‘Strange New Worlds’ races to its conclusion with a spot-on ‘Aliens’ riff

The following article contains significant spoiler for all hikers.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has never been ashamed to tip its hat to the stories it takes up, some more obvious than others. This week’s episode, All Who Wander, might as well have been “Fuck it, we’re just gonna do it.” ForeignerLuckily it’s so good you won’t have time to bother with copying James Cameron’s 1986 original. This is the best episode of Strange New Worlds yet raise the bar and stakes for next week’s finale.

We start with the welcome and now familiar sight of the Enterprise crew hanging out around Pike’s captain’s table. It’s such a pleasure to see the crew hanging out and having fun together as the show invests many hours showing that these people generally like each other. Ensign Duke is promoted while cadets Chia and Uhura are fired when they retire from the Enterprise. But the levity is interrupted, firstly by Uhura, who is still unsure if Starfleet is right for her, and secondly by an ominous message from headquarters. A Federation starship goes missing while surveying an unstable planet, and Pike must search for it.

But the Enterprise already has an urgent mission to power Starbase K7, so Pike decides to conduct a rescue mission using shuttles. dr M’Benga, Chapel, La’an, Spock, Hemmer, Lt. Kirk and Duke and cadets Uhura and Chia join him. Meanwhile, Number One and Ortegas put the ship back on its original course, which means this is the fifth or sixth episode of this series in which Number One barely features. Perhaps due to her higher profile, Rebecca Romijn negotiated far fewer days of shooting each week than the rest of the cast.

When the shuttles reach the planet and land in the shadow of the crashed USS Peregrine, it doesn’t take long for the episode to descend into horror. The floor is littered with corpses, and the ship itself is covered in bloodstains from someone trying in vain to hold on to the floor while being dragged away. And despite the fact that this is another episode shot primarily on the Enterprise sets, clever lighting and directing makes it feel more like the sinister LV-426 overall Foreigner.

And then there’s Newt Oriana, a young girl who learned to survive previous Gorn attacks by becoming partially savage. Much more than the shallow memento mori, this episode aims to rehabilitate the Gorn from the comedy rubber suit of the ’60s and the awkward CG of the early ’00s. Now they’re the Trek version of the eponymous Xenomorph, complete with acid bile, four-footed movement, and body-horror reproductive processes. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the kind of episode to watch with your kids, especially when blue-shirted cadet Chia succumbs to a chestburster.

Image from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 109

Marni Grossman / Paramount+

It also helps that the Gorn are rarely seen properly, despite some excellent creature designs, the Shadows are always a better way to experience a villain like this. At the end of the episode, the crew takes one foreigners3-style hunt through corridors while luring the Gorn into a trap. Choosing to shoot from the Gorn perspective also helps add to the sense of fear and tension as our crew is being followed from every corner.

But the best moments are when the crew, trapped in the infirmary, start to feel the screws turning on them. La’an starts berating Oriana, the child she sees so much of herself in before Dr. M’Benga snaps at her about leaving his daughter…his Patiently alone. Lt. Meanwhile, Kirk begins to lash out at Spock for his lack of empathy just before Spock unleashes his own emotions to lure the Gorn into a trap. And the best part is that it all feels totally deserved and characterful as we’ve seen these people get those special scars. Eventually, the promise of emotional continuity is fulfilled as we see the Enterprise crew nearly cracking under pressure.

Of course, we have to give additional credit to Hemmer, who is again paired with Uhura for some grace notes. The fact that even Uhura gave them a compound name (Hemura!) speaks to how enjoyable it is to watch the couple’s interaction. And when Hemmer reveals that the glob of alien spit he received earlier in the episode means he’s also loaded with Gorn Eggs, that’s a big blow. I have a feeling Hemmer was already a character we fell in love with and his departure hurts, even if he has a graceful, foreigners3-esque Swan Dive Death for a farewell. Please give Bruce Horak his own spin-off or something.

(I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who noticed that the deaths of Duke, Chia, and Hemmer means we’ve seen the demise of the yellow, blue, and red shirts in a single episode. Hacky standups gotta looking for a better punchline to their Star Trek jokes in the future.)

Also, I feel like I’ve been remiss in not praising this cast, and Jess Bush in particular, enough. Bush often has to sell a fair amount of stuff in her limited screen time, and does so with ease. Here, as in The Serene Squall, she shows Chapel how to adapt to survive against a threat, and she sells it so well.

The episode ends with many episodes, Uhura decides to stay on board after Hemmer’s departure encouraged her to put down roots. La’an takes a vacation to try to reunite Oriana with her family, and Spock’s emotional outburst scarred him. Pike, meanwhile, must be heading for trouble given how freely he’s handling his life knowing his future is already set in stone to see how we end up in the finals from here.

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Russell Falcon

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