Star Trek: Strange New Worlds may be the best entry point to the franchise since 2017. It follows the adventures of Captain Pike, Spock, and the crew of the starship Enterprise as they explore the galaxy years before the voyages of James T. Kirk and company. It premieres on Paramount+ on May 5th.
If you’re new to Star Trek, I recommend going into this series knowing as little as possible. That’s because Strange New Worlds shares the same premise as Star Trek: The Original Series: The crew of the Enterprise exploring strange new worlds. In theory, you can jump in and discover Star Trek Universe fresh. This will allow you to enjoy the show without the baggage of 55 years of back story. But, if I can’t talk you out of going in blind (or you just need a refresher), I’ve curated some episodes and movies for you to watch based on what we’ve seen of the main characters of Strange New Worlds.
If you want the immediate context of Strange New Worlds, you’ll need to watch the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. Because, even though Strange New Worlds shares the same premise as the Original Series, it’s technically a spin-off of Discovery.
In the first episode of the second season, Captain Pike assumes command of the Discovery after the Enterprise suffers a critical systems failure. The season follows Pike and the Discovery crew as they investigate seven red signals that mysteriously appear throughout the galaxy.
If you don’t have time to watch the entire 14-episode season, you can hit the highlights that delve into the characters featured in Strange New Worlds. These episodes include “Brother,” “Light and Shadows,” “If Memory Serves,” “Through the Valley of Shadows,” and “Such Sweet Sorrow.”
In classic Star Trek, Christopher Pike commanded the starship Enterprise a decade before James T. Kirk. His adventures remained largely unknown until he appeared in Discovery season two. The only glimpse of Captain Pike seen in classic Star Trek is depicted in the franchise’s first two-part story: “The Menagerie Parts I & II.” These two episodes recycled footage from the series’ original failed pilot: “The Cage,” featuring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike.
While you can watch “The Cage” as a standalone episode, it’s not a part of The Original Series. Gene Roddenberry and company made many changes to the series before the second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was commissioned. So, I recommend that you stick with “The Menagerie” to understand the events of “The Cage” in their intended context. But, you can go back and watch “The Cage” later on if you feel like you can’t get enough of Jeffrey Hunter’s Captain Pike.
Additionally, Captain Pike appears in Kelvin Timeline movies Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness. In these films, Bruce Greenwood portrays Pike as a mentor to young James Kirk who is yet to join Starfleet.
Una is the name that Star Trek Universe has given the classic Star Trek character known as Number One, played by Majel Barrett in “The Menagerie.” She’s Pike’s first officer on the Enterprise. And like Pike, we knew nothing about her outside her appearances in those episodes until Discovery season two, when Rebecca Romijn assumed the role.
Outside “The Menagerie” and Discovery season two, Una shows up in two episodes of Star Trek: Short Treks: “Q&A” and “Ask Not.” Both of which are decent primers for Romijn’s take on the character.
Of all the characters in Star Trek, the life and times of Spock have been most thoroughly detailed. From his assignment on the Enterprise’s historic five-year mission in The Original Series to his death, rebirth, and continued adventures in the 1979-1991 film series, through his later pursuits as depicted in Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “Unification Parts I & II“, and his ultimate fate in the Kelvin Timeline trilogy – most notably in Star Trek (2009).
Of course, almost all the episodes mentioned in this article will feature Spock in one way or another. However, if you want a taste of classic Spock from around the period of Strange New Worlds, I recommend three episodes that capture the essence of the character. “Journey to Babel,” which first introduces Spock’s family. “Amok Time,” where we get deeper insights into Vulcan culture. And “The Galileo Seven,” where Spock’s command abilities are first put to the test.
In The Original Series, Nichelle Nicols made the role of Lt. Uhura famous as the communications officer of the Enterprise under Captain Kirk. In Strange New Worlds, Uhura joins the crew as a cadet, played by Celia Rose Gooding.
While the character features prominently in The Original Series and the film series, there were never any Uhura-centric stories until Star Trek: The Animated Series episode: “The Lorelei Signal.” When the male crewmembers start to age rapidly, forcing Uhura to take command of the Enterprise.
Doctor M’Benga appeared twice in The Original Series, portrayed by Booker Bradshaw. M’Benga’s role on the Enterprise was to assume the duties of chief medical officer in the absence of Doctor McCoy. But, he’s also an expert on Vulcan physiology, making him very useful in treating a wounded Spock in the episode “A Private Little War.” He also appears in the episode “That Which Survives,” where he cares for a fatally-wounded crewman.
Fans of The Original Series recognize Christine Chapel as Dr. McCoy’s chief assistant in the Enterprise sickbay. Majel Barrett assumed the role after her part as Number One was scrapped after the failure of “The Cage.” Chapel appeared in 25 episodes of the first series and nine episodes of The Animated Series. And she went on to become a chief medical officer of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and had a cameo in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
While the series explores her character throughout the stories she appears in, the most Chapel-centric is “What Are Little Girls Made Of?.” In this episode, her long-lost fiance, Roger Korby, is discovered alive on a remote planet. When the Enterprise crew attempts to rescue him, he kidnaps both Chapel and Captain Kirk to show them the secret he’s been protecting while he’s been missing.
Hemmer is one of the wholly original characters on Strange New Worlds. He’s an Aenar, and that’s all we know. Fans of classic Star Trek recognize Aenars as eerily similar to Andorians. But even superfans could be forgiven for not recalling what Aenars are (I had to look it up myself). They are a sub-species of Andorians portrayed in a three-part story arc in the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Specifically, the episodes: “Babel One,” “United,” and “The Aenar.” Some non-canon works imply that Commander Thelin from The Animated Series episode “Yesteryear” could be considered Aenar.
Probably the most curious of the new characters introduced in Strange New Worlds is La’an Noonien-Singh. Chiefly due to the eerily similar name she shares with Star Trek supervillain Khan Noonien Singh (note the added hyphen to La’an’s surname). The connection between the characters isn’t clear, but I suspect they’ll become so throughout the first season. So, it’s worth brushing up on Kahn’s character in The Original Series episode “Space Seed” as well as the 1982 film Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, and the Kelvin Timeline movie Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Side note (and Kahn spoilers): “Space Seed” establishes that Khan Noonien Singh was a super-human tyrant created through genetic engineering during Earth’s Eugenics Wars in the 1990s, after which humanity banned genetic experimentation. Star Trek: Enterprise continues this story thread with a three-episode arc. In “Borderland,” “Cold Station 12,” and “The Augments,” Arik Soong (ancestor of Noonian Soong, Data’s creator) illegally continues the experimentation that gave rise to Kahn, hoping to prove that such endeavors won’t always lead to disaster. The events of this story may hold some clues to how a Noonien Singh made it into 23rd century Starfleet before Kahn is introduced in “Space Seed.” And if they don’t, they may well play into what’s currently happening in Star Trek: Picard season two—but for other reasons.
The final original character in the main cast of Strange New Worlds is Ortegas. And, unfortunately, I have to report that I have almost nothing to tell you about this character. The trailers depict her as a hot-shot pilot fresh out of Starfleet Academy. No further information is available.
But there are two stories from The Next Generation that deal with her character type. In “The First Duty,” hot-shot pilot Nick Locarno and Wesley Crusher are involved in a tragic training accident resulting in the death of a fellow Starfleet cadet. And “Lower Decks,” explores the lives of newly minted Starfleet officers as they navigate their early careers on the Enterprise. Additionally, the comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks (name inspired by the episode) focuses on fresh-faced ensigns serving on the starship Cerritos.
'Strange New Worlds' on Paramount+
Finally, a new Trek that feels like the shows that came before it.
Star Trek: The Original Series
- Where No Man Has Gone Before (season 1, episode 3)
- What Are Little Girls Made Of? (1×7)
- The Menagerie Parts I & II (1×11,12)
- The Galileo Seven (1×16)
- Amok Time (2×1)
- Journey to Babel (2×10)
- A Private Little War (2×19)
- That Which Survives (3×17)
Star Trek: The Animated Series
- Yesteryear (1×2)
- The Lorelei Signal (1×4)
Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Unification Parts I & II (5×7,8)
- The First Duty (5×19)
- Lower Decks (7×15)
Star Trek: Enterprise
- Borderland (4×4)
- Cold Station 12 (4×5)
- The Augments (4×6)
- Babel One (4×12)
- United (4×13)
- The Aenar (4×14)
Star Trek: Discovery
- Brother (2×1)
- Light and Shadows (2×7)
- If Memory Serves (2×8)
- Through the Valley of Shadows (2×12)
- Such Sweet Sorrow (2×13,14)
Star Trek: Short Treks
- Q&A (2×1)
- Ask Not (2×3)
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek (2009)
- Star Trek: Into Darkness