“All Those Who Wander”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Episode 9 – Debuted Thursday, June 30, 2022
Written by: Davy Perez
Directed by Christopher J. Byrne
A pivot into sci-fi horror delivers with real scares and emotional punch.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“If you’re watching this, chances are we didn’t survive.”
The Enterprise is headed to station K-7 on a priority one mission to deliver some power cells as Pike takes some time out to celebrate some milestones for Uhura and a couple of other characters we meet for the first time who will certainly make it through this whole episode. Uhura is looking forward to returning to Earth, and even though Pike has given her an open invitation to join the crew, she is “still searching” for a path. The celebration amongst Pike’s delicious waffles is disrupted by another priority one mission to follow up on a distress beacon from the USS Peregrine, which has crash-landed on an inhospitable planet in a “dead zone”—not an ominous bit of foreshadowing at all. Pike orders Una to continue the delivery mission as he and the kids will pile into the station wagon (his words) to pop down to LV-426–sorry, Valeo Beta 7–to check in on that crashed ship.
Pike’s shuttle party is comprised of Spock, La’an, Hemmer, Chapel, M’Benga, Uhura, and Sam Kirk, along with Lt. Duke and Cadet Chia who we just met… hmm. Hemmer is feeling at home on this barren windswept ice ball with no signs of life, but they soon find signs of death: torn-up bodies of much of the Peregrine’s crew are strewn about outside the crash. Things get even creepier as they enter the abandoned powerless ship and listen to the dead captain’s last log warning Starfleet to “stay away.” The cause of the crash was an Orion they picked up who tried to kill himself with a plasma grenade because he was infected… with Gorn eggs. Oh, and Pike’s team has now detected a couple of life signs on the ship: one human, one “unknown.” Uh oh.
“Shoot anything that moves.”
Pike leads a group through corridors full of mangled bodies to sickbay, where they find an angry blue alien pointing a weapon. With the universal translator no help, Uhura surmises he must be protecting that other life sign and after a little de-escalation, they meet a scared little girl named Oriana, who calls her alien pal Buckley. They came on board along with that Orion who kicked off the ship’s deadly chain of events. La’an insists M’Benga scans the s—t out of them; she’s worked out that they’re refugees from a Gorn breeding planet. Even though the scans were negative, it doesn’t take long to realize something is off with Buckley—actually, something was in Buckley… itty bitty Gornies, four of whom burst out, killing him and Chia before skittering off. La’an and Christine find a terrified Oriana hiding in a storage bay, protected by the cold. Apparently, the Peregrine crew lured the first wave of Gorn hatchlings to the frozen planet’s surface where they died, “but now they’re back.” La’an sees her younger self in the terrified child and digs deep to give her a pep talk to get them moving.
After one hatchling is killed by the others, La’an informs us there are three left, who will mature quickly and fight for dominance. Great. It doesn’t take long for the critters to find Lt. Duke in a Jeffries tube and drag him away, shrugging off Pike’s phaser fire. All of this has Sam channeling his inner Private Hudson as he frets they will become “lizard chow” unless they get the hell off this ship. In Engineering, Hemmer and Uhura (or as she coins, “Team Hemura,” aww) busy themselves with power restoration and some more bonding as they continue their chat about her finding a purpose in life. He suggests she stop drifting, surmising she is scared to put down roots. Just as he powers up the ship, they hear some ominous skittering before they spot a noticeably bigger little Gorn… they grow up so fast, don’t they? The pint-sized monster spits caustic venom onto Hemmer, then gets run off by La’an, who shows up just in time. Or did she?
“It’s time for me to go.”
Once regrouped in sickbay, the landing party determines the Gorn are invisible to sensors, scanners, and even Hemmer’s telepathy. Spock finds this “impressive,” an assessment that sends Sam on another rant, this time about Spock being a “pointy-eared computer.” Dude, it’s not the 1960s anymore, uncool. La’an warns the two remaining Gorn will fight for dominance; they may be a just few hours old, but they are smart little critters. Because they are super-fast (these aren’t your father’s Gorn), the plan is to lure them into a choke point by freezing off sections of the ship, using their own aggression and aversion to the cold against them. To push the Gorn along, Spock has to tap into his primal Vulcan rage, pitting the final two against each other. La’an confronts the remaining Alpha, taunting it by throwing down her phaser and challenging it to fight her as she runs into the shuttle bay and an awaiting container before the compartment is flash-frozen, turning the terrifying creature into a Gorncicle… which she satisfyingly shatters.
Problem solved, let’s go home… wait, something’s wrong with Hemmer. “I’m going to go outside now.” Now La’an drops her last and most devastating GornFactTM: the venom isn’t just venom, it’s how they reproduce. With no time for M’Benga and Chapel to find a cure, Hemmer calmly tells the crying crew, “My sacrifice will save the lives of those I care most about.” Uhura is hit the hardest, but he leaves her with one last piece of advice to make a home for herself and to not weep as he has had “a good life.” With that, the Aenar engineer we were just getting to know and love steps into the bracing cold, which reminds him of his home on Andoria, and falls down any icy chasm. Okay, I am crying.
Things wrap up back on the USS Enterprise with a memorial service for the three lost crew, and some nice thoughts from Ortegas about the “blue meanie.” Uhura reveals she saw her late father in Hemmer, but she sees how he fulfilled his life’s purpose to fix what was broken. This appears to include her own struggle for a life path, now leading her to a home on the Enterprise. But one member of the landing party remains broken: Spock has to leave the funeral to punch a dent into a corridor. Christine sees his pain as he struggles with the rage he let out and “can’t control.” A hug and some calming words settle him… for now. As for La’an, she has decided to take leave to help little Oriana find her family, but Pike lets her know she too will always have a home on the Enterprise.
In space, we actually can hear you scream
Strange New Worlds successfully takes on sci-fi horror and delivers with a fast-paced episode full of action, terror, and emotion, but still with an important spark of Star Trek optimism. Borrowing heavily (perhaps too heavily) from the Alien, Predator, and Jurassic Park franchises, director Christopher J. Byrne and writer Davy Perez delivered something that will stand with the best of this Trek sub-genre, which has always been part of the franchise since it kicked off with the monster-themed “The Man Trap” in September 1966. The episode was enhanced by standout performances, particularly from Bruce Horak, Ethan Peck, and Christina Chong, along with spot-on music to build the tension and spectacular visual effects, plus impressive puppetry to reimagine the Gorn as something truly terrifying.
Inside the horror movie atmosphere is mix of hope and heartbreak. The season arcs for a number of our characters pay off in this penultimate episode in satisfying if not melancholy ways. Not only does this build on La’an’s tragic childhood issues with the Gorn, but the episode goes a long way to tempering her anger, showing a softer side with the young Oriana. Spock also gets some attention here, with some of the most intense exploration of the ongoing struggle with his human/Vulcan balance, with dutiful Christine right there with him. And while shunting Number One off for most of an episode has become a noticeable issue for the series; making it appear they don’t know what to do with this character, in this case, it made sense to keep the focus on the other arcs.
The biggest payoff comes from Uhura, who bookends the episode and was set up early in the season as drifting her way into Starfleet; it was through Hemmer’s mentorship that she can now see a way forward to make long-lasting connections on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, which we know is her true destiny. Her final lesson came at the steepest price, but goes some way to mitigate and even celebrate his sacrifice, which was well-earned with a surprising but well-played death scene. It is a shock for a major cast member to be killed off, especially for a show that’s known for its lighter tone, but the showrunners deserve credit for taking that risk, even though it’s quite sad to say goodbye to a character we were just getting to know and will deeply miss. Since it appears this was the plan all along, this is likely more than just part of Uhura’s arc, but will open up the door to introduce a new (possibly familiar) chief engineer in season two.
Gorn to be wild
The other arc advanced in this episode was for the Gorn, now seen as the recurring villain for season 1 and maybe longer. The showrunners have decided to take the iconic species introduced in the TOS episode “Arena” and reimagine them, laying the groundwork in “Memento Mori” and now fully realized here, where we got our first look at the new Gorn. It is clear they have made a conscious choice to bend and even break canon a bit in order to make the Gorn into cunning and terrifying space lizards. If you can get past that, then this show’s Gorn are truly formidable and believable, helped along by modern technology, including some impressive practical effects instead of just leaning on CG. And Strange New Worlds is also expanding Gorn lore as this episode reveals quite a bit about why they are so dangerous, with each adult Gorn likely the alpha of their own clutch.
So maybe there is a reason Spock kept quiet years later with the first mention of the Gorn in “Arena,” perhaps internally triggered over the loss of his logic during this encounter. And if you need some headcanon to keep you going, maybe the guy in that rubber suit on TOS is a representative of what geriatric Gorn are like.
Strange New Worlds ticks off another sub-genre with success. This freshman season continues to impress on a show that has figured out a balance between serialized character stories and episodic plots set on new worlds. It’s a shame there is only one episode left.
- This is the second Strange New Worlds writing credit for co-executive producer Davy Perez, who has had experience in this genre before after working on multiple seasons of Supernatural (and was also born on Halloween).
- This is the fourth Star Trek credit for director Christopher J. Byrne, who has helmed three episodes of Discovery.
- Stardate 2341.6.
- The Enterprise has a counselor (dubbed “headshrinker by La’an) named Dr. Sanchez for “Starfleet Recovery Assistance.”
- The Enterprise was headed to station K-7, first featured in the TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”… so did Una and Ortegas pick up any tribbles while there?
- K-7’s power cells used Vidium, a new Star Trek substance possibly related to Invidium, used in the 24th century for biological containment, seen in TNG’s “Hollow Pursuits”
- Valeo Beta V is Class L, the second of this barely habitable type seen on the series, following Prospect VII from episode 6.
- Pike’s command code is 246810, which M’Benga recognized he has used for a while.
- There have been multiple ships in the US and Royal Navy with the name Peregrine, named for a type of falcon. In the 24th century, the Maquis use Peregrine-class courier ships.
- While the USS Peregrine looked almost exactly like the Enterprise (allowing re-use of the sets), it was not another Constitution-class, but a Sombra-class ship, which is described as using the same parts, but faster and with a smaller crew.
- M’Benga previously served on a Sombra-class ship.
More to come
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New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debut on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., Latin America, Australia and the Nordics. The series airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada. In New Zealand, it is available on TVNZ, and in India on Voot Select. Strange New Worlds will arrive via Paramount+ in select countries in Europe when the service launches later this year, starting with the UK and Ireland in June.