Warning: Spoilers For “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” Season 1, Episode 2
After just two episodes, the response to “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” has been overwhelmingly positive and it is now — already — the highest-rated “Trek” series on Rotten Tomatoes. We still think there’s a long way to go before it beats “Enterprise”, but some valuable competition is a healthy thing.
Interestingly, one of the many themes explored in this episode, entitled “Children of the Comet,” is that the evolution of organic life, in this case on the planet Persephone III, was at least supported by the release of elements of a comet impact. † And just weeks ago, scientists discovered that key building blocks of human DNA, which previous research couldn’t find in meteorites, have now been discovered in space rocks, suggesting that cosmic impacts once helped bring these vital ingredients of life to ancient Earth.
The flashback recap at the beginning of this episode confirms that there will be character-based storylines, but we already knew that. And almost immediately, we’re focused on young Cadet Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) as she prepares for her first dinner in the captain’s cabin…and oh my god what are those.
Uhura is bullied by Lt Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) and is told to wear her Starfleet uniform when in fact everyone else is dressed casually. It’s kind of like when astronaut Tracy Stevens arrives at Jamestown Base in S02, E05 of “For All Mankind” and she has to wear the “Linus” patch until the new recruit becomes the newest member of the Moon’s outpost team. And Pike’s response to this is priceless.
Over dinner at Pike’s luxurious quarters, we get a full introduction to another recurring character, Hemmer (Bruce Horak), a blind Aenar who compensates by having other, much more attuned senses, including a very basic form of telepathy – more like a sixth sense. It seems a bit odd to go along another visually impaired chief engineer, but hopefully we’ll steer clear of any clichés.
The whole scene is basically a setup for Pike to question the young communications cadet about her future plans and she reveals a story about her past and says she’s not sure if Starfleet is really for her. [Spoiler: it is.]
Related: ‘Strange New Worlds’ Episode 1 Is A Love Letter To ‘The Original Series’
Uhura’s story is another opportunity for the writers to inject more background into the lives of characters we already know and love. It’s well-written and delivered flawlessly, as this show continues to follow a more old-school-style, single-serving format, which itself still remains extremely enjoyable. (Paramount also released some beautiful images from the filming of this scene on Twitter†
Then we get that incredible opening scene again. It is a joy to watch and listen to as the audio and visual elements combine to form a nearly two minute tribute to “The Original Series” and by far the best opening for each series ‘Star Trek’.
Turns out the comet, making its way through the Persephone system, will in fact collide and crash into Persephone III, an inhabited world — and while there isn’t exactly billions of the people down there, the world’s population is still at risk. So a plan is hatched to fire a few photon torpedoes and destroy the comet before impact. However, it unexpectedly activates a defense shield and since this is not typical comet behavior, a team is sent to investigate.
At this point we at Space.com want to say: hugethank you to everyone behind “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” for not using the “Transformer” effect with the helmets of the USS Enterprise environment. We saw this quick-fix effect applied in the first episode of season 2 of “Discovery” titled “Brother” and since that happened less than two years ago in “Trek” Time, it was very possible that it would be reappearing now. used. It’s a lazy, unrealistic response to “what shall we do with our helmets in this scene” that always feels out of place. Here the problem is addressed perfect, even when Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte) is injured and has to have his helmet taken off; it’s subtle, understated, and you probably didn’t even notice, but little things like this are oh-so-important to create a truly immersive experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you†
Related: 13 Things ‘Star Trek’ Do Right (and Wrong) About Space Technology
Which brings us to George Samuel “Sam” Kirk. We briefly mentioned him last week, but yes, James Kirk’s older brother is currently a member of the bridge crew of the USS Enterprise, but since his backstory was more or less a blank canvas at this point, it’s perfectly possible.
He was supposed to be in JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie (played by Spencer Daniels) when a young, reckless and carefree James Kirk drives his stepfather’s car off a cliff for no apparent reason other than to inform the audience that James Kirk is young and reckless and carefree. Although, interestingly, once all other scenes of Daniels were deleted, Sam’s character was essentially eliminated, and the audio was overdubbed when he saw “George” on his joyride as he rushed by, referring to him as “Johnny” instead. “, a supposed childhood friend.
However, we saw his unfortunate demise in “The Original Series”, when he is killed eight years from now by a flying parasitic alien on the planet Deneva, in the episode “Operation — Annihilate!” (S01, E29) along with his wife, Aurelan Kirk. However, his son Peter survives, along with two other children whose names vary in the “Star Trek” canon depending on which novel you read. But what that means is that we may have some time to explore this little-known sibling of the legendary James T. Kirk.
That said… the legendary James T. Kirk is himself set to appear in “Strange New Worlds” – in Season 2 – as announced by Paramount. Paul Wesley, star of “The Vampire Diaries” will play the part, but there are currently no details on whether Wesley will be a regular, guest or recurring role in season two.
You wonder if we’ll get any of the fun cliches from “The Original Series” including, but not limited to:
† Pike takes off his shirt or at least rips it across the torso
† Symbol, mad-with-fear crew members, especially at the helm, in crisis
† Sacrificial red shirt or two (which we saw in both “TOS” and the 2009 movie)
† We saw last week that Pike has had a long-time partner, so presumably he won’t sleep with every Terrakian slave girl and Moon Princess on the show
The USS Enterprise is confronted by a gigantic alien ship manned by a race calling themselves “shepherds” and calling the comet M’hanit, because it is sacred to them. Despite Pike’s protestations, they insist that M’hanit will decide to bring either life or destruction to the planet below, but his decision is final and cannot be influenced. Meanwhile, the out team on the comet’s surface finds a way to interact with it, and with the exception of Spock vocals, the whole thing is handled in classic “Star Trek” fashion; a way has been devised to keep everyone happy without anyone getting hurt. Or at least seriously injured.
Pike’s PTSD continues to plague him and it’s a good thing it didn’t just stop with the first episode, last week. In fact, this entire episode comes back to harboring the idea that he might be able to change his future, a potential plot that could be interesting to watch unfold. However, Nyota Uhura is the real star of this week’s episode and she is the one who manages to unravel the secrets of M’hanit. Hopefully all the main characters will get whole episodes to explore their past further over the coming seasons.
Anson Mount, meanwhile, has definitely nailed the role of Pike and while most of us already knew this was the case after the “Star Trek: Discovery” episode “Eden” (S02, E02), he got this chance and we’re seen this show, it marks the best decision yet from then-CBS-now-Paramount, aside from the painfully slow realization of the potential they had with this IP. Provided the right decisions are made about how to handle the little finicky bits – you know, like environment helmets – and the plot stays fresh, this is going to be a runaway hit.
The first episode of “Strange New Worlds” is now available to watch on Paramount Plus, as is the entire second season of “Star Trek: Picard”. Season 4 of “Star Trek: Discovery” is also available on the Paramount streaming service in the US and CTV Sci-Fi or Crave TV in Canada. Countries outside of North America can watch on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel.
Paramount has confirmed that its streaming platform will launch on June 22 in the UK and Ireland, available both as a standalone service and as part of the Sky Cinema subscription for the UK cable provider.