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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.