We are truly boldly going with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1×01! The pilot situates the audience right in the action, setting the tone for the new series. Captain Pike and the crew of the Enterprise might just bridge the gap between old-school Trek fans and new-era Trek fans alike. Here are a few of my thoughts on the pilot episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, “Strange New Worlds.”
After that fun fake-out of a cold open, we’re met with an even colder open for Captain Pike. He’s in a snowy cabin, shacking up with Captain Batel, and sporting what we started referring to on the most recent episode of the We Are Starfleet podcast called Pike’s Beard of Sexy Sadness. He’s watching The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), which is a science fiction classic that everyone needs to watch. Listen closely to the segment he’s watching in the film. It’s a nod to the ideology of mutual cooperation that Star Trek has always espoused. Nice little Easter egg there.
Anyway, moving on! Except Pike hasn’t. And really, can you blame him? I’d probably want to hide in a cabin and watch classic sci-fi, too, if I knew the nature of my own demise. But that’s not what he gets to do. With Una missing, there’s only one man for the job. Sometimes, it takes a good kick in the pants like that to get a person out the door, but that’s what needed to be done.
There are a few takeaways from this. The first is that Christopher Pike is a man that can’t be kept down for long. Second, he’s a real friend. Watching him suit up and take the conn when he wants to do anything but take on that responsibility is really heartening. Third, getting back in the captain’s chair is just what the doctor ordered. It’s going to be a lot of fun getting to know Captain Pike better this season because when he’s in his element, I guess you could say he’s (Command) golden.
When First Contact Goes South
“Strange New Worlds” is the kind of pilot you want for any science fiction series. It’s got action, excitement, fun character moments, aliens, the works! But because it’s a Star Trek pilot, a misunderstood encounter with an alien species is par for the course. The Kiley people, in classic Star Trek fashion, have a new forehead and leonine eyes. While this simple makeup job is a residual of the smaller budgets of previous Trek series, the makeup is so good, that I never stop to think, “Wow! That makeup is amazing!” They simply look like they are that way naturally. I also thought the classic 40s/50s style of dress was an interesting choice, considering the problems they’re facing are an awful lot like World War II levels of threat.
It was a treat to watch our crew infiltrate to spring Una and get down to business. The fight sequences were fun, but the real fun for me was back on the Enterprise.
Old Favorites, New Faces
The thing that really makes Strange New Worlds work for me is the chemistry amongst the cast. We’ve got the youthful whimsy and optimistic curiosity of Celia Rose Gooding as Cadet Uhura and the playful sass that Jess Bush brings to Nurse Chapel. I really feel like Jess is channeling some of the playfulness we see in Lwaxana Troi, also played by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, into her interpretation of Nurse Chapel. I. Am. Here. For. It! Watching their perfect “alley-oop” of catching the Kiley guy running around the Enterprise had me in stitches.
I mentioned it in my interview with her, but I think easily my favorite character in Strange New Worlds is going to be Lt. Erica Ortegas, played by Melissa Navia. Lines like, “Every time I have the conn…” and “Chief, make it do that!” really cracked me up and told a lot about her character. I love her dry wit and the optimistic attitude she exhibits. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better this season.
Responsibility and General Order One
Finally, the most emotionally impactful part of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1×01 is Pike’s speech to the Kiley when he beams into the middle of their debate and, for want of better terminology, gives his PowerPoint presentation about how humans nearly wiped themselves out through needless fighting. I find myself gutted each time I see the footage chosen for this presentation, particularly that they chose to use images from the January 6 U. S. Capitol Insurrection. The phrase, “Competing ideas of liberty” still rings in my head. The presentation serves not only as a strong warning and rebuke of the division amongst the Kiley, but it is a rebuke of our own world right now. Would that we heed it. I’ve heard it said by numerous folks already, and I’ll add my voice to the chorus. That speech that Pike gives in this opener will go down as one of the best Star Trek speeches in the history of the franchise.
By the end of the episode, we’ve got a new name for General Order One, a term we are much more familiar with now—the Prime Directive. We don’t interfere, but in this case, we take responsibility for how we unintentionally interfered. The theme of responsibility, not just for the Kiley to own how their actions might lead to destruction, but also to own the consequences of inadvertent actions, as Pike did in this episode is an example of how we ought to be in our society. Would we all take that message to heart? I hope so.
This is a fantastic start to a brand new series. I truly believe Strange New Worlds is going to be the bridge to unite the old school and new school Trek fans. And while I am firmly situated in the camp of “Team Why Not Both?”, I think the one thing that Strange New Worlds really brings to the table is that it’s fun. It’s striking a good balance between episodic storytelling and emotional continuity. I think that’s going to be the key to unlocking this new golden age of Star Trek storytelling.
What did you think of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 1×01 “Strange New Worlds”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The next episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will air on May 12, 2022, on Paramount+.