Star Trek has always been a multi-genre show. While many would place it squarely into the realm of science fiction, it’s always excelled at comedy, as we’ve seen during previous weeks of Strange New Worlds. Equally, the show will occasionally dip its toes into horror, with episodes featuring the Borg being notable there. And with Star Trek finding its home on Paramount+, the franchise has been able to move in a more adult direction, and as we find out from this week’s episode, “All Those Who Wander.”
This is true sci-fi-horror, and the comparisons with Alien and Predator are apparent. This is traditional “base under siege” storytelling with our cut-off crew being stalked by a monstrous adversary, the Gorn. The tease of the Gorn earlier in the season always felt like it was leading to something bigger, and while the episode is still “small” in scope, it certainly feels like the Enterprise crew are in a lot more danger than they’ve ever been.
Rehabilitating the Gorn was no easy task, with 50 years of mockery and hilarity to overcome. However, long gone are the thoughts of men in rubber suits in awkward fights with Captain Kirk. This is the stuff of nightmares. Again influenced by Alien and perhaps the velociraptors of Jurassic Park, Strange New Worlds leans heavily into the Gorn’s reptilian origins.
The episode begins with a rescue mission, with Uhura and the other cadets being sent out one last time. “All Those Who Wander” doesn’t have one primary focus, with quality material for Uhura, Spock, L’aan, and Pike, drawing together threads the show has been weaving all season.
The scenes of the crew discussing the mission while cleaning up the kitchen show how wonderfully the team has come together as a family. However, L’aan and Pike’s decision to form a landing party and send the Enterprise away is short-sighted, showing that this crew is far from infallible. Like the audience, perhaps they’ve become too comfortable.
Down on the planet, everything is rightfully atmospheric. Considering what comes next, the ice and snow are reminiscent of The Thing. The tension builds slowly from these early moments, with the first bloody corpse soon giving way to much more. Inside the downed vessel, every shadow potentially hides a new horror.
Death comes to the Enterprise
The first on-screen appearance of the Gorn has Alien written all over it, with the eggs hatching and bursting through the skin in horrific style. The viewer knows what’s coming, with the episode building magnificently toward the moment. The Gorn themselves have been wisely redesigned and finally actually look like something that belongs in Star Trek. And with these being mere babies, there’s still more to see.
The predicament shows who the crew members are as characters, as always happens when people get thrust into unexpected danger. Pike shows what a true leader he is, Uhura finds the inner strength she doubts, Hemmer shows his wisdom, and L’aan shows her singular focus on the Gorn. Spock, meanwhile, is surprising. As he continues to fight between his human and Vulcan sides, his inner rage at seeing a crewman die is unleashed, and his fury is near homicidal.
Meanwhile, the death of Hemmer is entirely unexpected with no foreshadowing, which makes it all the more shocking. Star Trek hasn’t shied away from killing crew members before, with Tasha Yar and Jadzia Dax being memorable. However, the death of Hemmer feels all the more tragic as the character had barely been explored, with the unique concept behind the pacifistic and blind character somewhat wasted.
That’s not to say the death scenes aren’t exceptionally well done. Much like Spock in The Wrath of Khan, Hemmer sacrifices himself to save everyone else, and isn’t able to say a proper goodbye. Spock’s acknowledgment that the needs of the many will always outweigh the needs of the few is a nice touch.
While we know that Pike, Spock, Chapel, Uhura and M’Benga are safe, anybody else could be next. For all the fun we’ve had this season, “All Those Who Wander” brings home that there are real consequences for our characters.
These consequences don’t end with Hemmer, as L’aan telling Pike that she intends to leave the Enterprise as we close the episode. “All Those Who Wander,” in many ways, feels like a season finale, with the crew being irrevocably changed. The departures aren’t finished, however, with the proper conclusion just a week away.
While much of Strange New Worlds has been pleasant viewing, this was something different. Here Strange New Worlds was thrust into the brutal reality of modern television, with echoes of the darker moments from Picard, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine.
“All Those Who Wander” shows that Strange New Worlds isn’t just about nostalgia. The dangers of this earlier era are all too real, and just like the crew of the Enterprise, we should never get too comfortable.