‘Strange New Worlds’ “All Those Who Wander” is ‘Aliens’ but make it ‘Star Trek’
In “All Those Who Wander” Pike and his away team find themselves trapped on a frozen wasteland with the Gorn. They can escape, but at what cost?
In the fourth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds “Memento Mori” the Enterprise faces off against the Gorn. The crew survive but they notably never actually see the Gorn, just their ships. The Gorn’s return is inevitable, but “All Those Who Wander” brings them back sooner than Pike can expect or truly prepare for. And this time there are no ships and no vacuum of space for protection. And that changes everything.
To Boldly Recap (Alien)
Uhura is done being a cadet on the Enterprise. And as both she and another cadet say goodbye to their time on the ship, Spock receives a priority one mission from Starfleet. The U.S.S. Peregrine is unresponsive, meaning they are either out of range or stranded on an L-class planet called Veleo Beta V. Starfleet orders Enterprise to investigate.
The catches are two-fold. One, Veleo Beta V is a dead zone and that means no communicators and no transporters. The other catch is that Enterprise is already on a priority one mission to bring immediately-necessary power cells to a star base. La’an suggests that Captain Pike split the proverbial party so both missions can be undertaken at once. Pike decides to lead the away party himself, bringing, Uhura, La’an, Spock, Hemmer, M’Benga, Chapel, and Sam Kirk. Pike also brings two red shirts – guess why!
We never hear about Enterprise‘s other mission again because “All Those Who Wander” is about the missing ship. Shortly after Pike and crew arrive on the frozen world of Veleo Beta V, they find a few terrible things. One, the other ship is out of commission on the planet. Two, there is a lot of blood and no crew members to be found. And, three, the captain of the ship left behind a message saying she and her crew are likely dead.
It turns out the ship took on some passengers: a child, an unknown alien, and an Orion. The Orion was full of Gorn eggs. The resulting Gorn hatchlings appear to have killed everyone. All that remains are two mysterious lifeforms: one human and the other… unknown.
The unknown alien is ready to fight Pike’s entire team. Uhura figures out that the alien (named Buckley) is protecting a young girl named Oriana. These are the other two strays the ship picked up before the Gorn hatched. La’an bristles over why Oriana (who is a child) remained silent about the whole Gorn situation, but it seems that she and Buckley are clean of infection. “Seems” is the key word.
It doesn’t take long before Chapel discovers Buckley is sick. Moments later, a bunch of Gorn burst through Buckley. Two of the Gorn kill each other, and the rest kill Buckley and the not-Uhura ensign. And it doesn’t take long before they invade the rest of the ship and take out Lieutenant Duke (the other red shirt). Chapel barely survives as does Oriana.
At this point a lot happens. Sam Kirk loses his mind and takes it out on Spock for being logical. Hemmer gets a face full of Gorn acid spit. And Pike, ever the captain, rallies the team to come up with a plan. La’an points out that the Gorn will fight one another until only one survives. Pike sees this as a weakness. The other weakness the Gorn have is that they hate the cold. The plan is: wait until the Gorn are down to two survivors, trap them in the cargo bay, and freeze them to death.
The good news is that the plan works. Spock and La’an get the Gorn into the cargo bay. Hemmer blasts the final Gorn with cold air. And La’an busts that Gorn like it’s a piñata. The bad news is that Spock freaks out, La’an also freaks out, and also Hemmer is infected with Gorn eggs. Yes, the spray from earlier wasn’t an acid spray, it was an egg spray. And despite the fact that everyone begs him not to, Hemmer throws himself out of the ship, into a ravine, and dies to save everyone else.
Then there’s a bit of a coda. Uhura gives a speech at Hemmer’s memorial about how he fixes things and how he fixed her. Everyone is very sad about Hemmer and also those two other people who died, I guess. And Uhura, whose plan had been to leave Starfleet, decides to take Hemmer’s advice and stay on the Enterprise after all. By the way, a chunk of “All Those Who Wonder” is dedicated to Hemmer and Uhura talking about her future.
And the last thing that happens is that La’an takes a sabbatical to find Oriana’s family. Apparently La’an finds a lead to where Oriana comes from. Since La’an feels connected to Oriana (they both nearly die as children due to the Gorn), she decides to take ownership in helping the kid out. Pike promises La’an that he will smooth her leave of absence over with Starfleet. Also, Spock and Chapel almost kiss again after Spock admits that he’s angry all the time now.
And that’s the end! Gosh, let’s dig in, shall we?
To Boldly Review
As a media critic with over a decade’s experience, my technical and professional assessment of “All Those Who Wander” is that there’s too much booty for the pants. The booty, she is just busting out the back of those Starfleet-issue pants, good lord! “All Those Who Wonder” has so many subplots and only around fifty minutes to dedicate to them. And that’s the problem: the writers stuff a feature-length plot into an episode-length timeframe. Too much. Booty. For the pants.
But first, let’s talk about what works. La’an’s complex reaction to the Gorn and Oriana is great. This feels like an emotional follow-up for her from “Memento Mori” and La’an is genuinely learning to cope with her trauma. When La’an yells at Oriana for not doing enough, it’s clear she is actually mad at herself and that makes perfect sense. Resolving that story by having La’an leave to help Oriana find her family shows tremendously satisfying character growth.
Similarly, the relationship between Hemmer and Uhura is one of the best things about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season one. Hemmer’s encouragement as Uhura works to find her place in the world is lovely, and, above all else, it’s kind. Watching people be intuitively kind this season is something I think we all needed to see very badly.
And, on the flipside, the Gorn once again are effectively unnerving in “All Those Who Wander”. Yes, there’s more than a bit of the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise mixed with Predator and just a dash of Jurassic Park velociraptors. But that combination works more than it doesn’t keeping the Gorn as the scariest Star Trek villains in decades.
M’Benga, Spock, and Kirk – Can We Talk?
Unfortunately, not every character gets a satisfying arc in “All Those Who Wander”. In “The Elysian Kingdom” M’Benga gives up his daughter so she can live forever with her cool new nebula mommy. It makes sense that he is still not over essentially losing a daughter, but the execution of his trauma is weird. M’Benga accidentally calls Oriana his daughter in some extremely clunky dialogue. There just isn’t enough time to flesh out M’Benga’s trauma so we get a shorthand version instead and it doesn’t work.
In “Children of the Comet” we get the sense that Sam Kirk is maybe not the best at decision-making under pressure. But in “All Those Who Wander” Kirk goes so far off the rails it’s a wonder he isn’t court-martialed. Spock is literally his boss and Kirk picks multiple fights because Spock is logical. Spock is a Vulcan, logic is his own deal, and there’s no way Kirk doesn’t know that. It seems to me that the writers needed a character to crack up in order to build tension and so they just picked Kirk. But that kind of emotional break requires both a build-up and a pay-off and we get neither.
And then there’s Spock – the other person who loses their mind this episode. Spock starts out fine, a random crew member dies, Kirk picks a fight over it, and suddenly Spock is a screaming maniac. It all happens way too fast and leads to Spock and Chapel almost kissing again in a scene that simply feels unearned. Again, it’s really obvious what’s happening here: the writers are setting up the Sybok arc and the Chapel/T’Pring love triangle, but there isn’t enough time for it all.
Too much booty for the pants.
Skin of Evil
Around “Ghosts of Illyria” I realized we were going to lose a big character in the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. At the time, I was convinced either La’an or Una would bite it because they fill very similar roles. Instead, Hemmer dies and my feelings on this choice are mixed. On the one hand, they got me because I sobbed like an absolute infant when he died. On the other hand, Hemmer’s death feels somewhat unearned in the context of “All Those Who Wander”.
Hemmer is sprayed by the Gorn and about half an hour later he’s dead. There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where they say that Gorn hatchlings grow at different rates in different bodies, but this is ridiculous. It’s too fast and extremely telegraphed. Watching Hemmer give Uhura fatherly advice about her future all I could think was, “oh, he’s toast”. As he slowly walks to hurl himself off the ship, the entire crew keeps insisting he does not have to die. And all I could think is that they are right. Hemmer’s death is immensely sad, but it’s also tremendously frustrating because it seems awfully preventable.
If you are a long-time Star Trek fan, Hemmer’s death is also very familiar. In the 23rd episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s first season “Skin of Evil” Tasha Yar dies at the hands of an alien called Armus. That death is shocking, but not necessarily in the way it was intended to be. Yar’s death is the result of Denise Crosby wanting out of her contract and it shows. The death is heart-breaking but the suddenness of it left viewers cold. Hemmer’s death makes me feel similarly and I suspect a lot of fans will have the same reaction.
Stray Observation Deck
In lieu of the usual references to Star Trek‘s past, let’s just list the ways “All Those Who Wander” cribs from the Alien franchise! The Enterprise receives orders counter to their current mission that require they visit a planet where they find deadly aliens, just like Alien! Oriana is the sole child survivor on Veleo Beta V, just like Newt in Aliens! And La’an takes her as her own, just like Ripley in Aliens! Hemmer hurls himself from a great height to his doom before the aliens can burst through him. Just like Ripley in Alien 3!
Oh, no, is Section 31 going to retrieve Hemmer’s body and clone him in an effort to create and train the Gorn? Please, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: do not, under any circumstances, make me say the phrase “Just like in Alien: Resurrection” about an episode of your show. I beg.
Questions, Queries, and Quibbles
Hey, did “All Those Who Wander” feel like a season finale for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to anyone else? The biggest question for the actual season finale is, “Now what?” And the answer will surprise you. Whether or not the surprise is good or bad is something we will talk about next time. In the meantime, let us know what you think of this episode and what your predictions for next week’s episode are.
Until next time, this is your humble recapper signing off. Hailing frequencies closed, sir.