Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 is the perfect blend of old and new
Far from showing signs of fatigue, Strange New Worlds has breathed new life into a franchise close to its 60th anniversary.
Star Trek has been a mainstay in popular culture since 1966, when we first encountered the USS Enterprise and its crew comprising of James T Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Bones, Sulu et al. Since then, there have been a remarkable 12 series in total, across live-action and animation, and 13 feature-length films.
It's safe to say diving into the franchise for the first time might prove a daunting task, and even casual fans might be put off by the sheer scale of the canon, which now spans several different centuries and timelines.
Launching in 2022 on Paramount Plus, Strange New Worlds has united fans as few Star Trek shows have, earning praise for its sense of fun and capturing the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s original show while forging its own distinct identity.
Strange New Worlds takes place in the decade leading up to the events of the Original Series, before William Shatner’s Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock's time on the Enterprise.
Here, she is helmed by Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike, assisted by a younger Spock in the shape of Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn’s Number One. The series has proved such a sensation its second season airs this month and a third is already in development.
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While a spin-off from Discovery, Strange New Worlds is incredibly accessible for newcomers, focusing more on a new storyline each week, especially in its first season.
The worlds and friends and foes the Enterprise encounters along the way, while including some species and names that will be familiar to Trek fans, for the most part avoid becoming too convoluted. There are few mentions of the events of Discovery, which no longer shares the same part of the Star Trek universe - instead jumping ahead to the 32nd Century at the end of its second season.
If we compare this to something like Picard, for the uninitiated there is far more to consume to truly understand Patrick Stewart’s return to the Star Trek world; seven seasons of The Next Generation spanning 178 episodes, in addition to four feature films with the Next Generation crew and story threads from Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Voyager, which also ran for seven seasons.
Strange New Worlds offers plenty of variety in its storytelling and character development, making it far from a rehash of Trek gone by.
Anson Mount’s Pike is charismatic but torn by events that may occur in his future and over the knowledge that Number One is a genetically-modified Illyrian, outlawed by Starfleet - which becomes a major plot thread over the course of season 2.
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Christina Chong’s La'an Noonien-Singh is a descendant of Khan, a major antagonist in the Original Series and famously the film The Wrath of Khan, and her heritage is a large part of her character development.
While several characters go on to appear in the Original Series, it never feels cheap here, with the new actors putting their spin on them while still honouring those who have come before.
The array of scenarios shows the endless potential for the franchise, from Spock and his fiancée T'Pring swapping bodies to Chief Medical Officer Joseph M'Benga’s storybook coming to life and the Enterprise becoming its characters. This culminates with Pike witnessing an alternate future and interacting with one James T Kirk.
Alternate timelines and Kirk also come into play in season 2 which, again, offers a further variety of adventures and developments for the Enterprise, often taking the decision to isolate members of the crew, giving them more growth and showing the strength of its ensemble cast. Another clever plot has a planet that gradually causes those on it to lose their memory.
For those worried about the quality of the second season, they can rest assured that it delivers more of the same blend of thrills and surprises as the first, maintaining the cast dynamic and allowing other cast members to take centre stage.
We are due a crossover with the well-received animated series Lower Decks which will whet fans’ appetites, and it will be interesting to see how this is incorporated into the show and received by fans unfamiliar with the animated flick.
Far from showing signs of fatigue, Strange New Worlds has breathed new life into a franchise close to its 60th anniversary, showing the potential Star Trek still has to offer in the 2020s.
It brings the sense of wide-eyed wonder and escapism that classic Trek does while still offering plenty of philosophical musings and commentary on the state of society in 2023.
If fans are looking for somewhere to dive into Star Trek without having to watch endless seasons or movies, then Strange New Worlds is the perfect jump-off point, offering a gateway to the wider Star Trek universe - with the second season more than matching the high bar set by the exemplary first season.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 will land on Paramount Plus on 15th June. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.
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