The first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds arrives on home video today. This review covers the Blu-ray edition, but the set is also available on DVD with the same special features.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – season 1
When Pike, Number One, and Spock showed up in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, fans welcomed them and wanted more. After testing the waters with a couple of Short Treks episodes, a full series was greenlit. There was much anticipation for Strange New Worlds, and the inaugural season didn’t disappoint. The premiere season was well received by fans and critics alike (with a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes). The new cast members taking on legacy roles are excellent as well, giving fresh takes on Uhura, M’Benga, and Chapel. The new original characters are quite good too; Erica Ortegas is a total hotshot pilot, as one might expect (she’s also a nice nod to an unused character from the original Star Trek pitch), and La’an was much more nuanced than someone hyped to be related to the infamous Khan Noonian Singh might seem at first.
Refreshingly, SNW changed the template for the live-action CBS-produced Trek shows as it started leaning back towards more episodic adventures instead of the heavily serialized, typically over-plotted, season-long mysteries. This change let the show try out different styles and genres while also having ongoing character development. One story might be a screwball comedy, while another is a first-contact scenario. Standouts for me include “Children of the Comet,” “Ghosts of Illyria,” “Spock Amok,” and “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach.” Along the way, the Strange New Worlds writers reinvent The Gorn (personally, I’m not crazy about them becoming the franchise’s take on Alien’s Xenomorphs), and fudge canon here and there to show us more about T’Pring, all while giving us generally satisfying stories about Pike’s crew on the USS Enterprise.
Looming over the season is the one major holdover from Discovery season 2: the fact that Pike knows his fate is to be gravely injured on a cadet training mission in about 10 years. Thankfully this doesn’t bog down the season; instead, it crops up from time to time, giving Chris Pike pause. Pike’s future finally comes to a head in a rather gutsy tenth episode. In a “what-if” alternate future, we see what would happen if Pike had dodged his fate, and was still in command of the Enterprise when the Romulans test the Federation’s resolve along The Neutral Zone in an alternate version of the events of “Balance of Terror.” I didn’t love the episode as it failed to understand much of what made the classic TOS version compelling, but it certainly does work to service the character of Pike and resolve his concerns about his future.
The Blu-ray set
The 10 episodes and special features are on three Blu-ray discs. As we’ve come to expect for a Paramount/CBS home video release, each disc has the names of the episodes it contains printed on them, as well as a full listing for the set on the inside back of the case. There’s a special Steelbook edition of the Blu-ray set too. For those who want it, the season is also available on regular old DVD as well.
Strange New Worlds season 1 continues the slick, modern style that Discovery season 2 initially helped define for the Paramount+ Trek universe. Like Picard before it, SNW takes that general palette and makes its own “house style” for the series. Having the higher bitrate available on disc means the image quality in the many darker or more atmospheric scenes looks a bit better than streaming.
The 10 episodes have losslessly compressed DTS-HD MA 5.1 channel soundtracks. Strange New Worlds sounds great, it continues the cinematic sound design esthetics that were started back in Discovery season 2, and carried on with all of the shows since.
Audio commentary: Episode 101 – “Strange New Worlds” – Series star Anson Mount and co-creator Akiva Goldsman have a lively commentary on the premiere episode of the series. Mount has a great voice, is a big TOS fan, and is always engaging to listen to.
The documentary features are all on the third disc.
Bonus: TOS “Balance of Terror” – In a surprise bonus (as it wasn’t listed on any press release), CBS has included the 2006 remastered version of the classic Star Trek episode “Balance of Terror.” This is a fitting extra, of course, as episode 110 (“A Quality of Mercy”) relies heavily on the events and even dialogue from the original episode.
Pike’s Peak (17 minutes) – Anson Mount takes fans through his journey as Captain Christopher Pike in the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, providing a peek (get it?) into his portrayal with intimate footage throughout the season. This includes mobile phone camera personal logs of Anson’s experiences during his quarantine to wait before production of SNW season 1, and then preparing for the season, including practicing riding horses, their first day on the bridge set, and more. A particularly touching moment comes when Mount is standing on the Enterprise bridge set reading a lovely note from Mike Gold of NASA congratulating the cast and crew on the beginning of filming.
World Building (12 minutes) – Anson Mount gives us a tour of the AR volume, currently set up as the hostile snowy planet from episode 109. Production Designer Jonathan Lee discusses designing for the AR wall. Through interviews with producers, cast, and crew, fans will learn about the expertise involved in the development process and how the powerful technology was seamlessly integrated into the show.
Exploring New Worlds (53 minutes) – As they’ve done with the other CBS Trek seasons, this feature documents the making of the season. Writers, producers, directors, and cast are interviewed about the making of the 10 episodes.
There are five episodes that have deleted or extended scenes, found on the disc with the corresponding episode. By far the most interesting are from episode 109 “All Those Who Wander,” with quite a bit ending up by the wayside, including a couple of scenes that I think should have been left in.
“Children of the Comet”
- A brief scene on the bridge checking in with the landing party as they start their exploration of the comet.
“Ghosts of Illyria”
- Number One, Pike, and Ensign Lance go through the colony, Lance starts to rant about how Illyrians are engineered and liken them to The Augments on Earth, and says the Illyrians deserved what they got, he assumed they wiping themselves out by over-engineering. His prejudice about anyone that would use genetic engineering becomes clear, and Pike calls him on it.
- Uhura comes home to her quarters and her roommates ask her if anything weird is going on since she’s up on the bridge she must know, she just wants to go to bed.
- Chapel and M’Benga in sickbay, Number One walks out to check on the ship, Chapel attends to another patient; left alone, M’Benga is drawn to a light above a biobed.
“Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”
- A flashback scene to 10 years ago when a young Lt. Pike was sent to help Alora, who, thanks to a scientific exchange, has a Starfleet shuttle that’s gotten into some trouble.
- In a particularly soapy scene, Captain Pike, disgusted with what’s learned, tells Alora he wants to report what’s going on there to Starfleet and prepares to leave. She reminds him they’re not part of the Federation, and implores him to stay, that they had something special between them.
“The Elysian Kingdom”
- A small trim of a scene with Spock as the wizard Pollux leading his forces. (You can see the cut scene in the video embedded below).
“All Those Who Wander”
- Scene from the bridge with Number One monitoring the shuttles’ descent to the planet
- On the USS Peregrine, Spock and Chapel have a moment. Spock explains how without proper control through logic Vulcan emotions can be dangerous. Chapel says it’s good to get mad sometimes.
- Hemmer and Uhura down in Peregrine’s engineering see a baby Gorn feeding on entrails, who turns towards them and Hemmer takes the venom that was heading for Uhura.
- In Peregrine’s sickbay M’Benga with Spock, Pike, and Sam Kirk discuss his analysis of the Gorn DNA. M’Benga says they’re invisible to most scans, and their gestation period varies based on the host species.
- Hemmer with venom burns enters sickbay with Uhura, Pike asks if Hemmer can sense the Gorn via telepathy.
- Sam Kirk freaks out on Spock for saying the Gorn biology is impressive. The group loses their cool as they realize they have very few options to try and stay alive, and Pike calls on them to strategize their way out. They discuss how to destroy the Gorn threat by drawing them out.
- Uhura comes up at the end of the memorial service to talk to Pike and Number One. She says she’d like to accept their offer of coming back to the Enterprise once she graduates. They officially offer her the position of bridge communications officer.
- La’an comes to see the surviving child Oriana; she has a nice moment helping her cope with the loss of her parents. She reads a letter to her brother, as a demonstration of closure and coping for the girl.
Gag Reel (3 mins) – Classic bits of prop malfunctions, doors that don’t open on cue, line flubs, and general fun from the long hours shooting the first season.
Strange New Worlds had about as positive a reception for a new Star Trek series as there’s ever been. Being episodic helps the causal rewatch value, so it makes plenty of sense to own the season on disc. As usual, we recommend it for completists or anyone who wants an offline copy of the show; this includes those who cannot or do not want to stream the show and folks who have concerns about the fleeting rights to streaming media.
Strange New Worlds was confirmed to be shot in 4K and HDR and it is available to stream in HDR and 4K on Paramount+, in past reviews I’ve lamented the lack of a physical media release. It seems CBS and Paramount+ have heard the complaints from fans and a 4K release with the same bonus features is due out later this spring. So if you’ve got an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, go pre-order that version ASAP!
Strange New Worlds season 1 was released today, March 21st on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray/Steelbook in the USA. You can pick it up now at Amazon and other retailers.
You can pre-order the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook (coming in May).
Special features video clips
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