Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is upending canon for its new engineer
Like season 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds coming to Paramount Plus this week, most things about the show are the same. It is still the Enterprise under Captain Pike, Kirk’s predecessor. It’s still a throwback to the episodic Trek formula of yesteryear. And it’s all the same cast – except for one.
With the heartbreaking death of Chief Engineer Hemmer last season, there is a space in the Enterprise roster. And since it’s still a little early for Montgomery “Scotty” Scott to show up, that role has fallen to an original character: Chief Engineer Pelia, played by legendary actor and comedian Carol Kane.
Considering she’s brand new, very little anyone knows about Pelia – but in the season premiere, “The Broken Circle,” she already turns everything we know about Star Trek’s alternate human history on its head.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for the season premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2.]
The usual sign that a character is human rather than one of Star Trek’s countless humanoid aliens is that they wear some kind of facial prosthesis. And you won’t find a pointy ear or ribbed forehead anywhere in Kane’s show wardrobe. But, as “The Broken Circle” reveals, Pelia is definitely not human. The first hint we get is when she casually refers to being over 100 years old. In the same scene, Uhura, the ship’s polyglot, takes note of Pelia’s accent and asks if she is “Lanthanite,” to which Pelia replies, “Guilty as charge.”
Or at least we think it’s spelled Lanthanite! Because there’s no analog Star Trek strain for that name. In the final scenes of the episode, Spock drops another tantalizing, explosive line about Lanthanites talking to Pelia: “I have always been fascinated with your people. That you managed to live unnoticed among other people on Earth until the 22nd century is remarkable.
This is brand new information for Star Trek canon, and it would mean that sometime in the 2100s – a century that saw the formation of the Federation, the obsolescence of money, and the events of the Star Trek: Enterprise series — humanity discovered that aliens lived among them. And this is something that everyone in Star Trek has just… known all along, but not mentioned until now? Buck wild.
When Polygon spoke to Kane, the first thing we asked was how she’d reacted when she realized her character was an alien who may have lived secretly among humans for centuries.
“Just excited,” she replied, “because you can let your imagination run wild and it will work. I also like that I’m the one who knows the most – in my opinion. And probably,” she joked, “because of the time I’ve been on Earth and in space.”
Kane said she enjoys playing an older character, similar to Dr. McCoy from the original series, doing cool space stuff alongside all the young people. “I like that at my age, which is Pelia’s age, I’m on the ship and being hugged by the other people, so I’m not lonely.
I like that. I agree with that.”
Kane couldn’t tell us anything about Pelia or the Lanthanites that hadn’t already been revealed in “The Broken Circle.” All we can say for now is that they appear to be a completely new addition to the galaxy of species that make up the Star Trek canon, and Chief Engineer Pelia has a friendly history with Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson. When is impossible to say Strange new worlds intends to reveal more, but we eagerly await more answers about the aliens living among us.