Star Trek: Strange New Worlds review, Episode 206: Don’t forget Hemmer!

Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura and Paul Wesley as James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura and Paul Wesley as James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ /

One of the exciting things about the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has been watching the loose threads from season 1 get tied up. But there was one loose thread that I had a queasy feeling wouldn’t get addressed: why did poor Hemmer have to die?

Hemmer, played by Bruce Horak, was the Enterprise’s chief engineer in season 1. He was an Aenar, who are blind, but “see” telepathically. The Aenar believe that death only comes for those who have fulfilled their life’s purpose and that his purpose was to fix what was broken. So he approached being a Starfleet engineer with a solemn pseudo-religious fervor. Fans enjoyed his gruff exterior and kind, philosophical outlook.

It was mystifying when Hemmer was killed off in season 1. Some assumed that his death was setup for a future arc, but it seems that he died just to demonstrate that main characters could die. Showrunner Henry Alonso Myers was concerned that with so many legacy characters in Strange New Worlds, the show would lack dramatic tension. We know that characters like Spock, Uhura and Kirk cannot die because this is a prequel, so why worry about them when they get into perilous situations? Hemmer’s death established that we were still in dangerous territory.

This, in the words of Hemmer’s delightful replacement Pelia, is “malarky.”

If a show lost its dramatic tension just because we knew that all the characters survive, then nothing would have any rewatch value. Movies and TV shows are not like football games that you watch primarily to see who wins. A good story puts its heroes in situations that seem hopeless, and the dramatic tension comes from watching the heroes persevere. It’s the struggle, not the victory that makes good viewing.

I’m not saying that main characters can’t ever die, I’m just saying it’s not necessary for dramatic tension.

Strange New Worlds has been praised for being a return to classic Star Trek, unlike its antecedent, Star Trek: Discovery, which wanted to be a new Star Trek for a new generation. Killing off characters just to raise the stakes was a cheap trick that Discovery pulled a few too many times. Whereas, on classic Star Trek, you could almost always be certain that all the main characters would survive. If Strange New Worlds wants to be classic Star Trek, it needs to learn to live with the limitations of classic Star Trek. Limitations often make for better art.

But even with the disappointing behind-the-scenes rationale for Hemmer’s death, they still could’ve used it as a setup. That’s what I was hoping for, and what I felt wouldn’t happen.

The Hemmer haunting

Hemmer’s death doesn’t quite set up this episode, but it’s a significant part of it. What made Hemmer so loveable was his mentorship of the young Uhura, so appropriately, this is Uhura’s episode for her to process the death of her friend and mentor. But coming after the midway point of the season, with Hemmer not even being mentioned until now, it feels like an afterthought. This episode’s biggest flaw could’ve been solved simply by coming sooner in the run order.

The Enterprise is on a mission to repair a deuterium collecting station. Deuterium, as Uhura helpfully explains in her log, is “starship fuel.” But when the Enterprise starts collecting deuterium for itself, Uhura hears a funny screeching noise that she believes to be a signal, but when she tries to put it on the speaker, it’s gone. Believing this to be a fault in the communications system, she goes to the nacelle room to fix the receiver by watching a tutorial she recorded with Hemmer.

After leaving the nacelle room she’s confronted by a vision of a zombie Hemmer. In sick bay, Dr. M’Benga explains that she experienced a hallucination caused by mild deuterium poisoning and a lack of sleep. He orders her to get some sleep. While she’s tossing and turning, she hears the red alert klaxon and runs to the bridge only to see the viewscreen shatter and everyone get sucked out into space. Unsurprisingly, that’s a hallucination too.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise is being assisted by another Starfleet ship, the Farragut, whose crew includes a young executive officer named James T. Kirk. I believe this is the first time we’ve seen SNW’s Kirk outside of alternate timelines, and I gotta say, ‘Im warming to him. I’ve griped that Paul Wesley is playing a different version of the character and that he doesn’t read as the same character from the original series like SNW’s Spock and Uhura do. But once you get over the shock of a new Kirk, Paul Wesley plays the role well.

Is there a love triangle forming on the final frontier?

Kirk beams over to the Enterprise, and after squabbling with his brother Sam he meet-cutes with Uhura, who’s trying to drink what she’s seen off her mind. A few weeks ago, we saw romance blooming between Kirk and La’an Noonien-Singh, but that was an alternate-timeline Kirk, and only La’an retains the memory of it. I hope we’re not setting up a La’an-Kirk-Unura love triangle, but if it comes to it, I’m team La’an. La’an and Kirk together was so meaningful and tender.

If there is something between Kirk and Uhura, that would recontextualize one of the original series’ most famous scenes. In 1969, Shatner’s Kirk and Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura shared TV’s first interracial kiss. It was a landmark moment in TV history, but in the story the two are under mind-control, being forced to perform for the entertainment of villainous Platonians. So the two didn’t actually have a romance. But there was chemistry between Kirk and Uhura here, even if it goes nowhere. Knowing there was pre-existing affection between the two makes that moment from the original series feel more meaningful.

Uhura is, of course, in no mood for a meet-cute. But when she leaves, she finds the corridor filled with dead bodies and a shadowy figure creeping up on her. She throws a punch only to find a bloody-faced Kirk on the ground. She offers to take him to sick bay, but he points out that if she’s punching people who aren’t there, she may want to avoid doctors who can take her off active duty. Instead, they go to her quarters, where they try to work out what’s going on.

Uhura has her Eureka moment

Over at the deuterium station, Una Chin-Riley and Pelia are working on repairs. Chin-Riley is being a massive jerk to Pelia, until Pelia proposes that the station has been sabotaged. That’s when they find a Starfleet officer hiding in the corner, babbling and seemingly going through the same thing as Uhura. They beam him to the Enterprise’s sick bay, where he escapes and makes for the nacelle room to blow up the warp nacelles. Uhura tries to talk him down, but Kirk pulls her out just as he sets off the explosion, crippling the Enterprise and getting himself sucked out into space.

Uhura goes back to the video tutorial with Hemmer and realizes what’s going on. A throwaway line of technobabble from Hemmer about turning up the gain on the subspace transceiver leads her to realize that interdimensional aliens who live off deuterium are being harmed by the harvesting of deuterium. They’re trying to communicate that to her, telepathically, but their message is getting “Lost in Translation,” which is the title of the episode. They’re scared, hence the scary imagery. It’s a stretch, but it works.

Captain Pike’s strength is the connection he has formed with his crew; this goes back to his first appearance on Discovery. In a fantastic demonstration of the trust he places in his officers, Pike orders everyone off the station and has it destroyed. A vision of a smiling de-zombified Hemmer confirms that it has worked.

The trouble with “Lost in Translation”

The B-story with Una Chin-Riley and Pelia at the deuterium station underlines this episode’s biggest flaw, which is the sudden significance of Hemmer’s death. When Pelia asks Una what her problem was, Una first answers that she doesn’t like Pelia’s lax attitude towards rules and regulations, then pivots to an old complaint about Pelia giving her a bad grade when Pelia taught at Starfleet Academy. In the end, Pelia deduces that Una is upset about Pelia replacing her friend and assures Una that she understands. This would’ve been a touching moment if we’d seen any previous indication that Una was carrying unresolved grief over Hemmer.

There was no interaction between Una and Uhura in this one. It seems like a strange coincidence that they’d both be processing Hemmer’s death at exactly the same time when it hadn’t been mentioned before this season. The whole thing feels a little disingenuous.


We’re just past season 2’s halfway point, so it was appropriate that this episode ended with a momentous event: the first meeting between Kirk, Spock and Uhura. But it didn’t feel like the episode earned it.

Having said that, each episode this season has been devoted to one single character (mostly), and “Lost in Translation” did right by Uhura. We got to know who she is, how she interacts with others, and see her struggle with something. From a plot perspective, this episode had serious faults, but as a character episode, it’s solid.

Next. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 205: Spock, you got some ‘splainin to do. dark

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