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…

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A few NOTES on Strange New Worlds’ “SUBSPACE RHAPSODY”… (editorial review)


Some people just don’t like musicals…but I am NOT one of them!

I LOVE live theater, and I love singing show tunes! (Yes, straight men can admit that, too!) I saw Annie on Broadway when I was 8, My Fair Lady a year later, and The King and I with Yul Brynner a couple of years after that. I saw The Wiz, Oklahoma, Cats, A Chorus Line, Grease, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Phantom, 42nd Street, Chess, Gypsy, South Pacific, Rent and countless others both on and off Broadway all before moving from New York City to Los Angeles in the 1990s. And I’ve seen a whole slew of musicals since I’ve been out here, as well.

Back in high school, I was in Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Cabaret, and I even got a standing ovation after singing “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” as Nicely Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls.

Meanwhile, my 12-year-old son Jayden, who is a Trekkie and watches and enjoys each new episode of STRANGE NEW WORLDS with me, announced that he would be skipping “Subspace Rhapsody” because, according to him, he HATES musicals. “I cringe when people start singing for no reason, Daddy!” he told me. Of course, his mom and dad sing for no reason, but Jayden doesn’t exactly cheer that tendency, either!

Eventually, I did convince him to watch the episode with me. I explained that, if ever there was a musical he might like, it would be one set on the starship Enterprise. And while he did have his fair share of complaints during the episode—“Why would she be saying this???”—he admitted to me at the end that, “Well, this was probably the best musical I’ll ever see…but I don’t plan to see many musicals, Daddy.”

And now that I’ve finished the overture, let’s take the true measure of this episode to see if it cleared the bar (yes, I have many musical puns planned—brace yourselves)…

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STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS presents some morally challenging questions in “UNDER THE CLOAK OF WAR”… (editorial review)


I think this latest episode just gave me whiplash! After two of the last three STRANGE NEW WORLDS episodes being lighthearted comedies, and the one in between (“Lost in Translation”) having comedic moments like Uhura slugging Jim Kirk and Number One and Pelia playing Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, I really wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition. (No one ever does, y’know.)

But seriously, the eighth episode of season two, “Under the Cloak of War,” was damn serious…deadly serious, in fact! There was almost no comedy relief at all…nor should there have been. War is hell. That said, television has certainly featured its fair share of sitcoms set during wartime—including McHale’s Navy, Gomer Pyle: USMC, Hogan’s Heroes, and of course, M*A*S*H. Indeed, this latest episode featured flashbacks to the Starfleet equivalent of a mobile army surgical hospital that evoked thoughts of the long-running, multiple Emmy-winning CBS series set during the Korean War. But with the exception of actor CLINT HOWARD’s character of Commander Buck Martinez, there was nothing even remotely funny about this episode.

Oh, quick interruption for trivia! I am pretty sure that Clint Howard (younger brother of Emmy and Academy Award winning actor/director RON HOWARD) is now the only actor to appear visually in both TOS and one of the CBS Studios-produced new-era Star Trek series. WALTER KOENIG did a voice-over for the series finale of STAR TREK: PICARD as a descendent of Pavel Chekov, and the voices of late TOS actorsLEONARD NIMOY, NICHELLE NICHOLS, and JAMES DOOHAN were used for the “Kobayashi” episode of PRODIGY. But in terms of being seen and heard, Clint Howard holds the sole distinction. Clint, of course, played the “real” Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver” at the age of seven. And this isn’t his only role in new-era Trek. Clint played a creepy Orion in the first season DISCOVERY episode “Will You Take My Hand?” He was also Grady in the DS9 episode “Past Tense, Part II” and the Ferengi Muk in the first season  Enterprise episode “Acquisition.” The man gets around!

Okay, back to SNW and how I felt about the episode, and, well, it’s complicated…

On a very surface level, I enjoyed “Under the Cloak of War” as a finely-crafted and deftly-produced piece of television. It was very well-acted, tightly written and edited (the second shortest episode of the season), looked fantastic (as usual, but it’s really challenging for a “quiet” sci-fi show like this to make the viewer think they’re in a middle of a chaotic war), had great make-up, costumes, lighting, VFX, music…the whole magilla. Indeed, it was another truly strong, impactful, character-driven, and enjoyable episode in a season that has, in my opinion, gone 8-and-0.

On the other hand, I was quite troubled by what I saw, and not only because of the horrific Klingon War flashbacks. Let’s dive in, shall we…?

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Time for some ANIMATED discussion of STAR TREK! (STRANGE NEW WORLDS editorial review)


“Risk! Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her!”

Captain James T. Kirk spoke those words for the first time on national television on February 9, 1968, during the airing of the Star Trek TOS episode “Return to Tomorrow.” And ever since then, fans have embraced this as a core component of what Star Trek is all about. Exploration and discovery can be wondrous but also perilous. However, if you don’t push further, hope, grow, and try to exceed yourself, you stagnate and wallow in mediocrity.

Welcome to new-era Star Trek, my friends…where risk is their business! And I don’t mean the crews of the Enterprise, Discovery, La Sirena, Titan, Cerritos, and Protostar. No, I’m talking about the CREATORS of the new streaming series and the studio executives who back them financially.

Oh, wait. You wanted a review of “Those Old Scientists” (TOS), the seventh episode of STRANGE NEW WORLDS‘ second season? I loved it. And I’ll get around to discussing it in more detail shortly. But first, let’s talk about what just happened this past weekend.

As you probably know, last week featured San Diego ComicCon…minus nearly all of the celebrities who would otherwise have hyped their latest and upcoming projects because both actors and writers are currently on strike and aren’t allowed to promote work for the studios they’re striking against. This created both a frustration and a somewhat unique opportunity for Paramount+. On the one hand, they wouldn’t be able to promote the upcoming Strange New Worlds episode(s) nor DISCOVERY‘s final season nor LOWER DECK‘s soon-to-drop fourth season in the hallowed Hall “H.” One the other hand, there would be a lot less hype all around. In fact, with the exception of “Barbenheimer,” not much else in the sci-fi world is being talked about at the moment.

But risk is our business, right?

In a bold move, Paramount decided to move up the streaming debut date of “Those Old Scientists” by five days to happen on the Saturday of ComicCon. Usually, that weekend is avoided, as no one is paying attention to any other genre goings-on other than the big reveals from San Diego (unless they’re watching a blockbuster movie for 2-3 hours). But Paramount+ knew what they had. This episode seventh episode crossover had become one of the most anticipated of the season…if for no other reason than fans wanted to see how the creators would tackle bringing animated characters into a live-action show.

But let’s take a step back to look at all of the risks CBS/Paramount took to get to this moment…

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Star Trek is NOT dead, but it IS evolving! (STRANGE NEW WORLDS editorial review)


Five of my friends were in the audience at San Diego ComicCon on Thursday watching he panel of the Inglorious Treksperts. Apparently, ROBERT MEYER BURNETT, one of the panelists, had already watched the sixth episode of STRANGE NEW WORLDS and commented, “Trek is dead after last night.”

So I sat down to watch “Lost in Translation,” this past week’s episode, expecting the first real clunker of the season. I braced myself and warned my family about Rob’s comment (as I watch this series with both my wife and my almost 13-year-old son Jayden.) And let’s face it, the series was probably due for a stumble after five very strong, very enjoyable episodes in a row so far this season. Maybe this would indeed be my first negative review of the season?

Spoiler alert: this is NOT going to be a negative review, folks.

In fact, Rob’s comment left not only me scratching my head but also my friends at ComicCon (who watched the episode later on that night) scratching their heads. And when the episode ended, my son Jayden jumped up and shouted, “How could that guy in San Diego not have liked this episode??? It was so good!” And even my wife, who has never been a Trekkie, said she enjoyed it and is generally enjoying the series…although she liked last week’s human Spock better than “normal” Spock.

I wasn’t at the ComicCon panel, so I don’t know the specifics behind Rob’s statement. But I’ve noticed other fans—albeit an observable minority on social media—espousing similar lamentations about the demise of Star Trek as they complain about the shortcomings of this show (and often the other new-era streaming Trek series from CBS Studios). I’ve read and heard many of their complaints. And it got me wondering…

Why aren’t I complaining, too?

For those of you who’ve read my many, many editorial reviews over the past half-decade, I’ve been both positive AND negative about the various new series, depending on the quality of the episode. I’ve certainly had my issues with the writing and continuity breaches on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. But there are continuity breaches on SNW, as well, and yet they aren’t bothering me nearly as much. Why?

And while I’ve certainly been more positive about PICARD than Discovery, I’ve had my issues with that series, as well…mainly the first two seasons. SHORT TREKS didn’t thrill me at all. I’ve pretty much loved LOWER DECKS since it debuted, and although it took me four or five episodes to get into PRODIGY, I grew to really like that series, too. But I do complain when I feel it’s merited.

And I certainly thought that the revamping of the Gorn on SNW is problematic, and killing off Hemmer pissed me off. But aside from that, it’s steady as she goes when it comes to SNW.

But again…why? Why are others complaining and I’m not?

Continue reading “Star Trek is NOT dead, but it IS evolving! (STRANGE NEW WORLDS editorial review)”

STRANGE NEW WORLDS’ “CHARADES” could have sucked…but it was a surprisingly STRONG episode! (editorial review)


It’s hard to believe that we’re already half-way through season two of STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS. However, when you have only ten episodes budgeted per season…

That said, we’ve now had five straight episodes without a clunker in the bunch (at least, in my opinion)! And to be honest, my hopes weren’t all that high for “Charades,” the fifth and latest episode. When I saw that the plot involved Spock being turned into a human at the most inopportune moment—just in time for his engagement dinner—I remembered how the last time we saw T’Pring, the two switched bodies, and hilarity ensued. And I cringed to think that, once again, a T’Pring episode (and there seem to be so many!) was going to go the way of slapstick comedy. Doesn’t anyone take Vulcans seriously anymore???

So yeah, I was totally expecting to hate this week’s episode. And I mean REALLY hate it. After talking last week about how Spock is being treated by the writers like the character of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, I was hoping that we’d get a serious Spock episode sooner or later…and this one obviously wasn’t going to be it! And as the episode started, I had my shields raised and my phasers energized to write a scathing review.

And then something funny happened, or rather, something not-so-funny happened. Oh, sure, this episode had a lot of comedic moments, including ending the teaser Spock saying “What the f—” (and I don’t think the last word was going to be “fascinating”). But it was also surprisingly serious in places, introspective, character-driven, and very, very human. In many ways, an episode like this represents some of the best qualities Star Trek has to offer viewers who watch for the characters and to feel what they feel. Normally, Spock is the exception to that rule, but not this time.

All right, let’s unpack this episode, shall we…?

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STRANGE NEW WORLDS’ “Among the Lotus Eaters” hit me pretty close to home… (editorial review)

I’ve seen some complaints about the fourth episode of STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS season two, “Among the Lotus Eaters,” that have left me scratching my head. Several people are focusing on Spock becoming Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory or that the episode bent over backwards to make Ortegas be the only one able to save the day. One person even complained to me that, in order to make Ortegas (a woman) seem more heroic and strong, the only other male left in the chain of command (Spock) has to be treated like a complete idiot.

And I’m, like, what the hell are you talking about???

I thought this was actually a fairly decent episode with a very TOS flavor. It wasn’t their best of the series or even of the season, but in my personal opinion, this episode held its own pretty well. And for me, this episode WAS personal—very personal. Two weeks ago, I discussed the struggles and challenges that a transgendered friend of mine faced both before and during her transition. This week, however, the theme of episode hit much closer to home for me. You see, my 90-year-old father has Alzheimer’s.

In case anyone didn’t notice, that was the likely “metaphor” of this latest episode, named for a short passage from Homer’s The Odyssey where Odysseus and his men encounter the island of the Lotus Eaters. During their long and arduous journey home, Odysseus and his men had just barely survived a grueling battle where several soldiers were lost. After nine days in rough seas, they stop briefly on an island to rest and replenish supplies.

Odysseus sends two of his men to explore the island, and they encounter the Lotus Eaters, peaceful natives who live on the fruit of the lotus tree. As soon as the two men take a bite of the fruit, they forget everything—all of their struggles on their long journey home, the gods’ curse, even their very identities. All they want to do is stay on the island eating more lotus fruit. But Odysseus needs them, forces them back onto the boats, straps them to their oars (nice guy, huh), and makes everyone hightail it out of there.

Homer was probably comparing the Lotus Eaters to drug addicts who would forget who they were, their families, their jobs, everything, and just want to spend each day getting high. (Yes, there were drug addicts 27 centuries ago. In fact, archaeological records show drug use of psychotropic plants in ancient civilizations, dating as far back as early hominid species about 200 million years ago!)

However, the writers of this latest episode of SNW didn’t seem to be telling the story of drug addiction so much as the loss of memory and identity and what makes someone who they truly are. And that’s my it made me think of my father…

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What IS it with JAMES T. KIRK and TIME TRAVEL??? (STRANGE NEW WORLDS editorial review)


“James T. Kirk: seventeen separate temporal violations…the biggest on record.” “The man was a menace.” You might remember those lines from the fifth season DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations.” And just to show off my geekiness, here from memory is a list of all the times in TOS and the movies that James T. Kirk traveled in time…

Does that add up to seventeen? Nope. However, one would assume that “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth,” and Star Trek IV each contain multiple violations by Kirk and his crew. So I’m fine with seventeen.

What does this have to do with the third episode of STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS‘ second season, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”? Well, quite a lot, actually! Y’see, there have now been a total of thirteen SNW episodes…and two of them (a whopping 15%) have involved some kind of time travel! The other was the season one finale, “A Quality of Mercy.” Indeed, within the span of the last four SNW episodes, HALF have involved time travel!!! And as fate would have it, both of those time travel episodes have included a significant presence of Captain James T. Kirk—coincidentally from alternate timelines each, uh, time.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? Well, yes and no.

First, let’s deal with the “yes” part, as I invoke this iconic scene from The Simpsons

Just replace “Klingons” with “time travel” and you can quickly see where my head is at.

Of course, it’s not just SNW that’s doing time travel (and will again in four more episodes when Ensigns Mariner and Boimler arrive from the U.S.S. Cerritos in the future for a crossover with LOWER DECKS). It’s also DISCOVERY and PICARD. Both had second seasons steeped in time travel elements. And indeed, Picard‘s second season spent 8 out of 10 episodes in “our time” here on earth. Just like this latest episode of SNW.

In fact, the plot of Picard season two and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” were so similar that, well, I kinda HAVE to point out the obvious parallels…

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In the best traditions of Star Trek, STRANGE NEW WORLDS uses metaphor to spotlight TRANSGENDER phobias and prejudices in OUR society… (editorial review)


Star Trek has never shied away from holding a mirror up to the more controversial aspects of modern (20th and 21st century) culture through the “safe lens” of viewing a future, or an alien society, with surprisingly similar challenges. In fact, this was one of the main goals that GENE RODDENBERRY had in mind when he was first pitching his “Wagon Train to the Stars” concept to the networks.

Indeed, as most of us know, the original Star Trek series tackled some of the biggest issues of the 1960s: prejudice and discrimination (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield“), the Vietnam War (“A Private Little War“), overpopulation (“The Mark of Gideon“, women’s struggles for equality with men (“Turnabout Intruder“), and a growing paranoia that computers could replace people (“The Ultimate Computer“)…to name just a few!

In the 1980s and 1990s, Star Trek continued to advance a mostly left-leaning political message with movies and episodes spotlighting homophobia (TNG‘s “The Outcast“), environmentalism (TNG‘s “Force of Nature” and of course, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), labor rights (Voyager‘s “Workforce“), government-sponsored torture (TNG‘s “Chain of Command“), homelessness (DS9’s “Past Tense“), white supremacism (Enterprise‘s “Terra Prime“/”Demons“), and even the prophetic dangers of overreaction to a foreign terrorist attack on our own soil (DS9‘s “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost,” which eerily predicted the September 11 attacks and subsequent curtailment of freedoms half a decade before 2001!). And again, the list could go on and on.

Star Trek has also charted its course by embracing all variety of dramatic presentation: action/adventure, mystery, romance, suspense, comedy, tragedy, etc. And one of those many genres was the legal procedural, usually with the message being delivered most effectively and dramatically within some kind of courtroom. In TOS’ “Court Martial,” the message was to beware of computers presenting false-but-believable information (a concern rearing its head right now in 2023 rather than 2267!). In TNG‘s “The Drumhead,” a trial quickly turned into a witch hunt, demonstrating how paranoia could quickly spread fear in the name of righteousness. TNG‘s “The Measure of a Man” and Voyager‘s “Author, Author” deal with rights being taken away from certain individuals for very arbitrary reasons. Lest you think this applies only to androids and holograms, consider that several states permanently remove the right to vote from any convicted felon, even after they have served their time in prison. And DS9‘s “Tribunal” showed how the government can turn a trial into political theater in order to advance state propaganda.

And so we finally come to the second episode of STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS season 2: “Ad Astra per Aspera” (“To the Stars Through Hardship”), a courtroom drama with a definite message. And it’s that message that I plan to discuss in today’s blog. So if you have fear and hatred in your heart for transgender people, you probably want to stop reading now—although I really hope you won’t…

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STRANGE NEW WORLDS avoids nearly every OUTDATED COMPLAINT in its SEASON 2 debut! (editorial review)

Pick a complaint…any complaint! A complaint about what? About any of the new CBS Studios-produced Star Treks. Goodness knows, there have been many—complaints that is, although there have been five series. Granted, LOWER DECKS and PRODIGY have been generally well-received, but DISCOVERY and PICARD have certainly struggled.

And while most fans would argue that Picard’s third and final season was the best and strongest Trek effort thus far of the “new era” (I will forgo using the term “Nu-Trek,” as it has taken on a negative connotation in certain circles), even Picard‘s latest masterpiece drew a few complaints along the way (cough, too dark).

So pick a complaint. And let’s see how the season two debut of STRANGE NEW WORLDS, “The Broken Circle,” measured up…


Oh, why not give me something harder to start with! While SNW isn’t as brightly lit as TNG was, it’s by far brighter than either Discovery or Picard. The amount of care and detail that went into building those beautiful SNW sets and wonderfully colorful costumes is never hidden from view. And honestly, Star Trek has always had very strong lighting—perhaps a little too strong on TNG from time to time—and even the later “darker” series like DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise still showed wonderful detail and vibrance….harkening back to the days of TOS when color television was just emerging and bright lights and color saturation the cinematographers’ prime directive.

Discovery was too dark from the moment we first saw that bridge, and Picard certainly didn’t help alleviate the problem. But SNW checks (or Treks) the light box perfectly. Next!

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