This post contains spoilers from the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season one finale “A Quality of Mercy.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds aired its first season finale on July 7th, and though it had some high points, overall, it was the weakest of all ten episodes. One reason for that weakness is the appearance of Paul Wesley as Captain James T. Kirk, the presiding captain of the USS Farragut.
When Wesley was cast as Kirk, there was a question about his age, considering the actor is already forty-years-old, and William Shatner played Kirk at a much younger age when he took over command of the Enterprise. But age isn’t just the factor in this new version of Kirk. As portrayed by Chris Pine and Shatner, Kirk had bravado and charm that isn’t evident in Wesley’s version. The writers failed to include any of the noticeable traits that made Kirk who he was. The Kirk we’ve always known would have tried to take the lead, would have pushed his point home, not given in to Captain Pike’s demand that the Romulan ship not be destroyed.
Captain Kirk shouldn’t be written as a wooden, almost emotionless character.
And yet, that is how I perceived Wesley’s Kirk to be. There was no anger, no sense of authority, and barely the slightest hint of confidence. This Kirk came across as quite tame despite what his brother, Lt. Sam Kirk, told Captain Pike about Kirk bending the rules.
This Kirk is captain of the Farragut after having lost his captain to a gaseous alien yet we don’t see any of that angst, that edginess he would have had as was revealed in Star Trek: The Original Series’ “Obsession.” Kirk couldn’t have moved on to the point where he was this complacent. This episode wasn’t solely about Captain Kirk, but he was introduced for a reason, but I’m not quite sure what that reason was if it wasn’t to challenge Pike’s decision.
This episode would have performed just fine without the introduction of Kirk and would have given some of the main characters more screen time, something which was sadly lacking. Lt. Uhura was stuck on comms in a manner reminiscent of Nichelle Nichols’ position on The Original Series. Lt. Ortegas was out of character in the brief amount of time she had, Lt. La’an Noonien Singh showed up in one brief scene as did Nurse Chapel. Dr. M’Benga and Number One didn’t fare much better.
In my opinion, Strange New Worlds made a mistake introducing Captain Kirk in this episode. And the writers made a mistake creating a watered-down version of the captain. When Wesley returns next season, one can only hope the writers have a better idea of his character and can write better scenes for him, ones that include emotion. We don’t need an imitation of William Shatner or Chris Pine, but there should be some remnants of the Captain James T. Kirk we first met in Star Trek: The Original Series.