Last week Paramount+, the new home of Star Trek, unveiled the first teaser trailer for Strange New Worlds, the next entry in the company’s increasingly vast Star Trek cinematic universe. While I can get behind some of the fan interest in Strange New Worlds, Star Trek as a whole has been pretty good recently and I’ll watch long enough to see where they take the new series, if I’m being honest this new entry in the canon just isn’t particularly exciting.
In fact, it seems an almost embarrassingly expected extension of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, which blatantly teased a spin off as soon as it premiered in 2019. The show is, for that matter, a prequel to a prequel wrapped inside a prequel, borrowed as it is from a Discovery plot which was itself a crossover with Star Trek: The Original Series.
It is, perhaps, particularly ironic that Strange New Worlds, titled to evoke the opening credits of original Trek, so completely thematically fails to follow through when it comes to the final line: “To boldly go where no one has gone before!” So while you wait for Strange New Worlds, which is set to premiere on May 5th, consider checking out some of these more unusual entries in the Star Trek franchise which really did boldly go where no one (or at least no Star Trek director) had gone before.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 1
“I wanted to protect [my friends] from war, from the enemy. And now we are at war, and I am the enemy.”
When the Star Trek franchise first returned to the small screen in 2017, it did so in style and with a narrative boldness nobody expected. While technically a prequel to the Original Series, the first season of Discovery followed a previously little explored time in Trek history, the Klingon War, and in doing so questioned every assumption fans had about the Trek universe. The premiere jarred viewers expecting the peaceful ideals of the Federation by opening with a battle and a terrible mistake, and kept up the pace with twist after breathless twist that pushed the boundaries of what a Star Trek show could do. Expect the unexpected was the rule, as was darkness, and episodes like Choose Your Pain and Context is For Kings changed the face of the franchise. They also, unsurprisingly, upset a lot of old school fans, leading to more middle of the road reboots like Strange New Worlds, but for ten brief episodes Discovery pushed its heroes to extremis and found, in war, a more compelling story than I’ve seen from Trek since.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The least recent of the Trek entries presented here, first airing in 1993, DS9 immediately followed The Next Generation and marked a significant departure for the franchise. Instead of taking place on the Enterprise, or even on a ship, the show followed the crew of the permanent orbital station Deep Space Nine and their messy, multi-season conflicts. Rather than jetting around from planet to planet, consequences forgotten, the crew of DS9 had to serve as peacekeepers in the ruins of a bloody conflict between the Cardassians, who built the station, and the Bajorans, native inhabitants of the planet it orbited, all while guarding and exploring a newly opened (possibly magical) wormhole to parts unknown. While it was still a cheesy 90s Star Trek series, it offered more compelling writing and storytelling than many of its predecessors, at least in the early seasons. Later seasons leaned a bit too heavily into the magic and, at a certain point, stopped making sense, but I have fond memories of seasons 1-3.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
As the title suggests, Into Darkness served as another foray into the darker corners of the Trek franchise. Existing as it did in the alternate Kelvin timeline, which split off from the main franchise when Spock accidentally sent himself and an evil Romulan back in time by shooting “red matter” into a black hole (don’t question it), the movie wasn’t obligated to follow the original voyages of the starship Enterprise. It did to some extent, Kirk and Spock and the original crew were all there, but having gotten the time travel shenanigans out of the way in the first movie of the Kelvin trilogy, Into Darkness was free to follow its high action dreams. With the fate of, uh, something in the balance, the suddenly much higher definition Enterprise went toe to toe with a truly terrifying rebooted Khan, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, in a space age version of cloak and dagger submarine warfare. Come to see the Doctor Strange you know and love have a lot of fun being fabulously evil, and stay to watch Dr. McCoy struggle to come up with enough science words to explain how Tribbles can make you immortal. (It can’t be done, but he makes a valiant effort.)