Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has delivered the most science fiction horror-centric episode of Trek I’ve seen in many years, maybe ever. It’s drawing from two different franchise classics of the genre while also delivering one of the most heartbreaking Trek stories I’ve ever seen. And that ending? Well, I didn’t see that coming and I have OPINIONS about that. Grab the strongest Scotch you can find in Scotty’s liquor cabinet and brace for impact. This is a tough one. Let’s talk Strange New Worlds episode 1×09, “All Those Who Wander.”
Sci-Fi Horror Inspiration
If you’ve read my work here on Fangirlish, you know I love a good horror movie. You also know my all-time favorite movie is the sci-fi horror classic, Alien. Reader, when I tell you I totally geeked when I saw what they were doing with “All Those Who Wander,” believe me, I totally geeked. But not only are they pulling from Alien with the “backburster” scene, but they’re also drawing from three other films in the franchise: Aliens, Alien3, and Prometheus. Let me explain.
The signal that the Enterprise was following that turns out to be a “STAY AWAY!” warning is not unlike the signal set at the end of Prometheus by Shaw and David as they escape from the Engineer. The girl they find, Oriona, gives me Newt vibes from Aliens. The 4-legged form that the Gorn hatchling takes reminded me of the “Runner” Xenomorph in Alien3. But not only that, they took it a step further and added the thermal vision of Predator! That’s a lot of classic sci-fi horror to pack into one episode. I am NOT sad about it. If you’re looking to expand your classic science fiction horror knowledge this summer, these franchises are an excellent place to start.
All this being said, what does this mean for this episode? Star Trek has always used classic science fiction tropes to highlight larger themes. What this does is force our crew to act in a worst-case scenario situation. They are forced to trap another creature, dare I say a predator, and kill it, a la Alien. Definitely not normal Starfleet protocol. I hope we get some more exploration of this idea in the finale.
“Don’t you ever get angry?”
It’s a question Sam Kirk asks Spock in anger, but it’s also a theme that two of our most stoic characters must explore–Spock and La’an. La’an takes pride in keeping her emotions in check. However, she’s got anger bubbling just under the surface, waiting to overflow like a volcano of rage. Watching her unload on the flash-frozen Gorn at the end was just like that–an erupting volcano. And frankly, I can’t blame her, considering her experience. Her choice to take an extended leave of absence at the end to help Oriona is a good one. Ever hear the expression, “Be the adult you needed growing up”? I try to be that adult. It’s been a healing thing for me. I think La’an is trying to be that adult too.
As for Spock, Sam’s admonishment seems to have taken hold. Watching a switch flip in Spock like that was frankly, quite scary. It’s not a bad thing to get angry, especially when someone is trying to harm you and your friends. But by the episode’s end, when Spock is overwhelmed with anger and grief, it looks like he’s about to spontaneously combust. When I say my heart broke watching that scene where Chapel confronts and comforts him, it shattered.
She says to him earlier in “All Those Who Wander,” “It’s okay to get angry.” She helps him work through some of that pain with a simple, but a comforting hug. I appreciate how she reminds him that the strength of emotion he feels in the moment isn’t wrong; it’s simply human, which he is. Both Jess Bush and Ethan Peck do so much with just their body language here. They both hit it out of the park and break my heart. Will the Strange New Worlds writers keep touching this Spock/Chapel nerve? We’ll see.
Okay y’all, buckle up and brace for impact. Maybe in retrospect, I should have seen it coming, especially with the choices they made in the “Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” intro. But man, I am still gutted by that ending. I am of two minds when it comes to Hemmer’s death. I think the way he chooses to go out is incredibly brave. It is in line with his Aenar pacifism. He bravely walks to his death and doesn’t allow the “backbursters” to infiltrate the ship, saving the rest of the crew. It is a heroic death and he embraces it like the hero he is.
What I find frustrating in his death is that Strange New Worlds has now killed off their only main alien character that doesn’t look like a regular person with pointy ears. They also took away a blind character, which removes some of the diversity in our cast, particularly since Hemmer is played by blind actor, Bruce Horak.
I also was surprised that they killed anyone off at all! Strange New Worlds is the lightest live-action Trek series in our current Trek pantheon. Killing off a main character is gutsy, at least to a degree. Many of our main cast members have some plot armor based on their legacy status, so now I have major concerns about anyone who ISN’T a legacy character, particularly La’an and my girl Ortegas! I hope my concerns aren’t warranted, but now I’m worried.
“All Those Who Wander” is really solid. I did a lot of swearing at the TV, Kevin McAllister-face, and other sorts of assorted yelling while watching. The emotional investment for “All Those Who Wander” is extremely high for me. Our cast and writers’ room did an amazing job delivering on this high-stakes episode.
One other thing I want to make note of is that our writing team likes to give my gal Ortegas a lot of good lines. Her eulogizing of Hemmer was heart-felt and made especially poignant considering Melissa’s loss of her partner, Brian Bannon, last year. All that being said, they seem to use her dialogue to move the action along because they know Melissa can deliver, which she does. A request to the Strange New Worlds writers’ room? I want more Ortegas! Melissa can obviously deliver on witty banter and she is a fun, light-hearted presence on screen, but I feel like she’s the only person in our main cast we haven’t gotten to know really well. Here’s hoping the finale delivers in that respect.
What did you think of “All Those Who Wander”? Leave me a comment and let’s talk Trek.
The season finale of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will air on July 7, 2022, on Paramount+.