Episodes watched: 6 out of 10
Fan favourite Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and the iconic roster of the bridge crew’s voyages aboard the U.S.S Enterprise continue in the second season of Paramount+’s hit series Star Trek: Strange New World. Originally a spinoff from Star Trek: Discovery, the acclaimed first series quickly won over old and new fans alike with the genre-hopping episodic nature of the classic Trek, whilst carving out it’s own unique stamp amongst the franchise by exploring uncharted territories a decade before Star Trek: The Original.
The age old question of whether the sophomore series could replicate the magic of the first is always a topic at the forefront of the fanbase – particularly so soon after the excellent third series of Picard – however I’m pleased to report it’s just as much fun as the first, with a fantastic focus on character development with a greater spotlight on certain crew members, along with brilliant new additions.
Following the shock arrest of Number One (Rebecca Romijn) in the season finale, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 surprisingly picks up with an action-packed episode as we catch up with Christina Chong’s La’an Noonien-Singh (and a fair few gun-toting Klingons) following her sabbatical. As Pike travels to find legal aid for his comrade, “The Broken Circle” sees Spock (Ethan Peck) in the captain’s chair, with a hilarious – and somewhat meta – discussion on what his captain call would be. It’s not until episode two “Ad Astra per Aspera” where we pick up with Number One’s tale – a powerful courtroom drama reminiscent of the iconic Next Generation episode, “The Measure Of A Man“.
The following episodes continue in a similar vein as the crew explore uncharted territories, encounter new life and civilisations, uncover and solve new mysteries and even steal the Enterprise to answer a mysterious distress call. The self-contained stories are once again a wonderful love letter to classic Trek, each complete with a different tone and morality tale, with showrunners Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers playfully exploring several genres and sci-fi tropes throughout. There’s more Spock-centred transformational hijinks in “Charades”, the horror-esque “Lost In Translation” and a timey wimey alternate universe mission in “Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow”.
While there’s plenty of variety amongst the mission-of-the-week episodes, this enjoyable format also allows for the ensemble cast to shine in the more character-driven moments and ongoing subplots, complete with further character development. While the ever charismatic Anson Mount continues to shine in the leading role, the element which truly sets Strange New World apart from other live-action Trek is the endearing dynamic between the excellent ensemble.
Spock’s journey is once again a big part of Strange New Worlds, with Peck surprisingly further flexing his comedic (and romantic!) chops. Christina Chong is also afforded greater depth as she explores Noonien-Singh’s inner conflict being a descendant of Khan, along with much more time afforded to the brilliant Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura. However, it’s the new addition of the ever quirky Carol Kane as engineer Pelia who often threatens to steal the show! Goldsman and Myers also reintroduce Paul Wesley’s cheeky chappy-esque James T. Kirk in a handful of episodes, further laying the foundations for the iconic trio of Kirk, Spock and Uhura.
If there is one slight criticism of this series however, it’s the unfortunate tendency to split the strong ensemble up as various crew members head out on separate missions, often dividing characters between the ship and other planets etc. In result, certain characters end up being sidelined at times. Also, it’s a long wait for the highly anticipated crossover with animated series Lower Decks – directed by the legendary Jonathan Frakes – as it’s been confirmed as the seventh episode.
The series also retains its outstanding production design thanks to the clever incorporation of the AR wall technology, allowing the crew to explore plenty of new worlds (and times!) with meticulous and immersive details. Bringing the various elements and levels of the ship to life is also an impressive feat, with plenty of new levels and sections – including the stylish bar/lounge – explored.
With a combination of fun and thought provoking mission-of-the-week style episodes and a greater focus on the excellent ensemble cast, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 continues to engage and impress.