Why Bruce Horak left Star Trek Strange New Worlds

Showrunner explains why Hemmer was killed off in season 1’s penultimate episode

Bruce Horak as Hemmer in Star Trek Strange New Worlds
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Bruce Horak left Star Trek Strange New Worlds after his character was killed off in the penultimate episode of the show’s freshman run. But was the actor’s short stay in the new series part of the original plan?

Why did Bruce Horak, who plays Hemmer, leave Star Trek Strange New Worlds?

Horak exited Star Trek Strange New Worlds in June simply because his character had already served his purpose. In a couple of interviews after the episode aired, the actor shared that he knew even before he had been officially cast that Hemmer won’t survive the show’s freshman run.

“I knew right off the bat,” Horak said of the longevity of his role in the series in an interview with Inverse. “[Co-showrunner] Henry Alonso Myers told me [about it] in the Zoom audition before I even had my [prothestic] head mold made. He told me that I was gonna go.”

Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura and Bruce Horak as Hemmer in Star Trek Strange New Worlds
Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura and Bruce Horak as Hemmer in Star Trek Strange New Worlds

“They told me right off that they were setting Hemmer up to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi basically, to train [Nyota] Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), to give her that final piece of advice,” the actor recalled in a separate interview with Nerdist. “And that lesson — it’s the arc of her journey through the first season — 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.”

How did Hemmer die in Star Trek Strange New Worlds?

Just like what Horak requested, Hemmer’s death was indeed cool for many reasons. At the beginning of season 1, episode 9, titled All Those Who Wander, Hemmer saved Uhura when a Gorn attacked and spit venom that hit him instead of her.

Bruce Horak as Hemmer in Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 1 episode 9
Bruce Horak as Hemmer in Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 1, episode 9

The USS Enterprise crew initially believed that the Gorn’s venom would only blind or burn would-be victims, but they later found out that the venom actually turns the victim’s body into a host for Gorn, causing the deadly species’ babies to burst out of the host’s body.

Realizing what would happen if he didn’t take the matter into his own hands, Hemmer walked out into a frigid environment in order to stop the lethal Gorn hatching within his body and ultimately stepped off a cliff to prevent the Gorn babies inside him from bursting out and killing everyone.

Why did the writers kill off Hemmer?

In an interview with CinemaBlend, co-showrunner Henry Alonso Myers confirmed that the writers had decided from the very start to kill off Hemmer in the first season, noting that the death of the Enterprise’s Chief Engineer was one of the first creative risks they took to challenge the old Star Trek red shirt trope.

“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,” explained Myers. “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… it’s a really moving scene, and it does wonders for the Uhura character.”

The series executive producer continued: “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 [in Star Trek Strange New Worlds] 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 [to] tell character stories through genre.”

Have we seen the last of Bruce Horak in Star Trek?

While the story of Hemmer already ended in Star Trek Strange New Worlds, Horak teased that fans might have not seen the last of him in the sci-fi franchise. “That’s the beauty of Star Trek,” Horak told Inverse. “There is that history where you can come back. And I can say this: The Star Trek career of Bruce Horak is not over. That much I can say. And it’s an absolute dream.”

When will Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 come out?

Season 2 of the spinoff of Star Trek Discovery doesn’t have an exact release date yet, but the 10-episode sophomore run is expected to premiere on Paramount+ in 2023.

The new batch of episodes will see the return of the following actors: Anson Mount as Captain Pike, Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock, Jess Bush as Christine Chapel, Christina Chong as La’an Noonien-Singh, Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura, Melissa Navia as Erica Ortegas, Babs Olusanmokun as Joseph M’Benga, Rebecca Romijn as Una Chin-Riley / Number One, Paul Wesley as Captain Kirk, and Dan Jeannotte as George Samuel “Sam” Kirk.

Sources: Inverse, CinemaBlend, Nerdist

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