Is Star Trek now a multiverse? Does it really matter?

L-R Rong Fu as Mitchell, Rebecca Romijn as Una, Ethan Peck as Spock and Anson Mount as Capt. Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
L-R Rong Fu as Mitchell, Rebecca Romijn as Una, Ethan Peck as Spock and Anson Mount as Capt. Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ /

Marvel introduced us to multiple versions of the same characters and made that part of their franchise modus operandi.  Have we reached a point in Star Trek storytelling, where we should just accept what’s on screen as just another “variant” of the same thing or dismiss it altogether?

The battle rages on: Is Star Trek: Strange New Worlds really a prequel to the original Star Trek?  Can we stomach a very high-tech Enterprise when we KNOW the paper mache inspired Star Trek: The Original Series Enterprise appeared in both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Next Generation?

To cloud the issue, we also have that brief hologram in the Starfleet HQ lobby from “Star Trek: Picard” showing us the “Enterprise D” along with the “original” Enterprise sporting winged nacelles.  Hey, don’t get me wrong; it looks uber cool, but it’s the stuff “future dreams are made of” – to sorta steal a quote.  It doesn’t match anything from the original series.  Adding to that we also have a “Short Trek ” with animated episodic snippets from TOS again with that pesky winged Enterprise shoehorned in like it was always part of canon.  It’s enough to make a fan’s head go “tilt”.

Maybe it’s just time to give it all up.  After all, even Gene Roddenberry stated, right after Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered that the ridged forehead “Klingons always looked like that.”  We should probably take a tip from the Great Bird; don’t over think this stuff.

I do believe “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” forged a new direction without causing too much controversy.  Let’s just accept it and answer the age-old logic puzzle concerning the “Ship of Theseus”.  How much can you remove from the original ship before it isn’t the same ship?  The answer, of course, really is – “All of it” – because it’s not the physical structure that matters, it’s what it represents.  If we choose to believe it’s the “real deal” then it’s “the real deal.”  Case closed!

SNW folks did us a service though as they opened a new avenue in Star Trek design sensibilities.

SNW updated TOS designs for 21st century audiences, creating a new aesthetic which is both new and yet very familiar.  The equipment on the bridge, the shuttlecraft, and many elements are instantly recognizable (they even assume the same physical locations) but are now also sleek and futuristic (again).

If “Doctor Who” [via] can change the TARDIS interior by simply stating, “Hey you changed the Desktop!” and those fans happily live in these new digs, we can do the same with these rearranged/changed sets, props, and actors, too.  If that requires mental jujitsu to justify it aka time travel/timeline interjection J.J. Abrams style – then use it.  If you need that same thing done using that clunky “ridgeless/ridge” Klingon forehead Star Trek: Enterprise story explanation – then go for it.   For me, that whole idea was so ineptly done. I refuse to watch the episode because it just feels too contrived for me to endure a rewatching.  “Spock’s Brain” is way more entertaining (and plausible) than that episode.

Now sixty plus years later we are also seeing recastings of original series characters.  Can we stand the fact William Shater has brown eyes and Chris Pine has blue?  Can we legitimately accept this faux pas? Of course we can!

How about New Spocks?  Sure!  We can even ask the question, “Compare and contrast between Leonard Nimoy, Ethan Peck, and Zachary Quinto!”  People still argue original Coke over New Coke. It doesn’t really matter – they are part of canon; both New Coke and New Spock(s).

Now for a guilty pleasure of mine, I absolutely LOVE Rainn Wilson’s portrayal of Harry Mudd over the original.  He took my most hated recurring character on Star Trek and turned him into my favorite.  Let’s also not forget how the new writers kept Mudd’s humor but then offered a sociopath element which added a new vibe to this well-known character.  I can hardly wait for a revisit of this revamped, fully articulated character.  “Advantage” Rainn Wilson’s Harry Mudd!

Now if none of this has changed your mind about discontinuity or canon gone berserk, just chalk it up to “The Multiverse”.  String theory probably has a real-world explanation we can use and glue onto our favorite fictional one and “no” I’m not watching a special two-part episode explaining it, I’m not up to it because I just don’t care.

So in the scheme of things, we really have to ask the REAL lingering question, “Does it really matter?”

Next. Why Star Trek ret-conning is both great and terrible storytelling. dark