The new Short Trek, "Q&A", just made some big improvements to the original Star Trek pilot. Written by Michael Chabon and starring Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Ensign Spock, "Q&A" depicts a never-before-seen event: the arrival of the Vulcan Science Officer aboard the Starship Enterprise commanded by Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). This incarnation of all three characters debuted in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, which was set in 2257, but "Q&A" jumps back a few years to 2254, the same year "The Cage", the original Star Trek pilot, took place.
"The Cage", which depicted Captain Pike's (Jeffrey Hunter) encounter with the telepathic aliens of Talos IV, was ultimately rejected as "too cerebral" by NBC, which expected a more action-packed sci-fi series. But Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was told by the network to try again and submit a second pilot. Roddenberry kept Spock (Leonard Nimoy) as the sole holdover and recast Star Trek, starting with William Shatner as the new Captain, James T. Kirk, and DeForrest Kelley as the new doctor, Leonard "Bones" McCoy. "The Cage" footage was later integrated into the two-part episode called "The Menagerie" so that Pike's adventure (and his tragic fate) took its place as Star Trek canon. Decades later, Star Trek: Discovery season 2 served as a sequel to "The Cage" and brought Spock back to Talos IV, which added a new perspective to the original pilot. Now, "Q&A" continues to improve "The Cage" by answering major questions about Number One and bringing even more insight to Pike and the younger Spock.
Leonard Nimoy had not yet perfected Spock's persona in "The Cage"; Roddenberry merely intended the Vulcan's presence on the bridge to show humans and aliens working together peacefully, but this early incarnation of Spock was a far cry from the cool, logical Vulcan fans know and love. Instead, Spock in "The Cage" shows bursts of very human-like emotion such as smiling, laughing, and shouting. "Q&A" tackled this inconsistency head-on: Spock is smiling when he beams aboard the Enterprise, something that Number One notices immediately, and she is displeased when Spock shouts his arrival (Peck even pronounces "duty" with the same inflection Nimoy did in "The Cage"). After they are stuck in a turbo-lift together, Number One admonishes Spock for his emotionalism and advises him to hide his "freaky". While Spock would later show his emotions in "The Cage", "Q&A" shows the influence of Number One that would help the Vulcan assemble the unflappable demeanor that will one day irritate Dr. McCoy to no end.
Originally, in "The Cage", Number One had the cool, efficient, unemotional personality that ultimately went to Spock. "Q&A" shows that this is a persona Number One cultivates for professional reasons; while she is indeed brilliant (she improved the ship's food replicators), Number One hides her own "freaky" to maintain her authority - and she revealed her true passion to Spock by singing passages from Gilbert & Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore". Number One's aura is perhaps to distract from the fact that she is the Enterprise's First Officer and helmsman while only holding the rank of Lieutenant Commander. "Q&A" also revealed Number One's surname is Una - something fans have wondered about for over 50 years.
When they discussed Pike, Number One described the Captain as "utterly unsentimental" and someone who believes resorting to violence is an admission of failure, despite being one of Starfleet's most decorated combat officers. Indeed, this is a valuable perspective to have when watching "The Cage" and it adds insight into why a desperate Pike resorted to anger and violence after he was imprisoned by the Talosians. Pike was weary from years of space exploration in "The Cage", but in "Q&A", Pike's explorer's heart was on full display as he and Spock shared mutual awe staring out of the bridge's viewscreen at the cosmic sights before them. This invokes the "Wagon Train to the Stars" adventure series Star Trek would become but "The Cage" didn't quite capture.
Spock was also just an Ensign when he beamed aboard the Enterprise in "Q&A" but by "The Cage", the Vulcan had already been promoted to Lieutenant. Perhaps the story of how Spock rose in the ranks so quickly will someday be the subject of another Short Trek or a Pike and Spock Star Trek spinoff.