The cast of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has premiered and the fans are weighing in. While many are liking the series and feel it is a true nod to the classic original series, some are having a hard time adjusting to some new developments.
I’ve seen the first five episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and with what I saw, there’s a lot to like, and there are also a lot of ways the series is pushing the franchise further into new, exciting territory. Here’s what you need to expect from this season.
1. Spock having sex
Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost. You will see scenes alluding to Spock and his current fiance, T’Pring, having sex.
Before you clutch your pearls, let’s take this step by step. First of all, let’s examine a core complaint some Trekkies have–that Vulcans can’t have sex outside of Pon Farr, the biological event in a Vulcan’s mating cycle that takes a Vulcan to the point of death. Therefore, if we’re using this logic, Spock and T’Pring having sex is inaccurate. But, I’m here to tell you that idea is patently false.
According to D.C. Fontana, a writer and continuity story editor for Star Trek: The Original Series, Vulcans do have sex whenever they want, not just within the confines of Pon Farr.
“Vulcans mate normally any time they want to. However, every seven years you do the ritual, the ceremony, the whole thing. The biological urge. You must, but any other time is any other emotion – humanoid emotion – when you’re in love. When you want to, you know when the urge is there, you do it. This every-seven-years business was taken too literally by too many people who don’t stop and understand. We didn’t mean it only every seven years. I mean, every seven years would be a little bad, and it would not explain the Vulcans of many different ages which are not seven years apart.”
So Spock and T’Pring aren’t being written out of character. What is a problem is our expectations. Many fans expect Spock to remain exactly as he was in the 1960s, with an overt focus on logic. However, I’d suggest that Leonard Nimoy never played Spock as an emotionless being. In fact, I’d say he probably would have pushed the character more if 1960s social conventions allowed Star Trek to show more than they did onscreen.
The show was already breaking a lot of “norms” by having people of color onscreen in prominent positions, much less having Nyota Uhura kiss Captain Kirk. I don’t think exploring the intense sexual lives of Vulcans would even be on the cards. But if society had progressed farther at that time, I think we probably would have seen more development of a Vulcan’s inner world than we did.
And let’s not act like everyone’s angry about seeing Spock explore his sexual side. Spock has historically been the franchise’s most popular sex symbol, even more than Kirk, who supposedly bedded every alien girl he came across. Whether it’s within the fandom or in the actual canon (i.e. the Kelvin timeline of films), Spock’s sexuality is a core aspect of his characterization.
Spock’s sexuality comes from his rigid stuffiness, his mysteriousness, and his simmering emotional depth just below the surface of his quirked eyebrow. The allure of the character is to imagine what he’d be like in his more intimate, private moments. With the sheer amount of fans who have imagined some NSFW things about Spock, should it be any surprise the series would cash in on it and finally give the people what they want? If they gave it to the fans in the Kelvin timeline with Spock and Uhura becoming an item, they’re gonna give it to us now, when Spock was canonically still engaged to T’Pring.
So in other words, if you’re uncomfortable seeing Spock get his groove on, you’re just going to have to get used to it.
2. Callbacks to Star Trek: Discovery
Another thing older fans of The Original Series hated was the chain of events that occurred in the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery. Some fans were annoyed with Michael Burnham‘s presence, particularly because of her existence serving as a slight retcon to Spock’s pre-Starfleet life. For some, reckoning with the idea that Spock had a human sister (and a Black one at that) was just too much to bear. It was hard to tell where actual frustrations ended and where racist sentiments began.
Other events in the series, such as Michael and her crew having to deal with galaxy-ending stakes that never existed in The Original Series, also rubbed some fans the wrong way. Did Discovery have to be a serialized show that made everything feel so weighty and monumental? Why couldn’t it just be a “problem of the week” type show like old-school Star Trek? Because of some fans’ growing irritation with the series, they tuned out or just didn’t watch.
However, if you didn’t watch Season 2 of Discovery, you’ll pay for it in Strange New Worlds. The series directly deals with the aftermath of that season, including Pike learning of his fate and Spock reckoning with his feelings of grief after Michael leaves for a one-way ticket to the future. The show doesn’t fully explain why Pike is suffering from fear, or why he’s having memories of his own future sacrifice. It doesn’t fully explain why Michael had to leave or why Spock was left behind. In other words, the show expects you to have been following the story from the beginning and will not wait up to fill you in.
So even if you didn’t like Discovery but want to watch Strange New Worlds, you will not gain full satisfaction until you actually watch the journey Michael and her crew went on. So get to streaming.
3. More fleshed-out characterizations of legacy characters
Even though we all love the original series, let’s face it; there were some threadbare characters. Number One, for instance, only showed up in the pilot and was left behind after the series was picked up due to the network wondering if male viewers would want to watch a woman in a high-ranking position. Despite how much Uhura means to Black women and femmes, she could use some further exploration of character. Nurse Chapel’s identity seemed to revolve more around her obsession with Spock than her nursing skill. In short, some beloved characters, especially the female characters, need some more love and attention.
That’s just what Strange New Worlds promises. In the screeners I watched, Nurse Chapel was likable, flirtatious and ballsy, while nursing some trauma we will presumably learn about as the season goes on. Uhura has joined Enterprise as a cadet, so we will see her first missions and how she grows from a scared, inexperienced person into the capable lieutenant we see her as in The Original Series and beyond. Number One gains a name as well as a full personality and backstory. And that’s just three of the legacy characters who get treated like 3D human beings.
4. Calls for humanism
The first episode doesn’t mince any words about how important it views peace, equality, and other humanistic ideals. By showing audiences a possible future of war, Strange New Worlds calls upon its viewers to turn the other cheek, reach across the aisle and that everyone is someone on this planet. In other words, the show wants us to realize how pertinent it is for us to work together.
In real life, that call for unity is growing stronger every day. With the Ukrainian war and other worldwide atrocities affecting families, climate change affecting populations, and political horror shows threatening protections and rights, more and more people are galvanizing together to make the world a better, safer, more sustainable place. Strange New Worlds has come at just the right time, taking on real-world issues such as the Ukrainian war and the recent “Count the ballot” fiasco that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and illuminating how they show the unhealthy, dark side of humanity. There’s also the warning: if humanity can’t get to the light in favor of feeding the dark, the future will become extremely grim.
However, Strange New Worlds and, indeed, the Star Trek franchise as a whole, showcases that even when things are bad, there is still hope. The creation of Starfleet and a more holistic take on life came from these awful times. Of course, the show isn’t advocating that we live through a nuclear war to find peace. But what it is telling us is that it’s not ridiculous to hope, especially during times when it seems there’s no hope to be found. Hope and optimism, the guiding forces of Starfleet, can be our guiding forces as well, leading us to the light the franchise so desires for its viewers and the world.
5. Inspiration to think higher and reach beyond the stars
Strange New Worlds deals with some heavy things. But overall, it’s a light, fun, exciting adventure. As we travel the galaxy with these characters, we see the various ways they use their emotional intelligence as much as their scientific intelligence.
What I’ve always loved about Star Trek is how Starfleet itself isn’t just about learning equations and mathematics. Aside from using those skills to achieve the technical feats of flying aboard a starship, schooling isn’t the most important aspect of being a Starfleet officer. What’s most important are a person’s curiosity, empathy, cultural sensitivity and psychological openness.
Starfleet doesn’t seek to conquer new places; it seeks to understand new worlds and the beings who inhabit them. Starfleet doesn’t seek to kill; it seeks to protect and befriend. Starfleet doesn’t view space as the “final frontier” for the sake of manifest destiny; it’s called the “final frontier” because it is humanity’s most intense, expansive way to learn about one’s self and one’s place in the universe.
Reaching beyond the stars isn’t about conquering. For the Star Trek franchise, that motto is about looking to gain more wisdom, to become closer to the highest version of yourself. And that kind of deep exploration is what Strange New Worlds is all about.
What do you think about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? Give your opinions below! Also, learn more about the series from my Shadow and Act video interviews with the stars of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds by clicking the link.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is streaming each Thursday on Paramount+.