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Why Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Showrunner Wanted To Take Risks In Season 1

Hemmer in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+
(Image credit: Paramount+)

It’s been a long time since a Star Trek series received as much approval from fans and critics with its first season as Strange New Worlds has. Part of that success came from the creative team's willingness to fully blend together the stories and lore from both classic and current Trek, while creating new narrative bridges linking events and/or characters from The Original Series. Many Paramount+ subscribers would likely agree that Strange New Worlds took a lot of risks in Season 1, considering all the directions the franchise has gone since those earlier days, and co-showrunner Henry Alonso Myers himself would be right there in agreement.

When CinemaBlend spoke with Henry Alonso Myers about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' first season, I asked whether he felt any anxiety or fear ahead of new episodes premiering, as far as how decisions the creative team made might be perceived by fans. Myers explained what his headspace was like each week throughout Season 1, and how he worked through any worries that popped up, saying:

So, there was literally something with every single episode where I was like, I don’t want to say terrified, but that I thought, ‘I don’t know what they’re going to make of that,’ but we were going for something. And I can point to every one of them and say that was a swing that we took, and I’m proud that we did that swing. Whether or not it worked for everyone, I feel like people will say, ‘Well, that really felt like Star Trek.’ And that, to me, was sort of the thing.

The original Star Trek series is, essentially, the beloved foundation that evolved into a successful film and television franchise, and while Strange New Worlds could’ve played it safe and avoided stories that would directly impact the original series canon, but co-showrunners Henry Alonso Myers and Akiva Goldsman didn’t take such precautions. Hell, they made a season finale that remixed an iconic Star Trek episode with a unique twist, and that’s just one of the big storytelling risks they delivered. 

For another example, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ writing staff knew from the start they wanted to kill off Hemmer, the Enterprise’s Chief Engineer. Hemmer went on to become a beloved fan favorite as the season continued, making his death controversial for some (even if actor Bruce Horak himself approved). Henry Alonso Myers continued on with his explanation about taking creative risks, and specifically noted Hemmer’s death as one he loved, saying:

You don’t want to look back at your season and say, ‘Phew, we didn’t take any risks, thank God!’ You want to look back and be like, ‘Boy, I hope these risks paid off,’ because I know as a viewer I love it when they take risks. I love it when [shows] try different things. Hemmer’s death is a heartbreak, but, my God, it’s one of the best scenes we did all season. It’s a beautiful scene…it just makes me cry. The way that Bruce performs it, Celia performs it…and Melissa and Celia’s speech at the funeral it’s a really moving scene, and it does wonders for the Uhura character.

Hemmer’s death might have been devastating to the point it angered some fans, but it’s that type of emotional reaction that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ writing staff wanted. The Aenar’s death is a sad one, but the feelings it sparked ultimately springboarded Uhura’s decision to remain in Starfleet where, as fans know, she led a very successful career. 

And while some fans may disagree with Hemmer’s death or any number of other big swings the staff took with new characters like Angel, they all ultimately served a greater purpose. Henry Alonso Myers explained the purpose of killing off Hemmer, which tried to challenge the popular Trek trope that redshirt deaths are ultimately inconsequential. In his words:

A death like that has to matter. You want it to feel real. This is a universe where people die. It’s become a joke when a redshirt dies that it doesn’t mean anything. Part of our goal was to remind the audience what it does mean when a redshirt dies. That it has some resonance, that there’s drama that comes out of it…the core of what we’re trying to do on Strange New Worlds is tell character stories through genre.

Knowing what Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is trying to strive for can help better inform where it’s heading in Season 2 and beyond. It also seems like more episodes with game-changing risks are on the horizon, as cast members like Melissa Navia and Christina Chong both feel like the upcoming season manages to outdo what they did in Season 1. We’ll see if fans agree when it arrives in 2023.

Stream Season 1 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on Paramount+ (opens in new tab). There’s still plenty of new Trek content on the way in 2022 and beyond, so fans should be sure to hold onto their subscriptions.

Mick Joest
Mick Joest

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.