The Trek Must Flow

Strange New Worlds Dune connection brings back a surprising Star Trek tradition

If you want a hit Trek TV series, make sure somebody starred in Dune first.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11:  Actor Babs Olusanmokun attends the "Ponies" New York Screening at Tribeca C...
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Patrick Stewart is inseparable from his most famous role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Sure, he had a respectable stage career before Star Trek, and his role as Professor X briefly came close to eclipsing his Trek fame. But unless Stewart takes a role in Star Wars or returns as Professor X for a movie set in the MCU, he’s going to be Picard forever.

But before Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987, Patrick Stewart was known to sci-fi aficionados for his role as Gurney Halleck in 1984’s Dune adaptation. Now, Stewart being in Dune has nothing to do with The Next Generation’s success, but it bears mention given that another actor is set to appear in Dune right before he appears in the next big Trek TV series.

That’s right: before appearing in Strange New Worlds, Babs Olusanmokun will co-star in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, out later this year. Here’s why, if you believe in geeky superstitions, this is very good news. Mild spoilers ahead for the novel version of Dune, as well as speculation about the ending of the new Dune film.

Who is Babs Olusanmokun playing in Dune?

In Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming Dune film, Olusanmokun plays the Fremen known as “Jamis.” In the book, Jamis challenges Paul to a big fight, the result of which allows Paul and his mom to stay in the good graces of the Fremen, people native to the deep desert of Arrakis. This is all essential to Paul’s eventual defeat of the Harkonnens. At least one rumored ending of Dune (2021) will arrive right after Paul’s fight with Jamis, meaning Olusanmokun may close out the new version of Dune, which is thought to adapt half of the original Frank Herbert novel.

Who is Olusanmokun playing in Strange New Worlds?

For sci-fi fans, Olusanmokun was previously best-known for his appearance in Black Mirror’s Season 4 episode “Black Museum.” If you look at it a certain way, Black Mirror is a tried-and-true incubator for huge genre stars. Jodie Whittaker appeared in the Season 1 episode “The Entire History of You” before starring on Doctor Who, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Wyatt Russell appeared in the Season 3 episode “Playtest.” In terms of great Black Mirror episodes, “Black Museum” is up there as one of the series’ most awesomely disturbing outings.

How does that translate to Olusanmokun appearing on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds? We have no idea. As of this writing, any characters in Strange New Worlds not named Pike, Spoke, and Number One are being kept under wraps; we only know the identities of cast members.

Babs Olusanmokun attends the New York Premiere of HBO Documentary "Casting By" at HBO Theater on July 29, 2013 in New York City

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Why Olusanmokun could be Strange New Worlds’ good-luck charm

Linking the sci-fi resumes of various actors to their disparate sci-fi projects is slightly silly and really only “proves” connections that make sense to the super-nerdy. (For example, Mary Steenburgen plays the girlfriend of a time-traveler twice, in 1979’s Time After Time and 1989’s Back to the Future III.)

For actors, appearing in various films and franchises is just the job. No all-powerful force is controlling the paths of their careers (even though if you watch reruns of Girls, you will realize that it was just one giant audition tape for Adam Driver to play Kylo Ren).

Regardless, Babs Olusanmokun is a fantastic actor with great credits well beyond science fiction. He was in the Roots remake, Gotham, and Sneaky Pete, to name just a few. But the fact that he’s doing Dune right before a new Star Trek series puts Olusanmokun in unique company with Patrick Stewart, who — arguably — starred in the most pivotal Star Trek spinoff ever.

Strange New Worlds is a confluence of new-Trek aesthetics that still harkens back to the classic series, meaning it’s sure to receive a great deal of mainstream scrutiny. For better or worse, the success or failure of Strange New Worlds will serve as a bellwether for Star Trek, influencing how the franchise will proceed across the next few years. Can you do a true prequel to The Original Series? Can Strange New Worlds recapture the spirit of TOS and TNG without going too retro? Can it deliver the political resonance TOS never effectively harnessed?

In the middle of those unanswered questions stands Olusanmokun, an actor currently far less famous than Stewart who could become huge by the time Strange New Worlds premieres. If Stewart’s path to Trek tells us anything, walking in the sands of Arrakis before boarding the USS Enterprise is a recipe for interstellar success — and could be more evidence that Strange New Worlds is a bold new jump for the Final Frontier.

Dune is out in theaters and on HBO Max on October 1, 2021. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will hit Paramount+ sometime in 2022.

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