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Strange New Worlds Solves A 56-Year Old Star Trek Mystery

Number One’s secret history has finally been revealed by Strange New Worlds, solving a mystery that’s last 56-years since the very start of Star Trek.

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 3 – “Ghosts of Illyria”

After 56-years, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has finally solved the mystery of Number One’s (Rebecca Romijn) backstory. As the First Officer of the USS Enterprise, Number One AKA Lt. Commander Una Chin-Riley joins Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and Lt. Spock (Ethan Peck) on a new five-year mission of galactic exploration. But Strange New Worlds episode 3 is the (very) long-awaited episode centering on Una that finally answers questions about Number One that Trekkers have wondered about for over five decades.

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Number One was created by Gene Roddenberry and she was part of his original pilot for Star Trek, “The Cage.” Number One was a role embodied by Gene’s future wife, Majel Barrett, and, as the female First Officer of a starship, she was a revolutionary character for 1966. Too revolutionary for NBC, as it turned out, as the network requested both Number One and Spock (Leonard Nimoy), to be cut from the second Star Trek pilot NBC requested. Wanting to keep an alien on the bridge of the Enterprise, Roddenberry was forced to drop Number One and he gave her cool, logical, emotionless traits to Spock, which would come central traits of the Vulcan and his entire race. Outside of “The Cage’s” footage incorporated into the Star Trek: The Original Series two-parter, “The Menagerie,” which made the characters of the original pilot canon, Number One vanished for decades until she was reimagined for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, and now, Strange New Worlds.


Related: Strange New Worlds Hints Pike Can Break Canon And Avoid His TOS Fate

Number One’s fascinating backstory has finally been revealed by Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Una Chin-Riley is an Illyrian, which is a brand new species. Illyrians are a race considered outcasts by the United Federation of Planets because they genetically modify themselves to enhance their bodies and adapt to their environments. Una herself possesses great physical strength, which she tries not to display. Understandably, Una keeps her true alien heritage a secret. But the events of Strange New Worlds episode 3, “Ghosts of Illyria,” forced Una to come clean about who and what she is to Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), her best friend La’an Noonien Singh (Christina Chong), and Captain Pike. Una was prepared to resign her Starfleet commission and admit she’s Illyrian but Pike loyally insisted she remains as the best First Officer in Starfleet.


Strange New Worlds Una Chin-Riley

Strange New Worlds‘ revelations about Number One are brand-new since Gene Roddenberry purposely never defined Number One’s origins and background. Star Trek‘s creator originally intended for Number One to remain mysterious and he never even wanted her real name to be known. However, had Number One been part of Star Trek going forward, Roddenberry may have found it necessary to eventually reveal those details in order for her character to evolve. Meanwhile, Majel Barrett, who played other Star Trek roles, imagined her own apocryphal backstory for Number One as “a clone was from a different planet where they actually numbered people,” hence she became Number One because of her “excellence.” While an interesting idea, Strange New Worlds obviously went in a different direction for Una Chin-Riley.


Not only is Una Chin-Riley’s true story out in the open, at last, but it opens up fascinating story avenues going forward. Captain Pike is conspiratorially keeping Number One’s secret of being an Illyrian from Starfleet and he promises to fight for her if it comes out. Meanwhile, Una still feels guilty about lying to everyone she knows to join Starfleet, including La’an. Further, the fact that Number One is a genetically-engineered Augment puts her in similar standing as Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), at least in the eyes of the Federation if they learn the truth about Una. Number One’s history has been one of Star Trek’s biggest questions for 56 years but now that it’s revealed, it smartly opens up many new possibilities for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to explore.


Next: Picard & Strange New Worlds Are Telling Khan’s Origin Story Without Him

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams Thursdays on Paramount+.

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