Warning: Spoilers for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” Season 1, Episode 9
We had high hopes for the inaugural season finale of “Strange New Worlds,” and the drama is already building in the penultimate episode that is Episode 9. Titled “All Those Who Wander,” the episode doesn’t disappoint and in fact marks arguably the darkest installment yet of what is the best live-action “Star Trek” spin-off currently on the air.
It begins, in fact the same way it ends, with an air of sadness as cadet Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) reaches the end of her placement aboard the USS Enterprise and – for some inexplicable reason – still thinking, undecided on what to do next. Clearly, there is no unemployment, ageism or xenophobia in the 23rd century, otherwise she would be clinging to this incredible opportunity with both hands as if her life depended on it.
During a routine mission to [deep space station K-7] deliver [vidium power cells], Captain Pike (Anson Mount) receives another priority order one; the USS Peregrine activated an emergency beacon before making an unscheduled emergency landing on an L-class planet, Valeo Beta V. It is decided, during the greatest mission briefing ever, that the Enterprise under the command of Lt Cmdr Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn) continue to K-7, while a two-shuttle landing party will proceed to Valeo Beta Five, rescue survivors and, if possible, salvage the ship.
Spock (Ethan Peck), Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush), Lt. Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), and Cadet Uhura, along with Dr. M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), Lt. Hemmer (Bruce Horak), Lt. George Kirk (Dan Jeannotte) and newly promoted Lt Duke (Ted Kellogg) and Cadet Chia (Jessica Danecker).
The surface of Valeo Beta V is hard, frozen rock or, as Hemmer describes it, just like Andoria. Ion storms in the atmosphere impede long-range communications and transport. The Sombra-class ship is quickly located, but so are a dozen frozen and mutilated corpses, all in Starfleet uniforms.
Very quickly, a tense and thrilling tone sets in and it is clear that this mission outside will not be a picnic. Upon entering the derelict Federation spacecraft, the team crew outside immediately finds traces of blood and can read Captain Alice Gavin’s (voiced by Liza Seneca) last diary entry. It turns out that a Gorn infection in one of the crew members went undetected by the carrier’s filters, and a deadly xenomorph infestation began aboard the spacecraft, leading to their eventual demise.
With the ship’s most basic functions restored, one sign of human life and one unknown sign of life are detected. After a brief search in the bowels of the ship, the survivors are located and we learn that they were more than likely refugees from a Gorn ranching facility. It appears the Peregrine was mapping non-Federation space when they found three castaways on an M-class planet: a human girl, a humanoid of unknown origin, an Orion named Pasko. It turns out that poor Orion was the one originally infected. The human girl identifies herself as Oriana, while she refers to her alien guardian as “Buckley”.
Unfortunately, Buckley has also caught one and before long, four Gorn hatchlings emerge from his body, killing the younger Chia in the process. A newborn decides to attack and eat another just moments after bursting out of Buckley’s body – anything tearing up major organs has to be a hungry job – so there are three left, all of whom run away and disappear. Writer Davy Perez acknowledged (opens in a new tab) that the episode was influenced by films such as “Alien”, “Predator”, “The Thing” and even “Gremlins” and the qualities of those other sci-fi epics are evident, but it works so well. The Gorn was set up in “Strange New Worlds” as a deadly alien enemy and that’s fine with us. They were established as particularly nasty jobs in “The Original Series”, then developed a bit more in “Enterprise”. So why not develop them even more?
And it turns out that these are really particularly unpleasant jobs. The biological composition of the Gorn makes them invisible to all sensors; it is, for all intents and purposes, a genetic chameleon. Once a host is infected, the maturity cycle depends on the biological composition of the host. In the Orion, it took weeks. Pike orders everyone to regroup, and in the process, poor Duke is dragged in and no doubt horribly maimed. This scene was then worthy of a particularly bloody Wilhem cry (opens in a new tab), but alas, there was none. However, in the process Hemmer catches a squirt of poisonous vomit from one of the rapidly maturing Gorns and at this point you really don’t know if that’s going to be a problem.
A plan is hatched (pun intended) to lead the two remaining Gorn into a trap by lowering the temperature in different sections of the ship, since the Gorn prefer a more temperate climate. By the way, all of this incredibly useful information comes from Lieutenant Noonien-Singh’s experience in fighting the Gorn from an early age, and as such, she turns into “Noonien-Singh: Gorn Hunter”. Sam Kirk serves as a symbolic, frightened crew member who begins to unravel in a nice throwback to some episodes of “The Original Series” and he actually attacks Spock for his purely logical approach to the situation, much like many characters did about 50-odd years ago. But again, it’s been nicely updated/refreshed and in an unexpected twist, Sam actually saves Spock’s life.
In a thrilling “Alien 3-style” chase sequence, the Gorn get trapped and turn around so only the Gorn alpha remains. The pursuit leads the Last Gorn Standing into Engineering where Noonien-Singh and Hemmer are able to freeze it. Phew. But… it’s not over yet. That nasty reptilian regurgitator Hemmer received is starting to bubble up and it’s only a matter of time now. The brave Aenar tells Uhura that his mission was to fix what was broken, just like he did in episode 4, “Memento Mori” and it was Uhura herself who needed to be guided to his fate with Starfleet. Then he leaps to his death before the young Gorn can hatch and thus saves the crew. So… uh, yeah, Hemmer dies.
He was a character we quickly came to appreciate, especially his arid and dry spirit and from the first moment we met him in episode 2 “Children of the Comet”, watching him and Uhura’s relationship develop was a joy to see. But, it’s not over yet. In an interview, Bruce Horak told Space.com that he would be back.
“I can officially tell you that Bruce Horak’s Star Trek career is not over,” he said, but alas he couldn’t elaborate further. And what’s really interesting is that none of the other actors were aware of his whereabouts, not even Celia Rose Gooding. Poor Bruce had to keep it a secret for most of the first season’s production.
“I think Celia in particular was quite surprised reading episode nine. It was a particularly difficult goodbye. Celia and I shot many scenes together. Obviously the camaraderie that develops between Uhura and Hemmer , I mean, it was just undeniable that it was going to bleed into the off-camera stuff and hang out, and Celia and I connected over music and acting and just a general zest for life.
“So when we had to shoot that episode, it was pretty hard. It was pretty hard on her. And you know what, they say it’s always harder for those left behind, and yeah. I guess If there’s one hope I have for Hemmer, it’s that it takes a long time for them to recover. Isn’t that everyone’s hope?
What’s next for the USS Enterprise? Who will replace Lieutenant Hemmer as chief engineer? Will it be Montgomery Scott? According to StarTrek.com (opens in a new tab) and Alpha Memory (opens in a new tab), Scotty began his career on an unknown spacecraft as an ensign in 2242 – and this episode is set in 2241. So all things considered, it’s unlikely. Thank God.
When a show kills off a beloved character, it almost always results in a mixed reaction. Sure, they’ll be missed, but a show shouldn’t be afraid to do so. Often bringing back characters who frankly should have died considering what they just went through can feel a lot more ridiculous than killing them off. The showrunner, in this case Henry Alonso Myers, needs to understand when to do it and when not to do it. But, for a show with a lot to prove and still in its first season, it’s a bold move that, while definitely sad, keeps the show fresh.
The first eight episodes of ‘Strange New Worlds’ are now available on Paramount Plus (opens in a new tab) just like the entire second season of “Star Trek: Picard”. Season 4 of “Star Trek: Discovery” is also available on the Paramount streaming service in the United States and on CTV Sci-Fi or Crave TV in Canada. Countries outside of North America can watch Pluto TV Sci-Fi Channel. Paramount is available in the UK and Ireland both as a standalone service and as part of the Sky Cinema subscription for the UK cable company.