Classic Star Trek Episodes to Watch Before Strange New Worlds

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds takes place just before the Original Series era. These are the classic Star Trek episodes you should watch before it premieres.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Photo: Paramount

The first time most Star Trek fans encountered Captain Christopher Pike was in the Original Series adventure “The Menagerie” (which extensively used footage from the original pilot episode for the series titled “The Cage”). This two-part episode introduced some backstory for the USS Enterprise, including the reveal of an almost completely different crew than the ones who audiences had been watching on TV to that point.

For a character who only made a single appearance onscreen (until recent years), Pike generated enough curiosity to appear in novels, comics, a return in Star Trek: Discovery, and now in a series all his own with the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which premieres May 5 on Paramount+. 

We’ve rounded up some Original Series episodes that may help shed some light on the characters in Strange New Worlds, and speculate on how the new show might answer some of the questions raised in them. 


In order to truly understand Captain Pike and his crew, even if you’ve watched the relevant episodes of Discovery, the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage” is an essential piece of viewing.

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Strange New Worlds is already packed with familiar faces from the Original Series era. From Ethan Peck’s Spock and Rebecca Romijn’s Number One to Nurse Chapel, Dr. M’Benga, Uhura, and the recent announcement of Paul Wesley appearing as a young Lieutenant Kirk. But there are other members of Pike’s Enterprise crew who were introduced in “The Cage” that so far, we’ve seen no sign of in the show’s teasers. 

We could see Mr. Scott’s loyal and trusty Transporter Chief Kyle make an early engineering appearance. We’ve also yet to see any sign of crew members like the rookie Yeoman Colt, or Pike’s confidant and personal mixologist Dr. Boyce (possibly explaining his absence and Dr. M’Benga’s replacement). Daring bridge officers, Lieutenants Tyler and Hansen could make appearances too. Perhaps most importantly from this era, we should get more backstory about the unnamed female First Officer of the USS Enterprise originally played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry in that episode. 

And then there’s the matter of a troubling statement that Captain Pike makes in this episode that Strange New Worlds may need to explain away.

In “The Cage” Pike joked to Doctor Boyce about the idea of leaving Starfleet to begin a career with the Orions as a trader, trafficking in all sorts of illegal goods and unsavory doings. There is an obvious distaste for this notion (a Starfleet captain giving up his commission and becoming a criminal doesn’t jive well with Federation principles), but because it’s mentioned in a canonical episode of Star Trek, there is the question: will there be an opportunity for Pike to have some dealings with the Orion Syndicate in the series? Will there be a story about an undercover operation in which Pike had to pose as a trader, cutting a deal with Orion Slavers? 

Strange New Worlds is set in the early days of the Federation when Starfleet isn’t yet the powerful force it is in the days of Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond. There were only twelve Constitution-class starships in the entire fleet during the Enterprise’s first years of service. It stands to reason that Starfleet captains would form acquaintances with influential yet shady members of other races in the sectors of space they explored. 

The introduction of a regular character in the form of a friend or informant who keeps tabs on the goings-on in those regions of space could help here. After all, Jeffrey Combs’ Shran from Star Trek: Enterprise became a fan-favorite character who showed up to frequently assist Captain Archer’s crew. There could be room for an Orion privateer who does the same for Pike.

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Whatever the connection, exploration of the Orion race and culture makes for a good story. We’ve seen hints of it in Discovery and Lower Decks, but this could be an opportunity for a deeper dive into a society that has managed to exist on the fringes of Federation – and television – space for a long time. 


It’s easy to dismiss “The Menagerie” as a clip show that simply repurposes nearly all of the footage from “The Cage” but it also reveals key details about Pike’s future.

Thanks to “The Menagerie,” we know Pike was injured rescuing cadets on a J-Class training vessel, exposing him to delta radiation. He was paralyzed, badly scarred, and left unable to talk. Pike is confined to a motorized wheelchair that he controls with his brain, and allows him to communicate via “yes” or “no” answers.

Pike’s tragic fate is alluded to during his time on Star Trek: Discovery and it hangs over a recent trailer for Strange New Worlds, as well. However, it’s interesting that in the trailer, Pike states that he “knows exactly how and when his life ends.” 

But it doesn’t! 

Pike has only seen the accident, not its aftermath. However, from this line, it’s fair to speculate that he regards himself as living on borrowed time and will eventually have to face what he thinks of as his final moment. Clearly, in terms of storytelling, this mindset will help determine the nature of his captaincy. He’ll take more risks and put himself directly in jeopardy, confident in the knowledge that he thinks he knows when he will die. It’s something that will likely affect every single decision he makes in regard to his command. 

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But the biggest question is whether or not  – at some point in a later season of the series – Strange New Worlds will actually depict the accident. Moreover, will fans also be privileged to witness the realization that his life is not over, perhaps leading into “The Menagerie”? 

“The Menagerie” also deals with several ways Pike ties in with wider Star Trek continuity, and his relationships with some of the most famous characters in the franchise. After all, in “The Menagerie”, we see Spock, violating Starfleet protocol, disobeying a superior officer and risking a Court Martial on the charge of Mutiny to give Pike a better, albeit illusory life on Talos IV. Strange New Worlds should show us why Spock has such a deep loyalty to Pike that he would risk not just his Starfleet career, but the only standing death penalty on the Federation’s books to help him.

While Paul Wesley’s James T. Kirk isn’t showing up until season two, there’s still the matter of what his relationship to Captain Pike is, as he certainly knew him before the events of “The Menagerie.” This is Pike’s Enterprise, not Kirk’s, but Kirk needed to learn command from an experienced captain at some point in his career. Who’s to say that Kirk won’t “beam in” for a few lessons on commanding a starship?

And of course, there’s the infamous Commodore Jose’ Mendez who we met during Spock’s court martial in “The Menagerie,” a character who would certainly be ripe for exploration in this series if they so chose.


Spock’s betrothed, T’Pring has already been shown in a recent teaser so do your homework and revisit classic TOS episode “Amok Time.” That fan favorite episode marks the end of their betrothal, so it will be an exciting and interesting story to see how it begins on Strange New Worlds. Of course, there was always that hint of a relationship between Spock and Christine Chapel in TOS episodes, and it looks like this show will explore the foundations of that based on a recent teaser. This is almost certainly going to cause tension between T’Pring and Chapel in a love triangle that adds depth to Spock and Chapel and makes us re-visit “Amok Time” with a renewed sense of appreciation. 


Every classic villain needs a start. None were better than the Klingon commanders Kang, Kor, and Koloth. These classic Klingon enemies were great antagonists in the TOS episodes “The Day of the Dove”, “Errand of Mercy,” and “The Trouble with Tribbles” (more on that one in a minute).

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While Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry initially stated that Klingons lived only 40 or 50 years, in 2370, Odo observed that Kor had to be about a hundred years old and that Koloth had to be older. This would have been about fifty years after their encounters with Captain Kirk. They would need experience to cut their teeth and none better chance than against Captain Pike.

Even if these familiar Klingons don’t show, it’s probably a safe bet that Klingons will be a big part of Strange New Worlds given how important they were to the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. The evolution of Klingon culture and their relationship with Starfleet can continue to be explored in Strange New Worlds.


Remember when we were first introduced to Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda in the TOS episode “Journey to Babel?” Since Strange New Worlds deals with Spock’s early Starfleet career years and Sarek initially opposed his son’s enlistment in Starfleet, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see that familial conflict explored at some point. Spock’s family issues were a fan-favorite topic in other iterations of Trek like The Animated Series, novels like Barbara Hambly’s Ishmael (from which Strange New Worlds is bringing in Spock’s full name for the first time), or Diane Duane’s Spock’s World. Spock’s family life is definitely a draw and makes for fascinating storytelling.


Captain Garth (of Izar) could potentially fit in this timeline, as well. Imagine an entire prequel episode devoted to the classic TOS episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” In that episode, Kirk describes Garth of Izar as one of his personal heroes. He was a master tactician and strategist and a heroic figure in Starfleet lore. For Pike to encounter him would not only promise an episode of intense starship combat but also connect Pike to a legendary figure from Trek lore.


It’s reasonable to expect to see familiar non-Starfleet names, especially ones dealing with the seedy underbelly of the 23rd Century. With that in mind, it might be good to brush up on classics like “I, Mudd,” “Mudd’s Women,” and “The Trouble With Tribbles.

Master scoundrel, Harry Mudd, who has already bedeviled the Star Trek: Discovery crew, would seem a natural for inclusion here. But it would be fun to see the beginnings of the petty criminal Cyrano Jones’ career as well. After all, space is a very big place and there’s plenty of room for all sorts of his illegal enterprises. Add to the fact that Star Trek fans have an intense love for Tribbles, and the franchise has loved revisiting them. Maybe we can learn a little more about the furry pests in Strange New Worlds!

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What other elements from classic Star Trek episodes would you like to see on Strange New Worlds? Let us know in the comments!