Hey! Hallie here!
The first season of ‘Strange New Worlds’ is now finished airing. I’m going to miss getting an episode of this show every week, but if I’m being honest, neither of these episodes was the show at its best. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both of them. But I had major issues with some of the writing in both. This series has been some of the most fun I’ve ever had with ‘Star Trek’ and it definitely has the potential to be placed among Star Trek’s best series, like ‘Deep Space Nine’ and ‘The Next Generation’. That said, I was still a bit disappointed to close off the season with these two. Needless to say, I’m going to be bringing back the “What I Disliked” section for this review. But it definitely won’t all be negative! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
‘All Those Who Wander’:
What I Liked:
Uhura and Hemmer: Every time the series decided to pair off these two characters, I knew I’d be watching some of my favorite scenes of the season. Watching Uhura’s positivity and general kindness motivate Hemmer to open up made his character so rewarding for me to watch. And in turn, Hemmer became the mentor that Uhura needed to feel motivated in her career and to learn how to embrace the people around her. In this episode Uhura even admits that he reminded her of her father, confirming the father/daughter feel many of their scenes had. Their relationship was the main reason why I cried when Hemmer died in this episode. Uhura fighting to get to him while Chapel held her back completely broke me. In retrospect, the entire episode lead up to that moment. Hemmer spent the episode helping Uhura realize that her past trauma, due to losing her family, made her too afraid to form attachments. He helped her embrace the idea that forming bonds could be more rewarding than painful, even if they would cause her pain eventually. All of those scenes were really cute, but especially after Hemmer jumped in front of Uhura to protect her from essentially Gorn slime, I knew none of it was going to end well. Still, I loved their dynamic and I loved how the motivation he supplied her paralleled a real-life connection between Nichelle Nichols and Martin Luther King Jr. Season 2 won’t be the same without these two together.
Spock: I was surprised to see such an amazing arc for Spock in this episode. I really enjoyed it. Spock has been exploring his human side more and more as each episode goes on, and though his storyline isn’t one of the major ones here, it’s still nice to see that storyline continue. Here we see Spock battle with his rage. As members of the crew keep getting picked off throughout the episode, he gets criticized for his coldness because he doesn’t have a major emotional response. But it clearly effects him and when it comes time to face off against the Gorn, he finds himself in a position where he has to antagonize the Gorn by letting his rage go. It’s so satisfying to see Spock finally let himself lose it. It’s also satisfying to see him lose it in front of Sam Kirk, who was the douchebag who was criticizing Spock in the first place. And it was very fitting to close this arc with a hug with Christine, who’s been encouraging his exploration of his human side all season. I can’t wait to see their relationship develop further.
The Gorn: From lizard suits to this. The Gorn have come so far in Star Trek. The type of horror utilized in this episode is different than what we saw in their first appearance this season. They still stick to the shadows, but the Gorn in this episode are a lot more aggressive. Members of the crew get dragged screaming off screen and the Gorn openly attack anyone who aggravates them, even their own. The episode succeeds at making them absolutely terrifying. Especially with the aspect of Gorn hatchlings ripping themselves through flesh at any moment. I personally don’t love the ‘Alien’ vibes they give off, I don’t like horror, but they really do pull off the horror in this episode well.
What I Disliked:
Hemmer’s Death: Here we get to my biggest issue with this episode. I get they planned Hemmer’s death since the first episode. I get that Hemmer was supposed to be Uhura’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. But the truth of the matter is, Bruce Horak, or Hemmer, was the first Star Trek lead that was openly part of the disabled community. It was so groundbreaking to see a blind actor playing a blind character who took a leading position in the show. Getting rid of him after just a season takes that representation away. Not only that, but it doesn’t make sense for Uhura to be able to just brush off Hemmer’s death after what happened to her parents. It’s true that Hemmer spent the few scenes he was in convincing Uhura that even if an event like that should happen again, she shouldn’t close herself off from possible friendships in the future. But you don’t immediately get over your trauma just because someone tells you to. Having him die immediately after bringing all of this to her attention seems more like a hinderance than a help. And he’s her second father figure to prematurely die. That has to be traumatizing. I also hated that they chose to kill off Hemmer in an episode where he only served as a part of a side plot. It made his sacrifice at the end feel less impactful because we were made to focus on La’an for the entire rest of the episode instead of Uhura or Hemmer.
The Crew Deaths: Every single character who died in this episode was overfilled with red flags long before their death scene. Random crew we’ve never seen before acting buddy-buddy with our series regulars who’ve never so much as mentioned their names? Of course they’re going to die. Hemmer giving advice based on Uhura’s past experiences with grief and commenting multiple times about how the planet reminds him of Andoria? Such big red flags. There was no subtlety to be found here whatsoever.
La’an: This episode sets out to be La’an’s chance to finally get over her Gorn-related trauma. But aside from one scene where she yells at a Gorn to get its attention, this episode doesn’t do a whole lot to dive deeply into her character. It certainly doesn’t do more than ‘Memento Mori’, and she still doesn’t fully come to grips with her trauma by the end of that episode. And then by the end we’re expected to believe that she’s completely past her trauma and ready to help other people who were in her position as well? They didn’t earn that ending to this episode. They really needed to focus more on character work here.
Erica Ortegas’ Eulogy: Uhhh…Hey Ortegas? What was that? Why did she even give a eulogy if she only had an awkward exchange with Hemmer to talk about?
‘A Quality of Mercy’:
What I Liked:
Pike: We really did need an episode to fully lay out why Pike would have to make the choice to sacrifice himself in the future accident he endures, despite the fact that he now knows about the event and could potentially stop it. I mean, we all want to believe what Una told Pike in the first few episodes. That his destiny isn’t written and can be changed. But this is a prequel series and that means they can’t do something that’ll directly contradict with TOS. I really liked that Pike was about to send a message to one of the kids he sacrifices himself for in the future. And I liked how that would have ruined everything. It gives importance to Kirk, whose brashness as opposed to Pike’s caution does have its perks in the scenario “Balance of Terror” presents. Despite the fact that Pike’s insistence to stick to negotiation solidified why I love the character so much. And the fact that Pike ultimately decides not to change the future because Spock ends up in a life-altering accident if Pike doesn’t end up in one, makes Pike even more noble and solidifies his friendship with Spock. Also, Anson Mount is a master of comedy and that really shows in the first few scenes where Pike is getting acclimated to his potential future. He has no idea what’s going on and Anson Mount’s facial expressions really sell the awkward hilarity of it.
The Lighting: They do so much of the ‘The Original Series’ face lighting in this episode. You know, the spotlight that seems to hit the captain’s eyes whenever he sits in his chair. Or hits anyone’s eyes whenever anything dramatic happens on the bridge. It’s a great nod to TOS.
What I Disliked:
Kirk: I don’t dislike Kirk. I don’t dislike Paul Wesley as Kirk. In fact, I openly don’t much like William Shatner which makes Paul Wesley a step up. But Kirk doesn’t really get to act like…Kirk in this episode. “Balance of Terror” is pretty serious stuff, and introducing Kirk in only a serious mind-frame doesn’t make it feel much like Kirk. This is more a small gripe but I still was hoping to see more from Kirk.
“Balance of Terror”: I’m fine with episodes that mirror classics. Sometimes they can be really great. But for a finale? Not so much. It was frustrating to get an episode partly made up of scenes and dialogue we’ve already seen before as a finale. And some of it just didn’t work. Ortegas, for example, was completely out of character because she was given lines originally given to a completely different character in “Balance of Terror”. I was hoping for something more from the finale.
And that’s it! I had a lot of thoughts about both of these episodes, but writing them down really simplified the episodes for me. Both are fun, entertaining excursions. But neither have the mastery of writing I came to expect from other episodes. “All Those Who Wander” is messy in its execution, and “A Quality of Mercy” is simple, but doesn’t do enough for a season finale. They didn’t completely miss with either of these episodes, but I can’t say they stuck the landing with the end of this season. Still, I’m extremely excited for season two. It just wrapped and I can’t wait until its release! Until then, I suppose I’m going back to my constant rewatch of ‘Deep Space Nine’.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!