Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Will Tackle Big Original Series Canon Questions
Exclusive: Star Trek mastermind Akiva Goldsman talks about canon changes coming in Strange New Worlds season 2.
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For fans who loved Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 1, there’s some good news: the second season isn’t trying to reinvent the show. In fact, in some ways, Strange New Worlds season 2 might feel even more like what the first season promised to be. Debuting just two months after the conclusion of one of the most tightly serialized Star Trek seasons ever, Picard season 3, Strange New Worlds returns with the same goal it had in its first season: to tell throwback, self-contained stories with a different tone, every single week.
But that doesn’t mean the scope is the same. In 2022, Strange New Worlds left two unresolved cliffhangers dangling — the departure of La’an (Christian Chong) and the arrest of Una (Rebecca Romijn) while also hinting at the idea that we will see way more of James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley) in 2259, well before he takes command of the Enterprise in 2265. More than any other ongoing Trek show, Strange New Worlds is playing with a lot of Star Trek toys at the same time, and within the first few episodes, fans will see a lot of familiar things, not just from The Original Series but the larger canon, too. For co-creator and co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman, the goal of Strange New Worlds isn’t just about doing cool Star Trek stuff, but instead, trying to use a more traditional Trek format to tell brave and interesting stories about our culture now.
Den of Geek magazine caught up with Goldsman to get a sense of the next 10 episodes and the overall future of the series, including the tantalizing idea that this show could eventually “overlap” with the continuity of The Original Series.
“Season one was, if you really think about it, kind of an experiment,” Goldsman says. “Not for us, but you know, for the audience. We believed that hewing closely to that genre-hopping thing that is very consistent in The Original Series, but also Star Trek in general, were good ideas. But there was some pushback when we were developing it. ‘What, they’re suddenly in a children’s story?’ Things like that. This type of TV isn’t exactly what people are doing today. So, because we got such a great response from people out there in the world, our brief for season two became: let’s do season one but bigger and better.”
Just like seasons of TOS in the ’60s or The Next Generation in the ‘90s, the second season of Strange New Worlds will feel familiar, albeit with some surprising new characters and situations. For Goldsman, it’s within these self-contained morality tales that Star Trek continues to be unique. And, again, right off the bat, the new Strange New Worlds season tackles contemporary problems like war profiteering, performance-enhancing drugs, and biological discrimination.
“One thing we try to do is to use science fiction as a lens on a modern dilemma,” Goldsman says. “And in the ‘60s, Star Trek was the first among equals to really do that well. But it owed a great deal to The Twilight Zone in that respect, creating these kinds of O. Henry-style stories for science fiction. I think the original Star Trek owes a small debt to Rod Serling, and all the Trek series after that owe a debt to both.”
Unlike the vast majority of new prestige TV, and the majority of the rest of the Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds season 2 will continue to feel like a throwback, at least in terms of the format. In theory, a casual viewer could watch a random episode of Strange New Worlds season 2, which isn’t even true of the kid-friendly series Prodigy. So, does that mean fans should expect Strange New Worlds to be totally disconnected from canon concerns? Well, no. This is still a modern Trek show, and in the first episode, two very familiar alien enemies are either seen outright or referenced. By episode 3, a few more familiar names are mentioned while some very old canon questions are addressed. In fact, Goldsman tells us that several kinds of crossover episodes are always on the table when new seasons begin brainstorming.
“At the beginning of each season, we blue-sky the hell out of it,” Goldsman says. “And we always leave so many episodes on the table, and many of them are [crossovers]. I mean, there are different ways, depending on the species or technology, that folks from Enterprise [the prequel series] could still be around. Obviously, we could time-travel into the future. What if we brought back John de Lancie as Q…or as Trelane? We think about those crossovers all the time. And, as you know, this season, one of those episodes is coming.”
Here, Goldsman is referring to the much-talked-about crossover episode with Lower Decks directed by Jonathan Frakes, which will be partly animated, and partly live-action. Back in 2022, Frakes told Den of Geek he considered the crossover episode to be “proof of concept” that Star Trek could do a live-action sitcom. But within the first few episodes, the show is taking other risks, too.
Strange New Worlds is already greenlit for a third season, but how much longer can the series go on? The canon of The Original Series is getting closer and closer, and certain elements of continuity may not entirely match up. Goldsman points out that Spock’s journey is a big part of Strange New Worlds, and the existence of “smiling Spock” in the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” has been a gift to the writers.
Essentially, before the character of Spock was fully formed by Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy, and before Star Trek found its footing, Spock was not meant to be as coldly logical as he became. As a result, Spock’s smile in “The Cage” and his general emotionalism have become a canonical mystery. Starting with Short Treks in 2019, it’s a mystery that Strange New Worlds is still untangling. Goldsman says “something happened between ‘The Cage’ and ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’” in terms of Spock’s demeanor. Part of season 2 does begin to acknowledge very openly just how different the Spock of this series is right now from what most fans know. While the show isn’t ignoring the differences between Ethan Peck’s Spock and Nimoy’s Spock, it isn’t going for a quick fix retcon, either. In fact, Goldsman thinks that if the show were able to run for a decent amount of time, something even more interesting than a retcon could occur.
“Look, when it comes to canon, we’re screwing with it a little bit,” Goldsman admits. “There was no indication that Uhura served on Pike’s Enterprise. We’ve invented that from whole cloth. We’ve retconned Spock and Chapel’s relationship. But, I think it is our job to get there. The closer we get to that moment, just after ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before,’ we have to acknowledge canon. And the closer we get, we have to start to resemble The Original Series.” Why after “Where No Man Has Gone Before?” Well, for Goldsman, The Original Series as we know it doesn’t really start until we get the core cast (including Dr. McCoy) and everybody else in their “correct” uniform colors, which wasn’t really the case until a few episodes into the show’s production run.
That said, Goldsman knows not everything can stay in this nebulous in-between stage forever, and firmly believes the series could safely continue for seven years before hitting real TOS problems.
“If we were so lucky as to continue, I think we could even overlap. I think that would really be interesting to actually rub up against The Original Series.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 debuts June 15 on Paramount+.