To Explore Strange New Worlds – A Spoiler-Free UK Review
Wednesday the 22nd of June is an important date for UK-based Trekkies. That day will – barring any hiccups – finally see the long-awaited Paramount+ service arrive in Britain. With it will come the opportunity for British viewers to finally experience the latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise, Strange New Worlds.
It’s been a long time coming for fans eager to see the adventures of Pike, Spock and the Enterprise pre-The Original Series. UK fans have, in recent months, been used to waiting on new episodes of Trek, with the animated Star Trek: Prodigy only recently becoming accessible on British TV thanks to its co-production with Nickelodeon. Paramount’s seeming inability to successfully launch their streaming service in territories outside the US – with no offering of an alternative platform – has been a continued bone of contention since their decision to remove Star Trek: Discovery from Netflix only two days prior to its fourth season premiere in November 2021. This has led many fans to believe that Paramount cares little for the international fanbase. The successful launch of the service at the end of this month could go a long way to restoring Paramount’s reputation.
Unfortunately, the matter won’t be completely resolved when Paramount+ becomes accessible later this month. UK viewers will only have the first three episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds available at launch: “Strange New Worlds”, “Children of the Comet” and “Ghosts of Illyria”, with a new episode every Wednesday after that. Although US viewers are able to watch episode seven (“The Serene Squall”) this week, those with pending access to the service will still have to mute spoilers on their social media accounts for a few more weeks to come.
Those of us fortunate enough to have seen the episodes will know just how big a treat viewers have in store. Strange New Worlds has really set the standard for Star Trek going forward. But rest assured, if you’ve made it this far by avoiding spoilers, you have nothing to worry about in this review!
Fans of Star Trek: Discovery will of course remember the reintroduction of Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn) in the Season 2 premiere “Brother”, with Pike and Spock present throughout that season’s entire fourteen-episode arc. However, if you haven’t caught up on Discovery yet, you can still follow along without confusion. While the events of that season are touched upon in the new show, they are not essential to the series so far.
The aforementioned three characters were so popular during Discovery‘s second season that fans clamoured for them to have a series of their own. Further appearances in Short Treks’ second season – such as in “Q&A” and “Ask Not” – only intensified these calls, spurring Paramount to push ahead with what has become Strange New Worlds. (And it’s here I subtly drop a hint for that same treatment regarding Raffi & Seven *nudge nudge*!)
For those of us excited at the prospect, it felt like the show would never arrive. Now, it’s finally here. Does it meet expectations?
The answer is a resounding “Yes!” The actors in the lead roles are as pitch perfect as they were in Discovery, but they’re joined by such an outstanding supporting cast – Christina Chong, Babs Olusanmokun, Celia Rose Gooding, Melissa Navia, Jess Bush, Bruce Horak, Adrian Holmes, Gia Sandhu and André Dae Kim – that one would be hard-pressed to point to any lone actor as a standout. There’s absolutely no weak link in this cast and, personally, it’s a struggle to maintain a favourite from week to week. It’s an incredibly talented ensemble.
This is also a testament to the quality of writing on the show. I’m a fan of both Discovery and Picard, but with season-long arcs and ever-rising stakes, it can be difficult to allow time for the characters of these respective shows to simply take a moment to breathe. Not only does Strange New Worlds deliver narrative-driven plots that harken back to classic stand-alone episodes of Trek, but they also give the characters room to develop. For an hour-long episode, it’s astounding just how much they manage to cram in. Yet the pacing never suffers, and in some instances, it can have you literally on the edge of your seat.
Being a huge TOS fan, I was initially concerned that the new show might tread on previously established canon. But from what I’ve seen so far, The Original Series is treated with respect. SNW presents the same world, albeit with a modern-day makeover. It works. And if, like me, you have no tolerance for either pointless minutiae or bigotry, then there is much to love here.
The effects are, as one would expect, second-to-none, with the Enterprise stunning to behold (honestly, the starship scenes have never looked so good). Nami Melumad’s score enhances every moment it touches, combining old and new motifs to create something truly beautiful, with Jeff Russo’s main theme as the icing on the cake. The arrangement sets the scene perfectly and evokes serious emotion from its interpretation of Alexander Courage’s original theme. Coupled with Mount’s opening narration… we are definitely in goosebumps territory here, people.
Every aspect of the show rings with quality. The care and polish that has gone into the production is obvious. If this review seems like an exercise in hyperbole, I apologise, but it is justified. The show has been a joy to watch. Buckle up, UK – you’re in for something special.
The first three episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be available to stream exclusively on Paramount+ UK from 22nd June 2022. Sky customers in the UK have already been noticing placeholder slots, hinting at the imminent arrival of the service.