Star Trek: Discovery might have subverted the expectations of many fans, but the recently announced Strange New Worlds series looks primed to deliver on those early promises. When Star Trek: Discovery was first announced in 2015, the iconic science fiction franchise’s fan base was abuzz with excitement. Initially, it was expected that Discovery would follow the traditional Star Trek format of space-faring exploration, alien worlds and intellectually-tinged action adventure stories. A 2016 interview with then-producer Bryan Fuller reveals that the series was envisioned as adhering to the spirit of The Original Series and, interestingly, lacking in profanity. Fuller departed production of Star Trek: Discovery prior to season 1’s premiere. While Discovery was always pitched as comprising serialized seasons with long-term arcs, the original plan was for an anthology structure, exploring new crews and new worlds with each run of episodes, thereby living up to the “Discovery” title.
That ultimately didn’t happen. Star Trek: Discovery became a fully serialized TV series with a regular cast, while also taking significant deviations from the Star Trek formula in terms of tone, visuals and story. While some fans didn’t enjoy the changes, others greatly appreciated Discovery‘s evolution of the Star Trek model; it’s willingness to delve into darker territory, add more conflict among crew members and explore more mature themes. Audiences also became attached to the new generation of characters expertly led by Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham. Discovery succeeds on its own merits, but nevertheless, probably wasn’t what fans were expecting after the first 2015 announcement.
CBS have now announced a new venture, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which will star the Discovery-era Enterprise crew headed up by Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike and Ethan Peck’s Spock. Alex Kurtzman has confirmed that the latest addition to Trek canon will finally go back to the franchise’s roots in terms of keeping exploration and “discovery” at the forefront of the story. The producer also revealed Strange New Worlds would be fully episodic in nature and noticeably less dark than Star Trek‘s other recent TV output, promising the optimism that defined Captain Kirk’s voyage over the war, strife and deception that have followed Burnham.
Aside from ensuring Strange New Worlds differentiates itself from Star Trek: Discovery, this approach means the original premise for Discovery is finally being delivered. The adventures of Burnham and her Starfleet colleagues have been full of drama, mystery and fantastic visuals, but there has been an undercurrent of criticism from established fans who believe that Discovery isn’t proper Star Trek. Such backlash is exacerbated by the fact that the series evolved considerably during development and became far more of a reinvention than the likes of Bryan Fuller might’ve intended it. As well as dropping a smattering of swearing, Star Trek: Discovery only draws from The Original Series in very broad thematic strokes, largely surging forward in its own unique direction.
Early signs indicate that Strange New Worlds will be far closer to those original Discovery plans – a family-friendly, less intense exploration of alien worlds that are strange and, indeed, new. It’s curious that delivering on this promise has taken so long, but one has to admire Star Trek: Discovery for being unashamedly modern and taking the Star Trek franchise into new territory. With that said, there’s evidently a gap in the market for something that adheres to more traditional lines, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds allows CBS All Access to offer the best of both worlds.
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