Tag Archives: Strange New Worlds

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” Makes the Silliest 60s Villain Terrifying

There are very few villains that send a chill up my spine. “Star Trek” as a franchise has had three. Those original flavor Borg with their singular objective and minimalist score still thrill me every time I scroll past a rerun of “The Best of Both Worlds”. They may represent the hallmark moment of franchise villainy precisely because they can’t be circumvented through diplomacy or logic. Their single-minded objective is a straight line from “we need to assimilate you” to “you’re assimilated”. There’s no wiggle room for negotiation within that.

Of course, later iterations of the Borg would reveal hive structures, hierarchies, a queen – elements that may make them more interesting, but that also open them up to the power of negotiation and compromise. We all know if a Starfleet crew can negotiate with someone, they don’t have to beat them or survive them any longer, they just need to solve the mystery of getting to the same table together.

This was one of the most exciting ideas that premised “Star Trek: Discovery”. The Klingons recognized the negotiation table was inevitable, that Federation diplomacy was too influential to overcome, and the only way to stave it off was a state of ever-present war. But the Klingons aren’t really terrifying when their most famous character is the big, cuddly grumpikins that is Worf.

The second terrifying villain in “Star Trek” came from “Voyager”. This came in the form of the Vidiians, whose species were dying to a disease known as the Phage. The Vidiians themselves were tremendously empathetic, but what the Phage forced them to do meant that there was once again no room for a diplomatic or logical solution. The Vidiians use other species to replenish the degraded organs of their own, hunting living transplant candidates. Simply put, you can’t negotiate with a disease, and their single-minded desperation was something anyone could be driven to. This also gave us the greatest of the Janeway monologues:

Perhaps “Deep Space Nine” should count – not for the Dominion but for the more realistic, religiously manipulative, systemic villainy of Kai Winn and the casual, self-justifying embodiment of genocide in Gul Dukat. But DS9 dealt more in grasping its large concepts, in looking at what should be terrifying and understanding the banality of it, and in so doing knowing better how to recognize and resist it. Where the other shows in the franchise offer hope, DS9 engages the practical work that builds it (except for O’Brien, who is forever destined to get screwed). Where various iterations of the Enterprise would tell the alien of the week, “This is where the real work for your people begins” before flying off to the next adventure, DS9 just tucked into the work. It couldn’t really fly anywhere. There’s a place for both, but there’s a reason DS9 is heads above the other shows for me.

And there are villains who are just fun. Jeffrey Combs is 32 flavors and then some of Weyoun, Romulans drag the party down with that Cold War energy but have by far the coolest ships, Q borders right on that line between fun and annoying, and Ricardo Montalban’s Khan – perhaps the greatest Star Trek villain of all – is so successful a foil to Captain Kirk that he actually grounds William Shatner’s acting for a whole movie.

There are also one-off horror episodes, something “The Next Generation” was particularly good at with “Night Terrors”, “Schisms”, and “Identity Crisis”, but occasionally missed on with “Conspiracy” or the fun but ludicrous “Genesis”. Yet these didn’t offer villains who promised to return so much as mysteries that could be solved then and there. Certainly, there was no one who made a promise to return an undeniable threat that you couldn’t begin solving.

Enter “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”. The series is wildly successful out of the gate, drawing from all eras of Star Trek and firmly planting its stake as one of the best series of the year. It retains the quickfire, in-the-moment nature of “Star Trek: Discovery” while framing standalone episodes along the lines of “The Next Generation” or “Voyager”. It returns the franchise’s sense of weekly moral quandaries with stellar casting that includes Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, Ethan Peck, Christina Chong, and Melissa Navia, just to name a few.

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” delivers the most chilling moment in the franchise since “The Best of Both Worlds” and that chilling Borg synth score. It comes from the most unlikely place, a species long known for its rubber suit and slow, memeable fighting in “The Original Series”. I hope you’re ready to log-in to YouTube so they can make sure you’re old enough to watch this mature, violent content:

But “Strange New Worlds” takes that single 60s villain (and its brief CGI entry in mirror-universe “Enterprise”) and turns the Gorn into a force of nature, an unseen pack hunter seeking live prey to transport to the planets where they raise their young, like a cat bringing a mouse back to its kittens so they can train for killing. “Memento Mori” immediately becomes the most thrillingly frightening Star Trek entry in nearly three decades, and it returns me to that place where I was a 90s kid enraptured by what I saw on screen.

Sure, the episode’s a ‘submarine’ episode, a franchise staple of ships hiding from each other in space since “Balance of Terror” in 1966. It doesn’t just emulate, though, it translates the concept into the remarkable pace and energy of “Strange New Worlds”. In a franchise that enjoys characters sitting down to problem solve, the Gorn’s single-minded relentlessness – much like the Borg’s – is what makes them most terrifying. You can’t problem-solve relentlessness, you just have to hope you can mitigate the damage of each new corner you’re pressed into as you try to outlast it.

In its first three episodes, the series has already shown us it can pull off first contact, space mystery, and medical emergency plotlines. Now it’s shown us it can land a space action/horror episode with cinematic elegance. Next we get a comedy episode.

Look, this article’s an excuse to geek out about Star Trek memories, sure – but really it’s a way of highlighting just how impressive “Strange New Worlds” is. I could go on and on, and might in the future. There’s so much to talk about in Captain Pike’s soft-spoken, inclusive, patient, and trusting style of leadership, an expression of healthy masculinity realized by Anson Mount that’s still rarely seen in film or TV. It speaks volumes in a franchise where Kirk would bite, Picard would go full rulebook, Saru’s still learning, and Archer would ask for suggestions as an excuse to dump his passive-aggression on whoever he could corner.

(Sisko and Janeway are cool, though. How best captain boils down to Picard and Kirk instead is beyond me. Maybe if you Tuvixed them into Pikirk or Kircard. That fanfic’s gotta be out there.)

Right, the point is that “Strange New Worlds” is a phenomenal show, and it’s the strongest, most polished “Star Trek” straight out of the gate. I say this as someone who loves the new and old shows. For instance, “Discovery” gets a lot of flak, but it takes some of the silliest legacy concepts in Star Trek and creates captivating, meaningful story arcs around two of the best leads the franchise has ever had (Sonequa Martin-Green’s Burnham and Doug Jones’s Saru). And of course, “Strange New Worlds” got a bit of a try-out across season 2 of “Discovery” itself.

“Strange New Worlds” builds on the divergent modern trio of “Discovery”, “Lower Decks” (more than you’d think), and “Picard” in some very smart ways, but it also takes big parts from what made the more strictly shaped 90s trio so successful. It reinterprets retro design and ideas from “TOS” and “Enterprise”, and mixes and matches special effects elements with CGI in a way that hasn’t been realized quite this thoroughly in the franchise before.

Four episodes in, and “Strange New Worlds” has announced that it’s eager to try anything and everything Star Trek, with the talent and development in place to succeed on every count. That it’s delivered terror in a way we haven’t had since original flavor Borg is just one way of saying it’s delivering Star Trek in a way we haven’t seen since the 90s – thankfully not the exact same way, and certainly with 30 years more social progress. In terms of result, it feels like the bridge between the 90s and today, episodically self-contained but with a faster, modern cinematic approach replacing the stagy elements of the 60s/90s/00s era. (If you forced me to choose the most similar entry, I’d go straight to the last of the 90s shows and the previous best bridge of the eras, “Voyager”.)

“Strange New Worlds” easily stands on its own, but if you like “Star Trek”, you’ll recognize a mountain of elements and influences drawn from across the franchise’s history. What’s more impressive is what you won’t recognize until you think about it later. “Strange New Worlds” does an incredible job of absorbing and learning from what’s come before in a way that feels seamless and incredibly natural as you’re watching.

You can watch “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” on Paramount+.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — May 6, 2022

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion draft that would end Roe v. Wade, I want to repeat some things shared in the April 15 article. Please get involved – this is especially true for men reading this. I’ve done a good deal of organizing in activist spaces, and men showing up to do the work is not terribly common. We need to be involved, show up as allies, and consistently do the nitty-gritty work that helps everyone fight this.

Time and again, I’ve seen fellow men show up, realize they’re not going to be gifted a leadership position, and then fade away until it’s mostly women working to protect people. We have this mythology of ourselves as men that we show up to do work and protect others, but I’ve seen little evidence of that. From what I’ve seen, we tend to show up to be congratulated for showing up. We tend to armchair quarterback the people actually putting in the work, and pretend that doing that is somehow work. That’s some bullshit. We need to do far more than that.

We’re supposed to be allies. That means contacting elected officials, putting our weight into politically pressuring them. That means volunteering, marching, donating, and doing the routine, daily jobs that come up in the course of activist efforts regardless of whether they’re tough or thankless. We’re not here to be thanked. We’re here to give help. So give it.

Knowing what we’re up against is crucial – Washington Post has a good resource for the types of state bills that have been passed and introduced, including trigger bans that would go into effect the minute Roe v. Wade is overturned. It explains each type of bill in turn, and shows which phases each state is at.

Securing the right to an abortion is crucial in states that support the right to choose. This is being done at the state level in many states, either through law or, even more firmly, through amendment to the state constitution.

For instance, the Connecticut General Assembly has recently approved a bill that protects providers of care and patients seeking care in Connecticut, regardless of which state the patient comes from. It would ensure that information cannot be turned over to another state, and CT Governor Ned Lamont has vowed to sign it into law. The right to an abortion must not only be protected by law, but we need to make sure those laws protect people providing and seeking such medical care.

Right now, Republicans hide behind the perception that this is an issue for only half the population. They’ve bet that men aren’t going to show up to fight it, and when we don’t show up, their strategy proves out. We’re not needed to save the day, but we are needed to support those who are already leading. We’re needed to make abortion rights leaders’ jobs easier, we’re needed so that our numbers add enough to overwhelm what Republicans anticipated.

Our job isn’t to assess whether others are resisting appropriately; our job is to ensure the way they’ve chosen to resist has our numbers and support behind it. Allies do work for those they’re allied to, and this is a time we’re needed to do that work. As men, we need to join and support the fight for choice and the right to an abortion.

This week, new series by women come from Canada, Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S. New films by women come from Argentina, Finland, France, and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

The Staircase (HBO Max)
co-showrunner Maggie Cohn

Based on the real incident, Michael Peterson is a crime novelist whose wife was found dead at the bottom of a staircase. The ensuing judicial battle lasted 16 years. Toni Collette, Colin Firth, Sophie Turner, and Parker Posey star in the biographical crime drama.

Maggie Cohn showruns with Antonio Campos. She brings experience as a producer on “American Crime Story”.

You can watch “The Staircase” on HBO Max. The first three episodes are available immediately, with a new one dropping every Thursday for a total of 8.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)
mostly directed by women

The newest “Star Trek” follows Captain Kirk’s direct predecessors on the Enterprise. Returning from well-loved roles in the 2019 season of “Star Trek: Discovery”, Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, and Ethan Peck play Captain Pike, Commander Chin-Riley, and a young Lt. Spock. Other original series favorites return, such as Nyota Uhura and Christine Chapel.

Though Henry Alonso Myers and Akiva Goldsman serve as showrunners, six of the 10 episodes look to be directed by women. This includes Amanda Row (“Nancy Drew”), Andi Armaganian (“Smallville”), Sydney Freeland (“Reservation Dogs”), Leslie Hope (“Snowpiercer”), Maja Vrvilo (“Star Trek: Discovery), and Valerie Weiss (“Outer Banks”).

You can watch “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” on Paramount+. New episodes drop every Thursday for a total of 10. Filming on a second season already started in January.

Ridley Road (PBS)
directed by Lisa Mulcahy

Based on the book by Jo Bloom, “Ridley Road” sees a Jewish woman go undercover within the 1960s British neo-Nazi movement.

Lisa Mulcahy directs off the teleplay by creator Sarah Solemani. She previously directed on British series “Years and Years” and “Blood”.

You can watch “Ridley Road” on PBS. New episodes arrive Sundays, for a total of 4.

The Porter (BET+)
showrunner Marsha Greene

The story of the first Black union is told through the eyes of those who formed it – porters working the railways that cross the U.S. and Canada.

Showrunner Marsha Greene previously produced on “Mary Kills People” and “Coroner”.

You can watch “The Porter” on BET+. All 8 episodes are available immediately.

CW: domestic violence

Blood Sisters (Netflix)
directed by Temidayo Makanjuola

Sarah gets engaged, but her upcoming nuptials hide a secret involving her friend Kemi.

This is the first project recorded for Temidayo Makanjuola, but IMDB can often be incomplete when it comes to Nigerian projects.

You can watch “Blood Sisters” on Neftlix. All 4 episodes are available immediately.

Signora Volpe (Acorn TV)
showrunners Rachel Cuperman, Sally Griffiths

Sylvia becomes disillusioned with her life of spycraft. On a trip to Italy for her niece’s wedding, things go wrong and she puts her skills to use. Perhaps she’ll start a new life as a detective in the Italian countryside.

Showrunners Rachel Cuperman and Sally Griffiths both wrote for “Midsomer Murders”.

You can watch “Signora Volpe” on Acorn TV. New episodes drop every Monday for a total of 3.

NEW MOVIES

Language Lessons (HBO Max)
directed by Natalie Morales

Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass star as a Spanish teacher and an adult student who become friends.

Director and co-writer Morales also helmed last year’s “Plan B”. She’s best known for roles in “Dead to Me” and “Santa Clarita Diet”.

You can watch “Language Lessons” on HBO Max, or see where to rent it.

Inbetween Girl (VOD)
directed by Mei Makino

After her parents divorce, a teenage artist copes by secretly hooking up with the popular boy at school.

This is the first feature from writer-director Mei Makino.

See where to rent “Inbetween Girl”.

Anais in Love (VOD)
directed by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet

In this French film, Anais is broke and disinterested in her relationship. She falls for a new man, but he leads her to fall for the woman he’s seeing, Emilie.

This is the first feature from writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet.

See where to rent “Anais in Love” on iTunes or through Spectrum.

Hatching (Hulu)
directed by Hanna Bergholm

In this Finnish horror film, a gymnast finds a strange egg. She hides it from her demanding mother and keeps it safe, waiting for the day it hatches.

This is director Hanna Bergholm’s first feature.

You can watch “Hatching” on Hulu.

Along for the Ride (Netflix)
directed by Sofia Alvarez

Based on the novel by Sarah Dessen, two insomniacs explore their town at night before one heads to college.

Writer-director Sofia Alvarez helms her first film after writing the “To all the Boys” movies.

You can watch “Along for the Ride” on Netflix.

La afinadora de arboles (HBO Max)
directed by Natalia Smirnoff

In this Argentinian film, Clara and her family move to the countryside for a slower pace of life after she wins a world prize for children’s literature. Can’t find an English trailer for this, but there are subtitles for the film.

Director Natalia Smirnoff started out as an assistant director and casting director, including becoming Lucrecia Martel’s go-to casting director. Smirnoff started writing and directing features in 2010.

You can watch “La afinadora de arboles” on HBO Max.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.