End-of-Year Awards 2022

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers may be present for some of these titles.

As we enter the final hours of 2022, it’s time to look back at the entertainment experiences that we’ve enjoyed – as well as a few that we didn’t enjoy all that much! I’ve cobbled together a few categories from the world of television, film, and video games, and today I’m going to hand out some highly-coveted Trekking with Dennis Awards to some of my favourites!

You’ll find a couple of titles from the tail end of 2021 on this list; I reckon anything released in December is fair game as those titles often get the short end of the stick when it comes to lists like these. Some outlets put together their “best of” lists way back at the start of December, which is far too early in my opinion! But we’re drifting off-topic already!

It’s time to hand out my End-of-Year Awards!

There are plenty of titles that, for one reason or another, I didn’t get around to this year – so for reasons that I hope are obvious they can’t be included. I’m only one person and I don’t have every minute of the day to devote to these pursuits, so the exclusion from this list of certain big titles shouldn’t be interpreted as any kind of deliberate snub!

And as always, a caveat before we begin: all of this is the subjective opinion of one person. I may give an award to a production you vehemently hate, or talk negatively about something you enjoyed, but at the end of the day this is supposed to be a bit of fun. Feel free to disagree with any or all of my picks – but there’s no need to take any of it too seriously!

With all of that out of the way, let’s get started!

Best Television Miniseries/Limited Series:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
Five Days At Memorial

Five Days At Memorial had the challenging task of dramatising a real-world event – and a gruelling one at that. I remember the harrowing news reports in 2005 showing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and I could absolutely understand why some folks might feel it’s too soon to make a programme like this. But for my money, Five Days At Memorial did a good job at adapting the events at Memorial Hospital as delicately as possible, staying true to what happened while still making the story engrossing and understandable for viewers.

The fact that Five Days At Memorial shows what happened at Memorial Hospital from two very different angles felt a bit strange at first, but by doing so the series lends the events the challenging ambiguity that they continue to have. By refusing to come down on one side or another – to condemn as guilty or exonerate Dr Pou – Five Days At Memorial strikes the right balance. There was some choppy editing in some sequences that meant the miniseries didn’t feel as smooth as it could’ve, but other than that it was a very interesting look at a very difficult moment in the recent past.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
1899

Netflix original 1899 is taking the crown in this category this year. The show goes on a wild and unpredictable ride, blending themes of mental health that resonated strongly with me with mystery and psychological horror. The multilingual series is, in my view, best enjoyed without being dubbed, as the different characters and the language barriers between them are key elements in the story at several crucial junctures.

I was first attracted to 1899 because of its setting – both in time, at the end of the 19th Century, and on a boat making a transatlantic voyage. But what I found when I got started was one of the most unique and different television productions that I’ve seen in a long time. 1899 may not be to everyone’s taste, but I found it absolutely riveting all the way through.

Worst Television Series:

πŸ† “Winner” πŸ†
Obi-Wan Kenobi

After I’d enjoyed what The Book of Boba Fett brought to the table, I felt a pang of hope that Obi-Wan Kenobi might at least be passable. But it wasn’t to be, and the series was a horrible slog through the absolute worst kind of tacked-on story that used increasingly desperate nostalgia plays to try to recreate some of the magic that, frankly, Star Wars hasn’t had since the ’80s.

Say it with me, folks: it’s time for Star Wars to move on! The vast sandbox that is the Star Wars galaxy has trillions of inhabitants, millions of star systems, thousands of planets, and hundreds of factions and organisations – and tens of thousands of years of history that could explore any of them. For more than forty years, Star Wars has been laser-focused on the same handful of characters and the same tiny sliver of this wonderful setting, but it’s over. If Star Wars is to survive, something’s gotta change. Obi-Wan Kenobi proved that.

Best Television Series:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
Halo

Halo wasn’t spectacular, but as the first real attempt to bring the long-running video game franchise into a new medium, it got a lot right. The story it told was a riff on the familiar story that fans will remember from the games, but there were important differences which not only kept the mystery going, but also gave genuine characterisation to the Master Chief.

In terms of cinematography, I liked the way that Halo incorporated some first-person sequences into its action-heavy moments. This could have easily felt like a gimmick, but the way it was done – and crucially, not overdone – made it feel like a throwback to the series’ source material while also mixing things up in the television space. Halo used a fairly standard format that would be familiar to anyone who’s seen a made-for-streaming television show in the past few years, with a slowly unfolding mystery, multiple storylines, and characters who grow and change over the course of the series. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, and I certainly get the argument that it wasn’t as action-packed as some fans might’ve wanted. But it was, all in all, a decent bit of sci-fi.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

The Rings of Power had a lot of work to do to impress me. It had to live up to the legacy of the trilogy of films from a few years ago. It had to show that it could go toe-to-toe with the likes of Game of Thrones, The Witcher, and other big-budget productions in the fantasy space. And, to be blunt, it had to justify its billion-dollar price tag.

Whether The Rings of Power managed to accomplish all of those goals in its first season is still arguably an open question. But it certainly laid the groundwork for what should be a television spectacular, and it was, on balance, probably the best show I’ve seen this year. When I was at a low ebb in the autumn and didn’t have the energy or headspace for watching many new things, The Rings of Power was the one show that I made time for. Sure, there were big battles and other CGI spectaculars, but there were also some genuinely wonderful performances that brought to life some incredible character-focused storytelling. I can’t wait for Season 2!

Best Web Series:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
How To Cake It

After a hiatus of more than a year, YouTube show How To Cake It made a welcome return this year. This time, there’s less of a focus on the kind of attention-grabbing, visually spectacular cakes that look like rocket ships or Princess Elsa or a completely different food, and I think that’s actually been a positive thing! Host Yolanda Gampp has branched out, doing much more of a variety when it comes to baking. Some highlights include flavoured cookies, baklava, and even popcorn.

As often happens when a web series takes an extended break, recent episodes of How To Cake It haven’t been doing the same numbers as the series used to get. But I hope that, as time goes by, it will pick up some of those wayward viewers – and perhaps bring on board a whole host of new ones, too. This new version of How To Cake It seems to be making more down-to-earth recipes that you or I might feel brave enough to attempt, rather than showing off impressive designs that only a master baker could create. For me at least, that’s a great thing, and I hope to see much more from Yolanda and the team in the new year.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Anti-Chef

If How To Cake It shows a master at work, Anti-Chef – as the name suggests – is the complete opposite! The show is a lot of fun, and Jamie, the host, isn’t shy about sharing his failures in the kitchen as he works his way through some very complicated recipes. Though he’s not a total newbie any more, many of the techniques in the recipes he challenges himself to try are very advanced, and the personal, relatable style makes me feel like I’m right there in the kitchen.

I love a good cooking show, and as much fun as it can be to see an experienced chef at work, it can be even more entertaining to see an inexperienced home cook tackling some of these recipes. Anti-Chef has given me a lot of laughs this year – but also some cooking tips and inspiration, too.

The Worst of Star Trek:

πŸ† “Winner” πŸ†
Most of Picard Season 2

I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to call out Picard Season 2, but I think it’s earned a place on this list. The first episode of Season 2 was absolutely fantastic, and if the rest of the season had been anywhere close to that level, we’d be talking about Picard as the best show of the year. But unfortunately things took a pretty sharp nose-dive after the second episode of the season, with Picard and his crew wandering aimlessly for much of the season in a present-day setting that didn’t feel inspiring or enjoyable in the least.

By the time the action returned to the 25th Century in the second half of the season finale, the damage had been done, and despite Farewell pulling out a decent ending, this disconnected, disjointed, overly-long story has to go down as one of Star Trek’s big misses – perhaps even one of the biggest missteps in the franchise’s history. There were individual elements in most episodes that I can honestly say that I enjoyed… but Picard Season 2 overall feels like a massive disappointment.

Star Trek’s Biggest Surprises:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
Kobayashi
Star Trek: Prodigy

We ought to talk more about Prodigy here on the website – and I hope we will next year! But for now, the episode Kobayashi came out of nowhere in January to be one of the biggest surprises in the show’s first season. The Kobayashi Maru training programme famously tests would-be captains in a “no-win scenario,” and you wouldn’t think that premise would lead to such a genuinely heartwarming and wholesome episode – but as a longstanding fan, I really appreciated what Kobayashi brought to the table.

Without giving too much away, the Kobayashi Maru scenario plays out on the holodeck, and a cast of fan-favourite Star Trek characters all join in on the action. It’s a nostalgic treat – but it doesn’t overplay its hand, keeping a tight focus on the new characters introduced in Prodigy.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
All Those Who Wander
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Strange New Worlds had an incredible first season, showing off a varied, episodic approach in which it wasn’t shy about trying out many different genres. All Those Who Wander draws inspiration from the likes of The Thing and Alien to create a tense, claustrophobic sense of horror aboard a crashed starship.

It’s hard to say too much more without getting into spoiler territory – and of all the episodes in Season 1, All Those Who Wander has to be the most important to go into un-spoiled! Suffice to say that the episode takes the horror angle right up to the edge of my personal comfort zone, but never crosses that line. It’s an intense experience, and one that shows just how incredible Star Trek can be when it throws itself into another genre.

The Best of Star Trek:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
Coming Home
Star Trek: Discovery

Discovery’s fourth season plodded along, in places, and definitely teased us with mysterious factions and characters that ultimately turned out to be brand-new. But by the time the season finale rolled around, most of that was already settled. What we got was an incredibly emotional episode that saw Captain Burnham and the crew racing against time to reach an unknown, uncontacted alien race.

There were resolutions to disagreements between characters, several incredibly dramatic moments, and a storyline involving Admiral Vance at Federation HQ that showed off Starfleet and the Federation at their very best. Coming Home is, without a doubt, one of Discovery’s very best episodes.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
A Quality of Mercy
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Captain Pike gets a visit from “the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come” in A Quality of Mercy – and the episode is incredible. In Discovery Season 2, when it became apparent that Captain Pike knew in advance that he was going to suffer a debilitating accident, an obvious question would be “why didn’t he try to prevent it?” And A Quality of Mercy takes that idea and runs with it.

In addition to a very emotional story involving Captain Pike – one that I, as a disabled person, found incredibly relatable – there’s also a wonderful callback to an episode of The Original Series, and moments for all of the main characters to get a chance to shine. Ethan Peck puts in a spectacular performance as Spock, and there was even time at the very end of the episode for one final twist as the curtain fell on one of the best seasons of Star Trek ever put to screen.

Best Animated Film:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
Minions: The Rise of Gru

The Despicable Me franchise is usually good for some fun escapism, and so it proved again with The Rise of Gru. There isn’t anything completely groundbreaking here; you know how the titular Minions behave by now. But stepping back in time to a ’70s setting allowed for some fun jokes, and the over-the-top villains that Gru encountered were a ton of fun.

There was still heart and emotion in The Rise of Gru thanks to Gru’s relationship with the villainous Wild Knuckles, and that did enough to ground what was otherwise a pretty wacky adventure. There were plenty of references and callbacks to other franchises for nerds like us to enjoy, and on the whole, I had a good time with the film. I’m not in a desperate rush to re-watch it, but it was good fun for what it was.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Encanto

After several years in which Disney has focused on live-action adaptations and sequels, Encanto came along like a breath of fresh air! It’s one of the best Disney films of the current era without a doubt, with a deeply engrossing and frequently emotional story that has an uplifting message. And thanks to a wonderful soundtrack by the phenomenally talented Lin-Manuel Miranda, there are some incredible songs too!

A setting inspired by Colombia was also something different for a major Disney production, and the company has done well at diversifying the peoples and places it depicts in its major releases. But that would have been meaningless had Encanto not been such a wonderful, well-told story – and I’m so very pleased that it was.

Best Live-Action Film:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

With the caveat that I didn’t see that many films this year, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is definitely up there as one of the better ones! I genuinely couldn’t believe that this film existed when I first heard of its premise – Nicolas Cage playing a fictionalised version of himself and going on a wacky adventure. But you know what? I’m very glad that it does!

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent could have ended up as a bargain-bin B-movie – or worse, it could’ve tried to take itself far too seriously. But instead it leans into a kind of self-deprecating humour as well as tropes of the action genre, coming across as light-hearted and just plain fun. Nicolas Cage is a good sport for taking part, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
All Quiet on the Western Front

Netflix’s reimagining of this classic German war film is absolutely brutal. If any film has ever come close to accurately depicting the true horrors of the First World War, this is it. The story follows a young conscript from Germany as he joins the army and is dispatched to the front line, and then jumps ahead to the closing days of the war.

Every version of All Quiet on the Western Front – and there have now been three adaptations of the original novel – have shown just how senseless and meaningless war can be, taking a very individualist, human look at warfare. This version hammers that home, and can be uncomfortable viewing. But it’s an incredibly powerful film – one that absolutely deserves to be in contention for some of the top awards.

The “I-didn’t-play-this-game-but-you-probably-should” Award:

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Elden Ring

I wish I could say I was interested in Elden Ring… but I’m just not. The “difficult for the sake of it” style of gameplay that has come to be known as the “Souls-like” genre just isn’t my cup of tea, but by all accounts Elden Ring is one of the best examples of this type of game, and one of the best games of the year – if not the generation.

Taking the Dark Souls format into an expansive open-world setting, Elden Ring has won almost universal acclaim from critics and players alike, becoming one of the most talked-about releases of the year. For a single-player title in a gaming landscape increasingly dominated by the online multiplayer scene, I think that’s a fantastic thing, and even though Elden Ring isn’t for me, I still think it’s worth noting it as one of the most important releases of the year.

Best Browser Game:

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Wordle

I wouldn’t usually dedicate much time to browser games on a list like this, but since I first played Wordle back in February or March, I don’t think I’ve missed a single day. The format is fun, with a single word each day to guess and only six chances to get it right. Wordle was snapped up by the New York Times and has since spawned dozens or perhaps even hundreds of clones – including variants that have multiple words to guess, and variants based on specific topics or franchises. There’s even a Star Trek-themed one!

Wordle blew up to become an internet phenomenon in 2022, and for a while it seemed like you couldn’t move for people showing off their Wordle results on social media. It’s become part of my daily routine – and my current streak is 77 wins in a row, going all the way back to the middle of October!

The “buggy piece of crap” Award:

πŸ† “Winner” πŸ†
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection (PC version)

The PC port of Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection is the worst I’ve come across in recent years. I’d thought that the days of amateurish PC ports were finally over, but PlayStation Studios, Naughty Dog, and Iron Galaxy Studios showed me that I was wrong about that. In short, Uncharted is incredibly poorly-optimised for PC, with a piss-poor frame rate and weird visual and texture bugs that were incredibly offputting. The screenshot above shows off one such glitch.

It’s such a shame because the Uncharted series has always been a blast. The Indiana Jones-inspired games still feel like something different in the action-adventure space, even with the likes of Tomb Raider being reimagined for a new generation. The stories present here are great – but if I have to spend as much time battling bugs as I do enemies, I’m going to have a bad time. Other PlayStation titles – like Spider-Man and God of War – don’t have these issues, so I don’t understand how Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection managed to launch on PC in such a bad state.

Best Expansion Pack/DLC:

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass

The Booster Course Pass has given Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a new lease on life – even if it’s not as transformative as a new entry in the series would’ve been. I was disappointed as the year went by and it became clear that there would be no Mario Kart 9, but the Booster Course Pass has definitely convinced me to dust off my Nintendo Switch and pick up Mario Kart 8 Deluxe again.

The “wave” approach to the DLC has been fun, too, keeping the game feeling fresher for longer when compared to dumping all 48 new racetracks at once. Don’t get me wrong, the longevity of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still an issue, and I now have the additional concern that there will be fewer racetracks left to adapt whenever Mario Kart 9 eventually comes along. But in the short-term, the Booster Course Pass is proving to be great fun.

Game of the Year:

πŸ₯ˆβ€ŠRunner-UpπŸ₯ˆβ€Š
Stray

Stray is absolutely adorable: a game in which you get to play as a kitty cat! I was sold on that premise alone, but what I found when I got stuck in was a genuinely enjoyable, well-paced, well-structured indie title. Stray has great graphics, with the movement of the main cat character in particular being incredibly realistic. There’s some wonderful art design in both the environments and the robotic non-player characters, too.

Stray is further proof that there’s plenty of life in the narrative, linear, single-player space, and that not every game needs to be forced into the open-world mould. But at the same time, it’s something very different. Not only is the idea of playing as an animal unique, but the game’s slow pace and focus on peaceful interaction with the environment instead of combat and quick-time events all make for a relaxing, yet deeply engrossing experience.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Disney Dreamlight Valley

If you’d told me a few months ago that my favourite game of 2022 would be an early access Disney title, I wouldn’t have believed it! But I’ve sunk well over 150 hours into Disney Dreamlight Valley since its launch at the end of August, and I’ve been having an incredible time. The game basically took all of my criticisms of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and fixed them, then threw in dozens of new features I didn’t even know I wanted – and some fun Disney-centric stories with a diverse cast of characters for good measure.

Disney Dreamlight Valley is so much fun and has so much to offer, even in this early access form, that it’s hard to know where to begin. There’s an interesting main quest, dozens of character-focused missions, the kind of home-building and design gameplay that players loved about titles like The Sims, and all of the fun of living another life in a fantasy land as you’d expect from an Animal Crossing game. There’s so much to love about Disney Dreamlight Valley, and I’m happy to crown it my favourite game of the year.

So that’s it!

At the first Academy Awards in 1929, Joseph Farnham receives his award from Douglas Fairbanks.
Image Credit: oscars.org

We’ve dished out awards to some of my favourite entertainment experiences of the year. The countdown is on to 2023 – there are just hours left until the sun will rise on a whole new year! Stay tuned in the days ahead because I plan to take a look at some of the things I’m most looking forward to between now and Christmas. Is that the earliest you’ve seen someone mention Christmas 2023?

I hope that this was a bit of fun. There were plenty of enjoyable films, television shows, and video games this year – despite the delays that still hang over the entertainment industry. Though I wouldn’t say that 2022 is likely to go down in history as one of the best-ever years for entertainment, I think we still got a wide variety of experiences, many of which were enjoyable.

So I suppose all that’s left to say is this: Happy New Year! Whatever you plan to do, I hope you have a wonderful time!

See you next year!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective owner, company, studio, broadcaster, developer, distributor, publisher, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.


Check out reviews or articles featuring some of the films, games, and TV shows mentioned on this list by clicking or tapping the links below:

The Halo TV Series

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Strange New Worlds Season 1

Star Trek: Discovery 4×13: Coming Home

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Booster Course Pass

Disney Dreamlight Valley

Strange New Worlds: Season 1 Spoiler-free thoughts

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.

The first poster that was revealed for Strange New Worlds.
(I have it framed on my living room wall!)

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.

A behind-the-scenes photo of the Enterprise’s bridge crew.

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.

Behind-the-scenes filming with the AR wall.

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.

Behind-the-scenes in sickbay with Dr M’Benga and Una Chin-Riley.

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.

Promo photo of Spock, Pike, and Una.

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

Captain Pike on horseback in the season premiere.

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

Cadet Nyota Uhura.

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

Spock and Captain Pike on an away mission.

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

La’an Noonien-Singh.

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

T’Pring and Spock in Spock’s quarters.

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

Captain Pike wielding a phaser.

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

Nurse Chapel seems to be in trouble!

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

Dr M’Benga isn’t in uniform!

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

It’s Hemmer time!

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

Spock, Pike, and [Spoiler] on the bridge of the Enterprise.

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!

Promo photo of Lieutenant Ortegas.

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!

Commander Una Chin-Riley – a.k.a. Number One.

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.