What do Mario Bava and Star Trek have in common? Hopefully, Strange New Worlds. Let me explain…
I don’t consider myself a particularly die-hard Trek fan: the only Star Trek series that I’ve seen in their entirety (and the only ones I rewatch) are The Original Series and The Animated Series. I’ve seen parts of all the Trek series from the nineties/early 2000s, and enjoyed them well enough, but I can’t say I was ever a super enthusiast.
The first Trek series comes from the era of The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and other similar anthology series. It definitely shares some of the weird tale sensibilities of those shows, as well as Rod Serling’s insight that speculative fiction is an effective and relatively subtle vehicle for addressing current events and controversial ethical issues. And as speculative fiction goes, I prefer the uncanny to science fiction. To the extent that later Trek shows lost that eerie, weird tale vibe, I correspondingly lost interest.
So I’ve not been following so-called “Nu-Trek,” nor had any desire to. But my husband watches Star Trek (pre Nu-Trek) more enthusiastically than I, and he’s been following the fan discussions about the new shows. The word on YouTube seems to be that Strange New Worlds has got that Original Series vibe. My husband got curious enough to sign up for a trial period of Paramount+, and so far, we’ve watched the first three episodes. I’m liking it.
For those who don’t follow, Strange New Worlds is set slightly before ST:TOS. The Enterprise is commanded by Kirk’s predecessor, Captain Pike. Mr. Spock is science officer, Lt. Uhura is on board as a cadet. So far, the show does feel to me very much in the spirit of The Original Series. It shares the optimism of the earlier (pre-Discovery) shows; the faith that humankind can improve itself, ethically and morally; the ability to touch on contemporary issues without being too preachy or heavy handed. And of most interest to me, Strange New World seems to have some of the uncanny, horror vibe that was present in the original series.
“The Ghosts of Illyria,” in particular, is a little bit like yet another remake of the original show’s episode “The Naked Time;” but it actually does feature the ghosts of the title, with an obligatory scientific explanation, of course. The scene where Pike and Spock encounter the ghosts has a delightfully haunted house movie feel to it. I was pleased, and I am hopeful for the show going forward.
Anyway, the whole reason I’m even writing this post is to make a wish out loud. I’ve always thought that Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires would have made a good ST:TOS episode. Bava was a science-fiction enthusiast, and Planet of the Vampires is a wonderful blend of science-fiction and gothic horror motifs. If Strange New Worlds is going to attempt this blend (as the original series did), then this would be a great story to adapt. With a happier ending, of course.
There is always a temptation with the Trek shows to revisit or remake episodes from earlier series. Doing a variation of Planet of the Vampires would have the advantage of feeling like an old TOS episode, without actually being an old TOS episode. Wouldn’t that be fun?
So here’s hoping that someone on the Strange New Worlds writing staff is a Bava fan, too.