“Open yourself. Make a home for yourself amongst others and you will find joy more often than sadness.”
Previously on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – The Aenar believe that one’s life doesn’t end until they’ve fulfilled their purpose, and Hemmer’s purpose is to fix what is broken. Spock and Chapel kissed, with T’Pring watching, to fake out a space pirate. La’an’s familiar was captured by the Gorn when she was very young, and she’s the sole survivor and the only person who knows much about them.
Cadet Uhura’s (Celia Rose Gooding) turn aboard Enterprise is almost over. As soon as they deliver some power cells to Deep Space Station K7, she’ll be headed back to Earth. While on board, she’s rotated through almost every department, taught by the best of the best, and impressed by their assurance that they belong in Starfleet. But she’s still not sure it’s for her.
Captain Pike (Anson Mount) is hosting a farewell party for Cadets Uhura and Chia (Jessica Danecker), which also happens to include a surprise promotion for Ensign – now Lieutenant – Duke (Ted Kellogg). As a crowd gathers to shower congratulations, Uhura moves away. Ortegas (Melissa Navia) joins her and calls her out – and Uhura confesses she hates “goodbyes.” Pike understands Uhura is still undecided, but assures her that there will always be a place for her on the Enterprise. (Not even 4 minutes in, and I’m crying?)
As is his custom, Spock (Ethan Peck) interrupts, calling from the bridge to alert Pike of an incoming Priority One mission. Una (Rebecca Romijn) points out that they’re already on a P1 mission… Yeah, that’s weird. Pike tells Una to summon Security, Science, and Medical. They can discuss this over dinner, after the party-goers disperse.
While Pike and Una clean up, La’an (Christina Chong) arrives from her therapy appointment (aka Starfleet Recovery Assistance). Spock begins the mission brief, before Pike asks him to take over the dishes. Two days ago, the USS Peregrine activated a distress beacon, and then lost contact with Starfleet. They were making an emergency landing on a Class L planet, Valeo Beta V, when the beacon stopped transmitted. It could have been destroyed on impact, but it’s more likely there’s interference from the planet’s atmosphere. Their mission is to aid the crew and, if possible, retrieve the ship.
But what about the power cells? If they’re delayed, the vidium will break down and the cells will be useless. La’an suggests sending a landing part to aid the Peregrine while the Enterprise continues on to K7. Unfortunately, Valeo Beta V is in a communications dead-zone, so the landing party wouldn’t be able to call for backup. Pike think’s it’ll be fine. He’ll take point and bring those two cadets on one last exciting mission, plus the newly-promoted Lt. Duke.
Pike and his team land two shuttles a few kilometers from the Peregrine on a Hoth-like planet. The better get a move on, because an ice storm is coming. Hemmer (Bruce Horak), however, is in no rush – this planet reminds him of Andoria. Also in this rather large landing party are Spock, La’an, M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun), Chapel (Jess Bush) and Sam Kirk (Dan Jeannotte). As they move towards the ship, M’Benga tries to scan the area with no luck. But La’an has discovered the body of one of the Peregrine‘s crew – bloodied. There’s more going on here than originally thought.
Pike & co. finally gain access to the Peregrine to find more blood on the walls. Pike orders a full diagnostic. Internal comms are down, environmental systems are at 20%, and ship controls have been transferred to Engineering. It seems likely they were using the warp core as their main source of power, implying they didn’t have any backup batteries. Good thing Hemmer’s there. La’an and M’Benga come in after assessing the perimeter – they’ve found 20 dead crewmen, with their environmental suits shredded. Still outside, Chia, Kirk, Chapel, and Duke have found more of the crew – mangled – and blood-drenched snow.
Uhura accesses Captain Alice Gavin’s (Liza Seneca) final log, audio only: The Peregrine previously picked up 3 castaways on an M-Class planet – a young Human girl, an Orion named Pasko, and another humanoid of unknown species. Pasko was infected by Gorn eggs, which weren’t detected by biofilters. He knew, but didn’t disclose this information. He set off a plasma grenade in Engineering to “try to end it,” which triggered the automatic distress signal, but her real message to Starfleet would be “Stay away.”
Ops start to come online and Uhura can detect a human and an unknown life sign on Deck 5. Pike sends Spock to retrieve the team that’s still outside, orders Hemmer to get to work on Engineering, and orders Uhura and La’an to follow him to Deck 5… Where they find a large blue alien, whose language is not being deciphered by the Universal Translator. Uhura suggests that he’s protecting someone, so they lower their weapons in a show of good faith.
Chapel’s made it to Sickbay, and Spock is there looking for supplies to treat a burn. Duke got a little careless in the Jeffries Tubes, and is too proud to seek treatment himself. As Spock again expresses the illogic of Human emotion, Chapel takes the opportunity to tease him. Vulcan anger can be dangerous when not controlled with the teachings of Surak, but she thinks it’s good to get mad sometimes.
Uhura is somehow back with Hemmer, assisting him, while telling him she’s going to miss him when she goes. Hemmer’s observed that Starfleet officers tend to find their way back around – he’s sure they’ll see each other again. But no Uhura. She’s done. She needs to figure herself out, and she’s not afraid to do it alone anymore. Hemmer thought her problem was the opposite – difficulty opening up to friends, a community; a fear of “putting down roots.”
Now in sickbay, the girl, Oriana (Emma Ho) and her companion Buckley (Carlos Albornoz) get an exam from Chapel and M’Benga. The readings are clean, but La’an has questions: Where are the Gorn? Why didn’t they tell the captain Pasko was infected? Why endanger an entire ship? M’Benga steps in and tells La’an to stop harassing his daughter, before more quietly sending her away.
Oriana was reported missing 2 years ago. She and her two companions were likely refugees from a breeding planet. Thankfully, the Gorn only pick up their offspring sporadically, so any born on the ship are most likely alone. Oriana said that they had gone, but Pike wants to do a security sweep. Before they leave, M’Benga apologizes to La’an for getting emotional and protective. Then reminders her that Oriana’s had experiences very few can understand, but La’an’s one, and he encourages her to help this girl before she’s unable to grow past the pain.
Buckley is breathing heavily, his heart rate is elevated, and his skin is covered in some kind of veiny mucus. Chapel orders Chia to recalibrate the bio bed for another physical and steps away, and Oriana moves to another part of sickbay to hide – she knows what’s about to happen. Four Gorn babies burst from his skin. One kills Chia immediately and runs off. The second follows. The third attacks and kills the fourth immediately. Hearing them move through the medical supplies, Chapel climbs on top of a biobed and activates the force field.
Duke sits at the entrance to a Jeffries Tube while M’Benga heals his burns – when two baby Gorn attack him from behind. Spock tries to grab him, and Pike shoots at the assailants, but the Gorn are able to drag him off as we hear Duke scream in the distance.
After a few minutes, Chapel deactivates her force field and carefully goes to find Oriana, but she’s not in Sickbay anymore. La’an bursts in, startling Chapel. She’s only interested in examining Buckley’s back. The three remaining hatchlings will mature quickly, and then fight for dominance. There are still no internal comms, and the Gorn are still not registering on sensors – they could be anywhere.
La’an arms Chapel, ordering her to watch the ceiling and shoot anything that moves. They need to find the girl, and start with where they found her the first time. Bingo. And it just so happens that this is the coldest part of the ship and the Gorn hate the cold. La’an shares with Oriana that she knows what it’s like to lose a friend to the Gorn, and she understands the terror. But she believes that her crew can beat them.
Team Hemurah (Hemmer and Uhura) are ready to reboot the ship, but an alarm goes off as soon as they do, and a screech from the corridor. Hemmer smells blood.
Pike, Spock, Kirk and M’Benga are regrouping in Sickbay, but Kirk is ready to leave. The power’s back on – including internal comms. So Pike calls everyone to join them.
In Engineering, a Gorn hatchling falls from the ceiling, and then an adolescent Gorn pounces on it. They sure do grow up fast. Before Hemurah can run, the Gorn spits venom which hit Hemmer in the neck. La’an just happens to be nearby, so she can shoot a console and create some spark, scaring the Gorn away temporarily.
M’Benga has dissected one of the dead Gorn, and found that their biology makes them undetectable by all Starfleet sensors. He calls them “genetic chameleons.” He’s also found that the Gorn’s speed of maturation depends on the host that carried the eggs. In the Orion, it was weeks. In Humans, it would be a matter of days. Looking at the analysis, Spock posits that the ducts in the mouth likely expel venom… just as Hemmer enters to confirm the hypothesis. M’Benga treats the wound while Hemmer explains that he also cannot sense the Gorn telepathically. Spock, with a poor choice of words, calls the Gorn impressive, since they have evolved to be essentially untraceable. That really sets of Kirk, who’s is appalled at Spock’s lack of empathy or emotion in this situation. Pike has to speak up to put an end to the bickering.
The good news is that everything’s online except for navigation. All they have to do is get rid of the Gorn. La’an breaks it down: The Gorn onboard have started molting, but they’re not fully mature yet. The remaining two will be in a fight for dominance. At this stage, they won’t back down from a challenge. They’re too fast to chase, so the team will need a trap. And since the Gorn hate the cold, and environmental controls are back online, it’s possible to draw them out and lead them right to it.
Everyone’s in position and Uhura is the first bait. It doesn’t take long before one of the hatchlings finds her, and she fires at it and starts to run – through the transporter room where Kirk is waiting at the exist, and seals the doors behind her. The Gorn heads into the vents. Spock begins firing towards the Gorn’s position, but it’s not responding. Over comms, La’an reminds him he needs to make it angry. So Spock, affected by Kirk’s earlier outburst, allows himself to feel his emotions, and run towards to the Gorn’s position in a rage and attacks the vents in the transporter room. The second Gorn appears and approaches Spock from the other direction. Kirk pulls Spock through the doors and closes them just in time.
With the crew safe, the two Gorn can be heard fighting each other just on the other side of the doors. Only one will survive. (Spock, btw, hasn’t regained his control yet – and don’t think La’an hasn’t noticed.)
The struggle ends. It’s on La’an to lead the last Gorn to the Cargo Bay. She runs in and jumps inside a pod, closing the top hatch. Hemmer’s already hiding in another pod. As the Gorn tries to break through the hatch, Hemmer vents something very cold (liquid nitrogen?) right on top of it. When La’an exits her pod, the adolescent Gorn is frozen solid. She shatters it, just for good measure. They won… or did they?
Hemmer exists his pod, but he’s not looking so hot. Gorn venom is not just venom – it’s how they reproduce. Hemmer is carrying Gorn eggs. And the gestation period must be super short in Aenar – just a matter of hours, if that. Hemmer sealed the cargo bay doors, so no one would try to stop him. It’s just him and La’an inside, and they both know what has to happen. Chapel and M’Benga plead with him – but he knows there’s not enough time. He’s going to go outside. But before he goes, he has one last bit of advice for Uhura – to open herself up to others. And with that, he steps outside the cargo bay’s force field, marvels again at a landscape so much like Andoria, and then steps off the precipice.
Aside: I’m very sad to see Hemmer go, not only because he was a blind character played by a blind actor. But because he was a really great character. Abrasive at times, with a heart of gold. In many way, he was filling the Bones role – and did it well. I’m going to miss him a lot. (Though we have heard the creative team mention that they created Hemmer because they “weren’t ready” to introduce Scotty, so maybe that’s a hint for Season 2.) Also, after Disco took a lot of heat for regularly killing off WOC in its early season, I’m disappointed that the only major character death we’ve seen is also the only disabled character on the show. But back to it…
Enterprise is towing Peregrine back home, and the crew is gathered for the funeral of Hemmer, Chia, and Duke. Ortegas gives us a small peek into the special relationship between a starship pilot and engineer. Uhura tells those gathered that Hemmer was a lot like her dad. He challenged her, and guided her. And he fixed what was broken.
Spock is struggling, standing with his hands balled up in fists, but only Chapel notices. He quickly leaves the room, and she follows, to find him punching the bulkhead. He let out his anger and his pain and he can’t control them – he’s weak. Chapel, his face in her hands, tells him that emotions don’t make him weak, they make him Human. And then she hugs him, and he hugs back. They share a brief awkward/intimate stare before he walks away without saying another word.
La’an thinks she may have a lead on Oriana’s family, but following it would take her outside Federation space. It’s important to her, so she requests formal leave – and is even willing to accept decommissioning – because she needs to be able to go where the clues take her. If there’s any change Oriana still has family, she deserves to go home.
Uhura steps onto the bridge, and takes a slow look around, her eyes finally landing on the Communications station as the camera pans back and Alexander Courage’s original theme swells. I think she’s made a decision.