Star Trek

How Long Can Captain Kirk Stay On Strange New Worlds?

Paul Wesley has put a fun twist on the classic character, but how does he fit into the canon?

Paul Wesley as James T. Kirk in 'Strange New Worlds.'
Star Trek
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Jim Kirk is in the house. In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the famous Starfleet hero is charming fans and Enterprise crew members alike, thanks to Paul Wesley’s fresh take on the character. While fans seemed unsure about Wesley’s Kirk in the Season 1 finale, in Season 2 his version of Kirk is firing on all dilithium-powered cylinders. Kirk appears in at least four episodes of Season 2 — including the upcoming musical — and when Season 3 gets going, there’s every indication that Paul Wesley will continue to play Kirk. But as Strange New Worlds inches closer to 2265, how long can Kirk actually stick around without breaking canon?

Kirk in Strange New Worlds doesn’t break canon — for now

La’an and Kirk can, in theory, hang out for a very long time.


Canonically, as of Season 2 Episode 8, Kirk’s appearances have only featured the “Prime Kirk” once. In “A Quality of Mercy” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” Paul Wesley plays alternate versions of Kirk from parallel timelines. Assuming Kirk’s appearance in Episode 9, “Subspace Rhapsody,” is as Prime Kirk, that would still mean half of his appearances don’t impact his regular timeline backstory. And even when Kirk visits the Enterprise in “Lost in Translation,” he’s walking a fine canon line. When Kirk meets Pike, the incumbent Enterprise captain has just been temporarily promoted to Fleet Captain. In The Original Series episode “The Menagerie,” Kirk noted he’d met Pike only once, “when he was promoted to Fleet Captain.”

This makes it feel like SNW has used two free passes when it comes to Kirk and Pike hangouts. The first time (“A Quality of Mercy”), Pike met an alternate-universe Kirk, and the second time (“Lost in Translation”) technically matches canon, though in a different context than most fans had imagined.

When does Kirk become captain?

The existing Prime Trek timeline tells us that Kirk is captain of the USS Enterprise on its five-year mission from 2265 to 2270. That would mean Kirk’s tenure begins just six years after Strange New Worlds Season 2. One season of a Trek show doesn’t have to add up to a year, which gives SNW a lot of wiggle room when transitioning into The Original Series era. That said, co-creator Akiva Goldsman has said, “We have to acknowledge canon. And the closer we get [to 2265], we have to start to resemble The Original Series.”

So what does that mean for Kirk? We have to wait until 2265 for him to take over as captain of the Enterprise, right? Well, maybe not. Canon is oddly vague on the handover from Pike to Kirk. In fact, only one episode of TOS actually takes place in 2265: “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the second pilot. There’s also nothing that indicates Kirk didn’t serve on the Enterprise in another role before getting promoted. If, in theory, Pike were to step down and someone else became an interim captain, then nothing is stopping Kirk from serving on the Enterprise before 2265.

Kirk beyond the 5-year-mission

Captain Kirk in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” in 2265.


In “The Menagerie,” Spock reveals he served with Pike for “Eleven years, four months, five days.” So that’s a year and change Spock served with Pike that wasn’t part of back-to-back five-year exploration missions. Discovery accounts for some of that, but probably not all of it. The Short Treks episode “Q&A” established that Spock began serving with Pike in 2253, so eleven years and four months later would be 2264 or 2265, depending on what time of year “Q&A” took place.

For Kirk, that means canon is flexible when it comes to when he took command of the Enterprise. His five-year mission was in 2265-2270, but Pike has proven you can be captain of the Enterprise in-between missions. As long as he’s not palling around with Pike, Kirk could become Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise as early as 2264, assuming his five-year mission doesn’t formally begin.

Being stationed on the Farragut makes Kirk seem distant from the Strange New Worlds crew, but as long as he doesn’t become BFFs with Pike, he can theoretically appear on the show a lot. That said, at some point before 2265, Kirk taught at Starfleet Academy as a lieutenant. Maybe SNW will actually show Kirk in that role, but whether we’ll see Kirk in command of the Enterprise and having adventures in 2265 is a secret SNW’s creators aren’t sharing.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams on Paramount+.

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