When a show's been around for as long as Star Trek has, some fans will inevitably resist attempts to switch things up. Anything that deviates from the norm will be decried fervently by a select few who believe that newer versions of their beloved show are actively ruining the franchise they grew up with.


Enter Strange New Worlds, a daring new take on Star Trek that combines the beloved old-school format with some even bolder twists on this long-standing mythos.

In the first two seasons alone, this show has given us body swap hijinks and medieval fantasy fare, along with powerful courtroom drama and some full-blown sci-fi horror that even led to the death of a major character, just one season in. And let's not forget the recent Lower Decks crossover that brought animated Star Trek characters kicking and screaming into the real world too.

Yet, all of that pales in comparison to what's next.

At San Diego Comic-Con this year, it was revealed that the penultimate episode of season two would be a musical episode that features Starfleet officers giving it their all, with vocals and jazz hands to die for. With 10 original songs featuring music and lyrics by Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) and Tom Polce (Letters to Cleo, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Subspace Rhapsody is a musical extravaganza through and through.

This isn't just a one-and-done scene either, not by any means, and that's where the outrage began. For so-called "purists", an entire musical episode is just one step too far, despite the fact that music has played a key role in Star Trek many times before.

As longtime viewers might recall, Star Trek: Voyager once crafted a whole episode around The Doctor's singing when Qomar aliens became intrigued by his voice back in 2000. Virtuoso also included the Voyager band Harry Kim and the Kimtones in a brief cameo too, but it's Robert Picardo's surprisingly beautiful vocal stylings that still resonate most.

And then there's Deep Space Nine's Vic Fontaine, who was modelled on iconic singers such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. His inclusion on the show led to plenty of memorable solos and duets, the latter of which have an even longer history in this franchise if you go all the way back to The Original Series.

In the second ever episode of Star Trek, Spock suddenly whacks out his Vulcan flute, inspiring Uhura to sing Uhura's Song, a track that Nichelle Nichols herself later released as part of her debut album, Down To Earth.

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Naysayers online have argued that scenes like this, and the many others we don't have room to list here, can't really be compared to a full-blown musical. But even if we ignore how music has figured into this franchise extensively over the years, there have also been dozens and dozens of experimental one-off episodes that tap into this same kooky spirit, regardless.

Remember that Robin Hood episode from Next Generation? How about the Bond spoof in Deep Space Nine? But that's not to say every experiment has worked. For every Virtuoso and Our Man Bashir, there have also been some inexplicable duds which should have perhaps stayed in the brig where they belong.

Honestly, who thought it would be a good idea to have someone kidnap Spock's brain so the crew had to remote control him like a toy? Throw in some child-like women living in caves and you've got yourself a real mess on your hands with the third season premiere.

Unfortunately, these weirder ideas persisted beyond the '60s and continued into newer incarnations too. For example, Enterprise's Rogue Planet showed Captain Archer fall in love with a sentient, psychic slug who tricked him to help save her planet.

Next Generation went one weirder with Sub Rosa - AKA, the episode where Beverley Crusher fell in love with the same ghost slash alien who her grandmother also had a thing with before she died. Alien ghost sex has never sounded so wrong.

And the less we talk about the Rock fighting Seven of Nine in Voyager season six, the better.

Ethan Peck as Spock in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Ethan Peck as Spock in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. JAMES DIMMOCK/PARAMOUNT+ ©2022 CBS STUDIOS

But even these duds are important in their own special way, and that's because this willingness to take chances is intrinsic to the success of Star Trek as a whole. Any fan worth half their weight in Gold Pressed Latinum would admit that this franchise has always been about change and trying new things. In fact, the reason why it's even lasted so long is because Star Trek continues to grow and evolve in wildly different ways each time it returns with a new incarnation.

Strange New Worlds, and the musical itself, are simply an extension of that bold creativity. If anything, it's weird that Star Trek hasn't attempted an episode like this sooner. The TV musical heyday did start over two decades ago with the success of Buffy's Once More With Feeling, after all. But, in any case, the notion that a Star Trek musical is too wild for Star Trek is nonsense, whether you actually end up liking the episode or not.

Unlike other long-standing sci-fi franchises, Star Trek has always been rooted in fun - boldly going into weird, unknown territory where few have gone before, much like the Enterprise itself has done for so many years, and if you can't see that, the only person ruining this franchise that you grew up with is you.

Strange New Worlds is available to stream on Paramount Plus. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.

Take part in the Screen Test, a project from Radio Times and the Universities of Sussex and Brighton, to explore the role of television and audio in our lives.


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