Strange New Worlds‘ “All Those Who Wander” in Review
Despite Hemmer’s wisdom on the meaning of life, Uhura has still not decided whether Starfleet is right for her. Meanwhile, Pike is hosting a goodbye for all the cadets who have completed their rotation on the Enterprise. Starfleet has picked up a distress signal from the USS Peregrine.
It’s amusing to see Pike later put an apron on Spock to do the dishes, which is as much comedy as we get in this episode. Several of the senior officers discuss the Peregrine, which has crashed on an icy planet near the Enterprise’s route. The ship is scheduled to deliver a supply of Vidium, which powers the life support systems, to a presumably Tribble-free Space Station K-7.
Since Vidium has an expiration date, Pike decides to lead a shuttle party to search for survivors from the crash and make repairs to the Peregrine, while Una and Ortegas will proceed on course with the Enterprise to K-7. Joining Pike is Spock, La’an, Sam, Uhura, Hemmer, Chapel, M’Benga, Cadet Chia, and the newly minted Lieutenant Duke.
The ice planet is a stunning use of CGI vistas, combined with virtual and practical sets, and is quite beautiful. Hemmer reminisces that the planet’s icy winds remind him of his homeworld, Andoria. The mission takes an ominous turn when a patch of frozen blood is found outside the downed ship.
Inside the spacecraft, the power is offline, with the Bridge ops hardwired through Engineering. There are frozen, bloody bodies both outside, terrifying Sam, and inside the crashlanded vessel. While Hemmer works on restoring power, Uhura accesses a captain’s log. It explains how the ship picked up three castaways from an M-class planet: an unknown alien, a human girl, and an Orion who was infected with Gorn eggs… which hatched, leading to mass slaughter and the crash.
Pike, Uhura and La’an meet the unknown alien, called “Buckley”, and the little girl, Oriana (Emma Ho, who played Cara Bissett in The Expanse; “Oriana” was the name of a planet in Laurell K Hamilton’s TNG novel Nightshade). Before long, La’an is somewhat freaking out, but Oriana tells her that “the monsters” are already gone.
Baby Gorn burst-hatch from Buckley in a matter of instants, killing Buckley and Cadet Chia, and forcing the rest of the team to play a game of cat-and-mouse. When Lieutenant Duke is dragged away down a corridor, Sam freaks out even more than La’an. Meanwhile, she and Chapel team up. La’an claims that, as the Gorn aboard the ship are hatchlings, if the team can trap some of them together, they’ll fight among themselves until there’s only the alpha left. Chapel also learns from La’an that the Gorn hate low temperatures. Moments after Pike calls for them all to meet in the vessel’s sickbay, Hemmer gets slimed by being spat in the face by one of the Gorn younglings.
Once in sickbay, Hemmer quips that he wasn’t the best target for the Gorn to attempt to blind with its slime. The team uses the the Gorn hatred of the cold to help track them. A plan develops requiring Spock to access his Vulcan internal anger to threaten the alpha and lead it into a trap in the cargo bay. There, Hemmer and Uhura are waiting to freeze it for La’an to satisfyingly smash.
But there’s a last twist – the Gorn had spat at Hemmer from Hell’s heart. La’an explains that this method is how the Gorn impregnate victims. Hemmer can feel the embryos within him and knows they’re growing faster, soon to hatch. He offers wise words to Uhura and then – in a moment perhaps referencing The Thing – he walks out into the ice. This allows him a semi-comforting death in a place that’s the closest thing to his homeworld.
It’s a dignified and affecting death scene… and annoying for those of us who had already grown attached to Hemmer as a favourite character. The loss does lead to closure for La’an, and Uhura remaining on the Enterprise Bridge.
The direction and pacing of this episode are solid, keeping up the tension. The dark lighting and shadows mean there’s a threat in every shot, while also helping disguise that it’s another secret bottle show, using the standing sets as the Peregrine interiors.
The episode’s writers may as well have just called Oriana “Newt”, since this installment is clearly a riff on Alien and Aliens. You can throw in Predator as well, for the POV thermal vision shots, and even The Thing, as this outing is a great capture of the mood of both of those too.
Fans will probably love it for the riffs – even down to musical references and echoes of the scores from the LV -426 and lab cues in Aliens. On the other hand, this means you pretty much know where they’re going with most of it, and there’s a shocking lack of originality. Voyager’s “Macrocosm” was often described as “Janeway does Ellen Ripley,” but as riffs on Alien and Aliens go, this is a far more loving and accurate portrayal of that ethos than “Macrocosm” was.
The Gorn have been the season’s big bad, but we haven’t seen the creatures themselves until now. Anybody expecting a lumbering stuntman in a green rubber suit is in for a disappointment. As is anyone anticipating a CG Gorn like the one from Enterprise‘s “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II”, though ridges on either side of the head are carried through from that design. This time around, we have slimy, long-clawed killers, with blades for fingers and spitting venomous slime. They range from chestburster-sized (unintentionally hilarious in the first shot) up to small-human-sized.
The Gorn younglings are effective for a survival-horror episode. We’re never in any doubt that the creatures are a serious threat. That they are is reinforced repeatedly by La’an’s promises of how no human could take on an adult alpha and survive… which would be true if they’re like the infant Gorn we see here. They’re so deeply developed as survival-horror threats that it’s impossible to relate them to the one in Enterprise, let alone the one in TOS. That’s unfortunate, because it’ll provoke fans to get out their torches and pitchforks.
Let’s be honest: this would have been a perfect Halloween episode if the series aired in autumn. As a survival-horror action piece with good monsters, the tragically doomed Hemmer, excellent riffing on Alien, Aliens, etc, it deserves five out of five. As an original idea and a return for a classic villain, it’s a one out of five. So, with that caveat, I’m going to split the difference and call this a distinctively mediocre episode.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.