theft Auto VI on the horizon any time soon, Saints Row might just scratch that open-world crime itch for players who are getting tired of Grand Theft Auto V – but hopefully Saints Row can continue to carve its own niche and stand on its own two feet.
So that’s it!
Those are just some of the projects that we can look forward to in the weeks and months ahead. There are plenty more, of course, and I’m sure there’ll be some surprises along the way, too! Although 2022 has been much better than the past couple of years, there’s still the potential for disruption and delays, so keep in mind that any of the shows, films, and games listed above may not make their currently-scheduled launches. Such things happen, unfortuately!
I hope that this was a bit of fun and a glimpse at what lies ahead. It’s always interesting (to me, at least) to research different upcoming projects to see what piques my curiosity, and as someone who takes an interest in the world of entertainment I’m always keeping my ear to the ground to see what might be coming up! I hope you’ll stay tuned here on the website for reviews, impressions, and write-ups of at least some of the projects we’ve talked about today.
Until next time!
All films, television shows, and video games listed above are the copyright of their respective owner, company, distributor, broadcaster, publisher, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Here on the website I often talk about potential Star Trek projects, storytelling and narrative choices, and some of the things that I’d like the franchise to do in upcoming series and films. This time I thought it could be interesting to do things a little differently – today we’re going to look at some technical and production-side changes that I think would benefit Star Trek going forward.
The renewed Star Trek franchise hasn’t been shy when it comes to trying new and different things since its return to the small screen in 2017, and while there are some ongoing issues – particularly relating to the way parent company Paramount is handling things – there are still a number of successes that deserve to be commended. This piece isn’t meant to detract from the accomplishments that Star Trek has made in recent years.
But there’s always room for improvement and new ideas! Sometimes that might mean pushing the boat out further and trying genuinely different things – a lesson that another sci-fi franchise could learn from Star Trek, in my opinion! Other times, returning to something that has previously been demonstrated to work well or be popular could be the way to go. There are different ways to approach such a big subject – and naturally, everyone is going to have different perspectives based on their own ideas and preferences.
I’m not an entertainment industry professional. The closest I came to that was working in the video games industry some years ago, and even then I was working in marketing rather than in a creative or technical capacity. So I’m categorically not an expert at how television shows are created and brought to screen! But I know what works for me, what I personally think looks and feels good, and I have some ideas for what I’d like to see from Star Trek in future. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
My usual caveats apply: I have no “insider information,” nor am I in a position to set policy at Paramount! So it’s quite likely that much of what we talk about today will never make it to screen. This is a wishlist from a long-time fan, and nothing more. It’s also entirely subjective – so if you hate all of my ideas or I don’t include things that seem like common sense to you, that’s okay! We all have different perspectives and points of view; these are mine, and I share them in the spirit of civil and polite discussion about the future of Star Trek.
With all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at ten technical and/or production-side changes that I’d like to see the Star Trek franchise make.
Number 1: 4K and HDR.
If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, “4K” is a screen resolution also known as “ultra-HD.” Whereas a standard HD video image might be 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels high, 4K video footage is typically 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels high. The increased number of pixels means that image clarity is massively improved, and more detail can be shown with each frame.
“HDR” is an acronym that stands for “high dynamic range,” and in basic terms it makes bright colours brighter and darker colours darker, making for a more true-to-life image on screen. When viewed on an HDR-compatible television or screen, HDR footage looks significantly more real than non-HDR video.
Both 4K and HDR are increasingly common in home entertainment, and streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+ are offering an increasing amount of their new content in 4K with HDR support. So far, no new Star Trek shows have been created in 4K HDR, despite the technology being available, and Paramount+ doesn’t support it right now. This has got to change – and soon – in order for Paramount+ to offer a comparable service to its competitors, and the Star Trek franchise is a great place to start.
There have been a limited number of 4K re-releases, such as the Director’s Edition of The Motion Picture, but realistically it’s now time for Star Trek to transition to producing its newest content in 4K HDR.
Number 2: Go big for the sixtieth anniversary.
At time of writing it’s just over four years to go before the Star Trek franchise will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary. At the time of the fiftieth in 2016, Discovery hadn’t yet premiered and while there was a whole lot of celebrating, it wasn’t possible to do a lot on screen. Star Trek Beyond was the only project to release that year.
But the sixtieth should be different! There are currently five Star Trek projects in production, with at least two others supposedly being worked on behind the scenes. By the time we get to 2026 the franchise should still be going strong, and that raises the possibility of some truly spectacular events to mark the milestone.
The 30th anniversary of Star Trek in 1996 saw projects like Trials and Tribble-ations and Flashback from Deep Space Nine and Voyager respectively that paid homage to the franchise’s history. Bringing back classic characters, telling fun fan-servicey stories, and more could all be part of a big sixtieth anniversary celebration – but I’d like to see some kind of major crossover event!
Imagine how much fun it could be if a crossover special were created that featured characters from every iteration of Star Trek. Star Trek’s version of The Avengers, where characters from every show and film found themselves – somehow – in the same timeline and era, needing to battle some nefarious villain. It might be terrible, it might be criticised for being too heavy on the fan-service, but as a one-off project there’s nothing I’d like to see more!
Number 3: Make better use of indoor sound stages and the AR wall.
To be fair, I think the investment that Paramount has made in the AR wall is already beginning to see some results (though I can’t be the only one playing a game of “spot the AR wall,” can I?) But since Star Trek returned to the small screen, it hasn’t been smooth sailing in terms of getting diversity in filming locations.
I felt this most acutely during Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard, and if you’ve been a regular reader since 2020 you may recall that I commented on it in my reviews as the season wore on. In short, every planet that Picard and the crew visited was a barely-disguised southern California, and in a ten-episode season that took them to a new locale almost every week, that became painfully obvious to the point that it detracted from the story in places.
This has also been something I’ve started to notice with Discovery, too. Certain filming locations (like a disused quarry) crop up multiple times, supposedly representing entirely different planets, and there’s just no need for it. Some of the outdoor shoots that I’ve felt were problematic barely lasted five minutes, so for the sake of a short sequence or a handful of scenes, making use of an indoor sound stage is preferable.
Partly this is because we’ve been spoilt by the likes of Game of Thrones with its multi-national filming locations all across Europe! But partly, it must be said, it’s because Star Trek’s producers have lacked either the budget or the creativity to do something different. The AR wall will be a big help going forward, I have no doubt, but getting diversity in the franchise’s filming locations is a big request of mine. Once you start to notice these things, you can’t un-see them!
Number 4: Make better use of social media.
Star Trek’s social media has been atrocious over the past couple of years, and in 2022 there’s no excuse for that. Social media can be a massive asset to any franchise, particularly in the run-up to big releases. But the way Star Trek has handled it has been poor.
Star Trek’s official social media channels – and the rest of Paramount’s, too – need to coordinate better. If a trailer is broadcast for a new or upcoming project, it needs to be available on every platform within minutes. Official Star Trek and Paramount+ YouTube channels don’t do this for some incredibly stupid reason, and it can be hard to find a good-quality copy of the latest trailers sometimes – something that I notice because of trying to get screenshots and still frames to use here on the website.
Moreover, Star Trek needs to be more conversational and interactive. Social media isn’t just a billboard; an empty advertising space to display posters and teasers and talk about what’s coming up. It’s a place to interact with fans. That means that when fans have questions, someone needs to be there to provide answers. If fans make art or jokes or memes, someone needs to react and respond to those.
In 2022, social media can literally make or break a television series. Projects as diverse as Game of Thrones and Squid Game blew up thanks to social media, and Paramount has continually failed to recognise what an asset social media could be if they used it right. This is one example, in my opinion, of how Paramount’s leadership remains stuck in the past. 20th Century thinking won’t cut it anymore, and wasting money on things like billboards in Times Square or posters on the London Underground won’t bring in viewers. Social media is where it’s at – so a complete overhaul of the way it’s handled is a must.
Number 5: Ditch the cinematic “letterbox.”
I admit that this one is very much a matter of personal taste, but I find that the “cinematic” format used for modern Star Trek episodes is just a bit… gimmicky. Most television shows use a 16:9 or maybe a 16:10 aspect ratio; modern live-action Star Trek episodes have insisted on using a 2.4:1 aspect ratio that’s more commonly seen in films.
If you’re watching a film at the cinema, that’s basically become the industry standard. But most televisions – and even many fancy home theatre setups – still use 16:9 or 16:10 screens, meaning that Star Trek episodes have awkward and ugly black bars above and below the picture. I just feel that this is an unnecessary gimmick, and that I’d prefer to see episodes in a standard widescreen format.
To be fair, this isn’t an issue that’s exclusive to the Star Trek franchise, as it’s been seen in shows like The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi over in the Star Wars franchise as well, and seems to be increasingly in vogue for modern television series. But to me it still feels like a gimmick at best, and something that may end up making TV shows of this era feel dated in years to come.
Any time I watch a video with ugly black bars around it, it makes me feel like I’m not seeing the full picture; as if something has been cut off. This applies when watching older shows in 4:3 as well. So if everyone could stick to a standard widescreen format that would be great!
Number 6: A return to more episodic storytelling.
To be fair, this has already happened with the likes of Lower Decks and, of course, Strange New Worlds. But it would be great to see more of a focus on episodic, “monster-of-the-week” storytelling from Star Trek going forward. That was where the franchise began, and there are many benefits to this approach.
In the wake of projects like Lost and Game of Thrones we saw a lot of television shows try to take a more serialised approach – with varying results. Some series and franchises can pull it off more successfully than others, but the fundamental weakness in this approach – as Lost, Game of Thrones, and some recent seasons of Star Trek have shown – is that you have to absolutely nail the full story, and particularly have a well-written, thoroughly planned ending.
In short, the weakness in serialised storytelling is that one or two bad episodes, particularly if they come at the end, can sour an entire season or even an entire series. Look at how the two-part finale of Picard Season 1 put a downer on the whole season, or for a more extreme example how Game of Thrones’ eighth season effectively killed off the entire series.
Episodic storytelling is less risky in that regard! One bad episode doesn’t ruin an entire story, and that’s a big point in its favour. But moreover, the Star Trek galaxy is well-suited to these kinds of one-and-done stories. It allows for a lot more freedom and creativity, and would allow us as the audience to take a look and many more aliens, many more planets, and to get a much broader perspective. There’s a place for serialised storytelling within Star Trek – but not in every project.
Number 7: Properly address international distribution issues.
One of the main weights around the neck of the Star Trek franchise right now is the appalling international distribution situation. It really feels like Paramount doesn’t care in the slightest about any non-American fans – and in the globalised, connected marketplace we’re in in 2022, that’s not acceptable.
Star Trek is one of the big selling points for Paramount+… but if the streaming platform isn’t available and there are no concrete plans to make it available in the short-term, Paramount needs to do something else to ensure non-American fans can watch the latest episodes of Star Trek. As I’ve already pointed out, Paramount Global owns or co-owns a massive number of television channels all across the world, and they have the ability to do deals with the likes of Netflix, Google, Amazon, and others.
The lack of international distribution for Lower Decks Season 1, Prodigy, Strange New Worlds, and most egregiously Discovery Season 4 was entirely Paramount’s fault. They chose to broadcast these shows in the United States without getting international broadcasts set up, and they could have either worked harder to get that set up or delayed those shows if they couldn’t.
There are many Trekkies outside of the United States who feel hurt by this – and as I continue to point out, this harms the reputations of Paramount and Star Trek all across the world. Paramount needs to do more – and quickly – to address this situation and ensure that fans all over the world can watch and share in every new episode of Star Trek. If they won’t do that, the Star Trek franchise and Paramount+ will be in serious jeopardy. It’s that simple.
Number 8: More official merchandise.
As I said last year when Prodigy premiered, it was incredibly poor from Paramount to broadcast a television show aimed at kids while offering no kid-friendly tie-in products like toys, playsets, and dress-up costumes. Merchandise is a money-maker in itself, of course, but it’s also a great way to signal that the Star Trek franchise is back and here to stay.
One of my earliest Star Trek memories isn’t an episode or film, but a product. My uncle showed my a toy phaser that he had when I was very young, and that memory has stuck with me. For kids, toys and games can push them to check out a television show or franchise for the first time, and just by seeing Star Trek-branded products on shelves, more people will be aware of the fact that new shows and films are being made.
Star Wars has an excellent approach to merchandise – and that’s always been the case. In the 1990s Star Trek was a close competitor, and I have a number of figures in my collection from that era. Even relatively minor characters like Morn found themselves turned into action figures – and Star Trek needs to get back to doing that. There’s a place for expensive collectables too, but more than anything Star Trek needs the playsets and toys that it used to be so good at creating.
We’re seeing moves in the right direction here, with the likes of Mego and Playmates coming online and starting to produce more toys and products, but Paramount still needs to do more. At this rate, Prodigy’s entire first year will have come and gone without a single toy or tie-in product being created, and to me that just screams “amateurish.”
Number 9: Restart the Short Treks series and create more one-off stories, mini-episodes, and TV movies.
There are many Star Trek concepts and ideas that don’t have a place in the wider franchise. Some pitches from well-known actors and writers may not make for a great film or series, but could be adapted to be a one-off, a mini-episode, or even a TV movie. With the investments that have been made in sets, the AR wall, and so on, it’s easier than ever to do this.
These one-shot projects would also be commercially useful for Paramount+, convincing subscribers to remain engaged with the platform in between seasons of Star Trek’s main shows. That was the original purpose behind Short Treks (even if it was never stated up-front!) and it makes a lot of sense.
Short Treks as a format could be the gateway to some incredibly diverse and varied stories, potentially revisiting classic characters and episodes in a way that the franchise’s main shows wouldn’t be able to. And aside from the fan-service, one-shot episodes and TV movies could be excellent gateways into the Star Trek franchise for newbies or for viewers who’ve just begun to dip their toes into Star Trek.
By making use of existing sets and props as much as possible, at least some of these projects could be relatively inexpensive to create – another big point in their favour.
Number 10: Use less CGI in favour of more practical effects and props.
Some episodes of modern Star Trek are overladen with CGI, including in places where no CGI should really be necessary. CGI is great in some instances, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t have to be used in every case for every shot!
Star Wars has found success by returning to physical props and puppets and making use of more practical effects, and those moves have won praise from many fans. Star Trek could absolutely go down the same road, creating more models, physical props, and prosthetics for alien races instead of relying entirely on CGI.
Some older episodes of Star Trek haven’t aged well because of some of their sets and props, but I think that can also apply to CGI. CGI-heavy projects from 10-15 years ago can look pretty amateurish by today’s standards, so we shouldn’t worry too much about how “dated” something may or may not look in the years ahead.
There are some wonderful sets, some amazing prosthetics, and some fantastic props that have been created for modern Star Trek. And as I pointed out above, relying too much on one set or one outdoor location can be detrimental, too! But for my money, Star Trek could absolutely make use of more physical props, puppets, and visual effects.
So that’s it!
“If I ruled the world…” or in this case, if I were in charge of the Star Trek franchise, those are some of the changes I’d like to make. Some are more important than others, naturally, and none of this is to say that what Star Trek has been doing so far is bad. Just that there are changes that could be made to improve things. In my subjective opinion, of course!
I hope that this was a bit of fun, and you can find longer articles that go into more detail about some of the subjects discussed above right here on the website. If you’re new around here, I write about Star Trek a lot! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come.
The Star Trek franchise – including all films and series mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
I’m trying to get my thoughts in order with June just around the corner. Here in the UK we’re just over three weeks away from the (alleged) launch date of Paramount+, and despite my criticisms of Paramount Global and the jokes I’ve made on social media, I truly want to be able to sign up for the platform and give my financial backing to the renewed Star Trek franchise. But I’m not sure that I can, at least not at the moment.
As a disabled person on a fixed income, the current inflation and cost of living crisis is hitting me particularly hard. Since the start of this year I’ve cancelled my plans for an upgrade to my slow internet connection and also let go of my Netflix subscription. I’d originally signed up for Netflix in order to be able to watch Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, and although there are still Netflix projects that interest me, the removal of the Star Trek franchise from the platform was a big factor in choosing to cancel that subscription.
Right now I have two subscriptions that I pay for: Xbox Game Pass and Disney+. In order to be able to afford Paramount+, realistically I’d have to cancel one or the other. And the problem there is simple: I regularly use and enjoy both. Subscribing to Game Pass has meant that I’ve only had to buy one game since the start of the year (Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, in case you were wondering). It’s a good service – for now, at least – that offers a decent number of games, and although I don’t spend as much time gaming as I did say a decade ago, Game Pass still has a lot to offer.
Disney+ has a few new shows that I’m interested in, like the current Obi-Wan Kenobi series, but more than that it’s a service that carries a lot of shows that I’ve enjoyed in years past. The likes of Futurama or Scubs make great background viewing; light entertainment that I don’t need to think too deeply about. Kids’ cartoon Phineas and Ferb is one of my comfort shows that I turn to on days when my mental health is poor, and Disney+ even carries shows like Lost and a diverse array of documentaries and films.
I feel like the debate I’m currently having internally about streaming kind of encapsulates a broader issue with the oversaturated streaming market, but more significantly for Paramount Global and the Star Trek franchise, it shows how being too late to the party can be incredibly costly. I’m not trying to decide between Paramount+ and Disney+ in a vacuum with both services on an equal footing; I already have Disney+, so in order to be able to afford Paramount+, Paramount needs to convince me to give up what I already have.
Perhaps the cost of living crisis of 2022 has blown the lid off things – it certainly has for me, at least – but these kinds of conflicts were inevitable, and not every streaming service currently on the market can survive. Perhaps current events will accelerate the decline of some of the lesser ones – such as CNN+, which cost parent company Time Warner over $300 million and lasted barely one month – but with the market having become so crowded and so anti-consumer, there simply isn’t room for everyone.
I’ve argued this point before – in an article that you can find by clicking or tapping here – but I really think it makes a lot of sense for some of the lesser companies to get out of the streaming game and focus instead on making content, not trying to make their own platform. The Star Trek franchise could be a good example of how this could work; Discovery was sold to Netflix, but Picard and Lower Decks were sold to Amazon Prime Video. Other media companies could take a similar approach, selling their shows and films to the highest-bidding streaming platform without making a cast-iron commitment to always work exclusively with a single platform.
That has to be the future, doesn’t it? It isn’t affordable for most households to pay for four, five, or six different streaming subscriptions even at the best of times, so something’s got to give sooner or later. As inflation and the cost of living continue to bite around the world – and with no sign of things improving at least in the short-term – I’d expect similar conversations to be happening in a lot of households. It’s possible that we’ll even start to see the impact of this on the streaming market pretty soon.
I’ve written about piracy here on the website on more than one occasion. Although it can be hard to explain how I feel in just a few words, I’ll give it a shot: when a series, film, or video game is made available, I’m firmly in the camp that says “pay for it.” If everyone turned to piracy there’d be no future for entertainment; it wouldn’t be possible to keep creating new films, games, or shows if no one was paying for and supporting the creation of those projects. So with Paramount+ slowly stumbling its way towards its UK launch, almost by default I felt sure that I’d be signing up.
As a big Trekkie and someone who loves the Star Trek franchise, I want to be in a position of contributing to its success, even when Paramount Global as a corporation has misbehaved when it comes to international fans. The reason for that is pretty simple: I want Star Trek to be financially successful so that it’ll continue to be produced for many years to come. I don’t want to be a pirate, especially not when it comes to Star Trek. The fact that Paramount forced fans like me into piracy with their decisions over Discovery Season 4, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds remains a source of disappointment.
But now, with the cost of living and inflation biting me in the backside, I’m left wondering whether my best option in the short-term is to rely on my DVDs and Blu-rays for older shows and pirate the final few episodes of Strange New Worlds. By the time Paramount+ lands in the UK there will only be three weeks left in the first season of Strange New Worlds – and even if Prodigy or Lower Decks are going to be hot on its heels, it hardly seems worth signing up for a new subscription to get three episodes of a single series.
Perhaps I’m clutching at straws trying to justify accessing media that I can’t afford. Maybe it’s the curse of those of us on low and fixed incomes that, in a world of dozens of streaming subscriptions, it’s too expensive to be able to afford to watch everything. Do the cost of living crisis and inflation justify piracy? Is piracy, as some like to claim, a form of theft? If I can’t afford Paramount+, shouldn’t I find ways to cut other things out of my budget so that I can – and if I’m unable or unwilling to do that, shouldn’t I then stick to that commitment and stop watching these new Star Trek shows?
These are some of the questions rolling around in my head at the moment! Maybe I should just shut up, review new episodes of Star Trek and whatever else, and let everyone reading assume that I paid for everything completely legitimately. But this website is my only real outlet for talking about some of these issues, and with the cost of living and inflation being big worries at the moment and weighing on my mind, I wanted to talk about it and not just cover it up and pretend like everything is fine.
This is far from the worst financial crisis I’ve personally had to deal with. Ever been so broke that you had “sleep for dinner?” I’ve been there. I’ve been to the supermarket with only a bunch of coins that I managed to scrounge up from pockets and down the back of the sofa, buying food for a couple of days without knowing when or how I’d be able to afford the next shop. And I’ve been in a position of turning off the heat and wearing a coat, gloves, and three pairs of socks in the living room in order to save money. Compared to that – and compared to what many folks are going through right now, too – having to choose between different streaming services because I can’t afford all of them… well it doesn’t exactly matter, does it?
But at the same time, there is a broader point here. Paramount+ is about to launch in an incredibly difficult market, one in which some of the biggest fans of the corporation’s most popular franchises are going to struggle to afford the service. The longer-term prospects of Paramount+, and whether it will ever be able to break into the top tier of streaming platforms alongside Netflix and Disney+, remains very much in question – and with that question comes fears for the longer-term sustainability of Star Trek. As a fan, that concerns me.
Decisions going back a decade or more on the part of big entertainment corporations have led to this point, and while the current jump in inflation and rise in the cost of living may have exposed some of these issues of affordability sooner than expected, it was inevitable that we’d reach this point in such an oversaturated marketplace. As a Star Trek fan I want to support Star Trek and I want the company that owns it and the platform on which it’s available to be financially successful – but I can’t commit to backing Paramount+ with a long-term subscription at the moment. If the cost of living crisis worsens in the months ahead – and with energy bills set to rise significantly in October, just in time for the winter, it very well may – I’ll be needing to cut back even more on the few services I already pay for, and there’ll be absolutely no place for anything new.
It’s a tough market, and Paramount Global’s many mistakes and offensive decisions have not endeared the corporation or its latest venture to the people who should be its biggest supporters. I wish Paramount+ well as a Star Trek fan who wants the franchise to succeed… but I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to make a long-term commitment to it right now.
Paramount+ is available in the United States, Scandinavia, Australia, and parts of Latin America now, with launches in the UK and South Korea in June 2022. Further international launch dates are yet to be announced. Paramount+ and the Star Trek franchise are owned by Paramount Global. Some stock images used above are courtesy of Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1 and 2, as well as the teaser trailer and casting announcements for Season 3. Further spoilers are present for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Even as we continue to wind down from Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, my thoughts have already turned to Season 3! Although the new season is still in production and is probably a year away, I wanted to get one of my big pre-season theories written down ahead of time. This one ties together events in all three seasons of the show – and I think that could make it a satisfying story if it were to unfold.
There are some legitimate concerns about Picard Season 3, at least from where I’m sitting. The fact that most of the new cast members have been unceremoniously dumped in order to make way for the returning characters from The Next Generation really stings, and I’m truly disappointed that we won’t get to spend more time with the likes of Elnor and Soji next time around. I wanted to acknowledge that before we proceed with the theory, because both the cutting of characters and the fact that several of them have disappeared without a proper goodbye is poor form from Picard’s producers and creative team.
So let’s talk about this theory, then! In short, what I’ve come up with connects events in both Seasons 1 and 2 with what has been teased about Season 3, potentially meaning that Picard will turn out to be one long connected story after all. We’re taking the mysterious anomaly encountered at the end of Season 2 as a starting point and asking “who could have created something like that?” The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid believed it was artificial in nature and had the potential to wipe out all life in an entire sector of space. That seems like the first phase of an invasion or attack – so who can we think of in Star Trek who could create a weapon on that scale?
We could absolutely pick on factions like the Dominion, Enterprise’s Sphere-Builders, or Species 8472. All of those – and many more – were potential suspects when it came to another mysterious anomaly in Discovery’s fourth season, too, and for good reason! But when we consider the elements that have already been introduced in Star Trek: Picard in particular, one faction more than any other appears to stand out: the super-synths from Season 1.
To briefly recap if it’s been a while since you watched Et in Arcadia Ego: the super-synths claimed to be “an alliance of synthetic life,” and it was implied that they resided far beyond the Milky Way galaxy. I nicknamed them the “Mass Effect Reapers” for their similarities to that video game faction! The super-synths literally moved stars to point to a beacon that they’d left behind on the planet of Aia, and in a vision that seemed jumbled and terrifying to organic minds they promised to come to the aid of any synths who requested their help.
The super-synths believed that all organics would eventually attack and destroy their synthetic creations; that war between synthetic and organic life was inevitable. The plans they left behind could open a portal to their home in dark space, allowing the super-synths to show up anywhere in the galaxy at a moment’s notice. It was left ambiguous as to whether their offer to help synths in their fight against organics was actually genuine or whether it was some kind of elaborate trap.
Although Admiral Picard was able to convince Soji to close the portal she had opened before the super-synths could arrive at the planet of Coppelius, the portal was open for a significant amount of time. In that time the super-synths would’ve seen a civilisation of synthetics on Coppelius asking for their help, and two massive fleets of starships engaged in a stand-off over the planet. Whatever their intentions may have been, Soji and Sutra’s actions have ensured that the super-synths are now aware of the Milky Way, the Federation, the Romulans, and the Coppelius synths.
The super-synths then disappeared from the plot and weren’t mentioned again. It isn’t clear what happened to them, what their goals may have been, nor how they would have reacted to the portal being closed at the last moment. What we do know is that the super-synths possess powerful technology – technology that seems to allow them to hop from one part of the universe to another in an instant.
This brings us to the anomaly encountered by the Borg and the Federation at the end of Season 2. The strange anomaly was described by Seven of Nine as being akin to a “transwarp conduit.” The Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid was unsure of who created it, but considered them to be “a threat” requiring close observation. The anomaly was also described as being one piece of a larger puzzle – something that could tie in with a theory like this one!
Given what we know of the super-synths based on their appearance in Season 1, creating something on this scale seems well within their capabilities. They left behind instructions on how to create a portal to their domain, and what is a transwarp conduit if not a portal between two points in spacetime? Then there’s the scale of the attack: the initial outpouring of energy was enough to destroy an entire sector of space, something that hardly seems impossible for a faction that can literally move entire stars.
So I think we have enough evidence based on what we saw on screen in the Season 2 finale to make the case that the anomaly may have been created by the same faction of super-synths that very nearly arrived at Coppelius in Season 1. But what of Season 3?
Not much has been officially teased so far about Picard’s upcoming third season – but we have a little to go on. Besides the announcement of returning cast members, we heard a few new lines of dialogue and caught a glimpse of both Admiral Picard and Captain Riker in a teaser trailer released to mark First Contact Day last month, and nothing there contradicts anything I’ve suggested above.
In fact, we could try to build a case for the Season 3 teaser hinting at this theory!
Firstly, the clips we saw of Admiral Picard and Captain Riker showed them readying themselves for combat, wielding some kind of phaser pistol (possibly the kind seen briefly in Seasons 1 and 2). At least part of the season, then, is going to involve a fight of some kind against a hitherto-unseen enemy! That’s hardly conclusive, of course, but it doesn’t contradict the idea that the main enemy is the super-synths.
Secondly, we have a handful of lines heard in voiceover. Geordi talked about “rushing into danger” during his time aboard the Enterprise. Worf speaks, saying that “sacrifice is required.” Dr Crusher spoke directly to Picard, telling him that “the galaxy comes calling.” In typical understated style, Riker talked about a “good old-fashioned road trip,” before Troi rounded things out by letting Picard know that he “will not be alone.” Again, nothing conclusive there – but also nothing contradictory. All the characters seem to be talking about gearing up for a big mission or battle.
But the most interesting line in the trailer – and one that could perhaps be pointing to some kind of connection to synthetic life – came from Brent Spiner’s currently-unknown character. Spiner’s inflection sounded very emotive, definitely not like Data or B4. My first thought was that he could be portraying Lore (Data’s “evil twin” from The Next Generation), but he could also be portraying Dr Altan Inigo Soong – the son of Data’s creator who was a major character at the end of Season 1.
The line that stood out to me was this: “Evolution is not an act of preservation; it’s addition.” That line is ambiguous, naturally, but if we assume that Spiner’s character has something to do with synthetic life and synthetic research, he could very well be talking about the creation of new synths or the search for new synthetic life. He could also be talking about some kind of fusion between organic and synthetic life – perhaps Borg assimilation.
We don’t know what goals or objectives the super-synths might have, but if they view organic life as a threat it’s possible that they plan some kind of assimilation-like process to forcibly convert organics to become partially synthetic. That could be what Dr Soong is referring to – and he could be the super-synths’ advocate if they arrive in force and broadcast their intentions. Akin to someone who has been “indoctrinated” by the Reapers in the Mass Effect series, Dr Soong may be doing the super-synths’ bidding. That could set up Brent Spiner’s character to be one of the season’s main villains (again).
Am I clutching at straws? Well, that’s possible. But because of how deliberately coy the writers and producers of Picard have been about several key aspects of the storylines of both Seasons 1 and 2, I think this idea is a solid possibility. We don’t know what the super-synths wanted, but we do know they’re technologically very powerful and more than capable of creating portals and anomalies. We don’t know where the mysterious anomaly in Season 2 came from, nor why the Dr Jurati-Borg Queen hybrid considered it and its creators to be a threat. There’s enough ambiguity in those two points alone to reasonably connect them.
Ever since Season 1 came to a rather unspectacular conclusion, I’ve been hoping that Star Trek will do something more with this faction of super-synths. I suggested that they could be involved with the main storylines in both Seasons 3 and 4 of Discovery, as they seemed to be a faction with the technological power to do something like the Burn or to create something like the DMA. Those theories didn’t pan out, of course, but it’s possible that things will come full-circle and we’ll see them again before Picard comes to an end.
What we’d get, if this theory were to pan out, would be a transformation in the way Star Trek: Picard has operated. Rather than being three essentially standalone seasons with three distinct, separate stories, everything would be connected. What happened on Mars that sent Picard into a decade-long depression would be connected to the final fight against the super-synths; they’d be responsible for all of it. It would bring together the stories of Seasons 1, 2, and 3 in a neat way. The first two seasons could still be enjoyed as standalone affairs; nothing in Season 3 would overwrite any of that. But for fans who want to see a broader connection, this theory would deliver it!
Setting this theory aside for a moment, one of the concerns I have about Season 3 is that the events of Seasons 1 and 2 will be ignored. The fact that most main cast members aren’t returning has really ramped up the sense that Picard Season 3 may try to ignore everything that’s just happened – or relegate it to a couple of short scenes at the beginning of episode 1 – and rush ahead to become The Next Generation Season 8.
In particular, the mysterious anomaly that was shown off at the end of the season could be ignored as part of this push to get to a new story. I truly believe that would be a mistake; not only was the anomaly massively important to the plot of Season 2, but it was also very deliberately unexplained. Who could create something like that? Why would someone do that? Was it meant to be an attack against the Federation? How did the Borg know it was coming? There are many questions like this that Season 2 chose not to answer; if Season 3 ignores them as well then it’ll be very disappointing.
Regular readers may recall from my Picard Season 2 reviews and commentary that I wasn’t wild about many of the storytelling decisions made last time. This new season is an opportunity to build on what came before; to make some of the first two seasons’ underwhelming events matter in a way that they currently don’t. If the Season 2 anomaly, for example, was just a naked plot device to give the Borg Queen-Dr Jurati hybrid something to do then it’ll remain a disappointing element of an already underwhelming season. But if it turns out that Season 3 revisits it in a big way and builds on what we saw last time, it has the potential to transform this aspect of Season 2 and make it matter.
So I think that’s all there is to say this time. To briefly recap my theory: the super-synths from Season 1 were responsible for creating the mysterious anomaly that almost destroyed an entire sector of space at the end of Season 2. They will use this anomaly – and perhaps others like it – to travel to the Milky Way galaxy, where they will become one of the main villains of Season 3.
I quite like this idea of bringing the story of Star Trek: Picard full circle, as well as bringing together the seemingly disconnected events of Seasons 1 and 2 in a natural, understandable way. Nothing we’ve seen on screen would prevent the Season 1 super-synths from also creating the dangerous anomaly in Season 2 – so if Season 3 ignores both of those things to go in a different direction… well, this might just have to become my own personal head-canon!
It’s always worth saying that no fan theory, no matter how fun or plausible it may seem, is worth getting too worked up over. This is an idea that I came up with to bind together events in Star Trek: Picard that may ultimately be unrelated. This theory may go nowhere – and that’s okay! I like it when Star Trek can surprise me and take me to different and unexpected places, so I always like to caveat my theories by saying that I have no “insider information,” I’m not trying to claim that anything we’ve talked about today will ever be seen on screen, and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming the story of Season 3 – whatever direction it ultimately goes.
Having touched on this theory briefly the other day I wanted to give it a full write-up here on the website. I hope you’ll stay tuned for more Star Trek content in the weeks and months ahead – including a look at any major news or trailers for Picard Season 3. Until next time!
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will stream on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video around the world some time next year. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream now and are also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including Picard Season 2, Discovery Season 4, Prodigy Season 1, Strange New Worlds Season 1, and more.
With Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard purportedly being the series’ last, I’m not ready to give up the 25th Century! Ever since Nemesis in 2002, I’d been desperately keen to see Star Trek show us what happened next; to move its timeline along. After the briefest of glimpses in 2009’s Star Trek, it was Picard that finally scratched that itch! Although Discovery is still in production with a fifth season being worked on, that show’s 32nd Century is far removed from the characters, factions, and themes of The Next Generation era. That’s why today I wanted to consider ten possibilities or concepts for shows that could pick up the baton from Picard.
For me, The Next Generation era – i.e. the late 24th Century setting that also includes Deep Space Nine and Voyager – is the franchise’s “golden age.” These shows – and the four films made during that time, too – represent the bulk of Star Trek’s 800+ episodes, and while there are definitely points of interest in the 22nd Century and 23rd Century that the franchise could revisit, for me it’s this time period that I’d like to see picked up for more adventures.
With Star Trek: Picard having established the dawn of the 25th Century as its setting, I really do feel that there’s scope to build on what’s been created so far. Season 3 may spend more time with Starfleet, but as of the end of Season 2 at least, there’s a lot we haven’t seen of this era. Picking up some of the characters, factions, storylines, and themes from past iterations of Star Trek is a big part of why spending more time in this era is worthwhile, but that doesn’t mean that every potential 25th Century project has to be a straight-up sequel to something that’s come before. I’d be thrilled to see a Strange New Worlds-style semi-episodic exploration-focused series with a brand-new cast, for example, set in this time period.
Although Picard Season 3 is still being worked on and likely won’t hit our screens until next year, I sincerely hope that the creative teams over at Paramount have already considered their next move. Alex Kurtzman (who is in charge of the Star Trek franchise for Paramount) has stated that there are other concepts in early development, and that as the current shows come to the end of their runs, these new shows would begin to be worked on. Whether any of the series concepts that he was referring to are going to be set in the 25th Century is unknown – but there are significant advantages to doing so.
I would wager that a significant portion of the Star Trek fan community would rank at least one of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager in their top two favourite shows. And fans under the age of forty literally won’t be able to remember a time before The Next Generation! Most fans of my age will have either come to Star Trek during The Next Generation era or will have encountered it soon after becoming a fan; The Next Generation era was dominant from 1987 to 2002.
Fans who were invested in storylines like the Dominion War, the Maquis, Voyager’s journey home, and many, many more are interested to know what came next for their favourite characters. Picard has shown us a little of this – with a focus on Admiral Picard himself, naturally – and there have also been teases and glimpses in Lower Decks, Prodigy, and potentially in Discovery’s 32nd Century, too. But there’s a heck of a lot of room to do more.
With Strange New Worlds flying the flag for the 23rd Century, and Discovery off doing its own thing in the far future, there’s a gap in live-action Star Trek that at least one 25th Century project needs to fill. Having established a few interesting details about what we must now call the Picard era, it would be positively criminal for Paramount to just abandon it. There are so many characters who we could catch up with, so many incomplete storylines to resume, and so many codas and epilogues still to be written.
Time is marching on, too – a sad reality for all of us. It won’t always be possible to bring back original actors and the characters that they portrayed, so it’s really a case of “if not now, when?” Wait too long to greenlight projects set in this time period and it may be too late to bring back certain characters.
So with all of that in mind I’ve put together a list of a few Star Trek projects that I personally think could be interesting and could pick up the baton from Picard. Although I feel confident that conversations are happening about future projects set in this era behind closed doors, my usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I’m not trying to claim that any of these ideas will be picked up and make it to screen. This is a wishlist from a fan, and nothing more! It’s also entirely subjective, so if you hate all of my ideas or I don’t include something that you think should obviously be included, then that’s okay! There’s plenty of room within the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement and civil conversations!
Concept #1: Starfleet Academy
When Lieutenant Tilly departed the USS Discovery early in Season 4, she became an instructor at Starfleet Academy in the 32nd Century. With her departure episode feeling like somewhat of a backdoor pilot thanks to introducing us to a handful of cadets, I’m sure I’m not alone in assuming that the heavily rumoured Starfleet Academy series will be set in the 32nd Century with Tilly as a major character. So that’s a big caveat to this potential project!
But a 25th Century Starfleet Academy series has a lot of potential, too. As a direct spin-off from Picard it could bring back characters like Raffi and Elnor, the latter of whom has already been established as a Starfleet cadet. That could even give meaning to Elnor’s unexpected survival at the end of Season 2.
A 25th Century Starfleet Academy series would be perfect for bringing back all sorts of characters from Star Trek’s past. We could learn, for instance, that Miles O’Brien is still at the Academy teaching engineering – as was established at the end of Deep Space Nine. Even if Chief O’Brien wasn’t a major character he could still make occasional appearances in that role.
One of the big advantages to a Starfleet Academy series right now is how it could serve as a kind of soft landing for new, younger fans who’ve been enjoying Prodigy. A series starring young adult cadets (or featuring cadets in major roles even if they aren’t the exclusive focus) would be a natural next step in so many ways, and could be a gateway into the Star Trek fandom for legions of newcomers. Just as holo-Janeway has been a guide in Prodigy, a returning character could fill a similar role here.
Concept #2: The Seven and Raffi show
When Season 2 of Picard premiered, I really thought that a USS Stargazer spin-off with Captain Rios in command would be a fantastic new series. That can’t happen now (and after Rios’ disappointing regression in Season 2, I don’t think I’d want it anymore anyway), but there is still the possibility to see a direct spin-off. This version would feature Seven of Nine and Raffi.
Although Seven of Nine’s captaincy of the USS Stargazer in Farewell felt very much like a brevet or a temporary thing, I feel there’s potential to see her given a commission in Starfleet. Raffi certainly felt that she would make an excellent captain! So maybe the next Star Trek series could be Star Trek: Stargazer with Captain Seven and XO Raffi taking the USS Stargazer on all kinds of adventures.
Seven of Nine is particularly well-suited to feature in stories that focus on the Borg, but there’s more to her character than that. I’m not sure whether a traditional exploration-focused series would be the best fit; maybe Seven and Raffi’s ship would be a rapid-response vessel designed for combat and tactical missions. An overtly action-oriented series would be new to Star Trek, so this could be a fun experiment to see how well it could work.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Seven of Nine’s arc across the first two seasons of Picard. It’s been cathartic to see a character I once disliked for her dull and repetitive storylines undergo genuine and lasting growth, and we might just be reaching a point where Seven of Nine is a strong enough character to take on the challenge of headlining a brand-new series of her own… supported by Raffi, of course!
Concept #3: Captain Sisko’s return
Perhaps better-suited to being a miniseries or limited series, I really love the idea of Captain Sisko finally returning to the galaxy after spending time with the Prophets. At the end of Deep Space Nine, Sisko promised us that he wasn’t really gone and that he would return “one day.” After more than twenty years, could “one day” finally be just around the corner?
It’s worth acknowledging that Avery Brooks has seemed less willing than some other former Star Trek actors to reprise his role, and although there has been speculation as to why that may be, there’s never been any definitive statement from the man himself. I wouldn’t want to see Sisko recast at this moment in time (nor recreated through some kind of CGI process), so if Avery Brooks isn’t interested, the project won’t get off the ground.
One massive advantage to bringing back Captain Sisko is that he’d make a wonderful point-of-view character for us as the audience. As someone who’s spent decades away from the galaxy, Sisko would be just as interested as we are to learn what happened to his friends, to Deep Space Nine, to the Cardassians and Dominion, and so on. A Sisko-focused series could get away with dropping a lot of exposition in a way that feels natural, bringing us up to speed on the events of the past couple of decades without it feeling out-of-place.
More than that, though, I want to spend more time with Captain Sisko. Although picking favourites is hard, Sisko has always been one of the best and most interesting characters of The Next Generation era, and one of the best captains in the Star Trek franchise. Bringing him back would be just as impactful as bringing back Picard has been, and providing an epilogue and closure to Sisko’s story would be absolutely worth doing.
Concept #4: Section 31
The untitled Section 31 series was announced in 2019, shortly before Season 2 of Discovery aired. But since then, the supposedly ready-to-go project has been sidelined. Lack of interest from fans was part of the equation, perhaps, but Strange New Worlds certainly stole its thunder too!
The proposed series was to follow ex-Terran Empress Georgiou as she worked with the shadowy organisation that was first introduced in Deep Space Nine, and after Georgiou went through some significant character growth in Discovery’s third season, she finally seemed to get to a place where she could potentially take on the role of a morally ambiguous Section 31 leader without feeling like someone who resorts to violence and literal genocide at the drop of a hat.
To briefly recap, Georgiou had to leave the 32nd Century due to suffering from a technobabble illness that appeared to be fatal, and she was permitted to do so by the Guardian of Forever. If a suitable explanation could be found, Georgiou could potentially emerge in the 25th Century, setting the stage for her to play a role in Section 31 in this time period.
Alternatively, a Section 31 show set in this era could drop Georgiou altogether and focus on new characters instead. With Borg, Romulans, super-synths, strange anomalies, and other potential threats to the Federation that we’ve glimpsed in Picard, Section 31 could have a lot of work to do in this era!
Concept #5: A new exploration-focused series
Strange New Worlds is currently flying the flag for semi-episodic “old school Star Trek” with a big focus on exploration. But this is the foundation of Star Trek; the franchise’s roots. Returning to this format in the 25th Century could be absolutely fantastic – and it could be a fun way to include a mix of new and legacy characters.
One of the limitations faced by Strange New Worlds is that it’s set a decade before The Original Series. There’s still a lot of wiggle room in that time period, and we could see Captain Pike make first contact with new and familiar alien races alike. But there are still constraints on which alien races can be included and how, and what stories Captain Pike and the crew could reasonably take part in.
In contrast, a new exploration series set in the 25th Century would basically have free rein to hop all across the galaxy, meet brand-new aliens, and bring back classic factions without treading on anyone’s toes. As long as such a series avoided Unknown Species 10-C (basically the only major new faction introduced in Discovery’s far future that Captain Burnham made first contact with), a show like this one could do what The Original Series, The Next Generation, and to an extent Voyager all did: set out on a mission of exploration with a blank canvas.
Seeking out strange, new worlds is where Star Trek began; it’s the core mission of Starfleet and the main goal of the Federation. Strange New Worlds is already proving that fans enjoy a series with that kind of focus, so picking up that concept and reworking it to be set in the Picard era absolutely could work.
Concept #6: Hospital ship
In the ’90s, when I was watching and enjoying the shows of The Next Generation era, this was a concept that I thought could be a ton of fun! I imagined “ER in space,” with a hospital ship like the USS Pasteur being the show’s main setting and a chief medical officer as the main protagonist. My original version of this concept would’ve seen characters like Dr Pulaski and Dr Bashir return; a team-up of some of my favourite medical characters from other Star Trek shows.
Although Dr Pulaski is unlikely to be part of such a series now, there’s definitely scope to bring back the likes of Dr Bashir or Voyager’s EMH, as well as secondary medical staff like Nurse Ogawa, as part of a series that also introduces new characters.
The hospital ship would travel around the Federation and beyond, lending its services to planets, bases, and starships in need. There’d be illnesses and diseases to cure, natural disasters to bring aid to, and the ship could even be part of major military engagements and battles, tending to wounded soldiers and crewmen. Star Trek has shown us all of these basic concepts before, but this time they’d have an overtly medical focus.
There’s a huge audience for shows like House, ER, and Grey’s Anatomy, and a medical Star Trek series could have an appeal that extends far beyond the franchise’s typical sci-fi niche. Without the constraints of the real world, and with numerous aliens as both staff and patients, there’s almost unlimited potential in terms of creativity as well. We could see new deadly diseases created that could be timely reflections of our pandemic-afflicted world, and we could even take a deeper dive into diseases and medical conditions that have been referenced in past iterations of Star Trek.
Concept #7: Captain Kim
It’s become a bit of a joke in the Star Trek fan community: Harry Kim spent seven years as an ensign without being promoted. Perhaps he could finally get the command he’s always wanted and headline a new Star Trek show in the process!
Harry Kim would be the second major character from Voyager to play a role in this era of Star Trek, and that could lead to crossovers. It could be a lot of fun to see an older and more mature Harry Kim reunite with Seven of Nine – perhaps for the first time in many years. The series could even feature a Voyager reunion of the kind seen in Endgame. And of course, any time we’re talking about Voyager these days there’s the potential to tie in with themes and ideas present in Prodigy.
Captain Kim could show us a different side of Starfleet. Perhaps he’s in command of a hospital ship as we were discussing above, or perhaps his vessel is much more scientific in its mission; charting anomalies and stellar phenomena rather than making lots of first contact missions. A series like that would be more personality-driven and serialised rather than episodic with a “monster-of-the-week” to engage with, and I think someone like Harry Kim would excel in that kind of role.
Out of everyone on Voyager, I’d suggest that Harry Kim has perhaps the most potential for growth if he were to return. Considering that we met him on his first mission after graduating – and that he stuck with that “young and eager” characterisation for a long time during Voyager’s run – there’d be something rather cathartic about being reintroduced to an older, more mature Captain Kim.
Concept #8: A Klingon series
This one would be quite a radical departure from anything that Star Trek has tried before. Leaving the Federation and Starfleet behind, this show would be set aboard a Klingon vessel. A Starfleet officer could be present as a point-of-view character and a way to help us as the audience find both a way in and a frame of reference, but the rest of the characters would be Klingons.
With Worf returning for Picard Season 3, he could become a recurring character on a Klingon-focused series. A character like Worf bridges the gap between the Klingon Empire and Starfleet, and along with a Starfleet officer aboard the ship he could also help ground the series.
What I like about this idea is that it would be something genuinely bold and different. We’ve spent a lot of time with the Klingons across various iterations of Star Trek – they’re probably the faction we know the most about after the Federation itself. But there’s still plenty of room to expand our understanding of the Klingons, and to show us the next chapter for their Empire in the aftermath of the Dominion War and their alliance with the Federation.
What kind of mission would a Klingon vessel have? If it’s exploration, how different would their approach be to what we’d expect from Starfleet? A Klingon series could also show off different roles for Klingons beyond that of “warrior.” How does a Klingon crew treat its engineers, scientists, and medical personnel, for example? Far from being one-dimensional “baddies,” there’s plenty of room for nuance and to show us a different side to the Klingons, and different Klingon personalities.
Concept #9: Captain Worf
Sticking with the Klingons, Michael Dorn has been talking about his pitch for a Captain Worf series for the better part of a decade at this point! Although I confess that I remain sceptical of the proposal for a number of reasons, with Worf’s imminent return in Picard Season 3, it has to be considered at least a possibility that there’ll be some kind of backdoor pilot or an attempt to test the waters to see if a Captain Worf series could be viable.
As the character who’s made the most Star Trek appearances (280+, not counting upcoming appearances in Picard Season 3), I feel that we’ve seen more than enough of Worf! We’ve seen his inner conflict between his Klingon and Starfleet identities, his struggles with fatherhood, his marriage and the grief he felt at losing Jadzia… and I’m just not sure where else there is to go.
But despite my personal reservations, a Captain Worf series could prove me wrong and be the right move for Star Trek once Picard ends. Like Picard itself, a Captain Worf series would be anchored by its familiar face but perhaps rounded out with a fun group of new characters. There would be potential, perhaps, depending on how things go in Season 3, to bring in someone like Raffi as Worf’s first officer, tying the show to Picard in an even greater way.
As with Seven of Nine and Raffi above, a Captain Worf series could go all-in on action, with Worf commanding a tactical vessel and rushing into dangerous situations and combat missions. Or, in an attempt to put a completely different spin on the character, maybe Captain Worf would be in command of a lightly-armed science vessel on a mission of exploration! That could be a fun way to go and a twist on the expected premise of the series.
Concept #10: Super-synth invasion
Spoiler alert for a future theory article, but one of my guesses about Picard Season 3 is that the Admiral and his friends will have to face off against the super-synths from Season 1 – and that they’re responsible for the anomaly in Season 2. That would be a neat way to tie all three seasons of the show together!
But assuming that doesn’t happen, I’d love to revisit the super-synths that we only caught a glimpse of in the Season 1 finale. Assuming that their intentions were hostile, and that they planned to attack organic life in the Alpha Quadrant, could a new spin-off revisit that concept and perhaps show the super-synths making their invasion attempt?
This is a reworking of another concept that I’ve had kicking around for some time: a Borg invasion series. But with the Borg having already played a big role in Season 2, perhaps the super-synths could be subbed in to become the antagonists of a series (or miniseries) that sees the Federation involved in a war for its very survival.
This kind of existential threat has been used and re-used in Discovery, and I could understand if some fans wouldn’t want to see it brought back so soon! As I’ve said recently, it’s my hope that Discovery will try something different in Season 5! But it would be fun to bring back the super-synths and to revisit the Federation at war for the first time since Enterprise’s conflict with the Xindi – and it could be a great way to bring in a mix of new and legacy characters.
So that’s it!
Those are ten concepts for Star Trek shows that I think could pick up the baton from Star Trek: Picard in the years ahead, sticking with the early 25th Century and potentially expanding on what Picard has already done.
My “first contact” with Star Trek back in the early 1990s was The Next Generation, and I was a big fan of Deep Space Nine and Voyager during their original broadcast runs as well. With live-action Star Trek series set in the 23rd and 32nd Centuries, it seems to me that Picard’s eventual finale is going to leave a pretty significant hole in the franchise. Even if every major character from The Next Generation returns and gets an amazing goodbye, there are still characters, themes, storylines, and more from Deep Space Nine and Voyager that I’ve been longing to see picked up for more than two decades!
If it were up to me, the early 25th Century would probably be the main setting that I’d want to use for the majority of new Star Trek projects. There was even scope a couple of years ago to bring Captain Burnham and Discovery into this time period, and I think that could’ve worked exceptionally well too. I don’t think that Picard necessarily needs a direct spin-off, bringing back main characters in a huge way, but I’d dearly love to see the setting and time period re-used in future.
I’m hopeful that Season 3 will be a fun adventure with the crew of The Next Generation, and that it can serve as a launchpad for one or more new Star Trek projects set in this era. Whether any of my own ideas will make it… well, I doubt it. But who knows! More than ever it feels like Paramount is listening to Star Trek fans; without a massive fan campaign we would never have seen Strange New Worlds. So there’s a possibility, perhaps, if Picard Season 3 is well-received that a spin-off or follow-up could indeed make it. Time will tell!
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video around the world sometime in the next year or so. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-3, Discovery Seasons 1-4, Short Treks Seasons 1-2, and minor spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
At time of writing, the most recent episode of Short Treks aired two-and-a-half years ago in the run-up to Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. Since then, Paramount has been content to put the format on ice, and although it’s been mentioned more than once in interviews and conversations, no new episodes or seasons have been forthcoming. I think that’s a shame, because in 2022 Short Treks has a lot of potential – arguably more than it did just a few years ago.
As a concept, Short Treks always felt nakedly commercial to me. At a time when many subscribers to what was then still called CBS All Access would watch their favourite show and then cancel their subscription, the corporation in charge hoped that dropping a handful of short episodes in between seasons would be enough to keep some of those folks paying their subscription fees. Promises that Short Treks stories would tie into the world of Star Trek: Discovery in a big way were part of this, too.
However, as Short Treks rolled on, there seemed to be a bit more leeway given with the kind of projects that were greenlit. Short Treks became more experimental, producing an overtly comedic episode, two animated episodes that used wildly different storytelling and animation styles, as well as continuing to connect with ongoing or upcoming Star Trek projects. It’s this experimental aspect and the potential to create some truly different and interesting one-off stories where I feel Short Treks could excel in the years ahead.
Not every Star Trek character or concept can be spun out into a film or an entire season of television, and there’s scope to use Short Treks to tell one-off stories that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. Robert Duncan McNeill’s Captain Proton pitch, for example, could absolutely work as a one-off short story, and I think that could be a cute nod and wink to fans of Voyager.
There would be scope to bring back legacy characters in this format as well, particularly if actors are unable or unwilling to make a longer commitment. Fans have asked for a long time to see Captain Sulu aboard the USS Excelsior, for example, and a Short Treks story featuring George Takei could be a truly excellent way for the franchise to celebrate his decades-long association with Star Trek. Rather than trying to shoehorn legacy characters into ongoing shows – or writing out main characters to bring back legacy characters, as happened in the case of Picard Season 3 – giving some of them their own Short Treks stories could be an alternative option.
The Short Treks format could even operate as a kind of backdoor pilot to test the waters and see how fans respond to concepts that could go either way. Michael Dorn’s Captain Worf pitch, for example, could be converted into an episode or two of Short Treks, recycling sets built for Picard Season 2, as a way to see how interested fans would actually be and whether the character truly has spin-off potential.
Star Trek has never shied away from being an experimental franchise, and that continues in its modern iterations. But given the serialised nature of shows like Picard and Discovery in particular, the scope to go completely off-topic and to different thematic and narrative places is more limited than it ever used to be. Short Treks could be the catalyst to bring more of that experimentation back to Star Trek.
The episodes The Girl Who Made The Stars and Ephraim and DOT showed off a very different style of animation and storytelling to anything we’ve seen so far in any iteration of Star Trek, and with advancements in animation happening all the time, there’s even the potential to use animation to bring some of these concepts to life. Where it might seem prohibitively expensive to tell a story set in an alternate reality where the Borg have conquered large swathes of the Alpha Quadrant, for instance, an animated Short Treks story could delve into that concept in a way live-action couldn’t.
When we look at the production side of Star Trek, too, Short Treks has a lot more to work with than it did in the 2010s! New sets have been constructed in recent years for Picard, Strange New Worlds, and Discovery’s 32nd Century that could all be taken advantage of to tell stories set in different eras. With a few changes here and there and some clever set redresses, Short Treks stories could be set in basically any era of Star Trek without having to spend excessive amounts of money on design and construction.
Then there’s the AR wall – the massive video wall that’s been used to great effect in Discovery and Strange New Worlds to bring depth and scale to some of the sets. The AR wall opens up all kinds of possibilities for unique designs: starships, planets, and more could be brought to screen without having to construct new sets. It would even be possible to use the AR wall to reconstruct something like the bridge of the Enterprise-D and tell a new story set during the events of The Next Generation.
If Star Trek chooses to settle on one primary era for its main shows – such as the 32nd Century or the 25th Century, for instance – then Short Treks could be the way to keep other eras and alternate timelines alive. Short Treks would be great to tell one-off Mirror Universe stories, for example, or stories set in the 22nd or 23rd Centuries if those aren’t going to be the franchise’s main focus in the years ahead.
A particularly fun idea could see Short Treks expand on our knowledge of the events of individual episodes. We could see one of the battles of the Dominion War from the perspective of another Federation ship, for example, with its crew coming to the aid of the USS Defiant. Or how about the same battle from the Cardassian side? A Short Treks episode could absolutely do that.
There are many Star Trek stories that, while not exactly incomplete, are definitely able to be built upon to show us more. The Lower Decks Season 2 episode wej Duj took a unique format showing us the crews of several different ships who were all part of one larger story, and Short Treks could do something similar. By picking up story threads that we only caught glimpses of in classic episodes, there’s scope to expand our understanding of some of these stories.
There’s also huge potential to dip into the wider lore of Star Trek. What happened in the years in between The Undiscovered Country and The Next Generation Season 1, for example? This massive eighty-year span of Star Trek’s history contains many interesting events that have been mentioned or referenced but never explored on screen, and Short Treks could change all that. We could see, for instance, the “Tomed incident” that led to the Romulans entering a prolonged period of isolation and find out what happened to cause the Federation to give up cloaking technology.
With sets already built for the USS Stargazer that we saw in Picard Season 2, Pike’s Enterprise, and more, as well as the AR wall, there’s a heck of a lot that Short Treks could do with existing sets that it couldn’t a few years ago. That has greatly expanded the number of potential stories that episodes could tell, and right now it really does feel as though Short Treks is a concept that Paramount is not taking advantage of.
Not only would some of these ideas be interesting and fun for longstanding fans, they could serve as soft landings for newcomers to Star Trek too, providing fans of shows like Prodigy with new experiences that build on their burgeoning fandom. Fans who’ve only just begun to fall in love with Star Trek could find one-off episodes that serve as easy ways into what can be a complicated and convoluted franchise, and that’s another massive benefit to creating stories like these.
From Paramount’s perspective, the original idea behind Short Treks is still valid. While 2022 may yet see five different Star Trek productions, in years ahead there will still be downtime; gaps in between seasons of the franchise’s main shows. Short Treks stories could fill those gaps, keeping Star Trek alive in the minds of fans and casual viewers alike, providing one more reason to sign up for and remain subscribed to Paramount+.
The experimental nature of some of these stories could see Paramount test out pitches that may be able to be expanded into full series of their own – just like Short Treks episodes featuring Pike, Spock, and Una helped prove that a Captain Pike series would be viable! Stories that draw significant reactions from fans, or that bring back elements from past iterations of Star Trek that prove popular, could be spun off into their own miniseries, show, or even films, setting the stage for Star Trek’s continued expansion.
In short, there are a lot of ways that brand-new episodes of Short Treks could be utilised to not only tell fun, entertaining, and fan-servicey stories, but to give a boost to Paramount+ and provide a way for the creative teams to experiment with completely different ideas that would be difficult or impossible to fit into any of the existing shows. Short Treks has a vast amount of untapped potential.
The first two seasons of Short Treks are available to stream now on Paramount+ (in areas where the service is available). Short Treks is also available to purchase on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Short Treks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Seasons 1-2, Discovery Season 3, Strange New Worlds, the Kelvin timeline films, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation.
Today I thought we could have a bit of fun! There are many so-called “hot takes” about the Star Trek franchise flitting about online, and I thought it could be a change of pace to share a few of my own. These are – based on my limited engagement with the wider Star Trek fan community, at least – opinions that aren’t widely held or especially popular. I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do about each of the six subjects we’re going to consider below.
More than ever, I ask you to keep in mind that all of this is subjective, not objective! I’m not saying that these opinions are factual and unquestionable; this is just my singular perspective on a handful of very complex topics. As with everything in media, there are going to be a range of views, and while I’ll try to justify my opinions below, I know that a lot of people can and do disagree. And that’s okay! There’s room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement about all manner of things.
With all of that out of the way, this is your last chance to jump ship if you aren’t interested in some potentially controversial Star Trek opinions!
“Hot Take” #1: Star Trek: Picard transformed Seven of Nine into an enjoyable character for the first time.
Star Trek: Picard hasn’t been perfect across its first two seasons, but one thing that it absolutely got right is Seven of Nine’s characterisation. Seven was an unexpected character for the series to introduce – she’d never interacted with Jean-Luc Picard on screen before, and the pair hadn’t even the barest bones of a relationship to build on. In that sense, I was surprised (and maybe a little concerned) when it was made clear that she’d be featured in a big way in the first season.
Perhaps I should explain myself before we go any further. Seven of Nine was introduced midway through Voyager’s run in the two-part episode Scorpion. At first she seemed to be a character with a lot of potential, and I enjoyed what she brought to the table in early Season 4 episodes such as Scientific Method and The Raven. But Seven very quickly became repetitive. Week after week she’d learn some lesson in “how to be more human” from the Doctor or Captain Janeway, but she’d seem to forget all about it and revert to her semi-Borg self by the next episode. This was exacerbated by the fact that Voyager’s latter seasons seemed to include a lot of Seven-heavy episodes and stories, making her a prominent character.
That’s how episodic television works, and I get that. Most other Star Trek characters up to that point in the franchise’s history also “reset” in between episodes, and we could talk at length about how characters like Miles O’Brien could go through some horrible trauma one week only to be happily playing darts at Quark’s a few days later as if it never happened. But with Seven of Nine, a combination of her prominence and storylines that often revolved around learning and taking to heart some aspect of what it means to be human and exist outside of the Borg Collective meant that her week-to-week resets and lack of significant growth really began to grate. Toward the end of Season 7, Seven was given an arc of sorts that threw her into a relationship with Chakotay – but I’m hardly the only person who feels that didn’t work particularly well!
So by the time Voyager ended, I was burnt out on Seven of Nine. Out of all the main characters from Voyager, she was perhaps the one I was least interested to see picked up for a second bite of the cherry – but I was wrong about that. Where Seven had been static and repetitive in Voyager, Picard gave her that development I’d been longing to see, and it was incredibly cathartic! Even though Seven’s post-Voyager life hadn’t been smooth, it had been human, and seeing her experience genuine emotions like anger, betrayal, and later through her relationship with Raffi, love, was something I didn’t know I wanted. Having seen it now, though, there’s no way I’d want to lose this element of Picard.
The death of Icheb, which was shown in one of Picard Season 1’s most gory sequences, became a key part of Seven’s character arc. His loss devastated her – and the idea that Seven of Nine could be devastated was already a colossal leap for her character. That it spurred her on to one of the most human of desires – revenge – is even more significant for her. And this growth continued across the rest of Season 1, with Seven coming face-to-face with the Borg and even becoming a leader (of sorts) for the liberated ex-Borg on the Artifact.
Even though Season 2 was a mixed bag (at best) with some lacklustre storylines, Seven of Nine shone once again. Her relationship with Raffi added a whole new dimension to her character, and after seeing her experiencing anger and negative emotions in Season 1, Season 2 gave her a chance at love. Season 2 also saw Seven revelling in a new experience, having hopped across to a new timeline and found herself in a body that had never been assimilated. That set her on an arc to accepting herself for who she is – including her Borg past.
Seven’s journey has been beautiful to see, but also cathartic. To me, her journey in Picard feels like it’s righted a twenty-year wrong, finally giving Seven of Nine genuine development and an arc that stuck. While I’m sure fans can and will debate individual plot points (like Icheb’s death or Seven’s off-screen involvement with the Fenris Rangers), taken as a whole I’ve really enjoyed what Picard did with what had been one of my least-favourite characters of The Next Generation era.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more from Seven of Nine – and if you’d told me in 2000-2001 that I’d write those words I wouldn’t have believed you!
“Hot Take” #2: I don’t like The Inner Light.
Often held up as an example of The Next Generation at its best, I’ve never enjoyed The Inner Light. It’s an episode I usually skip over without a second thought when re-watching The Next Generation, but I put myself through the chore of viewing it recently; it’s part of what inspired me to put together this list!
The Inner Light steps away from the exciting adventures of the Enterprise-D to show us a pre-warp civilisation living on a random alien backwater planet, and while exploring strange new worlds is part of the gig, the way this episode in particular does that is just not interesting or enjoyable in the slightest. It’s certainly “different” – and I will concede that point. Star Trek has never been shy about experimenting, after all! But this particular experiment didn’t work, which is probably why we haven’t really seen another episode quite like it.
I don’t like to say that something “doesn’t feel like Star Trek,” not least because that vague and unhelpful phrase has become associated with a subgroup of so-called fans who use it to attack everything the franchise has done since 2009. But to me, The Inner Light feels about as far away from what I want and hope to see from an episode of Star Trek as it’s possible to get.
By spending practically its entire runtime in the past, with Picard taking on the role of an alien blacksmith in a pre-warp society, The Inner Light abandons not only the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, but also many of the fundamental adventurous elements that are what makes Star Trek, well… feel like Star Trek. Its deliberately slow pace doubles-down on this sensation, and The Inner Light seems to drag as a result, coming across as boring.
I’m not particularly bothered by the way the Kataan probe operates – that seems technobabbley enough to get a pass. But after Picard has been hit by the probe and the majority of the episode is then spent on Kataan with Kamin and his family… I’m just not interested. Sir Patrick Stewart is a great actor, and what happened to the Kataan people is both tragic and a timely reminder of our own burgeoning environmental catastrophe (something that we haven’t even tried to fix more than a quarter of a century later). But despite all of the elements being in place, the story just doesn’t grab me like I feel it should. At the end of the day, I can’t find a way to give a shit about Kataan, nor about Kamin or anyone else.
There are many episodes of Star Trek with races and characters who only appear once, and yet very few of them manage to evoke that same “I just don’t care” reaction. Just within Season 5 of The Next Generation we have characters like Hugh the Borg and Nicholas Locarno, or aliens like the Children of Tama and the Ux-Mal, all of which manage to hook me in and get me invested in their storylines. I’d generally consider The Next Generation’s fifth season to be one of its best, with many of my favourite episodes. But The Inner Light isn’t one of them.
There are points to The Inner Light that did work. The Ressikan flute theme, for example, is a beautiful piece of music, and Picard’s flute-playing ability (which he learned during the events of The Inner Light) would become a minor recurring element for his character going forward, notably appearing in episodes like Lessons. And the underlying premise of a probe that transmits a message in this way could have worked; it feels quite Star Trek-y in and of itself.
But for me, The Inner Light just isn’t fun to watch. It’s boring, uninspiring, and I can’t find a way to get invested in the story of Kataan and its people – despite good performances from Sir Patrick Stewart and the other actors present.
“Hot Take” #3: Modern Trek needs to pick a single era (and timeline) and stick to it.
Star Trek, perhaps more so than any other major entertainment franchise, is convoluted. As Trekkies, we love that! The fact that modern Star Trek can explore different timelines, different eras, and broadcast different shows that are entirely separate from one another makes for a diverse and interesting presentation. It also means that we can simultaneously step back in time to before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission while also seeing what came next for Captain Picard twenty-five years after the events of Nemesis.
But try to look at Star Trek from the point of view of a newcomer. Every single one of the five shows currently in production is set in a different time period and location, and just figuring out where to start with Star Trek – or where to go next for someone who’s enjoyed watching one of the new shows – is the subject of essays, articles, and lists. It’s beginning to remind me of Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe – a combination of games, books, comics, and so on that had become so convoluted and dense after decades in production that it felt offputting.
In order for Star Trek to successfully convert viewers of one of its new iterations into fans of the franchise, it needs to simplify its current output. A fan of Strange New Worlds might think that their next port of call should be Picard or Lower Decks – but they’d be completely lost because those shows are set more than a century later.
The lack of a single, unified setting also prevents crossover stories – and these aren’t just fun fan-service for Trekkies like us! Crossovers link up separate Star Trek outings, bringing fans of one show into close contact with another. Just as The Next Generation did with Deep Space Nine (and DS9 did with Voyager), modern Star Trek should make the effort to link up its current shows. There are links between Discovery and Strange New Worlds – but any crossover potential has evaporated due to Discovery shooting forward into the far future.
This also applies to alternate realities, most significantly the Kelvin timeline which is supposedly being brought back for a fourth film. The Kelvin films served a purpose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but as I’ve argued in the past, is it really a good idea to bring back that setting – as well as its presentation of characters who have recently been recast for Strange New Worlds – with everything else that Star Trek has going on?
In 2009, it was possible for new fans to jump from the Kelvin films to other iterations of Star Trek and keep up with what’s going on. But we’ve had more than 100 new episodes of Star Trek since then across several different eras, some including recast versions of characters who appeared in the Kelvin timeline films. I’m not so sure that a new Kelvin timeline film serves its intended purpose any more.
I wouldn’t want to see any of the shows currently in production shut down before their time. We’ve only just got started with Strange New Worlds, for instance, and I’m hopeful that that series will run for at least five seasons (to complete Captain Pike’s five-year mission!) But as the current crop of shows wind down, the producers at Paramount need to consider their next moves very carefully. Where should Star Trek go from here, and where should its focus be?
Discovery’s 32nd Century is certainly a contender, and setting the stage for new adventures years after the stories we know provides a soft reboot for the franchise while also opening up new storytelling possibilities. But it would also be great to see Star Trek return to the late 24th or early 25th Centuries of the Picard era, picking up story threads from The Next Generation era – Star Trek’s real “golden age” in the 1990s. Setting all (or almost all) of its films, shows, miniseries, and one-shot stories in a single, unified timeline has many advantages, and would be to the franchise’s overall benefit.
Stay tuned, because I have a longer article about this in the pipeline!
“Hot Take” #4: Far Beyond The Stars is an unenjoyable episode, albeit one with a very important message.
This is my way of saying that “I don’t like Far Beyond The Stars” while still giving credit to the moral story at its core. Star Trek has always been a franchise that’s brought moral fables to screen, and Far Beyond The Stars does this in a very intense – and almost brutal – way, shining a light on America’s racist past and present.
But as I’ve already discussed with The Inner Light above, the way in which this story is presented doesn’t really work for me. I find Benny Russell’s story sympathetic… but because what’s happening is so far removed from the events of Deep Space Nine, it’s difficult to turn that investment over the course of a single episode into anything substantial. The “it was all a dream or a vision” explanation also hammers this home; whatever was happening to Captain Sisko was taking place outside of the real world – perhaps inside his head, perhaps as a vision from the Prophets – and thus it doesn’t feel like it matters – in the context of the show – in the same way as other, similar stories.
Far Beyond The Stars is comparable to The Inner Light insofar as it steps out of the Star Trek franchise’s fictional future. In this case, the story returns to our real world a few short years in the past. While there are occasional flashes of Star Trek’s signature optimism, the darker tone of the story combines with its real-world setting to feel different; separate from not only the events of Star Trek, but its entire universe.
“But that’s the whole point!” fans of Far Beyond The Stars are itching to tell me. And I agree! Far Beyond The Stars knows what it’s trying to be and knows the kind of story it wants to tell and goes for it, 100%. I’d even say that it achieves what it set out to. But that doesn’t make it a fun watch, an entertaining story, or an episode I’m keen to revisit. As with The Inner Light, I almost always skip over Far Beyond The Stars when I’m watching Deep Space Nine.
Perhaps if I were an American, more of Far Beyond The Stars’ real-world elements would hit closer to home. But when I first saw the episode in the late ’90s here in the UK, I confess that at least parts of it went way over my head. That’s perhaps my own bias showing – but the whole point of this exercise is to discuss parts of the Star Trek franchise beginning with my own biases and opinions!
Having re-watched Far Beyond The Stars after spending time living in both the United States and South Africa – two societies which continue to wrangle with legacies of structural and systemic racial discrimination – I definitely felt its hard-hitting message a lot more. In fact, Far Beyond The Stars could be a great episode to use as a starting point for a broader conversation about race and structural racism. But having a moral message – especially a very on-the-nose one – doesn’t always make for the most interesting or enjoyable story.
I don’t find Far Beyond The Stars to be “uncomfortable” to watch. The racial aspects of its story have purpose, and even with the progress that America has made since the turn of the millennium, many of the racial issues that Far Beyond The Stars highlights are just as relevant today as they were twenty-five years ago. But I guess what I’d say about the episode is that it doesn’t deliver what I personally find interesting and enjoyable about an episode of Star Trek.
Taken as a one-off, I can put up with Far Beyond The Stars. It didn’t become a major recurring thing in Deep Space Nine, and while Captain Sisko would recall the events on more than one occasion, it didn’t come to dominate the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run in any way. So in that sense, I’m content to set Far Beyond The Stars to one side, acknowledging what it brought to the table in terms of allegory and morality while being content to rewatch it infrequently.
“Hot Take” #5: Canon matters – up to a point.
There seems to be a black-and-white, either/or debate in the Star Trek fan community when it comes to the franchise’s internal canon. Some folks are adamant that the tiniest minutia of canon must be “respected” at all costs, criticising things like the redesign of uniforms or even the recasting of characters because it doesn’t fit precisely with what came before. Then there are others who say that “it’s all just a story,” and that canon can be entirely ignored if a new writer has an idea for a story. I don’t fall into either camp!
Canon matters because internal consistency matters. Internal consistency is – for me, at least – an absolutely essential part of the pathway to suspension of disbelief. If I’m to believe that transporters and warp cores exist, the way they work and the way they’re presented on screen has to be basically consistent from one Star Trek story to the next.
The same applies to characters. If a character has a background as an assassin and that’s a central part of their characterisation in one story, the next episode can’t arbitrarily change that and make them into a marine biologist because the plot demands it. Characters need to feel like real people, and the world they inhabit needs to operate by its established rules.
Luckily for Star Trek’s writers, there is a lot of flexibility in those rules! Most of the specifics of how individual pieces of technology work have never been delved into in any detail, and there’s a lot we don’t know about even the most basic of things within the Star Trek universe. So new writers find themselves with considerable leeway if they want to make a change or do something differently for the sake of a story.
But there is a limit to that – or at least there ought to be. And the Star Trek franchise has tripped up by introducing new elements that seem to tread on the toes of what has already been established, even if they don’t technically overwrite anything. Spock’s family is a case in point. The Final Frontier gave Spock a half-brother who had never been mentioned, and then Discovery came along and gave him an adopted sister as well. Neither of these additions overwrote what we know of Spock’s family history… but they definitely came close.
On the other side of things, I’m quite okay with Star Trek making changes and updates to its visual style. The redesign of the USS Enterprise that debuted in Discovery and has been expanded upon for Strange New Worlds is a great example of one way that the franchise has modernised its look without really “damaging” established canon. All that’s required to get around the apparent visual changes – for anyone who feels it’s necessary – is to say that the Enterprise must’ve undergone some kind of retrofit in between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.
Where canon matters to me is in terms of characterisation and story. If we’ve established, for example, that the Vulcans and Romulans are related to one another, then future stories must remain consistent with that; there can be no “Romulan origin story” that tries to say that they evolved separately, for example. Likewise for characters. We all love a good character arc – but if a character’s personality and background are established, changing those fundamentals in an arbitrary manner should be off the table.
So to the canon purists, my message is going to be “loosen up a little!” And to the canon ignorers, what I’d say is “internal consistency matters.”
“Hot Take” #6: The Kelvin films got a lot right – and could be textbook examples of how to reboot a franchise.
Even today, more than a decade after 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline, I still have Trekkie friends who have refused to watch them. Other fans who showed up at the cinema were unimpressed with what they saw, and the Kelvin films can feel like a controversial part of the Star Trek franchise sometimes. For my two cents, though, although the Kelvin films were imperfect and certainly different to what had come before, they managed to get a lot of things right. I’d even say that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness could be used as textbook case studies in how to reboot a franchise successfully!
Modern Star Trek – from Discovery to Picard and beyond – would simply not exist without the Kelvin films. When Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, it really did feel as though the Star Trek franchise itself had died and wouldn’t be returning. Even as someone who hadn’t been a regular viewer of Enterprise, that still stung! But if there had been doubts over the Star Trek brand and its ability to reach out to new audiences and bring in huge numbers of viewers, 2009’s Star Trek shattered them.
Into Darkness eclipsed even the massively high numbers of its predecessor and remains the cinematic franchise’s high-water mark in terms of audience figures and profitability, so it’s not exactly shocking to learn that Paramount hopes to return to the Kelvin cast for a fourth outing next year! These films took what had been a complicated franchise with a reputation for being geeky and nerdy and skimmed off a lot of the fluff. What resulted was a trio of decent sci-fi action films that may just have saved the franchise’s reputation.
The Kelvin films also gave Star Trek a visual overhaul, modernising the franchise’s aesthetic and visual style while still retaining all of the core elements that longstanding fans expected. Transporters were still there – but they looked sleeker and prettier. Warp drive was still present – but a new visual effect was created. Many of these aesthetic elements have remained part of the franchise ever since, appearing in the various productions that we’ve seen since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.
By establishing an alternate reality, the Kelvin films found scope to take familiar characters to very different places. We got to see how Kirk and Spock met for the first time at Starfleet Academy – a premise that Gene Roddenberry had considered all the way back during The Original Series’ run – but with a twist. Star Trek reintroduced us to classic characters, but put its own spin on them, providing a satisfactory in-universe explanation for why so many things were different.
But at the same time, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the prime timeline anchored the Kelvin films, providing a link to what had come before. This reboot wasn’t about erasing anything; it was an expansion of Star Trek into a new timeline, one that had basically unlimited potential to tell some very different stories. The trio of films took advantage of that, and while I would argue that there’s no pressing need to revisit the Kelvin timeline right now, I absolutely do appreciate what they did for Star Trek.
As a reboot, the Kelvin films succeeded in their ambition. They reinvented Star Trek just enough for mainstream audiences to discover the franchise – many for the first time. Some of those folks stuck around and have become big Trekkies all off the back of what the Kelvin films did. They updated Star Trek without overwriting anything, and they set the stage for further expansion and growth. By every measure, the Kelvin films were successful.
That isn’t to say they’re my favourite part of the franchise! But as a fan who wants Star Trek to stick around and continue to be successful, projects like the Kelvin films are essential.
So that’s it!
I hope that this was a bit of fun rather than anything to get too seriously upset about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the episodes, films, characters, and storylines that Star Trek creates, and whether I’m thrilled about something, hated it, or have mixed feelings, I will always try to explain myself and provide reasons for why I feel the way that I do. But at the end of the day, all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person!
We’re very lucky to have so much Star Trek content coming our way in the next few years. It seems like the franchise will make it to its sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and episodes still being produced, and there can’t be many entertainment franchises that could make such a claim to longevity!
There are definitely points on the list above that I could expand upon, and I’m sure I could think of a few more “hot takes” if I tried! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come here on the website as we move into the summer season.
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Book of Boba Fett. Minor spoilers are also present for Solo: A Star Wars Story and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy recently made a statement that has drawn a lot of attention. In an interview with magazine Vanity Fair, Kennedy stated that one of the lessons that the Disney-owned studio learned from the lukewarm response to Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2018 was that recasting classic characters isn’t possible. In her words, “it does seem so abundantly clear that we can’t do that.”
This has kicked off a discussion online, not least among fans of the Star Wars franchise and Solo in particular. Today I want to add my two cents to the conversation and use the debate around Kennedy and Solo to talk about recasting characters in a general sense, as well as touch on some alternatives that studios have turned to in recent years.
First of all, I encourage you to read the full piece in Vanity Fair so you’re aware of what was said and its context. Online debate often centres around a single phrase, soundbite, or fragment of a sentence, and it isn’t always clear how someone’s words were intended. In this case, for example, Kennedy seems to have been talking about the need for Star Wars to move on – something I’ve talked about at length here on the website – and expand beyond the confines of the “Skywalker Saga” and the handful of familiar characters who made up those stories.
I absolutely agree with that sentiment! The Star Wars galaxy is such a vast and exciting setting, one with thousands of years of history, an uncertain future, thousands of planets, trillions of inhabitants, and so much potential! So far, the Star Wars franchise has doubled-down on showing us the same handful of characters and the same tiny sliver of that setting over and over again, and I for one am starting to get sick of it! Star Wars can be more than Luke Skywalker – if it’s willing to put in the effort.
So in that sense, I agree with Kathleen Kennedy! But taken as a starting point for a discussion about recasting characters, I couldn’t disagree more.
It’s profoundly ironic that Kennedy made this statement during the build-up to the broadcast of Obi-Wan Kenobi… a series that centres around a character who was recast from the original Star Wars films! The Star Wars prequel trilogy recast a number of characters – and recast characters were even ham-fistedly edited into the so-called “special editions” of the original films, with the original voice of Boba Fett being re-dubbed, the original Emperor Palpatine being overwritten in The Empire Strikes Back, and most notoriously, the Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker being changed in Return of the Jedi.
Disney and Lucasfilm panicked in the late 2010s. The divisive reaction to The Last Jedi and underwhelming numbers for Solo: A Star Wars Story saw the Star Wars franchise refocused to bring back a lot more of what corporate leadership hopes will pass for nostalgia. This accounts for the existence of shows like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as certain narrative decisions in The Rise of Skywalker. It isn’t the first time that corporate cowardice has got in the way of entertainment, and it likely won’t be the last.
I’d argue that the wrong lesson has been learned from Solo if Disney and Lucasfilm believe that the biggest takeaway is that they should never try to recast characters. Alden Ehrenreich’s performance was far from the worst thing about that film, and if audiences and Star Wars fans felt that he “didn’t feel” like Han Solo, the blame needs to be placed with the way the script was written and the way the story was told. Solo was a fairly clumsy overplaying of the nostalgia card in my view; a film with an interesting premise that was hampered by shoehorning in characters from the original trilogy and that made the same mistake with Han Solo as the prequel trilogy had with Anakin Skywalker: overexplaining his backstory.
But all of that is incidental. Even if we accept the premise that Solo was a failure and that the performance of its lead was a significant factor – neither of which I’m fully on board with, but I’ll grant for the sake of argument – is the right response really to say that no classic characters should ever be recast again? That seems like a horrible overreaction!
The Star Wars franchise has done some very interesting things with digital de-ageing and CGI character creation. The way Luke Skywalker was brought to screen in The Book of Boba Fett as an entirely CGI character was technologically stunning, and at first I thought I was watching a lookalike. The technology needed to create CGI characters and perfectly replicate the face – and even voice – of real actors is already here, and while Disney may be a pioneer of the technology, they’re far from the only ones to be using it. We’ve recently seen digital de-ageing make an appearance over in the Star Trek franchise, for example.
I’ve had an article in the pipeline for well over a year that I really ought to get around to finishing one of these days! It’s all about CGI characters in film and television, because I’m convinced that we’re not far away from a film or TV series bringing back to life a dead actor to play a leading role. I can already picture a snooty director who insists that the lead role in their film could only ever belong to someone like Lawrence Olivier or Orson Welles and decides to digitally recreate them rather than cast someone else!
That’s connected, in a way, to what we’re talking about here. Some actors and performers are so iconic that I can absolutely see a time – perhaps very soon – when a film or TV series will use a CGI lead mingling with real actors. A digital creation with a fake face and fake voice that are indistinguishable from the real thing. And as that technology improves and becomes more accessible, it may even become possible for amateurs to do something similar. Imagine a Star Trek fan-film where a fully-realistic CGI Captain Picard is the lead. We’re edging closer to that kind of reality!
But is Sir Patrick Stewart inseparable from Captain Picard? Is Mark Hamill the only possible Luke Skywalker? Or are these roles – and many others across the realm of entertainment – more than just one actor? Look at Shakespeare as an example: how many actors have taken on the role of Hamlet, Prospero, or Richard III? And even in cinema, how many different performances have there been of characters like Count Dracula or Ebenezer Scrooge?
If the argument is that certain characters can only ever be portrayed by one person, doesn’t that limit them and restrict them to a single possible interpretation? There have been very different takes on iconic characters over the years, and while audiences may have a preference for one or another, that doesn’t mean that only one interpretation is valid. Taking a character and giving them to a new actor expands the potential of that character.
In the Star Trek franchise we’ve seen the main characters from The Original Series recast for the Kelvin films, and while I know of some Trekkies who absolutely hated that idea, as time has passed since the 2009 reboot, more of those folks have come around. 2009’s Star Trek did a lot of things right as a reboot of the franchise, and a big part of its success was down to the way those classic characters were reinterpreted.
Some Star Trek characters have been recast multiple times – by my count, Strange New Worlds features the fourth actor to play Captain Pike and the third to play Spock. Early reactions to Strange New Worlds have been incredibly positive – and the series has even drawn praise from some fans who hadn’t enjoyed anything else that modern Star Trek has had to offer. Recasting Pike, Spock, and other classic characters has clearly not harmed Strange New Worlds.
And the same could be true for Star Wars. Maybe Solo wasn’t the best film the franchise has put out, but that shouldn’t mean that experimenting with different takes on classic characters should be entirely shut down. There’s scope for new actors to take on the roles of Luke, Leia, and others – just as there was for Ewan McGregor to become Obi-Wan Kenobi or Alden Ehrenreich to become Han Solo. Arbitrarily deciding that recasting can never work off the back of a single underwhelming film is an unnecessary overreaction – especially considering that recasting has already worked in Star Wars, with an upcoming series standing as testament to that fact.
At the same time, there’s a place for digital character creation, recreated characters, and CGI characters, and I fully expect to see a lot more of that type of thing in the years ahead. For my two cents, digital de-ageing and CGI characters probably work best as side-characters rather than main protagonists – and I think Star Wars has got away with using them in that context so far. It will be a new challenge to see a film or TV series where the leading role is taken over by a CGI character.
So in conclusion, I’m glad that Kathleen Kennedy is finally willing to consider expanding the Star Wars franchise beyond the tiny fragment of its wonderful and vast setting that we’ve seen so far. That part is the good news! However, I don’t agree that there’s no place for recasting characters in a general sense. New actors have the potential to bring a new interpretation to the role, and if you look across at other films, franchises, and TV shows, it’s abundantly clear that recasting can and does work.
All properties and franchises discussed above are the copyright of their respective studio, distributor, corporation, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
As the dust settles on Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, there are still questions that remain. Season 3 may build on some of what Season 2 brought to the table – the strange anomaly, most notably – but other narrative elements will fade into the background and won’t be revisited. For me, one of the unexplained elements that I found intriguing as the season wore on concerns Q. Specifically, what was it that caused this once-immortal superbeing to be reaching the end of his life? What caused Q to die?
For the sake of the story that Picard Season 2 aimed to tell, finding a cause for Q’s death was not strictly necessary. The point of Q’s story and Picard’s relationship with him wasn’t to figure out what was happening, find a cure, or reverse it, but to come to accept it and for Q to find forgiveness and redemption at the end of his life. In that sense, there wasn’t really a narrative problem with the idea of Q dying – but as Trekkies and as fans who’ve followed Q’s journey over the span of more than three decades, it definitely feels like there’s a missing piece of the puzzle. Even if Q’s death was inevitable, explaining why it was happening in the first place would have felt satisfying.
We’ll probably have to address this in more detail when I get around to writing a proper retrospective-review of Season 2 as a whole, but one aspect of Q’s death that I feel wasn’t handled well is how nonchalant Picard seemed to be about it. Despite all the trouble he’s caused, the story here was about Picard finding a way to forgive Q and embrace the friendship he had been offering for decades. Wouldn’t someone like Picard have wanted to find out why his friend was dying? And wouldn’t someone like Picard want to do everything in his power to prevent it?
Even if we drop the “friendship” angle, Q is a unique life-form from Starfleet’s perspective. As a being who had been considered to be functionally immortal – or as close to it as the Federation has ever encountered, at least – learning more about the Q as a race and what could possibly harm them seems like an opportunity that a Starfleet Admiral shouldn’t have passed up. Even if it wasn’t possible to find a way to save Q’s life, I would have expected Picard to offer to try. And even if Q was unwilling to share too much information about his condition, his people, and the state of the Q Continuum, I would have expected Picard to have at least asked – and to have not immediately taken “no” for an answer.
Perhaps a longer season (or a season that was better-paced and didn’t waste time reaching its conclusion) could have dedicated more time to Q and included some of those questions. In Farewell, the Season 2 finale, Picard seemed to very quickly acknowledge that Q was dying, accept that fact at face-value, and made no effort to follow up on it or ask questions about it. While I understand why it happened that way in terms of the story, it leaves Q’s death feeling like it’s missing something critical – something that could’ve furthered our understanding of both Q himself and the Q Continuum as a whole.
So today, that’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to consider a handful of possibilities for why Q might’ve died at the end of Picard Season 2 and look at the pros and cons of each from both an in-universe and production-side perspective. It goes without saying that all of this is speculative and purely subjective; Q’s cause of death is highly unlikely to be explained on screen in the near future, and if you don’t like my ideas or I miss out something you do like, remember that this is all just the opinion of one person!
With all of that out of the way, let’s begin.
Theory #1: Q was being punished by the Q Continuum.
In The Next Generation Season 3 episode Deja Q, we saw Q come face-to-face with mortality for the first time. In that story, Q had his powers taken away by the Q Continuum – or whatever passes for the leadership of the Q – and found himself a mortal human. This seems to establish the principle that the Q Continuum has the power – in both a legal and physical sense – to strip individual Q of their immortality.
Though somewhat contradicted by the events of the Voyager episode Death Wish – in which it was strongly suggested that a member of the Q Continuum dying is something its leaders sought to prevent at any cost – Deja Q at least gives us something to work with. It was the first episode that established that certain members of the Q Continuum could inflict this kind of punishment on others, and while the specific nature of the Q Continuum and its power structure (if such a thing exists) is suitably vague, we at least have a starting point of sorts!
Based on what we know about Q himself, and specifically his role in causing the death of a fellow Q, sparking a Q Civil War, and creating the first “baby” Q in thousands of years, perhaps we can piece together that the Continuum were not happy with Q’s behaviour and actions. Could it be possible that, after what Q did in episodes like The Q and the Grey, the leadership of the Continuum turned on him?
Given that we’ve also seen the Q Continuum strip powers – and immortality – away from at least two other Qs, this kind of punishment by the Continuum has to be a pretty high probability for explaining what happened to Q. Regardless of what reasons the Continuum may have had, as far as we know they’re the only ones powerful enough to force a Q to become mortal.
Theory #2: The entire Q Continuum has been attacked.
This was a theory that I hatched during Season 2 – so it may be familiar to you if you followed along with my weekly theory posts! In short, it seemed possible to me that one explanation for Q’s condition could be related to the Q Continuum itself. If the Continuum had been attacked by some outside force, maybe that could explain what was happening to Q – and it could also explain a cryptic line in Discovery Season 4. Admiral Vance explained to Captain Burnham that the 32nd Century Federation has had no contact with the Q Continuum in over 600 years – and while the events of Picard Season 2 took place approximately 780 years before that conversation, perhaps the two are linked somehow.
One line from Guinan in Picard Season 2 is also of interest here. Guinan described a “cold war” between her people and the Q Continuum in the past, a conflict that was eventually resolved. But based on what we know of the two races, a “cold war” doesn’t seem plausible, does it? The Q are immortal and god-like, and while the El-Aurians certainly have abilities of their own, they’re very much a race of mortals – a race who were conquered by the Borg. So any conflict between the Q and the El-Aurians should’ve been a one-sided rout. That is, unless the El-Aurians knew of some kind of weakness inherent in the Q.
Some kind of weak point in the Q Continuum would seem to be the only possible explanation for how the El-Aurians could pose any semblance of a threat. That weakness (whatever it may be) could be something that another faction discovered, and instead of negotiating as the El-Aurians had, they might’ve gone on the attack. Or after the El-Aurians were assimilated by the Borg, the Q Continuum’s weakness could’ve become known to them – which could mean that the Borg are responsible for attacking and defeating the Q.
So there are possibilities here – some of which are more plausible than others, admittedly – based on what we know! It isn’t clear whether the powers of an individual Q are tied in any way to the Q Continuum – but it’s possible that they are. If so, perhaps a weakness in the Continuum weakens every surviving Q, and the defeat or destruction of the Continuum would reduce the power of any Q who remained. It seems a possibility to me – even though it was never stated on screen.
Theory #3: The Q Continuum was destabilised after its Civil War.
Voyager established that the Q Continuum devolved into civil war in the late 24th Century, with two opposing factions. The war came to an end with the birth of a new Q – the first such child in thousands of years. However, as Captain Janeway suggested toward the end of the episode: it doesn’t seem like having a baby would solve the underlying tensions within the Q Continuum.
While the causes of the war and its details were, in Q’s words: “beyond the understanding of humans,” it stands to reason that not only were the underlying issues not fully resolved, but that the fact that the Q Continuum was at war with itself in the first place would be hugely destabilising. After what seems to have been millennia of peace and quiet the Q Continuum was shattered by civil conflict, and as we know from out here in the real world, the consequences of wars – even brief ones – can be incredibly devastating and long-lasting.
Even if war never resumed between the two factions, there was still a lot of cleaning up to be done, rebuilding to achieve, and the need for reconciliation between one-time enemies. We don’t know for sure what kind of resources the Q Continuum might need to sustain itself, but it’s possible these were reduced or exhausted by the war, too. In the conflict’s aftermath, it’s even possible that two distinct Q Continuums were created.
Taking the Q Civil War as a starting point, we could argue that a general destabilisation of the Q Contniuum itself may have occurred. In the aftermath of the Civil War, perhaps the Q Continuum even collapsed, and individual members of the Q were left to fend for themselves. Without the support and resources of a united and undamaged Continuum, perhaps individual Q began to lose their powers and their immortality.
Theory #4: Death by natural causes.
This seems to be what Picard Season 2 at least implied was happening to Q. Q gave no explanation for his impending death, seeming not to know why it was happening, and the explanation could simply be that Q reached the end of his natural life. To us, members of the Q Continuum may seem immortal, but it’s possible that they have a natural lifespan – even if it’s imperceptible to humans because it’s measured in millions or billions of years.
Q, despite appearances, may be one of the oldest members of the Q Continuum, and could thus be the first – or the first in many years – to reach such a ripe old age. He may not know what’s happening to him because death is incredibly rare in the Q Continuum, and a death by natural causes or old age simply hasn’t happened in a very long time.
We also don’t know how long Q has been flitting about the galaxy – nor how long it has been for Q in between visits to Picard. From Picard’s point of view, he last saw Q approximately 30 years ago (during the events of All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation). But has it only been 30 years for Q?
A being that can travel through time could have spent millions or billions of years away from Picard before reuniting with him. Q could have travelled back in time to the Big Bang and done other things for 13.8 billion years… then gone back to the Big Bang again and spent another 13.8 billion years killing time and doing his own thing before finally returning to Picard. In short, Q may be far, far older than we assume, and it might’ve been a lot longer in between visits than the 30 years of linear time that Picard experienced. All of these could explain why Q was coming to the end of his life.
Bonus Theory: Q didn’t really die or was saved at the last moment.
If there’s no body, is anyone in film or TV really dead? Star Wars uses this trope to an excessive degree! But maybe it’s true in Star Trek, too. After Q’s final “snap” that sent Picard and the crew of La Sirena back to the 25th Century, we don’t know what became of Q. Did his body dissipate into energy? Was he vaporised? Did his empty corpse collapse in a French vineyard while Rios and Teresa looked on?
Though it would completely undermine the powerful and deeply emotional sequence at the end of Season 2, maybe the real end to this story has yet to be written. Somehow – perhaps through the intervention of another member of the Q Continuum – Q actually survived, or was reborn immediately after sacrificing himself.
This… would not be my choice. As much fun as Q can be, establishing his death – and making it a huge part of the story of Picard Season 2 – was incredibly important and felt final. To undo that in any way would devastate the entire narrative arc of Picard Season 2. Given that most of the rest of that season’s storylines were weak, taking away one of the most powerful and most emotional moments would leave very little left.
There is scope for Q to return. His time-traveling nature could see him pop up in other stories as long as they took place prior to the events of Picard Season 2 from his perspective. His cameo in Lower Decks Season 1 is a case in point. But to bring back Q in a big way and claim that he somehow survived… I can’t see it working. It would take away so much of what made Picard Season 2 matter. With Picard seemingly ending after Season 3 as well, there’s less of an argument for including Q in a big way in future stories. He’s primarily a Picard-centric character, so if Picard is killed off or his departure from Star Trek is made permanent, there’s less of a reason to bring back this individual Q. Other members of the Continuum, sure. But this Q should probably remain dead.
So that’s it!
Picard Season 2 didn’t explain what happened to Q. In terms of the way the story unfolded, it was ultimately “unnecessary” in order to get Picard and Q to come together and for Q to send Picard home to the 25th Century. The reason for Q’s declining health could have been built into the story, giving him additional motivation and focus, but again that didn’t have to happen based on the way the story was written. Finally, Q’s decline meant two things for the story: firstly, he wasn’t unbeatable any more, potentially giving Picard and the others a chance to stop him. And secondly, it meant that Q’s final act of the season – and final moment as a Star Trek character – was one of self-sacrifice, giving up his life to get Picard and his friends home.
Whether all of that worked just as well without an underlying cause is debatable. And I definitely believe that there was room within the story of the season to explain why Q was dying – and perhaps even to tie that into some other part of the franchise – even if such an explanation wasn’t entirely necessary for the story. The season’s story may not have been hanging from this one narrative thread, but even so it might have been worth it. It would certainly have been satisfying for returning fans from The Next Generation era.
I don’t think anything we saw on screen during Season 2 of Picard actively rules out any of the theories above – although I’d certainly entertain the argument that Q might’ve mentioned something incredibly major such as the Borg assimilation of the entire Q Continuum! But with Star Trek seemingly setting Q aside for the foreseeable future, it falls to us as Trekkies to speculate and propose answers to one of Season 2’s biggest unexplained story points.
I hope this was a bit of fun – or at least interesting. Personally I’d have liked the writers of Picard Season 2 to have come up with some explanation for Q’s death that felt conclusive. Although the Q Continuum and its denizens are difficult for humans to understand, that doesn’t mean there’s total free rein to throw Q into all kinds of different stories and just use “it’s a mystery” or “you’d never get it” as excuses to cover up the fact that no real answer to the question was created in the first place! So while the cause of Q’s death may not have been critical for the story that Picard Season 2 aimed to tell, not even attempting to make up some semblance of an explanation for it definitely leaves me feeling like something was missing as the story came to an end.
In a better and more enjoyable season of Star Trek, maybe I could see past that and revel in the story that was told rather than picking at threads and asking “why wasn’t this included?” But because Picard Season 2 was, at best, a mixed bag with episodes of inconsistent quality… the fact that it ended leaving behind something that feels like it could’ve been significant feels all the worse. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
I held off writing this for a while, even as the prospect of Strange New Worlds getting an international broadcast slipped further and further away. I didn’t want to jump the gun and come across as being too aggressive or too critical of Paramount Global – the corporation that owns and mismanages Star Trek. But with only a week to go, it’s patently obvious that Paramount has no plans whatsoever to broadcast Strange New Worlds outside of the United States and the handful of other countries where Paramount+ is available.
At the time of the Discovery Season 4 mess last November, I felt hopeful that the backlash from fans might’ve prevented this. But I guess I should’ve known better – this isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation, after all. Lower Decks Season 1 was the first casualty of the Paramount board’s ineptitude. That show’s lack of an international broadcast in the summer of 2020 hurt it immeasurably.
Then came Prodigy Season 1 in 2021, another series with real prospects to expand the Star Trek franchise far beyond its usual fanbase. That opportunity was squandered by Paramount’s decision to withhold the series from international broadcast. That decision was made so much worse by the fact that Prodigy is branded as a Nickelodeon co-production – and with Nickelodeon channels available in well over 100 countries, fans were rightly asking why they couldn’t watch the show along with their American friends.
Finally, only a few weeks after the Prodigy mess came the Discovery Season 4 calamity. Paramount literally paid Netflix money out of its own pocket to take the show away, preventing fans all across the world from watching it. They announced this “deal” with barely 48 hours’ notice, leading to a massive backlash from fans and even some of the actors and creative team. You’d think they’d have learned a thing or two from that mess, especially when it tanked their share price.
But alas, it’s only April 2022 – less than six months later – and here we are again. Paramount has decided that it doesn’t want its international fans to pay for Strange New Worlds – it would rather we pirated the show instead. Fine by me.
It’s not like there weren’t options if Paramount wanted to make Strange New Worlds available to international viewers. Here in the UK, for example, Paramount Global owns the following: Channel 5 and its associated channels 5Select, 5Action, 5USA, 5Star, and the My5 catch-up service, Nickelodeon and its associated channels Nick Jr. and Nicktoons, Comedy Central, MTV and five MTV spin-offs, the Horror Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, CBS Drama, CBS Justice, and CBS Reality. Several of these are free-to-air, with the others being available on subscription via cable or satellite providers.
In addition, Paramount Global owns PlutoTV, the online television network where Discovery Season 4 was made available. And speaking of Discovery Season 4, Paramount was able to make deals with Amazon Video, Google Play, and even YouTube to allow viewers in some countries to pay to watch. In short, Paramount Global could have made Strange New Worlds available. They had every opportunity and numerous options for doing so.
On top of all that, the Star Trek franchise has been subjected to some truly pathetic scheduling decisions over the past few months, and these schedules now seem even worse in light of the lack of an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds. Compounding the decision to cut off international fans, Prodigy’s first season has been butchered, cleaved into small chunks of episodes that have made it harder than necessary for the show to gain any kind of traction.
But worse is the situation with Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. Why have these shows overlapped one another? Discovery and Picard ran concurrently for three weeks, and Picard’s season finale will be broadcast the same day as Strange New Worlds’ premiere. Why? If these three shows had been better-scheduled, split up by just a few weeks, then maybe there’d have been more time to get Paramount+ ready for the next phase of its international rollout. The UK and Europe have been promised Paramount+ by the end of Q2 – well that’s only a few weeks away, so if Picard Season 2 had been delayed by 4 weeks, and Strange New Worlds by another 3-4 weeks, maybe more fans would’ve been able to watch. How did this happen? And are the inept schedulers still making decisions? Seems like a firing offence to me.
By choosing not to take advantage of the global media empire that it literally owns, refusing to do deals with other corporations, and screwing up the scheduling of its own shows, Paramount has chosen to push fans toward piracy. Not only that, but the hurt and anger that has been generated by these decisions over the past couple of years will make it so much harder to convince fans to sign up for Paramount+ if the incompetently-managed service is ever ready to be rolled out.
Streaming platforms do not exist in a vacuum. The option fans have is not “pay for Paramount+ or don’t watch anything.” Piracy exists, and the only way that companies like Netflix and Disney have been able to make a success of the streaming model is by offering a good service at a low price. Paramount+ already fails the “good service” test – according to what I’m hearing from subscribers in the United States – so charging fans a higher price than Netflix, Amazon, or Disney for a worse product isn’t exactly going to incentivise folks to sign up.
Despite that, when a film, television series, or video game is made available to watch, I’m firmly in the camp that says “pay for it.” I don’t want to be a pirate. From both a moral perspective and as a point of simple practicality, I believe that everyone from actors, writers, and directors to producers and executives should be paid for the work that they put into creating an entertainment product. But when a corporation takes that option away and piracy becomes the only way to access that content, then I’m all for it. In such cases as these, it is quite literally the only option.
That’s the position Paramount has placed fans in. They had options to broadcast Strange New Worlds on channels and networks that they owned from as far afield as Angola and Mozambique to the UK, Western Europe, and beyond… but they actively and willfully chose not to. They did so knowing that many fans wouldn’t wait for Paramount+… and if they didn’t realise that many of us would turn to piracy, then they’re even more incompetent and out of their depth than I thought.
It’s become increasingly obvious that Paramount as a whole needs a good clear-out. 20th Century thinking is trying and failing to lead the corporation into the mid-21st Century, and executives and leaders clearly know nothing about a global media landscape that has been entirely transformed over the past couple of decades. Their attempt to launch their own streaming platform a decade too late in a massively competitive market was already a blunder all but certain to end in failure; the fact that Paramount+ is being handled so poorly is just hastening its demise. The anger and hurt caused to fans around the world – and not just fans of Star Trek, either, but fans of shows and franchises as diverse as Halo and iCarly – will be a weight around the corporation’s neck going forward. With inflation and other financial issues hitting hard in the short term, it’ll be ever more difficult to find subscribers for such a mediocre platform.
Paramount’s “America First” fetish would even make Donald Trump blush, and the corporation’s decision to gatekeep its own shows, segregating its audience geographically, is a colossal mistake. It’s one that Paramount+ may never recover from. And you know what? If a streaming platform with this level of ineptitude and mismanagement fails, it will deserve to fail. If a corporation with such a blinkered, short-sighted approach and an atrocious corporate attitude fails, it will deserve to fail too. My only concern as a fan of Star Trek is that Paramount+ may very well drag the Star Trek franchise down along with it.
The United States has been Paramount’s exclusive focus thus far, so much so that even when Paramount+ rolled out to countries like Australia, new episodes of shows like Prodigy weren’t broadcast there. Australian Trekkies who’d paid for Paramount+ were told that they’d have to wait for Discovery Season 4, and then Prodigy Season 1… so what exactly was the point of signing up? Did anyone at Paramount consider that question, or were they too fixated on America to care – or even notice?
I have tried my best to support Star Trek over the years. I signed up for Netflix in 2017 entirely because Discovery would be shown there, and I’ve likewise paid for Amazon Prime Video to watch Picard and Lower Decks. Over the span of more than thirty years I’ve bought Star Trek films and episodes on VHS, then the entire collection of every pre-2005 series on DVD, several on Blu-ray, and enough merchandise to sink a small boat. I’ve done my part to contribute financially to this franchise that I love… and even so, even with all the money I’ve already spent and all of the problems that I know Paramount+ has, I was ready to spend more. But Paramount saw fans like me offering up our cash and told us to fuck off.
The actors and the creative team who worked so hard to bring Strange New Worlds to life don’t deserve to find themselves in the middle of a stinking corporate mess, but in a way they’re caught in the crossfire. We should all be able to come together and celebrate the broadcast of a series that was only made possible because of Star Trek fans – many of whom are not American. But instead, we’re arguing about it. Strange New Worlds has become the latest in a line of own goals from Paramount, and there’s no way that the toxicity that they have created won’t spill over into criticisms of the show and everyone involved.
This mess could’ve been avoided. Paramount could have learned the lesson from just a few months ago, and spent the intervening time figuring out the best option for broadcasting Strange New Worlds in all of the different countries and territories around the globe. Instead they pissed away that time doing nothing of the sort, dragging the Star Trek fan community back to the same old arguments we had during the Discovery mess.
Paramount has options to broadcast Strange New Worlds internationally, either on channels and platforms that it already owns or by agreeing licenses with other corporations. It has had more than enough time to figure out what to do, and should’ve been spurred into action by the clusterfuck surrounding Discovery Season 4. And failing all of that, Paramount has had weeks now in which to break the news to Trekkies; to tell us something and respond to the many questions that have been asked about the series. They’ve done none of that – and the explanation is simple. They don’t care about or respect any non-American fans or viewers.
So our recourse is piracy, as it always has been. When a corporation misbehaves like this, and treats its biggest fans and biggest supporters with such blatant disrespect, they haven’t just encouraged piracy, they deserve to have their shows pirated. They deserve the financial hit, the hit to viewing figures, and quite honestly, Strange New Worlds deserves to fail. Under this appalling team of corporate fuckwits, Star Trek as a whole will fail. And when we’re picking up the pieces in a few years’ time, asking where it all went wrong, we’ll be able to look back on these decisions and recognise that it was here that Paramount screwed up.
I constantly hope for better from Paramount – and I’m constantly let down. So I’m going to do what they clearly want me to do: I’m going to pirate Strange New Worlds. And you should too.
Piracy is probably against the rules where you live, so when you do pirate Strange New Worlds, do so carefully. Here’s where I’d usually tell you that the Star Trek franchise is someone’s copyright, but fuck it. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.
With Picard Season 2 ongoing, Strange New Worlds Season 1 hot on its heels, and Prodigy and Lower Decks still to come this year, it might seem premature to be thinking about Discovery Season 5 already! But as I was writing up the final part of my Season 4 theory list, it got me thinking. Season 4 wasn’t bad, all things considered. It had some storylines that disappointed or underwhelmed, but there are some genuinely outstanding episodes in the mix as well – and it ended on a very emotional and exciting high note.
It’s never too early to look ahead, and before production gets fully underway on Discovery’s next outing, I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions about where the show could go from here, and what I’d like to see next. That’s what this article will be about – but stay tuned for a more in-depth look at Season 4 and some of its story elements in the weeks and months ahead.
For me, the single biggest wish I have for Discovery Season 5 is that it steps away from the “apocalyptic, galaxy-ending threat” story archetype that has been used in different ways across all four seasons of the show so far. We’ve gone through the Klingon war in Season 1, Control and the Red Angel in Season 2, the Burn and the Emerald Chain in Season 3, and finally the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C in Season 4. It’s time to give Captain Burnham and the crew a break, and for the series to try using a genuinely different formula instead of slapping a new coat of paint on the old one.
Just because a story is smaller in scale doesn’t make it any less emotional, exciting, tense, or dramatic, and I think that’s a lesson some of Discovery’s writers and producers could do with taking to heart. How we as the audience respond to a work of fiction is guided not by how massive the monster is or how big the explosions are going to be, but by how the characters we’re rooting for react. Their emotions become our emotions, their investment in the world around them becomes our investment, and so on. A story about a group of people working in an office, friends going on a road trip, or star-crossed lovers from rival families aren’t smaller, less exciting, and worse because they don’t have the backdrop of a world-ending disaster spurring them on. And conversely, some of the worst and least-exciting films and TV shows I’ve ever seen went over-the-top with the size and scale of the disaster the characters were facing.
Past iterations of Star Trek used these kinds of apocalyptic stories pretty sparingly, when you look back on it. It’s only Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc, which lasted for three seasons, that comes close to being as long and drawn-out an affair, and even within the framework of the Dominion War, DS9 found ways to tell very different and fun one-off stories. Things like the Borg incursions that Captain Picard and his crew had to deal with were either two-parters or one-off films, and they work well in that format.
Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D still found other ways to be entertaining, and many of The Next Generation’s standalone episodes have gone on to be considered iconic, even those that had a far smaller focus than blockbuster outings like The Best of Both Worlds. This doesn’t mean ditching the season-long story arcs or returning to an episodic format, because I think Discovery has done some interesting and neat things with its serialised stories. But it does mean choosing season-long storylines and narrative arcs that are different in a fundamental way to what the show has tried already.
Practically any format can become bland and unexciting when overused, no matter how much fun it might’ve been in its original incarnation or at its best moments. It’s a challenge to keep any television series feeling fresh as it enters its fifth season and races toward its sixty-fifth episode, and there are many examples of shows that ran out of steam somewhere along the way. Heck, I have an entire list of television shows that either ran too long or wore out their concepts, and I can think of many more that I could’ve included.
Even Star Trek has hit the wall in the past, running out of energy and failing to keep audiences engaged. By the time Enterprise was willing to try new things in its third and fourth seasons, for example, the franchise was already in such a steep decline that cancellation was inevitable. To Paramount’s credit, lessons have been learned from what happened in 2005 in terms of the way the franchise as a whole operates. Different series are telling stories in their own ways, appealing to broader audiences, and Star Trek as a whole feels varied and diverse. But Discovery on its own doesn’t… and it’s right on the verge of becoming repetitive.
I was far from the only commentator to make the point prior to Season 4 that another “galactic threat” storyline felt samey, coming off the back of three similar narrative frameworks, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say that re-using that format a fifth time will be a bridge too far. Making use of the newly-established 32nd Century in different ways, and telling a story that may be smaller in scale but that’s just as impactful, emotional, and entertaining, will be the key challenges that I’d like the writers to tackle in Season 5.
The theme of rebuilding in the aftermath of a disaster was something we only saw Season 4 tackle in the briefest and barest of ways right at the beginning of the season, but this could be a concept that the show puts to much better use next time around. Discovery could follow Captain Burnham as she and the crew jump to different worlds, delivering dilithium, solving problems, flying the flag for the Federation… and most importantly, bringing hope to a galaxy that’s been through a lot.
This is what I’d hoped Season 4 would do, to be honest. The idea of restoring the Federation from the incredibly weakened state it was in when we encountered it is far too important and interesting to be relegated to something that happens off-screen, and I felt even before Season 4 had aired a single episode that this concept offered so much scope for emotional, exciting, and varied storytelling. Discovery could hop to different planets, combining the inclusion of new and visually different alien races (like Season 4’s “butterfly” aliens) with the reintroduction of classic races.
Catching up with some of the factions we remember from past iterations of Star Trek is also something I’ve been wanting Discovery to do for two seasons now. We’ve caught glimpses of races like the Ferengi and Andorians, and heard others mentioned in dialogue and log recordings, but we haven’t actually spent a lot of time with practically any of them. Finding out what became of fan-favourites not only in the years after the Burn, but in the centuries before that event took place, is something that I think a lot of Trekkies would be interested in.
If the 32nd Century is going to be a major setting for the franchise going forward, this kind of world-building is important. Just like how The Next Generation laid the groundwork for Deep Space Nine through its introduction of the Cardassians and Bajorans, so too could Discovery introduce us to planets, races, and technologies that future spin-offs and Star Trek projects could expand upon.
Part of that world-building can be done in a serialised story that looks at how the Federation can be rebuilt in the aftermath of the disasters it has already faced; introducing another new disaster to avert or recover from is simply not needed at this point. From the point of view of the characters, throwing them into another extreme situation would also be problematic, and would take the storytelling close to soap-opera levels.
Discovery has, to its credit, attempted to show how some of the events that its characters have gone through have impacted their mental health. Some of these stories have been underdeveloped – Detmer’s in Season 3 and Dr Culber’s in Season 4 being the most egregious examples. But even with this kind of attempted mental health focus, there’s a limit on what we could expect characters to go through and still be alright when they come out the other end.
To be fair, that’s a line that the Star Trek franchise has crossed in the past with characters like Miles O’Brien, for example, who seemed to survive a lot of traumatic events only to be back to normal the next week! But as shows like Picard have demonstrated with characters like Seven of Nine and Jean-Luc Picard himself, it can be incredibly cathartic to revisit some of these characters and give them meaningful, lasting development. But we’re drifting off-topic!
Star Trek’s galaxy is vast, and as we saw in Season 4 with the inclusion of races like the Abronians and Unknown Species 10-C, even in the 32nd Century there’s still a heck of a lot that Starfleet doesn’t know about it. There’s scope for Captain Burnham and the crew to get back to exploring for its own sake, as well as using their Spore Drive to reach parts of the galaxy that it would be difficult for the Federation to do otherwise. There’s the potential for the crew to bring hope to far-flung Federation outposts after the Burn, the Emerald Chain, and the DMA have had such a devastating impact… and it’s worthwhile telling stories like that.
Even if Season 5 doesn’t do much of that rebuilding or exploring, I’m still hopeful that whatever stories it chooses to tell won’t feel repetitive and won’t recycle the same basic story framework that we’ve seen throughout the show’s entire run to date. Discovery could do so much to expand our understanding of the Star Trek galaxy; even more so in a 32nd Century setting that is wholly unconstrained by prior canon. Shooting this far forwards in time was a great way for the show’s writers and producers to give themselves new opportunities to play in the vast sandbox that we call the Star Trek galaxy – so now would be a great time to take advantage of that.
As I look ahead to Season 5, I feel hopeful and optimistic. Season 4 had some problems, but generally it was an improvement over Season 3 and it ended in truly spectacular fashion. There’s potential for what comes next to build on that, and if the series can avoid retreading too much old ground, Season 5 could be Discovery’s best outing yet.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ where the platform is available and via a patchwork of video-on-demand and pay-to-view streaming platforms in the rest of the world. The series is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Season 2, Voyager, Enterprise, and The Next Generation.
Discovery’s fourth season concluded just over a month ago, but for some reason I’d forgotten to wrap up my theory list! I blame the oversight on the excitement of Picard’s second season overlapping Discovery for the final few episodes… and, perhaps, the issues surrounding Strange New Worlds’ international broadcast. Regardless, we’re here now! So let’s get on with it, shall we?
In my review, I said that Coming Home was probably the high point of the season, and while the episode wasn’t perfect, it was a great way to bring an occasionally frustrating season to a close! Some of the complaints and criticisms that I made were more to do with Season 4 as a whole rather than Coming Home itself, and while we’ll touch on some of those points today, please stay tuned because I hope to write up my full thoughts on the entirety of Season 4 in the weeks ahead.
The theory list had grown quite long across Season 4, peaking in week 11 where I had 36 different theories in play – with varying levels of plausibility! By the time we got to the season finale that number had dipped somewhat, and there were 23 theories on the list going into Coming Home. I’ll be recapping each of them on this occasion, as well as three production-side theories that were also in play.
Keep an eye out for several of them to return in the run-up to Season 5, because a few theories that weren’t outright debunked (or even touched on at all for much of Season 4) still feel plausible and interesting to me!
For now, let’s start with the sole theory that was confirmed in the season finale. We’ll then look at the debunkings, the production-side theories, and the few that remain on the table going into Season 5.
Confirmed theory: Book and Burnham got back together.
This theory was one that I was desperately hoping would make it to screen! In short, the “Burnham relationship drama” angle that Season 4 pursued from shortly after the halfway point was one of the weakest narrative elements, one which felt gratuitous and overdone. I understand where it came from, and how it aimed to show how grief was leading Book down a dark path. But after everything Captain Burnham went through with Ash Tyler, seeing her settled and happy with Book was fantastic – and I greatly disliked how Discovery ripped that away.
The relationship drama storyline also trod on the toes of other potentially interesting stories. Discovery has always been the Michael Burnham show, and expecting that to change in Season 4 was unrealistic, perhaps. But even so, episodes like All In and Rubicon sidelined other stories and other characters to allow more time to be spent on Book and Burnham and the way they were feeling. For me, it was just too much – and one consequence of that was that some potentially-interesting story arcs, like Dr Culber’s mental health struggles, didn’t get as much development as they deserved.
When Book and Burnham reconciled at the end of Coming Home it really felt great – and I hope that their relationship will remain rock-solid for the remainder of the series’ run!
So that theory was confirmed.
Next, let’s run through the theories that were debunked as of the end of Coming Home.
Debunked theory #1: Unknown Species 10-C is responsible for the galaxy’s dilithium supply running out.
This is the first of several theories that were connected to the events of Season 3. For whatever reason, though, Discovery’s focus shifted far away from the Burn in Season 4, with only a few mentions of the phenomenon and its consequences. The state of the galaxy in the aftermath of the Burn served as a backdrop to the events of the season, but in many ways the story could’ve unfolded in exactly the same way if the Burn had never happened or if we’d never come to know about it!
In short, I speculated that Unknown Species 10-C may have been mining the galaxy for dilithium in a similar way to how they used the DMA to mine for boronite. If so, perhaps they could have been behind the still-unexplained loss of dilithium supplies in the years leading up to the Burn. As it is, there was no connection – or at least, no connection was apparent as of the end of the season.
Debunked theory #2: The Guardian of Forever will make an appearance.
The Guardian of Forever potentially opened up a completely different story trajectory for Burnham – and for Book and Tarka in particular. The events of Terra Firma in Season 3 seem to confirm that the Guardian can be a portal not only to travel through time but also to cross between universes. With Tarka hoping to cross over to a different parallel universe, the Guardian of Forever seemed like a plausible way for him to do so – potentially allowing everyone to get what they wanted.
As it is, Tarka’s story ended in an unspectacular fashion, and unfortunately I consider his storyline to be a bit of a waste. A fun, exciting, and nuanced character was set up earlier in the season, only to turn into a fairly flaccid and one-dimensional villain as the story reached its end. The Guardian of Forever was never mentioned, and Tarka presumably died when Book’s ship exploded.
Debunked theory #3: Unknown Species 10-C is connected to a faction from Star Trek’s past.
I clung on to my shrinking list of Unknown Species 10-C candidates for the longest time, but I was finally forced to give up on the idea of the mysterious race turning out to be someone familiar a couple of weeks before the season finale! However, even if Unknown Species 10-C were new to Star Trek, I theorised – with very little to back it up, I should say – that there could be some kind of connection to another faction from the franchise’s past.
It couldn’t be the Federation, nor almost any organic race, but it seemed possible to me that there could be a connection to someone like the Borg. If Unknown Species 10-C had been the victim of an attack by someone like the Borg, that could’ve explained their desire to hide away from the rest of the galaxy.
As it is, no connection was forthcoming. I fully expect Unknown Species 10-C to be a minor part of Season 5 (at best), so I doubt we’ll learn much more about them any time soon.
Debunked theory #4: A major character will be killed.
Before the season began I took a look at the main characters and speculated about who may or may not be on the chopping block! As television storytelling has changed and evolved, particularly in the wake of shows with “disposable” casts like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, audience expectations have changed as well. I suggested several times throughout the season that Discovery giving its main characters some pretty heavy plot armour in the face of incredibly challenging missions and dangerous circumstances wasn’t a great look – and I kept this theory in play right up until the season’s final moments.
The fake-out over Book’s death wasn’t a problem, and I don’t want to single it out for criticism just because it was the final example of this phenomenon; I felt it worked well in Coming Home. But looking back at the season overall, there were multiple opportunities to kill off characters in meaningful and impactful ways, but Discovery’s writers chose not to. Even minor characters like Dr Pollard and Commander Bryce seem to have survived the season, and while Tarka was killed, as a villain his death doesn’t count in the same way.
A well-timed character death can do so much for a story, and I feel like Discovery dropped the ball on this one during Season 4.
Debunked theory #5: Admiral Vance’s holo-message about Earth and Ni’Var was fake or has been tampered with.
Although Coming Home absolutely stuck the landing and made the sequences at Federation HQ feel incredibly tense and emotional, I didn’t like the whole “Earth is in danger” story cliché that had been introduced in The Galactic Barrier. That trope isn’t just one that’s overused in stories like these, but it’s one that can fall flat and fail in its effort to ramp up the drama, tension, and excitement.
In short, we know in a story about Earth being in danger that Captain Burnham is going to find a way to save the day. If it were literally any other planet – Ni’Var, Qo’noS, Bajor, or wherever – there’d be a real sense of danger that Discovery could’ve repeated the shock of Kwejian’s destruction at the beginning of the season and blown up another planet! But because it was Earth, that never felt like a realistic prospect, and that potentially robbed the story of much of its drama.
I had speculated that someone might’ve faked the message about Earth being in danger, partly because I was hoping it wasn’t true and partly because I was wondering if there might be more going on at Federation HQ. But it turned out that the message was accurate, leading to the scenes at Federation HQ in Coming Home.
Debunked theories #6 & 7: Unknown Species 10-C built the Galactic Barrier, and Someone else built the Galactic Barrier to keep Unknown Species 10-C out.
As we headed into the season finale, the Galactic Barrier was definitely fading out of sight, and as a result this theory was already feeling less likely. However, after much had been made of the Barrier earlier in the season, with an entire episode dedicated to crossing it, I wondered if we might learn more about this unusual phenomenon!
The Galactic Barrier had been introduced right at the beginning of The Original Series and had been mentioned on several occasions throughout Star Trek’s history. It served an interesting storytelling purpose, but we didn’t really learn much about it – including how it works or why it exists! There was scope to tie the Barrier’s existence to Unknown Species 10-C; their incredible engineering skills suggested that they could be responsible for its construction. Alternatively, I theorised that someone else might’ve constructed it in the past to prevent Unknown Species 10-C from attacking. Neither theory panned out, and it seems very unlikely we’ll revisit the Galactic Barrier next season, so I don’t expect this one to be picked up any time soon.
It would be interesting to learn more about the Galactic Barrier and where it came from, though.
Debunked theory #8: There will be a character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.
I’ve been sticking to my guns on this theory since well before Season 3, and a couple of years ago I even proposed a shortlist of characters who could still be alive in the 32nd Century. Thanks to technobabble, though, practically anyone from Star Trek could be included if the writers wanted to bring them on board.
There was also the possibility of Captain Burnham unearthing a hologram, recording, or log left behind by a long-gone character who might be familiar to us as the audience. While this would be less of a “crossover” in the same way, it could still be exceptionally fun.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen this season. I haven’t given up, though, so you can expect to see this one on my Season 5 theory list!
Debunked theory #9: Book will find Kyheem and Leto inside the hyperfield.
One of my first thoughts about the DMA, long before it had a name and before the season had even aired, was that it could be related somehow to the Nexus from Star Trek: Generations. Then later, when we learned that the DMA had wormhole and transporter capabilities, sending material back to its point of origin, it seemed possible that maybe not everyone on Kwejian was as dead as we first assumed.
Just like Captain Picard was able to encounter Captain Kirk inside the Nexus, I wondered if Book might reach the hyperfield only to discover that Leto, Kyheem, and others from Kwejian had survived the destruction of their planet. It didn’t happen in the end, and in a way that’s a good thing because it would’ve undermined the powerful moment Book had when he spoke to Unknown Species 10-C and took them to task for their destruction.
Debunked theory #10: Season 4 will connect with the Short Treks episode Calypso.
Is Calypso destined to remain forever out of reach? After Seasons 3 and 4 both seemed to move toward a potential tie-in with the Short Treks outlier, once again the story came to an end with no connection in sight. While things like Zora’s development definitely tie in with the events of Calypso, other things, like the retrofit the ship went through in Season 3, have actually moved us away from the events of that short episode.
This is a tough one. I strongly suspect that Calypso was created at a time when Season 2 had a different ending – perhaps even as a kind of “epilogue” in the event of the whole series being cancelled. Its story of the ship being abandoned for a thousand years and an AI developing sentience from the ship’s computer feel quite far-removed from the stories told in Seasons 3 and 4, and realistically, unless a multi-episode arc can be written to bring Discovery and Calypso together, it may be destined to remain unresolved.
Debunked theory #11: We haven’t seen the last of the Abronians.
It’s a bit of a surprise to me that the Abronians – a race rescued from cryo-sleep by Captain Burnham, Tilly, and Dr Gabrielle Burnham in the episode Choose To Live – didn’t return later in the season. There were several different ways that they could’ve been included, even if they didn’t tie in with the main Unknown Species 10-C story.
Discovery doesn’t usually like to do wholly standalone side-stories like this, so all season long I was half-expecting to see the Abronians make a reappearance! Perhaps we’d learn that their homeworld had been destroyed by the DMA, or maybe they could’ve arrived to assist the Federation in an hour of need. Their massive planetoid-sized ship could’ve been incredibly useful during the evacuation of Earth and Ni’Var, for instance.
Debunked theory #12: Tarka will create his own DMA.
If Tarka had been unable to find the DMA’s power source inside the hyperfield, I wondered if he’d resort to building his own DMA. We saw as far back as The Examples that he understood the basic principles involved and had been able to build a scale model. I speculated that maybe he would go on to build his own version.
This theory originally began when Tarka was on my list of suspects for creating the original DMA. That didn’t pan out, of course, but even going into the season finale it still seemed possible that he might try to build his own version of it.
Debunked theory #13: Kayalise is the Kelvin universe.
In the weeks ahead I’d like to take a look at Ruon Tarka’s story in a bit more detail, as I feel that it started very strongly but went off the rails toward the end. For now, suffice to say that it’s disappointing that we didn’t learn more about Kayalise – the alternate universe that Tarka hoped to travel to.
I speculated that Kayalise could be the Kelvin timeline – it’s one of the only other parallel universes that we know of in Star Trek, it stands to reason that the Burn didn’t happen there, and Discovery had already dropped a Kelvin-timeline reference in Season 3. It could’ve been interesting to follow Tarka across the divide between universes… but it didn’t happen.
Debunked theory #14: Oros is alive – and we’ll see him soon!
Oros was a fun and interesting character, and it’s such a shame we only got to see him for a few flashback sequences in a single episode. There was scope to follow more of his story, and if Tarka’s storyline had ended in a more satisfying manner, a meet-up could’ve been on the cards.
I speculated that Tarka would successfully use his interdimensional transporter, or that a compromise could be found to allow him passage to Kayalise, and that he’d be able to reunite with his long-lost friend.
Overall, Oros’ inclusion in the story was an odd one. I feel that we were teased unnecessarily by the show keeping his name hidden for several episodes, and that encouraged speculation that this character might’ve been someone we’re already familiar with. For the heavily-teased character to make a single appearance and then never return was strange – and a bit of a let-down.
Debunked theory #15: The interdimensional transporter works!
Though it was left somewhat ambiguous as Book’s ship met an explosive end, it seems pretty clear to me that the interdimensional transporter won’t be making a return to Star Trek anytime soon! Tarka held onto hope for the longest time that not only would his own model work, but that Oros’ original interdimensional transporter had as well.
There was scope, had the season ended in a different way, for the interdimensional transporter to be useful for Captain Burnham, too. If Unknown Species 10-C were native to a different dimension, for example, that could’ve been a way to tie the two halves of the story together. In a season that was all about diplomacy, compromise, and finding a middle ground, Captain Burnham could’ve traded with Tarka for the technology, and that’s just one example.
As it is, it seems like we’ll never know whether the interdimensional transporter even worked at all.
Debunked theory #16: Michael Burnham won’t remain in command of the USS Discovery.
In short, I speculated that Discovery’s trend of having a different captain for every season might continue, and that the season could end with Captain Burnham either leaving Starfleet to be with Book, or accepting a new role within the organisation. To be clear, because I know there’s a lot of debate any time Captain Burnham is mentioned: I wasn’t in favour of this theory necessarily. I just thought it was a possibility, and a potentially interesting one at that!
In the end, the season drew to a close with Captain Burnham still in command, ready to tackle the next mission as the Federation continues to rebuild. And that was a great way for things to end!
So those theories were debunked!
There are a handful of theories that were connected to events in Season 3 that I also kept on the list this time, and none of those were really touched on at all. In addition, there are a couple of theories that I introduced in Season 4 that I still consider plausible for future seasons or stories. We’ll take a look at those briefly now.
Theory #1: Saru will assume command of the USS Voyager-J.
The captaincy of the USS Voyager-J – seemingly the Federation’s new flagship – was discussed as the season drew to a close. President Rillak, who had determined Captain Burnham to be unsuitable for the role in the season premiere, changed her mind after the mission to Unknown Species 10-C’s hyperfield.
I had suggested that Saru embodies many of the qualities that President Rillak was looking for in a captain for the Voyager-J, and that he might assume command of the ship at the end of the season. There’s also the question of how Saru, who holds the rank of captain, will fit in with the command structure aboard the USS Discovery going forward; his presence as Captain Burnham’s XO this season was implied to be temporary.
Whether Saru has a major role to play in Season 5 or not, I’m keeping this one on the list at least for now.
Theory #2: Who is Dr Kovich, and what is his role within the Federation hierarchy?
I’m beginning to feel that Dr Kovich is seen by the show’s writers as a bit of a joke; a character who we’ve been teased with, but whose interesting-sounding lines and suggestions never go anywhere. The most egregious example of this has to be his line in The Galactic Barrier, where he spoke of having “more important things” to do than accompany the USS Discovery. What were those important things? The show never bothered to tell us.
Going all the way back to his first appearance in Season 3, Dr Kovich has been intriguing. Is he a Section 31 operative? The Federation Vice-President? Admiral Vance’s boss? We don’t know, and while Dr Kovich has occupied several different roles this season – counsellor, Starfleet Academy instructor, diplomat, etc. – we still don’t know who he is or what he’s all about.
I’d like to hope we’ll learn more about him in Season 5!
Theories #3 & 4: We’ll learn more about the ban on time travel, and Has the Federation violated the ban on time travel?
The ban on time travel was introduced in Season 3, and there were narrative reasons for its inclusion. However, as I’ve said ever since we first learned about it: such a ban would be incredibly difficult to implement and enforce. I’d love to know more about how it works, how it’s enforced, and who’s responsible for preventing basically anyone with a starship from doing something like the “slingshot method.”
I also think it’s possible that the Federation itself (or perhaps an organisation like Section 31) has chosen to ignore the ban when it suited them, and again I’d be curious to learn if someone like President Rillak or Dr Kovich had greenlit some kind of time travel escapade.
Theory #5: The USS Discovery will have to defend the Verubin Nebula.
The Verubin Nebula is the galaxy’s only major source of dilithium (at least, as of the end of Season 3). With the Federation in control of this incredibly valuable resource, it stands to reason that other, more aggressive powers might seek to take it from them. Even if the Federation is willing to share its bounty with everyone, factions such as the Borg Collective, the Dominion, or the Klingon Empire may not be satisfied and may want to control the Verubin Nebula for themselves.
I speculated prior to Season 4 that the USS Discovery may be called into action to defend the Verubin Nebula from such an attack – and even though it didn’t happen this time, it’s still a possibility for Season 5!
Theory #6: Some areas of the galaxy, such as the Delta Quadrant, avoided the worst effects of the Burn.
The Burn was mentioned in Season 4, but never came to the fore in a major way. We still don’t know how far its impact reached, and what effects the Burn had on far-flung parts of the galaxy far away from the Verubin Nebula.
I speculated that some regions of the galaxy may have avoided the worst of the Burn, and maybe some areas didn’t even feel it at all. It could be very interesting to learn that a faction such as the Borg – who were mentioned in Discovery for the first time near the end of Season 4 – were unaffected. They might’ve been able to spend the last hundred years building up their forces for a major invasion!
Finally, we had three production-side theories on the list as the season finale approached, and I’d like to take a look at those before we wrap things up.
Production-side theory #1: The season will end on a cliffhanger.
This one is officially debunked! As the finale got closer and closer with seemingly a lot of different narrative threads still in play, I wondered if the season might’ve ended on a cliffhanger, with the story to be resumed in Season 5. It didn’t happen, though, and while not every storyline was brought to the perfect ending from my point of view, all of the main narrative threads were tied up by the time the credits rolled.
Star Trek has a history of season-ending cliffhangers, so this didn’t feel too far-fetched! Still, it will be nice to have a clean slate going into Season 5.
Production-side theory #2: Tilly’s departure will be permanent.
This is still officially unconfirmed at time of writing. We don’t yet know whether Mary Wiseman will be returning in Season 5, and if she does return, whether she’ll be doing so as a main cast member or just making a cameo or guest appearance.
It was nice to have Tilly back for the scenes at Federation HQ in Coming Home, and I’m glad we got to spend a little more time with her. However, to me her decision in All Is Possible felt permanent, and taking up a new role at Starfleet Academy feels like a good fit for her. Undoing that development, and unravelling that interesting and fitting character arc, wouldn’t be my preference.
Production-side theory #3: There will be a crossover of some kind with Picard Season 2.
As you’ll know by now if you’ve watched both shows, no crossover between Picard and Discovery was forthcoming. This theory arose because Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4 overlapped one another by three weeks – something that I genuinely cannot explain. Paramount Global consistently makes these random, illogical decisions, and while it was fun to speculate about what a Picard-Discovery crossover could look like… now that the dust has settled I genuinely do not understand why it had to happen this way. Is it something to do with the fiscal year?
Given that Paramount+ remains unavailable in most of the world, and that Strange New Worlds’ premiere is now imminent, the scheduling makes even less sense. Delaying Picard’s second season by a measly three weeks would’ve bought a little more time for Paramount+ to be ready. Three weeks may not have made all the difference, but combine it with a short delay to Strange New Worlds and maybe it would’ve been possible for more Trekkies to watch the new series together.
I’m not disappointed that a crossover didn’t happen – though that could’ve been a lot of fun. But I am disappointed in Paramount and the inept way they’re handling the Star Trek franchise.
So that’s it!
Thank you for sticking with me through Star Trek: Discovery Season 4. As the season wore on I did get some things right with my theories, even if some of my bigger ones – like the identity of Unknown Species 10-C – were wide of the mark.
Discovery Season 4 began in a truly awful corporate mess, with Paramount paying money out of its own pocket to try to take the show away from fans outside of the United States. Even in regions where Paramount+ was available, they originally planned to deny viewers access to Discovery Season 4. While I’m glad that the corporation recognised the backlash from fans and backtracked on those plans, it’s something I haven’t forgotten. With Strange New Worldsnow in the same position, it’s clear to me that Paramount Global has learned nothing.
In the weeks ahead I’ll definitely write up a longer retrospective of the season. For now, suffice to say that it was a mixed bag, with some decent episodes and some that dragged. The main storyline – that of the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C – seemed to take a long time to reach its conclusion, feeling padded in places. However, the season finale brought things to a close in a very emotional, entertaining, and enjoyable way. Whatever I may have thought about parts of the ride, the destination in this case was worth the wait.
One final note. I write up these theories for fun! I like Star Trek and I like writing, so writing about Star Trek is an enjoyable endeavour for me. For some folks, though, fan theories can become problematic. It’s always worth trying to keep in mind that any fan theory, no matter how enjoyable and plausible it may seem, isn’t worth getting upset over. Most of the theories I come up with never make it to screen, and usually what unfolds on screen is better! If I ever found that theorising and speculating about Star Trek (or any other franchise) was beginning to harm my enjoyment, I’d stop – and I’d encourage anyone in that position to do the same.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is available on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.