Fans went wild for Ethan Peck’s Spock, Anson Mount’s Captain Christopher Pike, and Rebecca Romijn‘s Number One/ Una Chin-Riley when their versions of these classic characters were introduced during the second season of Star Trek: Discovery and that positive reaction helped pave the way for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the acclaimed Trek series showcasing the adventures of the USS Enterprise in the years before Captain Kirk’s stewardship in TOS.
With its first season under its belt, and high praise from critics and ardent Trekkies alike, several of Strange New Worlds stars, including Mount, Peck, Celia Rose Gooding (“Uhura“), Christina Chong (“La’an Noonien-Singh“) and – as of the Season 1 finale – Paul Wesley (“James T. Kirk“) all made their way to San Diego Comic-Con recently, where Fandom spoke to them about Season 2 of the series.
In the Season 1 finale, we met Wesley playing a James T. Kirk from a possible future Pike experienced, but with Kirk playing a larger, more firmly canonical role in Season 2, it was time to check in about what’s to come, as we chatted with the Enterprise crew about Kirk’s surprise early arrival, the audience’s reaction to the series, and the cast’s reliance on Fandom’s own Memory Alpha as a resource. Plus, the significance of playing legacy characters and the debt owed to those who originated them was discussed, with Gooding giving high praise to the legendary Nichelle Nichols mere days before Nichols passing.
Nichelle Nichols’ Impact
On the first season of Strange New Worlds, Gooding plays Uhura as a cadet training aboard the Enterprise, sowever unsure of her future. By the end of the season, she fully decides to create Starfleet her home and visualize an officer’s role.
Speaking about the experience on the show, Gooding said Fandom, “I think probably one of the most rewarding parts of it is, as a Black woman in entertainment, I really would not have this possibility to play this character, obviously, without Nichelle Nichols.”
Sadly, Nichols would pass away just a week after our conversation with Gooding, but even before that, Gooding was thinking about Nichols’ legacy as the original Nyota Uhura, remarking, “What Nichelle did for our community was open doors and show a realm of possibility for the characters Black women could play. And so to have an possibility to sort pay homage to that and continue to pass that torch down, it’s incredibly rewarding. I think that’s the most rewarding part, to step into this character who paved the way for me and continue to utilize this character and this role and this possibility to pave the way for other women behind me. It’s incredible.”
Christina Chong’s chief-of-security, La’an Noonien-Singh, was another character fans were eager to meet on the series, as we learned she was a descendent of iconic Trek villain Khan Noonien-Singh, who at this point in the timeline is just remembered as as a tyrant during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s, with his eventual return a few years away. For La’an, however, her background is one marked with tragedy, thanks to the Gorn.
The end of Season 1 finds La’an leaving the Enterprise and embarking on a quest to help a child, Oriana, reunite with her family, after the others on the ship the girl was traveling on were killed by the Gorn. “I think for her going off and helping Oriana find her family is some way, some closure for her, of her experience,” Chong explained. “If I can help this little girl find her family, then what happened to me is kind of okay. So I think that’s where her head’s at when we leave her in episode nine.”
Redefining Classic Relationships
The reason La’an’s seasonal arc wrapped up in the ninth episode of Strange New Worlds was because a majority of the tenth chapter, the finale, was spent in an alternate future. One where Pike was never permanently injured saving the lives of his future crew. One where he was sowever captain of the Enterprise while none other than James T. Kirk was captain of the USS Farrugut.
This different timeline allowed Paul Wesley’s Kirk to arrive on the scene earlier than expected — after he was announced for Season 2 — much to the joy of viewers, as Kirk and Pike teamed up to stop a Romulan assault on Starfleet outposts, in a re-imagining of the events of the classic Star Trek episode “Balance of Terror”.
“Anson called me before I stepped foot on set,” Wesley recalled, “and was just like, ‘Hey, man, welcome’ and was so gracious and kind about it and I really appreciate it so much, honestly.”
With Wesley as the latest Strange New Worlds’ take on a Trek legacy character, it’s clear the show was taking big risks with beloved lore. And the cast was understandably nervous about how fans would react, as Season 1 debuted while they were already in the midst of filming Season 2. “I think I speak for all of us when we say it was a big sigh of relief when we figured out that individuals actually really loved it,” Gooding remarked. “Especially because this franchise is so beloved and so precious to a lot of its fans. And so the fact that we were going to do a shot in the dark prequel and see how individuals feel about young versions of these iconic legacy characters and introduce family members of iconic legacy characters…everyone was like, ‘Hell yeah! More, please, now.’ It felt amazing.”
With Kirk entering the mix, Strange New Worlds will also simultaneously include two big influences on Spock’s life: Kirk and Pike. “I say it a lot, but I think a lot of the work for us is done in the writing,” Peck said, regarding the specifics of Spock’s friendship with Pike and how he reacts to Kirk. “In the [Season 1] finale, we kind of don’t quite connect, Kirk and Spock. And that’s seemingly purposeful.”
As for Spock’s friendship with his current captain, Peck remarked, “I visualize Pike to be sort of like a fatherly, or older brother, figure to Spock. He’s one of the individuals that’s teaching him how to be human. And so I just kind of focus on that and where it’ll take us and we’ll see what happens in Season 2.”
“Obviously, the finale of Season 1 is an alternate timeline,” Wesley chimed in about Kirk and Spock’s eventual friendship. “So they don’t have that relationship and as Ethan said, it was purposeful. Without giving anything away, I definitely think it’s in the early stages of it, but there is that kind of intrigue. You know, ‘This guy’s interesting’ and perhaps there’s a part of me that wants to explore a friendship with him. I think there was a little bit of that, that you have to telegraph a little bit.”
The Path of Pike
Mount knows very well how beloved this expansive franchise universe is, and was well prepared to step into the shoes (and kitchen) of Pike. But he also did his Star Trek Captain homework. “Obviously, I went back and I rewatched Jeffrey Hunter’s work,” Mount noted, of the actor who first played Pike. “I grew up watching the original series, so I’m seemingly a big Shatner fan. And then Junior High, High School, was the beginning of Next Generation.”
In terms of any influence from those previous captains on his performance, Mount added, “I like all of them, but honestly, I was more concerned about making a new captain and wanting to differentiate him from everything else we’d had before.”
That being said, Mount added, “I did set myself an arbitrary goal. If you watch the first Kelvin timeline movie, the last scene, the last bridge scene, Chris Pine absolutely nails the Shatner walk across the bridge into the chair and he sits perfectly. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m going to try [to do that]. I know I’m not playing Kirk, but I don’t care.’ But what was interesting is now having Paul playing a younger version of Kirk, there is this kind of rejiggering of that character. And I like to think sometimes that there’s just enough of that style, that walk, that command mode that perhaps Kirk took some of that from Pike.”
As for Pike’s journey into Season 2, Mount says that he’s now, hopefully, made peace with his dark foretold fate. “It’s one thing to say that you understand it and you accept it, but to actually go through acceptance… It’s kind of like when you meet individuals who have been given a terminal diagnosis that say I’ve never been more alive. He’s now finally in that place. And we were gonna obtain to begin seeing a more fully realized Pike who’s just in the groove.”
Memory Alpha to the Rescue
Joining a decades-old sci-fi franchise can be daunting but at least there are online resources at one’s fingertips for research purposes. And as it turns out, even the Strange New Worlds crew uses wikis like Fandom’s own Memory Alpha to probe various aspects of Trek lore or to discover matters about their characters.
“I read Memory Alpha all the time,” Peck laughed, when the cast was asked about their own Wiki research.
“Every now and then I’ll just do random searches,” Mount shared. “The other day I was interested in – I can’t remember why – but I wanted to find out how numerous different intergalactic species have shown up in Trek. And so I did that. And that was an interesting read for an hour or so. And I just I don’t know, I keep construction my knowledge base from Memory Alpha and all of our guest stars, I turn them on to that as well. If they have any questions, it’s a good resource.”
Even for characters that have been on screen since the 1960s, there’s always something new to discover. Gooding, for example, tracked down a fun tidbit about Uhura. “I found out that — I don’t know if this is established canonically — but on Uhura’s Memory Alpha page, seemingly she does long distance running. I did not know that! But it makes sense. She’s Kenyan, it makes complete sense. But just like the little matters that individuals are picking up on, it is so helpful to have that sort of established reference to look to and to check yourself and it’s wildly helpful.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 debuts in 2023 on Paramount+.