HUGE SPOILERS for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds follow! Don’t read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled!
Last week brought with it “All Those Who Wander,” the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Strange New World‘s inaugural season, and with it came a heartbreaking loss. Hemmer, the Aenar Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, is forced to sacrifice himself to save his crew mates. Now, actor Bruce Horak — who plays Hemmer — has opened up to not only reveal that he knew going in to Strange New Worlds that he would die by the end of the season, but that the death was inspired by Star Wars.
Speaking to Nerdist, Bruce Horak said that he knew since day one that his character wouldn’t survive the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. “They told me right off that they were setting Hemmer up to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi basically, to train Uhura, to give her that final piece of advice.” Horak is referring to what Hemmer tells Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) before his death. The young cadet is set to leave the Enterprise for good, and Hemmer tells her, “Make a home for yourself among others and you will find joy more often than sadness.” This, presumably, will be what inspires Uhura to remain on the Enterprise.
“All Those Who Wander” is the most horror-influenced Star Trek episode of recent memory, if not in the entire franchise. A small group of Enterprise officers investigate a Starfleet distress call to find themselves confronted by young reptilian Gorn who have recently been implanted in other aliens’ bodies. The episode borrows heavily from franchises like Alien and Predator, and ultimately the Gorn are killed but not without Hemmer falling victim to the Gorn venom which implants eggs in his body. Rather than let these new young Gorn threaten his friends, Hemmer leaves the crashed ship for the cold outside which he knows will kill the young Gorn as they burst out of him, just as their birth will kill him.
As soon as the Star Trek episode began streaming, fans were speculating there were ulterior motives to killing off Hemmer. They can hardly be blamed, especially if they remember Denise Crosby’s Tasha Yar being abruptly killed off in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s first season, which wound up being because Crosby wanted to leave the show to take her shot at the movie business. This, no doubt, has something to do with Horak getting in front of the story ASAP to clarify the situation.
Regardless of the death being planned from the beginning, it’s a regrettable decision. First, Hemmer was a riveting character and he’ll be missed. Second, in spite of three concurrent live-action Star Trek series, there has been a real unfortunate lack of non-human characters in the regular cast. Yes, there are characters who are technically not human or are only part human, but as far as characters who appear radically physically different from humans there are basically none in the different regular casts. Third and finally, Horak’s portrayal of Hemmer was wonderful for representation. Horak is legally blind in real life and was playing a blind character — something that is far too rare.