Star Trek: Strange New Worlds First Reviews: A 'Smart, Addictive, and Flat Out Fun' Franchise Entry, Critics Say

Anson Mount leads an ensemble cast on a refreshing Star Trek series that embraces the optimistic themes and episodic structure of The Original Series.

by | May 4, 2022 | Comments

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According to Star Trek canon, Captain Christopher Pike helmed the USS Enterprise 10 years before James T. Kirk (William Shatner) took over. Pike was played by Jeffrey Hunter in the unused Star Trek pilot episode, Sean Kenney in original series episode “The Menagerie,” and Bruce Greenwood in JJ Abram’s 2009 Star Trek feature film. It’s been over five decades since the original crew boldly went where no one had gone before and now, Paramount+ original series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will explore Pike’s early adventures.

Stepping into the lead role is Anson Mount, who first portrayed Pike in season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery. His storyline was integral to that season, culminating in a discovery that his character will fall victim to a fatal future event — a story detail directly linking Discovery (and now Strange New Worlds) to the “The Menagerie.” Showrunner Akiva Goldsman has confirmed the series will follow the classic episode structure of TOS, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.

Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck were introduced as Number One, first officer Una Chin-Riley and science officer Spock in Discovery and reprise their roles in Strange New Worlds. Joining them are Celia Rose Gooding as Caden Nyota Uhura, Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M’Benga, Jess Bush as Nurse Christine Chapel, Christina Chong as La’an Noonien-Singh, Melissa Navia as Lt. Erica Ortegas, and Bruce Horak as chief engineer Hemmer.

Here’s what critics are saying about season 1 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

How does it fit in the Star Trek universe?


(Photo by James Dimmock/Paramount+)

While existing within that canon, “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” leverages audience familiarity in a manner that’s welcoming rather than suffocating. As the title implies, this is a loving throwback to the spirit of exploration and derring-do so intrinsic to the brand over the past six decades (right down to Mount reciting a version of the “Space, the final frontier” narration that both Shatner and Stewart had a go at in previous incarnations), while pointing toward a future full of possibilities. – Zaki Hasan, San Francisco Chronicle

Although “Strange New Worlds” is a direct expansion of known Trek lore, the showrunners seem to have finally dropped the foolish twin pop philosophies of “We’re doing this for the fans” and “We’re reinventing everything.” They found an old recipe, and it still tastes good. – Witney Seibold, Slashfilm

Inevitably, some fans may bristle at Strange New Worlds’ brushes with continuity. – Scott Collura, IGN Movies

While Star Trek: Strange New Worlds must stick to canon and Pike’s fate, the show offers a contemporary vibe as fans get to visit new worlds and cultures. Given the point in the Star Trek timeline when Kirk takes over the Enterprise and when Pike gets disfigured, we should be able to get a few seasons of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. There’s so much potential here and I can’t wait to see what develops. – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

How is Anson Mount’s performance?


(Photo by James Dimmock/Paramount+)

Mount’s Pike is one of the finest additions of the Paramount+ “Trek” era, sensitive and soulful where Kirk is swashbuckling. Mount has created a character who’s just as expressive when he isn’t talking as when he is. – Christian Blauvelt, IndieWire

In that vein, enough can’t be said about how effortlessly charming Anson Mount is as Pike. Conveying compassion, humor and resolve in equal measures, the “Hell on Wheels” star has always had great presence, but this role truly feels like — to borrow a phrase from 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” — his first, best destiny. More importantly, given that a tragic fate is very much in store for poor Pike, it makes the journey toward that end so much more heartrending. – Zaki Hasan, San Francisco Chronicle

Pike is a leader in the truest sense of the word. Thoughtful, intelligent, decisive, and with the right touch of humor, Anson Mount deftly portrays a commander you’d put your life on the line for. Over the course of the season, Pike evolves into a deep, immensely likable and engaging character. His crew is also full of men and women with multidimensional layers. – Terry Terrones, Paste Magazine

Stepping into the vaguely dad-shaped space left by Greenwood in Paramount+’s “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” Anson Mount offers up something surprisingly rare on TV these days: a charming, straightforward good guy. His affable presence is maybe not the best reason to produce yet another “Star Trek” prequel series — but it’s not the worst, either. – Zack Handlen, Variety

What about the rest of the cast?


(Photo by Marni Grossman/Paramount+)

​​Gooding wisely doesn’t set out to adopt any of Nichols’ mannerisms. Her Uhura is a young, wildly overachieving young woman who isn’t yet convinced that she’s destined for a career in Starfleet. It’s true that in the first five episodes made available to press, Uhura often seems like the kind of uber-wunderkind that historically dogs the franchise, and while the character does risk going Full Wesley™, the net effect is to convince us that this Uhura might not become the Uhura viewers know. If she can do anything, as she does here, then who knows if she’s still fated to end up rocking that signature earpiece? – Glen Weldon, NPR

​​Mr. Spock, who could be brusque and off-putting in Star Trek: Discovery, has evolved into the more enjoyable and astute version of the character viewers came to love in The Original Series. Actor Ethan Peck has developed the role into the fascinating, logical, and reliable man viewers have been hoping for. When Spock says lines like, “I’m a Vulcan, I’m too honest by nature” and “I find the best way to diffuse tension is to apply rigorous logic,” it feels like something Mr. Spock would say, and Peck is phenomenal. Captain Pike’s Number One, first officer Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) shines as well, particularly when we learn more about her in the third episode. – Terry Terrones, Paste Magazine

But franchise newcomer Christina Chong’s La’an Noonien-Singh also gets to shine in the debut. Let’s face it: The idea behind the character sounded pretty dumb when she was announced. A descendant of Khan Noonien-Singh, as in The Wrath of Khan, working on the Enterprise? But Chong is great here, hinting at her genetically tangled past and also showing the guys a thing or two when they’re planet-side on their away mission. – Scott Collura, IGN Movies

Helmsman Ortegas (Melissa Navia) summons the brash swagger of the original Trek, while Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) honors the tradition of prickly-yet-lovable know-it-alls. – Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

How is the show’s production value?

Ethan Peck and Anson Mount in STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS

(Photo by Marni Grossman/Paramount+)

Contemporary visual effects (and a Paramount+ budget) have given the Enterprise a facelift. Its hull is now studded with hundreds of teensy, warmly glowing windows, its bridge is more sleek and interactive, its sickbay more Apple-store-chic, and its crew cabins far, far more lux than you remember. – Glen Weldon, NPR

The production values on “Strange New Worlds” are the most lush of any of the Paramount+ shows: the reimagined Enterprise feels somehow totally contemporary yet informed by the pop art ’60s version. This isn’t a vision of the Enterprise designed to supplant the ’60s Enterprise, which is rather what the new ship in the J.J. Abrams movies felt like, when you could actually see it through all those lens flares. This one feels like it complements the original version, like this show could lead right into “The Original Series.” – Christian Blauvelt, IndieWire

We’ve returned to the color-TV-just-happened costume palette, which means Mount dresses in heinous long-sleeve yellow and the occasional green wraparound tunic. I do love that tunic, but the production design is generally a bit shiny-bland. I miss the chunky warmth of the ’90s Trek bridges, a gray-brown all-sofa-everywhere austerity precisely evoked on Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville (which returns this summer on Hulu). – Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

It also gives the filmmakers a chance to really immerse audiences in this universe, through some truly breathtaking production design. Employing environments either on board the Enterprise or elsewhere, Jonathan Lee grounds the drama, which in turn lends gravitas to everything else. As this series progresses and a number of escalating anomalies continue to plague this intrepid crew, that sense of reality only grows stronger. – Martin Carr, We Got This Covered

Does the classic episode structure work?

Jess Bush and Babs Olusanmokun in STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS.

(Photo by James Dimmock/Paramount+)

By and large, this approach works. While it lacks “Discovery’s” ambition, “Strange New Worlds” also avoids that show’s struggles with serialization and scope, as each episode limits its focus to the story at hand. The result is as straightforward and direct as the show’s leading man, and nearly as likable. There’s no strain here, and while the more episodic style may be old-fashioned, it’s refreshing to watch something that isn’t pretending to be a 10-hour movie. – Zack Handlen, Variety

It doesn’t particularly care about the version of the Enterprise or its crew you may or may not be holding in your head, and heart. It simply wants to tell Trek stories the way they used to be told — one space battle, one diplomatic summit, one alien virus, one spatial anomaly, one transporter accident at a time. – Glen Weldon, NPR

So whereas the Discoveries and Picards of the world are focused on season-long Big Bad main arcs, Strange New Worlds is focusing on new stories each week, but also telling its characters’ stories over the long haul. Those are the season-long arcs, and man, does it really work in the first five. – Scott Collura, IGN Movies

Any Final Thoughts?


(Photo by James Dimmock/Paramount+)

It’s not mere nostalgia that’s powering Strange New Worlds’ warp core, it’s also the simplicity of its premise: The Enterprise Before Kirk. – Glen Weldon, NPR

Smart, addictive and flat out fun, Strange New Worlds is the best Star Trek series since The Next Generation and acts as a faithful love letter to the original. Old fan or new, this is a trek you’ll certainly want to take. – Terry Terrones, Paste Magazine

Funny, inspiring, and kind of amazing, Strange New Worlds is, so far, the best new Trek in years. – Scott Collura, IGN Movies

“Strange New Worlds” is, quite simply, the best “Star Trek” show in decades. – Witney Seibold, Slashfilm

99% Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: Season 1 (2022) premieres on Thursday, May 5, on Paramount+.

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