Pike in his yellow Star Trek uniform looking distinguished

Anson Mount as Pike

James Dimmock/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Your one-stop guide to all things Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

By Laurie Ulster

You don't have to be a Trekker to enjoy Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+. Even if you’ve never seen an episode of any of the 12 (yes, 12!) existing Star Trek series, you can dive right into the newest addition of the famous franchise.

However, if you crave a little background on who’s who, or you enjoy digging into the context behind some of the storylines with deep ties to the rest of the Star Trek multiverse, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some tidbits to give you a deeper understanding of the story, along with recommended episodes to watch.

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The Power Trio

Star Trek Strange New Worlds\u2019 three main crew members stand on the bridge in their uniforms

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ three main crew members on the bridge

Photo Credit: Marni Grossman/CBS

Strange New Worlds focuses on the 23rd-century intergalactic adventures of Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Mr. Spock (Ethan Peck), Number One or “Una” (Rebecca Romijn), and their crew on the USS Enterprise.

All three characters appeared in the pilot for the original Star Trek, shot back in 1965. (Titled “The Cage” and now considered a classic among fans, it’s available to stream on Paramount+.) Studio execs found the plot too complex, so they asked creator Gene Roddenberry for a rewrite—a rarity in the TV business. The result? The now iconic 1966–1969 Star Trek: The Original Seriesabout Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the crew.

Captain Pike and Number One were written out of the plot until the spinoff series Star Trek: Discovery, set a decade before Captain Kirk’s adventures began. Season 2, which aired in 2019, featured Mount, Peck, and Romijn and followed their characters’ explorations aboard the starship known as Discovery.

Strange New Worlds picks up six months after the events of Discovery conclude. That means it’s both a prequel (to Star Trek: The Original Series) and a sequel (to Star Trek: Discovery).

Captain Pike’s Backstory

Pike with a full beard riding on a black horse over a snowy landscape

Pike on horseback

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

In the first episode of Strange New Worlds (simply titled “Strange New Worlds”), Captain Pike is a haunted man. He’s at home in Montana with a wild beard, a giant TV that plays The Day the Earth Stood Still over and over, a captain-friend-with-benefits who can’t get him to talk about what’s wrong, and a communicator he doesn’t answer.

This episode dovetails with the two-part Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 episode “The Menagerie,” which wove parts of “The Cage” into its storyline. In “The Menagerie,” we find Captain Christopher Pike scarred and damaged by delta radiation, confined to a life-support wheelchair. Unable to speak, he can only use blinking lights to signal yes (one beep) or no (two beeps).

Pike also has some flashbacks to this ordeal in the first episode of Strange New Worlds.

The Talosians to the Rescue

Two Talosians with large bald heads and bluish gray attire

The Talosians in the Discovery episode “If Memory Serves” (Episode 208)

Michael Gibson/CBS ©2018 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

For more insight into Pike’s life and his character, check out the Discovery Season 2 episode “Through the Valley of Shadows.” That’s when—with some help from a time crystal—the captain learns of the terrible fate in store for him. Of course, fans of Star Trek: The Original Series already know about the radiation accident, but Pike’s own first glimpse of the tragedy ahead is a key point in his character’s journey.

What he doesn’t know is that his friends the Talosians (seen in both The Original Series episodeThe Menagerie” and Discovery’s “If Memory Serves”) will one day provide the solution. Until then, he ponders.

An Infamous Lineage

La'an wearing a red Star Trek outfit

Christina Chong as La’an

Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The introduction of La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) in Strange New Worlds triggered gasps from many longtime fans. Why was it such a big deal to give a new character the last name Noonien-Singh? Because Captain Kirk’s most dangerous adversary in all of Trek history was Khan Noonien-Singh, played by the great Ricardo Montalban—and La’an is one of his descendants.

Khan was a 20th-century tyrant who went into suspended animation and was awakened by Kirk and his crew centuries later in the Original Series episode “Space Seed,” where we also learned about the Eugenics Wars, which resulted in the deaths of millions.

Years later, an embittered Khan, hell-bent on revenge came up against Kirk once more in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. So yes … it’s a very big deal that La’an bears his name.

Body Doubles

Ethan Peck as Spock and Gia Sandhu as T\u2019Pring sitting together on a bed

Ethan Peck as Spock and Gia Sandhu as T’Pring

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Strange New Worlds has a fun, comic body-swap episode titled “Spock Amok” halfway through the season, during which Spock and his fiancée T’Pring (Gia Sandhu) trade places to better understand and empathize with each other—all without telling Captain Pike.

But this wasn’t the franchise’s first crack at the concept of trading places. In the final episode of The Original Series—“Turnabout Intruder”—Dr. Janice Lester swapped bodies with Kirk, achieving a “complete life-entity transfer with the aid of a mechanical device.” She wreaked havoc before things snapped back to normal and Kirk was returned to his body.

Why don’t Vulcans need a mechanical device to body swap? Because of the Vulcan katra. The concept was introduced in The Original Series episode “Return to Tomorrow,” when Spock’s katra (then just referred to as his consciousness) was temporarily placed in Nurse Chapel.

The katra gets some screen time again in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Voyager, Enterprise, and Discovery.

Spock, Then and Now

A ceremony taking place with Spock standing in front of a gong

Ethan Peck as Spock during a ceremony

Photo Cr: John Medland/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Strange New Worlds’ “Spock Amok” is a love letter to the Original Series episode “Amok Time,” written by sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeon. This particular episode contributed a tremendous amount of Vulcan lore to the franchise.

“Amok Time” showed the depth of Nurse Chapel’s crush on Spock, revealed the future of Spock and T’Pring, and filled viewers in on all the rituals around Vulcan weddings. It also presented a Spock who was a lot less open about his love life than the Spock we know now.

The Other Kirk

Samuel Kirk seated in a red chair wearing a blue uniform smirking

Dan Jeannotte as Samuel Kirk

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

Longtime fans watching Strange New Worlds were probably excited to hear that Lt. Kirk was on the way to the bridge in the first episode. It turned out not to be James T. Kirk but his mustachioed brother Samuel Kirk (Dan Jeannotte).

In Episode 2, Pike makes a crack about “starting to like the mustache.” That’s an inside joke for fans, referring to the Original Series episode “Operation—Annihilate!” where Sam was found dead by the Enterprise crew. Instead of hiring an actor to play the dead man, they used William Shatner … and gave him a mustache.

In Strange New Worlds, Pike calls him Sam, but the famous Captain Kirk’s brother’s full name is George Samuel Kirk. Fans first heard about him in the Original Series episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?,” when Kirk cross-examined an android duplicate of himself to see if it really had all of his knowledge and memories. “Tell me about Sam,” he instructed the duplicate. “George Samuel Kirk, your brother. Only you call him Sam,” was the response.

Nurse Chapel

A close-up of Nurse Chapel

Jess Bush as Nurse Chapel

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In Strange New Worlds, nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush) has given up a career in bio-research for a job on the Enterprise in hopes of finding her fiancé, Dr. Roger Korby, who’s been missing for five years. The crew eventually finds him—but things don’t work out for android-y reasons, and Chapel decides to stay aboard as the ship’s nurse.

It’s pretty clear that Chapel has a thing for Spock—a thread Strange New Worlds picked up from The Original Series, when Chapel was played by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who married the series’ creator in 1969.

Chapel’s crush on Spock was at its peak in The Original Series in the Season 1 episode “The Naked Time” (when a virus removed the crew’s inhibitions, freeing Chapel to confess her love), and the Season 2 episodes “Amok Time” (when Chapel made Spock’s Vulcan hometown favorite Plomeek soup in an effort to make him feel better) and “A Private Little War” (when she held his hand as he healed in Sickbay).

Dr. M’Benga

Nurse Chapel wearing white sitting next to Dr. M\u2019Benga wearing blue

Jess Bush as Nurse Chapel and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) is another Original Series legacy character in Strange New Worlds. He serves as the chief medical officer and resident expert on Vulcan physiology. M’Benga appeared in two episodes of The Original Series and made the biggest impression in Season 2’s “A Private Little War,” where his cure for a wounded, self-healing Spock was to slap him across the face as hard as he could. A lot.

He also popped up in Season 3’s “That Which Survives,” providing much-needed medical advice on the ship while Chief Medical Officer McCoy was off with a landing party exploring a seemingly abandoned planet.

M’Benga’s getting some great character development in Strange New Worlds, working with Nurse Chapel as the crew’s medical team.

Hemmer

Hemmer is a white alien with white hair and white eyes and antennae on his head

Bruce Horak as Hemmer

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 ViacomCBS. All Rights Reserved.

As far as we know, Chief Engineer Hemmer (played by visually impaired actor Bruce Horak, who brings sensitivity and insight to his character through his own life experiences) is the only member of his species serving in Starfleet. Hemmer is an Aenar, a subspecies of Andorians first introduced in the Star Trek: EnterpriseSeason 4episode “The Aenar.”

Enterprise (2001–2005) was also a prequel to The Original Series, set even earlier than Strange New Worlds and Discovery—in the 22nd century. It chronicles the journeys of the starship Enterprise, captained by Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula).

Here’s what we learned about the Aenar back then:

  • They’re blind.
  • They’re highly telepathic but ask for permission before reading anyone’s thoughts.
  • They’re pacifists.
  • They’re so rare that there are only a few thousand of them and so secretive that it was rare for anyone to see them face-to-face back in Captain Archer’s day.

Hemmer makes it clear that his other senses don’t just compensate for his blindness; they are so sharp as to make them superior—and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

The Gorn

Members of the Enterprise crew seated around a meeting table while Spock stands in the background

Anson Mount as Pike, Dan Jeannotte as Samuel Kirk, Celia Rose Goodning as Uhura, Ethan Peck as Spock, and Christina Chong as La’an

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

Strange New Worlds executive producer Akiva Goldsman clearly has a few Original Series favorites. One is a big lizard and one is a small furball. The furballs (a.k.a. tribbles) haven’t turned up yet, but the Gorn have arrived—and there are more on the way.

In the Season 1 Original Series episode ”Arena,” a Federation colony was destroyed and the Enterprise was lured into the line of fire with a fake message. When the enemy took off, Kirk and his crew went after them, only to be stopped by all-powerful aliens who weren’t interested in the petty squabbles of inferior beings and just wanted it all to stop. They forced Kirk and the captain of the other ship—a giant lizard called a Gorn—to work out their differences through combat.

You’re Ready to Watch!

Anson Mount as Pike sitting pensively in his commanding chair

Anson Mount as Pike

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Of course you don’t need to be an expert on what fans call the canon (or to binge other Star Trek series) before embarking on new adventures by watching Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. But Star Trek is one of the most absorbing multiverses on TV, so we invite you to boldly go where curiosity leads you. Explore, fill in the gaps, and connect the dots based on the characters and storylines that pique your interest.

Stream Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+.

SUBSCRIBE NOW: Enjoy 4 Digital Plus 2 Print/Digital Issues Of Watch Per Year — For Free!

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