Wow. I am stunned. And heartbroken. And undeniably impressed.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 9 follows through magnificently on the promise of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 4, “Memento Mori,” with on-screen Gorn (albeit hatchlings) and a soul-crushingly poignant conclusion to Hemmer’s mentor relationship with Uhura.
It’s easy to forget that Uhura’s rotation in Engineering coincided with the Gorn encounter because… well, the Gorn encounter happened.
But the first occurrence of Team Hemura revealed a lot about both Hemmer and the cadet prodigy.
Uhura: We’re gonna be a team.
Hemmer: It’s not that simple. There’s a variety of data that only I can assess.
Uhura: And I’m the only one here with a working set of fingers.
Hemmer: I’m not fond of teams.
Uhura: Get fond.
Going back further to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 2, our hindsight goggles spot the seeds of their partnership when Uhura tells Hemmer off in the Aenar dialect of Andorian and storms off, and Hemmer states to Spock, “I like her.”
Hemmer’s death will likely draw comparisons to Tasha Yar’s demise on Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 Episode 23, but I want to be clear that although both deaths were shocking, there are significant differences.
Yar was murdered. Armus kills her out of curiosity and ennui, thinking it might amuse him. It was a death that affected the crew greatly and the fanbase even more as she was a popular and interesting character, one of only three women in the core cast that first season.
However, as has been pointed out repeatedly over the decades, her death is made more tragic by its meaninglessness. A character where integrity and strength were hallmarks is struck down, not while defending others or with any chance to defend herself but as a trivial passing fancy of a sadistic being.
Hemmer’s death — while precipitated by the Gorn venom infection which would eventually lead to his death — is one of choice and willing sacrifice.
Am I pleased that one of my favorite characters played by one of my favorite actors/artists has exited the series before the inaugural finale? Hell, no.
But, given the requirement for him to play out the Aenar acceptance of death he ascribes to, I can’t think of a more fitting and honorable way to go.
Hemmer: Humans waste so much life worrying about death. The Aenar believe the end only comes once you have fulfilled your purpose. It provides meaning.
Uhura: I like that. So what was your purpose?
Hemmer: To fix what is broken.
Hemmer’s death has profoundly consequential meaning, and his last words to Uhura carry the weight of literally being his last words ever. For a cadet still unsure of her way, they are an anchor in which she can put her faith.
I want to leave you with one last piece of advice. Open yourself. Make a home for yourself amongst others and you will find joy more often than sadness.
And although she makes no definitive statement in the denouement scenes, her long look at the communications station on the bridge is prophetic.
The writers do a good job playing it coy with character dynamics which is one reason Hemmer’s death took me so off-guard.
Cadet Chia? Lt. Duke? Who the heck are you? The moment they were tagged for the landing party, they might as well have donned red shirts, never mind that they actually wore Science Blue and Command Gold, respectively.
Duke: The anomalies. Is that what’s killing our coms?
Spock: Negative, ensign. It is the ionic interference that prevents long-range communication.
Kirk: Drink. You owe him a drink, Spock.
Chapel: Duke’s a lieutenant now. Call him an ensign, you gotta buy him a drink. Starfleet tradition.
Spock: Another human drinking game. Does their number have no limit?
So their deaths were expected, and considering we haven’t had many casualties in the series so far, that put our central crew in the safe zone, right?
Hence, the surprise.
The Gorn encounter taps into La’an’s trauma, an issue she’s taking active steps to address, according to her reveal that she’s been meeting with a Federation counselor.
Pike: Saved you a plate.
La’an: No thanks. I’m not hungry.
Una: You’re going to want to try the omelet. And the bacon.
M’Benga: And the waffle.
Introducing another girl-child survivor of a Gorn nursery planet is a deliberate chance for La’an to face her trauma head-on.
(That La’an’s brother was lost to the Gorn and Oriana’s IRL twin brother played the First Servant on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 6 is probably a weird and inadvertent parallel.)
My brother died like your friend. The Gorn got him. I know what it feels like to watch them hurt the people you love. You feel alone. Nobody understands the pain. But look at me now. These people I came with? My job is to keep them safe. And this crew? I believe we can do anything. Even defeat the Gorn. Ariana, trust me. There’s surviving. And then there’s living.
La’an choosing to take a leave from Enterprise to pursue the leads that might reunite Oriana with her family indicates a crucial change in her motivations. Her need to be a lone wolf has shifted now that there is someone who shares her experiences and needs her help to heal.
Of course, this leaves Pike without a Security Chief or a Head Engineer. Looks like there will be a few more promotions to announce.
Both encounters with the Gorn end in casualties. That the unknown number of hatchlings the Orion was carrying were able to take out most of the Peregrine’s crew of 99 is grim. Granted, they had no idea what to expect and no previous experience with the Gorn.
Sam Kirk under pressure is not a pretty sight. It bodes badly that the cadets kept it together better than he did.
Pike: What’s he saying?
La’an: The universal translator isn’t processing it. Uhura, do something.
Uhura: That’s not how linguistics works!
And his aggressive reaction to Spock’s observation doesn’t endear him to me at all. While he’s never seemed anti-Vulcan before, his accusations of Spock lacking all feeling smacks of Lieutenant Stiles from Star Trek: TOS. Maybe even a little early Bones.
Chapel’s terror is perhaps the first time we’ve seen our good nurse shaken.
She was more than capable of taking on (and evading) space pirates on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 7, but the shock of witnessing the carnage of Gorn hatching really sets her back.
Chapel: Tell me what’s going on.
Spock: I can’t control it. I have let something out. Rage. Pain.
Chapel: It’s your emotions.
Spock: My mind has gone weak.
Chapel: No, it doesn’t make you weak. Spock, it makes you human.
When later, she comforts Spock, it feels like she needs that contact as much as he does. He’s perhaps the safest colleague with whom to seek comfort. She knows he’d never try to turn it into something sexual.
There’s a lot to unpack in that relationship. It makes me wonder what Amanda and Sarek’s courtship was like.
As the penultimate episode of the season, this adventure sets a high bar for emotional investment, narrative growth, and momentary closure.
Now that several crewmates have experienced Gorn attacks, La’an is no longer alone in believing in monsters.
M’Benga’s slip of the tongue shows us he hasn’t yet gotten past Rukiya’s absence.
And with his parting words, Hemmer gifts Uhura with an answer to what she’s been seeking.
I’ve rotated through almost every department. So many amazing, talented people. The top every one of everything. They all know why they belong in Starfleet. For them, Starfleet has always been the destination. For me, it was where I ran to after the loss of my parents. Serving aboard Enterprise is an affirmation of this entire crew’s hopes and dreams. I envy their assurity. But me? I guess I’m still searching.
Pour one out for the Chief, folks. No one ever made him do anything he didn’t want to, and he went out as he lived, valuing life above all things.
Not to be disrespectful, but Hemmer’s passing does potentially open the door for a certain Scottish gentleman to step through. It’s a little early to contemplate, but it’s the obvious next step.
What say you, Fanatics? Was this Trek-tastic or the most blatant sort of emotional manipulation?
Where will they go with the finale?
Hit our comments with your thoughts and theories!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.