One Of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Best Villains Could Make Return In Season 2

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" is, unlike the bulk of modern scripted television, presented in an episodic format. Like classic "Star Trek," each episode concludes at the end of the hour, presenting — if done well — a miniature morality play of the week. "Strange New Worlds" dares to dabble in that most taboo of modern storytelling tropes: the status quo. Trek has, if this author may opine briefly, gained the most amount of dramatic traction by depicting resolute, intelligent characters going about their daily routine. Seeing a team of Starfleet officers in constant crisis mode, moving throughout a larger story, robs them of their chance to impress audiences with their everyday skillsets. 

The episodic nature of the show also permits guest stars to make more of an impact. When an antagonist arrives in a larger story arc, they must either be contemplated beyond the point of being interesting (in a "what's the villain's backstory?" sort of way) or left behind in favor of continued plot grind. When a Trek "villain" appears to shake up the status quo, not only will they stand in striking juxtaposition of the known Trek world, but they will have to exit the episode with an air of mystery. Will they be back? Who was that awesome pirate? 

This is certainly the case with Dr. Aspen (Jesse James Keitel), the guest star in the "Strange New Worlds" episode "The Serene Squall." In that episode, the U.S.S. Enterprise is beset by space pirates while on a humanitarian mission. Certain crew members are kidnapped and everyone is in peril. The intelligent Dr. Aspen appears to be keen on aiding the Enterprise at first, but is eventually revealed to be the wicked and awesome pirate leader, Captain Angel. 

Briefly, Captain Angel is an absolute badass. 

The Serene Squall

Captain Angel takes command of the Enterprise, and — in order to test identity and loyalty — delights in manipulating Spock (Ethan Peck), T'Pring (Gia Sandhu), and Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) into a brief love triangle. She forces Spock and Chapel to kiss in front of T'Pring to see if she can get a reaction out of her. Luckily for the Enterprise, two of the players in Angel's little scenario are Vulcans, and their feelings — however complex they may be — are easily repressed. At the end of "The Serene Squall," Captain Angel escapes arrest and soars off into the stars with a wink and a promise to return. The promise of more Captain Angel is just as exciting as their initial appearance (it should be noted that Angel uses they/them pronouns, even through the character is portrayed by a trans female actor).

In a June 2022 interview with Inverse, showrunner Henry Alonso Meyers admits that Captain Angel was intended to be full of promise. They were constructed to be cool and evil enough to return time and time again to cause trouble for the Enterprise. Recurring antagonists are common in Trek, but it's rare that any of them were necessarily intended to return over and over. Captain Angel was. 

"Strange New Worlds" has concluded its first season, and Meyers talked to Inverse about possibilities for season 2. When Captain Angel's appeal was mentioned, he said: "That was the idea; create a charismatic villain who steals the show and whom we want to see again and again. We would love to see more of Angel, absolutely."

Keitel, from the latest "Queer as Folk" and member of the drag revue troupe Haus of Femanon (where she goes by the pseudonym Peroxide), certainly stole the show.

Heroes vs. villains, but not in Star Trek

One of the more appealing aspects of "Star Trek" villains, however, is that they are rarely out-and-out villains. It was the success and continued cultural presence of Nicholas Meyer's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" that has frustrated in the popular consciousness that "Star Trek" requires a colorful, revenge-minded villain. As such, four Trek films in a row ("Nemesis," the 2009 film, "Into Darkness," and "Beyond") all featured violent villains hellbent on revenge. Typically, "Star Trek" is about ethical comparisons and reconsiderations. It doesn't take place in a world of moral absolutes like a comic book. Characters may do wicked things, but it's rare that they are violent psychopaths. 

Captain Angel is a pirate devoted to a life of plunder, but they are also clever and possess subtle Mephistophelean manipulation powers. They are a "villain" in the dramatic sense, and certainly stands counter to the uniformed "good behavior" of Starfleet, but there's no doubt that they are also ruling the galaxy in their own way, and acting with complete agency. Indeed, Captain Angel seems to resent that Starfleet, for all their claims to enlightenment, is uniquely ill-prepared to deal with criminality or actual difficulty. In their way, Captain Angel is testing the limits of what Starfleet believes. And good for them. Why allow complacency to set in? 

The second season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" is set to debut in 2023.