In some ways, "Strange New Worlds" has emerged as the true successor to "Star Trek: The Next Generation," despite the fact that the recently ended "Star Trek: Picard" actually featured the core cast of "The Next Generation" in its third and final season. For one thing, "Strange New Worlds" is lit better; no longer are we aboard the bridge of a shadowy starship. In both color and tone, the series embraces the bright optimism and humanism that was once central to the "Star Trek" ethos. It's also less of a legacy sequel — wedded to a warehouse of Easter eggs and recycled old plotlines — and more of a legacy prequel.

"Strange New Worlds" takes place before "Star Trek: The Original Series," and it's set aboard the same ship, the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), where new versions of familiar characters like Spock (Ethan Peck) and Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) find themselves getting caught up in "the big idea of the week," as Captain Pike (Anson Mount) himself called it. Here, the serialized melodrama of "Star Trek: Discovery" takes a back seat to a more episodic show that nonetheless weaves in ongoing, character-based subplots.

This is something that sets "Strange New Worlds" apart from "Star Trek: The Original Series," which, despite being classic television (or perhaps because of it), was so episodic as to feel almost disconnected from itself at times. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, "Strange New Worlds" co-creator Akiva Goldsman explained how the evolution of TV storytelling allowed for this shift:

"Part of what's happened is the context of available entertainment has allowed us to do things that are wonderful for this moment in 'Star Trek,' which is episodic storytelling with serialized characters. Dare I say, all puns intended: it's the best of both worlds."

'You Could Bring Emotion From Episode To Episode'

In "Strange New Worlds," season 1, episode 3, "Ghosts of Illyria," the show introduces the idea that chief medical officer Dr. Joseph M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) has a terminally ill daughter he keeps in stasis in the Enterprise's transporter system. However, it's not until episode 8, "The Elysian Kingdom," that this emotional subplot gets folded into the main plot.

That's just one example of how "Strange New Worlds" combines "serialized characters" with "episodic storytelling," as Akiva Goldsman says. It's a move that helps mend frustrations Goldsman felt with "Star Trek: The Original Series" as it catered to viewers with one-off episodes back in the 1960s:

"I was always frustrated at the end of 'City on the Edge of Forever,' where Jim Kirk [William Shatner] would have to watch Edith Keeler [Joan Collins] die — and then be fine next week. So the idea that you could bring emotion from episode to episode, but still do that classic TOS genre jump, and you're getting to do all the great things 'Star Trek' can do in a show — that's super fun for me."

As guilty as "Picard" was of reheating old "Next Generation" stories, you can see where "Strange New Worlds" looks outward to other sci-fi for inspiration, with episodes like "All Those Who Wander" and "Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach" riffing on the "Alien" movies and the Ursula K. Le Guin short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," respectively. The show isn't without flaws, but the fairy tale costumes of "The Elysian Kingdom" and the body-swap shenanigans of "Spock Amok" also feel somewhat true to the zaniness of "Star Trek: The Original Series."

"Strange New Worlds" season 1 is now streaming for free on YouTube, ahead of the season 2 premiere on Paramount+ on June 15, 2023.

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