The ninth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds serves as a heart-pounding homage to the sci-fi horror classic Alien, while also handling the loss of a beloved crew member. Season 1 Episode 9, “All Those Who Wander,” opens with a cheery graduation ceremony for Cadet Uhura (Celia Gooding), as well as a couple of very obvious red-shirts, despite their science and command uniforms. Uhura is currently still determined to leave Starfleet and continue exploring her own path, insisting that she hates goodbyes. Though she seems set in her decision, Captain Pike (Anson Mountand Helmsman Ortegas (Melissa Navia) make it known that she’ll always have a place on the Enterprise.
Mid-celebration, the Enterprise gets called into a priority one search and rescue mission for a crew that’s gone missing on a dead zone planet. They’re also en route to another Priority One mission, providing essential resources for a Federation planet. Pike sends Una (Rebecca Romijn) and the rest of the Enterprise crew off on their initial mission while opting to take “the kids in the station wagon” as a landing party for their new mission. The domesticity of these scenes in the Captain’s quarters serves as an effortless shorthand for Strange New Worlds to really nail down how much of a family this crew is, with Pike and Una playing mom and dad to their rowdy group cadets, lieutenants, and commanders. Things like sharing meals and washing dishes together provide a certain level of intimacy on this starship that could many other Trek ensembles years to reach.
When the landing party finds the crashed ship, they come upon a ghostly scene with blood smeared all over the walls and all functionality of the ship in dire straights. La’an (Christina Chong) and M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) find a significant portion of the crew dead and at first, they assume they fell prey to the planet’s harsh elements, but pretty soon we come to recognize the brutal destruction of an enemy we’ve seen before – it’s the Gorn. The episode cranks up the horror elements to eleven as Pike and the others find this final message from the crew of the fallen ship. The message details a brutal encounter with the Gorn, warning Starfleet not to have followed them here.
Pretty early on our landing party has split off into groups of two or three, making them all a bit vulnerable to the threat they’re certainly well aware of. Hemmer (Bruce Horak) has naturally accompanied Uhura, having bonded together in the previous Gorn-themed episode as they worked side by side to save the ship. While it may not be immediately obvious, upon reflection it’s pretty clear that Hemmer is marked for death the moment he sets foot on this planet. He’s the only one that feels at ease in the cold environment, and he instantly begins doling out the most eloquent, fatherly wisdom you have ever heard as he deep dives into the reason that Uhura fears staying with Starfleet.
Her fear of connection – despite how easily it comes to her – stems from the loss of her parents. If she does not allow herself to get close to anyone new, then she can not feel the pain of losing them the way she did when she lost her family. Elsewhere, M’Benga is still reeling from the loss of his daughter – though she did not die he does not know when he will see her again. He projects those feelings onto the young refugee they’ve found, snapping at La’an when she moves to interrogate the child. He immediately comes to the realization that he overreacted and then also shares some fatherly advice with the security chief. Unlike the conversation between Hemmer and Uhura, this (thankfully) does not set up M’Benga for death but sets up La’an to take up a new personal mission when they manage to rescue the girl – to ensure her the rest of her youth. is brighter than the childhood La’an had.
In the med-bay the other alien refugee they’ve found begins to appear very ill, sweating, veins bulging, breathing labored – it does not look good. If you did not recognize the distinct Alien vibes of this episode before this moment, you certainly will as soon as four Gorn hatchlings burst right through the chest cavity of this, well, alien, screaming and violently killing Cadet Chia (Jessica Danecker) before skittering away into the depths of the ship. Over in the boy’s club consisting of Spock (Ethan Peck), Pike, M’Benga, and Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte), the newly promoted Lieutenant Duke (Ted Kellogg) becomes their next target, as he attacked and ripped right out of Spock’s hands.
The Gorn mature at a frighteningly rapid pace, sending each of the groups our heroes have split into terror and fear as they begin to realize what they’re up against. When Hemmer and Uhura get the power back up and running, Pike calls for what’s left of the team to regroup if they want to make it out of here alive. They come together and formulate an impressive plan to eliminate the Gorn, but it comes with a great sacrifice. Though their plan works, they are doomed to lose Hemmer who hid the fact that he’d been infected in order to ensure the rest of the team’s survival.
As much as I love the combination of sci-fi and horror as a lover of both genres, I have mixed feelings about this episode. The loss of Hemmer feels quite heavy and while it is not uncommon for a main member of the crew to die in the first season of a Trek series, previous iterations of the franchise would generally carry twice as many episodes per season before that would happen. Additionally, this is one aspect of the series that would’ve been completely fine to leave in the past. I am reminded most strongly of Tasha’s (Denise Crosby) death in Season 1 of The Next Generation and Ariam’s (Hannah Cheesman) sacrifice in Discovery Season 2. Although Hemmer is afforded the ability to sacrifice himself to save the rest of the crew – similar to Ariam, whereas Tasha was killed for shock value – his life is still violently cut short. It’s beautifully done and all in all a good death, but that’s in part because it is so deeply sad. Especially as Uhura speaks at his funeral saying that he fulfilled his life’s purpose by mending her broken heart.
The Alien references nearly eat up the Star Trek energy of the episode in some ways. While there is honestly no limit to what a Star Trek story can be, and the emotional notes of this episode do land devastatingly well, “All Those Who Wander” loses itself a little in trying to be Alien. Even Hemmer sacrificing himself mirrors Ripley tumbling into the incinerator in Alien 3. Ultimately, Hemmer’s death does serve the narrative purpose of getting Uhura to open herself back up to making deep connections and putting down roots. But it definitely also leaves the viewer with a profound sense of emptiness. As Season 1 of Strange New Worlds approaches its end, “All Those Who Wander” makes it very clear that we’re not ready to let go.
Rating: B +
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is streaming now on Paramount +.