STRANGE NEW WORLDS wraps up the best character-driven season of ANY new-era streaming TREK series with “HEGEMONY”… (editorial review)


Whether you like/love the new-era CBS Studios-produced Star Trek series, can’t stand them, or just feel ambivalent, I have to believe that most fans will agree that what has aired on Paramount+ within the last 12 months is a vast improvement over anything that was released in the five years prior. The final season of PICARD was a triumph…certainly better than its first two seasons or anything DISCOVERY has managed to produce yet. And even PRODIGY‘s second ten episodes of season one (when it became a true Voyager sequel) had many fans suddenly liking a children’s cartoon as much or more than most of the Star Trek premiering on Paramount+.

And then there’s STRANGE NEW WORLDS, which debuted last among the five CBS-produced series and, perhaps, learned the best lessons from each. Knowing that they were limited to only ten episodes per season, the SNW showrunners opted not to create a “10-hour movie” like Picard and Discovery and instead be more episodic (one story per episode).

But even though no main storyline would run through the entire season, the SNW creators decided to have character arcs continue across episodes, allowing fans to really get to know Captain Pike and his crew. Granted, season one was more about introducing all of the officers and establishing their basic personality traits and backstories. We learned of M’Benga’s sick daughter, saw the first hints of a romance between Spock and Chapel, and of course, there was Pike’s knowledge of his ill-fated future. But during that initial season, story was more in the driver’s seat than character development, although characters were still allowed to evolve a little.

But then came season two. And with all those character foundations in place, it was time to dive more into the personalities and interrelationships of these people and, beyond that, give them each a little more room to develop and grow over the course of the season.

Let’s take a look back at the arcs of the main characters during season two…


Granted, Pike is the star of the series and probably got the most character attention and screen time of anyone during season one. But ANSON MOUNT’s first child was born just before the start of filming for season two, and he spent the first three episodes mostly absent. His first real heavy-duty episode, “Among the Lotus Eaters,” moved Pike’s relationship with Captain Marie Batel of the U.S.S. Cayuga front and center for his character. During two episodes of season one, their romantic connection was established, and fans were reminded of it in the second episode of season two. But it wasn’t until episode #4 that it was established that not only were the two characters in a committed relationship but that there was now some turbulence as the two considered taking things to the next level. Batel appeared briefly in the musical episode #9, and then returned for a more significant role in the finale.

With so many appearances of Batel, we fans were now relatively invested in the relationship, wanting the two officers to find some happiness with each other. So when it’s revealed that Batel is infected with Gorn eggs, it brings a chance for the writers to redeem themselves somewhat for the unpopular decision to kill off fan-favorite character Hemmer at the end of season one. This time, Batel will not be allowed to simply die heroically. We’re going to try everything to save her. And (you read it here first!) my prediction is that Chapel and M’Benga (if he escapes the Gorn) use Batel and the other infected colonists and Cayuga crew to not only find a way to remove those parasites but to develop some kind of inoculation against the Gorn eggs…perhaps an antibody that specifically attacks the eggs while they’re still dormant. Sure, that’s all just speculation on my part, but you know that’s what McCoy, Crusher, Bashir, and/or the Voyager EMH would do.

What makes this particular ongoing plot line so interesting—aside from Anson Mount and actress MELANIE SCROFANO really selling the “mature adults” aspects of the romance—is that fans have seldom seen starship captains in committed long-distance relationships. Kirk and Picard never had any long-term romances. Janeway started the series with a partner back home, and even though Mark was eventually revealed to have moved on, she never really explored anything else significant during the Voyager run. Archer had been romantically involved with Captain Hernandez, but he broke off their relationship when Archer was first promoted to captain before she was.

Indeed, the only captains we’ve seen in committed relationships were Ben Sisko with Kassidy Yates, Michael Burnham with Book, and Captain Carol Freeman of the U.S.S. Cerritos married to Admiral Alonzo Freeman, Ensign Mariner’s parents. And each of those relationships are hugely different than Pike and Batel’s. Sisko and Kassidy lived on the same space station and got married. Michael and Book are also together on the Discovery. And while the Freemans aren’t together physically, they remain married and have a (rebellious) daughter together. We’ve yet to see the development and evolution of a truly long-distance relationship between two unmarried starship captains, and so it’s a fresh concept to explore.


Unlike Pike, Una Chin-Riley doesn’t really have an ongoing character arc during this season. Instead, her main episode was the excellent “Ad Astra Aspera,” where she emerges from the shadows of the secrets she’s been hiding, admits that she needs help from others and—most importantly—accepts it, and eventually survives the gauntlet Starfleet threw at her.

If I had to point out anything else significant that happened to Una this season, it would be the gradual opening up of her character to socializing with other crew members rather than being a standoffish, regulations-based first officer. That came out most notably during the musical episode in her songs with Kirk and later with La’an.

The only place where Number One seemed to get not enough exposure this season was in doing her actual job: being second-in-command. Many fans noticed the absence of scenes where Una was left in command of the Enterprise or even of a landing party. Of course, most of this was due to the situation. In the first two episodes, Una was being held in custody pending court-martial. Episode three was La’an time-traveling, so no Una. While Number One had the opportunity to take command in episode #4, she was one of the first affected with the amnesia. And over the course of the next five episodes, Pike was always in command, both on and off ship…except when Una led the repair team at the “gas station” in the Lower Decks crossover episode.

However, this finale episode finally gave Una some decent time in the center seat in very demanding situation, and she did great (of course!). Pike didn’t hesitate at all in trusting Una to keep his ship and crew safe and figure out a way to deal with the Gorn threat. And indeed, with the help of the gallant Enterprise crew, they did…mostly…until the ship hit the fan.


I contend that, had there been different actors cast, the Spock and Chapel “will they or won’t they?” plot line might not been nearly as engaging to watch. I mean, sure, maybe other actors could have pulled it off, too, but ETHAN PECK and JESS BUSH have so imbued their characters with life, color, and believability—even when not playing scenes against the other—that fans just can’t help but be pulled in by the gravity of their tryst/affair/relationship…whatever you want to call it.

And while their sexual tension was teased a bit in season one, things went SO much further in season two. After “breaking up” with T’Pring, Spock was actually willing to try experimenting with emotions as he began to embrace his new connection to Christine. Chapel herself was torn between her passion for Spock and her desire to follow her passion for xeno-archaeological medicine. In many ways, the two characters are each at war with their own binary natures pulling them simultaneously toward the extremes of science/logic versus feeling/illogic. I dare say that it’s…fascinating!

Some fans complained after “Subspace Rhapsody” that Chapel had led Spock down a flirtatious path only to drop him like a hot pot of Vulcan tea as soon as the opportunity presented itself. But I remembered her brief turbolift talk with Boimler in “Those Old Scientists” when he revealed that Spock’s future endeavors were remembered for his non-emotional Vulcan demeanor, so perhaps she felt selfish in preferring Spock to be something he’s not meant to be. Or maybe Boimler’s revelations were just a convenient way for Chapel to run away from this complicated connection. Either way, whatever frustrations fans might have carried forward from the previous episode were likely more than sated with the double-rescue of Spock saving Chapel then Chapel saving Spock at the end of this episode. Where things go from here is anyone’s guess, but what to do about the attacking Gorn isn’t the only cliffhanger this episode left us with!


I can’t spend nearly as much time as I’d like giving each character their own subsection, and the rest weren’t as front-and-center this episode, although they each got something significant to do (except Sam Kirk, who will hopefully shine more brightly when season three finally premieres). But let’s take a quick look at the rest of this amazing ensemble cast of characters…

Erica Ortegas – She spent most of this season stuck on the bridge but wanting to join an away mission. This episode, that finally happened, and she definitely had her moment piloting the shuttle down to the surface. She didn’t really have much of a character arc for the season other than that. Rumor has it that the writers gave actress MELISSA NAVIA a reduced schedule for the season after the unexpected passing of her partner BRIAN BANNON, who died in 2021, three days after being diagnosed with leukemia, but there’s no confirmation on that rumor. And indeed, Ortegas still got some nice exposure, especially in episode #4. The big question now for fans is this: whom would you most like piloting YOUR starship or shuttle: Sulu, Paris, Mayweather, or Ortegas? I know my answer now.

La’an Noonien Singh – First of all, I need to say it now because I missed my chance last week: Wow, Singh can sing! (Okay, thanks for letting me do that.) La’an began the season with a leftover “cliffhanger” of her wanting to leave the ship. I suspect the writers quickly abandoned that story idea and brought her back realizing they could do much more to get the character more comfortable being with her shipmates if, y’know, they kept her WITH her shipmates.

Her “crush” on James Kirk, while seeming silly to some fans at first, actually resolved pretty well and satisfyingly in that it gave Kirk something to do on the series beyond just “visiting” the ship a second time (the first time, he hung out mostly with Uhura). And it seems like La’an has begun to clear some of the debris field of her life, leaving the character more room to move forward. We’ll see.

Nyota Uhura – Uhura’s character has grown a bit during the season as she’s learned to not work quite as hard, or perhaps work just as hard but simply relax a little bit in between shifts. The important thing is that Uhura got to enjoy a couple of major saves this season, and even contributed to this episode’s action.

Dr. Joseph M’Benga – Of all the characters, M’Benga probably had the least of the character arcs this season, although it’s arguable that his big arc happened in season one with his daughter and ultimately letting her go. That said, his backstory was certainly filled in quite a bit this season, and in a very intriguing way that included flashbacks to the Klingon War. Unlike Ortegas, I think I’d still choose McCoy or Bashir or the EMH over M’Benga, but I’m still very much enjoying his character.

Pelia and Sam Kirk – Here are two characters who should be getting more screen time but, sadly, are not. And it’s understandable. Doing more with either of them would require doing less with some of the others. And with only ten episodes in the season, there’s just not enough time to give everyone their own episode. So this season introduced Pelia and gave her character a decent foundation for (hopefully) doing a bit more next season. And honestly, I iniitally thought I would cringe at having a non-Trekkie scene-stealer like CAROL KANE join the cast, but her character is both muted enough and colorful enough to keep me intrigued and wanting to see more. So show us more!

As for Sam Kirk, his most significant character revelations happened only when his little brother Jim came aboard, as we discovered Sam’s frustrations with his father (and vice-versa) and desire to be his own person and not try to live up to others’ expectations. It’s a solid foundation for building a strong character, but again, there’s only so much screen time available in 10 episodes. However, Sam is one of the officers who was beamed up by the Gorn at the end and will start next season as a prisoner along with La’an, Ortegas, and M’Benga. As such, maybe he’ll be given a chance to stand out a little bit more as part of an escape/sabotage B-story where there’s only four regulars.


I can’t take full credit for that sub-headline; at least two other reviewers and multiple Facebook posters have used it this week, as well. But let’s face it, I can’t NOT use it!

I am SO glad that I watched this episode before that surprise was ruined for me! As soon as I heard that Scottish accent, I knew we were being treated to our fifth TOS regular—joining Spock, Uhura, Chapel, and James Kirk (M’Benga and Sam weren’t TOS regulars; although both did appear on TOS…as did Pike and Number One, of course). Now we’re only missing McCoy and Sulu…and technically Chekov and Rand, but both are way too junior in TOS to have been around six years earlier…and according to the TOS episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” Chekov will be 22 in seven more years, so he’s likely not even in the Academy yet.

What I find most amusing (albeit a bit of a stretch) is that Scotty is introduced in SNW in a similar way as in J.J. Trek 2009: essentially on his own when you’re least expecting to meet such an iconic character. I mean, Spock, Uhura, and Chapel are already assigned to the Enterprise. Jim Kirk is about to become first officer of the Farragut. And Scotty? He’s isolated from everyone and everything Starfleet in both introductions. And in both, he’s played as very hyper and disorganized, although obviously an engineering genius. It’s not quite the same Scotty that JAMES DOOHAN gave us, but they again, this is a much younger version of the character.

That said, it was still fun seeing him, and actor MARTIN QUINN gave us the most authentic Scottish accent of any actor to have played Mr. Scott because Quinn is the first one who actually IS Scottish! I actually kinda like the idea of Scotty being a little more hyper and disorganized in his youth, knowing that he’ll calm down at least a little as he becomes more seasoned with age.

Speaking of which, I do hope that there aren’t any plans to replace Pelia with Scotty just yet. I’m enjoying both characters. It’s obvious that Scotty, not having a starship of his own to return to at this point, could easily request assignment to Enterprise. And I think it would present a much more intriguing and satisfying dynamic to create a mentor/mentee relationship with Pelia, who called him her best student (and called him “Scotty”!) but said he sadly got the worst grades. What’s up with that? Enquiring fan minds want to know!

And that brings up an intriguing and unexpected direction for this series. When SNW first started, fans looked a little askance at having so many TOS characters in a show that wasn’t supposed to be TOS. We all know Spock served under Pike, but Uhura and Chapel, too? And M’Benga? And Sam Kirk? And now we’re seeing lots of James Kirk, and suddenly Scotty pops up? It’s like a Star Trek convention in space!

But I get it now. This is the showrunners’ chance to show us the “on ramps” that these TOS characters took to get to be the heroic icons they would later become in just six or seven more years. It makes sense that their characters in SNW would start gravitating to the Enterprise with greater and greater frequency. I mean, if the creators don’t do it with this series, when will they do it, right?


The first time a Star Trek episode ended on a cliffhanger with the final episode of the season, Captain Picard had been abducted by the Borg, turned into Locutus, and Riker had just given the order to “Fire.” Remember that? And we had to wait an entire summer to find out what happened next!

Now, thanks to the writers and actors strikes (anyone notice that talks finally resumed on day 101?—I toldya that would happen!), we’re likely gonna spend more than a full year wondering how Pike and crew get out of this mess!!!

And what a mess it is! Season-ending Trek cliffhangers have a reputation of NOT having the resolution planned out when part one is written and filmed. in other words, good luck resolving things next season, writers! That was the case with TNG‘s “Best of bBoth Worlds, Part 1.” It was also the case when BRANNON BRAGA ended the Xindi season of Enterprise with the NX-01 returning to earth only to be fired upon by WWII-era fighter planes while Archer woke up a prisoner of alien Lizard Nazis! Then he handed the reins of the series over to MANNY COTO. Gee, um, thanks for the cliffhanger, Brannon!

Actually, with SNW, the next episode script has already been written, although it hasn’t been revealed whether or not the writers had it plotted out along with part one or if they, again, just ended season two with the worst case scenario and decided to let themselves work out the resolution after hiatus. But production on season three was about to kick off just as the WGA went on strike, so next season will be delayed at least 3-4 months, and it was already almost a full year between seasons one and two. In other words, folks, late 2024 might be the earliest we find out if our heroes survive!

I mean, we know they aren’t all gorners…er, goners, but this does seem to be a really tough situation—so much so that Pike appears to be freezing up a bit at the end. And honestly, I’m not exactly sure what I would do either! And we know most of the characters survive until TOS. But I count at least four characters who could get killed off and not affect canon…and I don’t want ANY of them to die! Dammit, you already killed Hemmer, you bastards! And this is Star Trek, not The Walking Dead!

So yes, an “episodic” format series has ended on a cliffhanger—and a much better one than the first season’s, which kinda came out of nowhere. This one, conversely, built up steadily in excitement, action, tension, and suspense to the final “To be continued.” Indeed, in my opinion, everything about SNW season two was an improvement over the already-impressive season one. It’s a standout series, incredibly fun and satisfying to watch, and featuring one of the strongest and most talented ensemble cast of actors of any Star Trek series, old or new-era.

What more could you ask for…other than NOT having to wait a year for the conclusion of this nail-biter ending????

10 thoughts on “STRANGE NEW WORLDS wraps up the best character-driven season of ANY new-era streaming TREK series with “HEGEMONY”… (editorial review)”

  1. alien Lizard Nazis zombies (walking dead)? Alien – yes. Lizard – ok. Let’s stop there.

    As far as the Gorn go, maybe others see a nod to “Chess With a Dragon” by David Gerrold where an alien species, Ki, do that with their eggs. But of course there are at least a couple of creatures on earth that do that so maybe the writers knew of those. One of the background stories I’d love to know more about are answers to the question “what did the (writers) know and when did they know it” for situations like Gorn reproduction?

    As you pointed out, there are so many characters now that character development is shortchanged on some. As far as the SNW to TOS character migration goes, I would not be shocked to see a transition start in the resolution to the cliffhanger. Maybe the writers will think it’s time to take another stop toward the TOS characters.

    1. I suspect Scotty will be added to the cast. And it’s possible that Sam Kirk might finally get married and move to Deneva. After all, he needs to have a kid pretty quick! Um, unless Peter was Aurelian’s son from a prior marriage?

  2. Scotty’s introduction to the series was, for me, the highlight of season 2! I’m very excited to see where the show takes this. Well, as for Pike, he already sorta went rogue, so, I expect him to ignore orders, and go on to rescue his people from the Gorn. Perhaps Chapel in developing a cure for Captain Batel, she also can parle that into a weapon against the Gorn? If not killing them outright, then, incapacitating them in some way. Maybe something to do with light? Since it’s already been a thing in a few episodes now. So, now we wait, an interminable amount of time, to resume the show. But, if you haven’t been watching “Foundation,” on Apple+, season 2 is only 5 episodes in. Highly recommend it. Plus, I read the whole series of books years ago. It’s an awesome story.

    1. I love the original Foundation trilogy and the prequel books. The sequels, well, even Asimov could start running out of ideas. 🙂

      I wasn’t thrilled with the first season of Foundation, but if season two is better, I’ll try to finish off season one and continue onward.

  3. Foundation season 1 cliff hanger, imagine meeting your child, you had no idea existed, but, now is older than you, both after over a hundred years in cryo sleep each. As for Empire, let’s just say, Dusk is none to happy with Day. Dawn is just along for the ride, so it seems. Oh, BTW, have you seen the newest remake of Dune? It’s not bad.

    1. Yes, I was very impressed with Dune, Part 1. Looking forward to Part 2 even more in a few months. But not the same without Sting and Patrick Stewart. 🙁

  4. This is something I ran into today that looks at the Trek from a different perspective than my initial comment about this season. I read a Washington Post opinion piece today: “How should men be? Who’s an ideal man? Our male readers have thoughts.”

    One response to the question was: “I’d say Captains Jean-Luc Picard, Jonathan Archer, Benjamin Sisko, Christopher Pike and, yes, even James Tiberius Kirk.” That got my mind off and running! As did this which noted the actor Anson Mount:

    “Confident, smart, unafraid of emotion (good and bad), tolerant and understanding. We are generally more aggressive than women (thank you, testosterone), but the best of us channel that aggressiveness in nontoxic ways to improve ourselves and the world around us. Some public figures who embody this might include: Anson Mount, Barack Obama and LeBron James…”

    I’ve read articles about a crisis of masculinity for some today and one answer I could give is to watch Star Trek especially SNW.

    We’ve read how “Uhuru” in TOS inspired many girls but we also have the model of men as these fictional captains portrayed. While the shows are to some degree the product of their times, I think someone could make a decent case that there are certain core virtues that boys could see and think “this is the kind of person I aspire to becoming”.

    For SNW, we have Pike accepting his fate but more than that being the person he really is in spite of his fate. He clearly values other crew members and at one point (I don’t remember the scene) tells Uhuru that she was the best person for a job. I could go on.

    We also, of course have other men’s struggles and character evolution portrayed

    We can and maybe should look at the evolution of female role models as well but that is for another day.

    1. I could go on and on about how women face different (and unfair) standards of approval and achievement as men. And typically, captains like Pike will not be seen in as positive a light as the “tougher” male captains specifically because of their more sensitive and patient natures. And no, sir, I do NOT like that at all either.

  5. Damn! I’d forgotten Stewart was in the original movies! I actually had to look it up, to jog my memory.

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