Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has finally arrived on Paramount+, receiving rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Starring Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, it also features Ethan Peck as Spock, Rebecca Romijn as Number One, and Celia Rose Gooding as Cadet Uhura. And together they’re all boldly going where no one has gone before.
But with the series ostensibly serving as a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series, many are wondering where the show fits in the overall Star Trek chronology. And the answer to that is a bit complicated. Let’s explore where it does (and doesn’t) fit. (Note: Strange New Worlds is abbreviated to SNW in this article, and Star Trek: The Original Series is TOS).
Strange New Worlds Is Both a Prequel and a Sequel
SNW is not only a prequel to TOS, but it’s also a sequel to Discovery. When Pike’s Enterprise shows up on Star Trek: Discovery in its second season, the year is 2258. SNW takes place six months later, after the Enterprise has seemingly had another refit in spacedock. This places the show seven years before we meet Kirk and Spock in the TOS pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which takes place in 2265. Pre-established canon tells us that Pike commanded one more five-year mission before Kirk took the center seat, and before they promoted Pike to Fleet Captain.
Of course, there are places where SNW diverges wildly from the established canon. The original series episode “Amok Time” heavily implies that Spock has not seen his betrothed, T’Pring, since they were children. SNW shows that they have, in fact, seen quite a lot of each other (to put it mildly). Uhura and Chapel seemed completely shocked at Spock having a wife in TOS, but they must have known if they spent years on the Enterprise with him prior to TOS.
Nurse Christine Chapel should also be engaged to Dr. Roger Korby, who will vanish in 2261, just two years from when this show takes place. She seems very single so far in SNW. And then there is Sam Kirk, Jim’s brother, who is on the Enterprise in the Life Sciences department under Spock. He should have a wife and young child at this point, as per the TOS episode “Operation — Annihilate!” Of course, he still could, we just haven’t seen them.
A New (Old) Enterprise
And then, there’s the ship itself. Obviously, production design, budgets, and special effects have increased greatly in the past five decades. There is no reason that the NCC-1701 Enterprise should look like it did 55 years ago. And SNW does a fantastic job of evoking TOS’ aesthetic while still updating it. But then there’s stuff like a huge bar/lounge on the ship we’ve never seen in any version of the Enterprise before. Maybe when Captain Kirk takes over, he decides he just needs that area as storage space?
To be fair, Star Trek’s visual continuity has never been as solid as say, Star Wars. Say what you want about George Lucas’ galaxy far away, but Tatooine has had a consistent look for 45 years. Star Trek is way more casual about stuff like that. The Klingons, for example, looked like ordinary humans in TOS. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979, the Klingons were alien in appearance, with forehead ridges. That look stuck for decades, but the franchise just hand waved the inconsistencies away. Of course, the real reason is that the original show had a very low TV budget, and prosthetics are expensive. But the continuity of the franchise didn’t bother to explain away this discrepancy until Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005. Almost 40 years later.
Captain Pike May Be the Key to It All
Of course, SNW might be hinting that everything we are seeing is an alternate timeline. Thanks to the time crystals Pike encountered on Discovery, he knows about his destiny to become permanently incapacitated due to an accident in 10 years’ time (which we see in the TOS episode “The Menagerie“). But Number One is already suggesting to Pike that perhaps that destiny is not exactly set in stone. If in fact he altered it just by knowing, then we are already in an alt-timeline. And that would free the writers from constantly banging into the walls of continuity. Due to the success of the Kelvin timeline films, we know that multiple timelines can exist in Star Trek with no problem.
Regardless of the timeline, SNW is an absolute joy to watch. And its canonicity, or lack of it, shouldn’t deter viewers from enjoying a series that is the purest Trek the franchise has been in ages (with no shade to Discovery, Picard, or Lower Decks intended). So worrying about where this fits in the timeline might be a losing proposition. But if this series runs for several seasons, it will be interesting to see how the showrunners eventually address the timeline. Especially when a certain James T. Kirk shows up in season two. We can’t wait to see how SNW navigates these continuity waters.