star trek strange new worlds

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Stacey Abrams as United Earth President

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

By Laurie Ulster

Legions of celebrity guests have made their way into one Star Trek series or another. Some were already A-listers, while others made it big later.

Among the well-known actors who have beamed up are Kirsten Dunst, Joel Grey, Kelsey Grammer, Ashley Judd, The Rock, Jason Alexander, Christian Slater, Kim Cattrall, Gabrielle Union, Joan Collins, Dean Stockwell, Michael McKean, Adam Scott, Christopher Plummer, Daniel Dae Kim, Tom Hardy, Vanessa Williams, Ed Begley, Jr., and Starsky and Hutch’s David Soul.

In addition, a number of standouts from other fields have donned a Starfleet uniform or alien makeup for a coveted guest spot on a Star Trek series. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of the most surprising.

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The Prince (now King) of Jordan—Abdullah II

Back when he was merely the Prince of Jordan, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein got his much-wanted cameo during a visit to the U.S. on the set of Star Trek: Voyager. Not being a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he couldn’t have a speaking part, but he did get a uniform and pointy sideburns! Afterwards, he threw a party for the cast and invited them all to visit him in Jordan. Ethan Phillips (Neelix) took him up on it.

Politician, Writer, and Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams in long black robes stands next to Sonequa-Martin Green in a purple uniform.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Stacey Abrams as United Earth President

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

In a bold move, Star Trek: Discovery wrapped up its fourth season with a visit from the President of United Earth, who showed up to thank Captain Burnham and her crew for saving the entire galaxy, so they hired none other than longtime fan Stacey Abrams to take on the role. Well played.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos

Bezos begged Paramount for a guest role in a Star Trek movie, offering to put on any amount of makeup as long as he got a speaking role and didn’t end up on the cutting room floor. He finally got an eight-second cameo as an alien Starfleet official in 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. Chris Pine (Kirk) reported that Bezos showed up with nine bodyguards and three limos—and no one in the cast had any idea who he was.

Screenwriter and Director David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg shown from the shoulders up in a black suit jacket with a Star Trek pin.

David Cronenberg as Kovich

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Alex Kurtzman, the man in charge of the Star Trek franchise, is a Cronenberg fan, and since Star Trek: Discovery is filmed in Toronto, he seized the opportunity to ask the famous Canadian director to make a guest appearance on the show. Cronenberg played Kovich in Discovery’s third and fourth seasons and is likely to show up in the fifth, now that he’s one of the gang. He says part of the appeal for the Trek team is that he’s “cheap” as well as local.

Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood

Fleetwood’s very first acting role (in 1987’s The Running Man) saw him speaking the line, “Mr. Spock, you have the conn,” and it was apt: He was a longtime fan who asked the Star Trek: The Next Generation producers if he could appear on their show. He played an Antedian dignitary in the episode “Manhunt,” which required hours of makeup—he’s unrecognizable inside his fishy prosthetic head—and even shaved off his famous beard to do it.

Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking

A navy blue jumpsuit clad Stephen Hawking floats in Zero Gravity while three people in uniform hold him.

Physicist Stephen Hawking in Zero Gravity NASA

Hawking has the distinction of being the only person to ever play themselves in an episode of Star Trek. He was a huge fan, famous in Trek lore for saying, “I’m working on that” about the warp core during a tour of TNG’s engineering set. In “Descent,” he played a holodeck version of himself, enjoying a poker game with Data, Albert Einstein, and Sir Isaac Newton.

NASA Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the First Woman of Color in Space

Mae Jemison wears a black outfit and stands at the podium smiling and making a fist of her right hand to make a point.

Dr. Mae Jemison during the New York Comic-Con 2017 panel for Star Trek: Discovery

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Dr. Jemison is a huge Star Trek fan who cites The Original Series’ Nichelle Nichols as one of her inspirations for applying for the space program. Nichols visited her on set during the filming of her guest appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Second Chances.” Other astronauts have turned up in the franchise since, but trailblazer Jemison was the first.

Cooking Show Host Padma Lakshmi

Over a decade before she became famous for sending chefs home with the phrase, “Please pack up your knives and go” on Top Chef, Lakshmi appeared on Enterprise as Kaitaama, a princess, in the episode “Precious Cargo”—and yes, she was the cargo.

Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello

A closeup of Tom Morello in a black baseball cap with a gray T shirt and a silver chain around his neck.

Tom Morello

Photo credit: PARAMOUNT+/MTV 2021 Paramount+, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Grammy-winning guitarist and huge Trek fan got his first Star Trek role as a Son’a officer in the movie Star Trek: Insurrection, but since he was almost impossible to spot under the makeup, he was invited to appear as a regular old human on Voyager, where he played Crewman Mitchell in “Good Shepard.” He even got a line to speak this time!

Saturday Night Live’s Joe Piscopo

In one of Next Gen’s most unusual choices, Joe Piscopo turned up in the episode “The Outrageous Okona” as a holographic comedian who tried to teach Data how to tell jokes. The producers’ first choice was Jerry Lewis, but he was unavailable, so in came Piscopo. Despite his best efforts, Data still didn’t learn how to tell jokes, but you can’t blame him for that.

Singer/Songwriter Iggy Pop

Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr is a huge Iggy Pop fan and was determined to get him on the show. After a few failed attempts due to scheduling conflicts (it’s hard to do a guest appearance when you’re on tour), he finally got his wish. Punk rock icon Iggy played a Vorta clone named Yelgrun in the sixth-season episode “The Magnificent Ferengi.”

Writer/Comedian Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman stands in the doorway of a dressing room at The Late Late Show with an open-mouthed expression of surprise as a camera operator films her.

Sarah Silverman

Photo: Terence Patrick/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

In her first dramatic role, Silverman played Rain Robinson, an astronomer who helped Voyager’s crew save the future in the two-parter “Future’s End.” Her character was a hit with the producers, who considered making her a regular. While on set, Silverman stuck around in her off-time just to watch Kate Mulgrew do her Captain Janeway thing. Can you blame her?

NBA All-Star James Worthy

At six feet nine inches tall, Worthy was an obvious choice for a Klingon—so when he met actor Robert O’Reilly (who was playing one on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine) on a flight and told him what a fan he was, O’Reilly convinced him to make a call. Hence his appearance as Koral in Next Gen’s “Gambit, Part II.”

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Pictured: Anson Mount as Pike
Photo Cr: James Dimmock/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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 Series about 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

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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

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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

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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 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: Enterprise Season 4 episode “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.

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Rebecca Romijn as Una, Anson Mount as Pike and Ethan Peck as Spock of the Paramount+ original series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

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

By Carrie Berk

Star Trek is making a comeback. Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Science Officer Spock (Ethan Peck), Number One (Rebecca Romijn), and more characters from the original series return for new adventures in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

The Paramount+ adaptation takes place in the 23rd century, the decade before Star Trek: The Original Series. It follows the crew aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise—including new additions La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) and Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia)—as they explore new worlds throughout the galaxy.

Beyond its exciting sci-fi setting and intriguing plots, the new series offers a surprising amount of practical wisdom for modern audiences. The characters learn important lessons from their explorations that not only apply in the far reaches of the galaxy, but also in everyday life on earth. (Spoilers ahead.)

Catch the last two episodes of the debut season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds—on June 30th and July 7th on Paramount+.

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Lesson #1: “Our ability to work together—that’s our greatest strength.” —Captain Pike

Ethan Peck as Spock wearing blue and Anson Mount as Pike wearing yellow

Ethan Peck as Spock and Anson Mount as Pike

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

Captain Pike explains to La’an that there’s more to joining Starfleet than “individual excellence.” It’s about working together with the rest of the team. La’an struggles to trust others but must do so in order to stay on the Enterprise.

Lesson #2: “Growth, sometimes remarkable growth, is possible.” —Captain Pike

\u200bAnson Mount as Pike sitting in the commanding chair of the ship

Anson Mount as Pike, Rong Fu as Lt. Mitchell, and Melissa Navia as Ortegas

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

Pike demonstrates the ability to grow and adapt by telling La’an about how Starfleet built its first base around the domed forest following World War III. He then offers her a commission to join the Enterprise, even though she no longer serves as Number One.

Lesson #3: “I choose to believe that your destinies are still your own. Maybe that’s why I’m here … to remind you of the power of possibility.” —Captain Pike

\u200bAnson Mount as Pike wearing yellow with his arms folded

Pike aboard the Enterprise

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

In a speech to rival factions, Pike advocates for a future of peace and possibility. He warns that if they keep fighting, their planet will endure a war just as destructive to the population as Earth’s World War III.

Lesson #4: “Right up until the very end, life is to be worn gloriously, because, ’til our last moment, the future’s what we make it.” —Captain Pike

\u200bAnson Mount as Pike wearing yellow and turned around in his chair with one elbow on the table

Pike in a pensive moment

Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

Pike saw into his future, which includes a traumatic radiation poisoning that hinders his ability to function. Although initially he agonizes over the premonition, he ultimately chooses to live in the present and assume his rightful role as captain alongside his team on the Enterprise.

Lesson #5: “Sometimes, Mr. Spock, things go so badly, you just have to laugh.” —Captain Pike

Anson Mount as Pike wearing yellow and \u200bEthan Peck as Spock wearing blue

Spock and Pike stare into the distance.

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

During dinner with the team at his cabin, Pike tells the story of how he once tripped and fell over a Nausicaan’s pants. Spock questions the inclination to laugh at others’ misfortune, but Pike says one shouldn’t take oneself too seriously.

Lesson #6: “What if your fate is what you make it?” —Number One

\u200bRebecca Romijn as Una wearing yellow and sitting at a control panel

Rebecca Romijn as Una

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

Number One tells Pike that despite his vision of the future, his fate is not fixed, and he shouldn’t throw his life away worrying about what’s to come. She suggests that he may be able to make a different choice that will save him from trauma.

Lesson #7: “Suffering can be transformed into insight.” —Spock

\u200bEthan Peck as Spock wearing a blue uniform

Spock in his trademark blue uniform and badge

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

While Pike worries about how envisaging his demise will affect his leadership, Spock maintains that “knowledge of death is vital for effective leadership.” He encourages Pike to “seek out the good” in knowing too much and using it to be a better, more informed leader.

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By Oliver Jones

It's one of the biggest What-Ifs in sci-fi history: What if the original Star Trek pilot episode shot in 1965 had been picked up instead of rejected? That episode, “The Cage,” starred Jeffrey Hunter as the dashing Captain Pike, Majel Barrett (later Barrett-Roddenberry, after she married the series’ legendary creator, Gene Roddenberry) as his trusted Number One, and Leonard Nimoy as a Vulcan officer named Spock.

Photography by Saty + Pratha. Styled by Zeina Esmail.

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