Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 TV Review

A looser and more fun sophomore season delivers some of the best Star Trek in a long time.

Last Updated on June 14, 2023

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkTocHDF6GU

PLOT: The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, confronts increasingly dangerous stakes, explores uncharted territories, and encounters new life and civilizations. The crew will also embark on personal journeys that will continue to test their resolve and redefine their destinies.

REVIEW: After the end of Picard and the announcement that the upcoming fifth season of Discovery would be its last, fans have only one live-action series left in the Paramount+ era of Star Trek. Strange New Worlds debuted last year after the debut of Anson Mount and Ethan Peck as Christopher Pike and Lt. Spock in the second season of Discovery. The series harkened back to the more episodic style of the Original Series and was a fan-favorite. With the new second season continuing the adventures aboard the USS Enterprise and a third season already greenlit, Strange New Worlds’ sophomore run feels looser and more fun than the first year, with the foundation laid for a long and prosperous future on the small screen.

The first season of Strange New Worlds followed the storylines started in Star Trek: Discovery, including Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) dealing with the knowledge of his eventual paralyzing injury and Spock (Ethan Peck) coming to terms with his adopted sister, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) heading to the future to save the galaxy. Strange New Worlds mined a lot of standalone adventures which helped us get to know the crew of the Enterprise, including new cadet Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), pilot Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia), and Dr. Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun). We also met nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush), who developed feelings for Spock despite his engagement to T’Pol, security officer La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), the namesake of Khan himself, as well as Pike’s Number One, Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romjin). Most of the episodes dove into elements from each character’s backstory and took on different themes and genres, including comedy, mystery, and a bit of horror. That same approach is replicated for season two.

In the six episodes made available for review, the crew of the Enterprise deals with continuations of various subplots from the first season, notably the trial of Una Chin-Riley, who was revealed to be from an enhanced alien species known as the Ilyrians. The season opens with Pike heading off to find legal help for his First Officer, putting Spock in command for a mission involving La’an and a Klingon planet. It is a fun exercise in stretching Ethan Peck’s take on Spock and reintroducing the classic Klingon character make-up, which was controversially changed for Discovery. The subsequent episodes include a chapter focused on Una’s court-martial, a time travel/parallel universe entry involving James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley), a return to Rigel VII where Pike encountered his vision of his demise, a humorous episode involving Spock losing his Vulcan DNA, and more. Each episode connects to arcs from the first season while venturing into separate hours of television that mine the classic Star Trek from both the Original Series and The Next Generation. Plus, of course, the appearance of Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome as their Lower Decks characters, Mariner and Boimler, is also a must-see.

The first thing I noticed in the second season was the splitting of the cast more than last year. The premiere episode features one scene with Anson Mount, while the third is almost entirely focused on Christina Chong. This is nothing new for Star Trek, nor is the reliance on visiting planets where the technology looks like something from Earth’s history or time travel to a contemporary 21st-century setting. But, where this looked cheap on the Original Series, it works well today. The production values on Strange New Worlds are some of the best of the Paramount+ era of Trek, and this cast helps further sell these episodes as fun forays into the classic era of Star Trek. The addition of Carol Kane as Pelia is odd, but the legendary actress brings some fun to her role that serves a deeper purpose as the season progresses. Unlike the serialized storytelling of Discovery and Picard, the storytelling format of Strange New Worlds feels far more comfortable to the world of Gene Roddenberry’s creation and affords a lighter feel to the material even though several of these stories are very dramatic and deal with weighty themes.

The second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds brings back directors from the first season including Chris Fisher, Dan Liu, and Amanda Row. The Next Generation actor and frequent director Jonathan Frakes, who could not helm an episode last season due to filming the final season of Picard, directs the Lower Decks crossover episode. In contrast, The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez also helms an episode. The writing staff brings a diverse blend of genres and stories this season, with series co-creator Akiva Goldsman scripting a lone episode this year. Star Trek has long struggled with finding a way to tell funny stories that do not feel groan-worthy, and the episodes designed to be humorous this season are amongst the more natural comedic entries in the entire franchise. Everyone is much more comfortable in their roles than before, and that helps make this series feel the most consistent of the new batch of Trek shows. My lone complaint is Paul Wesley’s performance as James Kirk, which feels nowhere near William Shatner or Chris Pine. With his limited screen time this season, it may not be enough to make a final judgment on his take on the iconic role, but it feels underwhelming.

Compared to all of the Star Trek series currently on the air, Strange New Worlds feels the most like the series we have gotten before the streaming era. The characters are all fun to watch; as we learn more about them, they feel right at home with the more iconic crews of the Enterprise. The quality of the special effects and world-building is as good as ever without trying to upend the franchise to make things new. That being said, Strange New Worlds feels like Star Trek for old-school Star Trek fans, delivered in a way that can appeal to a new generation of audiences. Safe does not always mean boring or lame; in this case, it is just as exciting to watch as ever. I hope we get several more seasons of Strange New Worlds and that the creative team doesn’t change anything.

Star Trek: Strange News Worlds premieres its second season on June 15th on Paramount+.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.