Sunday, 17 May 2020

Party of Three: Strange New Worlds Straight to Series

While not confirmed by CBS All Access until today, social media has been alight with rumours around the much-demanded Captain Pike series for many weeks.

Sixty-six years in the making, the crew from The Cage are finally getting to tell their story on the small screen. We've had the comics, the novels, but now - and due to the call from fandom - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is official and will bring Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romjin as Number One and Ethan Peck as Lieutenant Spock back to the franchise.

Already this show is being touted as a more episodic series with each story a closed narrative giving us a Trek we haven't really experienced since a sprinkling of tales in Enterprise but possibly not solidly since Voyager.

The calls for Yeoman Colt, Doctor Boyce and Jose Tyler are already coming from fans, soon after the rumours that Jake Cannavale from The Mandalorian could show up as a young Kirk.

I mean this is all speculation at the moment since we've only just had the news that it IS going ahead. However the first episode has already been written for a series that has been fully green-lit. This will mean that for the first time ever there will be four live action Star Trek's in some form of production at the same time - Discovery, Picard, Section 31 and Pike's much rumoured/anticipated/demanded show.

The short video that helped announce the news saw Mount, Romjin and Peck all revealing the show's title and just how much influence the creation of the series had due to fans.

Cleverly there's also another way to look at this. Both Discovery and Picard were shows created by the studio because they felt that would satisfy fans but both have, in some degree with a portion of the fanbase, failed to do so. With Strange New Worlds, there's the fallback - a a point - that if it fails then some of the blame could fall on the baying voices of Trekkies across the world. After all, this is a show they wanted after the success of Mount's Captain Pike in Discovery.

It could well be a very shrewd, calculated risk to see if the studio is better going for fan input into what should be happening or go with their own direction. That said, I would expect Strange New Worlds to have the highest premiere audience of any of the new shows straight away and, if it does remain solidly episodic, avoids arcs and goes back to the basics of the 1960's Star Trek ethos then how can it possibly fail? This has the potential to be THE most Star Trek since, well, Star Trek in essence going back to where it quite literally all began. Imagine though if Strange New Worlds is a huge, galactic success - might that signal a change in the focus and direction of the franchise? Is the creation of this series potentially a make or break to win over those fans not convinced by bringing back a much-loved character in Picard?

If fans of classic Star Trek felt that was wrong then might the shift to episodic and self-contained stories be the next gamble - is this actually what those fans of the "Golden Age" and before want to see? I would think it'll depend a lot on the quality of the writing, the strength of the cast and maybe avoiding dropping an occasional "f-bomb" to appease those who feel the last two series have widdled all over the very concept of Star Trek and the Roddenberry vision. 

But what would I want to see in a new show? What can Strange New Worlds bring to a franchise which will have a series set in The Original Series era, one in the distant future and one in The Next Generation timeframe?

A return of Klingons for one would be amazing, plus let's explore the lingering effects of the mission that saw the Enterprise crew lose many of its number prior to The Cage. What about seeing how those visions from Discovery of his own future will affect Pike? How about a fully realised CG crewmember for the first time (I'm not saying they could retcon in Arex but...). Could we see Garth of Izar before he went a bit mad? It does need to deliver on the series title in every sense or a lot of people will be feeling very, very shortchanged from the start.

There does need to be more exploration of Pike, certainly lots of deep diving into the character of Number One - will she be Una??? Plus it does allow for us to see Spock in a new light, one where he's an officer but not a senior rank and still learning the ropes to an extent. I wouldn't be too surprised if there's an occasional guest from James Frain's Sarek.

Yet telling new, exciting, self-contained Star Trek stories that fit with the pillars on which it was founded have to be the priority. The series has to rekindle that flame from the 1960's show and clearly demonstrate a strong cast chemistry and real moral ground around real issues to truly be a successor to The Cage - and perhaps it could be a little too cerebral along the way.

Who would you want to see cast in Strange New Worlds and as whom? What would be your mission objectives for this new voyage?

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