Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to be more “optimistic,” “episodic”


CBS is going all in on Star Trek. They already have two shows running at once — Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard — and there’s another, a spinoff about the intelligence organization Section 31 starring Michelle Yeoh, coming down the pipe.

And we’re not done! A couple days back, CBS announced that it was making a fourth Star Trek show about what was happening on the Enterprise before Captain Kirk took over, with Anson Mount playing Captain Pike, Rebecca Romijn playing Number One, and Ethan Peck playing a young Spock. The name? Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Mount, Romijn and Peck made a good impression on fans when their characters were introduced in the second season of Discovery, and a show about them sounds like a good idea. Still, that is a lot of Trek on TV. Is anyone else worried people are gonna get fatigued?

At least according to executive producer Akiva Goldsman, Strange New Worlds will try and stand apart from its sister shows. “We’re going to try to harken back to some classical ‘Trek’ values, to be optimistic, and to be more episodic,” Goldsman told Variety. “Obviously, we will take advantage of the serialized nature of character and story building. But I think our plots will be more closed-ended than you’ve seen in either ‘Discovery’ or ‘Picard.’”

The original Star Trek show was episodic to a fault, to the point where characters would go through huge changes in one episode but not remember it in the next. Future Trek shows like The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were still mainly episodic, but there were also running plots. Today’s TV world is all about serialization, and both Discovery and Picard lean into it hard. Time to go back to the show’s roots.

“I imagine it to be closer to the original series than even ‘DS9,’” Goldsman said of the new series. “We can really tell closed-ended stories. We can find ourselves in episodes that are tonally of a piece…[For example,] it’s hard to do a shore-leave episode in the middle of a long, serialized arc.”

At the same time, Goldsman doesn’t want to go all the way back to the serialization of the original Star Trek. “I think one thing that we always struggled with [as fans] was that Kirk is heartbroken at the loss of Edith Keeler in ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ and has to be just fine the next week,” Goldsman said, citing a classic Trek episode. “I think what we would want to do is keep the characters having moved through and recognizing the experiences they’ve had in previous episodes, but to be able to tell contained, episodic stories.”

Honestly, I think this sounds like a good idea. Thanks in part to the success of shows like Game of Thrones, TV is almost nothing but serialization now, and I wouldn’t mind a few shows getting back to the old episode-by-episode approach. The Mandalorian on Disney+ is a good example of a show that kicked it a little old school that way and ended up really succeeding.

“Q&A” — Episode SF #007 — Pictured (l-r): Ethan Peck as Spock; Rebecca Romijn as Number One; of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Then there’s the bit about optimism. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned his show as being set in a utopia where the people of Earth had more or less gotten past problems like prejudice and inequality. Shows like Discovery and Picard are more cynical about the world, probably because the ’60s-era optimism that fueled Roddenberry has burnt itself out and modern writers don’t have quite so rosy an outlook on things.

On the other hand, maybe that’s why an optimistic Star Trek show is needed right now. “I believe so much in what we’re doing,” Ethan Peck told Variety. “I don’t think that there’s ever been a better time for ‘Star Trek,’ because of its ideology. It’s all about coming together and using the ways that we’re different from one another for the advantage of people as a whole.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have a firm date for when we’ll see this new, brighter Star Trek show come to life, nor are the cast and crew willing to share details about the plot. Although Peck didn’t discount the possibility that we could see Spock in the throes of pon farr, a special time that comes once every seven years in a Vulcan’s life when they’re consumed by sexual desire. “I really have no idea, but I would think it’s a strong possibility,” Peck said.

There’s something to be optimistic about.

As long as we’re speculating wildly, some fans have fingered Jeffrey Combs, a veteran Star Trek actor who played multiple roles across three different series, as the perfect guy to play Dr. Phillip Boyce in Strange New Worlds.

Some explanation: the characters of Pike, Spock and Number One all appeared in the original, not-released-until-decades-later pilot for Star Trek, made way back in 1965. The episode was called “The Cage.” The network didn’t like it, so Roddenberry and crew went back to the drawing board and came up with characters like Kirk and Uhura; only Spock survived carried over from “The Cage” to the actual series.

However, “The Cage” is still part of the Trek canon; Captain Pike was just the captain of the Enterprise before Kirk came along. And in “The Cage,” the ship doctor was Dr. Phillip Boyce. Now that Strange New Worlds will explore Pike’s time in the big chair, might Boyce be an important part of the show? Fans seem to think so, and that Combs would be perfect for the role.

The calls got so loud that Combs even weighed in on the matter, although he doesn’t sound optimistic:

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will debut on CBS All Access, just like its sister shows.

dark. Next. “Startling events” are coming in Star Trek: Picard season 2

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