" could become a classic sci-fi program. It is just not there yet."

Promising, But it Never Totally Takes Off

(033023) Star Trek: Brave New Worlds is the fresh and captivating new streaming series that spun off from the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. The series chronicles the years of the USS Enterprise before Jim Kirk took over as ships captain and it was led by Christopher Pike and aided by a female "Number 1", Una Chin-Riley. The original series first pilot was supposed to feature Una as Pike's female number one (played by producer Gene Roddenberry’s future wife, Majel Barrett), but the moronic network executives did not like both the Vulcan Spock and the female Number 1, and they told Roddenberry he had to get rid of one of them. Barrett dyed her hair blonde and was recast as the much less assertive Nurse Chapel, flying completely under the networks nose. The show has a tragic undercurrent because the ship’s leader, Captain Pike knows (via previous time travel shenanigans) that he has a horrible fate ahead of him where he is going to be immobilized and horribly disfigured in the future-but if he changes the path of destiny the future could be worse for everyone.

The show suffers a bit from inconsistency; its episodes range from blah to excellent hence the three-star rating average-both the Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek: Enterprise shows had far better opening episodes. Strange New Worlds has a slow start and requires some patience to get through it, but it tends to get better as the season goes along. For me the highlights include the episodes that dealt with the Spock’s relationship to his fiancé (especially “Spock Amok”), and “Those Who Wander” which chronicles the shocking transformation of the Gorn race to metamorphic terrors that harvest humans to reproduce. An obvious Alien rip off and ruins some of the slow motion charm of the original sixties Gorn. But the season rises with the  final episode: ”A Quality of Mercy,” which was the best of all may go down as a classic. It features a wonderful first encounter between Spock and Kirk and does an excellent job of contrasting the  leadership styles of the current and future Captains. The series also improves better when I re-watched it which bodes well for the future because many of the episodes hold up to multiple viewings, After I finished the series I re-watched many of the episodes in reverse order and to was surprised how much better they all seemed.

Strange New Worlds differs from many of the other recent Star Trek streaming shows because it focuses more on single episode-based stories rather than season long plots. The show goes back to the original series premise feature of the crew encountering a "strange new world" new species of alien every week. Included on the show are such classic Star Trek favorites like the Romulans, the Andorians, the Vulcans and the mentioned Gorn. The Romulan episode echoes is shockingly effective, and it echoes the classic episode, "Balance of Terror" when the Romulan commander tells Pike, “In a different reality we could have been friends” echoing from the original series.

Anson Mount is very good as Pike, expanding on Jeffery Hunter's take on the character in the Original Series first pilot. Open and approachable, Pike here is also quite different than Kirk’s Captain in the lead role of ships captain.  Pike is more likely to play by the Starfleet rules and protocol but when he finally meets Kirk in the last episode even he can see the merit in some of Kirk’s risk taking which pays big dividends.

Unfortunately Ethan Peck is not the best Spock, but he acquits himself well coming off not as stoic as the Nimoy version. The character comes to life in the episodes when he gets to play off Gia Sandhu who is a much more sympathetic, less Machiavellian and more likeable version of Spock s fiancée T’pring. Perhaps to avoid charges of misogyny, here she is portrayed as trying hard to understand Spock’s human side. In many ways she seems to be a whole different character than the woman introduced in the Classic Star Trek episode: "Amok Time". She is still strikingly beautiful, but she is better fleshed out here, and she is arguably one of the most fascinating characters in the series especially in the episode, “Spock Amok”, in which she and Spock accidentally switch bodies and she learns firsthand how it is to live with a dualistic personality. It is also suggested (picking up on threads from the original series) that something could possibly develop between Spock and the Nurse Chapel character.

Mount's Pike first appeared in the Discovery series and also carrying over from that appearance is Pike’s second in command Una Chin-Riley (the former Mystique, Rebecca Romijin) the ultra-competent Number One. We are also reintroduced to a very young and rather girlish Uhuru (Cedra Rose Gooding) who seems much less smart, sophisticated, and experienced than the original. We are also re-introduced to a more kick ass, less traditionally feminine version of Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) who was scarred in earlier years by seeing many of her friends massacred by the Gorn. Working with Chapel is a revamped Original Series,  blink and you'll miss him character Dr. M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) the ships doctor who is trying to cure his daughter.

The new characters who are all promising include security officer, Laan Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), who in a cool twist is related to the greatest Star Trek villain- Khan. Hemmer (Bruce Horak), a blind albino Andorian who serves as a mentor to Nurse Chapel and thankfully avoids being slotted into the role of "ships wise man". Erica Ortega (Melissa Navia), a butch action oriented character with a wicked sense of humor. In some ways she reminded me of Tasha Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The special effects are respectable but never outstanding, but far better than the ones in the original series. Star Trek has always been about ideas over effects and  few will name this as their all-time favorite Star Trek series. Also, it’s never quite as fun or amusing as Seth MacFarlane’s Star Trek inspired show: The Orville which captures the pure pleasure of interplanetary exploration much better. But despite these reservations, Strange New Worlds is very promising, and after a slow start the last few episodes are exemplary. If the show continues to build on these characters and ideas plus continues to improve, it could become a classic sci-fi program. It is just not there yet.

Series Directed by:    Season One directed by: Chris Fisher, Amanda Row, Andi Armaganian, Christopher J. Byrne, Sydney Freeland, Akiva Goldsman, Leslie Hope, Rachel Leiterman, Dan Liu, Maja Vrvilo, Jordan Canning, Valerie Weiss
Series Written by:    Series Created by: Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, and Jenny Lumet

Season One written by  Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet, Henry Alonso Myers, Davy Perez, Bill Wolkoff, Onitra Johnson, Akela Cooper, Beau DeMayo, Sarah Tarkoff, Robin Wasserman, Dana Horgan, Kathryn Lyn, David Reed, Kirsten Beyer

Based on Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry
Starring:    Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Jess Bush
Released:    Episode One Released 050522 on Paramount Plus, Blue Ray release 032123
Length:    Ten one-hour long episodes
Rating:    TV-PG

STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLD  © 2023 Paramount Plus
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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