Press was treated to a proper first look at Star Trek: Strange New Worlds in the form of a clip, presumably from the first episode. While the sneak peek featured most of the series’ main ensemble, including Anson Mount’s Captain Pike, Rebecca Romijn’s Number One, Ethan Peck’s Spock, Jess Bush’s Nurse Chapel, Melissa Navia’s Erica Ortegas, and Bruce Horak’s Hemmer, it was Celia Rose Gooding’s Cadet Nyota Uhura who was front and center, giving us new insight into this beloved Original Series character.
The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
The clip begins with Uhura, donning her dress uniform, exiting the turbolift to meet with a much more casually dressed Lieutenant Ortegas. Apparently, Ortegas thought it would be funny to tell Uhura that she should wear her dress uniform to the dinner gathering Captain Pike his hosting. Yes, this is apparently what hazing looks like on the Starship Enterprise, and it is delivered and accepted as good-naturedly as it sounds.
Once Uhura and Ortegas arrive at Pike’s party, it becomes clear that Uhura is the guest of honor. We learn she is new to the ship, and has been selected from thousands of applicants for the role. Pike, and the other gathered crew members are curious to learn more about Nyota. She speaks 37 languages, and is still not sure if she wants to be in Starfleet. Pike asks her how someone so unsure could put in so much work to get where she is today, and Uhura gives us a brief introduction to her backstory, which was woefully underdeveloped in the Original Series and subsequent films.
Uhura says she always planned to study alien languages at the University of Nairobi where her parents were both professors. An accident that claimed the lives of her parents and older brother, changed everything for her. She couldn’t stand to be on campus without them, so she moved in with her grandmother, a former Starfleet officer who spoke highly of her time in the organization. One thing led to another, and now Uhura is a cadet on the coolest starship in the ‘fleet.
“So you ran away to Starfleet…” Pike puts it—a characterization that Uhura doesn’t seem to take offense to. “I sincerely hope you find a place where you feel you do fit,” Pike continues, “wherever that may be.” It seems like this quest for belonging is going to be a major theme in this series—or at least in this episode. A particular poignant moment in the clip comes when Uhura speaks of not being sure where she belongs, only for the camera to linger on Spock, who obviously connects with the sentiment.
When asked about what kinds of new aspects she would like to bring out in the iconic character, Gooding spoke of a desire to simultaneously play homage to the level of “brilliance and grace” Nichelle Nichols brought to the role, but also to explore a “side of uncertainty, especially for this first season” in order to make the character more multi-faceted. Gooding spoke about how powerful it was for Nichols’ Uhura to appear on America TV as a Black woman who wasn’t in a role of service or servitude, and said she is excited to explore the character without the limitations that were still placed on Uhura in the 1960s.
While it is fascinating to get more backstory regarding this iconic character, the clip revealed a great deal about the tone of the new series—which is bright, colorful, and warm. Presumably, this series will not be without its stakes, but it is clear that the episodic show is looking to bring a sense of optimism and clarity into the modern Trek landscape.
Uhura won’t be the only Original Series character getting new life in Strange New Worlds. There’s Pike, Number One, and Spock, of course, but less-explored characters Nurse Chapel and Dr. M’Benga will also be main cast members. Past that, Christina Chong is set to play La’an Noonien-Singh, a character Alex Kurtzman confirmed is related to infamous Star Trek antagonist Khan Noonien Singh.
“We’re starting with this group,” said EP Akiva Goldsman of the possible addition of other old-school Trek characters. “We don’t want to bring folks into the show, you know, in order to be sort of splashy or for a headline. We want to be able to dig deeply into the characters who are part of our ensemble.” He did add, however, that the series was “open to widening our arms” to the return of other iconic Trek characters.