Dear Star Wars: You know I love you. I will always love you. You are my all-time favorite franchise, through good times and bad.
But…I have a confession to make. As much as I enjoyed the Obi-Wan Kenobi series (really, I am grateful), it was not my favorite show I’ve watched this year. That honor belongs to…well…that other “star” franchise. (I’m sorry.)
That’s right: even as a diehard Star Wars fan, my favorite geeky story this year is actually Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. What’s even funnier is that this show wasn’t even on my radar, and I’m always reluctant to sign up for yet another streaming service. And yet…I kept hearing lots of good things about Strange New Worlds, and finally, my curiosity got the better of me. I signed up for the cheapest Paramount+ plan with ads, and it turned out to be the best $5 I’ve spent this year.
As much as I like to joke about the age-old Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate, I enjoy both franchises. Although to be honest, I haven’t gotten very involved in Star Trek fandom, because I feel like I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to my Trek tastes.
Star Trek never really clicked for me until I watched the 2009 J.J. Abrams film in college, and I became absolutely obsessed with that movie (seriously, I talked about it for years, and I’m sure my friends were sick of it by the end). I fell in love with Original Series characters like Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura, and that inspired me to go back and check out the 1960s TV series and movies like The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home (aka the one with the whales).
However, for whatever reason, I never really quite connected with the other Trek series. I know how celebrated The Next Generation is, and I respect what it is and what it means to the geek community. But it just didn’t capture my imagination as much, and I feel a lot of geek guilt (still!) for not being super into it.
Then along comes Strange New Worlds, and it almost feels like it’s tailor-fit to me. It has a little of that J.J. Abrams Kelvin-verse flair, but also has the heart and tone of the Original Series. And I love it – a lot.
I like that the show is a mix of both new and familiar characters. While it’s fun to see classic characters like Spock, James T. Kirk, and Nyota Uhura make an appearance, I’m glad they’re also digging deeper into less explored characters, like Captain Christopher Pike and Nurse Christine Chapel.
I’m digging Pike’s vibe as a captain; he has a little of that James T. Kirk swagger but with more maturity and less impulsiveness. He’s not afraid of a fight, but he’ll do everything he can to find a peaceful resolution to a conflict. (Also, shoutout to Pike’s gloriously gravity-defying hair.)
Jess Bush is great as Nurse Chapel, and as much as I loved Zachary Quinto’s portrayal of Spock in the Kelvin-verse, I think I like Ethan Peck’s reimagining of Spock a little more. He does a great job echoing Leonard Nimoy while also adding his own nuance to the role.
My two favorite new characters so far are La’an, a descendant of famous Trek baddie Khan Noonien Singh, and the ship’s pilot, Erica Ortegas. The cast have a great sense of chemistry overall, and I love watching them all go on adventures together.
I also appreciate that the show follows the general format of the Original Series, with a new adventure each episode, but also weaves in some overarching, season-long story threads like the Gorn and Captain Pike’s vision of his own future. It’s great to see the homages to the Original Series, like the medieval fantasy episode with everyone dressed up in costumes. I thought that episode was great fun, with a heartfelt lesson at the end too.
I really don’t have any major criticisms of the first season, which is why it currently tops my “favorite geeks stories of 2022” list. Of course, the new Star Wars Disney+ Andor series could come along and steal that crown, but for now, I’m just enjoying geeking out about this show, which makes me smile whenever I think about it.
It’s a great example of a geek property that manages to pay tribute to what’s come before, but also draw in new fans, which is exactly what modern geek storytelling should do. Fans of older material should feel respected, and the contributions of past storytellers should be honored. At the same time, we can’t gatekeep new fans who are curious and want to start fresh.
Also, because I loved Strange New Worlds so much, I’m now more willing to check out other Star Trek stories on Paramount+. I want to give Discovery another chance. And maybe Picard will be my gateway into The Next Generation.
I’m glad there are plenty of Trek-y worlds for me still to explore.