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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will go back to weekly episodic storytelling

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The year is 2004. The Battlestar Galactica reboot has just debuted to massive acclaim and nothing will be the same again. At least when it comes to sci-fi TV series storytelling (and their use of digital shaky-cam zooms).

Before the Cylons blew our minds, the big sci-fi shows of the late 1990s and early 2000s were the likes of X-Files, Stargate SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis, Farscape, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Firefly and more. Particularly prevalent were a number of different Star Trek shows. And do you know what most of these shows, including the non-Star Trek ones, had in common? Weekly standalone episodes. And then BSG came along, with its approach of each subsequent episode building on the last to weave together a massive, season-long, overarching narrative. It was most certainly not the first sci-fi show to adopt this style of storytelling (even some of the franchises mentioned above applied this method), but BSG was so damn popular for doing it, that just about everybody else started copying that approach. Sci-fi shows with standalone episodes just about died out and are still pretty much dead.

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And that included the likes of Star Trek when the classic sci-fi franchise made a modern revival with Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Both those shows boasted non-episodic long-form storytelling (not to mention a massive departure in tone from the franchise’s classic roots). But now the next entry in the new age of Star Trek is taking things back to basics, as the recently announced Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will boast weekly standalone episodes. That’s according to franchise producer Alex Kurtzman who revealed to Deadline (via JoBlo) that this will be a return to Star Trek’s roots.

I think Strange New Worlds, under the guidance of Henry Myers and Akiva Goldsman, it’s going to be a return in a way to [The Original Series]. We are going to do stand-alone episodes. There will be emotional serialization. There will be two-parters. There will be larger plot arcs. But it really is back to the model of alien-of-the-week, planet-of-the-week, challenge-on-the-ship-of-the-week. With these characters pre-Kirk’s Enterprise. I think what people responded so much to in all three characters is this kind of relentless optimism that they have. And that they are at the young phase of their careers.

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And damn, I could not be happier. I’ve missed episodic sci-fi shows so much that I still regularly rewatch Stargate. Hell, I’m currently making my way through Star Trek: The Original Series right now on Netflix and love it’s weekly approach so much. So this really has my attention now. Not that Strange New Worlds wasn’t already appealing to me, that is.

A spinoff from Discovery, the new show focuses on the USS Enterprise’s first commander, Captain Pike, a young Ensign Spock, and the awkwardly monikered Number One, who were all originally introduced in the 1965 pilot episode of the original series. On Discovery though, we got new versions of the characters respectively played by Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn… who promptly went on to steal the show. Most notable in that larceny was Mount who became a huge fan favourite instantly for his super-cool rendition on Pike. Seeing as this is a prequel though, we already know Pike’s grim fate – a fate the character got a glimpse of when he saw his own future during a Discovery episode.

How Pike deals with knowing that he has some pretty bad days ahead of him, will be one of those overarching character beats that Strange New Worlds will still maintain.

The idea is, how does a character who knows how he is going to die live optimistically from that point on and lead a ship? It’s a great question. I have never seen a show where a character knew that already. You have to have an inherent optimism in your world view in order to say, ‘I am going to get up every morning knowing how it is going to end for me.’ And still lead everybody to be the best versions of themselves.

Well, I can’t wait to see how Pike deals with that one. While dealing with a different threat/alien planet/mystery each week! Set phasers to fun!

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting everything down, there’s still no word on when Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will debut. The animated Star Trek: Lower Decks just recently started airing though, and the third season of Star Trek: Discovery will air in October. Then there’s still a second season of Star Trek: Picard on the way sometime in 2021 with the Michelle Yeoh-led Section 13 spinoff from Discovery also still in early development.

Last Updated: August 19, 2020

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