Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 2 – “Children of the Comet”
Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) has a tragic destiny but Star Trek: Strange New Worlds hints that Pike can change his fate – and if he does, would that break Star Trek canon? It was a reluctant Pike who agreed to resume his duty as Captain of the Enterprise and lead a new five-year mission of galactic exploration. Haunting Pike is the vision he received in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 of his future where he becomes horribly disfigured while performing a heroic rescue. Strange New Worlds posits the intriguing possibility that Pike’s foreknowledge of his tragic fate could allow him to make a different choice so that he saves himself.
Star Trek: The Original Series‘ “The Menagerie” two-parter establishes that in 2266, Fleet Captain Pike (Sean Kenney) is critically injured while saving Starfleet cadets from a radiation leak on an old J-class freighter. Pike is bombarded with delta rays that leave him paralyzed and forced to exist in a mechanized chair that only allows him to blink a light once to say “yes” and twice to say “no.” Although Pike’s mental capacities remain intact, his body is desroyed and Chris is tragically rendered an invalid. To save his former Captain, Spock committed mutiny and stole the USS Enterprise to bring Pike to the forbidden planet of Talos IV, where its psychic inhabitants could restore Chris to a world of illusions. Pike ultimately spends the rest of his life on Talos IV, concluding his story.
However, Strange New Worlds considers how Pike knowing his destiny could actually allow him to alter it. Although Pike has accepted his fate that he must essentially die in order to save those Cadets in the future, his Number One, Lt. Commander Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) urged him not to throw his life away so easily. Number One intriguingly argued that a possible reason Pike was given a vision of his fate by a Klingon time crystal was so that he could make “a different choice, one that saves all of you.” Una believes that foreknowledge of the future doesn’t necessarily trap Pike into that future. The Captain may even be misinterpreting his vision. It’s a fascinating argument on the macro level because it raises the possibility that Strange New Worlds could have Pike choose a different destiny altogether.
If Captain Pike does make a different choice in 2066 because he has foreknowledge of what will happen, it would alter Star Trek canon. But this is the fascinating aspect of Strange New Worlds being a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series because it raises possibilities that didn’t exist before. Until Star Trek: Discovery and Strange New Worlds, it wasn’t canonically known that Pike knew his destiny and who the Cadets were he saved. Strange New Worlds episode 2, “Children of the Comet,” ends with Pike researching the future Cadets, who are still children in 2259. Pike and Strange New Worlds provocatively wrestle with the idea that Pike can make different choices that wouldn’t condemn him to a state of living death.
It’s indeed possible that further down the line, Strange New Worlds could have Pike make a different choice that would save himself and the Cadets. But it’s also possible that Pike’s destiny is locked and even if he attempts to evade his fate, he is bound to end up in that wheelchair, no matter what. The latter would compound the tragedy of Captain Pike and magnify his silent suffering. Yet Strange New Worlds is a science fiction show set in Star Trek‘s universe of infinite possibilities. Is there a way for Pike to save himself yet still honor Star Trek canon? Or is Captain Pike doomed to his terrible destiny regardless of how he tries to change it? These are questions Star Trek: Strange New Worlds may answer someday, but, for now, Captain Pike is in the prime of his life and has every right to enjoy boldly going where no one has gone before.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams Thursdays on Paramount+.