Not counting the J.J. Abrams film in 2009, the launch of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will constitute the third prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series. But, when exactly will Strange New Worlds take place?
Conventional wisdom here suggests that the majority of the upcoming Paramount+ series will be set after the events of Discovery Season 2, meaning the year 2258 or perhaps even 2259. In other words, Strange New Worlds could open about six or seven years before the start of TOS and Captain Kirk boarding the Enterprise.
In a recent interview, actress Rebecca Romijn puts a small spin on these dates, suggesting Strange New Worlds could span a longer period of Trek history than we’d previously realized. Speculation ahead.
“10 years on the Enterprise.”
Speaking to Looper, Rebecca Romijn, who plays Number One in the upcoming series, said:
“This is the story of the 10 years on the Enterprise — this is the 10 years leading up to Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. So, this is Captain Pike and Number One, and Spock is a science officer. We outrank him, which is really fun, because when does anybody ever outrank Spock?”
Fans and pundits including the site TrekMovie have pointed out that Romijn could have been generalizing in terms of her “10 years” figure. After all, back when Discovery was first promoted, the trailers advertised it as being set “10 years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise...”
But, even with Discovery, that figure wasn’t quite accurate. The two-part Discovery pilot took place in 2256, while the bulk of the show’s first and second seasons happened in 2257 and 2258. So, Discovery Season 1 was more correctly set “about eight and half years before Kirk.” If Strange New Worlds picks up in 2258 or 2259, that means six or seven more years will elapse before TOS.
In fairness to the first Discovery trailer, the only TOS episode that takes place in 2265 is “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” its second pilot. The rest of the show happens in 2266 and beyond. If Strange New Worlds tells stories exclusively in the post-Discovery Season 2 timeline, then we’re not in for a 10-year timeline for the series. Unless...
Strange New Worlds could do flashbacks — because they already have
While it’s tempting to write off Romijn’s “10 years” quote as a generalization, one recent story featuring her as Number One and Ethan Peck as Spock does occur within a larger, roughly 10-years-before-Kirk timeframe. In the 2019 Short Treks episode “Q&A,” we saw Ensign Spock’s very first day on the USS Enterprise in 2254, 11 years before the start of Kirk’s era in TOS. Canonically, “Q&A” also retroactively exists as the earliest glimpse we have of Spock in Starfleet within the Prime Timeline, though it happens earlier in 2264, the same year as Star Trek’s first pilot episode, “The Cage.”
In the classic TOS episode “The Menagerie,” set in 2267, Spock states the events of “The Cage” occurred 13 years prior, and that in total he served under Pike for “11 years, four months, five days.” Retroactively, Discovery Season 2 demonstrated that not all of that time was spent on the Enterprise, since Pike was once the temporary captain of Discovery, where Spock hung out, too. Prior to Spock’s Red Angel quest in “Brother,” most fans assumed the Enterprise was on its first five-year mission from roughly 2250 to 2255. This would mean that Strange New Worlds will show Pike’s second five-year mission as Captain of the Enterprise, which will end sometime before 2265 to make way for Kirk’s entrance and the show’s more stripped-down ‘60s vibe.
Back in 2019, Michael Chabon told Inverse that he had hoped to tell stories about Spock’s first day and Number One’s last day. Obviously, “Q&A” told the former tale, but at the time, Chabon said, “Maybe I'll get to write the second part.”
Strange New Worlds is episodic — so pre- 2257 stories are possible
Several sources — including co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman — have confirmed that storylines for Strange New Worlds will be episodic, meaning self-contained stories each week. Because Short Treks has already shown Pike, Number, and Spock in 2264, it’s possible that individual episodes of Strange New Worlds could also either contain flashbacks or be stories totally set in the pre-Discovery era.
If we take Romijn’s statement at face value, it’s great news. In addition to exploring the time just before Kirk, this means the series might be doing more flashbacks (like “Q&A”), which will help to reconcile some of the wonkier canon that exists prior to “The Cage.” We could see a live-action Captain April hand over command to Pike, who in turn could cross paths with Prime Georgiou, as depicted in the first Discovery novel, Desperate Hours. Hell, even weird uniform canon might get sorted out with additional flashbacks!
Rebecca Romijn is the original Number One and First Officer of the most classic Starship Enterprise yet. If she says Strange New Worlds spans 10 years, we’ll be happily along for that decade-long ride.
Strange New Worlds is expected to hit Paramount+ sometime in 2022.