With only two episodes left, I wasn’t expecting radical changes on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. And then episode nine, titled “All Those Who Wander”, happened and completely knocked me for a loop. One-part haunted house, one-part horror story, one-part reaffirmation, the ninth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ first season managed to effectively change the status quo of the ship in big ways.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched “All Those Who Wander”, the ninth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
First thing up is the title for the episode. As someone who spent a significant amount of time steeped in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the episode title “All Those Who Wander” immediately caught my attention. The full quote is from The Fellowship of the Ring: “Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost”. Fitting the last part of the quote, given the story takes place on a frost-covered world and the advice given by Chief Engineer Hemmer to Cadet Nyota Uhura.
The episode feels like a horror movie combined with a haunted house story. Captain Pike receives a priority one message from Starfleet that requests he go after a downed starship, the USS Peregrine. Pike decides to take some of the new recruits that are about to finish up their tour of duty on the Enterprise, including Uhura, as well as Spock, La’an, Sam Kirk, and Hemmer with them to find out what happened to the Peregrine.
They arrive on a desolate L-class world called Valeo Beta V, which is covered in a constant layer of frost. For everyone but Hemmer, the world is inhospitably cold. The Chief Engineer likens it to his homeworld of Andoria, which is known in Star Trek lore as being a frigid planet. Soon after landing, the crew discover a bloody scene of carnage as at least 20 bodies of the Peregrine’s crew are scattered about in the icy cliffs near where the ship crashed. It’s soon discovered from an audio recording of the ship’s Captain (who was among the people dead outside the ship), that the Peregrine picked up three people while surveying non-Federation space: a human girl, a humanoid being of unknown origin, and an Orion male. Soon after boarding, the Orion male was revealed to have Gorn eggs implanted in him and he attempted to destroy the Gorn before they hatched, damaging the ship and causing the crash.
This is the first time we get to see the Gorn, who made an appearance back in the episode “Memento Mori”. In this episode, we learn something new about the Gorn: much like the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise, the Gorn gestate their young inside the bodies of other sentient beings. When the Gorn hatch, it’s not just a single creature, it’s a clutch of them. And just like with Xenomorphs, the birthing event is fatal to the creature the eggs were implanted in. The Peregrine is our haunted ship, completely in disarray both from the Gorn hatchlings terrorizing the crew and the crash. The Enterprise crew quickly work to get the ship back up and running while also discovering two survivors, a human girl named Oriana and a massive alien creature the young girl has named Buckley.
The repairs to the Peregrine allow for some quiet moments between several of the Enterprise crew, specifically Hemmer and Uhura as well as Spock and Nurse Chapel. Hemmer and Uhura have an easy camaraderie together since the events of “Memento Mori”. It’s Hemmer that correctly guesses Uhura’s hesitancy on staying in Starfleet is more about her not wanting to plant roots because she’s afraid of losing people she cares about. Given that Uhura’s primary reason for joining Starfleet was to escape the pain of losing her immediate family, Hemmer’s assessment is particularly touching and straight-forward. It’s less a condemnation and more of an insight that gives Uhura pause. Chapel and Spock, on the other hand, discuss the concept of emotional responses in humans. Chapel encourages Spock to feel his emotions more keenly, something the stoic Vulcan is never comfortable with. This comes into play much later in the episode.
It turns out that the Gorn hatchlings are invisible to normal sensors, a biological adaptation of their species. When Buckley begins acting more and more sick, it’s readily apparent that it was also infected with Gorn hatchlings and we soon see four hatchlings burst out of the big alien’s body. One of them manages to kill one of the cadets introduced in the opening segment of the episode. Another of the hatchlings kills a recently promoted Lieutenant, establishing that these things are instantly lethal. Another of the creatures manages to attack Hemmer and Uhura in Engineering, with Hemmer getting caught by the creature’s acidic spittle.
La’an Noonien Singh, due to her past experiences with the Gorn, the only person to keep a level head during the entire ordeal. For her, this is a chance to strike back at the creatures that literally filled her childhood with nightmares. The crew quickly come up with a plan to deal with the Gorn, who are absolutely terrifying to behold even in this pubescent state. They develop a plan to corner the Gorn once it’s down to just two hatchlings by calling them out, essentially. On an instinctual level, the Gorn cannot back down from a challenge. Spock, for the first time this season, sets aside logic and allows his rage over the deaths of his crewmates to boil over, releasing a frightening war cry as he tries to coerce the beasts into attacking him. Eventually the crew manage to kill the remaining Gorn hatchlings but the horror of the episode is not over.
The liquid spewed by one of the hatchlings that hit Hemmer is actually how the Gorn infect others with their eggs.
Hemmer realizes after the last Gorn is killed that the eggs in his system are going to hatch soon. It’s a touching moment as Hemmer speaks to each of his crew members in turn, giving them a fond farewell. For Uhura, who is crying on the other side of the door and watching this unfold, he gives her the advice she needs to hear: to set down roots and allow herself to connect with people again. With that said, Hemmer throws himself off the ship into a chasm before the Gorn inside his body hatch, knowing either the fall or the extreme cold will kill the aliens.
A memorial service is held on the Enterprise, with Hemmer’s death hitting the crew hardest of all. Spock leaves the proceedings, clearly unable to contain the whirlwind of negative emotions he is feeling. It’s Nurse Chapel that manages to talk him down, pulling Spock into a hug. It’s a moment of intense intimacy between these two characters that have already shared quite a lot of themselves with each other. La’an decides to resign her commission in order to help Oriana find her family. It’s a touching moment for a character that for the majority of this season has been cold and detached. Out of all the characters, La’an knows exactly what Oriana has been through and is the most capable of helping the young girl. The end of the episode shows that Hemmer’s last words really sunk in to Uhura, who stands on the bridge and views the communications seat with a smile. It’s fair to say that in his last moments, Hemmer was able to set Uhura on the path we as the audience knew she was going to take.
To say this was a major shakeup of the status quo for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is an understatement. One of the main cast members is killed off and another leaves on a personal mission, shaking things up before the season finale. The horror movie aesthetics of the episode worked well for me and the death of Hemmer was out of left field. Like many, I always assume the main cast are untouchable (Star Trek plot armor is a thing) but Hemmer’s death was handled with grace, making it a moving tribute to a character that said his life’s purpose was to fix that which was broken. Overall, a fantastic episode and one I would strongly suggest watching.
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