Early in the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Chief Engineer Hemmer tells Uhura his purpose in life: he fixes what is broken. The Aenar, you see, believe the end only comes once you have fulfilled your purpose. It gives one’s life meaning, infusing every step with the search to fit in—to give your life weight. Uhura, who questions her place in Starfleet and whether it’s where she wants to be, considers her purpose. And in season one’s penultimate episode, “All Those Who Wander,” Hemmer’s words hit home in a different way as the engineer sacrifices himself to save his fellow crew from the Gorn.
“I’m actually relieved that it’s finally out, to be honest,” actor Bruce Horak shares with Nerdist. “It’s certainly hinted at throughout, and I don’t know that it’ll come as a total shock.”
Horak tells us that he knew about where Hemmer’s arc would end from the beginning. “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,” he recalls. “And that lesson—it’s the arc of her journey through the first season—is finding a home and connecting with the people on the Enterprise. And I knew that coming in, but I didn’t know how it was going to resolve. All I knew was that he was going to die. And I think my initial request was please make it cool.”
Hemmer’s death was indeed cool on a couple of levels. He walked out into the frigid environment in order to stop the lethal Gorn hatching within his body. But more importantly, his death had an impact. He saved the Enterprise crew from more Gorn. They’d only just narrowly escaped the creatures already present on the ship. These are not the Gorn of Star Trek: The Original Series. In Strange New Worlds, Gorn are like… imagine even more terrifying velociraptors that mature at a frighteningly rapid pace.
Strange New Worlds has evolved the Gorn throughout its first season. We heard about them first through La’an’s traumatic experiences. Then Gorn ships pursued the Enterprise through a nebula. They were a looming presence. But actually seeing the aliens in episode nine hits you hard.
Horak explains the shooting environment was intense and that the episode’s director, Chris Byrne, set the mood off camera. “We were waiting in Sickbay, and in the hallways, they had set up all the lights to be flickering,” Horak says. “He kept the set cooler and he was just there the whole time. He’s not sitting off somewhere just watching it on the monitor. He’s right there. And he’s shouting, ‘Go!’ You’re scared. It’s like you can’t help but feel the adrenaline and the rush of it.”
He continues, “It was infectious and quite a ride to shoot that. And then he just gave the license for the farewell scene and the goodbye while keeping the stakes up but allowed for those moments with Celia [Gooding] and with Ethan [Peck]. It was a really, really powerful experience.”
And in the end, Hemmer’s noble sacrifice helped cement Uhura’s decision to stay in Starfleet. The crew gives the engineer a heartfelt goodbye. Horak hopes that Hemmer’s Enterprise crew members remember him for being incredibly competent.
“From the very start he’s saying his sensors are superior and he’s a genius. And you know, he demonstrates that. In his short time, as we see him on-screen, that’s he fixed what is broken and that he was a good teacher,” Horak says. “And he learns that from Uhura, that he’s a good teacher. He certainly does change over the course of the season. That, I think, is a mark of good writing, to see a character change. That’s true drama. That’s being altered by either others or circumstances. And in this way, I think he’s altered by Uhura. And some of that guard he had up at the beginning is gone. I hope they remember him as part of the family.”
Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy, The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, The Jedi Mind, and more Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.