How Ugly Betty Inspired An Episode Of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

With the first season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" in the bag, it's clear that "Trek" shows — the live-action ones, anyway — haven't been this fun in a long time. The series has run the gamut of genres across its 10-episode season, from the kooky shore leave set-up of "Spock Amok" to full-out space horror in "All Those Who Wander." Notably, though, "Strange New Worlds" also keeps coming back to comedy. Space pirates? Medieval hijinks? Spock wearing an apron? It's the kind of out-of-the-box storytelling that made the original series such a weird and wonderful adventure.

According to "Strange New Worlds" co-showrunner Henry Alonso Myers, the series achieves that tonal balance by drawing from the disparate "Trek" influences in the writers' room. "We're trying to make the show that we wanted to see," Myers told /Film's Jacob Hall. "It's kind of an amalgam of the shows that we loved growing up."

In addition to emulating the "Trek" series of old, Myers also draws from his experiences on other shows. Long before "Strange New Worlds," Myers was a writer and producer on the well-loved dramedy "Ugly Betty" — and his time with the series actually influenced his contribution to "Trek" in a major way.

The Ugly Betty effect

On paper, it might not seem like "Strange New Worlds" and "Ugly Betty" have much in common. The latter was a soapy workplace comedy inspired by a Colombian telenovela, while "Strange New Worlds" lives firmly in the world of Gene Roddenberry's science fiction utopia. But they both dabble proficiently in comedy — thanks in part to Myers, who really wanted to "bring the funny back into 'Trek.'" 

"We have an unbelievably talented cast who are, as well as being great dramatists, comic geniuses," Myers explained. "We would be remiss if we didn't do some stories that allowed them to flex those muscles."

The series' eighth episode, "The Elysian Kingdom," which transplants both the Enterprise and its crew to a Medieval setting, is one of the funniest yet. But that doesn't mean it's all gags and no substance, either. The Medieval conceit of "The Elysian Kingdom" actually gives way to a gut-wrenching storyline for Dr. M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), who must say goodbye to his daughter Rukiya (Sage Arrindell) after searching in vain for a cure to her terminal illness. It's a total tearjerker, one that few fans could have seen coming (not after all that laughing, at least), and it was all thanks to Myers' time on "Ugly Betty."

"We used to say that show was four acts of jokes, and two acts of crying," Myers told Hall. "That was a little bit the same model for 'Elysian.'"