A joyous, vibrant throwback, set in the far flung future
If you were to show a Trek fan 20 years ago the current state of Trek affairs, they would be shocked. Back then, Enterprise had been cancelled after 4 seasons and the dismal reception of Nemesis, pretty much ended Trek on the big and small screen. Today, Picard is closing out its third and final season. The animated shows Lower Decks and Prodigy just got renewed for their 4th and 2nd seasons respectively, and we have Discovery gracing us with their fifth and final season early next year. That last one kick-started a new wave of Trek, perhaps most notably and pertinently Strange New Worlds. Set in the pre-Kirk era (initially at least, in its second season, the show brought onboard one Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) . An affable addition who charmed his way into his own series, as the Captain of the USS Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C, or D), one set before James T. Kirk sat in the big chair. A throwback, in more ways than being a prequel to The Original Series, being a show that embraces the wild frontier setting that fueled Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for the series.
Strange New Worlds centers on a talented crew, going boldly on a mission of exploration to expand the knowledge of this fledgling Federation of planets. In addition to Mount’s Pike, we have his Number One, Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn), and his second-in-command, Mr. Spock (Ethan Peck). New, fresh takes on known TOS characters (or those from the original pilot episode The Cage, and then retooled for the two-parter story The Menagerie) in Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush), and Doctor M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun). We also get a group of entirely new characters created for the show, security chief La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), helm officer Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia), and the chief engineer, a blind Andorian named Hemmer (Bruce Horak).
A diverse array of characters (as with most Trek shows), with different ages, orientations, species type, before you even get into their passions and pursuits. Some have backstories that tie into arcs that unfold across the season (Pike’s knowledge of his tragic future and Noonien-Singh’s traumatic past for example), but the show is more nostalgic than just its setting in time. Rather than following the more typical serialized for that is commonplace in TV shows these days, SNW embraces the old episodic structure rather than the more serialized nature of TV today. Stories that align to cannon, lay out interesting arcs, and riff on the traditional Trek-templates, but are more fitting for our modern era. Writers use sci-fi as a way to explore a multitude of genres, including adventure, action, mystery, horror, and even fantasy, to plunge this ship and her crew into missions of exploration, diplomacy, and conflict. While there are certainly darker moments and emotional weight to the character arcs, this episodic storytelling feels a welcome respite from keeping up with a large ongoing story. A removal of pressure to keep up, and an affirmation to just tune in and enjoy the adventure that week.
Visually, the show is resplendent. The set design, special effects, wardrobe, and props, are all brilliantly conceived and retro-inspired. The attention to detail and homages are tremendous, all while filling the screen with this bright and colorful visuals that match the tone of the show. It’s certainly an embrace of nostalgia, but the familiar has never looked fresher or been more fun.
Visually, Strange New Worlds is stunning show, showcasing some retro-futuristic design, bold colors, and detailed props and set work. For anyone who gripes about TV shows being too dark these days, SNW is the show for you. Streaming on Paramount+ showcases this well, but as with previous Trek home video releases, watching on physical media adds another level to the picture. Even here, on DVD, the show looks great. A clean image, colors pop, textures are well represented, and details showcase the work gone into the set design, costumes, and props. The release does not include any digital copy, but there are several extra features.
- Audio Commentary: For Strange New Worlds: Anson Mount and Akiva Goldsman: Goldman’s prattling aside, Mount is a delight to hear from and puts a personal spin on his experience shooting this episode
- Deleted Scenes: Scenes from Children of the Comet (~22 sec) and Ghosts of Illyria (a sequence just over 2 min in length), Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach (a robust 5 min), The Elysian Kingdom (just 20 sec), and All Those Who Wander (over 10 min). No commentary is attached to any of these clips
- Star Trek: The Original Series Episode Balance of Terror: Added as a companion piece (sequel) to the SNW episode A Quality of Mercy
- Pike’s Peek: A playful behind the scenes piece that largely focuses on Mount’s prep for the role, including his time in isolation before filming began
- World Building: The show makes great use of some modern tech to create some of the effects, surrounds, and situations on the show, notably the ‘Volume” tech used in The Mandalorian. This featurette breaks down how these are fitted so well into the show
- Exploring New Worlds: A really solid piece that runs close to an hour, and dives into how SNW came to be, approaches to the characters and storytelling, and the directions the show might take
- Gag Reel (1080p, 2:47): Humorous moments from the shoot
The Bottom Line
Star Trek Strange New Worlds is both fresh and familiar. A retro return to episodic storytelling, with impeccable aesthetics, compelling characters, propulsive storytelling, and a palpable sense of fun. A truly enjoyable addition to, and expansion of the Trek franchise revival.
Star Trek Strange New Worlds Season One is available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K-UHD from March 21st