Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ latest episode, “The Serene Squal,” was packed full of action and twists. As previously announced, the episode guest-starred Queer as Folk’s Jesse James Keitel as the nonbinary character Dr. Aspen, except there was more to Keitel’s character than that. It turns out that Keitel wasn’t playing Aspen at all but rather Capt. Angel, a pirate operating on the fringes of Federation space. They’d been impersonating Aspen to draw the Enterprise out in an attempt to take Spock hostage and use him to blackmail T’Pring into securing the release of a surprising character from Spock’s past. While Angel’s plan didn’t have the desired result, they still managed to escape and left a lasting impression on the crew, Spock in particular.
Keitel also left an impression on fans, originating what may be Strange New Worlds’ first recurring villain and Star Trek’s first, as Keitel puts it in our interview, “badass trans supervillain.” ComicBook.com spoke to Keitel after the episode aired to talk about joining the Star Trek family, LGBTQ+ representation, and whether Capt. Angel will be back. Here’s what she had to say:Something I always ask when we get these new actors joining Star Trek for the first time is what is your history with the franchise? Are you one of those who grew up watching it, or is this kind of a whole new thing to you?
Jesse James Keitel: I am a huge Trekkie. I feel like I’ve become even more of one since joining the Star Trek family. I didn’t grow up with Star Trek, but I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi. I’ve always admired it. And then once I got into acting, all I wanted to do was do an iconic sci-fi project like Star Trek, and more when I got into the actual history of the show. And what a pinch-me moment it was. When I actually stepped foot on the Enterprise it was mind-boggling. I’m still giddy about it, that we’re even having this conversation.
There’s this big reveal at the end about who you’re actually working for. That big reveal, that wasn’t lost on you then when you saw that?
No, that was not lost on me. I gasped because I actually didn’t get the full script until I was already in Canada doing my two-week quarantine getting ready to go do filming when I got the script and there were so many moments where I was like, “Ah, I get to go up in the Enterprise! Ah, I do this!” It was unreal how shook I was to be part of this, continually. How was the character presented to you, considering that it’s almost two characters in this episode? What was the part that got you most excited or most hooked into the character when you saw the script and what they were presenting you with?
I wasn’t given much info at all, actually. It was like two little scenes of really, I was told just someone who really has an earnest, honest connection with Spock, who also might not have the best intentions and that was pretty much the extent of it. But what made me most excited was being a trans woman in Star Trek who was allowed to be bad. It was very exciting to be able to play a queer character who was given permission to be a little evil.