The first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has arrived on Paramount Plus, and with it, a full complement of spoilers! If you haven’t watched the episode and want to remain unspoiled, stop reading now.
The series premiere, which shares the title “Strange New Worlds” with the show, was from a teleplay by Akiva Goldsman, a story by Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman, and Jenny Lumet, and was directed by Goldsman.
A klaxon blares and a figure walks down a hallway, we hear the voice of Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) in voiceover. She delivers a “First Contact” speech as the figure continues down the hallway and enters a control room where panicked voices speak about the arrival of a UFO. “What is that?” asks one of the aliens as the USS Archer, comes into focus on their viewscreen.
A few familiar notes of the Star Trek: The Original Series theme play as we cut to the snowy landscape of Bear Creek, Montana (just a few hundred kilometers from Bozeman, where Vulcans made First Contact with humans), Stardate: 1739.12. In a cozy house, a bearded Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) is watching The Day the Earth Stood Still as he cooks breakfast.
The Starfleet Captain he’s been sleeping with (Melanie Scrofano) wakes up alone before joining Pike. They eat and we learn that she’s heading out the next day, while Enterprise will remain in spacedock for another week. Pike ignores a phone call, refusing to say what happened to him on his last mission before she departs.
Next, “Cowboy Pike” rides a horse through the snow. We’ve known since the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Q&A” that Pike is sentimental about horses, so he’s chagrined when a Federation shuttlecraft flies overhead and lands, spooking his mount. Admiral Bob April (Adrian Holmes) exits the craft and tells Pike that they need his help. Pike insists that they agreed that they would wait until Enterprise left spacedock to decide what he’d do next, but the Admiral reveals it’s a rescue mission for Number One.
April tells Pike he’s pulling Enterprise out of spacedock. Pike demures, saying the Admiral doesn’t want him in charge of the ship. The Admiral asks what happened to Pike out there but Pike won’t answer. The Admiral tells Pike he can quit when he gets home, but first, he’s been ordered to go find Una.
Meanwhile on Raal, Vulcan. Inside a restaurant, Spock (Ethan Peck) and T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) engage in the highly ritualized choreography of Vulcan romance. Soon, T’Pring produces a necklace and asks Spock to marry her, and the pair kiss after she places it around his neck, an emotional display that evokes the ire of the waiter.
The pair retire to a more private venue. The couple is about to make like it’s amok time when Spock’s communicator notifies him of an incoming transmission. Unlike Pike, Spock doesn’t allow the call to go to voicemail.
Activating the viewscreen, Spock is greeted by Pike. T’Pring is familiar enough with him to call him “Chris” and make him aware that he’s interrupting. Pike apologizes but says they’re heading out, and Spock states that he’ll see him on board; T’Pring will understand. As the communication ends, T’Pring makes it clear that she won’t chase him.
We see a clean-shaven Pike reading a PADD aboard the shuttlecraft Stamets. He’s brushing up on Lieutenant La’an Noonen-Singh (Christina Chong), and one word is sure to jump out at you: “GORN.”
Pike beams aboard the Enterprise and reunites with Spock, thanking Chief Kyle (André Dae Kim). Spock updates Pike with the details on leaving spacedock early, and mentions “Lieutenant Kirk.” Pike asks how Spock is doing, and he confides that he misses his sister, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Pike misses her as well.
Pike is surprised to see Spock hasn’t been assigned first officer in Una’s absence: chief of security Noonen-Singh has been assigned the role instead. Pike gets reports from the helmsman, Lieutenant Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia), Ops, and communications officer Cadet Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) before ordering the Enterprise out of spacedock.
Pike experiences a vision of his future self, distracting him. He regains composure and orders Ortegas to “hit it.” With the ship in warp, Pike addresses the ship’s crew.
Over shots of the crew in various areas of the ship, he delivers some exposition: Starfleet makes First Contact with a civilization when a warp signature has been detected; after that transpired on Kiley 279, the Archer disappeared. The Enterprise is tasked with a search and rescue, with the hope that they’ll be able to welcome a new world into the Federation.
In his Captain’s Quarters, Pike flashes back to the visions he experienced in the Star Trek: Discovery season two episode “Through the Valley of the Shadows.” Because of these visions, he knows that in roughly a decade’s time, he will be exposed to radiation which leaves him paralyzed and disfigured.
Spock enters and Pike pours a Saurian brandy for himself before Spock surmises that Pike saw his own future. Pike shares what he experienced and admits that most humans assume they’ll be able to cheat death, when the time comes. Spock suggests knowledge of death is invaluable for leadership, but Pike says it’s causing him to doubt himself. Spock counters “suffering can be transformed into insight,” telling Pike that he must use the foreknowledge of his death to be who he is at his most essential: the Captain. Pike remains haunted.
The Enterprise arrives above Kiley 279. They locate the Archer but there are no life signs (or bodies) aboard. Spock accesses the Archer’s manifest and discovers there were only three crew members: Una and two astrophysicists. They determine that Una went down to the planet to locate the source of the warp signature, which has a weird variance.
Noonen-Singh recommends full shields, in spite of Spock’s objection that defense posturing is a violation of general order 1. But there’s no sign of local space colonization, suggesting they wouldn’t have the tech for warp, convincing Pike. The ship is soon bombarded with plasma torpedoes (causing minimal damage, thanks to the shields).
Spock determines that the people have not built a warp drive, they have built a warp bomb. During a briefing, Spock explains that there are two warring factions on the planet, which appears to be pre-warp. On every planet on which First Contact has been achieved, warp was first developed as transportation, not weaponry. Number One may not have realized the warp signature belonged to a weapon, as the Enterprise’s scanners were just updated in spacedock.
Pike says they must consider the possibility that they did not develop warp themselves, in which case, General Order 1 would apply. Spock insists that they must not allow themselves to be seen until it can be established that they did indeed develop warp themselves.
In the medical bay, Pike greets Doctor M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun). M’Benga introduces Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush), here on civilian exchange from a genetic program, which makes her the perfect person to mess with their genome in order to pass as one of the people of Kiley 279 (the alterations are skin-deep and short-term). Noonen-Singh declines a sedative, and Spock is warned that his unique physiology may decrease the duration of the disguise.
In the transporter room, Chief Kyle states local clothing has been loaded into the transporter buffer. They beam down sans phasers and tricorders.
On Kiley 279, Spock quickly surmises that they’ve arrived on a planet in the midst of a prolonged conflict with its government, Pike observes it reminds him of Old Earth. Spock confirms he is familiar with the defunct government of the USA and both its Civil Wars.
Noonen-Singh stages an emergency to distract two guards, allowing Spock to nerve pinch them. They beam the guards to the Enterprise to replicate their uniforms and keep them sedated until our heroes are done (an “abduction” complete with “lost time”). This proves advantageous when Chapel discovers she needs Kiley DNA to synthesize a more effective disguise for Spock, who won’t pass a retinal scan otherwise. But the sedation wears off and, while one guard is secured, the other escapes into the halls, with Chapel in pursuit.
On Kiley, the away team navigates angry protestors and is about to enter the lab when Ortegas informs them Spock needs a booster to pass the retinal scan. However, civil unrest means they can’t stall. Ortegas orders Kyle to figure out how to beam the booster down to them mid-check-in.
Meanwhile, Chapel tries to sedate the guard but he escapes into the elevator, where he meets Uhura, who quickly befriends him using her knowledge of “tagball,” a local game. Hurrying back to medical, Chapel uses the emergency medical transporter to beam up to the bridge, sedating the guard before meeting Uhura. Spock’s retinal scan is failing until the booster is successfully beamed into him by Kyle.
A scan confirms that Una is alive, but deep underground. The away team takes the elevator and nearly blows their cover. Fortunately, they arrive at their floor and the re-coding subsequently stabilizes. They locate Una and the astrophysicists in a prison cell. They’re too deep to beam out so they head back to the elevator, where they encounter guards just as Spock reverts back to his default appearance.
The away team incapacitates the guards. On the elevator, Una reveals the people of Kiley 279 have warp technology because they reverse engineered it using signatures observed when the crews of the USS Discovery and Enterprise opened a wormhole to the future (in the second season finale of Star Trek: Discovery). This jump in their technological development was used as a weapon.
The transporter controls activate, and Pike orders everyone to beam out but Spock and himself. The duo are greeted at the top of the shaft by guards, and Pike says, “Take me to your leader.”
The Day Kiley 279 Stood Still
In an official chamber, Spock and Pike stand before a government authority figure (Samantha Smith) and explain that they unintentionally revealed the signals to Kiley 279. The leader asks if civil unrest has never been put down with authority on Pike’s world, and if he knows what it’s like to have powerful groups that refuse to negotiate. Pike offers a proverb, which the leader scorns, saying “whoever has the biggest stick wins.” She rejects Pike and says her responsibility is to govern for future generations.
The leader signals for guards to take them away, but Pike orders the Enterprise into low orbit. The starship appears in the sky above Kiley: the Enterprise is the biggest stick.
Representatives from both factions on Kiley meet to discuss the arrival. Both sides are screaming incoherently and the results are being broadcast with sensationalized “journalistic” commentary.
Onboard the Enterprise, the away team discusses the events transpiring on the surface. “Not believing you’re going to die is what gets you killed,” Noonen-Singh quotes her father. She shares some of her Gorn-related backstory. This grisly reality inspires Pike, who tells Spock he needs access to the historical database and asks Uhuru to prepare to broadcast to the planet.
Pike beams down into the center of the widely-disseminated debate and introduces himself. He compares the people of Kiley to the people of Earth. He shows them the utopian Earth of the 23rd century. Then, he shows them Earth in the 21st century, “before everything went wrong,” comparing it to Kiley. He shows them Earth’s future, beginning with footage and continuing into the incredibly destructive World War III, which destroyed a significant portion of Earth’s biology, including 30% of humans. Pike warns the people of Kiley they have been given the means to destroy themselves.
Pike acknowledges their destinies may be inevitable, but reminds them of the power of possibility. Having issued a warning, Pike delivers an ultimatum: kill each other, or join their Federation. In a montage, we see the people of Kiley study and follow the example they have seen, and accept the latter option of Pike’s ultimatum.
The Enterprise travels to a Starbase where April tells Pike they narrowly avoided incarceration. The Admiral further reveals he learned what transpired on Discovery, and used a loophole to avoid the event being classified as a violation of General Order 1. Still, the council doubles down on the philosophy by giving it a new name: the Prime Directive (that will look great on a plaque).
Thanks to his experience on Kiley, Pike fully accepts command of the Enterprise. Noonen-Singh approaches him and reveals she has a personal connection to Una which she hid out of fear she wouldn’t be trusted.
Pike says that Starfleet’s greatest strength is their ability to work together, and Noonen-Singh says she finds other people challenging. Pike says even in space, remarkable growth is possible and offers her a permanent commission on the Enterprise.
Finally, Pike records a grateful Captain’s Log for Stardate 2259.42, stating that Enterprise is his home and bringing a hopeful note to the closing of the episode as he takes the bridge alongside his crew. They are joined on the bridge by Lt. Samuel Kirk (Dan Jeannotte), brother to James T. Kirk, who will be serving under Spock in the sciences division. Pike and Uhura exchange a few classic Trek lines (and Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) beams in for a cameo introduction) before the Enterprise jumps to warp.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available for streaming on Paramount Plus.
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