What We Want To See In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2

This post contains spoilers for the first season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds."

The first season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" has wrapped, and I can safely say it's the franchise's best TV outing since season 4 of "Enterprise," and maybe even the best years of "Deep Space Nine." The series' optimism and episodic storytelling capture the feel of the "Star Trek" ethos — venturing the final frontier on adventures ranging from wacky to dangerous, all in search of a better understanding of the human condition. It helps that these adventures are undertaken by a main cast bursting with charisma, led by Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and including classic faces like Spock (Ethan Peck) and Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). But despite the familiar faces and the Easter Eggs, the show never feels like it's using them as a crutch. 

In short: bring on season 2, which is set to arrive in 2023. The season 1 finale, "A Quality of Mercy," offered some hints of what we might see in season 2, and you know what that means. It's time to make the official /Film wishlist.

The beginning of Spock and Kirk's friendship

"A Quality of Mercy" introduced us to the "Strange New Worlds" take on James T. Kirk (played by Paul Wesley), who, as you probably know, succeeds Pike as captain of Enterprise. The episode contrasted Pike's diplomatic approach to captaining with Kirk's outside-the-box risk-taking, exploring two very different methods of captaining a starship. It's confirmed that Wesley will return in season 2, and I'm excited to see how the show handles the Pike/Kirk relationship. However, there's another relationship I'm even more eager to see blossom; Kirk and Spock, the best bromance in all science fiction.

The younger Spock of "Strange New Worlds" is not yet acquainted with his future Captain, but he soon will be. This means the series has a perfect opportunity to show how Spock became so close to Kirk, and how they formed a friendship that would literally power science fiction fandom for generations. JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" movies showed a version of the pair's first meeting, under much different circumstances, where their first impressions went quite poorly.

I'm not interested in seeing that repeated. Kirk and Spock don't have to be besties right off the bat, but I think their relationship going from mutual respect to true friendship would be more in keeping with their characters' cores and the optimism of "Strange New Worlds."

A visit to Illyria

In episode 3, "Ghosts of Illyria," it's revealed that despite appearances, Enterprise First Officer Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) is not human. Instead, she's an Illyrian, a species that practices genetic engineering and has been denied Federation membership as a result. Una lied on her application to Starfleet, and the ending of the finale shows her being arrested for this. In the alternate timeline Pike visits during the episode, she's been imprisoned for seven years.

This certainly isn't the last we've seen of Una; Pike himself even declares, "This isn't the end." However, I'd like the show to go bigger and explore Illyrian society itself. The species has only been featured once in "Star Trek" prior, a one-off appearance in "Enterprise" that had zilch to do with genetic engineering. The "Strange New World" Illyrians are practically a new species and it'd be a total, very un-"Star Trek" waste not to explore them. Take us to their homeworld, teach us about their history, and how they came to embrace genetic engineering. Bringing Una home would no doubt be a stellar chance to develop her character, too.

Don't keep La'an gone for too long

Speaking of genetic engineering ... Enterprise Security Chief La'an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong) was one of the season's highlights. Her character could've been cheap fan service — she's the descendant of a certain infamous "Trek" villain — but La'an and Chong rose above that.

La'an's had strong character development, both serious (her confronting her past as a Gorn captive in "Memento Mori" and "All Those Who Wander") and comedic (her learning to have fun alongside Una in "Spock Amok"). While La'an is usually stoic, Chong has range; her "bad cop" interrogation in the aforementioned "Spock Amok" and her brainwashed turn as a princess straight out of Disney in "The Elysian Kingdom" were hilarious.

That's why it was so disappointing when La'an took a leave of absence in "All Those Who Wander," to help Oriana, another escaped Gorn captive, find her family. This would be a decent end for her character, if it weren't already confirmed that Christina Chong is in season 2. Good thing too, because it's way too soon to say goodbye. One of the strengths of "Strange New Worlds" has been the ensemble. Fingers crossed that La'an's leave of absence doesn't prove indefinite after all.

Flesh out the Gorn

The Gorn are interesting creatures. They're some of the more famous "Star Trek" aliens, but unlike the Vulcans, Klingons, or Romulans, it's all because of a single episode: "Arena." In that episode, Captain Kirk fights a single Gorn captain, gladiator-style, on a desert planet; the show's limited budget meant the Gorn was a plodding foe whose reptilian appearance looked more like a Halloween costume.

"Next Generation" era "Trek," which often wasn't quite as goofy as "The Original Series," mentioned the Gorn semi-frequently but never used them. It was only in "Enterprise," where CGI had progressed enough, that the Gorn briefly reappeared.

"Strange New Worlds" has featured the Gorn in two episodes thus far and they seem poised to be recurring villains. Their ships were the key adversary in "Memento Mori" while feral hatchlings were the villains of "All Those Who Wander." So far, the Gorn in "Strange New Worlds" seem like humanoid Xenomorphs, chest-bursting eggs and all. However, this is "Star Trek," where almost no culture is truly one-dimensionally evil. Having spent this season building up the Gorn as fearsome enemies, season 2 is the time to explore them and their culture in depth that previous "Trek" series have not.

Keep up the character-focused episodes

Something that's been lost as TV embraced serialization is "day in the limelight" episodes, episodes focusing specifically on a single character in a self-contained narrative. These episodes may not always advance the plot, but they always leave viewers with a better understanding of the character in question. A strength of the episodic approach of "Strange New Worlds" is how frequently the show's episodes have been just this. Almost every member of the main cast has gotten at least one shot in the limelight, getting to star in their own "Star Trek" story.

The season introduced long-running plot threads, from Spock's half-brother Sybok and his lover Captain Angel (Jesse James Keitel) to Pike's grappling with knowing his own grim future. However, "Strange New Worlds" would be unwise to lose its episodic structure and embrace a serialized, "the season is one long movie" approach. Thankfully, the showrunners have confirmed that Enterprise Helmsman Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) will be getting her own focus episode next season, a positive sign that the series will be continuing in the right direction.

Don't lose the humor

"Strange New Worlds" is quite a funny show. There's the charming wit that Mount gives Pike, with Peck playing the straight man (or Vulcan, rather) almost as well as Leonard Nimoy. Even better, the show has been willing to go for full-tilt comedy episodes, whether situational (like "Spock Amok,") or more absurdist ( "The Elysian Kingdom").

This approach is also a welcome remedy to the dark, more cynical approach of "Star Trek: Discovery" while also being more balanced than the out-and-out comedy of "Star Trek: Lower Decks." It's also classic "Trek." As our editor Jacob Hall so accurately put it, "Acting like 'alien entity forces the crew to play-act a medieval fairy tale' episodes aren't part of 'Star Trek's' DNA is like acting like the series only got 'woke' in the last year."

It's also telling that the only Kelvin "Star Trek" film to truly sing, "Star Trek Beyond," was the one that most embraced this goofiness — defeating the villains with the Beastie Boys, JJ Abrams could never. The humor is one area where "Strange New Worlds" season 2 should stay its course.

No main character deaths

"Strange New Worlds" season 1 was good, but that doesn't mean it was perfect. The biggest waste of the season, by far, was the death of Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak). In the season's penultimate episode, "All Those Who Wander," Hemmer is infected with Gorn eggs and leaps to his death, sparing himself and his friends more gruesome deaths.

Hemmer was one of the least-developed members of the crew; the closest he got to focus episodes were subplots with Uhura in "Memento Mori" and "All Those Who Wander," and him helping Dr. M'Benga in "The Elysian Kingdom." His species, the Aenar, also haven't been explored that much throughout "Trek" history. Thus, Hemmer's early death can't help but feel like a wasted opportunity.

I'd prefer the writers stay their killing strokes for season 2, at least as far as the main cast is concerned. It felt counter-intuitive to assemble such a good cast, of both characters and actors, and begin breaking them up before the season was even over and the viewers had time to experience them together.

Scotty's debut

Hemmer's death does leave the spot of Enterprise Chief Engineer vacant. If the season finale is any indication, his replacement may be a familiar face. "A Quality of Mercy" showcases an alternate version of the classic "Trek" episode "The Balance of Terror," one where Pike is still captain of the Enterprise in 2266. During this flashforward, Spock is heard talking to the Enterprise's Chief Engineer, who bears a clearly Scottish accent. Who else could it be but Montgomery "Scotty" Scott?

Now, in general, I would caution against making "Strange New Worlds" about how each "Original Series" member of the Enterprise joined the ship's crew. Even as a prequel, the series should stand on its own. That said, the circumstances of the season finale do make Scotty's appearance seem plausible. If that is the case, then whoever is cast will stand on the shoulders of James Doohan and Simon Pegg — not an easy task. However, the casting directors of the series haven't missed yet, either with their original characters or pre-established ones like Pike, Spock, Uhura and now, Kirk. I'm more than confident they can find the right Scotty.