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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Star Trek: Unusual New Worlds reminds you filler TV is unbelievable

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Within the age of thunderingly loud blockbusters and hyper-serial status tv, Star Trek has struggled. The J.J. Abrams movies tried to reinvent Star Trek for the mega motion movie period, and Star Trek: Discovery tried to reinvent it for serial TV. And others, like Picard and Decrease Decks, have simply tried to play to the followers with intense nostalgia and in-jokes. They’ve all been Star Trek, however they haven’t had fairly the identical influence as the unique collection or the Star Trek collection of the ‘90s. Watching Star Trek: Unusual New Worlds seems like watching The Subsequent Technology or Voyager and even The Unique Sequence. It’s Star Trek up to date pitch completely for 2022, and that’s largely as a result of it is aware of what we wish: filler episodes.

The franchise is gigantic at this level — as massive as Star Wars or Physician Who, but it surely typically feels prefer it has been at odds with itself and form of embarrassed by its personal existence in a method these different franchises aren’t. It’s like a petulant teenager who actually desires to go trick or treating with the household however doesn’t need to run into any mates in case they get made enjoyable of.

Unusual New Worlds isn’t like that. This present understands you can be earnest and you’ll be goofy and you’ll nonetheless inform actually good and entertaining tales. It is not embarrassed to exist. And, sure, quite a lot of that’s right down to a terrific solid — helmed by Anson Mount as Christopher Pike and Rebecca Romijn as his second in command, Una Chin-Riley (or Quantity One in case you’re acquainted with the unique Star Trek present). However past an awesome solid showing in a great-looking present, what’s actually captivated me is how Unusual New Worlds is blissful to embrace the filler episode.

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M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush), and Una (Rebecca Romijn) in one of many extra high-stakes episodes.
Picture: Marni Grossman/Paramount Plus

Filler episodes are outlined as those not pertaining to the overarching tales in a collection. They’re typically episodes about downtime, or they’re the bizarre, humorous episode in a sometimes dramatic present. They exist as a result of, till streaming caught on, most TV collection had 20-plus episode orders. In the identical period of time many collection now prove six to 10 episodes, author’s rooms would sometimes should prove one thing nearer to 22 scripts. That meant issues might get bizarre. Plenty of these 20 episodes might have serial plots: Mulder and Scully and their conflict in opposition to the Cigarette Smoking Man and the Consortium or the myriad “beloved physician will get sick” plotlines on ER. However the reveals would even have episodes that acquired experimental or foolish or simply plain content material to not increase the stakes to “the top of the world as we all know it.” A part of the rationale Picard getting Borg-ified had a lot influence on Star Trek: The Subsequent Technology was as a result of we knew this was additionally the nerd who appreciated to play a non-public eye on the holodeck.

As quick episode orders and extremely serialized plotlines turned the du jour in TV, the filler episode fell out of vogue. The solid of Star Trek: Discovery isn’t unintentionally appearing out a fairy story for the amusement of a fourth-dimensional being anytime quickly. However I’d argue that the filler episode was additionally what distinguished TV from motion pictures as an artwork type. Extremely serialized reveals like Obi-Wan Kenobi airing on Disney Plus really feel like movies, rigorously partitioned out over a number of weeks. One of many largest complaints about many new reveals on Netflix is that they really feel like overlong motion pictures. The plot is all the time hustling, and we by no means have time to simply sit with a personality and get to know them.

And the enchantment of TV for therefore lengthy — the rationale it typically evokes monumental on-line fandoms — is since you spend a lot time with these characters that you realize them higher than those you spend two hours in a theater with.

A gray-haired White man wearing yellow stands and looks at something off screen. Two women with dark hair and red shirts are seated and looking in the same direction.

Okay, this one can also be from a extra high-stakes episode, however they’re combating the Gorn! Traditionally, these are some low-stakes dangerous guys!
Picture: Marni Grossman/Paramount Plus

Six episodes in, Unusual New Worlds hasn’t been afraid to take a breath and allow us to simply take pleasure in these characters — identical to Trek followers used to do with earlier collection. So we are able to have an episode the place Captain Pike, who realized his personal tragic future on Star Trek: Discovery, tries to come back to phrases with it, and we are able to have an episode that makes the supremely goofy Gorn Kirk once wrestled a legitimately spooky risk. However we are able to even have an episode the place everybody enjoys their break day and two characters unintentionally change our bodies and negotiate some diplomatic treaties.

The present is snug growing the characters in all kinds of the way whereas not feeling the necessity to all the time test in on some looming risk. Reveals like Stranger Issues might be taught lots from the extra light plotting. Typically we don’t want seven episodes racing towards the top of the world. Typically we simply want one or two — you realize, so we are able to have time for that body-switching or “Groundhog Day” episode.

Star Trek: Unusual New Worlds airs new episodes each Thursday on Paramount Plus.

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