The Strange New Worlds first episode has scenes fans will find familiar.
For all that it launches a brand-new Star Trek series, “Strange New Worlds”—the aptly named first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds—should feel very familiar to long-time fans.
I’m referring to more than the obvious fact the show brings back the characters and cast from season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery—Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One, and Ethan Peck as Spock—who sparked fan demand for a “Pike’s Enterprise” series in the first place.
Most notably, the Strange New Worlds first episode covers much the same ground “First Contact” did in the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just as Commander Riker altered his appearance to pass as a native of Malcor III, so do Pike, Spock, and La’an to pass among the people of Kiley 279. In both episodes, our crew’s covers get blown—in fact, the woman who spies Spock’s ear transformations in the elevator on Kiley was, a moment earlier, making flirtatious eyes at Pike in a manner reminiscent of Bebe Neuwirth’s Lanel putting the moves on Riker.
And just as Malcorian society was written as a none-too-subtle stand-in for the late 20th-century United States, the society on Kiley is an even more overt mirror of the U.S. in the early 21st century.
But at several more specific points, Strange New Worlds‘ first episode boldly goes where Star Trek has gone before—not in any particular television episodes, but in the franchise’s feature films.
The Strange New Worlds first episode references Trek flicks from all eras
After a brief prologue in which the U.S.S. Archer arrives at Kiley 279, “Strange New Worlds” starts with Captain Pike—still processing the look he got at this future in the Discovery episode “Through the Valley of the Shadows”—making breakfast in a cabin in Bear Creek, Montana, where he’s spending downtime with Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano).
The sight of an Enterprise captain making breakfast for a woman he loves in a rustic but cozy setting can’t help but bring to mind the circumstances in which Captain Picard finds Captain Kirk in the Nexus in Star Trek Generations.
True, Pike is preparing pancakes, not Ktarian eggs and toast. We get to meet Captain Batel; we heard but never saw Kirk’s beloved, Antonia. And Pike isn’t in a literal “happy place” as Kirk was in the Nexus. But both sequences revolve around urging a captain to return to duty—Picard urging Kirk in Kirk’s case, and both Batel and Admiral Robert April in Pike’s.
When Pike does go back to the Enterprise, he approaches the ship, which is in drydock for repairs, just as Admiral Kirk approached the Enterprise, which was in drydock for its refit, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Pike’s trip to the ship doesn’t last anywhere near as long as Kirk’s will years later. But it does last long enough for us to see the Enterprise reflected over his face via the shuttle’s window, just as it will reflect over Kirk’s face via his travel pod’s window in the ST:TMP Director’s Edition. That reflection spoke to Kirk’s love for the Enterprise and its mission. But the reflection in “Strange New Worlds” speaks to the apprehension Pike is, at this early moment, feeling about his return to space.
But by the end of Strange New Worlds’ first episode, Pike has made at least provisional peace with his future. He delivers some of the episode’s best lines: “Right up until the very end, life is to be worn gloriously. Because, till our last moment, the future’s what we make it.” And his eloquence continues. When Ortegas asks him, “What’s the mission?,” Pike responds, apparently extemporaneously—because Uhura reafcts as though she’s never heard it before—with the last few lines of what became known in Star Trek Into Darkness as “The Captain’s Oath,” the iconic Star Trek monlogue that culminates in “…where no one has gone before.”
All three of the Kelvin Timeline movies end with characters reciting these famous words: Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in Star Trek (2009), Kirk in Into Darkness, and all the main crew, taking different phrases, in Star Trek Beyond. What’s more, Nimoy’s Spock was (somehow) the first to recite them at a Star Trek story’s end, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; and William Shatner’s Kirk recites them at the close of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (changing “no man” to “no one,” though Pike uses the more inclusive language in “Strange New Worlds”).
Perhaps the creative team behind the Strange New Worlds first episode felt they needed to echo Star Trek movies several times because, arguably, a wider audience knows the films than the various TV series. Or perhaps they simply decided these moments delivered the most efficient and effective resonance.
Either way, I’ll be looking sharp for more Star Trek movie references as Strange New Worlds continues.