The Paramount+ streaming service continues to boldly go where no one has gone before with yet another series devoted to Gene Roddenberry’s beloved science-fiction universe.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — Season One (CBS/Paramount Home Entertainment, rated TV-MA, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 474 minutes, $47.99) now arrives in a three-disc, high definition format set offering its 10 inaugural episodes that take viewers back to the more familiar Star Trek timeline chronicling the early adventures tied to Capt. Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), the man who commanded the USS Starship Enterprise 10 years before Capt. James T. Kirk took the helm.
That allows creators to introduce a vessel full of very familiar and not-so-familiar characters with younger versions of legends such as science officer Spock (Ethan Peck), linguists specialist Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) mixing with crew members including First Officer Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn), Chief of Security La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) and Chief Medical Officer Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun).
The series shines by taking viewers on a journey by one man who has seen and experienced his tragic fate (reference Pike’s dilemma in the second season of “Star Trek: Discovery”) and must balance a strategy to hopefully affect the outcome with running an exploratory starship around the galaxy on a collection of varied missions and death-defying challenges every episode.
Episodes focus on battling space pilots while in an asteroid field, getting a sentient comet to not strike a planet, breaking the prime directive to stop a warring culture from using a warp drive as a weapon and a horror-themed “Aliens”-style episode tied to the lizard-like Gorn species that can embed eggs in other beings (you know where that’s going). And an introduction to the Romulans in the neutral zone.
Ancillary story arcs, besides Pike’s fate, also sneak in and mix a delicious look at canon, such as the first officer revealing that she is a genetically modified Illyrian (a conflict to Starfleet’s genetic alteration laws), to a doctor keeping his ill child around by storing her in the transporter beam and the conflicted life of La’an, a descendant of the notorious Trek villain Khan Noonien-Singh.
And even Spock gets deep into the backstory drama with an episode in which his conscious gets exchanged with his fiancé T’Pring, a classic if not cliched storyline seen in many a show over the history of television.
The writers really embrace diving into telling deep, stand-alone stories that will satisfy Trekkies looking for a nostalgic, genuine Star Trek experience but with enough action and serialization of characters to build a new audience.
Equally worth noting are the exceptional visual effects throughout the episodes.
Viewers will savor a massive storm attacking a planet; a Gorn ship collapsing from being to close to a brown dwarf (neon highlights around bridge); a flyover from the front of a R’ongovian flagship; a solar-sailed starship; or a pair of shuttles landing on an ice planet near a crashed Federation Constitution class starship.
Best extras: Viewers get an optional commentary track on the first episode “Strange New Worlds” with Mr. Mount and co-creator, writer and director Akiva Goldsman.
The pair gloriously and nonstop shed light on the production of the series while deconstructing the characters and acting counterparts; comparing scenes to canon; discussing the visual effects; and often complimenting all of the actors and crew.
Next, viewers can dive into and almost hourlong overview of the production often deconstructing the characters and exploring story plots; and then a 12-minute featurette on the slick visual effects including a focus on a 360-degree digital AR landscape wall.
Also worth a look is 17 minutes with a wacky Mr. Mount offering a first-person perspective to the series, first dealing with the COVID-19 quarantine and then meeting and interviewing select cast and crew, and even reading a special inspirational message from NASA.
The most intriguing and the darn coolest part of the extras is the inclusion of the visually remastered episode “Balance of Terror” from “Star Trek: The Original Series,” complementing the “Strange New Worlds” season-ending episode “A Quality of Mercy.”