Can Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Avoid Rebooting Captain Kirk?

Star Trek: Strange New World will become the third prequel to The Original Series. If Jim Kirk were going to make a comeback to the small screen, it would be for this show.

Kirk and Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series
Photo: CBS

This Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.

Spock, Number One and Captain Pike are back! 

With the announcement of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, it looks like one new Trek series will keep the final frontier a little bit retro. While Discovery season 3 jumps into the 32nd century, and Star Trek: Picard season 2 warps into the 25th, it looks like Strange New Worlds will keep kicking it in the good ‘ol 23rd century, circa about 2258-ish. But because the title of this series is taken straight form a monologue made famous by Captain James T. Kirk, and because the timeline of Strange New Worlds is getting dangerously close to Kirk’s heyday, you’ve got to wonder — are we gonna see a new, slightly younger Kirk on this show?

In Star Trek: Discovery season 2, part of what made Anson Mount’s take on Captain Pike so satisfying for longtime Star Trek fans, is that Pike felt like a new character again, but he also simultaneously felt very familiar. Mount’s Pike is “space daddy” to many of us, and that’s partially because he’s a fusion between Captain Kirk and Captain Picard. He combines the old-school swagger of Kirk along with the slightly more community-minded leadership of Picard. Mount publicly copped to feeling these influences, mentioning that he admired what Chris Pine did with the rebooted version of Kirk in 2009, but also, pointing out on several occasions, that Pike is a starship captain who values the input of his staff —like Picard — as opposed to shooting from the hip like Kirk.

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Pike’s relationship with Spock isn’t like Spock’s relationship with Kirk, and, in the season 2 finale of Discovery, Michael Burnham suggests Spock will need someone to fill a certain void in his life. Back in 2019, when the Discovery season 2 finale aired, showrunner Michelle Paradise made it clear that this conversation was meant to foreshadow the famous Enterprise captain who will succeed Pike. “Absolutely. That is definitely Kirk,” Paradise said in 2019.

Considering Spock’s ever-evolving identity will undoubtedly be a huge part of Strange New Worlds, it really makes you wonder at what point the new series will play the Kirk card, if at all. In almost every way, the Spock of Discovery, and arguably, of Strange New Worlds, still won’t be the Spock we know from The Original Series and the films. In fact, one school of thought suggests that Spock doesn’t become the Spock we know without Kirk. If Spock is John Lennon, then Kirk is Paul McCartney; they need each other to create and define the other one. 

That said, Pike has become so much more than not Kirk. If anything, Discovery season 2 managed to fill in an emotional discrepancy left over from the original series — why would Spock risk everything to take Captain Pike to Talos IV? In TOS, we just had to kind of accept this in “The Menagerie,” but now that we’ve seen Spock and Pike together in the days before Kirk, this extreme act of loyalty makes a little more sense. Strange New Worlds can only make this relationship stronger, and, if we’re lucky, explore more of the Spock and Number One dynamic which was teased in the Michael Chabon Short Treks episode, “Q&A.”

But, at the end of the day, any fan of Star Trek will have the same question about this new series; if Strange New Worlds is set just a few years before Kirk’s five-year-mission, where is Kirk at this point? Serving on the USS Farragut still? Did Spock meet Jim Kirk before he became the Captain of the Enterprise after Pike? We know from Kirks’ dialogue in “The Menagerie Part 1” that he met Pike just once, right before taking command of the Enterprise, which, on some level, makes you think nope, Strange New Worlds won’t give us a new version of Jim Kirk.

Unless of course there’s some wiggle room here. Since retroactively making Captain Pike part of canon by inserting footage from “The Cage” into “The Menagerie” as a “flashback,” Star Trek has always been figuring out ways to change its own backstory. It feels unlikely that Kirk will meet Pike on Strange New Worlds — at least not until the series finale. But what about Spock? 

Right now, we don’t really know what direction Strange New Worlds will go in, but there’s a good bet, based only on the title, that it will follow the format of the original series fairly closely — i.e. visiting different planets every week. And, to keep things fresh, if Akiva Goldsman and the other creatives are smart, they’ll keep Kirk far away from Strange New Worlds for as long as possible. In theory, the show has a decent amount of time before Kirk would ever set foot aboard the Enterprise in 2265. Strange New Worlds has at least five years, if not a little bit more, before anyone needs to mention the name James T. Kirk.

That is, unless of course, they break the rules. And if there’s one thing Kirk himself loves doing, it’s breaking the rules. 

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Would you like to see Jim Kirk make an appearance on Strange New Worlds? Let us know in the comments below!