Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review, Episode 203: “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”

Christina Chong as La’an and Paul Wesley as Kirk in episode 203 “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Christina Chong as La’an and Paul Wesley as Kirk in episode 203 “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ /

When we first met Paul Wesley’s Captain James T. Kirk in season 1 of Strange New Worlds, it seemed like a rare misstep for the show. Probably the only serious criticism I had.

The prehistory of Star Trek is the stuff of urban legends. The first pilot, “The Cage,” was filmed in 1964, but was rejected by NBC for being “too cerebral,” which is generally regarded as being a euphemism for “too boring.” When a second pilot was commissioned, William Shatner, with his all-American good looks and Shakespearean training, must’ve seemed like a safe choice to replace Jeffrey Hunter’s understated Captain Pike. Shatner decided to base Kirk partially on himself, bringing his eccentricities to the role. No actor is really playing Kirk if they don’t channel these eccentricities, like refusing to pronounce the word “sabotage” like a normal human being would.

In his season 1 appearance, Wesley not only failed to channel Kirk, but failed to make much of an impression at all. But catching up with him again in “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” he manages to showcase a Kirk-esque easygoing charm and charisma.

It’s still jarring how different he is from Shatner’s Kirk. He’s a different actor interpreting the character differently, which is fine, but his performance suffers in comparison to Ethan Peck’s eerily pitch-perfect rendition of Spock. It will be strange if they ever have a scene together. But these criticisms recede when you treat Strange New Worlds as its own show rather than a copy of the original series. And they recede further when you consider that neither of Kirk’s two appearances have been about Kirk. So far, he’s played the role of a living MacGuffin to move the plot along. The first time, it was a story about Captain Pike. Now it’s La’an’s turn.

All about La’an

Ever since her introduction, we’ve been waiting for an episode that delved into La’an Noonien-Singh’s famous surname (remember, Khan Noonien-Singh was the genocidal dictator behind the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s). And it was worth the wait!

Now that we’re so used to serialized TV shows and the episodic format of Strange New Worlds seems odd, it feels almost miraculous that they can fit a whole satisfying story into one hour. “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” is packed with character development for La’an and never drags; it’s a masterclass in economic storytelling.

We start the episode observing what constitutes everyday work for the head of security on a starship: listening to disputes about whether or not transporter buffers can steal jewelry, and dealing with Pelia’s collection of stolen artifacts from her time working in an “archeology department” (which is relevant later), and so on. Those mundane moments have always the lifeblood of Star Trek, and it’s good to see them continue. They’re what differentiate Star Trek from other space operas, and give the impression that the ships are full of real people. These moments make the Star Trek universe feel lived in.

Then, with no time to waste, the action begins. La’an encounters a mysterious stranger in the corridor, dying from a gunshot wound. He’s wearing 21st century garb, hands La’an a device, and tells her to “go to the bridge” before disappearing.

But when she arrives at the bridge, history has changed, Kirk is in charge, not Captain Pike, the Federation doesn’t exist, and they’re at war with the Vulcans and the Romulans. In private, La’an tells a skeptical Kirk what’s happened, and when he tries to confiscate the device, they’re both zapped back to the 21st century. La’an reasons that the device sent them there on purpose and that they must determine what happened to change the timeline.

La’an and Kirk

Despite how packed this episode is, there’s still time for sparks to fly between La’an and Kirk. Wesley and Christina Chong have real chemistry. Their relationship felt natural and earned rather than forced.

What I appreciated about La’an and Kirk’s relationship is Kirk’s passivity. La’an is the tough security officer, the newest member of Trek’s strange tradition of tough stoic women with traumatic childhoods, like Tasha Yar, Kira Nerys, and Michael Burnham. This wasn’t a case of Kirk melting her cold heart with his animal magnetism. La’an isn’t a frigid woman who just needed a good old you know what from an alpha male. Rather, she let herself be vulnerable because she was attracted to him.

In some ways, it’s a good thing that we’re not seeing a carbon copy of the 60s Kirk. Shatner’s Kirk wasn’t exactly the womanizer we remember him as (a bit of a Mandela effect there; McCoy was the lecher), but the 60s series would’ve had him view a woman like La’an as a challenge to be conquered, which wouldn’t play well today, to put it mildly.

Since they’re stuck in the past with no 23rd-century technology, they visit Pelia’s “archeology department” (remember, Lanthanites live for a very long time, and Pelia lived undercover among humans for centuries). It turns out that her “archeology department” is a junk shop in rural Vermont with “archeology department” scrawled on the door with white housepaint. This is classic Carol Kane battiness, and though it does nothing to advance the plot (it turns out that she can’t help them, as she wasn’t an engineer back then,) it’s fantastic character development, so it doesn’t feel like a weird non-sequitur.

The 21st century girl

Another strange Trek trope is the 20th/21st century girl. From Joan Collins and Teri Garr in the original series to Catherine Hicks in Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home to Sarah Silverman in Voyager, whenever our heroes end up in the 20th or 21st century, they always encounter a manic pixie dream girl who’s willing to help them out and go along with whatever craziness their mission requires.

Except that Strange New Worlds likes to subvert Trek tropes, so this 21st-century girl at first comes off as a completely unhinged conspiracy theorist and then later turns out to be… a Romulan agent.

The Romulan agent’s mission is to kill La’an’s ancestor Khan as a child. Without the devastation of the Eugenics Wars, the Federation will never come to be (exactly how the dictator behind a war in the ’90s is a child in 2023 is a question that’s hand-waved away). Of course, La’an sets out to do the right thing and stop her, but the Romulan agent tells her that her device will protect her from changes to the timeline; she’ll be free to live any life she wants, but without the taint of the Noonien-Singh legacy.

As you may have guessed, the Eugenics Wars involved genetically engineered supersoldiers, and La’an, being descended from their leader, may have genetically modified DNA. You’ll remember from last week the difficulties the genetically modified face in the Federation. So for La’an, the temptation to let the Romulan agent do her thing is about more than having an embarrassing name. It’s a genius twist on the famous ‘would you kill baby Hitler?’ hypothetical, and it’s hard not to feel for La’an as she faces the choice.

Back in the future, La’an Zoom calls the prime timeline Kirk to make sure the timeline is fully restored. She pines over him in a touching moment before a visit from a Temporal Investigations agent, who tells her she’s not to share what she experienced with anyone. Her moment of vulnerability is erased from the timeline, as if it never happened. It’s heartbreaking.


We’ve had three really great episodes in a row. But the last two episodes have really packed an emotional punch. Last season’s “The Elysian Kingdom” whiplashed from sublime silliness to serious emotional drama. Combining emotional moments with typical Star Trek silliness may be what Strange New Worlds is remembered for.

Next. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review, Episode 202: “Ad Astra Per Aspera”. dark

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