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Editorial
24 May 2020

Strange Old Worlds

I can't remember any Star Trek announcement of the past two decades that was so well-received in the fan community as the one of Strange New Worlds, the Discovery spin-off series with Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn).

As much as I personally hate the prospect that the reckless reboot of Star Trek continues, Strange New Worlds (SNW) is proof that the people at CBS are listening to the fans, and willing to revise some of their errors they made with Discovery and, to lesser extent, with Picard:

  • Like TOS end every other classic Star Trek series, SNW is going to be episodic again. This is a clear departure from the heavily serialized concept of DIS and PIC, which at the time these two were announced was deemed the only way to produce a "modern" TV series.
  • As per Akiva Goldsman's affirmations, the new show is "going to try to harken back to some classical Trek values, to be optimistic." This is an implicit confession that these values were not present or not perceptible enough in Discovery and Picard.
  • The example of Captain Pike and his classic virtues illustrates what is wrong with the "edgy" characters of Discovery, most of whom are eccentric, obstinate, deceitful or otherwise unlikable - and simply not Trek-like. The moment Pike comes aboard in DIS: "Brother", it is obvious he is designed as the savior of Discovery, and is well-received by fans and "haters" of the show alike.

On the downside, SNW will be the creatively most limited Star Trek series ever produced. It will have the reboot look and the anachronistic technology of Discovery (at least the one whose existence Starfleet doesn't lie about). It will feature the characters of Pike, Spock and Number One we already know. It will have to fit into the barely eight years from Discovery to the Kirk era. This does not sound at all like the premise Star Trek needs to boldly go and explore strange new worlds (at least not without giving rise to even more major continuity errors).

In this regard, SNW is the logical culmination of a trend. For some reason the producers of new Star Trek are obsessed with "going back to the roots", with reducing the complex universe to a very simple formula and with focusing on known characters from the TOS era.

  • Abrams did it in "Star Trek (2009)" with the formula "Star Trek = Kirk + Spock + Enterprise". An alliance forged by destiny in this alternate universe, and against all logic.
  • All Star Trek movies of the past 20 years did it by designing a villain similar to, or even identical to Khan, because "Star Trek movie = fight against a villain who wants to destroy the Enterprise, Earth or the galaxy" and "ultimate Star Trek villain = Khan".
  • Discovery initially tried something new and brutally anti-nostalgic, I'll give them that. The story would have worked infinitely better in the far future and with a race other than the Klingons, but it was forcibly squeezed in the pre-TOS era, with the only benefit that it could use the punchline "Back to the roots, before Kirk, etc.". When the series went downhill, it was decided to throw in the usual high dose of token nostalgia, because "Star Trek before Kirk = Pike + Spock + Enterprise", which now becomes the premise of SNW.

The people at CBS fail to see Star Trek as a whole, as a universe that has a future and not just a past, that waits to be further explored. Picard is a small step in the right direction but it too lives too much in the past. Strange New Worlds may become a success because of its likable characters and the return to classic values. But it is further sad proof that the Star Trek Universe has become a canvas that no one wants to extend anymore, and that simply gets painted over.

Bernd Schneider

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