Star Trek hasn’t always had the best track record with gender equality, but Strange New Worlds is doing great work to redress that balance.
The Star Trek: Strange New Worlds casting makes up for an insulting remark made by Captain Pike in the original Star Trek pilot. Strange New Worlds follows the adventures of the Enterprise crew, who first appeared in the unaired pilot, “The Cage”. Acting as both a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series and a modern Trek show with contemporary concerns, it brilliantly fixes some of the more questionable elements of 1960s Star Trek. As forward-thinking and progressive as Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek was in terms of its peaceful anti-war stance and commitment to racial representation, it had a real blind spot when it came to gender equality.
For example, the show’s final episode, “Turnabout Intruder” was focused on an old flame of Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Dr. Janice Lester, who went to the extraordinary lengths of swapping bodies with Kirk to become one of Star Trek‘s female captains. This strange attitude to women in senior Starfleet positions was present in Star Trek‘s unaired pilot, too, when Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) observed that he couldn’t get used to the sight of women on the bridge, but made a patronizing exception for Number One (Majel Barrett). Now, in revisiting the characters of Pike and Number One, Strange New Worlds can finally address the biggest failing of 60s Trek.
Strange New Worlds’ Diversity Fixes Pike’s Insult In “The Cage”
As “The Cage” was never aired in its entirety – with the footage instead repurposed for “The Menagerie” – it’s easy for Strange New Worlds to neatly sidestep the original Pike’s sexism. Instead, it takes a diverse approach to casting that paints the Anson Mount Pike in a much better light. . There’s a more substantial number of female Starfleet officers in key roles than there was aboard Captain Kirk’s Enterprise or aboard Pike’s during “The Cage”. Aside from existing Star Trek characters like Number One (Rebecca Romijn), Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) and Chapel (Jess Bush) there’s security officer La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), helmsman Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia).
All of these characters get as much, if not more screen time than many of the male crew members in Strange New Worlds. La’an’s trauma with the Gorn and Uhura’s uncertainty about a career in Starfleet are two of the main character arcs in SNW season 1. It’s a subtle move that skips over the original Pike’s bizarre rejection of women on the bridge of a starship, and puts these female officers front and center in the storytelling. Number One’s larger role in SNW season 2 should also go some way to fixing the insulting remark and Pike’s patronizing exception.
How Strange New Worlds Season 2 Can Address “The Cage” Insult Directly
The cliffhanger ending to Strange New Worlds season 1 gives the show the perfect way to directly address the insulting remarks from “The Cage”. Anson Mount’s Captain Pike is so incredibly likable that it would be a mistake to suddenly turn the character into a penitent sexist. However, the arrest of Una for her Illyrian heritage will allow Pike and the rest of the Enterprise crew to fight to save Number One’s position aboard the Enterprise.
Una’s arrest will seemingly cause tension between Pike and Captain Batel – a female captain who may become Pike’s season 2 enemy, rather than his lover. This is another smart move on the part of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, as the conflict between Batel and Pike won’t be rooted in sexual inequality like Kirk and Lester’s, but instead will be rooted in a moral conflict about the rights of genetically augmented individuals. Star Trek didn’t always have the best track record in telling stories that were truly diverse and equal, but the future is looking very bright indeed.