Despite modern special effects and production design, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is definitely intended as a true prequel to the original 1960s Star Trek. This differs from the J.J. Abrams films, which were set in an alternate universe. Strange New Worlds connects to the canon of Gene Roddenberry’s original show in many, and sometimes surprising, ways. With Paul Wesley playing James T. Kirk on Strange New Worlds in three episodes now, it was inevitable his “prime timeline” iteration would meet Anson Mount’s Captain Pike at some point. But did their first canonical meeting line up with how they described it on The Original Series? Actually, yes it did.
Strange New Worlds Shows Captain Pike and James T. Kirk’s First Meeting
In the classic Star Trek series two-part episode “The Menagerie,” the series stated Captain Kirk already met the former Enterprise captain back when Christopher Pike “was promoted to Fleet Captain.” It’s a small reference they could have ignored and overwritten. Few would have noticed. However, the writers of Strange New Worlds adhered to that bit of continuity trivia in the sixth episode of season two, “Lost in Translation.”
Part of the plot of the episode has the Enterprise overseeing the construction of an outpost in a nebula—a nebula that is a stellar nursery. Not only did Starfleet assign the Enterprise to help complete this refinery outpost, but Starfleet also sent another ship, the U.S.S. Farragut. That starship has a young Lt. James T. Kirk on board, who meets Pike for the first time in this episode. During this mission, Starfleet gives Pike command over the outpost and the Farragut. Thus, temporarily promoting him to the rank of Fleet Captain. So Strange New Worlds and The Original Series continuity remains intact.
Other Times Strange New Worlds Connects to Classic Star Trek Continuity
This is not the first time Strange New Worlds has found a way to connect directly to the original series. In episode four of season two, “Among the Lotus Eaters,” we learned just what happened on the Rigel 7 planetary mission. This was the same mission that left Chris Pike shaken in “The Cage,” the unaired original Star Trek pilot. The pilot left it vague, only telling us that Pike lost several members of the Away Team. “Among the Lotus Eaters” actually answered that mystery, after 57 years.
Previously, in the first season finale, we saw a glimpse into an alternate future for the Enterprise, one where Pike avoids his grisly fate (confined to a life-saving chair where he can no longer move or speak). In that future, we saw that the events of The Original Series episode “Balance of Terror,” where the Enterprise first encounters the Romulans, play out as intended. Of course, with some major twists due to wibbly-wobbly, time-wimey shenanigans. But certain bits of dialogue play exactly the same in both series.
Classic Star Trek Canon Strange New Worlds Still Needs to Explain
So what about where the show does deviate from Star Trek: The Original Series continuity? There are some big things the show has yet to explain. Spock (Ethan Peck) and his betrothed, T’Pring, were a couple in the show’s first season and much of the second. But in Strange New Worlds they’ve chosen to take some time apart. Still, it’s a breakup that seems based on logic, and it’s amicable so far. There’s no explanation yet on why, years later in The Original Series episode “Amok Time,” T’Pring was willing to allow Spock to potentially die in ritual combat in order to free herself from her commitment to him.
Also, Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett Roddenberry) has a long-lost fiancé in the classic Star Trek, Dr. Roger Korby. So far, we haven’t seen any mention of him on Strange New Worlds by Chapel, now played by Jess Bush. But these aren’t continuity errors yet, more like unexplained mysteries they will probably reveal more about as Strange New Worlds continues. Hopefully, with enough seasons to complete their five-year mission. There’s still plenty of time to explain these.
The big area where Strange New Worlds doesn’t link up to the classic Star Trek series is simply aesthetically. The Enterprise NCC-1701 under Pike’s command is practically a luxury liner. The corridors are roomy, and the Captain’s quarters are enormous (with their own kitchen!). The ship even has a spacious lounge with live music. Ten Forward on the Enterprise-D in The Next Generation wasn’t nearly as big. The original show’s Enterprise was cramped and small. Let’s not get started on the differences on the bridge.
Strange New Worlds Takes a Page from the Marvel Comics Approach
Eventually, Strange New Worlds might pull some magic dilithium crystals out of their warp core to explain any conflicting events. After all, Pike’s Enterprise is home to some 200 crew members. Kirk’s Enterprise has more than double that. Did they refit the ship to fit more crew for Kirk’s five-year mission? While they might say something like that at some point, truthfully, what Strange New Worlds is doing in terms of visual continuity is simply taking the Marvel Comics approach and hand-waving it all away.
Marvel Comics’ continuity has been going since the ‘60s, much like Star Trek. Heroes born in that era are still published today, with their old adventures intended as canonical to the modern versions of the characters. Yet, the teen X-Men dressed in ‘60s clothing, for example, and other aspects of those early stories refer to then-contemporary culture. Marvel’s solution to that was simple—the events of those stories still happened, but flashbacks to those events in today’s comics show them in a modern light.
The original X-Men, for example, had sleeker versions of their classic uniforms in 21st century comics, like X-Men: First Class. Jack Kirby’s original designs inspired them, but the costumes weren’t identical. Strange New Worlds has likely taken the Marvel Comics method. It’s interesting that these two long-running pop culture franchises, both born in the ‘60s, and with decades of continuity between them, handle their continuities in the same fashion. We’ll see how this continues as the Star Trek franchise continues to expand on the classic canon.