“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” is the latest Star Trek series; She started with the task of bringing back the Trekkies, who were scared off by “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Star Trek: Picard”, back on board. The second season has just ended – time for a summary. Not really knowing where to sit between Discovery’s magic Trek and the dusty papier-mâché planets of the original series at first, has this series found its niche in the hearts of Trek fans?
Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the first two seasons of Strange New Worlds.
It’s nothing new for a Star Trek series to stumble with its first season. The first season of “The Next Generation” feels a bit like an amateur theater performance at times, and “Deep Space Nine” only got really good after Sisko shaved his hair off. But Strange New Worlds has a much deeper problem as a series that has to find itself a bit first. Because this series cannot find itself because there is nothing to find. Strange New Worlds is an empty, soulless, silly thing. If producers Kurtzman and Goldsman had simply made a real series with the actors from Strange New Worlds instead of the comic series “Lower Decks” that takes place shortly after the movie “Star Trek: Nemesis”, or maybe even further in the future, then then everything would have been fine. This could have been a really good series.
Strange New Worlds has all the makings of it: the special effects and sets are stunning, the actors are solid throughout, some (notably Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Jess Bush) are great. Also, most of the stories told in the series are solid Trek scripts. But Kurtzman, Goldsman and company torpedoed it all at once with multiple volleys of quantum torpedoes because they really wanted to do a prequel series to the adventures of Kirk and Spock. The normal Kurtzman bullshit with magical time crystals and screenwriters who show neither a basic knowledge of science nor an understanding of the general behavior of naval officers could still be tolerated, but the stupid idea of letting it all take place in the time of Kirk and Spock , breaks the neck of the series.
Soft reboots have never been a good idea
The basic problem is this: like many of their Hollywood peers, the producers of SNW don’t have the backbone to hard reboot Star Trek. Just like her TNG colleague Ronald D. Moore did with his new edition of “Battlestar Galactica” with great success. For CBS and Paramount, this concept flopped in cinemas a few years ago with the three new Star Trek films – especially in the eyes of the actual Star Trek fans. That’s why you’re doing what Hollywood is doing now: a soft reboot. You’re telling the same stories again and changing actors without really deciding whether this is really a retelling or something else (insert quantum timeline bullshit explanation here).
Why does Hollywood do this when the result is almost always bad stories with huge plot holes that, through their self-imposed clinging to decades-old storylines, become tangled up in them until the story dies out? Quite simply: Because you need the old heroes so that anyone is watching this new crap. Unlike Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, these series don’t have the power of their own to stand alone.
You can see it very clearly from the new Indiana Jones film through several Star Wars series to Star Trek: Discovery and Strange New Worlds: It doesn’t work without at least the names of the old heroes. Nobody cares about Helena Shaw, Fennec Shand or La’an Noonien-Singh if they don’t have Henry Jones, Boba Fett or James Tiberius Kirk next to them. Most viewers have forgotten the new characters ten minutes after turning off the television.
Basically, I think it’s a good idea to do a Star Trek series where almost only women sit on the bridge and the men have nothing to say. But such a series has to work without the names (and characters) of legendary old white men like Pike, Spock and Kirk. Not to mention that the idea of doing this on the Enterprise bridge between The Cage and the original series is completely insane. With Pike, Uhura saves the ship every third episode, and with Kirk, for years, she has nothing to do but pass on radio messages and be rescued on away missions? Please, this is silly. Just as silly as the idea of Kirk subordinate to a female security officer on a sensitive away mission. No matter what parallel universe this is set in, Kirk is Kirk!
Command lines and techno-babble
These inconsistencies run throughout the series, but in Strange New Worlds Season 2 they tend to get worse rather than better. You could say that SNW walks a fine line between modern sci-fi and a nod to the original crew’s ’60s adventures, but that would be a lie. The screenwriters and producers drunkenly stumble off the ridge into the abyss in almost every episode. Spock doesn’t behave like Spock, Nurse Chapel was suddenly at war, Pike has ensigns explain to him how he has to do his job, and in general these screenwriters know far too little about Star Trek. Or science. Or about what a chain of command is in a military organization.
Again for Kurtzman and Goldsman to take note: Starfleet is a military organization. The name says it all, after all it’s a fleet. Officers serve here who wear uniforms, have ranks and carry weapons. In Starfleet, if you disobey orders, you face a court-martial. If in doubt, you will be locked away. No one in Strange New Worlds Starfleet seems to care. Everyone from midshipman to captain ignores orders they don’t like at will. The ship’s doctor murders (!) a Federation ambassador, and he and his direct subordinate then lie to their captain without any consequences or the characters feeling even the slightest guilt because of this dishonorable and unethical behavior.
There used to be whole episodes in Star Trek series about the Doctor refusing to make biological warfare devices. Not only did Doc M’Benga invent and enjoy using a combat drug, he was also an elite soldier and skilled dagger killer in a past life. No, I’m not making this crap up. These are all plot points from SNW Season 2.
The old Star Trek series had techno-babble. This was a result of the attempt to predict the natural sciences of the future as realistically as possible using the scientific knowledge available at the time of shooting. That went wrong, the Star Trek nonsense with the “genetic memories” is a good example. But at least they tried. The SNW creators don’t give a damn about scientific findings. Terms like “gravity”, “quantum” or “probability” are only used here to hide the absurd twists and turns in the screenplays. Why is this happening now? Ah, something to do with subspace quantum silicon photons. It’s okay. That’s how you write screenplays these days. Gone are the days when you could still learn from Star Trek episodes what a Moebius band is (TNG: “Time Squared”) or what dangers there are when a society is ruled by artificial intelligence (TOS: “A Taste of Armageddon”). Nobody wants that anymore! Far too complicated. The main thing is that a woman is in charge and enough things explode!
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