Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Season 1 Episode 9
“All Those Who Wander”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds leans into horror as many of the characters are locked in a desperate battle for survival against a relentless threat
Episodic storytelling was the promise given when this show was commissioned and now, near the end of the first season, it can comfortably be said that it lives up to that promise. Continuity doesn’t have to be a forbidden concept in weekly standalone stories as the characters learn and grow, relationships change and deepen and events shape who they become. Viewers can be secure in the knowledge that memory of events in previous episodes has been retained by those that experienced them and those memories inform how they will act in a new situation. This episode is a culmination of lessons learned, relationships deepening, internal questions chewed over and experiences shared. It gives the season a sense of purpose and cohesion in a way that almost makes this feel like a season finale. It does a good job of creating the feeling that everything has been building towards this moment to allow the characters to reflect on it before they decide what they’re going to do next.
The plot involves the Enterprise being sent on a priority mission to investigate a distress signal let out by another ship. A problem is that they are already on a priority mission so Pike decides to split the party and take a landing party down to the crash site while the Enterprise continues on with the original mission. Pike falsely claims that everything will be fine and that it’ll be a great opportunity for the departing cadets to have one more mission with senior officers as a final bout of work experience.
Uhura’s log entry opens the episode as a reminder of her difficulty defining where she belongs and what she wants to do with her life. This is one of the reasons the episode feels like a culmination of what has come before. Uhura was the focus of the second episode and now she introduces the ninth so there’s a sense of the season coming full circle with a potential answer to the questions she asked herself. Her log entry states that she is no closer to an answer than she was then and feels overwhelmed by that prospect. Her time on the Enterprise has taught her that everyone else on the ship knows where they belong and is fully committed to the path they’ve chosen which sets her apart from them as she doesn’t feel that way. With this being the end of her rotation on the Enterprise deciding what she wants to do with her life seems more urgent than it did before. Her words suggest she was waiting for an answer to present itself. That hasn’t happened and now she has no idea what to do with herself. It’s a very relatable problem and a slight commentary on young people being pressured to plan for their future without having the life experience to do so properly.
Her uncertainty is explored throughout the episode. She spends a lot of time with Hemmer who gives her valuable and unfiltered advice that encourages her to dig deep into herself to find the answer. It’s a smart choice putting them together as it worked brilliantly earlier in the season. They have a really natural dynamic with Hemmer taking on a mentor role and Uhura making it through his tough exterior to forge a very real connection. He theorises that she is afraid of putting down roots and that’s what holds her back from making a decision about her future. Uhura had never considered things in those terms so is fascinated by the suggestion and Hemmer is all too happy to go into detail. He suggests that her thinking is “better to leave than be the one left behind” and honestly tells her that part of life is parting ways with people for various reasons but the pain associated with that kind of loss is far outweighed by the benefits of them being in your life when they were.
This becomes especially poignant when Hemmer dies and proves that point. Uhura speaks at his funeral and reminisces about how knowing him made her life better. It’s a loss that cuts deep but it only does so because she connected with him in the way she did. His advice goes from being something for her to think about to a painfully practical lesson. If an effort hadn’t been made to connect with Hemmer then she wouldn’t have such wonderful things to say about him at his funeral. He would simply be someone she served with who lost his life but she had the pleasure of getting to know him and will always have those memories.
The episode doesn’t explicitly confirm that she has chosen Starfleet as her path in life but it’s strongly hinted at in the final shot highlighting the communication station with her purposefully looking at it. Without a word being spoken she is effectively saying “I’m coming back and I’ll be sitting in that chair”. Most of what is said to her in the episode indicates that those around her want her on the ship. Pike directly tells her there’s a place for her on the Enterprise if that’s her decision.
Hemmer’s death takes a toll on more than just Uhura. Many of the characters on the away mission are tested by what they experience in ways that call back to previous trials and Spock is caught between his warring halves. Chapel is once again on hand to dispense advice about humanity when she explains to him the reasons behind the behaviour of a newly promoted officer. The subject turns to anger and how useful it can be which is a lesson learned by Spock later in the episode when he is forced to unleash the full intensity of his rage in order to lure the Gorn. It isn’t a simple and easily dismissed outburst of emotion, it has lasting effects that he confesses to when Chapel approaches him after he walks out of Hemmer’s funeral. Spock feels that he’s unleashed something that can’t be put back and that terrifies him. He almost reacts violently when Chapel touches him and her emotional support snaps him out of his rage. Part of his anger is founded on feeling that being unable to push it back inside him is weakness and that weakness is summed up as his Human half but Chapel categorically states that it doesn’t make him weak to experience his emotions.
Hemmer’s death and the impact it has on the other characters is one of the examples where a longer season would have benefitted this show. Ortegas delivering a eulogy summarising their friendship doesn’t carry much weight when they’ve shared very little -if any- screentime and Spock’s strong reaction implies a friendship that has been shown in passing but never in detail. Uhura’s sentiments have weight behind them because the formation of that connection was previously shown but the work wasn’t put in with the other characters. His funeral is a solemn moment by itself and his death is beautifully dramatic but Hemmer’s contribution to the season has been less than the other characters which diminishes the impact to a degree.
M’Benga is lightly tested by the situation in the way he reacts to Oriana (Emma Ho). His parental instinct kicks in to the point that he refers to her as his daughter. It’s unknown how much time has passed since the previous episode but letting her go is presumably raw and in an unguarded moment, he allowed himself to feel that loss while transferring his relentless desire to save her to Oriana. It’s something he admits to later with a poetic musical analogy about the notes themselves containing no emotion, all that is brought from the listener. Nothing more is made of this other than a reminder that he’s still struggling. No resolution needs to be found and no cheesy declaration of saving Oriana being comparable to saving his daughter is required. It’s a great example of continuity as it’s a reminder that M’Benga is still dealing with it.
La’an is the most definitively tested because it’s another encounter with the Gorn. She is introduced in the episode as being fresh from a therapy session and makes comments that suggest she regards it as a waste of time. This is backed up by her stating that all someone can do after an ordeal such as what she encountered as a child is survive. Something that has come up throughout the season is that La’an may have lost the zest for life and struggles with the prospect of taking pleasure in anything. She throws herself into her work and just gets through the days. It’s survival and very little else. The Gorn took more from her than her family, they took the essence of who she is and left a husk that goes through the motions. It’s an unflattering analysis of her character but that’s how she sees herself and this episode marks a reckoning of sorts between her and those who took her inner life away from her.
Oriana is important to her on a symbolic level because she sees herself when held captive by the Gorn and feels an unyielding need to ensure that Oriana doesn’t end up like she did. La’an never had someone who understood what she was going through to support her and help her make sense of the mess that was left behind when she survived. She sees therapy as a waste of time because the therapist wasn’t there and couldn’t possibly begin to understand what La’an experienced. La’an can be that for Oriana and sees herself in the young girl. Her advice about the difference between living and surviving shows that she has learned something even if she only realised it in a defining moment such as this. A practical example of it can be seen earlier in the episode when she is visibly enjoying food. Someone who’s living would take pleasure in eating food, someone who’s surviving would eat it and not have it register. This echoes Uhura learning that the Enterprise and Starfleet can be a found family of sorts as La’an has understood that without even realising it. Pike tells her to come back to them because a family always has a place for those who need to get away for a while.
La’an’s decision to leave is in order to ensure that Oriana doesn’t have to grow up alone. She has a flimsy lead and asks Pike for an indefinite leave of absence to chase down Oriana’s family. It’s so important to her that she’s willing to throw away her career in pursuit of it. Fortunately, Pike is the sort of Captain who understands that some things go beyond Starfleet duty and grants her all the time she needs. La’an’s parting words are sincere gratitude for everything Pike and the crew of the Enterprise have offered her. It’s heartwarming and entirely earned.
The episode does miss an opportunity where Pike is concerned. I’ve written a lot about how him knowing the details of his future fate is a narrative mistake but there are times where it could be played with in interesting ways that the show seems reluctant to capitalise on. This is one such example. Pike is in a dangerous situation where he is responsible for the lives of a group of people. He knows that whatever choice he makes will result in his survival but everyone else present is unknown to him. We as viewers know that Spock, Chapel, Uhura, M’Benga and Sam Kirk are also invincible because they are all canonically alive and well years after this episode is set. Everyone who isn’t invincible loses their life which has nothing to do with Pike’s knowledge of the future but it’s an interesting exercise in building tension in prequel stories. The episode may have been enhanced by some awareness on Pike’s part of this being eerily similar to the scenario he will find himself in almost ten years from now and perhaps he could reflect on how frequently he is reminded of that through his missions. It could either hinder his judgement or make him more determined to make sure everyone gets home safely. His actual presence in the episode is largely a passive one where he gives orders but is mostly sidelined.
It especially feels like a missed opportunity after Pike casually declares that it would be fine to take an away team while the Enterprise continues on course to complete another mission. There was a need for him to reflect on how wrong he was and how costly that decision ended up being. An ongoing consideration for him is whether the inevitable can be prevented so similar inward questions could be asked of these events. He says nothing at Hemmer’s funeral and doesn’t comment on the newly promoted officer who lost his life. That isn’t to suggest that Pike is heartless but the episode doesn’t give him time to explore the feelings he surely has which makes his presence on the mission almost pointless.
The execution of the Gorn threat is excellent. This is an episode that wears its influences on its sleeve. The Thing, Alien, ALIENS and even Alien 3 are all clearly referenced at different points in ways that compliment the episode rather than coming across as bland reference points. The setting is beautifully depicted; a seemingly throwaway line early on explains that the ship they’re looking for is made of the same parts as the Enterprise which quietly excuses the episode for using all of the same sets as the other ship. The sets are dark, damaged and distorted to transform the familiar into something foreboding. Suddenly the surroundings that denoted safety mere scenes earlier are contorted into something dangerous that creates the perfect claustrophobic setting for a hunt. There are some excellent visual flourishes such as the camera moving through the walls before the characters begin to carry out the plan that will mean either success or death and the lights becoming brighter to convey that there is more hope.
Once again, the Gorn are terrifying. Their last appearance was as ships containing a mysterious threat whereas now they’re mobile and practically feral. Their numbers are outlined clearly and the systematic thinning of the herd manages to make the remaining combatants all the more terrifying. Many horror tricks are used such as things lurking in the dark, sounds from all around, sneak attacks and barely seeing the enemy. The design on the Gorn when they are shown is stunning and fully backs up the ferocity that the dialogue builds up. It’s a stunningly directed episode that more than makes the viewer forget that most of the characters are invincible. Hemmer losing his life also legitimises the threat as it’s the unexpected death of a credited main cast member. This episode is a great example of the storytelling variety that Star Trek offers as a franchise and the best of the season so far.
An excellent episode with a brilliantly executed horror-driven plot that contains meaningful and moving development for many of the characters. Many of the characters are tested in ways that are continuations of what they have previously been dealing with. Uhura is forced to confront her uncertainty about where she belongs and what she wants to do with her life. Hemmer gives her valuable and unfiltered advice that forces her to challenge the way that she sees herself. It’s an excellent continuation of their engaging dynamic and the advice becomes even more poignant when Hemmer dies. Hemmer’s death also takes a toll on Spock who continues to struggle balancing his warring halves. Chapel gives him more choice lessons on humanity and offers him emotional support when he expresses concern over his inability to suppress his anger after he releases it. Hemmer’s death is impactful but may have been more so if the show had more episodes to explore him and his relationships to the other characters. Ortegas’ eulogy at his funeral is an example of a relationship that was never shown and his strong friendship with Spock was barely depicted. Uhura’s words have the necessary impact because the work was put in but that isn’t true of every character.
M’Benga is lightly tested when Oriana reminds him of his daughter. There is nothing more to this other than a reminder that he’s still struggling and that’s all it needs to be. La’an is the most definitively tested because it’s another encounter with the Gorn. She connects with Oriana as she sees herself in her and feels compelled to help for that reason. She gives advice on the distinction between living and surviving which shows that she has learned more than even she realised. La’an decides to leave the Enterprise temporarily to chase down flimsy leads that might reunite Oriana with her family out of determination to ensure Oriana doesn’t suffer as she did. The episode misses an opportunity where Pike is concerned to refer to the similarities between this situation and the one he is fated to encounter in the future. His role is largely passive which makes his presence almost pointless. This especially stands out when no reflection of the lives lost during this mission comes from him. The execution of the Gorn threat is excellent. It’s an episode that wears its influences on its sleeve and uses them in ways that compliment the storytelling. The setting is wonderfully depicted with the familiar surroundings distorted into something foreboding. Once again, the Gorn are terrifying thanks to the use of many horror tricks to ramp up the threat. The design on the Gorn when they are shown is stunning and fully backs up the ferocity that the dialogue builds up. It’s a stunningly directed episode that more than makes the viewer forget that most of the characters are invincible. Hemmer losing his life also legitimises the threat as it’s the unexpected death of a credited main cast member. This episode is a great example of the storytelling variety that Star Trek offers as a franchise and the best of the season so far.
- using continuity well by having various characters tested in ways they were previously
- Hemmer’s unfiltered advice to Uhura that forces her to challenge the way she sees herself
- the advice becoming more poignant when Hemmer dies
- Uhura appearing to resolve that inner conflict by heeding Hemmer’s words
- Hemmer’s moving death
- his death legitimising the threat of the Gorn
- his death taking a significant toll on Spock who continues to struggle with resolving his warring halves
- Chapel and Spock’s engaging dynamic continuing to be used well
- M’Benga’s contribution serving as a reminder that he’s struggling with the departure of his daughter
- La’an seeing herself in Oriana
- her advice to Oriana showing that she has learned and healed without realising it
- La’an once again facing up against the Gorn
- coverage of the Enterprise being a welcoming and supportive family
- making great use of the setting to create a horror-themed atmosphere
- horror tricks being used to ramp up the threat
- the Gorn being a terrifying threat
- missing an opportunity to connect the plot playing out to his known fate
- Pike’s role being passive and his presence almost pointless
- no reflection from Pike on the lives lost during this mission
- some of the key relationships referenced during Hemmer’s funeral not actually being shown
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