Fans of CBS and Paramount+’s latest addition to the ever expanding Star Trek universe – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — got some good news about the series late last month. The news in question was the announcement that the series has been renewed for a third season, this despite the fact that the fledgling series’ second season has not even premiered yet. Its premiere date is scheduled for June 15. Such a statement from higher ups at CBS and Paramount is quite the statement of faith in the series. For those who have yet to even take in the series’ first season, it may well be justified. That is because as the recently released first season shows, it is the best installment of the Star Trek universe since…well…The Next Generation. The writing that went into this season makes that clear. It will be discussed shortly. While the writing does plenty to make the show fully engaging and appealing, Season One’s recent home physical release does have some issue, that being its packaging. This will be discussed a little later. The packaging is not enough to doom the new release. To that end, there is still one more positive to note, and it comes in the form of the cast’s work interpreting the writing. This will also be addressed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the new home physical release of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. All things considered, the recent home physical release of this standout series’ debut season largely a successful presentation despite its packaging concerns.
Late last month, CBS and Paramount+ brought their latest addition to the ever expanding Star Trek universe home on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray steel book. The recent home physical release proves to be largely a welcome addition to the home library of any Star Trek fan. That is saying a lot, considering it took its predecessor, Discovery, three seasons to finally prove itself a worthy addition to the Star Trek universe and it took another of its predecessors, Lower Decks, two seasons to finally become appealing. Picard only barely improved from its first season to its second, but not by much, too. The immediate positive impact of Strange New Worlds comes in large part through its writing. Unlike so many series out there today (including so many Star Trek series), this series brings audiences back to the days of episodic writing. This means that audiences do not feel like they have to invest so much of their time into the series to really appreciate the show. This even despite the fact that each episode opens with the standard “previously on…” introduction. The show’s writers are to be applauded for their work throughout the season, even from early on. Season premiere episode “Strange New Worlds” takes audiences back to the golden age of Star Trek as Captain Pike and the crew of the Enterprise have to hide their identities in order to rescue first officer Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn – X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand) from an alien world where she is being held prisoner. Things don’t go quite as planned as the genetic change used to hide the crew’s identity wears off on Spock and they are revealed to not be from the planet. Ultimately it leads to a powerful climax when Captain Pike (Anson Mount – Hell on Wheels, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Crossroads) stands at a tense political meeting of the planet’s representatives, offering them to join the Federation or destroy each other using the technology they have gained. As it so happens, the writers reveal the warp technology the planet’s people have obtained was the result of the events of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3. The tie-in there is handled expertly by the writers, who allow the reference but do not let it overpower the bigger story line. The result is that said reference will likely get newer audiences to go back and watch Season 3 of Discovery.
Another example of the power of the writing comes much later in the season in the form of the episode, “Spock Amock.” In the case of this episode, Spock (Ethan Peck – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, In Time, The Midnight Sky) and his fiancée, T’Pring (Gia Sandhu – A Perfect Plan, The Moth Diaries, A Simple Favor) accidentally change bodies when going through part of their courtship. Yes, it’s the old familiar plot device that’s been used in so many science fiction series. The thing is that in this episode, the writers do not allow it to fall into all of the trappings that those series have used and allowed to make the plot device to trite. Watching Sandhu (who is supposed to be Spock through most of the episode_ lay out another Vulcan makes for such a hilarious moment. That is because as serious as Spock is all the time, seeing that surprise moment is just so shocking and lighthearted. Meanwhile, T’Pring, in Spock’s body, has to help Pike navigate negotiations to being another alien race into the federation. The way in which Peck presents T’Pring handling Spock in the moment makes for an equally engaging juxtaposition to how Sandhu took on Spock being in her body. The whole is a surprisingly engaging comedy of errors, so to speak. How the pair finally return to their own bodies will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. It is a little bit too familiar, but still kind of funny in its own right. The whole here shows that even with an all too familiar plot device, the series’ writers are able to bring audiences something fresh, engaging and entertaining.
Another familiar plot device that has been used in previous Star Trek series (and other science fiction series) is that of a mystery ailment making its way through the Enterprise. One of the most notable times then happened was in TNG when a virus spread through the ship that essentially acted like alcohol, inhibiting the crew’s actions and judgements. The Enterprise is almost destroyed as a result. It all happened after the Enterprise’s crew went to investigate the death of another ship’s crew. In the case of “Ghosts of Illyria,” the virus gets onboard the Enterprise after the crew is beamed up from the surface of another planet that was ravaged by the effect of ion storms. The whole story will not be revealed here, but the virus infects the Enterprise’s crew and makes them crazy for light, to the point that they nearly destroy the ship, right down to Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak – Warehouse 13, Transplant, In The Dark) trying to transport part of the planet onto the ship. Had Hemmer succeeded, it most certainly destroyed the ship. The tension that the writers create throughout the story makes this familiar matter fully original and in turn just as engaging and entertaining as the stories in the other episodes discussed here and the rest of the season’s episodes. The whole of that content and the bonus feature-length commentaries that accompany some of the episodes pair to make for plenty of appeal for viewers.
While the general content featured in the new home physical release of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One does plenty to make this season a strong start for the series, the packaging thereof detracts from that appeal to a point. Speaking specifically about the season’s DVD packaging, the season’s 10 total episodes are spread across four discs. The discs overlap each other on the inside front and back of the case, with two discs on either side. One cannot help but wonder why all involved would use such an archaic packaging method, considering how easy it would have been to place one disc inside on the front, on inside on the back, and then put the other two discs on either side of a leaf inside the case. That would protect the discs while also allowing at least slightly more access to the welcome episode guide printed inside the case’s wrap. Instead, by placing them in overlapping style, viewers lose out. That is because they have to remove both discs on either side to get to just one disc. In the process of removing and replacing the discs, this packaging format dramatically increases the odds of the discs marring one another, in turn potentially reducing their life span. Keeping that in mind, this packaging used for Season One’s home physical release is very problematic. It is not enough to doom the season’s home physical presentation, but hopefully when the series’ second season becomes available to home viewers, all involved with rethink the packaging and do something…well…smarter (for lack of another word) with that season’s packaging. Knowing that the packaging is clearly problematic but not enough to doom the set, there is still one more positive to note. That positive is the cast’s work on camera.
Mount leads the way in terms of the performances as he returns to the role of the famed Capt. Pike. For those who might not be too familiar with the latest Star Trek series, Mount took on the role of Pike in the third season of Discovery in a standalone episode that threw back to the original Star Trek series, what with the whole issue of Harry Mudd and the Tribbles. He stood out just as much in that performance, too and it was likely that it was that performance that led to the creation of Strange New Worlds. The confidence that Mount brings to Mount in the needed moments and the controlled vulnerability that he displays as he faces his own mortality makes him just as enjoyable to watch as William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard) in their respective series. The moment when he sits down with the bridge crew and welcomes a young Uhura (played by relative newcomer Celia Rose Gooding) throws back to the performances of Stewart and Shatner in its own enjoyable way, too. Gooding herself presents her own impressive performance as the then cadet Uhura. The growth that she brings to Uhura as a persona makes her a fully sympathetic character because of the growing confidence that Uhura gradually displays. Her performances in the role are fully believable and enjoyable to watch during those formative years of Uhura’s career even as Uhura doubts her place aboard the Enterprise.
Peck deserves his own share of credit, too, as Spock. He is not the same Spock portrayed by the late great Leonard Nimoy, but his presence in the role really does its own share to mirror Nimoy’s performances, both in his more serious moments and at least one lighter moment. In similar fashion, Horak’s gruff Chief Engineer Hemmer is so lovable because he is that persona who still does have a certain amount of heart. Horak does so well balancing those sides of Hemmer throughout the season as does Babs Olusanmokun as ship’s doctor M’Bega. M’Bega is no Bones, but his moments on screen allow him to portray some personality, too. Speaking of medical staff, Jess Bush (Home and Away, Playing For Keeps, Skinford: Chapter 2) surprises as the young nurse, Christine Chapel. Chapel is essentially M’Bega’s second in command, yet every time she is on camera, the duality that she brings to the pair with her energy makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment, too. That is because of the comic appeal that she creates opposite M’Bega’s more serious tone. It is just one more example of the importance of the cast’s work here in SNW’s debut season. Between the performances examined here and those of the rest of the cast (all of which are just as deserving of praise in their own right), the overall work of the cast throughout Season One makes for so much engagement and entertainment. When the overall work of the cast is paired with the work of the series’ writers, the whole makes watching each episode so fully engaging and entertaining. That overall content makes Season One’s home physical presentation all the more deserving of praise, even considering the issue of the packaging. All things considered, the home physical release of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One proves to be one of the best of this year’s new DVD and Blu-ray releases for grown-ups.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One’s recent home physical release is a mostly successful presentation and start for the series. Its success comes in large part through its writing. The writing brings viewers something new and something familiar throughout its 10 total episodes. The writing makes the new stories fully engaging and entertaining because of their originality. The more familiar story lines are given equally, welcome new life thanks to the writing staff’s work. While the stories that were crafted for Season One are enjoyable, one can only hope that viewers will be able to watch them for years to come. That hope is due to the issue of the packaging method used for the set’s four discs. The overlapping of the discs greatly increases the risk of the discs scratching one another during removal and replacement of each disc, greatly increasing the risk of the discs’ life begin reduced. Thankfully this is not such an issue that it will doom the set. Keeping that in mind, there is one more positive to Season One’s presentation. It comes in the form of the cast’s work. From the bridge crew to the Engineering staff and others in-between, each cast member brings his or her own flair to the show that is enjoyable in its own right along with the writing. When the writing and performances are considered together, they ensure Season One is a strong start for Strange New Worlds and even despite the packaging issues, is one of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray box sets for grown-ups.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and steel book Blu-ray. More information on the series is available along with all of the series’ latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.