I’m Loving “Strange New Worlds”

Hi Everyone!

I’ve been very busy with family matters so I haven’t been able to post much here lately. But I wanted to throw in a few good words about the latest Trek venture Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. (SNW)

Of course I LOVE IT! In our upside down real world, it is so nice to have this little respite of a new, yet familiar Star Trek world to still give us a little hope for the future. And how beautiful is The Enterprise!

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

If you don’t know, this exclusive Paramount + series, focuses on the early adventures of The USS Enterprise. With the crew of Captain Christopher Pike, Number One, and Lt. Spock, and it takes place a few years after the events of The Cage and 10 years before the command of Captain Kirk.

I am delighted to see how Strange New Worlds carefully crochets together elements of TOS classic with tweaked, more insightful backstories of characters new and familiar. Surprisingly, a few times so far the story would start in a very familiar place, for example:

  • Two characters stranded on a planet during an Ion storm, but if they’re beamed up, we know they might end up in a mirror universe?
  • The Enterprise Crew encounter Gorn ships!
  • Spock appears to be on Vulcan about to fight Ka-li-fee?

But none of these initial premises go where we ‘mature’ Trekkies think they might:

  • The two characters end up stranded on the planet throughout the storm.
  • We never actually see the Gorn.
  • Spock’s battle on Vulcan is merely a dream about his dual identity.

This is very clever and fun on the writer’s part. I really appreciate it!

I am also enjoying more back stories about TOS favorites that we knew little about in their first appearances 55+ years ago, as well as new characters.

For example, First Officer Number One‘s actual name is Una Chin-Riley, with a surprising backstory.

Uhura is a very promising Cadet, and the series is leaning wisely into her language and musical abilities.

Nurse Chapel is a no-nonsense medical pro with sharp humor, yet a subtle vulnerability.

Lieutenant Spock not only is involved with T’Pring*, but is perfectly capable of romantic canoodling without the benefit of Pon Farr. Indeed, in the most recent episode, (The Serene Squall), SNW gave Spock lovers the greatest ‘fan service’ I have ever seen! THANK YOU!!!

It’s a joy to have lesser-seen characters, Like Dr. M’Benga and Mr. Kyle resurface. We even find out that Jim Kirk’s brother, Sam, is serving on the Enterprise in the Sciences, although we haven’t seen much of him. We’ve even briefly seen the legendary Captain April! Ifind M’Benga’s story especially poignant.

However, the drama in SNW doesn’t mean that it takes itself too seriously (like TNG often did in its first season). One episode even hilariously mimicked the body transference we saw in the classic Turnabout Intruder, to a hilarious effect. Indeed, this series is full of humor: At one point Pike says ” I love my job!”

Speaking of Pike, It’s important to note that if you have followed Discovery, it’s known in this series that Pike knows his fate will involve becoming disabled sometime in the next decade, yet this doesn’t keep him from being the best Captain he can be. And who can argue with that killer quiff!** I look forward to Pike and Spock’s budding friendship, and watching Spock grow throughout this part of his life which leads him to be the First Officer we know in TOS.

Among new intriguing characters are:

Chief Engineer Hemmer, who is an Aenar, which is an albino subspecies of Andorian. He is legally blind, but this is not a deterrent to his abilities. He can be curt and a bit harsh in his mannerisms sometimes, but we’re only just discovering him.

Lt. Erica Ortegas is in charge of security, we are still learning about her.

And finally there is La’an Noonian-Singh, who’s last name will be very familiar most of us here. Yes, she is a descendant of THE Khan Noonian Singh, and she is friends with Number One, who rescued her when her home was being destroyed by The Gorn.

In a contrary nod to the original plot The Cage, I have to say it is a pleasure to see Captain Pike surrounded on the bridge my a mostly female crew. He’s come a long way from the Pike who said “I can’t get used to having a woman on the bridge.” (Thank God!!)

Also, this new series is ‘episodic’, like the Original Series, which means that like it’s predecessor, it ties up every adventure with a neat little bow. It does not have a season long story arc that has dragged down some of the other recent Trek series. This leaves the writers freedom to truly enjoy the adventures of exploring strange new worlds! I like this aspect so much, I don’t even watch previews of the next episode! Let it surprise me!

To me this latest iteration of the Star Trek Universe is as comfortable and as warm as a fuzzy tribble and tasty as plomeek soup! The next new episode airs today, Thursday, June 23 on Paramount Plus, May it Live Long and Prosper!

* The Original Series gave the impression that Spock had not seen T’Pring since they were seven. ** Man, everyone on this show has great hair!

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“Star Trek Beyond” My Review

Hmm…Maybe in this series of Star Trek movies, it’s the odd numbered ones that are better!

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Spock, Jaylah, and McCoy face adversaries in “Star Trek Beyond”

I went to see Star Trek Beyond the other week, going in not sure what to expect, especially since the first trailer left me a little concerned.  Its impression suggested that Beyond would be nothing but action-action- action.   To my delight, this is not the case.  Instead, Beyond has a style that is way more in tune with the original series. Introspection is a key element, but the viewer isn’t beaten over the head with it.  Like the previous Into Darkness, there is reference to the original series, but unlike Darkness, it is refreshingly subtle, sometimes humorous and most importantly, respectful.  This makes Beyond far more enjoyable for old and new fans alike.  (And yes, there’s plenty of action too).

The adventure opens with Kirk attempting to give a peace-offering to a race of beings who glare down at him from a cliff.  His ambassador skills fail in way so comical,  it’s no wonder he doubts his ability as captain, (now three years into the Enterprise mission).  And Kirk isn’t alone with his doubts.  Spock’s relationship with Uhura is strained, and he’s apprehensive for his future with Starfleet, especially since receiving the sad news of Spock Prime’s death.

The Enterprise answers distress signal, but it leads to trouble and threatens whole Earth in doing so.  The crew finds themselves split apart, their beloved ship destroyed. This may sound like tried and true Trek trope, but it makes the characters boldly go where the two previous movies didn’t; forcing them into confrontations with their own mortality, and questioning their worth.

We see crew members paired off after they’re scattered on the harsh planet of Altmid, facing their fears together.  Spock and McCoy, Kirk and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, and most notably, Scotty and Jaylah.  As they work together to find their way home, friendships become bonds and they realize that their obligations to their starship family goes well beyond duty, but to survival itself.

The cast has evolved in as any acting family would in a nearly 10-year space (!) since this reboot began. Chris Pine has grown a bit more serious and much less frat-boy into his depiction of Kirk, better fitting his character .  Zachary Quinto’s reveals subtle layers of Spock as a Vulcan still learning to hide his emotions.  His inner struggle leads to a very funny moment when he is injured, which leads Karl Urban’s delightful Bones to utter “My God, he’s delirious!” Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is kick-ass class at it’s best, and a strong role model for young women, as is Sofia Boutella, as the lone fighter, Jaylah. It’s bittersweet to see Anton Yelchin in his last outing as Chekov, he is as charming and as smart as ever, but hasn’t nearly enough time on screen as I wished he would. I give props to Simon Pegg, whose screenplay written with Doug Jung, gives Scotty a lot more adventure to bite into this time. They’ve also added subtle backstory to Sulu (John Cho) as we briefly see his husband and daughter.  The writing team has added a lot of the warmth back into the series without being smarmy.  It also deals with the the emotional tug of war that becomes an all-powerful being, as Krall (Idris Elba) has become. One suspects there more to Krall than his merciless destruction,  and eventually we discover his tragic core. It’s classic Trek storytelling, with moral consequences.  And yes, there’s a touching homage to Spock and the original crew too. <3

My one complaint here is a cosmetic one.  Spock’s Vulcan haircut is too darn short! It needs to sprout a little more above his ears and have sharper sideburns!

Looking forward to seeing this again, and I urge all of you who have abandoned the reboot after the much shunned Darkness to come back and see how our beloved Star Trek can be true to itself again. This Star Trek has come home to its TOS roots, and I cannot think of a better way to honor the original series in its golden anniversary.