Aug 13, 2023

Strange New Worlds Really Needs to Fix Some Things

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When Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, and Ethan Peck first showed up on Star Trek: Discovery, my first thought was, "They need their own show. They need their own show NOW."

It wasn't just the perfect casting and chemistry of the actors, it was the simple fact that I always like Jeffrey Hunter (the original Captain Christopher Pike) better than William Shatner, and like many fans, I spent years wishing we'd gotten to see his story play out. Decades later, we finally got our wish.

But did we though...?

This is Pike's show, not The Nurse Chapel Show.

As Season 2 began, I got the feeling this was The Spock & Chapel show, but then I quickly realized it wasn't. We've been focusing heavily on Nurse Christine Chapel, her obsession with Spock, saving her, protecting her, focusing on her in some way in damn near every episode. Two seasons in and Erica Ortegas can't even get an episode (more on that later), but for some reason, we have to check in with Chapel every time--why is that?

Never in the history of Trek shows have I ever seen a captain (and their first officer) so appallingly sidelined on their own damn ship. Kirk and Spock would never; they are literally credited with the creation of slash fiction. Sisko and Kira would never; Sisko started a whole war because the Dominion was getting a little too cozy in his backyard. Janeway and Chakotay would never; Janeway would've burned that whole bitch down.

Picard and Riker would never.

This is Pike's show. When Strange New Worlds was first announced, I didn't even know Uhura would be returning; I didn't know we'd get to see T'Pring, or meet Erica Ortegas and La'an Noonien Singh. So it wasn't my being ecstatic about seeing all these women (of color, no less), it was about getting to know the most chill, most fun captain we've ever had. With only ten episodes per season, I knew whoever else showed up probably wouldn't get featured as much, and I accepted that. But what I cannot accept is having one of Star Trek's most useless characters brought back and crammed down my throat on a weekly basis.

Need I remind y'all that the whole reason Christine Chapel was created was because back in the 1960s, viewers didn't like Una Chin-Riley a.k.a. Number One? Number One wasn't docile, hyper-feminine, or submissive; she was clearly the smartest member of the crew and when Pike went missing, she took command of the Enterprise like a boss. Even the Karens didn't like her; they threw her under the bus. So Majel Barrett was forced to abandon an epic, ground-breaking role for a lesser, weaker one, while her character's brilliance and emotional detachment was passed on to a male character--Spock.

Strange New Worlds was meant to be the redemption of Number One, not Chapel. We didn't need them both; we only needed the OG to come back and represent as Gene Roddenberry originally intended.

Speaking of, we don't need all the legacy characters to show up.

As much as Paul Wesley is growing on me as James Kirk, there is no reason for us to see him this much. This is Pike's show, yet there are entire episodes where Pike is set aside in favor of a character who already had their own show, not to mention several movies and books.

While I like the arrival of Montgomery Scott and am genuinely interested to see what we learn about him (like whether or not he gets with Uhura), I'm hoping we don't have another Kirk situation. Like Kirk, Scotty already had a show and several movies. But unlike Uhura, whom we're just now learning things about, he was decently featured. 

See, if we're going to keep bringing back legacy characters, then bring back the ones who got sidelined due to racist and xenophobic policies during the 1960s. We've got Uhura (more on her later), now bring back Hikaru Sulu and Pavel Chekov. I would think that in this political climate, now is the perfect time to cast an actual Russian actor as a young cadet with big hopes and dreams for the future.

The show is called Strange New Worlds.

Someone on Tumblr cracked a joke along the lines of, "For a show called Strange New Worlds, I'm not getting enough strange or new worlds." And I whole-heartedly agree. In the crossover episode "Those Old Scientists", Ensign Brad Boimler mentions being jealous of the Enterprise crew because they get to live during the Golden Age of Exploration. So...where's the exploration? Because most of the aliens we've seen so far are ones we know, when 75% of our very few episodes should be about interacting with NEW people, and studying UNPRECEDENTED scientific phenomena (Season One gave us a taste of this). It shouldn't be a CW-level soap opera about milk toast, monochromatic relationships that nobody asked for.

Paramount's ageism is showing.

Anson Mount is a great-looking 50-year-old actor with an awesome head of gray hair. Rebecca Romijn is a gorgeous 50-year-old actress of legend. Love everything about her. And yet, in our increasingly youth-driven culture, I suspect the reason they're pushed back in favor of their younger "counterparts" (for lack of a better term), is ageism, pure and simple. Hollywood generally doesn't like older leads on TV, and is always looking for some excuse to stick younger people in front of the camera. First of all, fifty is the new forty, and forty is not "old". These actors look amazing. With their grays and subtle lines, they bring charisma and decades of priceless experience. They're also portraying beloved iconic characters we want to see, adamantly campaigned for, and will happily watch until they can't go on. Put some respect on their names. Like I said, this is Pike's show.

John de Lancie in Season 3 of Picard, reminding us
you don't have to be young to be fine AF
Paramount's ableism is showing.

Why was Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak) a one-season wonder? Why did Star Trek hype its first blind actor only to kill him off (while, again, not focusing on him enough)? Headlines made a big deal about Carol Kane joining the cast as Pelia, his replacement, and yet after a full season (where she was also barely featured), I have seen nothing from her character which justified the death of the Hemmer. They need to go ahead and bring him back; we didn't need a new engineer, we don't need to rotate engineers each season, and I would love to see Hemmer, Scotty, and Uhura all interact with one another. The jokes practically write themselves.

Paramount's racism is showing.

I said it. It needed to be said.

Erica Ortegas (Melissa Naevia) is the only Hispanic main character and yet we know next to nothing about her after two whole seasons. But it gets worse; I realized that whenever the show finally deigns to focus on a woman of color, it's not in a great light.

Someone on Facebook made a comment to the effect of, "Oh, it's another 'La'an Must Suffer' episode" and I had a full-on, Keanu Reeves "whoa" moment. They were right. La'an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong) doesn't get happy episodes; she gets stories of trauma and heartbreak. Her ancestor is a genocidal villain (like, why?) and she has to carry that stigma along with her PTSD from surviving the Gorn, and she's stuck with a permanent resting bitch face. Like...pick a struggle.

T'Pring (Gia Sandhu) help kick off the show by proposing to Spock, a man she loves, accepts, and has stood by in the face of Vulcan societal disdain. Read that again: she proposed to him. Yet despite accepting her proposal and being in an allegedly committed relationship with T'Pring, Spock doesn't trust her, doesn't respect her, and doesn't communicate with her even though doing all those things would be, I don't know, logical? This stunning, remarkable woman is essentially cuckolded by Christine Chapel and for what? Ratings? So a certain demographic can feel better about themselves?

They could've written anything for Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), literally anything...and they chose to kill off her whole family??? What the hell? What was the reason?

Not to mention, someone on Tumblr pointed out that Uhura is written as the kind of Black girl white audiences are most comfortable with: loyal, selfless, eager to please, basically subservient. Together, she, La'an, and Erica are pretty much the Bonnie Bennett of the Enterprise, but spread across three characters.

In the popular musical episode "Subspace Rhapsody", Uhura sings unaccompanied about being--you guessed it--unaccompanied. She sings about constantly being told "fix this" and "save you" and keeping other people connected while she herself is alone. And people applauded this. Yes, Gooding is a Grammy winner and Tony nominee, and her performance is beautiful, but these lyrics are trash.

Uhura's solo rubbed me so raw, that I've been seriously rethinking about the way I stream shows. When I first started blogging, streaming was still new, and now over a decade later, we have several Black-owned streaming apps, some of which I supported in their infancy and have now finally matured. So I'm thinking, I don't have to be disappointed anymore. I've already cancelled a few subscriptions; I could easily cancel more and just subscribe to these ones and blog about their shows.

Because I don't know about you guys, but I have better things to do than spend the next half century waiting for networks to finally get things right.

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