In the cold open of the first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, we are re-introduced to Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). In addition to watching The Day the Earth Stood Still (again), Pike is first shown cooking a meal after an intimate overnight visit with Captain Batel (Melanie Scrofano). This is far from the only meal we see at the Captain’s Table throughout the first season.
In literally half of the episodes in the first season of SNW, we see Pike cooking a meal. One of these other meals is also just for himself and Batel. However, the other meals are for larger groups. We learn more about this in the second episode of the season, “Children of the Comet.” It becomes clear that each member of the crew will receive an invitation to the Captain’s Table during their assignment on the Enterprise.
But what is the significance of the Captain’s Table? And why does Pike’s propensity for preparing meals matter?
The Captain’s Table
Over the course of many Trek shows, viewers have learned how revealing the setup of a Captain’s Quarters can be. By scanning the wall of “Captains’ Trinkets” that inevitably appears in these locations, deeper insight into the individual leader can be gleaned.
On SNW, we are introduced to a Captain’s Quarters that is essentially arranged around a kitchen and dining table. In “The Serene Squall,” we learn that a concealed unit even provides Pike access to hydroponically grown edible plants. Not only has Pike built the area around dining, but he also has access to natural ingredients.
Characters have commented that replicated foods do not taste the same as their non-replicated counterparts. Furthermore, we have even seen characters replicate individual ingredients rather than jump directly to the food itself.
In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “The Voyager Conspiracy,” Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) tells Chakotay (Robert Beltran) that she’s “been slaving over that replicator program for hours.” This suggests replicator cooking might have the capacity to be more complicated than we’ve been lead to believe.
A Legacy of Dinner
Speaking of Voyager, food also played an important role on that series. This was emphasized when the ship’s replicators began to run out of the raw material they required in order to replicate food.
Over the course of Voyager, we saw several different approaches to food. Perhaps the primary example would be Neelix (Ethan Phillips). In most instances, there isn’t an officially designated chef on board because the synthesizers can handle the cooking. Stranded as they were in the Delta Quadrant, the crew of Voyager didn’t have this luxury.
Fortunately, Janeway was able to designate a more-than-willing Neelix as “morale officer,” a position that included cooking. Neelix understood how important it was to find food that spoke to the individual crewmembers. Many storylines included Neelix undertaking quests to learn about a particular culture in order to facilitate his food preparation for a specific person.
Phillips and William J. Birnes further expanded Neelix’s culinary acumen in the Star Trek Cookbook. This 300-page tome includes recipes that are themed after the four shows that had been released at the time of its publication. It also features extensive in-character commentary from Neelix himself. This is so well done you can practically hear his voice.
Better still, Phillips used his network of Trek friends to gather family recipes from his fellow actors. These are included alongside themed foods like “Plomeek Soup.” Personal recipes include “Scotty’s Lemon Chicken” from James Doohan. There’s also “Lieutenant Barclay’s Crab-Stuffed Salmon” from Dwight Schultz (a perfect choice for your First Contact Day dinner).
Eating on the Enterprise
One of the most important elements of Pike’s cooking is that everyone gets invited for a meal at the Captain’s Table. This is clear from the fact that Cadet Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) is not only invited in the second episode; she is subjected to a type of regular hazing (being convinced to wear her formal uniform).
SNW goes out of its way to learn lessons from preceding Trek shows. In this case, we might be looking at a lesson learned from Star Trek: Lower Decks. While the command crew may be the main characters on SNW, we also see plenty of recurring ensigns. Just like more highly ranking officers, the ensigns and cadets are included at the Captain’s Table, demonstrating how vital community is to Pike.
In the penultimate episode of SNW, we see another important detail about dinner at the Captain’s Table. We know that many of the dirty dishes end up being returned to the replicator for recycling. But in “Not All Who Wander,” we see that everyone is expected to pitch in with the dishes – including Spock (Ethan Peck).
Wouldn’t you like to share a meal with this community at the Enterprise Captain’s Table?