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SYFY WIRE had the chance to talk with Strange New Worlds co-showrunner Henry Alonso Myers about the details of the finale as well as what’s in store for the upcoming season, including whether a well-known Original Series crew member will beam aboard Pike’s Enterprise.
*Warning! Spoilers for the entire first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds lie ahead!*
The season finale has such a fun and interesting premise — having Pike be the captain in an alternate version of The Original Series episode “Balance of Terror.” How did the idea to do that come about?
We had three ideas in the room. One was "What if we found a way to retell a classic episode of TOS but with our characters?" and one was what I would call the ghost of Pike’s future, the classic time travel idea of "What if your older self comes back and says don't do that thing that you're about to do?" And then there was this third idea … Spock in the TOS episode “The Menagerie” is a person who steals the Enterprise and clearly has a loyalty to Captain Pike — what if we told that story of how that came to be?
Those three elements all coalesced into the episode. This is the story I really wanted to tell, and so I asked [co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman] to write it with me. And I think it was “Balance of Terror,” frankly, because I just always liked “Balance of Terror.” I wish I had a better answer than that, but it’s just one of my favorite TOS episodes and if you're going to retell a classic episode, let's retell a good one.
Obviously, Pike and Kirk are different captains, and when I interviewed Anson Mount, he said Pike’s superpower was his empathy. We definitely see that in this episode, in terms of how Pike and Kirk react differently to the situation with the Romulans. When you were writing the episode, was that a major influence in how you decided how the story would progress?
Very much so. It ended up kind of being a story of “A Tale of Two Captains,” and by putting Kirk in the episode, it allowed us to tell Kirk’s story for people who hadn't seen the TOS episode, as it revealed how Pike's actions are different from the actions of Kirk.
We also had this Greek tragedy idea, that sometimes part of knowing your fate is what causes you to make the mistake that you shouldn't make — Pike knows that he's trying to avoid something terrible. At some point Kirk says to him, "You pulled your punches because you’re afraid of the loss." Pike goes into this knowing that if he makes the wrong move, it could be the fate of the galaxy. Kirk doesn’t think like that — Kirk thinks, "I'm just trying to get through the day. Let’s stop the bad guys and save my ship." And so he's not weighted the way that Pike is, which is also tied into Pike wrestling with his own fate.
You mentioned it’s a tale of two captains, which is absolutely true. But it was also a tale of three captains because both episodes have the perspective of the Romulan Captain as well.
The Romulan captain was one of my favorite parts of the episode! We don't get to do a lot of Romulan stories because of the timeline, because of TOS’ “Balance of Terror,” no one's supposed to know what they look like.
One of the things I loved in “Balance of Terror” is how they were able to cut to the Romulan bridge and tell this whole story on the Romulan side. We reimagined this Romulan bridge, production designer Jonathan Lee designed the sets, and Bernadette Croft, our costume designer, crafted this incredible reimagining of those classic Romulan outfits that are a reference to TOS but are also like version 2.0.
I love going to the Romulan side of things because empathy is such a big part of Star Trek. To me, what you really see is that while Pike’s actions accidentally cause a war, Pike also affects this Romulan in such a way that's deeper than the way that Kirk does. In “Balance of Terror,” Kirk and he do come to an understanding — they have that great moment at the end of “Balance of Terror” where the Romulan captain says, “In another life, I could have called you friend.” And, to me, it was really important that we have that same line for Pike. But we also see that this guy was actually willing to go against all of Romulus in order to go down the road that Pike was willing to go down, but everyone behind him wasn't.
We also find out Una (Rebecca Romijn) gets arrested at the end of this episode, which seems to be a clear tee-up for what may happen in Season 2. Is there anything you can tease about Season 2, about what happens with Una and, also, with Hemmer sadly dying in last week’s episode, does that mean we'll see potentially Scotty in Season 2?
We will meet a new chief engineer — it's not going to be Scotty. There will be a new character who I'm excited for you to meet, but I'm not going to tell you who it is. It's going to be a very different person, a completely different type of engineer.
The Una piece is absolutely a cliffhanger. Part of that was because we felt like there was a big chunk of her story that we had yet to tell. We really wanted to dig into it and we had an idea about how to do a real straight-down-the-middle classic Trek episode in order to tell the next piece of her story, which we get into next season.
I admit at the time, when Akiva and I put that bit in there about Una in the Season 1 finale, we didn't really know how we get out of it. Sometimes at the end of the season, you want to pull as many threads as possible because you want to leave yourself somewhere to go. But since we're almost wrapped for Season 2, I do happen to know where we went and I'm really glad we did because I'm unbelievably proud of the Una arc that came out of it, and I can't wait for people to see it.
For Hemmer, the intention of bringing in Hemmer was to bring in a character who would die. We knew that when Bruce Horak came in for his first audition. The challenge of doing all these legacy characters is everyone knows that none of them die, so we worked on how to make people care about the fate of the story. One of our ideas was to make someone that we cared about die. And, for better or for worse, I feel like we didn't know that Bruce would be so great. We didn't know that he'd do it so well and we didn't know it'd be so heartbreaking. Sometimes you're fortunate and you find the perfect person for the perfect role and Bruce was that guy. I will say that while Hemmer is dead, it’s not necessarily the last that we will see Bruce on our show.
One of the things I really liked about Pike as a character and what it added to the whole vibe of the show, is Pike's love of cooking. How did the idea come about to make Pike a big foodie who wants to feed everyone?
I cook a lot and I'm actually a baker. I have an Instagram account that’s all bread. I don't do any Trek stuff on it, it’s only bread. I feel like it was definitely something that came out of the writers’ room, but I know I pulled this idea from Chad Robertson, he is one of my baking idols and the guy behind Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. He had this idea that if you want to make fava beans, which are an incredible pain in the butt to peel, the best way to do it is you invite people over for a dinner party, you open a bottle of wine, you have the fava beans, and you say to everyone, get peeling.
The thing that I loved about this is that you create a dinner party where everyone is enjoying it, but also working within it. Pike’s style as a captain is someone who coaches and brings everyone together. And we wanted a set that spoke to that — the kind of dinner parties Pike leads are not ones with a well-set table with fancy service, he's the kind of guy who invites people in, and involves everyone, and gives everyone a way to find their own voice and ability. That’s the kind of captain he is — he lets you find your responsibility.
I really liked that idea. It ended up being embodied in that set, and Anson brought this wonderful feeling to it. We just thought was a great metaphor for his style of command, and how it was different from all the other people who we've seen do this job on track.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
The first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is now streaming on Paramount+.
Looking for more sci-fi TV? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock. Looking ahead, SYFY has new series The Ark in the works from original Stargate film writer/producer Dean Devlin, as well as Stargate SG-1 producer Jonathan Glassner.