So the last episode of Strange New Worlds was an interesting blend of old and new. It’s Strange New Worlds’ first proper time travel episode, and in (what’s becoming typical) Strange New Worlds fashion it tells an original story in a way that is probably familiar to most Trek fans. “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” even addresses some Star Trek timeline questions, using its time travel as an excuse to shift timelines a bit.
“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” shows off how great of an ensemble cast Strange New Worlds has, focusing on one bridge crew member as she gets caught up in time travel shenanigans. It’s not the first time an Enterprise crew member has found themselves in an alternate future, but that’s exactly what happens to La’an Noonien-Sing (Christina Chong) when she finds herself confronted by a mysterious time-traveler in the Enterprise’s corridors–as you do. Before dying, he hands La’an a device which shields her from the ensuing timeline changing effects. When La’an gets to the bridge she doesn’t find Captain Pike in the chair, but instead Paul Wesley’s Captain James T. Kirk. Kirk seems destined to sit in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise, as we’ve seen in multiple timelines–but doesn’t spend much time as captain here. After a brief confrontation with La’an (who doesn’t exist in Kirk’s timeline) they are both transported to the past to undo whatever changed the timeline.
One of the challenges of creating a prequel show is its adherence to established canon. Even so, Star Trek canon has been a little loosey goosey at times. There have been attempts made previously to address and even answer some of those canon questions–like the Klingon/Augment story arc in Enterprise–but those attempts have created their own problems. “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” once again pokes at the Trek timeline–and even explains why the Eugenics War didn’t happen in the 90s like we expected. (After all, Voyager had its own time travel episode that showed a notably un-dystopian depiction of the 90’s.)
I don’t mind these retcons and canon redirects, and while they serve as interesting discussion points for hardcore fans (like myself), casual Trek fans probably won’t notice or care. “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” does use its time travel as a bit of “what-if” character exploration. It shows a softer side of La’an as she explores her burgeoning affection for the alternate timeline James Kirk. This Kirk comes from a time where the Federation doesn’t exist, and the Romulan Star Empire is winning a war of supremacy. The episode even slightly touches on Kirk’s understanding that if they succeed, his own timeline will cease to exist.
It’s a lot to balance in a single episode, but “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” pulls it off. It even manages a pretty clever misdirect about a supposed ally who turns out to not only be the enemy, but the very person they are trying to stop–a Romulan who has been tampering with the timeline, which even serves as an explanation why the Eugenics Wars didn’t happen in the timeline previous canon established.
Despite Paul Wesley having a physicality more like Jim Carrey than William Shatner, he does pull off Kirk mannerisms surprisingly well. I think the character is well served, and shows a more “by the book” side that a lot of casual fans were unaware of. This includes Kirk’s propensity to bluff his way out of situations–though in this episode that leads to his demise –perhaps because he wasn’t bluffing. It’s a bit of an ironic twist, both to Kirk’s propensity to bluff and get away with it, but also to one of classic Star Trek episodes “City at the Edge of Forever.” That episode has a Kirk trapped in the past who finds love–and whose actions have huge historical ramifications. In this case, La’an is the one having to leave her love behind.
“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” would be a mess on most other shows, but it manages to balance old style Star Trek into modern television standards. It’s not really “where no man has gone before” in terms of Trek television, but it’s better than a remake, and it has enough new and interesting stories to keep this old Trek fan excited for what’s next.