Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - All Those Who Wander, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - All Those Who Wander, Review

Things get a little cold-blooded for Matthew Kresal.
One reason for Star Trek's longevity, like that of the slightly older British science fiction series Doctor Who, has been its ability to play to different genres with each new story. Strange New Worlds, which has very much pitched itself as the modern-day successor (and prequel) to early Trek, has played to its strengths with episodes ranging from high-concept SF to morality play and even comedy of manners. With All Those Who Wander, the penultimate episode of its debut season, it adds another genre or two to that list: thriller and horror.

Or, to again use the parlance of Doctor Who, base under siege. In this case, a crashed starship on an ice planet which a landing party from the Enterprise arrives at, hunting for survivors and an attempted salvage. A crashed starship on an ice planet isn't exactly new, as Voyager used it for its 100th episode well over twenty years ago. As with so many Trek tropes, the series writers (in this case, Davy Perez) have found a new way to play with the idea.

Namely, by using that second genre mentioned at the top of this review. Those familiar with classic SF horror will recognize the influences of Perez's script, the direction of Christopher J. Byrne, and even the music of Nami Melumad as the episode kicks into high gear. In many ways, All Those Who Wander is a Trek homage to that genre, using these characters and the Trek format to play with the tropes, putting a spin on one or two iconic moments as it unfolds. One's enjoyment of the episode will likely depend on how you feel about that genre, but as with The Elysian Kingdom playing with the fantasy genre last week, this has plenty to recommend for those willing to give it a chance.

Something owed in part to picking up on a returning Trek villain. La'an's backstory and interaction with the Gorn featured in Momento Mori earlier in the season, giving Strange New Worlds arguably its strongest outing to date. All Those Who Wander offers a return engagement but one that's far more up close and personal, in keeping with playing with the horror genre. In keeping with the canon established in one of TOS's most iconic episodes, these still aren't quite what Kirk will encounter in several years' time in-universe. Instead, and in keeping with an appearance in Enterprise's Mirror Universe two-parter, they are sleeker but no less relentless. Seeing them in such a desperate situation, so different from any of their (admittedly limited) appearances to date, not only heightens the sense of danger but also helps Strange New Worlds play its role in expanding the Trek canon.

It also plays into another of the series' strengths: doing character arcs inside episodic stories. Christina Chong's La'an is one of the primary beneficiaries of that, given the episode's plot with the Gorn, allowing her to deal with trauma lingering from her own encounter. Another is Ethan Pike's Spock, who continues to deal with the lingering conflict with his human side, bridging the portrayal of the character in The Cage with TOS, with Jess Bush's Nurse Chapel playing a role in that. Anson Mount's Pike is well-served here, showcasing all those captain qualities for leadership, perseverance, and grace under fire as he organizes his team. Finally, Celia Rose Gooding's Uhura and Bruce Horak's Hemmer continue their mentor/apprentice duo from earlier in the season, giving Horak as Hemmer his best moments and Gooding some of their best material. That Strange New Worlds finds these moments while also telling solid stories every week remains to the benefit of series and cast alike, something All Those Who Wander proves once more, particularly in its closing minutes.

Like with The Elysian Kingdom, the choice of genre tropes here may not play to everyone's tastes. For those who can appreciate it, All Those Who Wander offers a Trek flavored taste of thriller and horror while finding once more the balance between episodic thrills and character development. It's another feather in the series cap as it moves from strength to strength and, next week, to its first season finale.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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