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'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' star Bruce Horak on Hemmer’s pivotal episode

SYFY WIRE interviewed actor Bruce Horak about what happens to Hemmer in Strange New Worlds

By Vanessa Armstrong
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds PRESS

If you’ve seen Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ ninth and latest episode, “All Those Who Wander,” you know that it’s a doozy, especially for the Enterprise’s Chief Engineer, the Aenar Hemmer (Bruce Horak). SYFY WIRE had the chance to interview Horak via Zoom about Hemmer’s journey in the show’s first season, including what happens in “All Those Who Wander.” Read on to find out what Horak knew about his character when, what his favorite line was, and what piece of memorabilia he took home from the set. 

**Warning! Major spoilers for Strange New Worlds’ ninth episode, “All Those Who Wander,” lie ahead!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds PRESS

I've seen the upcoming episode “All Those Who Wander” and I have to say it was extremely sad and moving when Hemmer died. When did the showrunners tell you that that was going to happen to Hemmer?

[Co-showrunner] Henry Alonso Myers told me about it in my Zoom audition. So before I even landed the part officially, they outlined the arc of the character's journey and his archetypal role as a mentor figure for Uhura. And they said he's going to have a heroic death and there’s going to be a sacrifice that he makes. That was as much as I knew going into shooting the season.

How did you approach filming that final moment when Hemmer knows he’s infected by the Gorn and has to leave the ship and face certain death? 

Chris Byrne, the director of the episode, did an extraordinary job of building the tension and the nightmarish horror side of the episode. And we talked about that final scene in particular, and his direction was, "This isn't a wallowing in the moment — time’s ticking and you've got to go." 

Hemmer does take a moment to connect, he takes a very brief pause to reflect on his own life. The Gorn sickness might be like a lead weight in his body, but the compassion that the Aenar have —  the sense of duty, the sense of love — is what draws him and drives him towards leaping out.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

You mentioned earlier how Hemmer served as a mentor for Uhura on the show, and that definitely comes across, especially in his final moments when Hemmer talks to her before he knows he's going to die. What was it like talking to her as Hemmer in that scene?

It really it feels like a process of grieving, having shot that scene. They say that death is hardest on those left behind. And I feel it now — I feel that Bruce Horak the actor has been left behind by the sacrifice that Hemmer has made. I just have so much love for their character and such respect for his act. Shooting that scene with Uhura, I think we may be shot five or six takes and each one was just as hard as the one before. 

I also want to talk about and celebrate Hemmer’s other moments in the season. Did you have any particular favorite scenes or dialogue that you got to deliver that you just especially enjoyed?

I loved getting to say I'm a wizard because I play a wizard in [Dungeons & Dragons]. That was a really nice moment there. And I really enjoyed the dinner table scene in Captain Pike’s quarters. That was a lot of fun to shoot — just getting to sit around the table and chat between takes, which we never got to do because we were in lockdown and had COVID protocols. So just getting to sit around the dinner table in Pike's quarters, which is one of the coolest sets, and just chat with people — it was such a wonderful place to meet and learn about each other. 

You mentioned you played D&D and your character is a wizard. I have to ask — have any of Hemmer’s character traits translated over to your D&D character or vice versa?

No, the wizard I play, he's an elf and his name is Perrin Dutch Oven. And he's really nothing like Hemmer. He's much goofier — he's probably more like me than Hemmer’s like me. 

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds PRESS

And Hemmer is, of course, Chief Engineer on the Enterprise, and the engineering set on the show is fantastic.  What was it like filming on that set? Were there any particular props that you got to use that you were just like, ‘Wow! I'm in a Star Trek show!’

Oh yeah. Getting to push all the jelly buttons, and the sliders on the transporter, that was a total highlight. And getting to hold a communicator because that's just such a classic Trek thing.  And also the little wizard wand that I use to open up the jail cell in the eighth episode, that was so much fun. The only thing I didn't get to use was a phaser but it wouldn't make much sense for the pacifist to be firing one.

Did you get to take anything home with you from the set after your last day of shooting that you’re comfortable divulging?

This was from the prosthetics department. [Horak holds up a prosthetic of Hemmer’s Aenar antennae.] Out of anyone on Star Trek, I spent the most time with my prosthetics team. One of the hardest goodbyes was saying farewell to them because we had just a wonderful connection and really a great time. So that's the Trek gift I was very grateful to have. And I keep him on a Chewbacca from when I was a kid. He's about 40 years old.

There you go. That can be your sidekick for your D&D character.

That's right. He's my familiar.

The first nine episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are now streaming on Paramount+, with the season finale set to drop on July 7. This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. 

Looking for more sci-fi? The entire run of SYFY’s Battlestar Galactica is streaming now on Peacock, along with the second season of Resident Alien, which returns to SYFY this fall with new episodes.