In every meaningful way, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds looks to be a back-to-basics Trek TV series. We’ve already been told the series will be more episodic, moving away from the contemporary prestige TV model of serialization and swinging back toward the kind of standalone sci-fi adventures that made The Original Series and The Next Generation so beloved to begin with. And while Picard Season 2 is certainly off to a fan-servicey start, the promise of Strange New Worlds is that it could, in theory, cast a much wider net. All you need to know is that this is the Enterprise and they’re boldly going, right?
Well, not exactly. While the inspiring and upbeat new teaser trailer for Strange New Worlds certainly feels accessible and back-to-basics, it’s still essentially framed in a relatively recent canon twist that happened in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.
In other words, if you’re wondering why, in this trailer, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) is hanging out by himself and ignoring his communicator, the answer is, Discovery Season 2. The fundamental difference between Captain Pike pre-Discovery and Captain Pike now is simple: This Captain Pike knows he’ll end up on life-support, and totally unable to communicate with anyone. The tragic event that forms the backstory of the classic TOS two-parter, “The Menagerie,” is still in Pike’s future in Strange New Worlds. The twist Discovery created is that now Pike knows what’s coming.
Before Discovery Season 2 aired, Anson Mount said the goal of bringing Pike back to Star Trek was to “make that endpoint a victory and not a tragedy.” Arguably, Discovery Season 2 pulled that off. In the episode “Through the Valley of Shadows,” Pike had to retrieve a time crystal from Boreth in order to get the Red Angel time suit all fired up.
However, as the Klingon Time Keeper (Kenneth Mitchell) revealed to him, the only way to do that was to be locked into one particular destiny. In other words, Pike was forced to see what would happen to him in the future and live with it. In doing so, Pike was able to get the time crystal, and thus, save the universe. So, that’s what Mount meant: Pike’s tragedy was a victory, of sorts, because he accepted his fate to save everyone else.
What does this do for Strange New Worlds?
Well, it puts the lead of a Star Trek series in a very tricky position. Had this Discovery twist not occurred, only hardcore Trekkies in the audience would be aware that Pike is kind of on borrowed time. But, what’s interesting now is that Pike himself is aware of it, too. This is a fairly clever way to mess with the canon constraints of yet-another-prequel. Imagine if you did a TNG prequel and Picard had a recurring dream he would be assimilated, but not yet. Strange New Worlds is kind of like that.
Pike is living on borrowed time. This could explain why he doesn’t want to answer his communicator and why he wants to ride some horses rather than go back to Starfleet. This sense of helplessness also echoes Jeffrey Hunter’s performance as Pike in “The Cage” in 1964. In that episode (canonically before Discovery!) Pike was angsty as hell and was considering leaving Starfleet. And, at the beginning of Strange New Worlds, it seems like we’re right back in that mood, only more so.
In “The Cage,” Pike was “tired of being responsible for 203 lives,” but at the beginning now, he’s probably tired of knowing he’s going to get hit with massive amounts of radiation after a big promotion to Fleet Captain. In the new trailer we hear a voice — probably an Admiral – say “Chris…I need you back.” This implies that Christopher Pike has, at least for a moment, left Starfleet.
This makes a certain amount of sense. Being haunted by the ghosts of your past is one thing, but Pike is haunted by the ghosts of his future. What remains to be seen is how this kind of knowledge will impact the character and the adventures. Will Pike see himself as invincible? Or is there a fatalist quality to his future vision, making him more similar to Paul Atreides in Dune?
Either way, the idea that a lone starship captain knows his own fate is a compelling set-up, and a twist from Discovery that seems to be essential to understanding Strange New Worlds. It’s also notable that this single idea, amid a show swimming in retro nostalgia and old ideas is significant for one reason: We’ve never had a Star Trek captain in an ongoing series like this before. It’s new.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will hit Paramount+ on May 25, 2022.