Hemmer's Fate In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Was Sealed From The Start

This article contains spoilers for "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" season 1.

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," set only a few years prior to the events of the original "Star Trek" series, has gained a lot of traction among its many admirers with a deliberate "retro" approach. Not only does it bank on recognizable "old school" Trek characters — Captain Pike, Spock, Dr. M'Benga, Number One, Uhura, and Nurse Chapel previously appeared throughout the franchise — but its aesthetic and setup are decidedly different from the other live-action Trek shows it sits next to on Paramount+. "Strange New Worlds" is an episodic show, eschewing the season-long arcs of most modern Trek. It's also brightly lit and widely filmed, allowing viewers to get a good view of the U.S.S. Enterprise. 

The new characters are also rather appealing. In addition to Khan Noonien-Singh's granddaughter La'an (Christina Chong), who serves as the Enterprise's security officer, there is the plucky helm operator Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia), and the grumpy-but-wise Aenar engineer, Hemmer (Bruce Horak). 

Hemmer didn't stick around very long. In the episode "All Those Who Wander," Hemmer was infected by a malignant alien spore while on an away mission. Before his body could become host to a clutch of alien eggs, he plummeted off a cliff. Hemmer, sadly, died and will not return. This is a pity, as Hemmer was actually quite a grand character. Hemmer was blind and managed to operate the ship by feel and sound. Bruce Horak, also legally blind, was a boon for inclusive casting. It was sad that his character had to go. 

In a recent interview with TrekMovie, Celia Rose Gooding, who plays the young Uhura, revealed that Hemmer's death was actually planned from the start. Curse you, "Strange New Worlds." You got us to care about Hemmer just to take him away. 

The Aenar

To offer some Trek trivia, the Aenar are a subspecies of Andorians who lived in the northernmost frozen tundra of their home planet. The blue-skinned, antenna-sporting Andorians have been part of Trek lore since the original series, but the Aenar weren't introduced until a episode of "Star Trek: Enterprise" from 2005 called "United." The Aenar interacted so infrequently with the Andorians, many believed they didn't exist. Nearly a century later, an Aenar had risen to an impressive rank on the U.S.S. Enterprise. 

Gooding had a lot to say about the death of Hemmer on "Strange New Worlds," as the Uhura and Hemmer characters had something of a growing professional regard throughout the first season. Uhura, still a cadet, received blunt but caring life lessons from the brusque Hemmer. Gooding was told early in the process that Hemmer would die, but then immediately told herself to move on. In her words: 

"I remember hearing that and being like, 'Okay, now immediately forget it.' Because — and you see it in season 1 — Bruce is a fantastic actor and a fantastic storyteller. Hemmer and Uhura's relationship meant so much to Uhura, of course. But it also meant a lot to me because to have someone who takes you very seriously as an actor, but to also have a character that doesn't sugarcoat the experience for you and really has faith, that was very important for Uhura to have." 

The challenge for Gooding, it seemed, was to develop a warm relationship with Hemmer, leading audiences to believe that their professional interactions would continue for years, only to reveal that Hemmer was to die with Gorn eggs in his abdomen. Both Horak and Gooding succeeded. Hemmer's death was a gut punch.

'They were setting Hemmer up to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi'

Although the cast knew Horak's character was going to be dead before the end of the first season, it still became very emotional on set. Gooding said she didn't have to feign her sadness: 

"Those were very real tears in Hemmer's final moments, not just because of that loss as a character but also that loss as an actor of, 'Oh no, that's my friend and I'm not going to be able to see my friend again in this universe in the same way.' It was very real emotion. But yeah, I loved working with Bruce. I hope we continue to find ways to like have his presence as a part Uhura's life because we're sort of figuring out which relationships mold Uhura into the character that we all love in the future."

Horak, too, was told that his character would die early on, which was frustrating on an additional level for him. Not only would he have to develop his character only to die, but he also wasn't permitted to give spoilers. In a 2022 interview with Nerdist, Horak expressed relief in finally being able to talk about it, as well as a Star Wars comparison to his Star Trek role. He said: 

"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. And that lesson [...] 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."

It was cool. But also, it wasn't. R.I.P. Hemmer.