This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers.
The Strange New Worlds finale, “Hegemony,” dropped a lot of big dramatic events, from a Gorn invasion to Pike having to choose between his orders and his duty to his crew in a devastating cliffhanger that has us hoping the AMPTP will immediately fold and concede to all demands so we can get season 3 into production ASAP. But among all of those twist and turns, we also saw the beginnings of one of the greatest love stories Star Trek has ever known.
No, we don’t mean Spock and Nurse Chapel. Or Pike and Batel. We don’t even mean Kirk and Spock, or my personal favorite, Picard and Q. We are taking about the timeless, enduring love story of a simple, salt-of-the-earth lad from Aberdeen, and a big, beautiful, tritanium-alloy lady named Enterprise.
Kirk might think that the Enterprise is his first love, but the truth is that Kirk has always been mostly in love with the Captain’s Chair. When we meet Scotty in The Original Series, however, he knows every nut and bolt of the glorious vessel. As the writer’s guide for the series attests, “He regards the U.S.S. Enterprise as his personal vessel and the Engineering Section as his private world where even Captain James Kirk is only a privileged trespasser.”
Oh Scotty is loyal to his Captain, but he is big enough to stand by and hear him called a “Tin pot dictator with delusions of Godhood” and a “Denebian slime devil” in good grace. One word against his ship, however, and Scotty will come out swinging to defend his lady’s honor.
So, when we see Scott aboard the Enterprise for the very first time on Strange New Worlds, we are watching the beginning of a story that will continue until the ship plumets, flaming, into the atmosphere of the Genesis Planet. Decades later, when Scotty finds himself in a far-flung future, separated from his friends and loved ones by nearly a century, he is given the ability to summon any place or person he desires on the Holodeck, and he doesn’t hesitate before ordering the Enterprise 1701 — no bloody A, B, C or D.
But let’s rewind to the very beginning of the story. Who is this Scott? And how is he different from the hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-working (but not quite as much as he tells you) Chief Engineer we know and love?
This time he’s played by Martin Quinn who, in a huge deviation from canon that will likely outrage fans, is actually Scottish. When we first meet Scott it starts out a lot like our first meeting with Simon Pegg’s Scott in the 2009 Star Trek movie. He’s marooned, having engaged in some highly creative improvisation to survive. However even before we meet him, Strange New Worlds has been cleverly laying out the red carpet for him through current Enterprise engineer, Commander Pelia.
It’s a standard trope in shows like Star Trek when a character is a teacher to have them meet young proteges they taught before and, more often than not, call them “My best student.” Pelia subverts this. When talking to Uhura about her deceased predecessor (before Scott, the Enterprise really burned through chief engineers), she says of Hemmer, “He was my best student,” before apologizing and saying he was actually average, she just lied because was dead.
Later, we learn that Una, the Enterprise’s first officer, was also a terrible student.
So, when Pelia says that Scott was her “best student,” that actually means something. Of course, we also learn he got terrible grades.
The Scott we meet here is obviously a genius at engineering and improvisation, although not so great at talking to his superiors or explaining the brilliant work he’s managed to throw together. And the first time he’s aboard the Enterprise we simply see him looking harangued while he runs through a corridor, rather than getting the full The Motion Picture flyby sequence soundtracked by “You’re Just Too Good To Be True,” which is really what the moment deserved.
Of course, time will tell whether he becomes a regular or semi-regular on the show (Come on AMPTP, shut up and give the unions what they want!) but we are already far more interested in seeing Scott getting to know the ship that will define the rest of his career than we are in Kirk popping by once again for a cup of Andorian ale.
The thing is, when you introduce a known character in a prequel, the main reason for doing so is to tell an “origin story,” and then the question becomes “What is this the story of the origin of?” Scott is already a genius engineer at this point in the timeline, so really, his arc is about him getting to know and love the 1701, no-bloody-A-B-C-or-D. Having met and loved Hemmer and Pelia, we’ve seen they’re both admirable engineers, but they don’t love the ship the way Scott does. So where does that love come from?
That is something we can’t wait to see, but there is more to Scott’s “origin” than that. When does Montogomery Scott become Scotty?
This Scott is a genius engineer, but he is not yet the “miracle worker” who “cannae bend the laws of physics (Captain).” Fiction is replete with stories of people who grow to become great leaders, but you won’t find so many stories of people who grow to become great workers. There are stories of people learning to inspire their troops, but there aren’t many stories of people learning how to manage their boss so that they think you’re a magician but still don’t develop unrealistic workload expectations.
Scotty is practically the inventor of “Buffer time” (“You didnae tell ‘im how long it’d really take did ya?”), and as the Lower Decks episode “Temporal Edict” shows, Starfleet in the 24th century basically depends on Buffer Time to function.
Seeing Scott learn how to manage his superiors — as Scotty says in “Relics,” “Starfleet captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way. But the secret is to give them only what they need, not what they want” — while falling in love with the Enterprise and gradually claiming ownership of it as his own little kingdom is an arc that we are excited to see.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is streaming now on Paramount+.