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Star Trek Strange New Worlds: All Those Who Wander

"They mostly come at night. Mostly."

This first season of Strange New Worlds has been all over the place (a.k.a. episodic), and that's a wonderful thing. I'm in love with this show and happy to watch them do anything. Even an outright Alien franchise ripoff, complete with skittering hatchlings and a chestburster scene.

The Gorn are this season's big bad, and they're not humanoid – they're reptilian monsters that come out of the dark to eat you. They're genetic chameleons invisible to sensors, and the landing party was stranded on a planet where transporters and communicators don't work. Splitting up the crew seemed like a logical choice in the beginning. Oops.

If this episode had a message, it was that working together and loving each other makes us stronger than the Gorn. The Enterprise crew survived the encounter because of teamwork while the Gorn hatchlings fought each other for dominance. It was telegraphed early on that someone in the crew would die. Cadet Chia and Ensign Lieutenant Duke were the obvious red shirts because we didn't know them.

We did know Chief Engineer Hemmer, though. His loss was an unwelcome surprise.


Of all of Uhura's departmental rotations in previous episodes, the one with Hemmer stood out. "Team Hemhura" faced death together once before. This time, Hemmer stepped in front of Uhura and took the attack meant for her. Before he deliberately sacrificed himself, he told Uhura that getting close to others wasn't just about pain, that she should let herself love. Unstated was the fact that Uhura and Hemmer had become close, and Hemmer knew it. Uhura just lost another father.

Damn it, I hated losing Hemmer. I cried for him. He was terrific, a wise, curmudgeonly pain in the ass who made me laugh, a committed pacifist who died the way he had lived. And sadly, the show just lost significant representation. Hemmer was a blind character played by a blind actor, something that just doesn't happen enough. Damn it.

At least, Uhura appears to have taken Hemmer's final words to heart. That last shot of Uhura looking at the communications station on the bridge hinted that she might take up Pike's offer to stay. And yes, she's a legacy character, but I don't believe we were ever told when Uhura joined the crew permanently.

(Personal segue. How can Uhura not want to serve in Starfleet? I spent my youth fantasizing about it. Okay, fiction, never mind.)

There were many other lovely character moments. M'Benga accidentally called Newt Oriana his daughter, a reminder that he just lost Rukiya, while La'an, channeling her childhood Gorn trauma, was at first mean to the girl. But even while teetering emotionally, La'an was a consistent team player, once again a needed fount of Gorn-related information for Pike.


Chapel and Spock continued their complicated flirtation. Spock suppressed his rage at the Gorn until Chapel gave him permission to get angry. In the end she hugged him, determined to give him comfort. He hugged her back, but wouldn't allow it to go further. I'm going to leap to the conclusion that something major is going to happen between them in next week's finale. Or at least I hope it will. Yes, I'm shipping them. Can't help it.

Even the opening scene farewell party featured great character interaction and just outright fun. Like Pike making Spock wash dishes. You'd think the replicator could do that, but a confused Spock in an apron was too good to miss.

It is obvious that the crew loves this captain. Any crew would. Christopher Pike knows what a leader is supposed to do, including the hardest of hard stuff, and he does it all extremely well. He makes it a pleasure to work for him by nourishing their spirits with encouragement, praise, humor and honesty, while nourishing their bodies with food he makes for them himself. I loved La'an's understated, reluctant acknowledgement that the plate of food he had made for her, that she at first refused, was delicious.


One final thing that I have probably mentioned every week: The production values in SNW are off the chart. The frozen planet visuals with the crashed ship in the background were creepily gorgeous. (Hemmer said that the cold and wind reminded him of Andoria. Remind me not to vacation there.) The blood-spattered interior of the Peregrine (an obviously redressed Enterprise) was chilling, pun intended, featuring flickering wall panels, debris and mist. "Buckley," the unfortunate blue guy, was a fully realized alien, not just an actor with facial appliances.

And the Gorn creatures themselves didn't feel like the usual CGI. I watched the Ready Room special with Wil Wheaton afterward (I don't always, but I was upset about Hemmer) and was surprised to learn that it wasn't CGI – the Gorn were puppets, with effects to remove the puppeteers. I'm genuinely impressed.

Bits:

— Stardate 2510.6, Uhura's log. The U.S.S. Peregrine made an emergency landing on Valeo Beta Five, a class L planet. Or did Spock say class O?

— Enterprise was supposed to deliver power cells to Deep Space Station K-7, which is where the original series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" took place.

— In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bruce Horak (Hemmer) revealed that he was told at the start that his character would die. He also revealed a tidbit at the bottom of the interview that might be a bit of a spoiler. Here it is in white; highlight to read. Horak said, "Well, I have been released to say that this is not the end of Bruce Horak’s career in Star Trek."

— While this episode was an obvious homage to Alien and Aliens, there were also bits of Gremlins and Predator. And the way La'an destroyed the frozen Gorn was very Terminator 2.

— Minor cliffhanger. La'an decided to honor her late brother by taking an indefinite leave to look for Oriana's family. I've become fond of La'an. I hope she hasn't left permanently.


— In this week's hair report, I just now realized that La'an's hairstyle is reptilian. Was that deliberate? Or were they just looking for "severe"?

— Title musings: "All Those Who Wander" is a Tolkien quote that feels applicable.
"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."

Quotes:

Una: "You sure you want to split up the crew?"
Pike: "It'll be fine, Number One. You get the supplies to K-7. I'll pile the kids in the station wagon, take a road trip."
Spock: "Sir? The station wagon?
Pike: "Anybody has to go, now's the time. Do not make me turn this car around."

Sam Kirk: "Drink. You owe him a drink, Spock."
Chapel: "Duke's a lieutenant now. Call him an ensign, you got to buy him a drink. Starfleet tradition."
Spock: "Another human drinking game. Does their number have no limit?"
Sam Kirk: "Nope."

Pike: "What's he saying?"
La'an: "Universal translator isn't processing it. Uhura, do something."
Uhura: "That's not how linguistics works!"


Chapel: "It's good to get mad sometimes."

Sam Kirk: (to Spock) "Can you feel anything? Or are you just some heartless, pointy-eared computer?"
I could actually hear DeForest Kelley saying this.

M'Benga: "It's dead, Chris."
Again, McCoy lives! A variation on "He's dead, Jim."

Hemmer: "Do not weep for me. I've had a good life. Time for me to go."

Ortegas: "This sucks. I hate funerals. But if Hemmer was here, he would remind us that this is a celebration. 'Exalt the fallen and commit them to the cosmos.' Then he would have scolded me for pushing the engines too hard. And I would have called him a blue meanie. And we'd laugh. And it wouldn't have felt like a funeral."

Next week is the finale already. This has been an amazing first season, and I have yet to be bored. This episode may have been the most derivative, but it was still very good.

Three out of four human drinking games. Does their number have no limit?

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

8 comments:

  1. I guess this means they will cast Scotty for season 2 now? Maybe each season they'll kill a cast member and replace them with a TOS character.

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    Replies
    1. As fun as it is having Spock and a young Uhura in the cast, I'm in no rush to see the rest of the TOS characters show up.

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    2. I'm not totally convinced it'll be Scotty. He's a tough character to cast, and there's plenty of time still between this point and TOS. I'd say it's about a 40% chance it's Scotty.

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    3. I doubt they'll bring on Scott this soon, agree. No reason, really -- but with all the other legacy characters, it does feel too soon.

      And if he shows up next week, I'll officially acknowledge my lack of predictive skills. :)

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  2. I've been absolutely LOVING Strange New Worlds! TOS is my favorite Star Trek show, and SNW is TOS, updated for modern sensibilities (no sexism! wider ethnic representation!) and with modern production values. THIS is the show I've been wanting since 1969!

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  3. One, you're not alone Billie. I too ship Chapel and Spock! And two, everything that Corylea just said.

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  4. I thought it was a rare misstep for them to be introducing two new characters in the opening scene ... until the landing party that included them got stuck on an ice planet with Gorn. Then it made perfect sense! I should have known better. What I didn't expect, though, was Hemmer's demise, red shirt notwithstanding. I can't believe we're already at the end of the season!

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