This article contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery season 2.
If you’ve slept on new TV Star Trek for the past several years, there’s a good chance you’re thinking of beaming back in with the debut of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. And, in terms of understanding the future of where the franchise is headed, this new series is a pretty perfect place for a casual viewer to create their own personal Star Trek reboot. In all meaningful ways, Strange New Worlds is an approachable and less canon-obsessed Star Trek than some more recent entries. Its aesthetic and flavor will also remind longtime viewers of both The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. But if you missed Star Trek: Discovery season 2 or Short Treks, you may be a little confused by a few very specific details.
So, here’s what to know about Pike, Spock, and Number One’s whole deal in Strange New Worlds.
If you’re already watching all the new Star Trek shows, this article isn’t for you because you already know. But if you are one of the people cautiously dipping your toe back into the transporter beam, it may interest you to learn that Discovery season 2 was essentially the whole reason Strange New Worlds exists. Here’s how it shakes out.
Pike’s vision in Discovery Season 2
In 2018, at the end of Star Trek Discovery season 1, the USS Enterprise appeared in the final moments of the last episode, “Will You Take My Hand?” Then, in 2019, in Discovery Season 2, starting with the episode “Brother,” Captain Pike (Anson Mount) beamed over from the Enterprise (which was conveniently broken) to temporarily take command of the USS Discovery. For the entirety of season 2, up until the two-part finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow,” Pike was the acting captain of Discovery while the Enterprise was repaired. During this time, Pike had a long-distance telepathic conversation with Vina (Melissa George) first introduced in original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.” But in the Discovery episode “Through the Valley of the Shadows,” Pike saw his own tragic future.
This detai about Pike’s futurel is essential. In The Original Series two-parter “The Menagerie,” we see Pike in a mechanized wheelchair, his mind essentially cut off from his body. In TOS, we’re told Pike rescued Starfleet cadets from an explosion on an old starship being used for training. In both Discovery and now, Strange New Worlds, this grim fate is still in Pike’s future, but the wrinkle Discovery created is that Pike is now aware it’s going to happen.
Strange New Worlds doesn’t shy away from this Discovery twist at all. If anything, it doubles down. Pike’s knowledge of what’s going to happen to him is still a very big deal, and, as revealed in the trailers, Strange New Worlds even uses footage from Discovery to make this point.
Spock and Michael Burnham
Discovery established that Spock’s human step-sister is Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the main character of that series. Spock doesn’t mention Burnham much in Strange New Worlds (or at all in the rest of canon!) but there is one conversation in the pilot episode of the new series that connects to Burnham. Pike acknowledges this detail too, because, of course, he served with Burnham on Discovery.
But, why can’t Pike and Spock talk more openly about Michael Burnham or the crew of the Discovery? Well….
The Super-Classified Enterprise-Discovery mission
At the end of Discovery Season 2, both the Enterprise and Discovery teamed up to fight a rogue AI called “Control” from destroying the future. Long story short: In order to completely get rid of Control, Discovery has to jump far enough into the future, to a point at which its special data can’t be used by Control to eradicate all sentient life. In the same season, Discovery itself merged with a super-advanced alien intelligence and gained its own nascent sentience, which, while cool, was also a liability. So, for many complicated reasons, Burnham and the crew had to take themselves into the far future, in order to prevent Control from ever gaining the “sphere data” and ruining everything.
In order to do this, the Enterprise provided cover, while Burnham opened a wormhole to the future, and Discovery flew behind her. In the final moments of “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2,” Spock encourages Starfleet to classify everything about this mission for several reasons. First, the time travel tech developed by Starfleet’s Section 31 was partially responsible for the problem. Second, Starfleet also created Control in the first place. And finally, if the general public was aware that a 23rd-century starship was now living in the 32nd century, because of an AI threat, it would be generally bad for everyone.
So, the crew of the Enterprise, including Pike, Spock, and Number One, are all sworn to secrecy, and the official “record” suggests that Discovery “exploded,” a lie that everyone is sticking to, except in private. Strange New Worlds takes place very shortly after these events.
Number One and Spock in Short Treks
In addition to Discovery Season 2, in 2019, Pike, Spock, and Number One appeared in three short episodes of the anthology series Short Treks. Two of those episodes, “The Trouble With Edward,” and “Ask Not,” mostly used Pike as a kind of framing device to tell a different story. But, in “Q&A” (written by Michael Chabon) we got to see Spock’s first day on the USS Enterprise and his first meeting with Number One (Rebecca Romijn). This was the first time we learned Number One’s real first name is “Una,” and it was the first (and only) time that Star Trek canon has attempted to reconcile the similarities between Spock and Number One’s personalities and to explain why Spock in “The Cage” acted so different than the rest of The Original Series.
In many ways, “Q&A” is just as essential for understanding Strange New Worlds as Discovery. It creates a great introduction to Spock and Una’s relationship, which, in a sense, makes it a direct prequel to Strange New Worlds.
For the most part, the nitty-gritty details of the rest of the Star Trek canon aren’t required to enjoy Strange New Worlds, but that doesn’t mean the show is shying away from those details either. Like all of Star Trek, small parts can inform the whole, and with this Enterprise, a little bit of knowledge about its step-siblings goes a long way.