A title from Tolkien could fuel speculation about characters’ fates.
The penultimate episode of the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is titled “All Those Who Wander.” If you’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, ur-text of the modern epic fantasy novel, you know that title’s source. Its original context raises some intriguing questions about the fate some of our characters meet.
“All Those Who Wander” goes for the gut, killing off Hemmer. The Enterprise’s chief engineer sacrifices himself, leaving the wreckage of the downed starship Peregrine for the bitter cold of Valeo Beta 7—the icy winds remind him of Andoria—because he’s become an unwilling breeding ground for the Gorn. The Gorn can’t survive the cold.
Unfortunately, neither will Hemmer. But, as he says, he give his life to save the people he cares about the most: his crewmates.
It’s a sad, shocking departure for a major character so early in Strange New Worlds’ run. And it appears definitive. As actor Bruce Horak told The Hollywood Reporter, he knew how Hemmer’s story would end shortly after he won the role.
Star Trek fans know that, in this franchise, death doesn’t always get the last word. But Hemmer’s death does seem to be one that will stick.
“All Those Who Wander” may refer to Hemmer, La’an, or Uhura
In The Lord of the Rings, the phrase “all those who wander” occurs in a poem that prophesies the coming reign of Aragorn, whom Frodo and the readers first meet as the unkempt, unassuming Ranger named “Strider.” The poem reads:
"All that is gold does not glitter,Not all those who wander are lost;The old that is strong does not wither,Deep roots are not reached by the frost.From the ashes a fire shall be woken,A light from the shadows shall spring;Renewed shall be blade that was broken,The crownless again shall be king."
In its original context, then, this episode’s title is a promise that not everything is at it seems. Strider, who appears common and errant, is actually a king moving toward his true destiny. He wanders Middle-earth as a Ranger, but is not “lost.” What’s more, “frost”—symbolic here of bitter trial and hardship—cannot shake the core of who he is.
Fans can only wonder, then: Hemmer “wanders” out into the literal “frost” of Valeo Beta 7, but he does not do so aimlessly. Perhaps, like Aragorn, Hemmer is not actually “lost?” We viewers do not ever see his dead body. If sci-fi teaches us anything, it’s to reserve final judgment about death when we don’t see a body—and sometimes, even when we do!
More likely, the writers of “All Those Who Wander” chose the phrase as a poetic (not to mention geeky) reference to the Enterprise away team. Pike and the crew “wander” from the NCC-1701, over Number One’s initial objections, but are not truly “lost” because, as Pike reminds them at one point, they have each other.
Perhaps the title refers to the Enterprise crew as a whole, or Starfleet as a whole. They “wander” the stars—like “astronauts on some kind of star trek,” as Zefram Cochrane once said—but they are not lost. They are boldly going!
The title may also refer to La’an, who takes a leave of absence after the mission to go “wander” in search of the family of Oriana (Emma Ho), the young girl who survived the Peregrine’s crash and the earlier Gorn attack. La’an feels a kinship with Oriana. Both of their families, their “roots,” were attacked by the Gorn. But La’an affirms for Oriana that she can grow new “roots,” just as La’an
Even more likely, I think, the title is meant to draw our attention to Cadet Nyota Uhura. She’s finishing up her rotation as the episode starts, and isn’t planning to stay aboard. She feels “lost,” unsure of her aim in life. But Hemmer, before his sacrifices, urges Uhura to put down “roots”—another link to Tolkien’s text. By the episode’s end, Uhura has decided to stay on Enterprise, where we fans know her roots will grow deep indeed.
Whether or not its title was chosen to provoke speculation about the finality of Hemmer’s fate, “All Those Who Wander” is a strong episode that shows just how quickly Strange New Worlds has become a mature, moving entry in the Star Trek universe.