Ten of the worst Star Trek episodes!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the episodes on this list.

Today I thought that we could have a little bit of (mostly) tongue-in-cheek fun at Star Trek’s expense! See, if a franchise has been running for more than five decades and has broadcast well over 800 episodes and 13 films… there’s bound to be a few crap ones in the mix. I’m not one of those Trekkies who says that “Star Trek is always flawless,” and if you’ve read some of my episode reviews here on the website, you’ll know that!

That being said, this list is intended to be taken in the spirit of light-hearted summertime fun. Even Star Trek at its worst is better than no Star Trek at all, and even in episodes and films that I generally didn’t enjoy, there are almost always fun and engaging elements. And it should go without saying that I’m a huge Star Trek fan – the franchise has too many enjoyable episodes and stories to count.

This is all just for fun!

A few caveats before we go any further: firstly, all of this is, of course, entirely subjective! I’m not trying to claim that these episodes should be considered awful by everyone, simply that I don’t personally enjoy them or find them particularly entertaining. Secondly, this article isn’t meant to be an attack on any actor, director, writer, or anyone else involved in the creative process. I’m an independent critic, so criticism is the name of the game – but it’s never okay to get personal! Finally, if you hate everything I have to say today – or I exclude an episode that you think seems patently obvious for a list like this – that’s totally okay! There should be enough maturity in the Star Trek fan community for a bit of polite disagreement and gentle poking of fun.

All that being said, if you don’t want to read critical (and occasionally downright scathing) opinions about Star Trek, now’s your last chance to nope out!

So without any further ado, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order!

Episode #1:
Shades of Gray
The Next Generation Season 2

Riker in sickbay.

A couple of years ago I jokingly said that Shades of Gray was the best, most underrated episode of The Next Generation – but that was just an April Fool’s Day gag here on the website! Star Trek’s first (and thankfully only) clip show is a bit of a mess, and a disappointing way to end The Next Generation’s otherwise strong second season. It was also the final appearance of Dr Pulaski – who didn’t get any kind of send-off before being dumped from the series.

Television production has changed a lot over the past thirty-five years, but in 1989, The Next Generation was obligated to produce 22 episodes on a fixed budget. A couple of episodes earlier in the season had been more expensive and taken longer to produce than expected – most notably Q Who, which introduced the Borg for the first time – so cuts had to be made. A clip show was a relatively inexpensive way to produce an episode, so Shades of Gray was born. It has to be one of the worst pieces of television in the entire franchise – and a comparatively weak premise/frame narrative couldn’t hold it together. Luckily, clip shows are now a thing of the past – so we’re not going to see another Star Trek episode like this!

Episode #2:
The Red Angel
Discovery Season 2

Michael Burnham.

For me, The Red Angel was a total misfire toward the end of Discovery’s second season. Season 2 had been an improvement on Season 1 – thanks in no small part to the inclusions of Captain Pike and Spock – but The Red Angel knocks it down a rung or two. In short, it suffers from two major problems: the mischaracterisation of Georgiou, who began behaving like her Prime Timeline counterpart out of the blue, and its convoluted time travel story.

Time travel is very difficult to get right in fiction, and The Red Angel presents one of the worst and most irritating time travel tropes: the paradox. It made no sense for the rest of the crew to let Burnham know what their plan was, as they were operating under the assumption that the titular Red Angel was Burnham from the future. It was just a disappointment all around – albeit one that led to better things in the remaining part of the season.

Episode #3:
These Are The Voyages…
Enterprise Season 4

Wait, I thought this was Enterprise

Enterprise’s finale, regrettably, has to be one of the weakest endings to a series in the franchise. And I think it’s this episode’s status as a finale that compounds the disappointment – though it wouldn’t have been a great offering on its own merit, admittedly. To make matters worse, These Are The Voyages was conceived as an attempt to really celebrate all things Star Trek and to bring together two different, disconnected parts of the franchise. It’s such a shame that it wasn’t a stronger story.

By 2004, Enterprise’s cancellation was clearly imminent. And to its credit, These Are The Voyages jumps forward in time to wrap up Enterprise’s story of Captain Archer and the crew and the role they played in the creation of the United Federation of Planets. But the decision to use a frame narrative set during The Next Generation, reducing all of Enterprise’s main stars to holograms, wasn’t great for a series finale. There were also issues with the visual presentation of The Next Generation sequences – issues that, for the most part, were unavoidable. Had the same concept been applied to a mid-season episode, it might’ve worked better.

Episode #4:
Lower Decks Season 1

The problematic moment.

My criticism of Envoys largely focuses on one sequence – but it’s a sequence so bad and so antithetical to everything that Star Trek stands for that I feel it warrants a place on this list. Where Lower Decks has succeeded is in finding ways to make the wacky goings-on in Starfleet comical. Where it failed, in my view, was in its early attempts to set up Ensign Mariner as Star Trek’s answer to Rick and Morty’s Rick Sanchez – something that’s on full display in the opening sequence of Envoys.

In this sequence, Mariner captures (or kidnaps) a sentient energy-based life form because she thinks it’ll be funny, and then forces the creature to grant her a wish. I know that this is a comedy series and the sequence is meant to be a gag – partly, at least, at Mariner’s expense. But I can’t forgive how selfish and inherently un-Starfleet she acts. Lower Decks has told some incredible stories across its first three seasons, but this sequence at the beginning of Envoys is not among them.

Episode #5:
Move Along Home
Deep Space Nine Season 1

The crew in Move Along Home.

I adore Deep Space Nine on the whole… but Move Along Home might just be its worst individual episode. The premise is utterly ridiculous, as Sisko, Kira, Dax, and Dr Bashir are transported into an alien board game. Star Trek has had lots of fun with similarly wacky story concepts over the years, but Move Along Home is poorly executed, and the rug-pull at the end – that there was never any real danger – just adds to the disappointment.

The set design used for parts of Move Along Home is pretty poor, leading to an underwhelming visual presentation. Star Trek in the ’90s often reused sets and props to save money, but in Move Along Home it just doesn’t feel as if much effort was put into the episode’s visual style. There’s a reason why the alien race featured in this episode, the Wadi, haven’t been revisited!

Episode #6:
Picard Season 2

One of the titular monsters.

We could’ve made up nine-tenths of this list with Picard Season 2 episodes, but if I had to pick one out of that thoroughly disappointing season that encapsulates its issues, it would have to be Monsters. This navel-gazing story abandoned most of the season’s semi-interesting plotlines, including Q, Picard’s ancestor RenΓ©e, and the Borg in order to stage a ridiculous coma-dream populated by the most uninspired and amateurish B-movie monsters that I’ve seen in the franchise this side of The Original Series.

Moreover, Monsters is a waste of time. It fails to move the story along at a reasonable pace, and that led to serious problems in the remaining part of the season. Despite learning a theoretically interesting fact about Jean-Luc Picard’s early life, the revelation isn’t as big as the story wishes it to be – and it does nothing to reframe Picard’s characterisation, personality, or outlook on life, nor show them in a new light.

Episode #7:
Infinite Regress
Voyager Season 5

Seven of Nine.

Seven of Nine was a fascinating addition to Voyager when she joined the crew – though I confess that I was sad at the time to lose Kes. But as I’ve said before here on the website, I never felt that the writers of Voyager did justice to Seven of Nine, and Infinite Regress is just one example among many of samey, repetitive, and just plain boring over-uses of this character.

Seven’s appearance in Infinite Regress is a riff on the same idea used in Season 4’s The Raven, to such an extent that I sometimes get the two stories muddled up. It was one of the first solid indications that Seven’s original premise was played out, and things only went downhill from here. Seven was thrust into the spotlight often across the back half of Voyager’s run – and that wasn’t always to the show’s benefit. There are some decent stories in the mix, sure, but there are also more than a few repetitive and uninspired ones. It wasn’t until Seven re-emerged in Picard that she was given the chance to develop and grow as a character – and I can’t tell you how cathartic that process has been to see!

Episode #8:
Spock’s Brain
The Original Series Season 3

Spock and Dr McCoy.

No list of bad Star Trek episodes would be complete without Spock’s Brain! Widely considered to be the worst that The Original Series has to offer, this ridiculous story was a pretty poor start to the show’s third and final season. The Original Series Season 3 was greenlit after a letter-writing campaign from fans, but television network NBC only agreed to renew the show in exchange for cuts to its budget. Episodes like Spock’s Brain were the result of trying to keep costs down.

There’s a certain charm to Spock’s Brain in some ways… but in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way rather than for anything the story does on its own merit! A combination of the utterly bonkers premise and some less-than-stellar special effects make this a no-brainer for this list – pun very much intended!

Episode #9:
Code of Honor
The Next Generation Season 1

A group of spectators on Ligon II.

Code of Honor is incredibly outdated and racist in its depiction of Africans – and it boggles my mind that it was ever made, let alone that it was made for The Next Generation as late as 1987! Surely someone must’ve realised, while the episode was in production, that a story about a black planetary leader (with a noticeable accent) kidnapping a white female crew member would be problematic.

Unlike other episodes on this list, it’s hard to find any redeeming features in Code of Honor, and it’s one that I have to say I can’t enjoy in any way. It was a mistake to make it and to bring it to screen – but it serves as a reminder that Star Trek, despite its lofty ambitions and attempts to depict a better, more enlightened future, can still get it wrong.

Episode #10:
Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1
Picard Season 1

Sutra, Soji’s “evil twin.”

After the preceding eight episodes had slowly built up an intriguing mystery, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 derailed Picard’s first season. The episode tried to dump whole new factions, characters, and storylines into the season but didn’t have anywhere near enough time to do justice to any of them. The truly disappointing thing isn’t that these ideas were bad, but that the poorly-paced episode and season ran out of road, making the entire season feel worse in retrospect.

Some scenes in Et in Arcadia Ego are so short that they’re barely even clips, with characters seeming to speak to no one. Special effects weren’t great, either, with a copy-and-paste Romulan fleet comprised of identical starships. And that gold makeup used for the Coppelius synths is just awful. Despite a solid performance across the rest of the season as Soji, Isa Briones was unconvincing as the rogue synth leader Sutra, too. All in all, a misfire – and one that, sadly, damages the integrity of the entire ten-episode story.

So that’s it!

The USS Discovery.

I hope your favourite episode wasn’t on the list! But if it was, please try to keep in mind that we don’t all like the same things, and even as Trekkies there are going to be disagreements about which stories work and which don’t within the Star Trek franchise. This was meant to be a bit of fun, not something to be taken too seriously or to get worked up over!

Although there are a handful of Star Trek episodes that I generally don’t enjoy, every series, and practically every season of every series, has wonderful moments of action, adventure, sci-fi, and more. I’m a huge Star Trek fan – even if I don’t enjoy everything that the franchise has put out over the last fifty-six years!

Live long and prosper!

You’ll note that Prodigy and Strange New Worlds didn’t feature on the list above – and that’s because the first seasons of both shows were pretty darn good. I couldn’t pick a single episode from either show that I could genuinely say I disliked, and I think that’s testament to the quality of modern Star Trek. Picard’s third season was good, too, and though Discovery has made mistakes, Season 4 was a vast improvement and ended in spectacular fashion. So there are plenty of reasons to be positive as we look ahead to upcoming productions!

So I hope you enjoyed this look at a few of Star Trek’s less-than-great stories. I actually had fun revisiting some of these episodes, several of which I hadn’t watched in years. Although the stories themselves aren’t great, it’s still nice to go back and watch them sometimes!

The Star Trek franchise – including all series, films, and episodes mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten great things from Lower Decks Season 1

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Discovery Season 3, Picard Season 1, The Next Generation, and The Animated Series.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is now less than a week away, and as the buildup to its premiere continues I thought it could be fun to step back to last year’s episodes and pull out ten of my favourite moments – and other things!

There was a lot to enjoy in Season 1 last year. The show succeeded at taking the regular goings-on in Starfleet and making them funny, while at the same time it managed to avoid the pitfall of coming across as mean-spirited and laughing at Star Trek. A sense of humour is a very subjective thing, and it’s certainly true that Lower Decks’ comedic style won’t be to everyone’s taste. But for my money, by and large the jokes and humour worked – and underlying all of that was a truly solid and engaging Star Trek show.

Lower Decks is coming back soon! Yay!

When Lower Decks’ first season ended last October I wrote that I was going to miss my weekly viewing appointment, and though Discovery’s third season came along and offered up a different kind of fun, as we’ve got to see more teasers, trailers, and discussion about the upcoming season, I’ve come to realise again just how much I missed Lower Decks in the months it’s been off the air. Though the Star Trek franchise has always had a sense of humour – something I said many times in the run-up to Lower Decks’ first season in response to critics of the concept – this show was the first to put comedy front-and-centre. It also took us back to the 24th Century and The Next Generation era in a big way, which is something I adored.

The Next Generation had been my first contact with the Star Trek franchise in the early 1990s, and I have a fondness for the shows of that era as a result. Lower Decks leaned into that in a big way in its first season, and I hope to see more of the same when Season 2 arrives in just a few days’ time!

So let’s take a look at ten of my favourite things from Season 1. The list below is in no particular order.

Number 1: Ensign Mariner’s character arc.

Ensign Beckett Mariner.

In the first episode of Lower Decks, and again at the beginning of the second, I didn’t like the way Mariner was presented. Coming across as arrogant and selfish, I felt that the writers were trying to set her up as Star Trek’s answer to Rick and Morty’s Rick Sanchez. Such a character could work in the Star Trek galaxy, don’t get me wrong, but not as an ensign – and probably not even as a senior officer. Mariner’s “I don’t care about anything” attitude was epitomised in a scene at the beginning of the episode Envoys, where she kidnapped a sentient alien lifeform and forced it to grant her “wishes” – seemingly just for the hell of it. To me, that seemed about as un-Starfleet as it was possible to get.

Beginning in the second half of Envoys, though, we started to see a turnaround in Mariner. Perhaps her friendship with the hapless Boimler was part of it, but over the course of the season we began to see less of the “teen angst” side of Mariner’s rebelliousness. She still had a streak of rebellion in her character, but some of the edginess was blunted – something which was a colossal improvement.

In the first few episodes, Mariner could feel more like a wayward teenager than a Starfleet officer.

In the episode Much Ado About Boimler, the USS Cerritos is visited by an Academy colleague of Mariner’s – who has already reached the rank of captain. Captain Ramsey’s intervention went a long way toward causing Mariner to have a re-think, as she saw how her friend had matured and moved on from their past childish behaviour.

The episode Crisis Point was where Mariner made her real breakthrough, though. After setting herself up as an extreme anti-Starfleet villain on the holodeck, Mariner saw her friends abandon her, and in a fight against a holographic version of herself, all of that teenage rebellion stuff came to a head. Mariner came to realise that she does care about Starfleet and her mother – Captain Freeman – even if she doesn’t always express that care in ways that line up with Starfleet regulations.

Captain Freeman is Mariner’s mother.

In a way, there are echoes of Michael Burnham (Discovery’s protagonist) in Mariner. Both characters started off with portrayals that I found to be negative and even difficult to watch, yet both characters have grown over the course of subsequent episodes. By the time we got to No Small Parts, the Season 1 finale, Mariner was able to take charge of a difficult situation, using her talents to help her friends and shipmates.

That season-long arc made Mariner’s actions in the finale feel genuine and earned, just like Michael Burnham’s recent promotion felt earned after all of her hard work. By the time we reached the point where the ship was in peril, turning to Mariner to play a big role in saving the day felt great. As a result, a character who I felt could’ve been one of the weaker elements of Lower Decks turned out to be one of its strongest. All I can say now is that I hope the version of Mariner we meet in Season 2 is closer to the one from Crisis Point and No Small Parts than Second Contact!

Number 2: The return to an episodic format.

Tendi in the episode Moist Vessel.

Lower Decks was the first Star Trek show really since the first couple of seasons of Enterprise to use a wholly episodic format. Serialised storytelling has become the norm in television in recent years, thanks to shows like Lost, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones, but the Star Trek franchise had primarily been episodic – at least prior to Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc.

This didn’t mean that the show reset itself after every episode, nor that past events were ignored. As mentioned above, Ensign Mariner had a satisfying season-long character arc that saw her grow, something which wouldn’t have been possible if the series kept rebooting after every outing. But Lower Decks saw the ensigns take on different challenges and stories each week, and while there were callbacks and references to things that happened in earlier episodes, the show revelled in its ability to do different things.

Commander Ransom leading an away mission in Temporal Edict.

I like episodic television. In a show like Lower Decks it makes a lot of sense to go down this route, as it allowed for many different scenarios and settings – and maximum fun! That isn’t to say serialised storytelling is bad, and I like the way Picard Season 1 and Discovery handled their season-long stories. But after seeing so many different serialised shows over the last few years – both within the Star Trek franchise and outside of it – it was a nice change of pace!

Season 2 will almost certainly retain this style of storytelling. There’s nothing to be gained by giving Lower Decks a season-long story of the kind seen in Discovery and Picard, and doing so would be an unnecessary constraint.

Number 3: The theme music.

The USS Cerritos in the title sequence.

Both Discovery and Picard have softer, slower theme music. I like both, and the understated musical pieces are a huge improvement over Enterprise’s early-2000s pop song! But Lower Decks’ theme is in a whole different league!

I wrote in one of my reviews last year that the Lower Decks theme could have been The Next Generation’s theme. The up-tempo, adventurous piece of music would have fit right in with that show and its theme of exploration, and I just adore it. The opening title sequence is also neat, showing the Cerritos getting into all sorts of trouble, and really went a long way to setting the stage for the show itself.

Number 4: “He’s got wood!”

A contender for best line of the season?

This line was one of the funniest of the whole season. Low-brow comedy for sure, but the execution of this moment in Temporal Edict was absolutely perfect. There were some great jokes, puns, and one-liners across the season, and I’m not saying this one was somehow the best, but the scene on the Galrakian home planet was built up wonderfully.

As Mariner, Ransom, and the rest of the away team leave behind the chaotic ship, there was a sense that the new time management rules that Captain Freeman was trying to implement were not going to plan. The Galrakians (a new alien race) were a crystal-obsessed people, and as part of the Cerritos’ mission of second contact, the away team had to present an honour crystal to the Galrakian delegation. But because of the problems on the ship, the away team accidentally brought a wooden totem instead of the crystal, leading one of the Galrakians to exclaim “he’s got wood!” I had to pause the episode because I was laughing so much.

Number 5: The return of the Edosians.

The Division 14 commander with Tendi and Boimler.

Lower Decks represented the best opportunity so far to bring back elements from The Animated Series, not only because of its animation style but because its wackier sense of humour would be a good fit for some of the weirder elements from Star Trek’s first cartoon show. In the episode Much Ado About Boimler we got the return of the Edosians – the three-legged, three-armed aliens first encountered in The Animated Series.

Lieutenant Arex (voiced by Scotty actor James Doohan) had been a mainstay on the bridge of the Enterprise in The Animated Series, but Star Trek’s return to live-action in 1979 meant that the character was dropped. Bringing to life a very different-looking alien was just prohibitively expensive at the time, and I don’t know if Gene Roddenberry and the others even considered including Arex in Phase II or The Motion Picture.

Arex (left) with Kirk and Sulu in The Animated Series.

Picard Season 1 had referenced the Kzinti, another alien race only ever seen in The Animated Series, and following some debate in the 1990s about whether the show should be considered part of Star Trek’s “official” canon or not, it was great to see the creators of Lower Decks and modern Star Trek embrace this more obscure part of the franchise.

The Edosian character we met was fun, too. Division 14 was presented as a mysterious off-the-books type of operation, and the episode – which saw the first team-up between Boimler and Tendi as well – leaned into a darker, almost horror vibe at points. It was great to welcome back the Edosians to Star Trek after such a long absence.

Number 6: Basically everything about Dr T’Ana!

Dr T’Ana was a lot of fun across Season 1.

Dr T’Ana has a terrible bedside manner. She’s gruff and sarcastic, but she’s incredibly funny and a great character! Practically every moment she was on screen in Season 1 was fun, and she elevated what would otherwise have been less-interesting moments many times. Speaking as we were of returning races, Dr T’Ana is a Caitian, an alien race only seen a few times in The Animated Series and some of The Original Series films.

Dr T’Ana reminds me of both Dr McCoy and Dr Pulaski. The latter is a character who I feel went under-appreciated in The Next Generation’s second season, and although Dr T’Ana turns up to eleven some of the rudeness present in both her and Dr McCoy, something about the way she came across on screen felt familiar – and I appreciated that.

Dr T’Ana and the ensigns have a standoff!

The ship’s doctor has been part of Star Trek since the beginning, but is a role that can be fairly static in sickbay. Dr T’Ana managed to find different things to do at points across the season, and appeared to be on the verge of developing a relationship with Shaxs – before his untimely demise.

I’m looking forward to seeing more from the Cerritos’ doctor in Season 2. I wonder what she’ll get up to as the ship continues its adventures?

Number 7: The cinematic shots of the USS Cerritos in Crisis Point.

The USS Cerritos in all her glory.

This sequence channelled one of my favourite moments in all of Star Trek – the reveal of the refitted Enterprise in drydock in The Motion Picture. That sequence still brings a tear to my eye even though I’ve seen it countless times, and this moment in Crisis Point was a wonderful homage to it.

Accompanied by a stirring musical number that was a mix of the Lower Decks theme with music from The Wrath of Khan and other films, the whole sequence was absolutely pitch-perfect, and without a doubt one of the highlights of the episode and the whole season.

The holo-crew and Boimler looking at the ship in awe.

Sometimes we can overlook the starships that our heroes serve aboard, but as has been pointed out on many occasions, the ship itself can be almost an extra character on the show. Moments like this go a long way to highlighting just how beautiful some Star Trek vessels can be. Is the Cerritos the best-looking ship in the fleet? Maybe not, but for a couple of minutes during this sequence you might just think she is!

Seeing the reactions of Boimler and the holographic bridge crew also added to the moment. These are people who really love their ship – and who can blame them?

Number 8: Badgey

Tendi with Badgey in Terminal Provocations.

Badgey would go on to be a villain not once but twice, and is a classic example of Starfleet’s own technology going wrong on the holodeck! Inspired by Clippy, the Microsoft Office “assistant” from the early 2000s, there’s something distinctly creepy about Badgey. The way he seems to be peppy and enthusiastic hides a murderous rage, and the concept of our own machines betraying us is a trope as old as science-fiction.

Originally created by Ensign Rutherford, like several of his inventions Badgey quickly went awry! Rutherford is a fun character on the show, but his love of tinkering and inventing caused trouble for the ensigns on more than one occasion!

Badgey almost got Ensign Rutherford killed in the season finale!

Badgey returned in the season finale and again tried to kill Rutherford. Shaxs’ intervention saved his life, but at the cost of his memories – and Shaxs himself. We’re yet to see how Rutherford will react to his lost memories in Season 2, but we already know, thanks to the teasers, than his implant is back.

Everything about Badgey from concept to execution worked perfectly, and he was one of the most interesting adversaries the crew had to face in Season 1. Have we truly seen the last of him, though? The return of the Pakleds (as glimpsed in one of the trailers) may suggest otherwise!

Number 9: A return to the aesthetic of The Next Generation era.

A hallway aboard the Cerritos – note the inspiration from older Star Trek productions.

I don’t dislike the way modern Star Trek looks. The Kelvin films used a lot of glossy white plastic and glass, and Discovery has somewhat of an industrial look to some areas of the ship, but on the whole recent productions have looked great. But for the first time since Voyager went off the air and Nemesis was in cinemas, Lower Decks brought back the aesthetic of ’80s and ’90s Star Trek in a big way.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this was “my” era of Star Trek; the point at which I became a fan. Just as I’m attached to The Next Generation in terms of its characters and stories, I adore the way the show looks, and how that look continued into Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the films of that era. Lower Decks unapologetically brought that look back – and I love it.

Boimler wielding a Next Generation-era phaser.

At the same time, Lower Decks has adapted this look to fit the kinds of stories it wants to tell. The USS Cerritos has visual elements inspired by The Next Generation, but the ship also manages to look smaller and less significant, especially when set alongside other Starfleet vessels. The uniforms are likewise a riff on The Next Generation and other uniforms of past Star Trek shows, with a jacket seemingly inspired by the “monster maroon” uniforms that debuted in The Wrath of Khan.

Everything about the way Lower Decks looks just oozes “Star Trek,” and for fans like myself who adore those shows, that can only be a positive thing.

Number 10: The arrival of the USS Titan in No Small Parts.

“It’s the Titan!”

Toward the end of the season finale, it seemed as though the Pakleds had the Cerritos on the ropes. The last-minute arrival of the USS Titan was absolutely pitch-perfect, and drew inspiration from the likes of the Enterprise-E’s arrival at the Battle of Sector 001 in First Contact, with the theme music from The Next Generation accompanying it.

This is one of my favourite moments not just in Lower Decks but in all of Star Trek. The arrival of Riker and Troi aboard a ship we’d heard of but never seen was absolutely amazing, and the fact that they swooped in to save the day was heroic and exciting. The whole sequence is surprisingly emotional – at least it was for me!

Riker and Troi on the Titan’s bridge.

We’d seen Riker and Troi return in Picard Season 1 earlier in the year, but seeing them in their prime aboard their own ship was a moment that I didn’t expect from Lower Decks. It was something I didn’t know I wanted to see, but having seen it I can’t imagine the episode – or the first season – being the same without this wonderful inclusion.

After the Titan saved the day we got a sequence with Riker and Troi hanging out with the Cerritos’ crew. Boimler then received his promotion and transferred to the ship to serve under Riker’s command – and that’s where we left him when the season ended. Riker and the Titan will be back in Season 2, and I’m curious to see how the show will fit them in for a second time. Not to mention how the Boimler situation will be resolved!

So that’s it. Ten of my favourite things from Season 1 of Lower Decks.

Mariner, Boimler, and the rest of the crew will be back in just a few days!

Season 2 is almost upon us, and I honestly can’t wait! I had such a great time with the show last year, and despite the fact that the clusterfuck surrounding its lack of an international broadcast definitely did some damage, it’s my hope that Star Trek fans the world over will be able to enjoy Season 2 this time around. Hopefully Lower Decks will also succeed at bringing in many new fans to the Star Trek franchise as well.

Stay tuned because I plan to write reviews of every episode of Lower Decks this season, hopefully within a day or so of their broadcast. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say! I hope this list has been a bit of fun, and that you’re as hyped up and excited for the return of Lower Decks as I am.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video internationally beginning on the 12th of August. Season 1 is available to stream now. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks makes its international debut… finally!

Don’t worry, there won’t be any major spoilers here if you haven’t seen Lower Decks. If you’re a Trekkie and you managed to resist the temptation to watch Lower Decks by “unconventional means” then I commend you. After five long months, Lower Decks is finally available to an international audience via Amazon Prime Video – sharing the platform with Star Trek: Picard.

If you haven’t yet seen Star Trek’s second animated series, I really think you’re in for a treat! It’s funny and clever, and while there were some teething problems, especially in the first couple of episodes, I had a great time with the show overall. As an out-and-out comedy it’s certainly different from Star Trek’s past offerings, but if you believe that the franchise has never had a sense of humour then I think you’ve missed something significant!

Ensigns Boimler and Mariner.

The Original Series derived a lot of humour from the interactions between Dr McCoy and Spock in particular, and the franchise’s sci-fi setting has led to some weird and very funny moments. I think I’ve laughed out loud watching every Star Trek series to date. Lower Decks turns that up to eleven, and that may not be to everyone’s taste. If you don’t like animated comedy shows like Rick and Morty then perhaps the style of humour will be less enjoyable.

But even if you aren’t laughing out loud at every wacky situation that the ensigns find themselves subjected to, underneath the comedy is still a Star Trek show, and one that has heart. I would encourage fans who didn’t like Discovery or Picard to give Lower Decks a shot, because in many ways its closer to 1990s Star Trek than either of its two live-action cousins.

Ensigns Tendi and Rutherford.

Lower Decks is largely episodic, it brings back the classic design of Star Trek ships from that era as well as bringing back classic designs of aliens like the Klingons – the Klingon redesign was a point of contention when Discovery premiered. So from the point of view of someone who loved Star Trek in the 1990s, Lower Decks goes out of its way to use that aesthetic and style.

Despite the focus on the four ensigns, the bridge crew and senior staff of the USS Cerritos get screen time and development as well, and while not every episode will feel like classic Star Trek, some genuinely do.

When I watched the first season, I said several times that it’s important to have the right expectation when sitting down to Lower Decks. It’s an animated comedy first, and a Star Trek show second. If you go into it expecting The Next Generation with a few extra jokes you will be disappointed; Lower Decks puts its humour front-and-centre.

Commander Ransom and Captain Freeman.

A sense of humour is a very personal thing, and jokes are subject to individual taste. If the likes of Rick and Morty, Disenchanted, and even Family Guy are shows you like, I daresay the style of comedy in Lower Decks will be perfect for you. If you find those shows insufferable, however, it may be a more difficult watch – at least at some points.

Though not every joke landed, and some were actually dire, in my opinion the humour was more hit than miss, and there were some truly hilarious moments where I had to rewind the episode because I was laughing so hard. The humour generally doesn’t feel random; Lower Decks draws on the history, legacy, and mythos of Star Trek for many of its gags, which was wonderful.

Dr T’Ana.

Discovery was often criticised early in its run for feeling as though it was made by people who were not Trekkies. I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment, and I think it stems from the fact that the producers and writers were taking the franchise to new places. But regardless, that accusation simply cannot be levelled at Lower Decks. Almost every second of the season oozes Star Trek, and the characters, settings, storylines, and comedy are all drawn directly from the Star Trek shows of the 1990s.

There are also some genuinely inspiring and emotional moments in Lower Decks, with great scenes and characters inspired by past iterations of the franchise. In some ways, Lower Decks satirises or parodies Star Trek, but it always does so in a loving way. None of the jokes in Lower Decks felt like they were laughing at Star Trek – they were using the franchise as inspiration and making the goings-on in Starfleet fun, but never attacking the franchise nor being mean-spirited about it.

The USS Cerritos.

One thing I’m still hopeful for with Lower Decks is the expansion of the fanbase. An animated comedy in the vein of Rick and Morty has the potential to appeal to viewers who would not ordinarily seek out Star Trek, and while the splitting up of the broadcast did kill a significant amount of hype for the series, there is still the possibility to bring in new fans. Some of those people who are about to sit down to their first ever Star Trek show will go on to watch Discovery and Picard, as well as The Next Generation and The Original Series, and will become Trekkies. Lower Decks will, for some folks, be their first contact with the franchise, and I think that’s wonderful.

It took Rick and Morty three seasons to really go mainstream, so even though Lower Decks didn’t exactly catch fire during Season 1, with a second season already in production, and now having found an international home, I believe the show is in a good place, well-suited to expand beyond Star Trek’s typical sci-fi niche and bring in new fans.

Season 1 was a fun ride, and I’m already eagerly awaiting Season 2. I will certainly give it a re-watch on Amazon Prime Video now that it’s available – and I daresay I’ll have a great time all over again!

On my dedicated Star Trek: Lower Decks page you can find individual episode reviews for all ten of Season 1’s episodes. All ten episodes are available now on Amazon Prime Video, having followed Netflix’s lead and dumped them all at once! So if you haven’t seen Lower Decks yet, give it a shot. Maybe it won’t be your cup of tea – but maybe it will.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is available now on Amazon Prime Video around the world, and on CBS All Access in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

23 weeks of Star Trek comes to an end…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and other iterations of the franchise.

Almost half a year ago (26 weeks would be a half-year) we sat down to watch Second Contact, the premiere episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks. This episode kicked off something ViacomCBS billed as “23 weeks of Star Trek” – ten weeks of Lower Decks followed immediately by thirteen weeks of Discovery. Now that we’ve had Discovery’s season finale, I thought it would be fun to look back on the past five-ish months and see how it went.

2020 was the first year since 2004 that saw more than twenty Star Trek episodes premiere, and with three different productions on the go for the first time since the 1990s it’s really beginning to feel that Star Trek is back! Assuming all of the currently-announced series and projects make it to screen, we’ll be seeing the franchise continue through at least the first half of the 2020s, hopefully even until the 60th anniversary in 2026. There have been bumps in the road – and more seem likely – but overall the franchise seems to be in a good place as these 23 weeks come to an end.

Burnham and Book in the third season premiere of Discovery.

Lower Decks did suffer because of the stupid decision to broadcast it in the United States months ahead of anywhere else. Of all the Star Trek projects we’ve seen announced in recent years, Lower Decks had the greatest potential to expand the fanbase. The entire purpose behind creating a show of this kind is to take Star Trek to new audiences, and that required a unified broadcast so fans everywhere could enjoy it and get hyped for it.

The sad consequence of Lower Decks being split up and shown to some fans but not others is that the buzz around the show died down in the weeks leading up to its broadcast. Many potential viewers tuned out or never even became aware of its existence, and we’ll simply never know how big it could’ve become were it not for that godawful decision. Could we be talking about Lower Decks hitting the mainstream like Rick and Morty? It’s good enough on its own merit, but we’ll never know now.

Ensign Mariner from Lower Decks.

When it was decided to press ahead with this 23 weeks of Star Trek, the team at ViacomCBS clearly knew that the pandemic had massively set back other projects in the franchise. Whereas we might’ve hoped to see Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, Prodigy Season 1, and maybe the Section 31 show or even Strange New Worlds in 2021, as things sit right now, no announcements have been made regarding any releases this year. Understandably so, of course, but to me it just compounds the stupidness of the Lower Decks decision.

Since we now know that Lower Decks will be broadcast internationally later this month, I’m left wondering why it was pushed out in North America first. We could have all enjoyed it together, and it would have filled a hole in the schedule in the first part of 2021. But that’s not the way it happened, and re-litigating the issue over and over accomplishes nothing! Instead, let’s look at some of the high points from these past 23 weeks. There have been quite a lot!

The USS Discovery crash-lands in Far From Home.

First up, Lower Decks itself. Despite a rocky start, by midway through the second episode the series was beginning to find its feet, and as the season went on it became a thoroughly enjoyable watch with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. There were a ton of references and callbacks to past iterations of Star Trek, including The Next Generation era. Until Picard premiered earlier in 2020 the franchise had been looking backwards at reboots and prequels for almost twenty years, leaving little room to even name-drop something from The Next Generation onwards.

Discovery included fewer elements from The Next Generation’s era than I’d have liked to see. Partly that’s a consequence of shooting forward in time centuries beyond that time period, and partly it’s a creative choice. There were a couple of references though, like bringing back the Trill and introducing a new USS Voyager. I was especially pleased that the Qowat Milat – a Romulan faction introduced in Star Trek: Picard – also cropped up in Discovery.

Dr Gabrielle Burnham was a member of the Qowat Milat.

Bringing together the shows currently in production is something I hope to see more of going forward! I had theorised before we knew too much about Discovery’s third season that – due to time travel shenanigans – it could have been set at the dawn of the 25th Century along with Picard, but ultimately that didn’t happen. It would’ve been cool, though!

Lower Decks and Discovery didn’t really connect in any significant way during these 23 weeks. The most significant thing I noticed which came close to tying the two series together was that in both of their season premieres, a main character gets chewed on by an alien monster! In Second Contact it happened to Ensign Boimler, and in That Hope Is You, Part 1 it happened to Burnham. Maybe that was a conscious choice – but I suspect it may be little more than coincidence.

Boimler got chewed on by a monster…
…and so did Michael Burnham.

Both Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Discovery represent a franchise stepping out of its comfort zone and trying to do something different. In Lower Decks’ case we see Star Trek trying a different genre – comedy. The particular style of comedy chosen may not be to everyone’s taste, but I would argue that fans of shows like Rick and Morty or The Orville would have found something to enjoy. Discovery took Star Trek away from the familiar ground of the 23rd and 24th Centuries in a major way for really the first time. We’d seen individual episodes or parts of episodes set in the far future before, but never a whole season.

Both shows felt like they were made with Star Trek fans firmly in mind. That may seem obvious, but we have to remember that hardcore fans are a small percentage of any franchise’s audience. Lower Decks in particular was a series that was largely episodic and that relied at key moments on references to somewhat obscure events in Star Trek’s wider canon, both for its comedy and for narrative beats. That was a bold move, and one which could have backfired.

The arrival of the USS Titan.

Discovery didn’t take an episodic approach, but there are more episodes in its third season which act as standalone stories than there were in Seasons 1 and 2 combined. The writers and producers have clearly tried to blend season-long storylines with shorter episodic stories, and while we can debate which episodes were the best and the worst, taken as a whole the season was definitely better for the inclusion of some of these smaller stories.

Though we won’t know for sure until the new show hits our screens, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is supposedly going to take a similar approach: keeping the season-long arcs while at the same time flying the ship and crew to different adventures every week. Discovery Season 3 provides a good foundation to build on in that regard – provided the writers and producers pay attention to what worked and what didn’t!

Saru in command of the USS Discovery.

Though I plan to do a proper look back at both Season 1 of Lower Decks and Season 3 of Discovery in the weeks ahead, looking back at this 23 weeks of Star Trek I can already say that I had a great time. There were some stumbles and some storylines and episodes that didn’t work for a few different reasons, but the quality of both shows was generally high. I can’t fault the visual effects, the acting, the direction, the editing, the post-production work, or anything behind-the-scenes when considering the bigger picture. Narrative will always be something subjective, but I would encourage anyone to give both shows a try and to stick with them beyond the first couple of episodes.

The only thing I’d say is that, having set up this promotion between the two shows, it’s a little odd that there were essentially no references or crossovers between them. Because of the decision to send Discovery into the future, there was the possibility for Lower Decks to reference something from Discovery’s first two seasons, and for Discovery to reference something from Lower Decks’ first season. Maybe that’s something that can happen at some point in the future.

There will be more Lower Decks to come!

Though we don’t have access to viewing figures – something which, unfortunately, leads to a lot of speculation and misinformation floating around online – I hope that both shows did well. On merit I’d happily recommend both to any Star Trek fan, and to any fan of either animated comedies or action-sci fi. The upcoming rebranding of CBS All Access as Paramount+ may bring in more new viewers to both shows, and Lower Decks’ international broadcast later this month will hopefully attract some attention too.

As I said at the beginning, Star Trek feels like it’s in a good place. There are projects in the pipeline that should see the franchise grow and build on what both Discovery and Lower Decks have done over the last 23 weeks, and it’s my hope that it will remain viable and stay on our screens for many years to come. I have the same sort of feeling that I had in the mid-1990s when Deep Space Nine and Voyager had picked up the baton from The Next Generation; there’s a lot going on, and all of it is different or at least not afraid to try new things.

I will miss my Friday appointment with Discovery now that the third season has concluded. However, as I look ahead to the rest of 2021, I’m hopeful that we may see Prodigy and Lower Decks Season 2 even if we have to wait until 2022 for more live-action Star Trek! I hope you’ll stay tuned here on the website, as I’ll break down any news that comes our way regarding upcoming Star Trek projects as well as look back at some of the stories and themes that we saw over these 23 weeks. It really is a great time to be a Star Trek fan right now – or a fan of sci-fi and fantasy in general. I truly hope that you enjoyed the last 23 weeks as much as I did.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States and will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on the 22nd of January in the rest of the world. Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States and on Netflix in the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks, Discovery, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

End-of-Year Awards 2020

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for some of the films, games, and television shows listed below.

Welcome to my first annual End-of-Year Awards! These are the best (and worst) entertainment events of the year – in my subjective opinion! Rather than writing a top ten list (like I did last year to mark the end of the decade) I’m instead choosing a few categories and awarding my picks for the best entertainment experiences of the year.

I’m including a few titles from the tail end of 2019 on this list simply because many people will have only got around to watching or playing them this year. These decisions are always difficult and I often feel that – because people put these lists together weeks or months before the end of the year – titles released in December tend to miss out. As such you’ll find a few titles from the final few weeks of 2019 being given an award – and perhaps next year there may be a title or two from the end of 2020 featured!

Most categories will have a runner-up and a winner; a few only have one, and in those cases that title wins by default.

A note about exclusions: if I haven’t seen or played a title for myself, for reasons that I hope are obvious it can’t be included. I’m only one person, and I don’t have every moment of the day to dedicate to entertainment. As such, some titles others may consider to be “massive releases” for 2020 aren’t going to be given an award. In the gaming realm, this also applies to titles that I haven’t completed. The exclusion from these awards of titles like Ghost of Tsushima and Tenet isn’t to say they aren’t good; they may be – but I have no experience with them so I’m unable to comment at this time.

With all of that out of the way let’s jump into the awards! If you like, you can try to imagine a fancy stage and some celebrity presenter handing out statuettes. That may or may not be what I’m doing as I write!

Web Series:

Nowadays many of us get at least a portion of our entertainment away from big-budget productions on websites and apps like YouTube. There are a number of top-tier YouTube shows that may have started off as typical amateur productions, but have since become far more professional. As better cameras and microphones become readily available, even low-budget YouTube productions can offer impressive audio and visuals.

Personally I watch a video or two on YouTube most days, and there are a number of channels which have produced top-quality entertainment this year. When the pandemic hit, many YouTube shows were able to keep going despite the chaos engulfing the wider entertainment industry. They had the means and the technology to do so, and that’s fantastic.

Linus Tech Tips

Linus Tech Tips is one of the first YouTube channels I began watching regularly, having stumbled upon it when looking for PC building tips a few years ago. Though some of what they do is complete overkill (what YouTube channel needs $20,000 cameras?) they have a lot of fun while doing it. Linus Tech Tips explores the high-end and cutting-edge of computers, cameras, and other technologies, and the presenters manage to make it entertaining.

The channel has continued its steady growth and now boasts a number of regular presenters in addition to the titular Linus, most of whom specialise in particular topics. There are also several other channels produced by the same team, including TechQuickie, Short Circuit, and TechLinked. The combined output of the main channel plus its subsidiaries means there’s at least one new video per day, which is great. Even less-interesting topics can be made fun when presented well, and the team at Linus Tech Tips manage to be interesting and entertaining every time.


I love a good cooking show. Not only can they be entertaining but also very relaxing. SORTEDfood has a usual output of two videos per week, and while in recent years they’ve stepped away from purely doing recipes and into things like kitchen gadget reviews, everything is food-themed and the enthusiasm that the five presenters have is infectious. During the coronavirus pandemic, London (where the show is recorded) was in lockdown. Despite that, the team found creative ways to get around it, and even incorporated it into their videos. In addition to recipes there were helpful things like reviews of food delivery services, which at the height of lockdown here in the UK was actually really useful. I was able to use a couple of the services they recommended to send gifts to people I couldn’t see in person; gift ideas I would never have had were it not for SORTEDfood.

Their pandemic programming was good, but when lockdown was lifted it was nice for the team to come back together and get back to their regular output. I’m a huge fan of their “ultimate battles” in particular, which pit the presenters head-to-head to create the best dish. The “pass it on” series, where all five take turns to create a single dish, is also fantastic – and often very funny. SORTEDfood manages to be both informative and entertaining, and their output during lockdown was phenomenal and undoubtedly helped many viewers during a difficult time. For all of those reaons, I’m crowing SORTEDfood the best web series of the year.


I’m setting aside a whole category for documentaries because I’m a big fan. There have been some great ones in 2020, both standalone films and series. Netflix has surprised me over the last few years by growing to become a huge player in the documentary genre, funding many productions – including some Academy Award nominees. Disney+ joined the streaming wars late last year – or in March this year if you’re in the UK – and has also brought some fascinating pieces of documentary content to the small screen. It’s a great time for documentaries at the moment!

We Need To Talk About A.I.

This documentary was fascinating, if perhaps somewhat alarmist. Looking at the possible creation of general artificial intelligence, and the potential for such an AI to surpass humanity, it was a truly interesting peek behind the curtain at what researchers are doing on the cutting-edge of AI research. The documentary was presented by Keir Dullea, famous for his role as Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That film saw his character go up against an out-of-control AI, and Dullea brings a gravitas to the role of narrator as a result.

The film made reference to a number of sci-fi films which look at rogue AI, most significantly Terminator 2: Judgement Day, whose director James Cameron was interviewed. From my perspective as a Trekkie, having just seen Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 and Star Trek: Picard Season 1, which both look at the potential for out-of-control AIs, the documentary brought the world of fiction uncomfortably close to the world we inhabit today. While most of the interviewees offered a fairly bleak look at future AI, particularly in the military realm, others did paint a more positive picture. The biggest thing I took away from it, though, it how little consensus there is among researchers and scientists not only on whether AI is a good idea, but whether it’s even truly possible, or how long it will take.

The film is a fascinating, slightly unnerving watch.

The Imagineering Story

Though it isn’t a subject I’ve talked about often here on the website, I have a great fondness for Disney’s theme parks. It’s doubtful given my health that I’ll be able to go any time soon, but I have fond memories of visits to several parks with both family and groups of friends. Combine that love of Disney with my aforementioned love of documentaries and I got what was one of the most underrated yet fascinating entertainment experiences of the year!

Prior to the launch of Disney+ in the UK in March, there was already a Disney-branded streaming platform here. I wasn’t sure what kind of an upgrade to expect when the new service arrived – except for The Mandalorian there didn’t seem to be much new. The Imagineering Story was one of the few documentaries on Disney+ at launch, but it’s absolutely fascinating, detailing the behind-the-scenes work that went into building Disney’s various parks and themed lands.

The addition of some National Geographic documentaries to Disney+ over the last year or so has made the platform into a good home for the format, though I would like to see more films and series either added from Disney’s extensive back catalogue or better yet, commissioned exclusively for Disney+.

But we’re off-topic! The Imagineering Story was beautifully narrated by Angela Bassett, and as a series made by Disney itself was able to get the perspectives of many senior people who worked at the parks and on many of the projects it covered.

Video Games:

Despite the all the chaos and pandemonium in the world in 2020, many new games – and two new consoles – managed to make it to release. While it’s true that some titles have suffered delays, by far the majority of planned and scheduled releases made it, and that’s no small accomplishment!

As a new console generation gets ready for its centre-stage moment, it’s often been the case that we get a quieter-than-average year as companies shift their focus. Despite that, though, we’ve seen some pretty big titles in 2020, including a couple that will likely be heralded as “game of the generation” or even “game of the decade!” If I’m still alive and kicking in 2029, by the way, check back as I may have a thing or two to say about that!

Though it’s far too early to say which of the two newly-launched consoles will do best in the years to come, 2020 has given all of us some great gaming experiences… and some crap ones.

Worst Game:

Let’s start by getting the worst games out of the way. 2020 has seen some stinkers, including big-budget titles from successful developers and publishers. They really ought to know better.

Marvel’s Avengers

Marvel’s Avengers is the Anthem of 2020. Or the Fallout 76 of 2020. Or the Destiny 1 of 2020. Or the The Culling II of 2020. Pick any of those live service, broken-at-launch disasters, and that’s what Marvel’s Avengers is. The “release now, fix later” business model has condemned what could have been a popular and successful title to failure. But Marvel’s Avengers hasn’t even failed spectacularly enough to be forever etched in the annals of gaming history alongside titles like 1982’s E.T. Instead it’s slowly fading away, and in six months or a year’s time, nobody will even remember it existed.

Disney and Square Enix looked at a long list of crappy video game business ideas, including paid battle-passes, console-exclusive characters, corporate tie-ins with unrelated brands like phone providers and chewing gum makers, in-game currencies, and microtransactions for each of the six main characters individually. They then decided to put all of these into the game, robbing it of any soul or heart it could have had and turning it into a bland corporate cash-grab. As soon as I heard the company planned the game as a “multi-year experience,” the writing was on the wall. If, underneath all of the corporate nonsense, there had been a halfway decent game with fun gameplay, perhaps more players would have stuck it out. But, as usual with these types of games, there wasn’t. I’m not the world’s biggest Marvel fan. So I’m not horribly offended by this game in the way some folks undoubtedly are. But I can sympathise with them, because fans deserve better than this steaming pile of crap to which Disney and Square Enix have attempted to affix the Marvel logo.

The Last of Us Part II

The Last Of Us Part II’s cover-based stealth/action gameplay is fine. Though better than the first game, I didn’t feel there was a colossal improvement in terms of gameplay – but that could be said about countless sequels over the last couple of console generations. Where The Last Of Us Part II fell down was its story. This was a game I was sceptical of from the beginning; the first title felt like lightning in a bottle, something that neither wanted nor required a follow-up. In 2020, though, practically every successful title ends up being spun out into a franchise.

With a theme of breaking the cycle of violence, The Last Of Us Part II considers itself “artistic” and clever. Unfortunately that theme led to a horribly unsatisfying narrative, with players not only forced to take on the role of the person who murdered Joel – the protagonist/anti-hero from the first title – but ends with Ellie letting her escape and refusing to take revenge. Had the same concept been part of a new game with new characters, it could have worked better. But crammed into this title it fell flat. I stuck with it out of stubbornness as a fan of the first title, but it was a profoundly unenjoyable ride, and that’s why The Last Of Us Part II is the worst game of 2020.

Best Casual Game:

How do we define a “casual” game? It’s a difficult one, and it’s one of those contentious topics where fans of a title who may have spent hundreds of hours in the game world will get upset at hearing their favourite game referred to as “casual.” When it came to choosing titles for this category, I looked at games that could be easily picked up for a short burst, then put down. Games that can be played for a few minutes and that have gameplay suited to that was one of the main criteria. Games in this category also had to be pick-up-and-play. Some casual games can indeed be hard to truly master, but for my money, any game to which we assign the “casual” title has to be accessible and easy to get started with.

So that was how I came to my shortlist. Now let’s look at the runner-up and winner… though if you’ve been a reader all year I doubt you’ll be too surprised!

Fall Guys

Fall Guys seemingly came out of nowhere in August. It wasn’t a title I’d heard of, let alone one I was looking forward to, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Taking a format inspired by television game-shows like Gladiators or Total Wipeout, the basic gameplay consists of running a series of obstacle courses, looking to be the last one standing at the end to win a crown.

I’m not usually interested in online multiplayer titles, but Fall Guys was something so genuinely different that I was prepared to give it a go. And what I found was a game that was shockingly fun. Each round lasts barely a couple of minutes, meaning even if you don’t qualify it’s not a big deal. Just jump into the next game. Though there are microtransactions, at time of writing they aren’t intrusive and the game is quite generous with the in-game currency given out simply for playing. There are fun cosmetic items to dress up your adorable little jelly bean character in, and the whole game is cute and lots of fun. Though it did have a cheating problem for a while, the addition of anti-cheat software appears to have fixed things. I’m probably about done with Fall Guys as I move on to find new things to watch and play, but I had a wonderful time with it this summer and autumn.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

With over 120 hours played, I’ve spent more time this year with Animal Crossing: New Horizons than with the next two games on my list put together. That’s no small accomplishment – even if my 120 hours seems paltry compared to the amount of time some players have put into this title. Time alone doesn’t make a title worthy of winning an award, though. Why Animal Crossing: New Horizons deserves the title is because practically all of those hours were enjoyable.

It’s true that the base game at launch was missing features from past entries in the series, notably 2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf. And I find that disappointing, even if updates have since improved the game. But despite the missing content, what the game did have was fantastic, and there really isn’t anything like New Horizons on the market. It’s cute wholesome fun, and the kind of game that can be played for even just a few minutes at a time. It doesn’t demand a huge commitment in the way some titles do – but if you get stuck into it, you’ll find yourself wanting to spend more and more time on your island.

Best Racing Game:

There’s only one game in this category this year, simply because the other racing games I’ve played in 2020 were released in previous years. I had a lot of fun with Forza Horizon 4 in particular, but as a 2018 title it can’t be included here for obvious reasons.

Hotshot Racing

Congratulations to Hotshot Racing for winning by default! Jokes aside, this game is a lot of fun. An unashamed arcade racer that makes no attempt at realism, it’s fast-paced, exciting, and ridiculous in equal measure! What attracted me to the game when it was released in September was its deliberately mid-90s aesthetic; a beautifully simple art style inspired by racing games of the Sega Saturn and PlayStation 1 era.

At a time when many games feel overpriced, the Β£15 I paid for Hotshot Racing actually feels cheap! For how much fun the game is, even when simply playing against the AI, it could arguably ask for a lot more money! Speaking of playing against the AI, that’s something Hotshot Racing encourages, and considering how many titles that supposedly offer a single-player mode still try to force players to go online, I appreciated that. In the mid-90s, some games could do four-player split-screen, but many titles were limited to just two players at the most, so racing against the AI was something all gamers had to do; that was just how those games were meant to be played!

As a visual throwback to games past, Hotshot Racing caught my eye. But there’s more to it than just the way it looks, and what’s under that cute retro skin is a genuinely fun arcade racer.

Best Star Wars Game:

It’s unusual for two games in a single franchise to release within a year of each other, but that’s what happened! There was even supposed to be a third Star Wars title this year – Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga – but it was delayed until 2021.

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-up πŸ₯ˆ
Star Wars: Squadrons

Though Squadrons is less arcadey than classic starfighter titles like Rogue Squadron, it’s a remarkably fun game. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a pilot in a galaxy far, far away, this is about as close as you can get! Though I don’t play in VR, the option to use a VR headset – as well as to set up a proper HOTAS or other flight controller on PC – surely makes this the most immersive Star Wars experience out there. Even just with a control pad, though, Squadrons truly transports you to the cockpit of an X-Wing, TIE Fighter, or one of the game’s other starfighters.

The single-player campaign was fun, giving players the opportunity to fight on both sides of the war as the New Republic seeks to defeat the rump Empire – the game is set in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi. I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer, so the fact that there is an AI mode, allowing me to continue to have fun just playing against the computer, is fantastic. I had a truly enjoyable time with Star Wars: Squadrons, and I keep going back for more.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Jedi: Fallen Order was released in November 2019, so including it on this list is a bit of a stretch, I admit. But I got to play it this year, and it was the first game where I fully documented my playthrough. Jedi: Fallen Order managed to feel like a cross between Knights of the Old Republic and the Uncharted series, with protagonist Cal taking on a quest to visit several ancient worlds in search of a Jedi Holocron.

There were twists and turns along the way, but the whole time I felt like I was taking part in a Star Was adventure all my own. After the disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker, playing through Jedi: Fallen Order convinced me that the Star Wars franchise was going to be okay, and that there were still new and original stories worth telling in this universe.

The gameplay was great too, with lots of exciting action and lightsabre-swinging as Cal took on the forces of the Empire. I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t played it for yourself, but Jedi: Fallen Order was a wild and incredible ride, and one I heartily recommend.

Best Action or Adventure Game:

This category ended up with two first-person shooters, but I’m keeping the name the same! There were many great action, adventure, and first-person shooter titles released this year, and I didn’t have time to play all of them. Here are the two I enjoyed most.

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-up πŸ₯ˆ
Doom Eternal

The sequel to the wonderful 2016 reboot of Doom is just fantastic. Gone is the horror vibe that Doom 3 mistakenly introduced, and instead what you get is action and excitement – with some interesting platforming sections thrown in for good measure. There is a story, of course, but unlike many games I’m not really all that interested in it. I come to games like Doom Eternal to feel like a demon-killing badass, and that’s precisely what the game offers.

There was a lot of fun to be had in the days leading up to Doom Eternal’s launch, as it coincided with the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I greatly enjoyed the memes and artwork created by folks on the internet, depicting Doom Guy and characters from the Animal Crossing series together! All in all, this is just a fast-paced, fun shooter that doesn’t try to be anything more. It isn’t a jack-of-all-trades; it does one thing and does it to perfection.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Throughout 2020, developers 343 Industries have brought the Halo series to PC. Halo: Reach arrived late last year, and in the months since we’ve gotten every other title in the series – except for Halo 5! It had been a long time since I played Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox, and I had a lot of fun rediscovering the series and enjoying it all over again. The updated graphics improved the experience in a lot of ways, but it was also fun (and innovative) to be able to switch between visual styles on the fly.

I hadn’t played either Halo 3: ODST or Halo 4, so I not only got to recreate my Halo experience from years past, but expand on it too. The setting the series uses is as unique and interesting as any sci-fi video game I’ve played, and I’m very curious to see what Halo Infinite can bring to the series when it’s eventually ready.

Television Shows:

There have been some wonderful television shows this year. While the pandemic led to the shutdown of cinemas and a delay in many films being released, a lot of television shows were able to press ahead – at least, those that had completed filming before the worst effects were felt. I hoped to include more categories, such as best miniseries, but time got away from me and I have a number of shows still on my list of things to watch!

Worst Television Series:

Luckily there’s only one in this category! If I’m not enjoying a television series I tend to just stop watching – unless there seems to be a real prospect of improvement. Likewise, if I feel something won’t be to my taste I’ll just skip it; life is too short, after all, for bad entertainment. That said, there are exceptions, and I found one in 2020.


Supernatural is the king of running too long – a crown it inherited from The Big Bang Theory! Fifteen years ago, when it debuted, there was a great premise as brothers Sam and Dean Winchester set out to hunt ghosts and monsters, all the while keeping an eye out for the demon that killed their mother and Sam’s girlfriend.

But by the time the show reached its third season, many of its ongoing storylines had concluded. The writers began reaching for new and different demons and creatures for Sam and Dean to tackle, and the quality dipped. By the time the show crossed over into the self-congratulatory fan-servicey mess it has been in recent seasons it had just become ridiculous; a parody of itself.

As the seasons dragged on, writers began pumping more and more Biblical themes into Supernatural, transforming its protagonists into invincible prophets anointed by God. An episode a few seasons back saw Sam and Dean cross over into a world where their adventures are a television show in what has to be one of the worst examples of fan-service I’ve ever seen.

Thankfully Supernatural has now wrapped up its final season. I tuned back in – against my better judgement – to see if the impending end of the series would make a difference to its quality. But it didn’t, and I stand by something I’ve been saying for years: many television shows have a natural lifespan. Supernatural had maybe three decent seasons, and should certainly have ended a long time ago.

Best Animated Series:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-up πŸ₯ˆ
Rick & Morty

We got five episodes of Rick & Morty in 2020; the back half of Season 4, which had premiered last year. The show’s entire premise is wacky, sometimes over-the-top humour, and that doesn’t always stick the landing, especially when the creative team have been working on it for seven years already. So with that in mind, I consider four episodes out of five being decent to be a pretty good run.

When the show stopped flying under the radar and really hit the mainstream in 2017, there was a fear perhaps that the newfound popularity would lead to changes. But I don’t really think that’s happened, and I wouldn’t say that this year’s episodes were substantially different to those in past seasons. They weren’t necessarily any better, but certainly no worse.

There were some great jokes, some hilarious moments, and some weird and wonderful aliens as Rick and Morty (along with Summer, Jerry, and Beth) took off on their interdimensional adventures.

Star Trek: Lower Decks

It could hardly be anything else, right? Building on the success of both the Star Trek franchise and animated comedies like Rick and Morty, Star Trek: Lower Decks represented the franchise’s biggest attempt to try something new – and arguably its biggest risk – in a very long time. Despite the controversy surrounding Lower Decks’ lack of an international broadcast, judging the series on merit it was a very enjoyable ride.

There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in Lower Decks, but more than that, the show paid homage to my personal favourite era of Star Trek – the 24th Century. There were so many callbacks and references to events in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager and the series managed to feel like Star Trek while at the same time having an overtly comedic style.

While its sense of humour won’t be to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying that Lower Decks was made by fans for fans, and I’m really excited to see its second season whenever that may come – especially now that the show’s international broadcast has been settled meaning that fans everywhere can enjoy it together.

Best Live-Action Television Series:

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-up πŸ₯ˆ

Right at the beginning of the year I watched Cobra, a British thriller about a government dealing with the aftermath of a disaster. Such an interesting fictional concept, I thought. How innocent we were back then, eh?

Cobra wasn’t what I expected. Having read the pre-release marketing I was expecting a disaster series, something dealing with an apocalyptic event. Instead it’s much more of a thriller with elements of political drama. Even though that was completely not what I expected, I had an enjoyable time with the series.

Robert Carlyle – who plays the role of a British Prime Minister clearly inspired by Tony Blair – is an actor I’ve always felt was underrated. I saw him a few years ago in a miniseries called Hitler: The Rise of Evil, and ever since I’ve found him to be a decent actor who can take on a variety of roles. He was the star of Cobra – but didn’t overwhelm the series. It was an entertaining ride with some truly tense moments.

Star Trek: Picard

This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed my articles and columns this year! Star Trek: Picard did something I’d been desperately wanting the franchise to do for basically twenty years: move forward. Since Enterprise premiered shortly after the turn of the millennium, Star Trek has looked backwards, with all of its attention focused on prequels and reboots. Many of those stories were great, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to know what came next, and Picard scratched that itch.

But its premise alone would not make it the best television series of the year! Star Trek: Picard told an engaging, mysterious story as the retired Admiral Picard set out on a new adventure. The story touched on contemporary themes of artificial intelligence, isolationism, and mental health, and was an enthralling watch. Though it stumbled as the first season drew to a close, the first eight episodes were outstanding, and have hopefully laid the groundwork not only for future seasons and more adventures with Picard and his new crew, but also for further Star Trek stories set at the dawn of the 25th Century.

It’s difficult to pick out one individual episode and say it was the best the season had to offer, because Star Trek: Picard is designed to be watched from beginning to end as one continuous story. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try!

Star Trek Episodes:

2020 was the first year since 1998 with three Star Trek productions, so there’s a lot of episodes to choose from! As Trekkies we’re spoilt for choice at the moment – long may that continue! This year I reviewed every single Star Trek episode that was broadcast. The year began with Picard in late January, then Lower Decks came along in August, and finally Discovery premiered in mid-October.

Worst Episode:

There weren’t a lot of options here, because the quality of modern Star Trek has been high. That said, every Star Trek show has misfires and duds from time to time, and this year was no exception.

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-up πŸ₯ˆ
Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 (Star Trek: Picard)

After an incredibly strong start, Star Trek: Picard stumbled as its first season drew to a close. My primary complaint about Et in Arcadia Ego as a whole (aside from that godawful gold makeup they used for the synths) was that it introduced too many new characters and storylines, most of which didn’t get enough screen time to properly develop. The first part of a finale needs to bring together everything that’s already happened, not dump an awful lot of new things onto the audience, but that’s what Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 did.

The episode was also very poorly-paced, which is down to a combination of scripting and editing. The story jumped from point to point without sufficient time for the audience to digest what was going on. It also skipped over what should’ve been massive emotional moments, like Picard and Soji learning Hugh’s fate, or Elnor learning of Picard’s illness. Dr Soong and Sutra in particular needed more development and more screen time – though Isa Briones’ terrible, one-dimensional performance means that’s something I’m half-glad we didn’t get!

Overall, this was Picard’s worst episode by far. The aesthetic, editing, and pacing were all wrong, and if the story of Season 1 wanted to include all of these new characters, factions, and settings, we needed not only more episodes, but to have brought them in much earlier.

πŸ† Winner πŸ†
Envoys (Star Trek: Lower Decks)

Envoys’ opening sequence, in which Ensign Mariner kidnaps a sentient energy lifeform “for a laugh,” was the closest I came to switching off Star Trek’s second animated series and not going back. Where Lower Decks succeeded was in making the regular goings-on in Starfleet comical. Where it failed was in attempting to set up Ensign Mariner as Star Trek’s answer to Rick Sanchez (from Rick & Morty). This sequence encapsulated all of Mariner’s worst qualities, and was about as un-Star Trek as it’s possible to get.

It’s a shame, because the episode’s B-plot starred Ensign Rutherford in what was one of his better stories as he hopped from role to role aboard the ship, trying out different postings in different departments. The main story stuck with Mariner and Boimler, and derived much of its attempted humour from her mean-spirited selfishness. The ending of the episode did go some way to humanising Mariner, and arguably set the stage for her becoming a much more likeable character across the remainder of the season. But that opening sequence in particular is awful, and is the main reason why I’m crowing Envoys as the worst Star Trek episode of the year.

Best Episode:

This is a much more fun category than the one above! And there are plenty of candidates. All three shows managed to have some real gems, and picking just two was not an easy task.

πŸ₯ˆ Runner-up πŸ₯ˆ
Far From Home (Star Trek: Discovery)

After Michael Burnham arrived in the 32nd Century in the season premiere, Far From Home saw Discovery and the rest of the crew arrive too. We were treated to an excellent crash landing sequence that was reminiscent of Voyager’s fourth season episode Timeless, and we got an interesting storyline which saw Saru and the crew forced to adapt to a very different and difficult future.

Saru and Tilly both stepped up, and the dynamic between these two characters has been continued through the rest of the season. As two main characters who hadn’t spent a huge amount of time together before this episode, their relationship was somewhat new and very interesting. Saru stepped up to become the captain we all hoped he could be in Far From Home, and Tilly showed us that there’s more to her than mere comic relief.

As the second half of the series premiere, Far From Home does a lot of world-building, establishing the violent, chaotic nature of the 32nd Century. It was also rare in that it was a Star Trek: Discovery episode with practically no input from Burnham – something which allowed many other crew members to shine in unexpected ways.

Remembrance (Star Trek: Picard)

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a Star Trek episode than I was for Remembrance. This was the moment Star Trek returned to the 24th Century for the first time since 2002’s Nemesis – and it was the first time the overall story of the Star Trek galaxy had moved forward since we heard about the destruction of Romulus in 2009’s Star Trek.

Children of Mars – the Short Treks episode that served as a prologue to Picard – had been somewhat of a let-down, so there was a lot riding on Remembrance as far as I was concerned! And I’m so happy to report that it delivered. It was mysterious and exciting, with moments of tension and action, and although the now-retired Admiral Picard was not exactly the same as he was the last time we saw him, flickers of the man we knew were still there.

Remembrance set the stage beautifully for Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. It took things slow and didn’t overwhelm us with storylines and heavy plot all at once. By the end of the episode we’d only really met two of the season’s principal characters. Perhaps seen in the light of the rushed finale this could be argued to be a mistake, and that we needed to get a quicker start. But I don’t think I agree with that assessment; Remembrance is perfect the way it is, and probably the best single episode of television I saw all year.


Let’s be blunt for a moment: 2020 has been a catastrophic year for the film industry. So many titles that should have been released simply didn’t come out due to the pandemic, and as a result it’s been slim pickings. A few bigger titles managed to premiere in January or February before the worst effects hit, but since the end of February very few titles have come out. We’ve missed out on films like No Time To Die, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Dune, all of which have been delayed to 2021. And there will be ramifications for years to come, as titles planned for 2021 are being pushed to 2022, and so on.

There have been some titles that managed to come out this year, and from my selfish point-of-view, I’m happy that more have come straight to streaming! My health is poor, and one thing that I sadly can’t do any more is get to the cinema (I haven’t been able to for several years). So in that sense I don’t feel that I personally have missed out in quite the same way! However, the massively-curtailed release schedule has had an effect, and as a result I don’t really have a lot of titles to choose from for this section of the awards. In another year I might’ve split up the films into several genres, but instead we just have three categories.

Worst Film:

Luckily there’s only one film in this category this year. If you recall my review of it from the spring, it perhaps won’t be a surprise!

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker is saved from being the worst Star Wars film solely by the existence of The Phantom Menace – and it’s not always clear which is worse. The clumsy insertion of Palpatine into a story that was clearly not supposed to have anything to do with him is perhaps the worst example of corporate-mandated fan service I’ve ever seen. Not only does Palpatine ruin The Rise of Skywalker, but the revelation that he’s been manipulating the entire story of Star Wars from behind the scenes undermines every other story that the cinematic franchise has tried to tell. It was a monumentally bad decision; the worst kind of deus ex machina. And his presence wasn’t even explained.

But while Palpatine stank up the plot, he wasn’t the only problem in The Rise of Skywalker. The ridiculously choppy editing meant no scene lasted more than a few seconds, leaving the audience no time to digest what was happening. There was some truly awful dialogue. General Hux’s story makes no sense at all and was totally out of character. Rose Tico was sidelined, despite her character being a huge part of the previous film. Palpatine’s plan – and his decision to announce it to the galaxy before enacting it – makes no sense. The stupid limitation to his fleet also makes no sense. Rey’s character arc across the trilogy was ruined by the decision to listen to bad fan theories. Poe and Finn basically did nothing of consequence. And the scenes with Leia – I’m sorry to say given Carrie Fisher’s untimely demise – were so obviously lifted from another film that it was painful.

JJ Abrams ran around undoing so many storylines from The Last Jedi that The Rise of Skywalker felt like two films haphazardly smashed together, but cut down to the runtime of a single picture. There was an occasional moment where either something funny happened or perhaps the nostalgia hit hard, but otherwise it was a total failure, and by far the worst film I’ve seen all year.

Best Animated Film:

Frozen II

Disney does not have a good track record when it comes to sequels. Most of the time their big animated features are one-offs, with any sequels being relegated to direct-to-video offerings. But Frozen had been such a cultural landmark after its 2013 release that a sequel was, perhaps, inevitable. And far from being an afterthought, Frozen II was a film that equalled – and occasionally surpassed – its illustrious predecessor.

There was some fantastic animation work in Frozen II, such as the effects used for the fog. There was less snow than in the first film, and the snow in Frozen was beautiful, so that’s a shame in a way! The soundtrack was fantastic too, with several catchy songs that are well worth listening to.

Frozen II’s story was engrossing and genuinely interesting, and unlike some Disney sequels managed to avoid feeling tacked-on. The parents of the two sisters at the heart of the story had been killed early in the first film – and Frozen II saw them learn more about what happened to them, as well as discovering the source of Elsa’s powers.

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe

Phineas and Ferb went off the air in 2015, and as Disney Channel shows are usually one-and-done affairs I didn’t expect to see it return. But Candace Against the Universe premiered in August on Disney+ and was absolutely amazing.

After a five-year break the film brought back practically everything that made Phineas and Ferb great. There was a wacky but fun plot that brought together the kids and Dr Doofenshmirtz, there were some great musical numbers, and above all a deep story that had heart. Candace – the sister of the titular Phineas and Ferb – took centre-stage in a story that made depression accessible to even the film’s young target audience. It ended by telling a story that showed kids that they don’t have to be the centre of the universe to matter, and I think that’s an incredibly powerful message.

I’m a big advocate of sensitive depictions of mental health in entertainment. Not every story has to touch on the subject, of course, but Candace Against the Universe did – and it did so in a way that was relatable and understandable. But beyond that, it was a fun return to a series I thought was over. It’s possible the film could be the springboard for more Phineas and Ferb, but even if it isn’t I’m still glad we got to see it.

Best Live-Action Film:

Ordinarily I’d try to split up films by genre, and at least have sections for comedy, sci-fi, and maybe one or two others. But so few films have staggered out the door this year that there’s not really a lot of choice. As I’ve seen so few new films I just picked my top two. It wasn’t even all that difficult.

Sonic the Hedgehog

In any other year, Sonic the Hedgehog wouldn’t have got a look-in as one of the best releases. But this is 2020, and as we’ve already discussed, there aren’t a lot of options. After receiving backlash for its visual effects when the first trailer was released in 2019, the creative team behind Sonic the Hedgehog went back to the drawing board and redesigned the titular Sega mascot, bringing him closer to his video game appearance. The willingness of the studio to delay the project in response to fan criticism is appreciated, especially when many other studios have chosen to double-down in the face of such backlash.

The film itself is surprisingly fun, though as with 1993’s Super Mario Bros., features a storyline quite far-removed from the video game franchise it’s inspired by. Jim Carrey hasn’t exactly disappeared in recent years, but has been nowhere near as ubiquitous as he was in his late-90s heyday, so his performance here feels like a return to form. And that’s all I have to say, really. It was a fun film, and an enjoyable way to kill a couple of hours. Is Sonic the Hedgehog going to be hailed as a classic of modern cinema alongside Lincoln and Bohemian Rhapsody? Of course not. But out of the available titles this year, it’s one of the best.


Now for a complete change of tone! 1917 was released in December last year, and is a truly epic war film that missed out on winning any of the top Academy Awards. However, despite the snub by the Oscars, it’s an outstanding piece of historical cinema, and though its novel “one-take” style of editing was perhaps less impressive than I expected it to be, it was nevertheless interesting.

I fully expect 1917 to be considered a classic of the war genre in decades to come, such is its quality. At its core is an emotional story of two young men thrown into a gut-wrenching situation. The First World War was one of the worst and bloodiest in history, yet few films have depicted that horror with such brutal accuracy as 1917.

Though it isn’t the kind of popcorn flick you’ll want to watch a dozen times in a row, 1917 is artistic and inspired in all the ways that matter. From the performances to the costuming to the camera work, every tiny detail has been honed and perfected. Director Sam Mendes deserves a lot of credit for putting together this masterpiece.


In this final section I’ll briefly cover a handful of announcements for upcoming productions that got me excited in 2020. There are so many interesting projects in the works, and while some of these may not see the light of day until 2022 or even later, they’re still genuinely appealing and I’m keeping my ear to the ground listening for news!

Video Games:

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

I’d been hoping for an announcement of the remastered Mass Effect trilogy ever since rumours of its existence began to swirl earlier in the year. Though EA and Bioware kept us waiting, the remaster was finally announced a short time ago and is due for release in 2021. Whether it will really tick all the boxes, and whether enough time has passed for a remaster to feel like a substantial improvement are both open questions… but I’m very interested to find out!

Television Shows:


There’s a television show based on the 1979 classic Alien in development! Practically everything is being turned into a streaming television series right now, so perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I’m truly interested to see what the Alien franchise can do with more than a couple of hours. Television as a medium allows for longer and more complex stories than can fit in a two-hour film, so there’s a lot of potential here.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Almost since the moment he beamed aboard Discovery at the beginning of the second season, fans had been clamouring for a Captain Pike series, and Alex Kurtzman and ViacomCBS listened! Strange New Worlds was announced in May, along with a short video from its three principal cast members. The show has already begun production, and while I doubt it’ll see the light of day before 2022, it’s one of the things keeping me going right now!


The Matrix 4

Though I have no idea where the story of The Matrix 4 could possibly take the series, I’m cautiously interested. Filming has already begun, but was disrupted by – what else – the pandemic. The two sequels to 1999’s The Matrix didn’t quite live up to the first part of the saga, but nevertheless were solid action-sci fi titles. I’m hoping that, after the series has taken a long break and with access to better CGI than was available in the early 2000s, The Matrix 4 will be just as good as the first. Could this be the beginning of a greatly expanded franchise?


The first part of this new Dune duology should have been released this month, but because most cinemas remain closed it’s been pushed all the way back to December next year. Dune has previously been difficult to adapt, with at least one attempted film version never making it to screen, but this adaptation has clearly been a labour of love. It seems to feature a great cast, and based on the trailer will have some stunning visual effects. Here’s hoping that it can get the cinematic release that the director and studio hope for.

So that’s it!

Those are my picks for the entertainment highlights of 2020. It’s been a very unusual year in terms of what all of us have been able to watch and listen to. A number of big titles weren’t able to make it to release, especially in the realm of cinema. We’re also going to be feeling the knock-on effects of this disruption well into 2021 and 2022, even if things get back to normal relatively quickly – which hopefully will be the case!

2020 brought Star Trek back to the small screen in a huge way. There literally has not been this much Star Trek to get stuck into for decades, and as a big fan of the franchise I think that’s just fantastic. It’s also been a year which has accelerated the move toward streaming as a main way of accessing content. I wouldn’t like to guess how many cable or satellite subscriptions have been cancelled in favour of Netflix, Disney+, CBS All Access, and the like!

I hope that you managed to find some fun things to watch and play this year – even as the outside world seemed to be falling apart. Entertainment is great escapism, and we all needed some of that in 2020. This may be my last post of the year, so all that remains to be said is this: see you in 2021!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective company, studio, broadcaster, publisher, distributor, etc. Some promotional images and artwork courtesy of IGDB. Stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is finally getting an international broadcast

Five months too late.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, which was broadcast in the United States beginning in August, is finally getting an international release. The show will share Star Trek: Picard’s home on Amazon Prime Video from the 22nd of January – with all ten episodes being made available simultaneously on that date.

It’s anybody’s guess why this couldn’t have happened in the summer, but it is a positive step that Lower Decks has found an international home ahead of Season 2’s premiere – which may come in late 2021 or 2022. Amazon Prime Video has netted a great show and a wonderful addition to its lineup. Hopefully fans of Star Trek: Picard will at least try to give Star Trek: Lower Decks a look-in, and if they stick with it what they’ll find is an enjoyable animated comedy series that pays homage to The Next Generation era of the franchise.

Ensign Mariner.

But this whole situation has been an own goal from ViacomCBS. They seriously let down Star Trek’s huge international fanbase by deliberately choosing to broadcast Lower Decks in North America only. The damage that decision has caused will take time to abate, and I don’t blame anyone who chooses to skip Lower Decks Season 1 – or who watched it already by “other means.”

Given that ViacomCBS was clearly in negotiations with Amazon – and perhaps other broadcasters or streaming services too – why couldn’t they have just waited?! All the hurt and anger in the fanbase for the sake of broadcasting the series five months early? What’s five months in the grand scheme of things? Nothing. And if CBS All Access is in such a shaky financial position that they needed the boost from Lower Decks… well that does not bode well for the overall future of the franchise.

Ensign Boimler.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that Lower Decks is getting an international broadcast. I just don’t understand the corporate decision-making that meant we couldn’t have shared the series with our American friends in the fanbase. With coronavirus causing major disruption to Star Trek’s production schedules, there’s currently nothing on the cards for 2021 after Discovery Season 3 wraps up in the first week of January. Lower Decks Season 1 could have filled that gap for all of us, and we’d still have had more Star Trek on our screens in 2020 that we’d had in fifteen years.

It will be strange to go from 2020, with three Star Trek productions, to 2021 which looks likely to have nothing until the autumn at the earliest. Lower Decks Season 1 could have been something all Star Trek fans shared together; weeks of shared geeking out and humour to take the edge off the end of a phenomenally crappy year for many people. Instead it became another source of division in an already-fractured fanbase, and there’s just no reason I can see why that needed to happen.

Ensign Tendi.

The only upside – aside from Lower Decks being legitimately available to fans now – is that the anti-Star Trek social media groups, who have for months proclaimed that “no one wants to buy Lower Decks because it’s crap,” can now shut up! Lower Decks was a moderate success. It didn’t light the world on fire in the way some animated comedies have, but it brought in viewers. Some Trekkies who had skipped Discovery and even Picard showed up for Lower Decks, and I’m sure some fans of animated comedy gave the franchise a try for the first time.

Again, though, we come back to the broadcast being split up. Even if we very generously assume that a full half of Star Trek: Lower Decks’ potential audience is in North America, that means that when no international broadcast announcement was forthcoming, 50% of the hype and interest in Lower Decks vanished. And we see this in the reaction to the show online.

Ensign Rutherford.

Hype is a funny thing. By killing half of it – or more – when the decision to only broadcast Lower Decks in North America became obvious, there’s no telling how many potential viewers the show lost. If everyone had been on board for the series at the same time its premiere would have been much bigger, and the buzz it generated would have reached far further. Thus we can argue that ViacomCBS didn’t just lose 50% of Lower Decks’ audience by segregating its release by geography, but an untold number. The show was so good that it could have easily achieved the same viewership as some of the better animated comedies in recent years – Disenchanted, Final Space, even Rick and Morty. If we’re judging the series on merit, it easily matches any of these.

But we can’t simply judge Lower Decks on merit. Its broadcast was split up, and every conversation around the show since has at least acknowledged that fact. The final episode of the season even brought in a major starship and two major characters that could be considered a significant spoiler for Trekkies, and it isn’t easy to avoid spoilers in online fan communities. Some fans who chose not to pirate the show will have had it spoiled for them, and while arguably the spoilers in Lower Decks aren’t as egregious as the likes of Baby Yoda had been in The Mandalorian when that show’s release was similarly split up, those spoilers still have an effect on fans.

The USS Cerritos at warp.

So that’s that. Five months too late, Lower Decks will be available to Star Trek fans in much of the rest of the world. Some territories and jurisdictions may still have to wait; Amazon’s announcement mentioned Europe, the UK, India, Australia, and “others.” But a lot of fans who had missed out will finally be able to watch.

If you missed Lower Decks when it was new because it wasn’t available to you, let me give you my spoiler-free thoughts. The first episode is okay, but not especially strong. Episode 2 contains perhaps the worst moment of the series; I came seriously close to switching off and not returning, that’s how strongly I felt. But if you stick with it, the first season ends up being solid. There are plenty of callbacks and references to past iterations of the franchise, and some genuinely funny jokes and storylines that, at points, had me in stitches. If you’re a Star Trek fan, a fan of animated comedies, or both, it’s well worth a look.

When it debuts here in the UK I’m planning to re-watch the series – if for no other reason than to boost its ratings on Amazon! And in just over a month, you can finally see what all the fuss is about.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is coming to Amazon Prime Video in the UK, Europe, India, Australia, and selected other territories on the 22nd of January 2021. The series is already available to stream on CBS All Access in the United States. Star Trek: Lower Decks – and the entire Star Trek franchise – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 10: No Small Parts

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Season 1 of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Spoilers may also be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

How on earth have ten weeks flown by? It seems like only yesterday that we were settling in for the premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, and now we have to say goodbye to the series. On the plus side, that means it’s only a few days until Star Trek: Discovery returns with Season 3! After a somewhat stumbling start, Lower Decks improved massively to become a thoroughly enjoyable watch across its first season, and definitively proved that Star Trek can break new ground and do different things.

I was hoping for an exciting finale to end the season on a high, and in that regard No Small Parts delivered. It was almost certainly the funniest of the whole season too; the laugh-out-loud moments got going and hardly let up. There was also a genuinely heartbreaking moment, as security chief Shaxs lost his life.

The episode’s title card.

The biggest disappointment with Lower Decks has been its lack of an international broadcast. The fact that the show has been segregated by geography has cut off not only Star Trek’s biggest fans in the rest of the world, but legions of potential new fans too. The entire point of a project like Lower Decks was to expand Star Trek beyond its typical sci-fi niche. Animated comedy shows are wildly popular all around the world, and this was the franchise’s biggest opportunity since at least the 2009 reboot to grow the fanbase and shore things up heading into the 2020s. ViacomCBS blew it. And there have been two big results: much of the hype for Lower Decks died before the first episode was even broadcast, as a huge potential audience came to realise it wasn’t going to be available to them. And the show became heavily-pirated, mostly by Trekkies who had no lawful way to access it. As I wrote when I looked at this issue in detail, ViacomCBS encouraged that. And it’s totally morally justifiable.

Of course, if you’ve been following my episode reviews you know I’d never partake in something like piracy. Heavens no. Instead I did the only sensible thing – I moved to the United States. I’ve had a wonderful time at my chΓ’teau here in the lovely state of Montana, but after ten weeks just outside the big city of Philadelphia I’m ready to head home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice place, and there’s some wonderful waves to surf here on the Pacific coast, but I’m homesick. And if I have to eat another slice of this city’s signature dish (deep-pan pizza) I think I might burst.

As you can tell, this has been my home for the last few weeks. In the United States. Where I can watch Lower Decks lawfully.

So without further ado, let’s jump into No Small Parts. The teaser begins with a return to Beta III, the planet visited by Kirk and the USS Enterprise in The Original Series’ first season episode Return of the Archons. In that story, Kirk had to overcome Landru, a sophisticated AI that the Beta III natives worshipped and obeyed. In what was to become a theme for the episode, after that initial contact with Starfleet, the Beta III inhabitants slowly drifted back to following Landru, leaving Captain Freeman and Commander Ransom to once again tell them to snap out of it.

So the concept of Starfleet making first contact but not really following that up in a meaningful way would be a theme in No Small Parts. We’ll see that in a moment with the Pakleds, as well. This is something genuinely fascinating, as it shows us the “underbelly” of the Federation beyond the exciting missions of the Enterprise. This is what Lower Decks promised, and I’d argue that No Small Parts is perhaps the best example of this concept in the entire season.

Freeman and Ransom with Landru.

There were several great references in the teaser. While Ransom is recording his log he looks at a picture of Kirk and Spock on a padd – the picture was the duo as they appeared in The Animated Series in 1973-74! That was great, and a fun little acknowledgement that both series are linked by animation. Ransom uses the term “TOS era” when referring to the time of Kirk and Spock – an obvious shoutout to what fans call it! There was also a hint at the changing nature of Star Trek’s storytelling, as Ransom comments that Kirk and his crew seemed to be “stumbling on crazy new aliens every week back then!”

As Captain Freeman gives the order to break orbit, an unnamed bridge officer tells her that there are still crew on Beta III – much to her annoyance! Of course, there was only one person who could have so brazenly disobeyed orders – Ensign Mariner. I started to worry that we were about to see a character regression, ignoring the major breakthrough in her relationship with Starfleet that we’d seen last week!

Ensign Mariner on Beta III.

Speaking of last week, Boimler had learned of Mariner’s secret – that she’s the daughter of Captain Freeman. In a scene that once again showed Boimler being a very sore winner, which is not an endearing character trait, he tries to use it as leverage and rub her face in it, teasing her mercilessly and somewhat cruelly.

Unfortunately for Boimler – and everyone else involved – their conversation is broadcast to everyone on the bridge via an open com-link. Freeman and Mariner’s secret is busted wide open, and now the entire crew knows. Captain Freeman beams the two wayward ensigns directly to the bridge, but it was too late to stop knowledge of the secret getting out. Boimler has – unintentionally – ruined things for the pair of them.

Boimler realises what he’s done.

The credits rolled, and this was the last time we’re going to hear the Lower Decks theme for a while! I know that I’ve commented on it a couple of times already this season, but it really is a lovely piece of music. As a Star Trek theme it’s adventurous and inspiring, and would be just as well-suited to The Next Generation as it is to Lower Decks. The themes for Picard and Discovery are, by comparison, very understated and slow. They fit their shows well, but I found them both to be far less memorable than the music used for Lower Decks. It’s not a stretch to say it’s the best post-1990s Star Trek theme, and I shall miss it!

After the titles we’re not immediately back on the Cerritos. Instead the action hops to another California-class ship, the USS Solvang. Like Cerritos (and other names used this season) Solvang is a city in California, between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. While visiting the Kalla system, which had been seen in The Next Generation, the Solvang is brutally attacked by a massive, imposing-looking starship. After the attack takes down their shields in a matter of seconds the captain gives the order to warp out of the system, but a grappling hook launched by the aggressive ship has clamped onto one of the Solvang’s nacelles. The resultant attempt to go to warp overloads the engines and destroys the ship.

The destruction of the USS Solvang.

One character who, despite having a handful of good moments across the season, has felt underdeveloped and rudderless on the whole is Ensign Tendi. Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford each have a niche; a role within the context of the show that they fill. Tendi is still missing that as of the end of the first season, and the lack of any real character development – aside from one moment last week where she stood up for herself – made this next scene feel unearned. At the beginning of the season, Tendi was assigned Boimler as her orientation officer. And now, in the finale, she gets to be the orientation officer for a new recruit. If Tendi had seen any growth, character development, or indeed had any real impact on the show at all across the first season, there’s no question that this moment would have felt fantastic. As it is, though, Tendi still feels like a character the writers haven’t found a proper role for, and as a result this moment fell flat.

It was only for a moment, however, because the new officer Tendi is to mentor is an exocomp! The exocomps were introduced in Quality of Life from the sixth season of The Next Generation. The exocomps were originally conceived as tools, but grew to become sentient. Data in particular played a crucial role in defending them, and it’s great to see their evolution had continued such that one could join Starfleet by this time. It does raise a question, though. In Star Trek: Picard, synthetic life has been banned not just in the Federation, but across many other areas of the galaxy. What does that mean for the exocomps, I wonder?

Tendi and Rutherford meet their new crewmate.

There was also the beginning of a running gag here, as Rutherford messes with his cybernetic implant. Pressing a button cycles through a number of different personality quirks, and while some of them won a chuckle, the joke as a whole was overstretched. Despite not being especially funny on its own merits, however, this did serve to remind us as the audience of Rutherford’s cybernetics and his ability to manipulate them, setting up a moment later in the story and ensuring that a much more crucial scene doesn’t feel like a bolt from the blue.

In the captain’s ready-room, Mariner and Freeman are dealing with the fallout from the crew learning their secret. There was a reference to Wesley and Beverly Crusher, which was fun to see, and it seems as though both officers had something to gain by keeping the secret. Mariner didn’t want special treatment, nor to feel as though she was being given an easy ride. And because of Mariner’s poor record, it suited Captain Freeman that nobody knew her daughter was one of the worst officers in the fleet. Mariner’s fears seem to be confirmed when Commander Ransom arrives and treats her differently.

Mariner and Freeman in the captain’s ready-room.

Tendi’s exocomp friend is named Peanut Hamper – a name she chose for herself, believing it to be the best available. Tendi, naturally, loves it, and begins giving Peanut Hamper the same tour of the ship that she received from Boimler and Mariner in the season premiere. Meanwhile, Mariner is having a hard time as the whole complement of the Cerritos is treating her differently. Everyone from senior officers like Dr T’Ana and chief engineer Billups, all the way down to her fellow ensigns and others on the lower decks are all behaving differently around her, and of course she blames Boimler for spilling the beans.

Even Boimler isn’t immune to trying to use his connection to Mariner, though, as he asks her to pass a letter of recommendation to the captain for him. Apparently there’s a promotion up for grabs, complete with reassignment, and Boimler wants it. Mariner decides that a role on a different ship where nobody knows her (and, presumably, where even if they did it wouldn’t do any good without Captain Freeman being present too) is just what she needs, and decides to play it straight for a while to win the promotion. She rolls down her sleeves, fixes her hair, and starts addressing Boimler as “sir.” In a funny moment at the end of the scene, Shaxs bursts in and, in his typical gruff style, tells Boimler that he wants to give Mariner a present, while carrying what looked like a wrapped-up Klingon batleth!

Boimler is shocked by Mariner’s new attitude… even though it’s just a ploy!

After a short scene where Mariner and Boimler both try to press Ransom for the promotion, we’re back with Tendi and Peanut Hamper. Rutherford is in one of the shuttlebays working on a shuttle, and Tendi is worried that Peanut Hamper may not be cut out for Starfleet – despite the fact that she must’ve graduated from the Academy. In sickbay, Dr T’Ana puts Peanut Hamper through her paces, and the little exocomp is more than capable thanks to her technology, despite Tendi’s fears.

Boimler and Mariner argue about the promotion while the ship arrives in the Kalla system (having previously answered the Solvang’s distress call). Any thoughts of the disagreement are immediately set aside as the ship finds the Solvang’s debris and jumps to red alert. On the bridge, the senior staff confirm that there are no life signs amongst the wreckage, and after the explosion we saw earlier I think that’s to be expected! It isn’t long before the aggressive ship rears its head again, this time targeting the Cerritos.

The Cerritos encounters the ship that took down the Solvang.

This giant, imposing vessel turns out to belong to a familiar Star Trek race. But it isn’t one we might’ve expected – it’s the Pakleds! The Pakleds were featured in Samaritan Snare during the second season of The Next Generation, and were depicted as slow and stupid. The concept behind them was “all the other aliens on Star Trek are really smart, what if some aren’t?” Which, if you think about concepts like interstellar travel, is a ridiculous idea, but regardless the Pakleds were created and became part of the Star Trek universe. After their debut in The Next Generation, they would occasionally serve as background characters in Deep Space Nine.

Of all the races that could outgun and outsmart the Cerritos, it’s funny that it’s the Pakleds – even though as a race I’ve felt since The Next Generation that they make absolutely no sense. Pakleds could indeed show a degree of cunning, and were known to be selfish and greedy. But the notion that this race could even operate a starship that they’d stolen – much less build one for themselves – is completely silly. Here they’re depicted as stealing starship parts to add to their already-monstrous ship, with their leader claiming he wants “all the ship pieces!”

Jakabog, the Pakled captain.

The Cerritos tries to send a distress call, but the Pakleds jam their communications. Ransom orders the helm officer to take the ship to warp, but luckily Captain Freeman realises what happened to the Solvang and instead orders the engines shut down. The Pakleds also thought that they were attacking the Enterprise – presumably it’s the only Federation ship they’ve encountered. Regardless, Jakabog (the Pakled captain) is essentially a pirate, and after stripping the Cerritos of one of her nacelles, plans to board the ship to steal more ship pieces for his collection.

Boimler scans the Pakled ship and the crew realise that they’ve augmented their craft (which, in a nice touch, was the same design used in The Next Generation) with over thirty different parts from other races – including, as we saw, weapons. As the Cerritos is towed closer to the Pakleds’ hybrid vessel, phaser beams begin to cut into the hull. Ransom cries that they’re being carved up “like a First Contact Day salmon!” which was a pretty funny line.

The Cerritos is being cut up.

With no other options, the captain turns to Mariner. She orders Mariner to think outside the box and come up with a way out, even if it breaks the rules. And here… I’m not 100% sold on this part of the story. Mariner’s rule-breaking has always had a distinct “teen angst” streak running through it. She’s childish, and while she does know her stuff – at least as much as Boimler – she’s never really demonstrated on screen that she’s the kind of person you’d want to turn to in a crisis for something like this. It didn’t entirely come from nowhere, as Captain Ramsey in Much Ado About Boimler told us this about her. But I’m a firm believer that stories should show, not tell, and while several characters across Season 1 have told us that Mariner could be this amazing officer if only she’d put in any effort, I think it’s arguably the case that we as the audience haven’t really seen it for ourselves.

Regardless of what I may think, however, Captain Freeman turns to her daughter for a solution, and Mariner provides. She asks Boimler about the Pakleds; they use a variety of different computer parts, which means they must need an operating system that can easily trust new pieces that are added in. Mariner then contacts Rutherford, who will provide a virus capable of disabling the Pakled ship. Without much time to come up with a computer virus, Rutherford turns to Badgey for help. Badgey had, of course, been the antagonist in Terminal Provocations.

Mariner takes charge on the bridge.

Badgey gives a nonchalant answer when Rutherford asks if he’s going to try to kill him again, which seemed like a horribly bad omen! However, the Cerritos doesn’t have a lot of options at this point, and thus the crew go ahead with the plan. Badgey is unleashed as Rutherford disables the safety protocols on the holodeck, but the viruses he’s created will have to be manually uploaded; someone will have to physically sneak aboard the Pakled ship. I liked the return of Badgey. Given Lower Decks’ episodic nature this isn’t something I was expecting, but having been so well established in Terminal Provocations it would’ve been almost a shame not to bring him back!

The senior staff, led by Mariner and Boimler, evacuate the bridge as Pakleds transport aboard. En route to the armory they’re accosted by more intruders, and this was more in line with the way I expected Mariner to prove useful: she’d hidden contraband, including weapons, on the ship. She breaks out a bunch of them and the crew arm themselves. Mariner herself wields the Klingon batleth that she accidently hurt Boimler with in the opening sequence of the series, which was again a neat callback to events within Lower Decks.

The crew armed with Mariner’s contraband weaponry.

During the fight, there was a touching moment between Mariner and Boimler, as he confesses that he considers her his best friend. Despite being kind of a jerk to him, especially in the first couple of episodes, Mariner has made good on her promise to mentor Boimler – at least to an extent. Their dynamic is still based on the likes of Rick & Morty, but most of the time the show has made it work. Boimler is armed with a fencing sword in this scene; a callback to Sulu in The Original Series Season 1 episode The Naked Time (and recently seen in the animated Short Treks episode Ephraim and Dot).

The captain is wounded during the fight, and the gang race to sickbay. They get there in time, of course, and the captain will be okay. But she’s out of commission for much of the rest of the story. Rutherford has the viruses, but breaks the news that someone will have to go to the Pakled ship. With no transporters that will be difficult – but not for an exocomp! However, in what was perhaps the best subversion of the whole episode, Peanut Hamper refuses to go. She doesn’t want to put herself at risk, and she doesn’t really care about Starfleet after all! The way this played out was absolutely hilarious, and the voice acting to make the little exocomp sound so nonchalant despite the chaotic situation was just spot-on.

Peanut Hamper refuses the mission.

As Peanut Hamper makes her escape, Rutherford suggests himself as the next logical choice. His implant will allow him to take the viruses aboard the Pakled ship, and despite Tendi pleading with him, everyone agrees it’s their best chance for survival. Shaxs grabs Rutherford and the two race to the shuttlebay. Instead of taking the shuttlecraft Yosemite, with its blast shield, they take a run-down shuttle that we’d seen Rutherford working on earlier. Shaxs is having a whale of a time, and at one point exclaims that is is the “best day of [his] life!”

After phasering another hole in the hull, Shaxs and Rutherford blast their way out, then navigate through the Pakleds’ grapplers and weapons to make it to the enemy ship. Shaxs is clearly in his element here, and slams the shuttle into the Pakled ship’s hull, sending several soldiers flying. He and Rutherford then jump out and get to work on the Pakleds’ computers.

Rutherford and Shaxs aboard the shuttle.

Rutherford is able to jack into the alien computer to upload Badgey and the viruses, but – as expected – Badgey still holds a grudge for what happened earlier in the season. While he will upload the virus to save the Cerritos, he’ll only do so after the Pakleds kill Shaxs and Rutherford. There’s no way to talk the homicidal little holo-assistant down, he’s determined to have his revenge!

Badgey then sets the Pakled ship to self-destruct – presumably that’s what one of the viruses was – and Rutherford doesn’t know what to do. In a moment of heroism, Shaxs steps in. He brutally rips out Rutherford’s cybernetic implant, trapping Badgey in the alien system. He then throws the unconscious Rutheford onto the shuttle mere seconds before the Pakled ship explodes. Poor Shaxs. This was a genuinely heartbreaking moment, especially when Shaxs called Rutherford “little bear,” a nickname he acquired in Envoys when he briefly joined the bears – Shaxs’ nickname for his security officers.

Shaxs rips out Rutherford’s implant in order to save his life.

I wish we’d been able to spend more time with this gruff Bajoran. His death was heartbreaking, and although he didn’t have a lot of screen time, he’s been a constant presence in the series since the premiere. In some ways he could be seen as a stand-in for characters like Worf, but at the same time he was his own man. And as his final act of sacrifice proved, a Starfleet officer to the core. Lower Decks will have to find some way to fill his big shoes in Season 2. Alex Kurtzman (who is in charge of Star Trek as a whole) as well as Shaxs’ voice actor Fred Tatasciore have both confirmed that the plan is for Shaxs to remain dead; he isn’t coming back.

As the Pakled ship explodes, Ransom and the rest of the crew have managed to keep control of the Cerritos, neutralising the invaders. Mariner is in the captain’s chair on the bridge, with Boimler at the helm. From her bed in sickbay, Captain Freeman orders her to get the ship out of the Kalla system as quickly as possible.

Mariner in the captain’s chair.

Their escape won’t be so easy, it seems. No sooner has the Cerritos taken down one Pakled ship than they’re accosted by three more who come out of nowhere! This episode has been a wild ride for sure! In what was a callback to Star Trek: First Contact, Boimler detects another incoming ship: the USS Titan! Captain Riker – voiced, of course, by Jonathan Frakes and thankfully not spoiled ahead of time this time – is in command, and his superior vessel is no match for the Pakleds; the surviving ships beat a hasty retreat.

As the theme from The Next Generation plays, the Titan makes light work of the Pakleds. Just like in the sequence from First Contact it was paying homage to, this was another perfectly-executed moment. Riker’s last-second arrival saves the day, and was one of the highlights of the season. Naturally he knows Mariner, as everyone seems to! We also got Troi back, accompanying her husband on the bridge of the Titan. Talk about going out on a high! As a Trekkie this was perfect. In Star Trek: Picard earlier in the year, I knew to expect the return of Riker and Troi. But here it was a complete surprise, and even though the Titan had been name-dropped earlier in the episode, that was one of countless Star Trek references. Forget just this one episode, the timely arrival of the USS Titan has to be one of the top moments across the whole season!

Riker and Troi aboard the USS Titan.

The USS Titan may sound familiar to you. It was mentioned in Star Trek: Nemesis, and indeed at the end of that film, Riker is promoted to captain and leaves the Enterprise to assume command of the Titan. A series of novels subsequently depicted Riker’s adventures aboard the Titan, but the ship wasn’t mentioned earlier in the year in Star Trek: Picard. In the finale, Riker was in command of the USS Zheng He (following his temporary return to duty). Fans had long wanted to see the Titan, though, and Lower Decks delivered!

This animated recreation of Troi and Riker came the same day that we heard that Kate Mulgrew will reprise her role as Captain Janeway in upcoming kid-friendly series Star Trek: Prodigy, and if anyone was sceptical about that concept on hearing the news, all they’d have to do is look to Lower Decks. Riker and Troi look great as animated characters – and this means that Jonathan Frakes has now acted in six Star Trek series: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Picard, and Lower Decks. That’s in addition to his four film appearances and directorial credits in all the aforementioned shows, two films, and Star Trek: Discovery! Michael Dorn may still have him beaten for total number of appearances, though!

“It’s the Titan!”
Boimler is every Star Trek fan ever in this moment!

It was another little callback to hear the Pakled commander shouting for his crew to “make us go!” as the Titan attacked. That line was spoken almost verbatim by the Pakleds in The Next Generation, and even though it’s something easy to miss, it was appreciated here.

With the Pakleds beaten, the action jumps ahead by an indeterminate amount of time. The Cerritos is undergoing repairs – though the captain insists it be left in its original design, and not upgraded. Rutherford is in a coma having lost his implant, and Tendi is staying by his bedside. Rutherford wakes up – but has lost his memory. He doesn’t know who Tendi is, nor remember anything that transpired this season. That could make him useful in Season 2, and could certainly be a point of humour… but it means the character we got to know is halfway gone, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Unlike Shaxs, Rutherford has been a major character. Here’s hoping that he recovers.

Rutherford awakens from his coma.

Shaxs is honoured in a Wrath of Khan-style funeral, which was a nice touch. I’m glad they didn’t just forget about him and rush to move on too quickly. The portrait of him at his funeral was funny – in true Shaxs style he looks pissed off! Captain Freeman says he’s with the Prophets – who are, of course, the Bajoran gods we saw on a number of occasions in Deep Space Nine.

Back aboard the repaired ship, Mariner and Freeman agree to put their differences aside and work together. The events of the episode, from the Beta III inhabitants going back to worshipping Landru and Starfleet failing to keep tabs on the Pakleds, have led the captain to come around to Mariner’s way of thinking – Starfleet is great at some things, but doesn’t do a good job of following through and maintaining contact with the races and cultures it meets. This led directly to the problems the Cerritos encountered, and to everyone’s surprise, the captain agrees with Mariner’s assessment.

Captain Freeman and Mariner in the Cerritos’ ready-room.

To be fair, I don’t think we can say we know enough about Starfleet to say Mariner is correct – or that she’s incorrect either. We have seen Starfleet keep close tabs on races like the Dominion in the years preceding the Dominion War, but even in The Next Generation there were worlds like the Turkana IV colony that were warzones that the Federation left well alone and didn’t intervene in or try to help. So while the Federation, unlike in Picard, is clearly still a positive force in the galaxy, it isn’t perfect – and never has been. Perhaps Mariner is right; Starfleet is great at exploring (and warfare) but isn’t always great at following through.

And if that isn’t a bombshell to end the series on, I don’t know what is. You read that right… I actually agree with Ensign Mariner. Shocking stuff! But that wasn’t quite the end. In the Cerritos’ bar, Tendi, Rutherford, and Boimler are waiting for Mariner. Rutherford does remember her – so it’s only the events of the entire season he can’t remember, not his whole life! Riker is waiting too – for Captain Freeman! Apparently he knows her too; perhaps he knows everybody! Troi shoots down Commander Ransom in the most cold, Betazoid manner, which was hilarious.

Captains Riker and Freeman – with Troi and Ransom in the background.

Tendi and Boimler have been telling Rutherford about their exploits over the last few months, bringing him back up to speed. I wonder if he’s going to get his implant back next season. It was a great way to make use of it, and again something set up right at the beginning of the story that paid off in a big way at the very end. I love it when shows do that. Rutherford’s implant could just have been another piece of tech, occasionally technobabbled into usefulness but never really put through its paces. Instead, we can see clearly that the team behind the series set this up right from the get-go.

Lower Decks had one final twist to spring on us, though. Just as Boimler tells Mariner how happy he is to be with her on the Cerritos, Riker shows up and tosses him a padd. This was the promotion Boimler had been chasing all season long, and not only that, but a transfer to Riker’s command aboard the USS Titan. The episode, and the season, ends with Boimler having accepted the promotion (without telling Mariner, who’s constantly leaving messages for him) and ready to make his new life as a junior grade lieutenant aboard the Titan.

Lieutenant Boimler of the USS Titan.

So that was No Small Parts. And that was Lower Decks Season 1. An episode clearly made for fans capped off a series that’s been made for fans, and I loved every second of it. The only concern I have was… did anyone else? No Small Parts, unlike some other stories in Lower Decks, was so full of callbacks and references that I wonder how a non-Trekkie would feel upon watching it. They wouldn’t get most of the references, and without them, many of the jokes would be less funny, or not funny at all. As a one-off episode that’s probably okay. At least, I hope it is.

CBS All Access is tight-lipped on viewership figures, and of course with no international broadcast we only have North America to go on. Unofficially, I’ve seen Lower Decks become one of the most-torrented series of recent weeks, and that doesn’t seem to have dropped off as the season went on. Perhaps that’s good news if it means CBS All Access managed to similarly retain its viewer base. However, without an international broadcast going forward, Lower Decks remains in danger. Unless that can be sorted out before Season 2, I doubt there will be a Season 3. And that’s a shame, because the series finally hit its stride.

Boimler and Mariner in the bar.

The events of No Small Parts have clearly shaken things up. The loss of Shaxs will be noticeable, of course, but more significantly we have the change in Rutherford, whose lost memory and lack of implant will change his character, and also Boimler’s transfer. Alex Kurtzman and Mike McMahan have stated on the record that they won’t simply undo any of these things off-screen; Season 2 will begin with Boimler as a lieutenant aboard the Titan. How that circle will be squared is anyone’s guess! If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that somehow, Mariner will end up getting him demoted and reassigned. But that’s just a theory!

Lower Decks was a surprise addition to the television lineup this summer; its queue-jumping of Discovery clearly related to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite a rocky start it’s been great fun to watch, and my initial worry that after fifty-four years, Star Trek would struggle in a wholly new genre proved unfounded. I’ve had great fun with the crew of the Cerritos, and despite the show’s premise, they managed to have some truly wacky adventures worthy of any other Star Trek production. I will miss my Thursday date with Lower Decks, and I’m already looking forward to its return – hopefully next year.

Goodbye Shaxs… and Lower Decks Season 1.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 kicks off on Thursday (Friday here in the UK). I hope you’ll join me then for reviews, theories, and more. If you missed any of my other reviews and articles about Lower Decks, you can find them on my Star Trek: Lower Decks page. Until next time!

All ten episodes of Season 1 of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks β€“ is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 9: Crisis Point

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first nine episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. There may be further spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

I didn’t enjoy last week’s episode of Lower Decks on the whole. It tried to push the boat out and try some different things – which I admire – but that didn’t work for me. I’m pleased to say that this week’s episode. Crisis Point, was a return to form and an enjoyable story. Not only that, but Ensign Mariner, who had been a weak link in the series, especially in the first couple of episodes, appears to have made a breakthrough in her relationship with Starfleet. Lower Decks has been an episodic series so far, so whether that will stick around for the next episode and for Season 2 is unclear, but I really hope so!

There was a troubling point in Crisis Point which we’ll look at when we get to it, but overall I had a good time with a fun story that had several callbacks to the Star Trek film series. After a disappointment last week I was very pleased to see a return to form, especially now that there’s only one episode left in the season. Time really flies, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday we were talking about the premiere!

The title card for Crisis Point.

As I’ve done throughout Season 1, I’m going to continue to call attention to Lower Decks’ lack of an international broadcast. With the season ending in a matter of days, it’s such an immense disappointment to me that the show’s potential to bring in a whole new audience of prospective Trekkies has been wasted. All the hard work Mike McMahan and everyone behind the scenes put into the series has been squandered in an appalling business decision that hasn’t only stopped new fans discovering this amazing franchise, but has upset millions of Star Trek’s most loyal existing fans too. There were better options than denying Lower Decks to Star Trek’s international audience, and with the pandemic continuing to disrupt production as it drags on, holding the show back six months for an early 2021 release worldwide would have made a lot of sense. As things sit right now, we’ll have Discovery Season 3 in a couple of weeks, but potentially nothing after that for many months.

Of course, you guys know I’d never sink so low as to pirate Lower Decks – even though doing so is totally morally justifiable. Instead I’ve moved to my second home here in the good old U. S. of A. The wonderful city of San Francisco overlooks the Mississippi delta, and is famous for its clam chowder. Yummy stuff.

This is where I live now. In San Francisco.

So let’s crack on with Crisis Point, shall we? The episode didn’t begin particularly strongly. We started at what appeared to be the end of a potentially-interesting mission for Mariner, in which she has interfered in a planet’s development by overthrowing a leader. Captain Freeman steps in to restore order, and while this was clearly set up to portray Mariner in a positive light – helping out aliens who were being oppressed and eaten – I couldn’t help but feel it was a character regression for her. Past episodes had seen Mariner come to work at least slightly better as a team player, and going off all on her own to do something she considered right, but without the approval or authorisation of her captain and without any support from her crewmates felt like a backward step.

Luckily this was just the teaser, and we got the first of many great jokes at the end as the captain finds that the entire situation can be easily resolved by simply offering the planet Federation replicators. Again, though, this just rubbed in that Mariner was acting out of line – had she followed the chain of command the same resolution could have been arrived at without her getting in trouble.

Mariner reprimanded by Captain Freeman.

I’d like to take a moment to once again praise the title music Lower Decks uses, because it’s fantastic. It will be heard multiple times in the episode, including in an amazing and somewhat emotional sequence that we’ll come to in a moment. Lower Decks has one of my favourite Star Trek themes; certainly the best we’ve had since the 1990s.

After the opening titles we see Mariner in her mandatory therapy session. After misbehaving on the away mission, Mariner had been expected to be sent to the brig, but instead Captain Freeman insisted she attend therapy. It clearly isn’t her first time, as she’s familiar with the therapist. This is where the character regression that I was disappointed to see from the teaser appeared to continue. Like a petulant child, Mariner bangs her fist on a plant when she didn’t get her way.

Mariner’s therapy session.

On the holodeck – presumably after the therapy session has ended – Mariner is sulking while Rutherford and Tendi play through a holodeck programme. Leonardo da Vinci previously appeared (in hologram form) in Star Trek: Voyager, where he was played by John Rhys-Davies, better-known for his role as Gimli in the Lord of the Rings films. It was a nice little callback!

Boimler interrupts and asks if he can use the holodeck to prepare for an interview he has with the captain. Like Barclay in The Next Generation, Boilmler has created a holodeck programme that simulates the entire crew! In this case it’s less of a fantasy and purely practical, as he can practice what he wants to say and how to behave without doing something wrong in front of the real crew. Still pretty creepy, though, especially because he used the crew’s personal logs to simulate them.

Boimler explains his holodeck programme.

Mariner takes over, and starts messing with the programme’s code in order to set up a fantasy of her own, and moments later the holodeck is transformed into a Lower Decks movie, complete with credits scrolling by. I loved every little touch here – the screen narrows from its usual 16:9 widescreen presentation into something more akin to a film, the credits (on the holodeck) use the Lower Decks/The Next Generation font (which Rutherford comments on in a cute scene) and the music was a riff on the Lower Decks theme that made it sound much closer to the score from The Original Series-era films.

We also got one of the most obscure Star Trek references in Lower Decks so far – Mariner tells Boimler he was “kind of a Xon.” Prior to The Motion Picture being, well, a motion picture, it was a television series called Star Trek: Phase II. Phase II would have brought back the original cast – but without Leonard Nimoy. A Vulcan character called Xon was to be his replacement, and had even been cast and screen-tested. When the pilot episode of Phase II was later expanded into a feature film, Xon was initially retained, but when Leonard Nimoy agreed to reprise his role, Xon was cut from the project. A couple of small remnants of the role remained in the film – not only in the role of deceased science officer Sonak, but also in the role of the Epsilon IX station commander, who was played by David Gautreaux, the actor originally cast as Xon. If you want to read up a little more on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I wrote a piece last December for its fortieth anniversary which you can find by clicking or tapping here.

David Gautreaux in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He was originally cast as Xon.

So if you weren’t sure what that line was all about, now you know! Mariner tells the ensigns she’s written roles for each of them in her holodeck movie, and while Boimler insists his programme is a work tool and not something to have fun with, Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford depart to get into costume.

The movie begins with Boimler interrupting the captain’s vacation, as she and the senior staff are using jet-skis. Boimler is still trying to use the programme to accomplish his original goal of learning how to act around the captain, which was kind of funny. He’s aware that what’s happening is just on the holodeck, so we see Boimler acting a little differently – and perhaps more assertively – that he usually does, especially when the captain is around. In that sense, perhaps we’re seeing that the holodeck can, in a weird way, be helpful for someone like Boimler. Despite the ethical concerns of simulating a person without their consent, for someone with anxiety issues I can see how it would be helpful to do so.

Boimler in the holodeck movie.

The next part has to be my favourite in the episode. I was genuinely getting emotional! After a meeting with an admiral aboard a Spacedock-type Starbase in which the Cerritos is given an assignment, we got a prolonged sequence of Boimler and the simulated senior staff transferring to the ship via shuttlecraft. The music in this sequence was perfect, another riff on the Lower Decks theme, but this time one that mimicked the sequence in The Motion Picture where Scotty and Kirk board the Enterprise. The shuttle made several passes by the Cerritos, and while I’ve always felt the design of the ship was fine, here Crisis Point slowed things down so we could really appreciate its design. It was a beautiful sequence that paid homage not only to The Motion Picture, but also to several other occasions in The Original Series-era films where the ship was the star of the show. I loved it.

After the Cerritos warps to its destination, Mariner appears aboard a cloaked Klingon ship. She’s cast herself as a villain called Vindicta, and she has Rutherford, Tendi, and a simulated Boimler has her “henchmen.” While she distracts the captain with a rambling speech, she and the others sneak aboard the Cerritos and begin to attack – and murder – the crew. I liked Mariner’s over-the-top acting performance in her role as Vindicta (credit to Tawny Newsome, who plays Mariner!) and I liked that she cast herself as the villain rather than the hero. I think Mariner’s therapist might have a thing or two to say about that!

Mariner as “Vindicta.”

Realising that Boimler has perfectly simulated the entire crew of the Cerritos, Rutherford rushes away to confront his commanding officer: chief engineer Billups. This is the second episode in a row to expand Billups’ role, and as the role of chief engineer has typically been important in past iterations of Star Trek, that was a touch I appreciated.

Tendi seems increasingly uncomfortable with the violence, but continues to play along with Mariner for a time. However, here’s where the episode’s only significant issue comes into play: Mariner displays racial prejudice towards Tendi. There’s a famous story that Gene Roddenberry hated Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country when it was screened for him shortly before he passed away. In particular he detested anti-Klingon racism, particularly from Kirk but also from other Starfleet officers. Roddenberry believed such attitudes had no place in his vision of the 23rd Century. When I reviewed episode 3, Temporal Edict, I mentioned this as well. In that episode, Captain Freeman and an unnamed admiral display similar anti-Cardassian sentiments. This time, Mariner keeps bringing up the fact that Tendi is Orion, and that “Orions are pirates.” This is unquestionably racial stereotyping. Even though Orions are a fictional sci-fi species, I found this uncomfortable. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be from the audience if Tendi – or any other character – made similar remarks about Mariner’s African heritage. While I enjoyed the episode overall, and in the context of a story about Mariner going off the rails it makes a kind of sense, this is as close as Lower Decks has come to being completely the opposite of what Star Trek has always tried to be.

Tendi tries to talk some sense into Mariner.

One positive to come out of this is that Tendi stands up for herself, telling Mariner to stop the stereotyping and race prejudice and storming off the holodeck in disgust. At times, Tendi has been a difficult character to follow. The writers of the series haven’t really found a niche for her, and for much of the season she’s just been floating in the background. Here, though, Tendi has a strong moment where she stands up for her heritage and her people, and shows that she won’t take Mariner’s nonsense. Good for her.

With Tendi gone, Mariner is all on her own. Rutherford has gone to the simulated main engineering to tell Billups what he really thinks of him… which, in true Rutherford style, is that he thinks he’s amazing. The things he wanted to say, far from being rude or anything of that nature, are kind-hearted compliments. As the simulated ship is under attack, Rutherford and the hologram of Billups work together, complimenting each other as they go.

Rutherford tells Billups what he really thinks of him!

After making her way to the bridge, Mariner confronts Captain Freeman. After another argument, she reveals she’s rigged her Klingon ship to self-destruct; the resultant explosion causes the Cerritos to lose orbit and plummet to the planet below. The crash sequence was very well done, as the ship loses a nacelle, then its lower hull, before the saucer comes to rest at a steep angle by a mountain or rock formation. We’ve seen ships crash-land in Star Trek before, but never quite so violently or catastrophically! Even the Enterprise-D’s saucer in Star Trek: Generations was in better shape!

A short scene with Rutherford and Billups reveals Rutherford saved the Cerritos’ crew by beaming them off the ship. In a funny line he says that “you can do all sorts of beaming stuff in a movie!” Her business with Captain Freeman unfinished, Mariner continues her attack after the crash. The captain orders her surviving crew to evacuate, and Mariner tells her to “drop the act” of being a captain who cares.

The Cerritos’ saucer on the surface of the planet.

Their fight continues (in what was probably a slightly over-long sequence but I’ll forgive it!) and when Mariner seems to finally have the upper hand and is ready to kill the captain, she’s interrupted by the holo-version of herself! The obvious parallel in the ensuing Mariner-versus-Mariner fight is when Kirk fought a changeling with his appearance in The Undiscovered Country, but as this was the emotional climax of Mariner’s story, I didn’t really think about that on first viewing.

Mariner (the real Mariner, that is) is upset and annoyed at being unable to finish her movie the way she wanted, but as the fight progresses it’s clear that she comes to realise something about herself – she does care about Starfleet, and she does care about her mother. The ship, crew, and captain all matter to her more than she realised, and she comes to regret going to such a silly extreme. This is the emotional breakthrough Mariner has needed to have all season long, and I hope it signals a turnaround in her character that will become permanent.

Mariner vs. Mariner.

There’s no question that Mariner can be a fun character. She can be sweet and funny and entertaining in equal measure, but where Lower Decks has stumbled more than once is where Mariner has been the antithesis of a Starfleet officer. A bad or lazy Starfleet officer can be funny. A laid-back Starfleet officer can be funny. But someone who behaves the way Mariner has numerous times across the season misses the point, and speaking for myself, I haven’t found that side of the show’s humour very effective.

The childishness and the teenage rebellion streak that run through Mariner needed to come to a head in some kind of scenario like the one depicted in Crisis Point so that they can be excised from her character permanently. We can still see Mariner the rebel, Mariner breaking rules, Mariner being laid-back, and so on. But the anti-authority, anti-parent nature of some of her rebelliousness hasn’t been enjoyable to watch – and I’d argue won’t be for anyone over the age of about 14.

Mariner learns a valuable lesson thanks to her holographic self.

Holo-Mariner and real Mariner are well-matched in their fight, and as it draws to a close, holo-Mariner plays a blinder: the fight has just been a distraction while she set the Cerritos to self-destruct. Obviously with the holodeck safety protocols on, real Mariner was unharmed! Though she didn’t get the outcome she wanted from the movie, she learned a valuable lesson and got the outcome she needed.

Boimler, who remained with the crew, is still on the holodeck, and listens to Captain Freeman eulogise Mariner – and finally learns the truth of their connection. I can think of many reasons why Starfleet officers may choose to conceal family ties; Tom Paris in Voyager made it clear that being the son of a high-ranking officer came with a lot of pressure. Some may argue that it would be difficult or impossible to cover up something like that, but I don’t see why that has to be the case. It fits fine with established canon, and there’s nothing wrong with the way it was handled here.

Boimler learns that Mariner is the captain’s daughter.

Stunned by the revelation, Boimler messes up his interview with the captain – the one that set the scene for the whole holodeck movie. Mariner, to her credit, apologises to Tendi for her anti-Orion comments, and Rutherford has the same appreciation for his commanding officer as before, but is satisfied he got the opportunity to express it.

So that was Crisis Point. After how I felt about Mariner, especially in the first couple of episodes of the season, seeing her come to realise that she does actually care about Starfleet and her mother was almost a cathartic experience. As the audience we’ve seen glimpses of this side of her, of the “heart of gold” beneath the laid-back, uncaring exterior. And those moments have been fantastic. But there’s also an anti-authority, teen angst, almost nastiness to her that can – at times – make for unpleasant viewing. It really feels as though Mariner learned a lesson and turned a corner this week, and I hope at least some of that sticks with her into the finale and Season 2.

Mariner apologises – has she turned the page?

Boimler, despite setting up the main storyline, was mostly absent this week. However, learning the truth about Freeman and Mariner’s family connection has surely set up a bigger plot for him next week. Tendi finally stood up for herself, which was great. She’s been a character who, because she lacks a well-developed personality of her own, can sometimes feel that she goes along with whatever anyone else is doing. It was nice to see her take a stand, especially against such stereotyping and prejudice. Rutherford is just adorable, and his story this week was too cute.

I had a wonderful time this week, despite Mariner going off the rails for practically the entire episode. There were some great callbacks to past Star Trek films, and I loved the sequence with Boimler and the senior staff taking a shuttle to the Cerritos. That was the high point of the episode for me. I’ve always loved that sequence in The Motion Picture, and seeing it paid homage to here was beautiful.

Only one episode left now! Where does the time go? Swing by next week for my review of the Season 1 finale, and perhaps at some point in the next few weeks I’ll do a recap/review of the season as a whole.

The first nine episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks β€“ is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 8: Veritas

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first eight episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Spoilers may also be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

In the mid-2000s, a former television presenter named Robert Kilroy-Silk founded a right-wing, anti-European Union political party in the UK. The party’s name? Veritas. After achieving little success in the UK’s European Parliament elections in the late 2000s, the party was dissolved a few years later. There. That’s a thing you know now.

“Veritas” is also the Latin word for “truth,” and happens to be the title of this week’s episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks. There absolutely were some laugh-out-loud moments this week, but they came in a confused story that jumped wildly from place to place and ended with a twist that – sorry to say – felt rather cheap.

The title card.

Ever the optimist(!) I’d been hoping – despite evidence to the contrary – that Lower Decks might somehow manage to secure an international broadcast before the first season wraps up in North America. As we’ve now passed the eighth episode, only two weeks remain in Season 1 and it seems all but certain that won’t be the case. With the recent announcement of Paramount+ – a reworked CBS All Access with additional content from Paramount, Nickelodeon, and others – becoming Star Trek’s new streaming platform not just in the United States but also internationally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the series won’t get an international broadcast until Paramount+ rolls out. Whether that will be good enough to pick up a significant international audience is anyone’s guess – the ill will generated by this stupid decision will take time to abate.

Of course, as Lower Decks remains unavailable in my native Britain, I had no choice but to up sticks and move to the United States in order to watch it lawfully. I’m kicking back in my second home as we speak. I never thought I’d enjoy the Deep South, but I have to admit that it’s grown on me in my time here in the state of Idaho. The Mississippi river runs east to west through the state on its way to Hudson Bay, and I’m having a great time exploring the Everglades National Park.

This is definitely my house. And it’s clearly in the United States. Which is where I obviously am.

Veritas attempts to use a frame narrative to tell different, semi-connected stories of a mission the Cerritos undertook that led to what appears to be a trial on an alien world in which the four ensigns are participants. Three of the four – Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi – would take turns telling their parts, which were communicated to us as the audience via flashbacks.

This style of storytelling has worked before in Star Trek. The Deep Space Nine Season 5 episode Trials and Tribble-ations uses a frame narrative and flashbacks very well, but in that case the flashbacks formed a single story, not three-and-a-bit separate, almost unrelated parts. Lower Decks has enthusiastically tried different things across its first season, and that’s to be commended. But here it didn’t work. Perhaps in a longer episode, where more time could have been dedicated to both the frame and the individual flashbacks, we might’ve got something better, but even so the nature of the vaguely-connected stories would still have led to the story being muddled. Despite some enjoyable moments and some great jokes, this week’s outing was a disappointing watch overall.

This alien was part of the episode’s frame narrative.

The teaser jumps right into the main story, as we see the ensigns thrown into an alien prison cell. None of them seem to know where they are or why they’re there, and the only other information to gleam is that perhaps the senior staff have been similarly imprisoned. This setup was fine, and suitably mysterious.

After the opening titles, the ensigns’ prison cell ascends into a darkened room. The senior officers are suspended in a beam of light, and while a sinister alien peers down from up high, another steps forward to interrogate them. The design of these aliens was okay, but compared to some other new aliens introduced in Lower Decks came off feeling rather generic.

The trial room.

The ensigns are called on to bear witness to unspecified events leading to the trial, and Mariner is up first. We thus enter the first of the vaguely-connected flashbacks. Rutherford “improved” the Red Alert klaxon in the ensigns’ workspace, but of course his improvements inadvertently caused the alarm not to sound. When the ship goes to Red Alert, Mariner and Boimler are late for bridge duty and rush to get there in time. This was perhaps the first overplayed, overstretched joke in the episode, as Boimler struggles and squirms trying to talk his way out of not knowing what’s going on for slightly too long.

The captain has had a meeting with an alien – possibly of the same race as the ones putting them on trial, they looked so generic it was hard to be sure – and has acquired a map that very clearly states “neutral zone.” Why the Federation need to contact an alien to get a map of their own border is unknown. But in the process of getting/purchasing the map she’s upset the alien captain, and when she orders Mariner to “send them a message,” Mariner opens fire. That wasn’t what the captain meant, of course, and this was a pretty funny gag.

While Ransom holds the map, Mariner fires on the alien ship.

The alien is dissatisfied with Mariner’s story, so calls on Rutherford. Rutherford’s implants grant him essentially perfect memory, but when the alien mentions the specific stardate Rutherford becomes very uncomfortable. The flashback begins with Shaxs and the moustachioed bridge officer (whose name I forgot but is apparently Billups) insisting Rutherford join them on a mission. However, he needs to reset his implant, and doing so puts him to sleep.

This “falling asleep” gag was massively overstretched; it wanted to make a point about updates and patches – something that is definitely relevant in 2020 given the tech we use and the frequency of updates! But it just went on too long, and while it was funny to see Rutherford awakening in progressively weirder and more difficult situations, as a whole the gag was overdone. I did like the Gorn wedding though, that was pretty funny. And the design of the Gorn was a nice blend of the original rubber suits with the Enterprise CGI model. Ultimately, Rutherford’s story explained that he and Shaxs stole a Romulan Bird-of-Prey from a Federation museum. In addition to the Bird-of-Prey itself, there was a nice little callback to the security uniforms used in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, complete with helmets. There was also a callback to Uhura’s dance from The Final Frontier. Rutherford’s full first name was turned into a gag. If it weren’t for the fact that this was a complete reuse of the joke surrounding Boimler’s first name a couple of episodes ago it might’ve been funnier, but it did win a chuckle nevertheless.

The Romulan Bird-of-Prey.

The alien interrogator is still upset with the story so far and calls on Tendi. She’s unwilling to comply at first, leading to Mariner and Rutherford being threatened with a menacing-looking tank filled with eels. The eel tank was kind of funny, especially the way Mariner reacted to it. Tendi does eventually give in and tell her story, which begins with her cleaning the conference room. Apparently this is considered a pretty big deal among the ensigns, and I liked seeing Mariner upset that she was never given that particular assignment. While Tendi is cleaning Catian fur off the chairs, Ransom and several “censored” officers enter the room. They mistake Tendi, who is cleaning, for a member of their team nicknamed “the cleaner,” and she ends up on an away mission aboard the stolen Romulan Bird-of-Prey.

Two jokes in Tendi’s story were overdone – the “censoring” of the crewmen and certain words, which was funny for a while but wore off, and the fact that she can’t find the right time to tell them she’s not supposed to be there. The away mission takes the stolen ship and its occupants through the Neutral Zone to a Romulan base where they extract a large box – ultimately revealed to contain a prisoner in stasis. When Tendi is called on to help the team, she does so by fighting a bunch of Romulan guards hand-to-hand, which was a pretty cool sequence.

The overdone joke here was that Tendi wasn’t supposed to be assigned this mission.

Finally the alien interrogator turns to Boimler, and thankfully we’re spared a fourth set of flashbacks. When the lives of his three friends – and the senior staff – are threatened, Boimler steps up and launches into a speech about how the whole trial is unfair. The senior staff, he explains, don’t always have time to keep everyone informed of what’s going on, and thus he can’t answer the alien’s questions because he doesn’t know what happened on the stardate in question.

I liked Boimler’s speech in defence of his colleagues, and were it not for what happened immediately after I’d probably say it was one of the high points not just of this episode but of the whole season. He was passionate, brave, and spoke clearly and confidently despite his previously-shown anxieties and the difficult situation he was in. There could have been a powerful message here about overcoming anxiety, but instead the whole speech was rendered essentially meaningless by the revelation that they aren’t on trial and that no one is really in danger; this is supposed to be a celebration that the alien is throwing to commemorate his rescue by the crew of the Cerritos – he was the one rescued from Romulan custody, and unbeknownst to them, the four ensigns all played a role.

Boimler stands up for Starfleet and his friends.

This was the twist that felt so cheap. In a show like Lower Decks, randomness is to be expected. And we have to keep in mind that the adventures of the Cerritos and its crew are “unimportant.” But even so, up to this point Veritas had been trying hard to tell a story – a disjointed, difficult-to-follow story – one that ended up with the crew in a perilous situation. To rip that away in an instant was clearly intended to be another funny joke – and as Lower Decks is a comedy series, not only is that fair enough but it should’ve been expected. But I wasn’t expecting it (for some reason) and as a result the joke didn’t land and the “twist” ending just felt cheap and hollow.

The alien is left disappointed by his homecoming party not going to plan, and back aboard the Cerritos the four ensigns are debriefed by a disappointed senior staff. Captain Freeman does say she’s pleased that they acted bravely when they thought they were in danger, but since nobody ever was in any danger this was again rendered pretty meaningless. This was supposed to be the biggest joke of the episode; the punchline on which the entire rest of the story could hang. But coming on the back of an underexplained, jumpy mess of flashbacks, and following on from several other jokes that went on too long and lost their humour, I didn’t really find it particularly funny.

With the lights turned up, the room feels a lot less intimidating.

The other disappointment in Veritas was Q’s appearance. I like John de Lancie, and he performs the role of Q just as well in voiceover as he does in live-action – helped, no doubt, by his role as Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Unfortunately for such an important character to Trekkies, Q felt wasted here. He appeared very briefly in a flashback, where he apparently forced the senior officers to play a game, and again at the end of the episode where he was seen chasing the ensigns just before the credits rolled.

There are so many ways an animated comedy series could use Q and his limitless abilities. A whole Q episode could have been made, and with animation being able to do things that would be impossible or prohibitively expensive in live-action, the possibilities for the mischief he could get up to would be almost unlimited. Instead we got a cameo, and in principle I don’t object to that. Cameos can be great fun. It just felt that, in what was already a somewhat disappointing episode, Q’s appearance was so much less than it could have been.

Q’s appearance – and John de Lancie’s return to the character – felt underutilised.

So that was Veritas. After several strong episodes in recent weeks, it was surely only a matter of time before we got one that was a bit of a dud! Veritas wasn’t the worst Star Trek story, not by a long way, and there were some great jokes, funny moments, and other enjoyable things to take away from it. I liked, for example, the gag about Dr T’Ana boarding the wrong ship, the randomness of punishment by eel, and the callbacks to The Original Series films in Rutherford’s flashback story. Unfortunately, several factors came together to make Veritas less fun than other stories in the first season. I don’t want to call it “the worst” episode of Lower Decks, because the first couple of episodes where Mariner was particularly toxic and offensive probably were less enjoyable. But it’s definitely not one of Season 1’s better offerings.

Next week’s story, titled Crisis Point, looks like a lot of fun. If you haven’t seen the promo I won’t spoil anything, but suffice to say I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully it will be a return to form!

The first eight episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 7: Much Ado About Boimler

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first seven episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Lower Decks continues to be great fun as we get into the second half of Season 1. I wouldn’t say that this week’s episode, titled Much Ado About Boimler, was significantly better than the show’s offerings over the last four or five weeks, but it was solid and a great addition to the season. I wrote last time that Lower Decks has tended to reuse the same character pairings each week: Boimler with Mariner, Rutherford with Tendi. It was great to see a change to that, though it unfortunately came at the expense of Rutherford’s screen time.

Much Ado About Boimler would pair up Tendi and Boimler for one of its storylines, which was great. Anything that changes up the formula to avoid it feeling stale is a good thing, and when there are four main characters it makes sense to use those characters in different ways.

The episode’s title card.

To my continued disappointment, Lower Decks remains unavailable outside of the United States and Canada. This idiotic business decision is surely the worst in Star Trek’s recent history, and has cleaved away a huge potential audience. Animated comedy shows are popular, and this kind of crossover should have allowed the Star Trek franchise to expand its reach beyond its typical niche – something that will have to happen to keep the franchise viable in the longer-term. Practically nobody outside North America cares about Lower Decks any more, which is terribly sad for the team behind the show who put in a lot of hard work. Those who do still care have mostly turned to piracy; the series is among the most heavily-pirated shows of recent weeks.

Of course you know me better than that. With Lower Decks only available in North America I packed a bag and moved there. My new home is in the great state of Texas – the Empire State. There’s such a rich history here, from the first Swedish colonists way back in the 1920s right the way through to more modern times, where Silicon Valley is home to some of the biggest wineries in the country. The Rocky Mountains that span the southern part of the state are breathtaking – but I could do without two feet of snow! I mean, it’s only September… save it for Christmas!

As you can see, this is definitely my house. And it’s patently obvious that it’s in the United States. Which is where I clearly am.

Much Ado About Boimler begins with a teaser, which once again set up one of the storylines of the episode. Last week’s teaser had been a standalone thing, and I think I prefer that style overall; it works better for a comedy series. Open with a funny joke, roll the titles, then jump into the main story. That format seems to work well, but this week’s style of using the teaser to set up the story worked okay too.

Tendi finally got some development and agency over the story this week. Her role aboard the ship hasn’t been all that clear; we knew since the premiere that she works in sickbay, but in what capacity was never really explained. In the teaser we see her scientific mind at work – she has spent a long time sequencing the DNA for a dog and seems to have created or replicated the entire animal from scratch!

Tendi and her new dog.

Ethical concerns about such an activity aside, the dog is… not quite right. Though Tendi seems not to notice, the dog is able to do things that no dog – or any other lifeform – should be able to!

The monstrous dog – with glowing eyes – runs riot in the ensigns’ dormitory, and Mariner has a funny line in which she’s nonchalant about the unfolding, potentially disastrous situation. Moments like this take advantage of Mariner’s “I’m not bothered” attitude to great effect. After this short sequence, the opening titles roll, and then we’re into the next part of the episode’s setup. Captain Freeman, Ransom, and Shaxs have been given a special assignment – complete with the uniforms Picard, Worf, and Dr Crusher used in The Next Generation sixth season episode Chain of Command, which was a neat callback.

The special away team.

Unlike Picard’s dangerous mission in search of banned weapons, Freeman and co. are looking after some seeds – very much in line with the “unimportant” nature of the Cerritos’ mission. As a result of their absence, the Cerritos is going to receive a temporary captain.

We got a second callback to Chain of Command as Mariner mentions Captain Jellico by name. Jellico was the officer who took over for Picard in that episode, and was a character I had included in one of my Star Trek: Picard theories earlier in the year. That theory didn’t pan out, of course!

Mariner mentioning Captain Jellico was one of two references to the episode Chain of Command.

En route to greet the new captain, Boimler stops off to visit Rutherford who has been working on a new transporter enhancement. Rutherford has two transporter pads set up in the same room in a style that kind of reminded me of the film The Fly! We take transporting for granted in most Star Trek episodes – at least, until it goes wrong!

And of course that’s exactly what happens to the hapless Boimler, who has agreed to be a guinea pig for Rutherford’s new transporter. After completing the transport sequence, Boimler doesn’t rematerialise intact – instead he appears “phased”, glowing blue and with the familiar transporter noise ringing out!

Boimler is “phased!”

Being “phased” was something that happened in The Next Generation too, to Ro Laren and Geordi La Forge in the episode The Next Phase. However, this seems to be a different phenomenon as Geordi and Ro were rendered invisible, whereas Boimler is merely glowing and transparent. I don’t think this is an inconsistency, merely a re-use of the term to describe a different – but somewhat related – event.

As the new command crew arrive, Mariner recognises the captain as an old friend of hers. Apparently they were students together at Starfleet Academy, and think very highly of one another. Mariner goes from despising the idea of a temporary captain to loving it. I think this does raise a question about Mariner’s age; we know from events a couple of weeks ago that she’s been in Starfleet for several years, but to have attended the Academy at the same time as someone who has subsequently risen through the ranks to become a captain may well make her significantly older than Boimler, Rutherford, and Tendi. I don’t think this matters in a major way – though it does make Mariner’s “teen angst” attitude seem even more immature – but I thought it worth noting. It’s also worth pointing out that the way Starfleet Academy works, particularly in relation to officers who go on to become captains, isn’t clear. In the Kelvin timeline, Kirk appears to have graduated and immediately become a captain, for example, and even in the prime timeline Kirk was young – perhaps in his early 30s – when given command of the Enterprise.

Captain Ramsey and Mariner are reunited.

Boimler – still suffering as a result of the transporter accident – arrives on the bridge, but is immediately ordered to sickbay by the new captain. As much as I like the idea of Boimler being so eager to impress that he’d go to the bridge in that state, from what we know of him and his anxieties, I think it makes more sense to think he’d have gone to sickbay or stayed with Rutherford to work on finding a solution. His arrival on the bridge wasn’t funny, and the short scene added nothing to the episode.

In sickbay, Rutherford is able to get Boimler to stop making the transporter noise, to the relief of Dr T’Ana, everyone else present – and me! That noise on loop was getting annoying! However, Rutherford can’t fix the problem, and Dr T’Ana doesn’t know what to do either. As a result, she informs Boimler that he’s to be transferred to a specialist facility for treatment, run by Division 14 – a branch of Starfleet Medical.

Rutherford and Dr T’Ana try to help Boimler.

From an in-universe perspective, I love the idea that Starfleet has a special hospital for patients who’ve picked up bizarre and seemingly incurable ailments. Given what we see happen in Star Trek on a regular basis, it makes a lot of sense! Space is a dangerous place, and the idea that there are some conditions that Starfleet simply can’t figure out should be easily understood.

Tendi’s dog is also in trouble, with Dr T’Ana having discovered its unconventional nature! He’s to be transferred to the same facility as Boimler, setting up the first Boimler-Tendi story of the series, which is nice. As mentioned at the start, shaking up the character pairings is a good thing for a series like this to do sometimes.

Boimler being paired up with Tendi was a nice change of pace for Lower Decks.

Next we get a scene between Mariner and Captain Ramsey in which Mariner is appointed temporary first officer. Past Star Trek shows have occasionally seen junior officers seemingly bumped up the chain of command; The Best of Both Worlds saw Shelby appointed temporary first officer ahead of Data, and there was an episode (whose title escapes me) where Wesley Crusher was in charge of a mission. Still, it’s hard to see how this is anything other than favouritism and queue-jumping from Ramsey and Mariner, and this ties into a theme I touched on a couple of weeks ago about nepotism and elitism within Starfleet. Looking at that point in more detail is in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

Up next, Tendi and Boimler are transferred to a medical ship for transport to “The Farm” – the specialist hospital/medical facility mentioned earlier. The officer in charge of this ominous-looking vessel is an Edosian! This three-armed, three-legged species was seen in The Animated Series, but had never returned to the franchise since. It was great to see them back, even in this form as a semi-villain. I loved the over-the-top voice performance from Fred Tatasciore, who took on the role of the Edosian as well as his usual role as Shaxs.

Tendi and Boimler meet the Division 14 commander. The Edosians are back!

While Tendi and Boimler are getting used to their new home on the Division 14 medical ship, Mariner and Captain Ramsey prepare to lead a mission to a bog planet. It’s at this point it started to become apparent that Ramsey has taken a different path since she was with Mariner at the Academy; while Mariner still jokes and messes about, Ramsey is trying to stay calm and cool in front of her senior officers.

A story Mariner tells about how she and Ramsey stole a professor’s car goes over particularly badly, and not wanting to be shown up any more in front of her staff, Ramsey changes topic and presses on with the mission. Mariner is left feeling dejected; her friend has moved on without her. This again ties into how I’d been feeling about Mariner, at least some of the time: she’s childish. And in this moment, if she doesn’t realise it about herself, she certainly realises that someone she had been friends with has matured and moved on without her. I think many of us know someone like Mariner – stuck in her school/college mindset. She strikes me, at least in this moment, as the kind of person you reunite with a decade or two after graduating and are surprised to find them still as silly and immature as when you last saw them. Though I have no doubt this wasn’t what Lower Decks was going for, in this moment I almost pity Mariner. Almost.

Mariner realises her friend has matured and moved on.

Mariner messes up on the mission to the bog planet, and it seemed as though her feelings about the situation with Ramsey was getting to her; we’re not used to seeing Mariner make mistakes. In a way, this storyline – that she was flustered and making mistakes – would have worked better than what we ultimately got! But let’s save that for when we come to that revelation in a moment.

During the away mission, Mariner “forgot” the team’s tricorders. When some water purifying equipment malfunctions the tricorders were needed, and the others scold her for her lack of care and attention. Luckily Captain Ramsey steps in to save the day and prevent a disaster. She’s able to salvage the mission – which seems to have been one designed to bring clean water to the denizens of the bog planet. I liked the design of these aliens; animation as a format allows much greater variety than live-action in some respects, and the only limits are really what the animators and designers can think of! In a live-action setting it is possible to get a wide variety of aliens, but there are additional limitations – either an alien has to be able to be played by a human actor, or the budget for creating prosthetics and/or digital effect needs to be high. Animation gets around those issues, and one consequence has been more “alien-looking” aliens in Lower Decks.

The bog-planet aliens with Captain Ramsey.

After the away mission, Captain Freeman checks in with Captain Ramsey aboard the Cerritos. Other than underlining the previous point about the relative unimportance of Freeman’s mission, this scene didn’t really add a lot. The next mission for the Cerritos is to rendezvous with the USS Rubidoux, but the Rubidoux is late. We get another “Mariner messes up” moment, as she seems incapable of working the first officer’s console. Again, this could have worked better than it ultimately did.

On the medical vessel, which is dimly lit and very ominous, Tendi and Boimler meet some of the other Starfleet officers who are being transported to the medical facility. They are all suffering strange and comical ailments – like something out of Theme Hospital! One point of note is that one of the officers was wearing the older style of uniforms seen in First Contact and later Deep Space Nine seasons. We saw Mariner in one of these uniforms in a flashback a couple of weeks ago. I had assumed these uniforms were entirely phased out perhaps years before Lower Decks is set, but based on what the Edosian officer would say at the end – that the medical transport had been on its mission for “months” – perhaps those uniforms were only decommissioned within the last few months. A minor point, perhaps, but as someone who likes the different uniform varieties I thought it was worth noting.

Tendi, The Dog, and Boimler meet their shipmates.

Something has felt off – deliberately so – about the ship and its Edosian commander since Tendi and Boimler arrived, and in this scene we find out why: one of the officers tells Boimler that the medical facility is a myth; the ship will be their permanent home, keeping them hidden away from the rest of Starfleet! This setup was interesting, and the episode was leaning heavily into the idea that this ship was some kind of trap. Division 14 sounds superficially similar to Section 31, and the idea that Starfleet might have some kind of off-the-books vessel for this purpose is not wholly far-fetched. I wondered how Tendi and Boimler would escape!

Meanwhile, the USS Rubidoux has been located, adrift in space. Captain Ramsey assumes the accident is self-inflicted, and that it will be easily-resolved. She beams over with Mariner and her senior officers, only to find the ship powered down and seemingly abandoned. Rubidoux, like Cerritos, is a town in California, and continues the trend of California-class vessels (like the Cerritos) being named after these locales.

The seemingly-abandoned USS Rubidoux, seen on the Cerritos’ main viewscreen.

The away team are assigned roles – Mariner and the captain are to locate the crew, while the others are to restore power. We get another “Mariner messes up” moment, as she struggles with her gravity boots.

On the medical ship, a group of patients led by a man who’s suffering a bizarre ageing condition plot a mutiny. Tendi is out of the room leaving only Boimler to be included in the scheme. Though he initially seems interested to join, he of course immediately rushes to the Edosian commander to tell him everything. The commander, rather than trying to find a peaceful solution, grabs a phaser rifle and plans to put the mutiny down before it can begin – after letting the mutineers know it was Boimler who told on them!

Boimler tells the Division 14 commander about the planned mutiny.

While scouring the Rubidoux in search of her crew, Captain Ramsey and Mariner finally begin to have their conversation – the one we all knew was coming. Ramsey says that she expected to be working with a “Starfleet badass”, and Mariner retorts she expected to be teamed up with her “fun friend.” Both characters are disappointed in each other, but before it can be fully explored they locate the crew, hiding in a cargo bay.

The Rubidoux’s captain warns them not to reactivate power; some kind of energy-eating lifeform is on board the ship. But it’s too late, and the crew rush to escape. En route back to the bridge we finally learn what’s been going on with Mariner – sensing that her friend will offer her a promotion and reassignment, she’s been messing up on purpose.

Ramsey learns that Mariner has been making mistakes on purpose.

This was not a great story twist in my opinion. The idea that Mariner can be flawed, that she can make mistakes when she feels under pressure, or that she can be embarrassed by her obviously childish behaviour in front of someone who’s more successful than her humanises her – yet in an instant all of that was taken away. Mariner is still amazing, she hasn’t made a mistake, it was all intentional as part of her as-yet-unexplained desire to avoid promotion and responsibility. It’s in keeping with her character, sure, but not actually a very inspiring or even interesting storyline. We can add Mariner’s lack of consequences for deliberately making mistakes that could have endangered two away missions and her ship to the list of ways in which she receives special treatment because of her connections within Starfleet!

Meanwhile on the Division 14 ship, Boimler has been ratted out by the Edosian commander and left with the defeated mutineers – who of course immediately turn on him and try to run him off the ship! They chase him to an airlock, and just when it seems as though it’s the end of Boimler, the airlock opens to reveal “The Farm” – the medical facility they all thought was a myth. At the same moment, Boimler’s “phasing” wears off and he’s back to normal.

Boimler and the Division 14 ship arrive at The Farm.

Tendi and her dog have an emotional farewell as Tendi realises that dogs aren’t supposed to be able to talk and fly and do all of the things that she programmed it to do. The Dog will live out its life on the Farm with other medical curiosities – though it doesn’t seem dangerous so perhaps, as it’s sentient, it will be given the opportunity to leave? Starfleet’s mission is to seek out new life… well, Tendi made new life, but Starfleet’s reaction seems to be to incarcerate it. Not sure how well that works!

This next part might just be my favourite in the episode. As the lifeform on the Rubidoux seems close to consuming the ship, Mariner instructs Rutherford to use his newly-modified transporter to get everyone to safety. She gives him the instruction “Boim us out of here!” which was a great line. As Rutherford raced to the transporter controls, I got the sense that the scene was paying homage to Chekov’s role in 2009’s Star Trek. He similarly rushed from his post to the transporter room in that film. I hope that was intentional, and a nice little nod to Chekov actor Anton Yelchin.

Rutherford rushes to the transporter room.

Despite the side-effects of the modified transporter, Rutherford is able to beam everyone to safety. And as we now know that the effect is temporary, no harm was done to anyone! The Rubidoux is consumed by the energy-creature, which transforms the remains of the ship and flies off into space in a scene reminiscent of the ending of Encounter at Farpoint.

Mariner makes her peace with Ramsey, happy to remain just an ensign despite her abilities. At the Farm, Boimler is expelled as he’s no longer sick, and is able to return to the Cerritos with Tendi – ready for next week’s adventure! As always, Lower Decks managed to wrap everything up nicely, and the return to episodic storytelling has been a wonderful touch.

The space entity.

So that was Much Ado About Boimler. When the ensigns learned that they’d be getting a “babysitter” captain, I wondered if we might be about to see a returning character, and in a way that could have worked well and been a good excuse for a cameo. However, the Mariner-Ramsey storyline was interesting and perhaps worked better for Ramsey being someone new.

Mariner has improved in leaps and bounds from her first couple of appearances, and I’m now in a position where I would like to know if there’s a reason underpinning her desire to remain an ensign. Her “I-don’t-care” teenage rebel attitude may simply be her personality – but then again, there could be something in her past which means she wants to avoid responsibility and remain on the lower decks.

Mariner realises her ruse has been discovered.

There were so many references and callbacks to past iterations of Star Trek that I’m not even sure I spotted all of them. Lower Decks has been wonderful in that regard, and I think Much Ado About Boimler may have had the most references so far.

All in all, a solid episode. It was nice to see Boimler away from Mariner, and to see the typical Lower Decks groupings shaken up for once. The Division 14 story was an interesting one too, and I wonder if there will be other opportunities to learn about this secretive branch of Starfleet Medical.

I’m looking forward to next week’s episode, titled Veritas (the Latin word for “truth”). I’m sure it will be another fun outing. There are only three episodes left this season! Where does the time go, eh?

The first seven episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks β€“ is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 6: Terminal Provocations

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first six episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Spoilers may also be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Sorry for being a little late with this week’s Lower Decks review. There was so much to talk about from the Discovery Season 3 trailer that this review slipped down the list a little. These episode reviews are probably the most time-consuming things to write out of everything I do here, so even a short delay in getting started can have ramifications!

For the last three weeks at least, I’ve felt that the newest episode of Lower Decks was my favourite and the funniest yet, and this week is no exception. I think we’re at a point where I just have to say that the series as a whole is funny and enjoyable, so that I can try to avoid saying the same thing every time!

The title card.

Although I should really know better by now, I still held out a vague hope that Lower Decks’ panel for Star Trek Day – which took place on the 8th of September – would have finally contained some information about an international broadcast. But alas, we once again got nothing, and the fact that ViacomCBS continues to ignore Star Trek’s overseas fanbase is really just shitty behaviour from them. As I wrote recently, Star Trek doesn’t belong to Americans. It’s an international brand, and it became an international brand specifically because ViacomCBS and other companies have pushed hard to take Star Trek to all corners of the world. These big corporations want the profits overseas fans bring – but are happy to dump us as soon as there’s the tiniest bump in the road. Running a franchise like Star Trek comes with a responsibility that extends beyond international borders, and part of that responsibility in the age of the internet and streaming platforms is to make sure that every Star Trek fan has a way to access every new series and film. ViacomCBS has utterly failed in that regard.

Of course as you know if you’re a regular reader, I had no choice but to move to the United States in order to be able to watch the series lawfully. I’m chillaxing at my bachelor pad in downtown Las Vegas as we speak. Despite what people say, it’s a beautiful city, home to the Empire State Building and Independence Hall, and a stone’s throw from the lovely Acadia National Park.

This is obviously my house. And it’s clearly in the United States. Which is where I unequivocally am.

On to this week’s episode: Terminal Provocations. After last week’s episode dropped the opening teaser and jumped straight into the title sequence, I was pleased to see a return to the usual format. This week’s teaser introduces a new ensign and friend of Mariner and Boimler: Ensign Fletcher.

Fletcher will go on to have a role in the episode, as we’ll soon see, but for now this scene was mostly a one-joke affair. The ensigns – all four of them, plus Fletcher – begin humming “warp engine noises” of different ships, which Commander Ransom mistakes for something being horribly wrong. It was funny, and as with so many jokes, loses its humour when you try to explain it!

Ransom misinterprets the ensigns’ odd behaviour.

After the opening titles, we get the setup to the episode’s main story via a log recorded by security chief Shaxs. The Cerritos is in a standoff with Drookmani scavengers. A Federation starship’s wreckage is claimed by both sides, and of course Shaxs wants to fire!

This is a great moment to discuss the senior staff. Captain Freeman and Commander Ransom have both had a little time and attention in past episodes to expand as characters. They feel – at least a little – more than just one-dimensional caricatures for the ensigns to duel with. Shaxs, and sadly Dr T’Ana as well, haven’t had that yet, and as a result can still feel very flat. Shaxs is a gun-jumping aggressor on par with some earlier depictions of Worf, and the only thing we really know about T’Ana is that she’s grumpy!

Ransom, Shaxs, Freeman, and… someone else on the bridge.

As soon as the Drookmani captain spoke I recognised the voice: it was long-time Star Trek guest star J. G. Hertzler! Hertzler is best known for his recurring role as Klingon General Martok (and the changeling who impersonated him) on Deep Space Nine, but also played guest roles in Voyager and Enterprise. It was absolutely wonderful to welcome him back to the franchise, and his distinctive voice was perfect for the role of the Drookmani captain – while being a welcome surprise for longstanding fans.

The Drookmani believe they have the rights to the debris, claiming it has been abandoned for over a century and thus is fair game. Captain Freeman won’t surrender the wreckage, though she does offer the Drookmani a “finders’ fee.” Obviously this is not acceptable to the Drookmani, who attempt to use their tractor beam to claim the salvage anyway.

The Drookmani captain had a familiar voice!

This leads to a tractor beam-standoff between the two vessels, who seem to have beams of roughly equal power. The piece of salvage is caught between the two, and doesn’t move in either direction. Captain Freeman declares the crew is “ready and focused!”

And then – of course – we get a funny cutaway to the ensigns not being ready or focused! Fletcher has his head in a replicator and is being encouraged to chug by the onlooking ensigns (and others). At first I thought the nondescript orange substance must be something alcoholic – which was a funny enough gag when considering what the captain had just said – but when Rutherford said that it was cantaloupe purΓ©e I honestly just lost it. It was just so random!

Fletcher demonstrating how “ready and focused” he is!

While cheering on Fletcher, Mariner jumps awkwardly and lands on Dr T’Ana, who goes face-first into her dinner: a plate of nachos. This was kind of a funny scene as the Caitian doctor exclaims how difficult it will be to get the cheese out of her fur! She gives Mariner a dressing-down, saying she’s “heard of” the ensign. I assume this means she knows about the Mariner-Freeman connection, or at least that’s my theory!

There was a funny gag about Starbase 80; Dr T’Ana says that if Mariner wants to screw around she can get reassigned there. I looked it up in case I was missing a reference, but as far as I can tell this is the base’s first mention in the franchise. The comedy came from the line and the reaction to it rather than being a callback to some other event in Star Trek Fletcher steps in to save the day, giving Dr T’Ana a new meal and a towel to clean up with. Fletcher, in these early scenes, comes across as competent, collected, and in control – a stark contrast to what will come later!

Dr T’Ana and the ensigns stand off.

Up next we have the setup for the episode’s B-plot, and it’s another one focusing on Tendi and Rutherford. So far, Lower Decks has been content to stick with the same basic character pairings – Boimler goes with Mariner, Tendi with Rutherford. And these pairings do work, but at the same time some variety would be nice. Aside from their first meeting in the premiere, I don’t think Boimler and Tendi have said two words to each other. At times it can feel like the group of four ensigns aren’t really friends – because they don’t know each other – and are just together because the scripts say so.

Hopefully that’s something future episodes will address. But in Terminal Provocations, after Tendi tells Rutherford she never passed her zero-gravity class and is worried about being given an anti-gravity assignment to collect some of the debris, he offers her a holodeck training programme he’s been working on that can help. And of course, for anyone who’s seen Star Trek before, alarm bells start ringing about horrible malfunctions!

Tendi and Rutherford in the mess hall.

As this scene ended, Rutherford ran through a list of famous historical figures that have made appearances as holograms in past iterations of Star Trek, which was a nice touch for fans! Up next we finally got the chance to see the ensigns doing some boring shipboard work. Mariner, Boimler, and Fletcher are working on the isolinear cores – using the transparent coloured isolinear chips we saw in shows of The Next Generation’s era, which was another neat little throwback!

Here’s where Boimler and Mariner’s story really kicks off, as they leave Fletcher alone to finish the work so they can attend a “Chu Chu dance.” This party is something both Mariner and Boimler have been looking forward to, and in keeping with his earlier characterisation as someone reliable and friendly, Fletcher offers to pick up their work so they can attend.

Boimler and Mariner gratefully thank Fletcher.

Boimler says he’s made matching Chu Chu shirts for him and Mariner (which we’ll see later) in what was a cute moment. On the holodeck, Rutherford introduces Tendi to his programme, which features Badgey – an anthropomorphic Starfleet badge who is a clear homage to Clippy. Clippy, if you don’t remember, was the “assistant” who used to come bundled with Microsoft Office products in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This little virtual assistant was an early attempt at something like Siri, but limited in scope to a few office-related tasks. Clippy definitely entered popular culture, though, and has been the subject of many memes! I’m sure that most viewers, even those who never used Microsoft Office, would recognise something about Badgey!

Badgey is cute – in a slightly annoying way – and Tendi takes to him right away. Rutherford loads the spacewalk programme, but when Badgey suffers a glitch Rutherford gives him a kick to get him working again…

Tendi meets Badgey.

The show is definitely steering towards Rutherford and Tendi being an item, or at least it feels that way. At one point during the spacewalk they get their magnet boots (a callback to The Undiscovered Country and First Contact, among others) stuck together. I like their dynamic as friends, and I’d definitely like both pairings of characters to spend more time together either as one larger group or as different couples before pairing anyone off into relationships.

We didn’t get to see the Chu Chu dance, as the next scene shows Boimler and Mariner leaving the festivities. I guess the exact nature of the Chu Chu dance will have to remain a mystery, though we can tell they both enjoyed it! Fletcher, however, has been knocked out! And on top of that, one of the isolinear cores the trio were supposed to be working on has been stolen! Fletcher had seemed so above-board and wholesome earlier in the story, so while something definitely felt “off,” I wasn’t convinced Fletcher was to blame.

Mariner and Boimler discover an unconscious Fletcher.

After a brief flashback in which Fletcher reveals he was attacked by an unknown assailant, the trio decide the culprit must be their nemesis: Delta shift! I liked the show playing up this intra-shift rivalry; anyone who’s worked in this kind of environment knows how they feel, I think.

Of course it wasn’t Delta shift’s fault, and after a scene in which a far-too-eager Fletcher has to be dragged back by Mariner and Boimler, I was convinced he wasn’t being honest with them. While Fletcher tries to explain he couldn’t see who it was because it was too dark, the Drookmani begin to use their tractor beam to launch pieces of the wreckage at the Cerritos.

The Drookmani ship uses its tractor beam as a makeshift weapon.

On the bridge of the Cerritos, Shaxs recognises that the shields aren’t working as well as they should be; the missing isolinear core is responsible. This adds a renewed sense of urgency to finding the stolen component! Meanwhile, it also causes problems for Rutherford and Tendi, as in true Star Trek style, the attack causes a holodeck malfunction!

Badgey, the cute little helper, suddenly goes rogue! And of course the attack disabled two key holodeck features – the safety protocols and the ability to end the programme! Badgey, remembering Rutherford’s mistreatment, begins to attack him. Rutherford and Tendi have no option but to flee. I loved this little subversion; it not only plays on our very real fears of rogue artificial intelligence, while being a cute little Microsoft Office throwback, but also ties in neatly with the most recent seasons of Discovery and Picard, which likewise featured storylines that looked at out-of-control artificial life.

Badgey goes rogue on the holodeck.

Unable to leave the holodeck, Rutherford decides to change the programme from outer space to something safer – a Bajoran marketplace. At least this one will have air to breathe! But Badgey is still present and violently “kills” several holograms while seeking Tendi and Rutherford; the chase is still on!

On the bridge, the Drookmani captain and Captain Freeman have another shouting match. I liked that, despite everything, Freeman was still intent on finding a peaceful solution. That definitely feels like the Starfleet way to handle things! I liked the Drookmani captain’s line that “avoiding damage is fighting!” That’s certainly one way to look at the confrontation!

“F**k you!” – Drookmani captain.

Finally we get back to Mariner, Boimler, and Fletcher. Realising what’s happening, Boimler says that if the shields drop below 50% the bridge crew will realise an isolinear core is missing – something that could lead to Fletcher and/or all three of them being in big trouble! They want to stick together as “lower deckers” so they won’t leave Fletcher to hang alone.

Fletcher changes his attack story, saying it must be the Drookmani who attacked him because the assailant was an alien… despite saying moments earlier that he couldn’t see who attacked him. It was clear by this point that Fletcher’s story was not what it seemed, but Mariner and Boimler still trust him. The trio decide to scan the ship for proof of an intruder (despite there being ample time for an intruder to have escaped! Sorry, I know. Too nitpicky!) At their dormitory, however, the missing isolinear core is found… in Fletcher’s bunk!

Boimler uncovers the missing core, and realises Fletcher has been lying!

His lie revealed, Fletcher initially tries to claim he was being framed before breaking down and admitting that he stole the core. He had attempted to hook up the core to his brain to make himself smarter. When his plan didn’t work he concocted the lie about being attacked to cover his tracks. Admitting it to his friends was obviously difficult, but I think we’ve all known a Fletcher at some point in our lives or careers: the kind of person who acts calm and cool on the surface but actually is a mess, and who will lie and cheat and steal to keep anyone finding out. He’s not a relatable character, but he’s a character most people will recognise!

Despite Fletcher’s lies, Boimler and Mariner initially seem to forgive him, even promising to format the core so no one will find out what he did. However, while Mariner is preparing to give a big speech about how Starfleet officers learn from their mistakes, the core jumps to life – Fletcher’s mind-hookup with it worked, just not in the way he intended!

The rogue core attacks the ensigns.

The core now possesses some of Fletcher’s personality quirks – most notably his desire to get smarter. It begins “eating” anything it can get its cable-tentacles on in order to gain more knowledge. It grabs Mariner and Boimler, but Fletcher attacks it in an uncharacteristic moment of bravery, and it lets them go.

Fletcher then tells Mariner and Boimler that if they don’t help him cover up what he did he’ll rat them out, saying it was their fault for going to the Chu Chu dance and leaving him on his own. This adds to the sense I talked about earlier that we all know someone like Fletcher; he shows his true colours here.

Fletcher threatens to tell the captain about Mariner and Boimler.

Mariner steps in, telling Fletcher what he’s doing is “not Starfleet.” Fletcher retorts that Mariner is a rule-breaker too, and here in this exchange we get an interesting line that really goes a long way to explaining Mariner’s personality. She argues that she only breaks dumb rules, rules that get in the way of her being able to do a better job. She sees herself in this way, somewhat above the rules because the rules weren’t made to accommodate someone as brilliant as she is. Is this confidence or arrogance? On past form, we have points to argue in both directions!

Mariner continues that she’d never put anyone in danger, to which Boimler responds by clearing his throat! This was one of the standout jokes for me, as Mariner accepts that she does, on occasion, put Boilmer in danger! The isolinear core has found more things to grab, however, and now looms over the trio of ensigns.

“…except sometimes maybe Boimler!”

Back on the holodeck, Rutherford and Tendi are continuing their escape from Badgey, running up a long flight of stairs presumably still in the Bajor programme. Rutherford admits that he felt Badgey wasn’t ready yet, but that he wanted to show off to Tendi. She’s very understanding, and the two continue their escape!

Rutherford realises that, seeing as Badgey is affected by the simulated environment, it might be possible to freeze him. He loads a new holodeck programme, this time in an icy mountainous environment. He and Tendi immediately start to shiver, but this could be the key to surviving the Badgey attack!

Tendi and Rutherford in the snowy holodeck programme.

Mariner and Boimler are able to wrangle the semi-sentient core, but Fletcher insists on making up another lie: this time that a Q was responsible. The other two don’t buy it, however, and after tying up Fletcher they drag the core to the transporter room. On the way, it keeps grabbing everything it can, and Boimler is worried it will be too heavy to keep dragging.

They switch up their plan and decide to instead blow it out of a nearby airlock. Mariner is able to lure it inside by throwing a tricorder – the core wants to gain knowledge so this makes a lot of sense! All the while the core has been spouting some of Fletcher’s lines, including his remarks about aliens, which was pretty funny. Mariner and Boimler are successful, and the core is ejected into space… where it immediately attacks the Drookmani ship!

Mariner and Boimler watch from the airlock.

A short clip from this scene was featured in the trailer for the series back in July, as Mariner and Boimler exclaim that they’re going to be fired! We didn’t know then what made them think so, but know we do – it was the rogue isolinear core attacking the Drookmani ship.

On the bridge, Captain Freeman is finally out of options. After trying everything to achieve a peaceful, diplomatic solution, she allows Shaxs to fire on the ship. But it was too late – the Cerritos’ weapons systems are down! All seems lost to the bridge crew… until the isolinear core disables the Drookmani ship anyway!

The bridge crew watch in stunned silence as the Drookmani ship is disabled.

The threat over, everyone can celebrate and relax. Dr T’Ana and Shaxs share a hilarious kiss as the bridge crew cheer. On the holodeck, Rutherford and Tendi are still trying to escape Badgey, though, as the end of the battle hasn’t saved them from the malfunctioning programme! Tired, cold, and unable to keep running, Rutherford attacks Badgey. After a fight, Badgey seems to have the upper hand, but the cold finally gets to him.

Rutherford is able to put him down, just as the holodeck is repaired! Badgey springs back to life, claiming not to remember anything that happened, and the two are able to exit the holodeck relatively unharmed. Whether Badgey will return as a villain remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet against it at this stage! We did get one more interesting line hinting at a Tendi-Rutherford relationship: he think that she’s “cute!”

Badgey’s “death” scene.

For his heroic and innovative method of saving the Cerritos, Fletcher is promoted and reassigned! Mariner and Boimler are glad to be rid of him after what they saw, and in a funny moment later reject his appeal to be transferred back to the Cerritos after screwing up on his new assignment.

Boimler has a nice line right at the end of the episode: Mariner may be a rule-breaker, but “at your heart, you’re Starfleet.” This was a cute way to end the episode. Mariner and Boimler’s story this week has been one which – mostly successfully – attempted to justify Mariner’s rule-breaking. At the very least it managed to put the way she behaves in context: she may not always follow the rules, but when she does step out of line she usually has a reason, and the ability to back it up. I think it’s a good lesson – but one that might’ve been useful a little earlier in the season!

Mariner and Boimler at the end of the episode.

So that was Terminal Provocations. A solid, very funny episode with some relatable characters and plenty of humour. I think there were more f-words (and other instances of bad language) here than in any previous episode, and I wonder why that was. Perhaps it was just because of who wrote it. I tend to feel such language doesn’t always add much to a story – not just in Star Trek, but in many other shows and films. Sometimes it’s just there because the writers and producers can get away with it, and that thought occurred to me here.

Otherwise, it’s hard to find much to criticise. I loved hearing J. G. Hertzler’s voice once again, and if he could make more returns to Star Trek in future that would be amazing! We have been promised other cameos in future episodes, so I’ll be keeping my eye – or rather, my ear – out for those!

The stand-off with Delta shift.

Badgey was perhaps my favourite element of the episode. In a way, the two pairs of characters were dealing with a similar problem – rogue technology. In Boimler and Mariner’s case, they had the isolinear core. Tendi and Rutherford had Badgey, and it’s interesting because this has been a theme we’ve seen used in Star Trek several times recently.

The promo for next week’s episode – which I won’t spoil, don’t worry – looks fantastic, and I can’t wait for Thursday! I hope you’ll come back then to see my next review. Once again, sorry for the delay this week. Hopefully next week we can get back on schedule.

The first six episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks β€“ is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 5: Cupid’s Errant Arrow

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first five episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Further spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Despite an underwhelming start, Lower Decks has gone from strength to strength in the last few weeks, with each episode being progressively better than the last. In terms of laugh-out-loud moments of comedy, I think there were more in Cupid’s Errant Arrow than there had been last time, though some of the humour was not to my taste. But a sense of humour and jokes are always subjective things, and taken as a whole I greatly enjoyed what the episode had to offer.

The cringe comedy that I disliked wasn’t something I downright hated, it’s just something I’ve known for decades isn’t “my thing”. Shows like Friends relied on this style of comedy a lot, where jokes are built around embarrassing and cringeworthy situations, and it’s clearly something that a lot of people find amusing. I hope that at least some of those comedy fans have found their way to Lower Decks by now – if they have, I bet they’ll have enjoyed what Cupid’s Errant Arrow had to offer.

The opening shot of the episode – note the font from The Next Generation. I love this little touch.

Of course, only American and Canadian fans would be able to get that enjoyment; Lower Decks remains unavailable anywhere else in the world. Even series creator Mike McMahan, who had rather clumsily talked about the situation a few weeks ago, has gone radio-silent. A search for “Star Trek: Lower Decks international” on Google now only yields results more than a month old; ViacomCBS has simply refused to even acknowledge the problem. This is despite the fact that the lack of an international broadcast has killed the hype and excitement that the show needed to build, and that the widespread piracy across the world continues to reduce the value of Lower Decks from a financial perspective. From the point of view of Netflix or Amazon, why should they pay a lot of money for a show with little international attention and whose hardcore fans have already seen it? The answer is they shouldn’t – and they won’t.

But of course I’d never indulge in such skulduggery as piracy. When ViacomCBS refused to broadcast the show internationally, I – a disabled man with hardly any money – had no choice but to move to America so I could watch it. I’m comfortably settled in my second home – a beautiful log cabin in the state of Alaska, a mere half hour’s drive from downtown New Orleans. I went into town just this morning to sample one of its signature dishes – the Philly cheesesteak. Delicious.

This is totally my house. And it’s in America, obviously. Which is where I definitely am.

Cupid’s Errant Arrow is the first episode not to have a teaser before the opening titles, which is uncommon across any Star Trek series. I’m not really sure why that was the case – at first I wondered if the copy I was watching had a missing piece – because although after the titles we did jump right into the story there was still scope to move the titles to structure the episode more traditionally. This isn’t a complaint, though I do consider it worth noting.

The story begins with Ensign Boimler recording a log. The Cerritos has been tasked with supporting the USS Vancouver – a Parliament-class ship that seems to be superior to the Cerritos in almost every way. The design of the Vancouver was very clever; it managed to look bigger, tougher, and more “heroic” for want of a better word, emphasising its importance over the lowly Cerritos, but while retaining a similar enough aesthetic that it was clearly part of the same fleet.

The USS Vancouver overshadows the USS Cerritos.

Star Trek has often used logs to set up stories, and it worked well here. The Vancouver and Cerritos are tasked with saving the planet Mixtus III and its people from a moon that has become unstable. When I first saw this moon in one of the promo images or trailers released before the series I thought it might’ve been the Klingon moon Praxis, as seen in The Undiscovered Country. Though the damage to this moon is less extensive, it still felt like a little callback.

Though we don’t spend too much time with them this week, the bridge crew (or at least, the captain and first officer) have to first negotiate with the native aliens, as there seem to be competing factions who are all squabbling. Though Lower Decks was in production well before the current pandemic, this sequence – with the bickering factions unable to agree on anything in the face of a looming problem – feels rather timely!

The moon of Mixtus III in Cupid’s Errant Arrow…
…and the Klingon moon Praxis in The Undiscovered Country.

The arguing delegates checked all of the boxes when comparing them to the problem-deniers of today: the conspiracy theorists, the ultra-religious, the not-in-my-backyard types. Though perhaps intended as an analogy for something like climate change, it works surprisingly well considering the response to the pandemic has faced hurdles from the same types of people!

Boimler concludes his log by saying that he’s very excited to get to work side-by-side with his girlfriend for the first time. They’ve been dating via subspace, as she serves on the Vancouver. Of course Mariner is sceptical, questioning the existence of Barbara, Boimler’s girlfriend. Apparently he’s been recording lots of personal logs about her too, which is kind of cute. This conversation dropped a couple of references: Q and Captain Picard Day, and the concept of holo-addiction, that we saw Barclay struggle with in The Next Generation. Mariner’s teasing of Boimler felt more good-natured than mean-spirited here, and it was a scene that furthered their friendship.

Mariner gently teases Boimler about his new girlfriend.

Up next were Tendi and Rutherford, paired up for the B-plot of Cupid’s Errant Arrow. Tendi has felt a little rudderless since the show began, and I don’t think has properly found her feet yet as a character. Last time she seemed to be mimicking Mariner at one point, and here, as she demonstrates excitement for the mundane aspects of the Cerritos and Vancouver, it feels like she’s a second copy of Rutherford. The new ensign wowed by everything has, perhaps, been a difficult character to write for.

Tendi and Rutherford visit the USS Vancouver with Mariner and Boimler, and rush off excitedly to see the ship. I think Tendi’s line about the Vancouver being the “best ship [she’s] ever seen” was word-for-word what she said about the Cerritos in the premiere; if not it was still similar enough to be funny. Boimler waits for Barbara while Mariner continues to say she doesn’t believe she’s real. There was a reference to the Phylosians – a race of sentient plants seen in The Animated Series, which was a neat callback. It was around this point that Mariner crossed over from gently teasing her friend to something more sinister as she continues to insist Barbara isn’t real or must have some nefarious reason for dating Boimler.

Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford aboard the USS Vancouver.

Because of how I’ve felt about Mariner in past episodes, I was at least slightly concerned that she’d turn out to be right and Barbara wouldn’t be real, or would immediately turn out to be some kind of fake or monster. That would have felt a little too obvious, and perhaps would have given Mariner another excuse to see herself as better and smarter than everyone around her. Luckily it didn’t pan out that way!

Barbara is, of course, real. And human (as far as we can tell). She and Boimler are perhaps a little over-the-top in their kissing and cuddling – but that’s all part of the humour. Mariner, after getting over her initial shock, continues to probe her about why she’d date Boimler, but the trio is interrupted by one of Barbara’s colleagues – they’ll be working together, to Boimler’s dismay.

Barbara and Boimler with Mariner.

One very minor point of criticism that I’d have about some of the shipboard scenes this week is that it wasn’t always obvious which of the two vessels the characters were on. The rooms and corridors aboard the Vancouver look very similar to those aboard the Cerritos – even the bridge design is identical – and I wasn’t always sure which ship scenes were set on. In past Star Trek shows, redressing sets or simply reusing sets has created this issue numerous times, but in animation it should be much easier to make some tweaks and changes to give each ship distinguishing features. Otherwise, there’s almost no reason to have two different classes of ship!

It was pretty obvious that the lieutenant Barbara met was, in fact, an ex. The way Boimler reacted, and the way the pair showed such familiarity, telegraphed that story point. This set up the next part of the story: while Mariner will be scrambling around trying to figure out what kind of nefarious imposter Barbara is, Boimler will be scrambling around trying to win her back from what he perceives to be the threat of her ex.

Barbara meets her ex.

The latter of these stories – Boimler trying different tactics to win over Barbara – is where the cringe humour that I mentioned at the beginning really kicks in. It makes sense in a way; it’s a style often seen in romantic comedies, and Cupid’s Errant Arrow is perhaps as close as Star Trek has come to truly having a romantic comedy storyline… except for Picard and Lwaxana Troi in The Next Generation!

By this point, Cupid’s Errant Arrow had established its storylines. Unlike last week, where I felt Boimler’s C-plot went nowhere, there seemed to be enough time for all three stories to play out effectively. We have Captain Freeman’s struggle with the planet’s natives, Tendi and Rutherford aboard the Vancouver, and the Boimler-Mariner-Barbara-Barbara’s ex quadrangle. All three would play out with enough time dedicated to them to feel fully-rounded.

Mariner, Boimler, Barbara, and her ex.

Lower Decks is always picking on Boimler – in a fun way, of course – and this time we learn his full first name: Bradward. This greatly amuses Mariner, and it is kind of a silly name. Sorry to all the Bradwards out there! I suppose we could say it’s surprising that Mariner seems to have known Boimler a while without learning his actual name, but firstly it’s a comedy show so not every point has to be 100% serious, and secondly… I’ve been there. There are people I worked with or knew for years whose names I never learned/remembered! So it’s not actually that unusual a situation.

Aboard the Vancouver, Tendi and Rutherford meet with a senior officer who has some kind of new scanner – the T88. Since the episode aired I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what this is a reference to! At first I thought it might’ve been something from Star Wars, then I wondered if it was a reference to The Terminator… in any case it was repeated so often in the episode that I assume it’s a reference to something, but as with Rutherford’s pudding joke last time I’m just not sure what!

Tendi and Rutherford are excited about the T88 scanner.

Regardless, the pair are very excited about the scanners, and the senior officer promises whoever completes a scanning task first will get to keep a T88. As mentioned, I feel this works way better for Rutherford’s character than Tendi – who is still kind of an unknown quantity even several episodes in.

Back aboard the Cerritos, Boimler is trying to find ways to impress Barbara. At first he tries working out – doing push-ups. Mariner continues to espouse her theory that Barbara is some kind of intruder, alien, or spy and that Boimler is in danger. At first this seemed like “typical Mariner” – assuming she must be right because she knows best – but I was pleasantly surprised when the episode informed us why she’s so paranoid about the prospect of someone she cares about – and she does clearly care about Boimler – being the target of some kind of evil alien.

Mariner tries to convince Boimler that Barbara is evil.

By the way: in the image above, which takes place in the ensigns’ dormitory, does that look like a forcefield behind Mariner? Or is it supposed to be a window? It seems odd to me that the Cerritos would be flying around with a giant hole in its crew quarters – a loss of power would blow them all out into space! But we’re off-topic.

In a flashback sequence we see Mariner a few years previously. Wearing the uniform design used in First Contact and the back half of Deep Space Nine, she and a friend are visiting Quark’s. Mariner appears to still be an ensign at this time, though whether that’s because she’s new to Starfleet or had been promoted and demoted wasn’t clear. Her friend has a new boyfriend, but he turns out to be an evil alien shapeshifter and eats her! So now we know her concern about Barbara doesn’t just come from nowhere for the sake of setting up a funny story – she’s motivated by past trauma. And while we can definitely say she needs to work through that trauma instead of taking it out on Boimler, this moment humanised her in a way few moments in Lower Decks have managed to so far.

Mariner sees a friend eaten by a shapeshifting boyfriend in a flashback sequence.

It was nice to see Quark’s – albeit very briefly – as well as the uniforms of the Deep Space Nine era. We could do a whole series of articles on which uniforms are the “best”, and there will always be differing opinions on that, but I certainly like the grey-and-black variant seen here, and just like when they were included in Star Trek: Picard earlier in the year, it was a nostalgic treat to see them back here too.

Mariner’s determination to help Boimler was sweet, if a little misguided, and the fact that it was basically derived from seeing him as someone unlikely to get a girlfriend was a very “Mariner” way of looking at the situation. In that sense it stayed true to her character, while allowing her to help out. The flashback provided her ample motivation, and this storyline worked well.

Mariner is determined to “help” Boimler.

Up next we had another scene with the captain and the arguing natives. Despite limited screen time, I enjoyed this aspect of the story. The aliens (presumably Mixtusians?) follow on from several others we’ve seen in Lower Decks as being at least slightly more “alien” in appearance than some Star Trek races. Animation as a format allows for this much more easily than live-action, and I think it’s fair to say that we’ve seen Lower Decks take advantage of this as much as possible.

The captain manages to resolve most of their problems – moving homes, installing gravity generators, etc. – but one robed alien still is unsatisfied. He claims that imploding the moon will send debris to his people on Mixtus II, so it looks like there’s still a problem to be overcome after all!

Captain Freeman, Commander Ransom, and the Mixtus III aliens.

In his first attempt to win over Barbara (despite the fact he doesn’t need to) Boimler interrupts a meeting she’s giving about the mission. This scene was by far the worst in terms of cringe humour, and while that really isn’t my thing for fans of that style of comedy I have no doubt it worked.

While Boimler interrupts to try to stake his claim to Barbara in front of her ex (and several of her colleagues) Mariner is trying to prove she’s an impostor. At first she believes Barbara to be an android, programming her tricorder to disable any androids present. The two are eventually forced to leave the meeting and this scene (thankfully) came to an end.

Boimler and Mariner disrupt Barbara’s mission briefing.

Tendi and Rutherford bicker over who has the best claim to the T88 scanner – there seems to be only one available and they both want to take it back to the Cerritos for their various departments. It was never really explained why the T88 is so good – or even really what it does – so I didn’t feel this storyline had particularly high stakes. For the most part it followed a fairly common trope: two friends end up competing against each other, only to realise that their friendship matters more than the prize on offer.

Mariner has a number of theories about Barbara, and these checked off a number of creatures and characters from past iterations of Star Trek. She mentioned the “salt vampire” from The Original Series Season 1 episode The Man Trap, a transporter duplicate from The Next Generation Season 6 episode Second Chances, the Suliban from Enterprise, and a “surgically-altered Cardassian spy”, which is of course a reference to Seska from Voyager. The pinboard she has with lots of pictures and string was funny, and I liked seeing her get deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole. I’m also pretty sure this marks the first reference to the Suliban outside of Enterprise.

Mariner’s conspiracy theories about Barbara referenced a number of past Star Trek stories.

Boimler has a funny line here; while criticising Mariner for not accepting Barbara, he plans to change everything about himself to trick her. The comedy built and built on this, as Boimler confidently asks the replicator for an outfit combining the coolest people in history – in “boys size small”.

The outfit was suitably ridiculous: unmatched boots, two halves of a jacket, an (American) football, and pink sunglasses. I’m sure each piece represents a classic film or television series; I struggled to name them all. But the overall look was so over-the-top and stupid that I had to pause the episode from laughing so hard. This entire sequence was great – but it built up to another cringe moment as Boimler interrupts Barbara in the mess hall.

Cool Boimler.

After Boimler ruins things with Barbara (and spills beer on her) she storms off with her ex. Mariner is increasingly convinced she’s some kind of reptile in disguise, using Barbara calling Boimler “sexy” as evidence.

A misunderstanding in the shuttle bay eventually leads to Boimler and Barbara reconciling; there was never anything between her and her ex as of course we knew. Mariner hasn’t given up, though, and pulls Barbara’s pants down in an effort to expose her as an alien infiltrator. As I mentioned I’m glad Mariner was wrong on this point, as making her someone who’s always right about everything doesn’t tend to make for a fun and relatable character.

Mariner tries – and fails – to expose Barbara as an alien.

Just when it seemed sure that Barbara was human, she and Boimler leave to complete the next part of the mission. As they leave, Mariner finds something on the ground: a husk. After scanning it she’s sure that Barbara is a parasite (or is being controlled by one). She rushes off to tell Boimler.

Tendi and Rutherford complete their task together, but the officer on the Vancouver who gave them the assignment tells them they’re going to be transferred to his ship. Despite loving the Vancouver for its fancy systems and technology, both would prefer to stay on the Cerritos, and a slapstick chase ensues after they steal the officer’s padd – preventing him from submitting the transfer order. This scene was okay, and led to a funny payoff at the end that we’ll come to, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. Slapstick comedy like this can be fine, but something about it didn’t feel right here.

Rutherford and Tendi steal the padd to prevent their transfer to the USS Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Mariner is racing to get to Boimler before the Barbara-parasite can harm him. She puts on a spacesuit and jumps out of the airlock, racing to an orbital platform near the moon. She comes aboard only to find Boimler naked and waiting for Barbara – in another incredibly cringeworthy moment of comedy!

Mariner remains convinced that Barbara is the parasite, but Boimler – clearly fed up with her antics – isn’t buying it. He tries to get Mariner to leave, but because of the delay in destroying the moon thanks to the intransigence of the Mixtus II alien, the platform shakes and Boimler is knocked out.

Nobody wants to see that…

Commander Ransom alerts the captain to the problem on the bridge, while Barbara and Mariner fight over Boimler on the orbital platform. Apparently Barbara has been feeling the same way about Mariner, wondering if she’s an impostor and what her interest is in Boimler, which was kind of funny. This set the stage for the two to reconcile, realising that each other had Boimler’s best interests at heart.

With the moon about to cause devastation on Mixtus III, Captain Freeman feels she has no choice but to act. And in a very funny moment – that also served as a commentary on wealth inequality – the Mixtus II alien admits it’s just him and his wife on the planet; they’re very rich. The captain gives the order to implode the moon, saving Mixtus III from harm despite the rich alien protesting.

Captain Freeman and the Mixtus II alien.

After ending their fight, Mariner and Barbara bond over stories about Boimler. Though these tales almost all put him in a negative light, it was a funny sequence that was perhaps even a little sweet. They both realised that neither was a threat, and that their fighting was borne from a misunderstanding. I liked this resolution to a story that could have made Barbara an alien menace; I think it worked far better.

While Boimler lay unconscious, the two gossiped about him and some of his silly moments – messing up, touching aliens in an inappropriate way, etc. Mariner had a cute line where she said that Boimler is a dork, but he’s her dork. After seeing her being unkind and even bullying him in earlier episodes, this moment (and others earlier on) really hit home the fact that they’re friends, and I liked that.

Boimler lays unconscious in the foreground while Barbara and Mariner chat about their adventures with him.

Meanwhile Tendi and Rutherford have managed to uncover the Vancouver officer’s horrible secret – while transferring them to his ship, he plans to transfer himself to the Cerritos! I loved this moment, as the officer pleads to return to a less exciting ship. He can’t handle the pressure of being on such a cool ship and wants a quieter life. We’ve never really seen that idea explored in Star Trek – that an officer might not want that kind of life. Though it was a brief moment in a secondary plot, acknowledging the idea that some in Starfleet may prefer life in the slow lane was nice, and I appreciated its inclusion.

On the orbital platform, Mariner and Barbara finally uncover the source of the husk Mariner found – Boimler is the one who’s picked up a parasite! The green louse-like creature had affixed itself to his head, but Barbara was able to remove it. It turns out this was the reason why she liked him – the parasite gave off pheromones that made him much more attractive! This was another twist, but a fun resolution to the plot. Mariner was half-right after all – there was a parasite involved. Just not in the way she expected. Though the timeframe of Lower Decks is not at all clear, Boimler was supposed to have picked up the parasite more than a month ago – does that mean he’s had it in every episode so far? Or is it something he picked up between last week’s episode and Cupid’s Errant Arrow? If it’s the former, perhaps we can expect to see some changes in him going forward now that it’s been removed.

Barbara finds the parasite.

In keeping with Lower Decks’ style of returning to episodic storytelling, all of the storylines are wrapped up by the end of the episode. Barbara breaks up with Boimler, removing her from the picture. Tendi and Rutherford return to the Cerritos – with armfuls of T88 scanners! And the ship and crew have completed their moon mission, ready for another adventure next time.

Cupid’s Errant Arrow was fun, and despite the cringe humour that it made use of at points, there were some laugh-out-loud moments. I had a lot of fun with the episode, and I’m enjoying spending time with the characters. Tendi still feels underdeveloped, as if the writers don’t really know what to make of her. But the other three are finding the niches. Mariner’s turn away from being self-centred has been to the series’ benefit in a huge way, and I’m having fun with her, laughing along at her shenanigans rather than rolling my eyes.

The stolen T88 scanners.

This was an episode which really took the action away from what would have been the “main” story in another Star Trek series – saving Mixtus III from the crashing moon. This was always what Lower Decks promised to do: focusing on the unimportant characters rather than the main bridge crew. Several previous episodes had the ensigns participate in the main story in more of a major way, but this time they really didn’t, and thus Cupid’s Errant Arrow is an episode to point to as one that encapsulates the Lower Decks concept.

The teaser for next week’s episode looks like a lot of fun – and while I won’t spoil anything, I’ll say that I’m definitely looking forward to the crew’s next adventure. I hope you’ll come back after you’ve seen it for another review!

The first five episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks are available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 4: Moist Vessel

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first four episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Last week’s episode, Temporal Edict, was fantastic. I had a great time with that story – as I’m sure you could tell from my review – and I especially enjoyed seeing Ensign Mariner step up and start being more of a protagonist I could get behind. I was optimistic and even excited for this week’s episode after what I saw last time, and although Moist Vessel started with a scene that got me worried Mariner would wholly regress back to being vain, selfish, and annoying, I was pleasantly surprised with another largely enjoyable episode.

Even now that we’re four weeks into Season 1, there’s still no news regarding an international broadcast. Practically nobody outside the United States and Canada is paying any attention to Lower Decks any more, and what was probably Star Trek’s best opportunity since the 2009 reboot to reach out to new would-be fans has been thoroughly wasted. It’s such a shame to see the hard work put in by Mike McMahan and the rest of the team behind the show being squandered by ViacomCBS in what has to be one of the worst business decisions in Star Trek’s recent history. As I predicted, Lower Decks is being heavily pirated practically all over the world, reducing its value in a packed market – assuming ViacomCBS still hopes to sell the international rights. With no one at the company even acknowledging Star Trek’s international fans, and with no information as to when or even if the show will get an international release, piracy is quite literally the only option for fans who don’t want to miss out.

But of course I’d never sink so low! As you know, when it became apparent that Lower Decks wasn’t going to be coming to the UK I had no choice but to up sticks and move to America. I’m relaxing in my home in northern California as we speak, looking out on the Blue Ridge Mountains in Yellowstone National Park. Tomorrow I’m going to take a short drive to Atlantic City to sample the famous New England cuisine. I can hardly wait!

This is undeniably my house. It’s in the United States, of course. That’s where I definitely am.

As I indicated at the beginning, Moist Vessel begins with another scene in which the humour was supposed to come from Mariner’s selfish “I-don’t-care” attitude. And as I’ve covered several times already, those moments generally don’t work for me. I find that side of her character childish and rude, and the attempted humour derived from that isn’t my thing – at least not in a Star Trek setting.

A scene in the Cerritos’ briefing room introduced the first major Tellarite character to appear in Star Trek for a very long time – Captain Durango of the USS Merced. The Cerritos and Merced will be working together on a mission to tow a long-lost “generation ship” that contains a previously-unknown kind of terraforming fluid.

Mariner isn’t a good source of humour in moments like this, when the entire “joke” is centred around her selfishness.

I liked this setup; it felt very “Star Trek”. Bringing in a second minor ship – the Merced appears to be a California-class like the Cerritos – was a nice touch too, and allowed the rest of the story to work better than if we’d just been following the Cerritos. Animation as a format allows for more variety and versatility than live-action in a lot of ways, and including a second ship is much less of an expense in an animated series than it would be in a live action show. In a way I’d have liked to see the Merced as a different starship class; as I noted in the finale of Star Trek: Picard, having lots of identical ships doesn’t look as good as having varied styles. But that’s just a minor point really.

The generation ship was massive, far larger than the Starfleet ships. And it wasn’t made obvious which species it belonged to – it’s possible the crew of the Cerritos didn’t know either. It’s clear that the generation ship had already been discovered and explored by a previous Federation crew; the Cerritos and Merced are just there to tow it back to Starfleet. This ties in with Lower Decks’ premise of following an unimportant ship, but was done in such a way as to still give the crew a genuine adventure.

The scale of the generation ship was impressive.

After the title sequence, Mariner is getting another well-deserved dressing-down from Captain Freeman; her mother. When we learned at the end of the premiere that Freeman and Mariner were mother and daughter it was surely only a matter of time until that fact became relevant, and here we get to see the first real interaction between them. As happened in either the first or second episode, I was wholly on the side of the officer giving Mariner a stern telling-off, despite her being the show’s supposed protagonist.

Mariner’s anti-authority streak has a distinct feel of teenage rebellion, which is compounded in this scene by the fact that it’s her own mother that she’s in trouble with. Perhaps that kind of character appeals to, well, teenagers and children, but it’s a trait I find particularly annoying in Mariner. I was hoping after last week’s episode she may have turned a page, but this scene – complete with sarcasm, whining, and a Vulcan salute delivered in the way one might flip the middle finger – was Mariner right back where she’d been. I was disappointed by this, though she would regain some of her standing from last week via her actions later in the story.

Mariner gets scolded like a misbehaving child.

Captain Freeman is upset, and along with Commander Ransom hatches a plan to force Mariner to request a transfer – giving her the worst jobs on the ship. Ransom allows his captain to take credit for what had been his idea – I got the impression that’s something he does a lot. He seems to know how to deal with Captain Freeman, and while he had seemed to take a shine to Mariner last week, it’s clear where his loyalties lie.

The second-in-command coming up with an idea that the captain pretends or thinks is their own is a pretty common trope, though, and while it was okay as a one-off joke, I’m not sure how well it works for Freeman’s character. We know her as a pretty strict captain with ambitions for her ship and crew, and to show her as vain or easily manipulated like this makes her far less relatable and likeable. Neither of which are good things.

“That’s why you’re the captain!”

The ensigns are given their assignments in the next scene. Boimler would be absent for much of the episode, but was present here briefly. As Ransom and Freeman had planned, Mariner is given the worst jobs, though Rutherford initially seems unhappy with his – he wanted a different kind of calibrating.

This sequence sets up the B-plot, which this time focuses on Tendi. She’s given the opportunity to witness an “ascension” – a seemingly human crew member is going to ascend to become a “being of pure energy”. Rutherford compares the process to becoming a Q or being the Traveller (from The Next Generation), and though Tendi dismisses those comparisons it seems like a fairly similar process.

Tendi expresses her excitement to Rutherford.

Along with Boimler, we won’t see much of Rutherford until near the end of the episode; Moist Vessel follows Mariner and Tendi’s stories much more closely. And that’s okay, many Star Trek episodes focus on a particular character or group of characters, and we’ve spent time with Boimler and Rutherford before, and surely will again.

When trying to make a comedy series like Lower Decks, it must be hard to give each character a fully-rounded personality while still keeping open possibilities for jokes and humour. In the next scene, Tendi is at the ascension ceremony when she becomes distracted and ultimately disrupts the proceedings in what was an incredibly slapstick sequence. I don’t mind slapstick, visual comedy, but in a similar way to making Captain Freeman easily-manipulated, oblivious, or someone who takes credit for her officers’ ideas, turning Tendi into a bumbling idiot wouldn’t have been my choice.

Tendi ruins the ascension ceremony.

Tendi doesn’t appear to have done any research or read her assignment brief, as she turns up late (the ceremony was already in progress) and doesn’t know what to do or even whether she’s supposed to observe or participate. But then, midway through, she becomes distracted and wanders off to look at an object in the room – this is what leads to the slapstick falling over and ruining the ceremony. I could excuse accidentally knocking something over, but the way she put herself and her own interest in the gong ahead of everything else that was happening was selfish and childish – something we might have expected from Mariner, but not Tendi.

Keeping each of the four ensigns’ characters and personalities distinct is a pretty basic expectation, and the fact that Lower Decks is an animated comedy series may lower the bar in some ways, but it doesn’t work as a catch-all excuse for everything. And in this scene, Tendi seemed to act way out of character; this would have been an acceptable (but still silly) storyline for Mariner. Boimler has been established as the “by the books” anxiety-riddled nerd. Rutherford is the workaholic who loves even the most tedious of tasks in engineering. Mariner doesn’t care about Starfleet. Tendi doesn’t really have a personality yet, and this was a good opportunity to show off what she could be. Instead we got her dumped into a sequence that didn’t seem to fit, and while she wasn’t exactly Mariner 2.0, she wasn’t her own character either.

This sequence with Tendi wasn’t my favourite.

The ceremony, and Tendi messing it up, was really just the setup for what would be the B-plot of the episode, though, and if I’m being charitable I guess I could say I can see why the audience might have found it funny on a visual level. I liked that Tendi tried to replicate more sand for the sand-design that she ruined; that was an amusing moment.

Boimler and Mariner are up next, and he’s teasing her about being assigned the worst jobs while he gets a (comparatively) better one. Boimler seems to have picked up some of Mariner’s traits as well, as he repeats the sarcastic Vulcan salute that she used earlier in the episode. Mariner telling him it doesn’t look cool when he does it, only to admit a moment later that it did was a pretty funny joke, and I certainly cracked a smile at this point. Mariner and Boimler can work well as a duo provided their bickering stays on the friendly side and doesn’t cross over into anything mean-spirited. In this instance I think they stayed on the right side of the line.

Mariner, dejected about her duties, and Boimler.

The next sequence showed Mariner undertaking the various dirty jobs on the ship, including cleaning out the holodeck filters (yuck), applying grease to a turbolift, and phasering carbon from a carbon filter. I’ll excuse the fact that these tasks could be performed by robots (even today, in some cases) because we were always going to get moments like this. It didn’t harm canon and it wasn’t immersion-breaking; in many ways, this is what Lower Decks promised to be about. We were going to see unimportant crewmen performing unimportant tasks on an unimportant ship. The sequence was great; it had some comical moments and I enjoyed it.

At the end, though, was a moment that didn’t work particularly well. As Mariner turns her final task – cleaning the carbon filter using a phaser – into a fun game and seems to be enjoying herself, Ransom spots her. He reports back to the captain that Mariner is “finding little ways to inject joy into otherwise horrible tasks”. It was incredibly on-the-nose for a character to say aloud; the audience saw Mariner doing that firsthand, so we didn’t need to have it explained in such an obvious way. It felt pretty patronising, as if the team behind the series didn’t trust the audience to understand what was going on.

Did Ransom really need to say out loud that Mariner was having fun right after we’d seen this sequence?

Tendi is trying to make up for her earlier mistake, as she feels awful – so she’s definitely not Marinier after all! It was pretty funny that the lieutenant who was supposed to be so calm and zen that he was on the verge of ascending from this plane of existence became very grumpy and annoyed with Tendi, and this being played for laughs worked pretty well – at least the first time it was done.

The storyline between these two characters was kind of a clichΓ© though. Someone trying to make up for a mistake while the person they wronged wants nothing to do with them has been done and overdone in countless comedies and dramas over the years, played both humorously and straight, and nothing about Lower Decks’ take was original or innovative. It was fine, and there were some funny moments, but it wasn’t spectacular.

Tendi spends much of the episode trying to make up for her mistake.

Freeman and Ransom are still scheming about how to get Mariner to request a transfer off the ship. From Freeman’s conversation with Mariner’s dad in the premiere, it sounded like her parents had an understanding that one of them would keep an eye on her on her Starfleet postings – and I would suggest that perhaps the only reason she’s still employed as an ensign is because they’ve been intervening on her behalf. So it seems to run counter to that conversation that Freeman would now be plotting to get her removed from the ship.

Interestingly, my (totally legal) version of the episode had one word censored when talking about the holodeck filters. I assume this was done on CBS All Access, perhaps it was deemed too raunchy for TV? Regardless, Freeman hits on the perfect solution. She’s found the thing Mariner would hate even more than the dirty, disgusting jobs: being promoted.

Mariner does not want a promotion!

This scene, in which Mariner is promoted to lieutenant, kicks off what I guess was supposed to be the C-plot of the episode. Boimler, who was cleaning the conference room while Mariner was receiving her unwarranted promotion, decides that he needs to be a rule-breaker like her in order to get ahead in his Starfleet career. But in what was a busy episode there wasn’t enough time for this to play out, and it’s pretty clear that trying to run three storylines each featuring a main character is too much to cram into an episode barely twenty minutes long. Boimler’s sub-plot added nothing, and was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it thing anyway, taking up practically no screen time.

Star Trek shows of the past have rarely tried to have three or more stories on the go at once, and they were all using far longer episodes. It was never going to work, and it’s a shame in a way because the idea of Boimler trying to put on a Mariner-esque persona could have been funny (so long as it was clear he wasn’t committed to being a selfish jerk). But it feels totally wasted here, and if this was the one attempt this season to try that concept, it’s a shame. Maybe it will be revisited in more detail in another episode, though.

Boimler’s reaction to Mariner’s promotion. His story had potential but there was simply not enough time in the episode to do it justice.

Should we talk about nepotism in Starfleet? Because Moist Vessel seems to suggest that the practice is possible and relatively easy to get away with. We’ve seen situations before in which an arguably undeserving character is given a position aboard ship (I’m looking at you, Wesley Crusher) simply by having a good relationship with the captain, so it isn’t wholly without precedent. However, it raises some alarming questions about elitism within the organisation. Starfleet has usually been presented as meritocratic, but if Freeman can promote Mariner – her own daughter – when she’s clearly undeserving, presumably any captain or admiral can do the same to their relatives? It’s definitely worth considering the implications of this, I think.

I keep saying that we need to treat Lower Decks as an animated comedy first and a Star Trek show second. And it’s true, the show works way better when putting canon and the minutia of the franchise to one side. But moments like this raise questions, and because Lower Decks is officially part of canon and in the same timeline and universe as all the other series, sometimes it’s hard to avoid comparing the way Starfleet is presented here with how it’s been presented elsewhere. Perhaps the topic needs looking at in more detail; I’ll add it to my writing pile!

Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know…

A montage goes on to show Mariner not enjoying her time as a lieutenant, and some of the activities we might’ve enjoyed seeing the senior officers engaged in in other Star Trek shows are clearly not to Mariner’s taste. Some of these – like the poker game – were little references to past iterations of Star Trek, which I appreciated.

Tendi is explaining to Rutherford how she’s trying to make up for her mistake, and while he’s sympathetic and clearly a good listener, he doesn’t put much stock in her plan. She seems to think she can get the lieutenant – named O’Connor – back on track with his ascension by studying spirituality, but Rutherford is a voice of reason telling her it doesn’t work like that. Tendi is not dissuaded, however, and rushes off with her collection of books. She leaves her unfinished lunch to Rutherford who seems excited that she left her pudding; I’m sure this was a reference to something – but I have no idea what!

Though I’ve no idea what this moment was about, it surely will have made sense to some viewers.

Mariner has received new quarters to go along with her promotion, and Boimler visits her. This furthers the underdeveloped C-plot that we discussed earlier, and it really feels like a way to force Boimler into a story which offered no organic role for him.

In Engineering, Tendi is trying different spiritual techniques to help O’Connor ascend, and as I said this storyline started leaning heavily into the trope of one character trying to help and the other not wanting their help. It was fine, but not particularly funny or interesting from my point of view. O’Connor being so grumpy and annoyed when he’s supposed to be on the verge of ascending due to his calmness and composure was funny the first time, but that should’ve been a one-time-use joke, and building this whole story around it stretched it past breaking point.

O’Connor shouts at Tendi in engineering.

When Mariner and Freeman had their next scene in what looked like a lounge or perhaps the captain’s ready room, Mariner was close to cracking. She clearly hates the role of a senior officer, along with all of the “boring” things they have to do – like attending a birthday party for Commander Ransom, who will apparently play the guitar. Despite that, she is unwilling to admit defeat and request a transfer. This scene had perhaps the funniest one-liner of the episode, too. When Freeman says she’s doing what she needs to do, and “it’s called being a captain”, Mariner hits back with “no, it’s called being a dick!” That definitely won a laugh from me.

In the next scene, there’s a contrivance to suit the plot. It’s not worth getting too worked up over – animated comedy first, Star Trek show second, remember? – but Captain Durango moves the Merced closer to the generation ship, believing he should be in that position as its “his” mission. Moving out of formation ruptures the generation ship’s hull, spewing out the terraforming liquid. Because the liquid transforms everything it touches, whole sections of the Merced are affected, disabling the ship in an instant.

The USS Merced (left) is disabled after being hit with the terraforming liquid.

The Cerritos is soon affected too, as the terraforming liquid is drawn to the ship along the tractor beam. On the bridge, Commander Ransom ordered an evasive action, but it was too late. Across the ship, various crystals and plants emerge, transformed from the ship’s own hull and material. I love the way the terraforming liquid works – it’s something we could have absolutely seen in past iterations of Star Trek. The idea of the ship itself being transformed harkens back to Masks, from the seventh season of The Next Generation, where something similar happened to the Enterprise-D.

From here, the story follows two pairs of characters – Freeman and Mariner, who had been together when the crisis occurred, as well as Tendi and O’Connor. Both pairings put together characters who had been antagonistic to each other earlier in the story, and this concept can work very well. We’ve seen Star Trek stories of the past do similar things; one example that comes to mind is the episode Disaster, from the fifth season of The Next Generation. Disaster made my list of ten great episodes from that show, as it’s one I really enjoy.

Freeman and Mariner will have to work together…

The terraforming liquid has also introduced large volumes of water to parts of the ship – including engineering, where Tendi and O’Connor are. Just as Freeman and Mariner will have to put aside their disagreements to work together, so too will Tendi and O’Connor. No one seems to know what to do amidst the chaos to save the ship, but Freeman and Mariner both come up with the same idea – and it turns out that Mariner had read the mission brief after all. Tying in with last week’s theme of Mariner stepping up when the ship and crew need her to, this worked so well.

When the episode began with Mariner having seemed to regress, I was concerned that Lower Decks was going to continue to use her selfishness as one of its key points of humour, and as I keep saying, “Ensign Rick Sanchez” just doesn’t work for me in this Star Trek setting. But I’m glad that she once again proved she isn’t just interested in herself, and that despite proclaiming boredom and lack of interest at the way Starfleet operates, she still does the work – including reading the brief.

Tendi and O’Connor in a flooded and overgrown engineering.

Both pairs of characters overcome their differences thanks to the chaotic situation. Tendi realises that her desperation to help O’Connor is motivated by a desire to be liked by everyone on the ship, while Mariner’s dislike of her mother and authority seems to come from being treated like a child and smothered. In Mariner’s case, I have to say I’m still kind of on the captain’s side – Mariner does undeniably behave like a bratty teenager, and if I were responsible for someone who behaved that way, I’d certainly treat them accordingly.

However, this sequence was really interesting from a character point of view, and we got to see the mother-daughter relationship in detail. Freeman and Mariner are more alike – especially in terms of how stubborn they are – than either would be willing to acknowledge. Both are also – in their own ways – dedicated to their friends and crewmates, and while Mariner might sulk at the notion of spending an evening at Ransom’s birthday party while he plays the guitar, she wouldn’t let him down if he needed her help. This side to her character goes a long way to making up for her attitude, and after the last two episodes showed this, I have much more respect and admiration for Mariner and her abilities.

Freeman and Mariner tunnelling their way through the partly-terraformed ship.

The dichotomy in Mariner has always been that she’s perfectly capable officer, but she has such a bad attitude and a selfish streak that she doesn’t make use of her talents. The past two episodes have put her in situations that required her to step up, and this has been great news for her character – it’s made her far more likeable and relatable, which are qualities a protagonist needs to have. I just hope these traits stick around for the rest of the season and aren’t lost as the show retains an episodic approach to storytelling.

Lower Decks’ episodic nature, though, has been in many ways a welcome reprieve. Television storytelling in recent years has become all about serialised stories, season-long arcs, and the like. Star Trek shows of the past – especially prior to the Dominion War arc in Deep Space Nine – took this much more episodic approach, and in that respect, Lower Decks feels like a return to that kind of Star Trek story. The downside, as I suggested, is that we can go from what feels like a genuine character arc to a regression in the next episode if that transformation doesn’t stick!

Still digging that tunnel…

After their journey to the environmental control room, Freeman and Mariner are able to reverse the transformation – thanks to some very Star Trek-y technobabble! They even shared a hug as the terraforming was reversed, in what was a very sweet moment.

After Tendi managed to use an exploding pod to drain the water from engineering, saving her and O’Connor’s lives, he returned the favour by saving her life when a large crystal or rock fell from the ceiling. Doing so helped him find his centre and his composure, and he was finally able to ascend – though it looked very painful! This was another joke that dragged just a little too long, in my opinion, and the humour wore off by the time O’Connor was finally fully ascended. But that’s just personal taste, and for many animated comedy fans I think it would be right in line with what they like.

O’Connor’s painful ascension.

It wasn’t possible to use the same process to reverse the damage done to the USS Merced, which seems to have been more severely damaged. However, Mariner and Freeman were able to use the Cerritos’ transporters to beam the Merced’s crew to the generation ship where they’ll be safe – and I liked their shared joke about dumping the boring Captain Durango with the mummies and fossils!

Freeman gets a little over-excited, thinking that this concordance with Mariner may last. It won’t, of course, and the idea that the mother-daughter team will work this closely going forward was put to rest pretty quickly! Despite how well it worked here, Lower Decks’ fundamental premise means we won’t be seeing it happen any time soon.

Mariner and Freeman share a hug.

With Tendi having made her peace with O’Connor and him having ascended, all that was left for the episode to do was reset Mariner’s status in time for the next story – and by insulting an admiral in front of the captain, she was demoted back to ensign and rejoins her crewmates in their shared living space.

Tendi isn’t quite as okay with not being liked as she thought, though; she presses Rutherford to tell her who else aboard the Cerritos doesn’t like her when he suggests there may be others besides O’Connor. Boimler is upset that Mariner got everything he wanted – i.e. the promotion – but rejected it. But Mariner is back where she she’s happiest, and I think we can agree that (if she belongs anywhere in Starfleet) she belongs there.

Mariner is back where she wants to be.

So that was Moist Vessel. Another slow start, perhaps, but another solid and enjoyable episode followed after the opening titles. It was nice to get to spend more time with Tendi, even though at the beginning of her story she felt a little out of place. She grew into it, though, and by the time the ship was in peril she had firmly established who she was and how she was going to react. In that sense, this episode laid the groundwork for establishing Tendi as more than someone who’s just wowed by everything in Starfleet because she’s new.

Mariner once again stepped up to be the officer we know she can be. I could certainly leave behind the attitude and the brattiness, but if she continues to demonstrate that she’s a decent person underneath it, I’ll put up with it. Boimler’s storyline was a waste in Moist Vessel, though, and added nothing whatsoever. I’d like to see this angle explored again – the idea of Boimler trying to be more like Mariner – because I think it has the potential to be both funny and interesting. Unfortunately in an episode barely twenty minutes long there just wasn’t enough time to dedicate to it; it really needs to be the focus of half an episode or more to work effectively.

Boimler’s story needed more time.

At time of writing I don’t believe a title for episode 5 has been announced. Perhaps that’s to avoid spoilers, or perhaps it’s something that will be coming imminently. Either way, Lower Decks is off to a good start and I’m very much looking forward to next week’s offering. I hope you’ll check back afterwards for my review; I’ll be looking at every episode this season as they air.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States. No international broadcast has been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 3: Temporal Edict

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first three episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Spoilers may also be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Speak to almost any Trekkie and they’ll tell you that Star Trek shows typically take at least a few episodes – if not a full season – to really hit their stride. With modern Star Trek’s shorter seasons, there’s arguably less time for the producers and writers to get it right. Lower Decks has had a decent start, if an unspectacular one, and aside from the lack of any news regarding an international broadcast, its biggest problem has been one of its main characters: Ensign Mariner.

Since I always comment on the international broadcast as I’m from the UK, I’ll forgive you if you skip over this paragraph. But I want to continue to make this point: the lack of any news regarding an international broadcast, and the fact that no one at ViacomCBS has even acknowledged the problem, is hurting Lower Decks immeasurably. The show needs all the help it can get to win over sceptical Trekkies and make a name for itself in an animated comedy market that isn’t exactly lacking in sci-fi themed shows. But by broadcasting the series only in North America, ViacomCBS has upset Star Trek’s biggest overseas fans, killed much of the hype for the series, reduced the value of the show from the point of view of broadcast agreements and licensing, and actively invited piracy.

Of course I’d never partake in such an under-the-table endeavour. As you know, the only way to watch Lower Decks is to be in North America, so I had no choice but to relocate to my second home. The icy, windswept tundra of the state of New Mexico may seem a rather chilly place to be, but in summer the sun never sets and it’s a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m a stone’s throw from the city of Boston – the Big Apple. It really is an amazing place to be.

This is definitely my house. And it’s in the USA. That’s where I absolutely am.

Of the three episodes so far, Temporal Edict has to be my favourite. Far less of the humour was focused on Mariner being selfish and unpleasant, and as a result not only was the episode much more enjoyable, it was funnier too. In terms of laugh-out-loud moments, there were almost certainly more in Temporal Edict than there had been in the first two episodes put together. If I were speaking to someone who’d seen the first two episodes and decided it wasn’t their thing, I’d absolutely encourage them to at least give Lower Decks one more chance.

The episode began with Boimler giving a violin performance to an unimpressed crowd in the ship’s bar. The show is really ramping up Boimler as a “mummy’s boy”, as he dedicated both pieces of music to his mother. Mariner and Tendi interrupt and play a kind of instrumental punk rock piece, which is so loud that it disrupts a conversation Captain Freeman is having with a Klingon ship. After Mariner and Tendi finish their song, Boimler returns to the stage with his violin – and in the episode’s first good moment of humour, Lieutenant Shaxs arrives and stops the performance, mistakenly believing Boimler to be the source of the disruptive noise.

Tendi and Mariner interrupt Boimler’s performance.

What do you think we can read into the Klingons seeming to be more aggressive here? The Klingon captain certainly wasn’t behaving like a firm friend and ally of the Federation! Of course this could simply be something that was played up for laughs, but it does make me wonder. The previous episode featured a Klingon ambassador, so diplomatic relations clearly still exist. I guess Lower Decks may be taking a looser approach to canon, which under the circumstances was to be expected. But it’s fun to speculate nevertheless.

The show is set in or around 2380, which places it only five years after the Dominion War. That’s certainly more than enough time for wartime allies to drift apart – as we know from our own history! Add into the mix that other iterations of Star Trek seem to have depicted future settings where the Klingon Empire and Federation were once again adversaries and nothing here seems to violate canon.

The aggressive Klingon commander.

The title music continues to impress me. As I said last time, Lower Decks easily has the best theme of any post-1990s Star Trek series. It’s a piece of music I’d be happy to listen to time and again. After the title sequence, Commander Ransom – the ship’s first officer – is recording his log. The ship is en route to Cardassia Prime to broker a peace agreement between… unnamed factions, as Ransom was interrupted before he could finish. A change of plans sees the Cerritos downgraded from the peace ceremony to a much less important role – delivering diplomatic gifts.

As above with the Klingons, this is Star Trek so let’s speculate a little about what could’ve been happening on Cardassia Prime! The Dominion War ended in a peace agreement, and subsequent comments from Captain Freeman and a Starfleet admiral at least imply that neither of the two races is the Cardassians themselves, so let’s rule them out. Perhaps, given Bajor’s proximity, it could be them. Or it could be the Dominion, though they should have retreated behind the wormhole. It’s interesting that a Federation ship was going to take part in what seems to be a major peace initiative on Cardassia Prime. Perhaps we can infer that Federation-Cardassian relations are greatly improved post-Dominion War. Again, there are parallels in our own history to make such an outcome at least plausible.

The USS Cerritos at warp.

One thing I was uncomfortable with in this scene is the anti-Cardassian sentiment expressed by both Captain Freeman and the unnamed Starfleet admiral. I’d even go so far as to call it racism. It reminded me of the often-repeated story that Gene Roddenberry hated The Undiscovered Country when it was screened for him, largely because he felt Kirk’s anti-Klingon attitude had no place in the 23rd Century as he imagined it. I wonder what he would have made of this scene.

The captain is obviously very put out by the decision to move the peace conference and cut her out of it. She takes it as a personal attack against the ship, and pledges to take action to prove their worth to Starfleet – after throwing her padd at the viewscreen! We hadn’t really seen the captain or first officer have much to do in the series so far; this was their first significant interaction on the bridge since the premiere. It was nice to see Ransom at least try to cheer up Freeman – he’s clearly much happier with his role on a less-important vessel than she is.

Commander Ransom and Captain Freeman on the bridge.

Meanwhile, the “slackers” – i.e. the main four ensigns – are working on a task in the brig. After completing their task they take a break and enjoy a drink – apparently they all overestimate the time to complete a task; it’s Starfleet tradition! If you remember Relics, from the sixth season of The Next Generation, Scotty told Geordi La Forge something very similar, and I greatly appreciate that reference. Now referred to as “buffer time”, all of the ensigns – and everyone else on the crew – build it into their schedules.

One of the jokes here – Mariner’s phaser not being set to stun – was included in the show’s trailer, and an image of the four drinking margaritas was similarly part of the pre-release marketing for the series. Tendi is the only ensign who seems to have any objection to buffer time, even Boimler is on board with it as it’s tradition. Tendi soon comes around to the idea too, and lies to Dr T’Ana about completing a task. I like Dr T’Ana, and she has a very funny moment that we’ll come to later in the episode. Perhaps it’s because I like cats – I have several of my own – but I’d been excited to see another Catian in Star Trek for ages!

Mariner realises her phaser wasn’t on the stun setting.

Captain Freeman is in a mood, stalking the corridors of the ship growling at officers who seem to be slacking. She runs into Boimler in a turbolift as he’s humming The Next Generation’s theme – which was very cute – and he accidentally spills the beans about buffer time!

The result, of course, is that buffer time gets cancelled for everyone aboard the ship – though surprisingly, Boimler is never outed as the culprit for blabbing about it! The first couple of episodes of Lower Decks haven’t really had serious messages underneath the comedy, but Temporal Edict does. The story uses its science-fiction setting to look at the real-world issues of time management and overworking. Star Trek has often done this in the past, as I’ve talked about before, and it isn’t something I was really expecting from Lower Decks.

Boimler spills the beans on buffer time to the captain.

For a lot of people, time management can be a problem. The internet and always-connected devices like smartphones mean we’re always able to be contacted by work, even during what’s supposed to be time off. I can attest from personal experience how easy it is to get burnt out if you’re constantly replying to emails and basically working in your free time as well as when you’re at work. And of course, we can all remember a time when a manager or boss was constantly on our backs about every little thing – precisely how Captain Freeman begins to behave!

The captain institutes a shipwide policy of setting timers for every task, resulting in the crew losing their buffer time and becoming stressed and overworked. Another side effect is, of course, that many tasks aren’t completed or are completed very poorly in order to meet a deadline! The crew rush from task to task with no time in between; the captain has pushed them from one extreme to another.

The overworked crew after the captain’s titular “temporal edict.”

Only one crew member seems unaffected – Boimler. He’s loving the new routine, and has somehow managed to complete all of his tasks on time. When a new one becomes available he claims it – not that anyone else would have wanted it, or been able to take it of course – and seems oblivious to the chaos the new rules have caused. Even Rutherford, who seemed so level-headed when working in engineering last week, is suffering.

Mariner has been selected for an away mission led by the first officer, and makes her way to the Cerritos’ shuttlebay. She’s not impressed with going on the mission – nor is Commander Ransom impressed at having to bring her. Although she’s wearing the red uniform of the command division, Ransom tells her she wouldn’t be accompanying him if she weren’t so good with a phaser – suggesting she’s there as security or backup rather than for any other reason.

The away mission crew.

The shuttlecraft Yosemite – which I think is the same one Mariner and Boimler almost lost last week – lands on the surface. The Gelrakians are a crystal-worshipping society, so Ransom and the crew bring along a special “honour crystal” as a symbol of peace. Ransom is a laid-back version of Riker or Kirk in many ways – incredibly confident in his abilities. I kept expecting that to backfire – for him to be all talk with no skills to back it up – but he was surprisingly competent!

The scene after landing has to be one of the funniest. Due to the demanding schedule the crew has been punished with, they accidentally brought a wooden totem instead of the honour crystal, upsetting the Gelrakians who attack them. There were several really funny moments here, but the standout one that had me laughing hard was when one of the Gelrakians shouted “he’s got wood!” Low-brow comedy, perhaps, but it was hilarious in the moment.

“He’s got wood!”

After a brief fight the away team was captured by the Gelrakians. I liked how Mariner seemed to genuinely step up and contribute to helping her team when they were in danger, including bandaging Ensign Vendome’s spear wound. As mentioned, Temporal Edict really brought out the best in her in a way that we hadn’t seen in the series so far.

Back aboard the Cerritos, the chaos of the new schedules is continuing. Everyone (except Boimler and the captain) is struggling to keep up, overworked and stressed. The Gelrakians have launched their crystal-ships, but the pandemonium aboard the Cerritos has crippled the ship – it has no shields! The Gelrakians are able to attack and even board the ship with ease.

A Gelrakian boarding party.

The captain gives the order to repel the boarders – but at the same time commands the crew to continue their work and not use it as an excuse for slacking off. This is one of those moments where we have to step back and remember to treat Lower Decks as an animated comedy first, and a Star Trek show second! The captain should surely recognise that the decline in performance on the ship is the result of the strict time limits imposed on the crew, but for the sake of the story she doesn’t, and in any other Star Trek show I’d have to call that an unbelievable story beat. However, in Lower Decks it works, and as a story point in this kind of animated comedy show we can’t really take it too seriously.

Rutherford and Tendi are among the crewmen and officers caught up in the Gelrakian attack, and many of the Cerritos’ crew are too busy working to notice the boarding parties. The crew are leaderless and uncoordinated, and unable to repel the attack – which is silly because the Gelrakians are only armed with spears! Again, though, we have to remember to treat Lower Decks differently from other Star Trek shows. And it’s of course worth mentioning that it wouldn’t be the first time in Star Trek that we’ve had hand-to-hand combat or this kind of weaponry; both the Klingons and Jem’Hadar were known to use melee weapons in the 24th Century.

Rutherford and Tendi hide from a Gelrakian boarding party.

On the surface of the planet, Mariner and Ransom are sharing a prison cell. Mariner tries talking to the guard to no avail while Ransom works on a speech that he hopes will convince the Gelrakians to let them go. The two argue about what to do, and to be perfectly honest, hearing Ransom call out Mariner on her bad attitude and selfishness was pretty good. As you know I’d been thinking much the same way about her over the last couple of episodes – with the exception of a few moments – and Ransom pretty much nailed it as far as I was concerned in that moment. Perhaps the dressing-down got to her, because from this point on I really noted a change in Mariner.

Obviously Ransom’s speech doesn’t go anywhere, and the two then bicker over who gets to take on the Gelrakian’s challenge of a trial by combat against their biggest, strongest warrior. Defeat will mean the entire away team will be executed – by a giant crystal, of course. Ransom won’t allow Mariner to put herself in harm’s way, and deliberately wounds her in the foot so he can be the one to face down the warrior.

Ransom, Mariner, and the battle blade.

Aboard the Cerritos, Boimler is happily going about his duties, seemingly oblivious to all the chaos. He easily defeats three Gelrakians with his phaser, and wonders aloud why things are so out of control. Again, same caveat – it’s an animated comedy, and in that context Boimler’s obliviousness to the ship being under siege gets a pass.

On the bridge he talks to the captain. No one else is able to man their stations, so Captain Freeman is doing all the work. Boimler realises that the problem is the new scheduling – everyone on the bridge, including the captain, is working under strict time limits too. Before he can do anything the bridge is attacked by some Gelrakians.

Boimler realises the problem.

The action cuts back to the planet’s surface, and Ransom takes on the Gelrakian warrior. I loved this scene, it was pretty funny. I was expecting Ransom’s over-the-top cockiness to get him hurt or killed, but he was incredibly strong and – in a twist to what I was expecting – emerged from the fight triumphant. Even Mariner was impressed – perhaps a little too impressed! I liked Mariner’s line about wanting to help “our team” – compared to what she said earlier it definitely feels as though she’s stepping up. She may be a slacker aboard the ship, but she won’t let her crewmates down when she thinks they need her.

The defeated champion’s line about pretending to be strong and dumb when he really loves to read was pretty funny too – something I think will resonate with a lot of people. Intelligence can feel undervalued sometimes, especially compared to strength or looks. Again, this was Lower Decks using its science fiction setting to make a point.

Ransom during the fight.

Boimler finally gets to make his case to the captain. The standout line was this: “not everyone is a Boimler.” He recognises that other members of the crew don’t share his love of rulebooks and tight schedules, and that the problems the ship is facing are caused by that. He talks sense into the captain, who relaxes the rules and unleashes the crew.

The temporal edict is withdrawn, and unburdened by the strict rules, the crew of the Cerritos is easily able to retake the ship and drive away the intruders. It took Boimler realising his mistake to help the captain realise hers, and it worked well as a conclusion to this side of the story. Rutherford and Tendi are among those seen fighting off the intruders, and Dr T’Ana gave a truly funny cat-like hiss as she also jumped into combat.

The bridge crew – and Boimler – celebrate victory.

After winning the fight on the planet’s surface, Ransom has won the freedom of the away team. Mariner definitely has a newfound respect for him after seeing him defeat the Gelrakian warrior, and the away team makes it home in one piece. He even carries her back to the ship – her foot being wounded and all.

With the boarding party safe and the Gelrakians defeated, the two sides get a second chance as Ransom returns to the surface, this time with the honour crystal. War was averted, and peace breaks out between the two sides. In sickbay, Ransom prepares himself for a court-martial for stabbing Mariner, but she says she won’t report him for it. Just as it seems he’s developing a newfound respect for breaking the rules to go along with her newfound appreciation for them, he orders her reprimanded for wearing her uniform incorrectly! The story set up Ransom and Mariner as being attracted to one another, but I don’t expect this to be something that develops in any major way – at least not this season. It may be played on for laughs at points, as it was here, but I don’t think we’re going to see them in a relationship any time soon!

Ransom and Mariner in sickbay.

All that was left to do was fully repeal the scheduling and reinstate buffer time, which the captain did. The new rule was named in honour of Boimler, which was very funny. He doesn’t like it, of course, as he’s all about following the rules, but his friends reassure him that no one will remember his contribution to the Boimler Effect.

In a scene set in the far future, Boimler is hailed as “the laziest, most corner-cutting officer in Starfleet history!” That was a funny addendum to the episode, and the reference to Gene Roddenberry (the “Great Bird of the Galaxy”) did not go unrecognised. The episode ends with this far future schoolteacher continuing her lesson on great Starfleet officers by looking at Chief O’Brien!

Boimler’s place in history.

So that was Temporal Edict. Not a story about time travel at all – as I had feared it might’ve been when I saw the word “temporal!” I’m not the biggest fan of time travel stories in Star Trek, but this was a complete twist on what I was expecting in so many ways.

Captain Freeman’s speech when she commanded the crew to retake the ship, and its accompanying music, was genuinely inspirational – the kind we could have heard from Captains Janeway, Picard, or Kirk in a past iteration of the franchise. It was pitch-perfect, despite the semi-ridiculous buildup.

Captain Freeman withdraws the temporal edict.

As mentioned, Lower Decks works best when looking at it as an animated comedy first and a Star Trek show second. By doing so, some of the sillier aspects of its premise melt away, and what’s left behind is truly enjoyable entertainment. In this episode, Mariner snapped out of her selfishness and stepped up to the task when her crewmates were in danger, and I liked seeing that side to her. It’s something I hope we see a lot more of in future.

It was great to spend a little more time with Captain Freeman and Commander Ransom. Ransom’s story worked better than Freeman’s in my opinion – in the captain’s case, you really have to overlook or excuse her not realising the extent of the problems on the ship until way too late in order for the rest of the story to work. Ransom had been set up as someone who was all bark and no bite, but Temporal Edict turned that on its head by showing that he’s a truly capable first officer under the cocky facade.

I had to include this shot because Dr T’Ana hissing like a cat was hilarious.

I had a great time with Temporal Edict, which is easily my favourite of the three episodes we’ve had so far. I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with Mariner, Boimler, and the rest of the crew. Next week’s episode, Moist Vessel, will hopefully be just as good! I can hardly wait!

Star Trek: Lower DecksΒ is available to stream now on CBS All Access if you’re fortunate enough to live in North America. The Star Trek franchise – includingΒ Star Trek: Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 2: Envoys

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the first two episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

If you stopped by last week, you might’ve felt that I was a little hard on Lower Decks’ premiere. I certainly thought so on re-reading what I wrote last time, so just for the sake of clarity, although not all of the jokes landed and despite my misgivings about Ensign Mariner, I did enjoy Second Contact. This new series is all at once very different from past iterations of Star Trek, yet also familiar. That familiarity comes from the show’s creators, writers, and producers being big Trekkies who put a lot of love into what they’ve made. Discovery could feel, on occasion, that it was made by a team of people who weren’t necessarily all that familiar with Star Trek, but there’s no way the same accusation could be made against Lower Decks.

If I had been in charge of making the series and broadcasting it, one change I’d have made would’ve been to put Envoys first. The opening scene from Second Contact definitely made a good introduction, so perhaps I’d have rejigged the first two episodes so that scene was still the first scene of the series, but the episode that followed had the plot of Envoys, which is a stronger story and one which gave all four main characters more to do.

Three of the four main characters in Envoys.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of me saying this by now, but Lower Decks still has no international release planned. This continues to be a source of profound disappointment, and it’s something which will unfortunately harm the series going forward. While I think it’s fair to say that Lower Decks has hardly taken the world by storm, the moderate level of hype and buzz that it did manage to generate has been tarnished by the fact that a huge portion of its potential audience is missing out and unable to participate. Because Lower Decks is such a unique offering in the Star Trek lineup, and with the general popularity of animated comedy backing it up, it’s a show which should have the potential to bring in legions of new fans. The decision to broadcast it in North America only, with no plans for an international release, damages this. It means potential new fans miss out on the show when it’s new, killing a large portion of the hype, and it means that anyone who is very interested to watch will simply pirate the show, as doing so is incredibly easy.

Not me, though. Heavens no. As you’ll recall from last week, I’ve temporarily moved to my second home in the USA so I can watch the show. I really am enjoying my time in the beautiful state of Maine. The desert, the cacti, the dry heat… it’s perfect! And I’m only a half hour’s drive from the neighbouring state of Alabama, where I can sit on the beach and gaze out over the Pacific ocean. Bliss.

This is definitely my house. And it’s totally in the USA. Which is where I absolutely am.

So let’s jump into Envoys, shall we? By the way: how do you pronounce it? Is it “ON-voys”? Or “EN-voys”? I’ve heard it said both ways, and I don’t think either is strictly right or wrong, it’s just a matter of dialect. But we’re off topic already. The opening scene before the title sequence was the weakest in Envoys, and reinforced everything I’d been thinking about Ensign Mariner from last time. In fact, this scene was her at her arrogant and most un-Starfleet worst as she tries to kidnap a sentient energy-lifeform and forces it to grant her a wish.

There’s so much wrong here that I felt like switching off the episode and saying, “well I guess Lower Decks just isn’t my thing.” But let’s break it down – Starfleet is all about seeking out new life, learning about them, and coexisting in a peaceful, friendly manner. Mariner kidnapped a sentient lifeform for… what? Because it would be funny? And she let it go only when it could provide her a minor material benefit at great cost to itself. As I said last week, it feels like Lower Decks wants to have its own Rick Sanchez (from Rick & Morty) – an “I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-anything-except-myself” mega-genius – but that kind of character doesn’t work in a Starfleet setting, and definitely not as an ensign.

Ensign Mariner captures the energy lifeform.

After re-reading my criticisms from last time I wondered if I’d been unfair on Mariner, but this scene riled me up and convinced me that I hadn’t been. When I wrote earlier that if I’d been in charge I’d have reworked the first two episodes, I’d also have cut this scene entirely. For me, Mariner is not a good source of humour when she behaves selfishly and in an un-Starfleet manner. If the show was not set on a Federation starship, with Mariner taking on a Chris Rios-type role (the captain of La Sirena in Star Trek: Picard) maybe it would work better. While she did improve significantly as we got further into the story, she remains the show’s weak link for me, and this scene at the beginning of the story was Mariner at her absolute worst.

The title sequence was up next, and I’m really enjoying the music. Lower Decks’ theme is easily one of my favourite Star Trek themes now, and certainly the best one since the 1990s. I didn’t mention this last week, but at one point in the title sequence, the USS Ceritos stumbles on a battle between Romulan vessels and Borg cubes – given that we know the Romulans captured the Artifact (a derelict Borg cube) prior to the events of Star Trek: Picard, I wonder if this is meant to depict that event. Even if not, it was a cute little wink to fans of Picard simply by putting Borg and Romulans together.

The USS Cerritos arrives at the Borg-Romulan battle.

After the titles, Boimler is boasting to Tendi and Mariner about his new assignment – he’s to pilot a shuttle and escort a high-ranking Klingon general to peace negotiations. This scene went a long way to making up for Mariner’s earlier conduct, as we see her more relaxed while presumably off-duty. She doesn’t really do anything too offensive here, which by her standards is a win. I liked Boimler practising his Klingon pronunciation; it was suitably silly and funny!

Ensign Rutherford – who we didn’t get to spend much time with last week – crawls out of a jeffries tube where he’s been working to realign the EPS conduits. He and Tendi share a cute moment as she asks him if they can get together to watch a pulsar. The show is clearly setting the two of them up as a pair alongside Boimler and Mariner, though whether they’ll ever end up as anything more than platonic is unclear. In order to get enough time off work to watch the pulsar with Tendi, Rutherford decides to transfer out of engineering, which is the second plot of the episode along with the shuttle mission.

Ensigns Tendi and Rutherford as the latter exits the jeffries tube.

Rutherford provides an even stronger contrast to Mariner than Boimler does. Where Boimler is neurotic, anxious, and horribly concerned with making a good impression, Rutherford just gets on with his job and seems to revel in the menial tasks he undertakes as an engineer. Boimler doesn’t seem to enjoy being a Starfleet officer, despite being well-read, but Rutherford has taken to his role naturally and with a positive attitude. Of the four main characters, only Rutherford truly feels like someone who could’ve been a Starfleet officer in a past Star Trek series.

In the shuttlebay, Boimler has arrived to get ready for his mission escorting the Klingon general. And wouldn’t you know it, Mariner has managed to “pull a few strings” and get herself assigned to the mission with him. At first it seemed as though she’d used her connection to the captain (if you missed it last time, Captain Freeman is her mother), but later it’s revealed that she knew the Klingon general, so that may have been how she was able to land the role.

Boimler is angry to see Mariner messing up his shuttle.

In typical Mariner fashion, she’s messed up the shuttle. Boots on the control panel, she’s eating her lunch and has spilled it. Once again I’m getting a distinct Rick & Morty vibe – Mariner seems to treat the shuttle the way Rick Sanchez treats his flying car/spacecraft, and the comparable visuals of empty food containers and general mess wasn’t lost on me.

For once, though, we got to see a genuine moment of excitement from Mariner, who is fascinated by the shuttle’s blast shield. She even sang a little song (which was very catchy and got stuck in my head) about it, which was sweet. Perhaps there may be an appreciation for some of what Starfleet has to offer underneath the uncaring exterior after all? This moment had been briefly seen in the trailer, and I liked it there as well.

The blast shield song.

I didn’t really like that Mariner had managed to not only elbow her way onto Boimler’s mission, but that she’d been placed in charge with him relegated to the role of co-pilot. While Mariner herself may act in an un-Starfleet manner, the rest of the crew shouldn’t, and this change of role for Boimler – who didn’t even know until he reached the shuttle – seems very unprofessional.

I know that I need to try to distance myself from what I already know about Starfleet when watching Lower Decks and not take it so seriously. And I am making a genuine attempt to do so, but as I wrote last time, the franchise has fifty years of history and lore that has been built up, and speaking personally, I have over a quarter of a century as a Trekkie under my belt. Discarding parts of that is hard, and trying to see Lower Decks as an animated comedy first and a Star Trek project second isn’t always easy.

Boimler learns he’s been assigned the co-pilot’s role.

Up next, Rutherford is in main engineering and is working up the courage to follow through with what he promised Tendi and ask for reassignment. I liked this scene, as Rutherford clearly has the respect of the chief engineer and his crewmates. Though it seemed as if the chief engineer may have been angry, everyone was thrilled for Rutherford as he moved on.

It was great to see the Cerritos’ engineering deck in more detail too. The warp core strikes me as some combination of those seen in The Motion Picture, The Next Generation and Voyager, and the whole of main engineering has a distinct Star Trek aesthetic that couldn’t possibly be from any other franchise. I liked the Enterprise-D-style main engineering table; we’d often see Geordi La Forge, Data, and others standing there in The Next Generation. There’s no question that, when it comes to the design of the ship, Lower Decks is doing a great job of staying consistent with what’s come before.

Rutherford with the engineering crew in main engineering.

Up next came the shuttle mission. Mariner is reunited with her Klingon friend, someone she met on a past assignment. Boimler confirms for the audience that he and Mariner are roughly the same age, something that I wasn’t sure of given her past history of promotions, demotions, and reassignments. While Boimler pilots the shuttle, Mariner and the Klingon get drunk on bloodwine.

Compared to the Klingons seen in Discovery, whose aesthetic had been very different to what we’d seen before, the Klingon general here was a return to form. Sporting an eyepatch similar to General Chang’s from The Undiscovered Country, he looked exactly like I’d have expected an animated Klingon from The Next Generation era to. The typical Klingon forehead, the long flowing hair, the beard with the distinctive moustache-gap, and of course the armour and batleth were all present, and I liked the way this character looked.

The Klingon general.

Despite being ordered to transport the general to a Federation outpost on what seems to be a non-aligned planet, the Klingon – backed up by a drunk Mariner – insists on being taken to a Klingon district so he can get gagh. Gagh is a Klingon food well-known to Trekkies, as it’s appeared numerous times in the Star Trek franchise. Unable to resist their demands, Boimler lands the shuttle in the Klingon district.

We’ve already spent too long focusing on Mariner and her un-Starfleet conduct, so I’ll skip over that to avoid this review being too repetitive. After landing the shuttle, Mariner and Boimler disembark, and it’s promptly commandeered by the drunk Klingon, who shakily flies it away, stranding Mariner and Boimler who now need to recover the shuttle and the wayward Klingon.

The shuttle is stolen.

This sets up what would be the main focus of the episode’s story – Mariner and Boimler working together on the planet. While I like this story and I felt it finally gave Mariner a few brief moments of actually seeming like a nice character for a change, it was very similar to what we got last week. When I mentioned at the beginning that Envoys would have made a better premiere, this is what I mean. The whole concept of a by-the-book officer and a rebellious officer working together, using their differences to complete an assignment that’s gone wrong works remarkably well, and this could have been a great way to set up the series. Its thunder feels at least a little stolen by being very similar to the Mariner and Boimler story from last week, though.

The two can have a fun dynamic when they’re alone and when Mariner isn’t being too unkind. If we use our Rick & Morty comparison, Boimler is definitely the Morty to Mariner’s Rick, and the way she treats him will clearly be very funny to people who like that kind of humour. Those moments in Rick & Morty are seldom my favourite, though, and as mentioned I don’t think it translates well to Star Trek.

Rick and Morty… oops, I mean Boimler and Mariner.

While they’re left to explore the settlement, which features a variety of Klingons and other aliens, back aboard the Cerritos Rutherford has transferred to the command division. He’s been taken under the wing of the ship’s first officer, Commander Ransom, and on the holodeck Rutherford is put through his paces. This sequence left me in stitches and was perhaps the best in the episode in terms of pure comedy, as poor Rutherford simply can’t get the hang of starship command!

In the first training simulation, Rutherford gets the ship destroyed. Ransom then gives him a simpler assignment – the ship is directly in the path of a small asteroid. This should be super easy to avoid, but Rutherford again messes up and gets the ship’s school and kindergarten destroyed. If you haven’t seen it you’ll just have to watch it, because the way the scene unfolds is absolutely hilarious, and everything from the way the holo-characters deliver their lines to Rutherford and Ransom’s reactions to his mistakes were just pitch-perfect.

Rutherford gets a turn in the (simulated) captain’s chair.

On the planet’s surface, Mariner and Boimler are still on the tail of the Klingon general. While Mariner stops to go to the bathroom, Boimler gets hit on by an attractive woman. Of course it turns out to be a creepy alien who wanted to use Boimler to incubate her eggs, and Mariner is able to save the day. Were she not such an insufferable character by this point, I’d have been more impressed with her knowledge of different kinds of alien races and her “street smarts” – for want of a better term.

Rutherford’s next assignment is in sickbay, where he gets to work alongside Tendi for a brief moment. The ship’s Catian doctor, Dr T’Ana, is impressed with his anatomical work – he compares it to working on a starship. She then gives him a relatively simple task, to keep a wounded officer calm. But of course he manages to mess this up, causing the man to panic and make things worse! This was another very funny scene, and Rutherford has provided much of the episode’s comedy so far.

Dr T’Ana, Rutherford, and Tendi with a patient in sickbay.

After being kicked out of sickbay by the grouchy Dr T’Ana, Rutherford tries his hand at security. He’s thrown into a simulated battle against a number of Borg drones, and is able to defeat them all thanks to his cybernetic implant. This greatly impresses the security chief, the Bajoran Lieutenant Shaxs. This scene wasn’t as funny as the others, but Rutherford’s genial nature contrasted with Shaxs’ description of him as a natural born killer did win a chuckle.

Boimler and Mariner have reached an Andorian settlement or district back on the planet’s surface, and are getting closer to locating the Klingon and shuttle. During their time here, we get to see a slightly different side to Mariner, which I think has started to show her in a better light. It’s not that she doesn’t care about anything, just that she’s very selfish, arrogant, and puts herself first. Which is an improvement. I guess.

Boimler and Mariner in the Andorian settlement.

Tendi is the character who got the short straw this week, I think. Rutherford got his very funny B-story about trying out the various departments, and Mariner and Boimler got their mission to the planet, but Tendi really hasn’t had much to do at all, besides being excited to see the pulsar. Though after she spent last week basically just saying “wow” to everything, even that was an improvement. However, I’d like to see her have a proper story of her own – and I’m sure she will in an upcoming episode.

In the Andorian settlement, Boimler starts a bar fight by being too quick to step in with his phaser when he sees a group of Andorians hassling someone. It turns out that they were trying to stop a changeling – presumably not a Founder, as other shapeshifters exist – and upsets them. Mariner steps in and saves the day, leaving Boimler dejected at how bad his mission is going.

Boimler with his phaser.

This moment was perhaps the first time in the series that the “book smart vs. street smarts” dynamic between Boimler and Mariner genuinely seemed to work. Boilmer thought he was doing the right thing, upholding Starfleet values. But he learned a valuable lesson – that he can’t learn everything there is to know about being a good officer from textbooks. Mariner’s experience proved invaluable to completing this part of his assignment (even though her lack of care put him in the position to begin with).

We also get to see Mariner properly take on the role of mentor that she promised at the end of Second Contact, trying to provide some degree of comfort and reassurance to Boimler when he’s at his lowest ebb. And I liked that – I wish we’d seen this side of her character earlier, as she’s far nicer and more enjoyable to watch when she’s not being rude or unkind for the sake of it. Boilmer had thrown down his combadge in a threat to quit Starfleet, but Mariner definitely stepped up to help him here.

Boimler and Mariner after the bar fight.

Lieutenant Shaxs was thrilled with Rutherford’s performance as a security trainee and inaugurates him into the “bears” – the nickname for the Cerritos’ security team. However, in a cute and funny moment, Rutherford sees his beloved jeffries tube and declines the offer. The security chief, who seemed like he would’ve been angry, instead compliments Rutherford on his decision to be true to himself, and Rutherford returns to engineering.

I enjoyed Rutherford’s story this time. He’s a fun character who loves his job, but was also willing to go above and beyond for his friend just so they could spend more time hanging out. Where Tendi seems to perhaps have some kind of feelings for him, I got the sense that Rutherford’s interest in her is – at least at this stage – platonic. But I could be wrong; the show could easily make them a couple at some stage.

Rutherford’s beloved jeffries tube.

Boimler and Mariner finally have a lead on the Klingon general and the missing shuttle, and are on their way. There should be just enough time to sort everything out before the Klingon is missed at his scheduled peace conference. They’re stopped by a Ferengi en route, and he seems to be trying to mug them.

In what was a clear setup, Mariner pretends to naΓ―vely go along with his demands, allowing Boimler to step in and “save” her from the devious Ferengi. I think – and I could be wrong – that this is the first Ferengi we’ve seen in Star Trek since their sole appearance in Enterprise in the early 2000s. There was a Ferengi emblem glimpsed briefly in Star Trek: Picard, but I think this is the first Ferengi character to make a proper appearance since then. Given that we got to know a lot about them from their appearances in Deep Space Nine in particular, it was nice to see a Ferengi back.

The Ferengi.

After “escaping” from the Ferengi, Boimler and Mariner find the Klingon general passed out in the shuttle – which had accrued several parking tickets in what felt like an homage to The Simpsons episode where Homer’s car gets lots of tickets in New York! I liked that silly little visual gag; it was very funny even if it wasn’t a reference to The Simpsons.

Boimler got a much-needed win from their encounter with the Ferengi – though he’s a very sore winner, which is not an attractive character trait – and there was just enough time to deliver the general to his peace conference and get the shuttle back to the ship. Despite the mission going off the rails, the pair managed to salvage things right at the end!

The shuttle has been ticketed!

Back aboard the Cerritos, Boimler brags about his “win” against the Ferengi at Mariner’s expense, which I didn’t really like. It was clear, of course, that she was just going along with it to boost his confidence; moments later, after leaving the bar, she speaks to the Ferengi confirming that the two of them are friends and the whole thing was a setup. What I liked about it was that it was a very “Mariner” way to help out. She stayed true to her character, but was able to use her skills to help Boimler for a change.

The episode ends with Tendi and Rutherford in the jeffries tube. Tendi got her wish of watching the pulsar with Rutherford – albeit on a padd screen – and Rutherford got his wish of being back in the engineering department, crawling through the tubes. All in all, a happy ending.

Tendi and Rutherford in the jeffries tube.

So that was Envoys. An episode which started very weakly ended up being better than last week’s offering. We got to see some heart underneath Mariner’s carefree exterior, which will be important if she’s to become a protagonist worth rooting for. I felt that her conduct in the opening scene was perhaps the low point out of her two appearances so far, but the way she helped out Boimler when they were together on the planet went a long way to making up for it.

The breakout star of Envoys for me, though, was Rutherford. He has such a positive attitude to his work and to his friends, and he just seems like an all-round nice guy. Not to mention that his story provided much of the humour in the episode – or at least, much of the humour that worked best for me. Lower Decks still has a very distinct style and sense of humour that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I’d encourage anyone disappointed or put off by last week’s offering to give it a second chance.

Mariner and her Klingon friend annoy Boimler.

I don’t think there’s much more to say. Lower Decks remains a very interesting project in the Star Trek franchise, and I’m curious to see how well it’s performing with viewers. So far I haven’t heard anything about that. I always want Star Trek projects to be successful, and of all of the projects in recent years, Lower Decks has the most potential to bring in a new and different kind of fan. Hopefully that’s starting to happen, because the greater success the franchise enjoys, the more Star Trek we’ll get to see in future.

After feeling a little trepidation in the run-up to this week’s episode after having mixed feelings last time, I can now say with confidence that I’m genuinely looking forward to next week. Roll on episode 3: Temporal Edict!

Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream now on CBS All Access if you’re fortunate enough to live in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 1, Episode 1: Second Contact

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Second Contact, the first episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Star Trek: Lower Decks was a surprise addition to this summer’s television lineup. Though it had been announced that the show was coming this year, it seemed logical to think that Discovery’s third season – now scheduled to premiere the week after the Season 1 finale of Lower Decks – would have come first. Partly the change is due to the ongoing pandemic, and with Lower Decks being ready first, it got to go first.

It isn’t the fault of creator Mike McMahan, nor of the cast and behind-the-scenes crew, but Lower Decks has not been made available internationally. I’ve discussed this on the site several times, and if you want to see what I had to say you can find the articles dealing with the subject on the Star Trek: Lower Decks page. I won’t go into detail on that issue here, but suffice to say it’s a moronic decision to broadcast the show in the United States and Canada without also making it available to fans elsewhere.

“But Dennis, aren’t you from the UK? How can you watch Lower Decks?” I’m glad you asked. In order to circumvent ViacomCBS’ selfish and stupid decision to only release one of their biggest shows in a limited market, I had no choice but to physically move to that market. My second home, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains of North Dakota, overlooks the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This sleepy all-American town, an hour’s drive from the nearest big city (Honolulu, for those of you who don’t know your geography) and close to the snowy bayou of the neighbouring state of Kentucky, seems like the perfect place to chill and watch Lower Decks, don’t you think? I’d invite you all to come too, but I think that would be a violation of social distancing.

For legal reasons this is my house. And it’s definitely in the USA. Where I definitely am.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about Second Contact. The episode begins with a scene that was a big part of the show’s marketing, appearing in two of the pre-release trailers. This was the scene with Ensign Boimler recording his pretend “captain’s log” in a closet. While this wasn’t new for me and was less interesting as a result, it was a good way to set up the premise of the show for new viewers and for those who skipped the trailers, and the scene as a whole was funny – even though some of the impact of the humour was blunted by having already seen it a couple of times.

Ensign Mariner interrupts Boimler’s log, having got drunk on “Romulan whiskey”, which looks a lot like Romulan ale. She teases him for wasting time with a pretend log, and while showing him a Batleth that she found, accidently cuts his leg.

Mariner and Boimler in the closet.

After this scene came the title sequence. I enjoyed the music; it’s much more up-tempo and adventurous than either the Discovery or Picard themes have been, which is nice. It’s a piece of music that could have been played over the opening titles for The Next Generation and would have fit right in. Interestingly – and I was not expecting this – the title sequence uses The Next Generation’s font for the names of characters and actors, and that was a fun little bit of nostalgia for returning fans.

Before we go any further with Second Contact, let’s talk about returning fans, Trekkies, and people like myself who are longstanding fans of the Star Trek franchise. In some ways, Lower Decks is trying to target that demographic. But there are certainly going to be Trekkies who are turned off by the style of humour. While I’d argue that there is a good degree of crossover between fans of Star Trek and fans of comedy series like Rick & Morty, the two groups aren’t one and the same and there will be fans who, having seen Second Contact, will decide that Lower Decks isn’t a show for them.

The USS Ceritos during the title sequence.

I’ve spoken before about divisions within the fanbase, but generally speaking, Star Trek projects until now have all been within the science fiction or action/sci-fi genres. Fans had preferences within that genre as to which show or film they preferred, but Star Trek was, by and large, a franchise firmly in that space. Lower Decks is something different – an overtly comedic series. Thus I think it’s quite likely that some fans, even those who’ve enjoyed Discovery, Picard, and the Kelvin-timeline films, may feel Lower Decks isn’t something they’re into and will choose to skip it. As long as they come back for Strange New Worlds, Discovery, Picard, and other live-action series, from ViacomCBS’ perspective that’s probably okay. But in that sense, at least among longstanding Star Trek fans, I expect there to be some degree of controversy.

There is a flip side, however. There are going to be fans of animated comedy series like Disenchantment, Solar Opposites, Rick & Morty, or even shows like Family Guy, for whom Lower Decks will be their first adventure in the Star Trek universe. It’s a show which I believe has the potential to reach out way beyond Star Trek’s usual viewer base and attract a whole new crowd of fans. Some of them may go on to become Trekkies, inspired by Lower Decks, though of course many won’t. Making a series like this will certainly expand the franchise into a new market – figuring out how best to capitalise on that and retain some of these new viewers will be a challenge, but Lower Decks could perhaps be the first of several comedy series produced under the Star Trek brand if ViacomCBS deems this experiment a success. Only time will tell – and unfortunately the lack of an international broadcast will hurt that in the short term.

The title sequence concludes.

Let’s get back to Second Contact, because the episode was generally quite fun. After the title sequence we’re introduced to Ensign Tendi as she arrives aboard the USS Cerritos for the first time. Ensign Boimler is assigned to be her orientation officer, and Ensign Mariner butts in, making fun of Boimler and taking Tendi on a tour of the ship where they also meet the other main character, Ensign Rutherford. I’d speculated, by the way, as to whether Rutherford was an ex-Borg or had been cybernetically augmented (like Lieutenant Detmer in Discovery) and it turns out to be the latter.

Boimler, Tendi, and Mariner visit the holodeck – which looks just like the one on the Enterprise-D – and each of them take turns choosing somewhere to visit. Boimler chose the warp core, before being summoned to the bridge.

Boimler, Tendi, and Mariner on the holodeck.

The senior officers have just returned from a successful second contact mission with a race called the Galardonians – who I believe are new to Star Trek – and have returned to the ship. Captain Freeman speaks to Ensign Boimler in her ready room and gives him an assignment: keep an eye on Ensign Mariner and report any breaches of regulations. In principle I like this setup. Boimler is by-the-book, and giving him an assignment to keep tabs on Mariner gives him a reason to follow her and spend time with her, developing the relationship between the two. However, it seems from the previous scenes as though Boimler and Mariner were already friends, in which case Boimler may not be a good choice for this kind of assignment. Some of this connects to how I feel about Mariner as a character, but we’ll come to that later.

I also liked the Galardonians – animation as a format allows for more “alien-looking” aliens, and it was nice that they weren’t just another random group of humanoids with slightly different features.

The Galardonians.

The first officer of the Ceritos – Commander Ransom – was bitten by an insect on the planet’s surface and brought a pathogen or parasite back to the ship. While Rutherford is having a date in the ship’s bar, Ransom basically turns into a black bile-spewing zombie, and the infection rapidly spreads through the ship.

On the planet’s surface, Boimler follows Mariner to where she’s making a secret deal with some Galardonians. He accuses her of selling them weapons – but it turns out to just be farm equipment. They’re attacked by a giant spider-creature, and Mariner has the idea to make decoys using their uniforms. Boimler ends up getting chewed on by the creature, which the Galardonians keep as some kind of farm animal. The two return to the landing site with Boimler covered in slime. I will come to Mariner’s conduct and the way she comes across in a moment, but for now let’s wrap up the story.

Boimler being chewed on by the alien creature.

Aboard the ship the zombie infection is out of control. Rutherford and his date escaped to one of the transporter rooms by going out an airlock – which was a pretty neat sequence. Mariner and Boimler beam up, and it turns out that the slime he’s covered in is the antidote to the zombie infection. The crew fight their way through to sickbay and synthesise a cure – this was one of the scenes that featured heavily in pre-release marketing.

With the infection over, Captain Freeman and the senior officers take credit for saving the day despite Mariner and Boimler’s help, and Boimler decides not to tell the captain what happened on the planet’s surface. It later turns out that Captain Freeman is Mariner’s mother. I’m sure this revelation will be important later in the season.

Captain Freeman.

This setup, with Boimler tasked to spy on Mariner but choosing not to, feels like it didn’t work as well as it should. They were introduced as already being friendly, which undermined the whole setup, and the payoff at the end where she tells him she’ll mentor him felt unearned. It seemed like he would absolutely rat her out for not following orders – and I’m not really sure why he didn’t given that she got him chewed on by a giant spider.

So it’s time to talk about Mariner. She gets top billing for the series, was the most significant character in pre-release marketing, and takes the central role in the show as its star. But so far I don’t like her. She’s rude to Boimler, despite supposedly being his friend, and we’ll later learn that she’s been demoted and kicked off several past ships that she served on. In fact, it seems as though her family connections – her parents are the captain and an admiral – might be the only reason she’s able to stay in Starfleet.

Ensign Boimler and Ensign Mariner.

Lower Decks, as a comedy series, was always going to have to find ways to make the typical goings-on in Star Trek funny, but I don’t necessarily feel that making a character who’s rude, insubordinate, and inherently un-Starfleet is the right way to generate that comedy and those funny moments. Mariner seems to be a rebel, someone who likes breaking the rules and who doesn’t have much respect for Starfleet, for her uniform, her ship, or her crewmates. Yet in any other Star Trek project, someone like that wouldn’t have even made it to the rank of Ensign.

And I know, this isn’t “any other” Star Trek project. But if we’re asked to take Ensign Mariner as our protagonist for this show, she needs to be less offensive and just nicer. I know we’re only one episode in, and a lot can change over the course of a season. I’m willing to give her a chance to grow on me. But Star Trek isn’t a franchise like Rick & Morty – a Rick-like character, which is what it feels like Mariner is meant to be, who doesn’t play by the rules and is unpleasant and selfish doesn’t feel like a good fit. Mariner put Boimler in danger, insisting she knows best despite only having a gut feeling, and has generally been unkind, rude, and insubordinate, not only to Boimler but to the rest of the crew as well.

I’m on the fence about Mariner at the moment.

Right now I’m having a hard time getting behind her as a fun protagonist, and that’s a problem because the other three characters aren’t exactly protagonist material either. Tendi and Rutherford feel underdeveloped; Tendi’s entire character consists of saying “wow” to everything because she’s new to Starfleet, and Rutherford has the cybernetic augmentation but we really didn’t learn anything else about him, making him feel like a secondary character in the premiere episode. And then we come to Boimler. A character perhaps inspired by The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper, Boimler is neurotic and seems to suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. While I like the contrast between “by-the-book” Boimler and “rebel” Mariner, the contrast is perhaps a little too extreme for my taste, and scaling both of them back a few notches would make their dynamic – and the series – more interesting.

Comedy is subjective, and one person’s sense of humour isn’t the same as another’s. Lower Decks will definitely succeed in appealing to fans of the kind of shows I mentioned earlier – Rick & Morty and the like. And there is some degree of crossover with Star Trek and sci-fi for fans of animated comedy, meaning Lower Decks could be a springboard for some people to watch Star Trek for the first time. But for many existing Trekkies, the style of humour on display here will be a turn-off.

This kind of humour won’t be to everyone’s taste.

I don’t want to say that Second Contact was jarring, because that isn’t exactly true. But a couple of days earlier I re-watched Lower Decks, the episode from The Next Generation’s final season; suffice to say there is a major contrast between what this show is and what other Star Trek shows have been. Star Trek has always had a sense of humour – something I said countless times in defence of Lower Decks in the the run-up to the premiere. But the franchise’s past sense of humour is certainly different from what we saw in Second Contact, and when compared to an episode from a past iteration of Star Trek that played it straight, the difference is vast.

What’s so odd, I think, is that Star Trek usually requires its crew members to work together. Even in Discovery and Picard, which both featured single protagonists supported by secondary characters, there were many times where the crews would come together and work in common cause. Lower Decks has set up Ensign Mariner as its protagonist, and she isn’t someone who seems to work well with… anyone. At least not at this stage. Yes it’s early days, and she has the chance to improve and work better as a team player, but it feels like Lower Decks is setting her up to be Star Trek’s answer to Rick Sanchez, and as a Star Trek fan, I don’t think that kind of character works, at least not within the confines of Starfleet.

The four main characters at the end of the episode.

Comedy and animation require a different kind of suspension of disbelief than a live-action, non-comedy show. And Lower Decks is very much in that category, where it needs to be seen as an animated comedy first and a Star Trek project second. There is a lot to like, but I’m also thinking that perhaps its sense of humour isn’t always going to be “my thing”. Some of the jokes in Second Contact relied on Mariner being unkind to Boimler in particular, showing no care whatsoever for her friends or her crewmates. For me, most of that side of the show’s humour failed to land, and while for many fans of other animated comedy series it might, I’m having a hard time detaching Lower Decks from the rest of the Star Trek franchise to see it in that way.

Second Contact’s zombie story was okay. I liked that Rutherford, on his date, kept his cool and the fact that he and his date kept talking romantically while chaos erupted around them was funny. This story wasn’t the main focus of the episode, though, and took up comparatively little screen time.

I’d have liked to have spent more time with Ensign Rutherford, who really only got the date/zombie fight on screen. And perhaps, as mentioned, the setup for Boimler and Mariner’s friendship could have been better established prior to Boimler being tasked with spying on her. However, overall the episode was solid, and it seems that Lower Decks has started as it means to continue.

After more the fifty years, the question is whether Star Trek can successfully transition to a new genre. I enjoyed Second Contact, but on that – the biggest question the show faces – the jury is still out.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream now on CBS All Access for anyone lucky enough to be in the United States. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Okay ViacomCBS, let’s talk “priorities”

Yesterday, Star Trek: Lower Decks had its digital “red carpet” event, officially kicking off the show’s first season. The first episode, Second Contact, will debut tomorrow – but only if you’re lucky enough to live in the United States or Canada.

Having written about this topic previously, and with my excitement for the show building, I wasn’t going to revisit the issue of the show’s international release. However, something I read this morning really pushed my buttons, and it has to do with one single word: “priority”.

I do not in any way blame anyone who worked behind-the-scenes or in the voice cast of Lower Decks for what’s happened. In many ways, the stupid decision to only broadcast the show in North America hurts them too, tainting their work with a moronic business decision. But unfortunately this article was prompted by a comment from Lower Decks’ creator Mike McMahan, who said that it’s “a priority” that fans outside the US and Canada will get to see the series. The full conversation, for context, can be found on TrekCore by following this link (warning: leads to an external website).

So let’s talk priorities.

Lower Decks will be the first Star Trek project since the 1990s to not get a near-simultaneous release in the UK. Even Enterprise managed to do that in 2001, and as I’ve said repeatedly, in 2020 with the internet and online fan communities being such a big deal, companies can no longer get away with splitting up their biggest releases by geography. If ViacomCBS couldn’t get the paperwork for Lower Decks signed in time to guarantee its international broadcast, then the only way the company could demonstrate to its international fans that we’re just as much of a priority would have been to delay the series until everyone could share it and watch it together.

That would have sent a very clear message: Star Trek is for everyone, and ViacomCBS wants everyone to be able to watch it at the same time. It would have been a sensible business decision, generating double the excitement and hype for the show online – the buzz around Lower Decks has been muted at best, and at worst tainted by questions surrounding its international release. Every tweet, every post, every article that they publish online receives dozens of such comments and queries, detracting from the message ViacomCBS wants to put out.

It’s incredibly galling to hear that ViacomCBS considers its international fans to be “a priority” when everything they’ve done regarding Lower Decks’ broadcast categorically demonstrates that it’s not true. Saying they consider us “a priority” is a lie. If they did, Lower Decks would either be coming out for everyone tomorrow, or would have been delayed until it could.

There are clearly very difficult negotiations and discussions going on at high levels of the company trying to secure some kind of overseas broadcast. And I understand that these things are complicated. It’s arguable that, depending on circumstances, the failure to secure international broadcast rights isn’t wholly ViacomCBS’ fault. They can make the case that it’s out of their control; something in the hands of these intransigent international broadcasters. But you know what categorically is within ViacomCBS’ control? The decision to go ahead and broadcast the show in the United States and Canada. Doing so is their decision, and thus choosing to split up the show and not allow its international fans to see it is entirely ViacomCBS’ decision.

And it’s a bad decision. Not just because of the message it sends to Star Trek’s millions of fans who live in the rest of the world, but because the international broadcast will lead to widespread piracy of the new show, undermining ViacomCBS’ own position in the aforementioned negotiations. Not only is the show and its brand now damaged in the eyes of many viewers by not being broadcast at the same time in the rest of the world, but it’s also going to be heavily pirated. Many of Star Trek’s biggest fans won’t wait because they don’t want to miss out. In fact, if there’s no legal and lawful way to access the show, piracy is literally the only option. ViacomCBS, by failing to provide access to the show internationally, is essentially condoning piracy of its own series and undermining any efforts which may be underway to see the show receive an international broadcast.

Even if it were announced now, today, that Lower Decks will receive an international release imminently, the hype and buildup that the show should have received has already been damaged; its brand soiled by the unnecessary delay of any such news coming out. Many fans outside of the US and Canada will have stopped paying attention on the expectation that the series isn’t something they’ll be able to enjoy and wouldn’t even hear any hypothetical announcement.

It’s also not, as some may suggest, wholly the fault of coronavirus. While production and release schedules have doubtless been affected – Lower Decks was originally planned to premiere after Discovery’s third season, for example – I again restate what I said a moment ago: it is still wholly within ViacomCBS’ control when to broadcast the show in the United States. The pandemic may have forced changes, but if the international rights for Lower Decks had not been secured, it is still entirely ViacomCBS’ decision to go ahead and broadcast it to half its fanbase – or less – regardless. Coronavirus and its associated issues is a factor, but that is not the whole story, and to lay the blame there is little more than a distraction from the real heart of the matter – Star Trek fans outside of the United States are not any kind of “priority” to ViacomCBS.

Lower Decks is the most unique Star Trek project in a generation. It’s a crossover with the kind of animated comedy shows that are popular with a far wider audience than Star Trek’s typical niche, and thus it’s a show which had the potential to bring in legions of new fans – including new fans in other parts of the world. But how can that happen with the show segregated by geography? How are those potential new fans supposed to get on board and be excited about a series that they can’t even watch?

At the very least, ViacomCBS owes its international fans transparency. It doesn’t just upset me that Lower Decks isn’t going to be broadcast here, it upsets me that there’s been no word at all from the company. They leave it to Mike McMahan, and it’s not his job. There’s been nothing official at all from anyone higher up involved in the production of Star Trek, just a gaping void and an absence of any news. The briefest of statements would have been adequate – something like “we understand fans are anxious and we want to reassure you that negotiations are ongoing.” They could even provide a tentative estimate, such as Lower Decks receiving an international broadcast “before the end of 2020.” It wouldn’t be good enough, but it would at least be an acknowledgement that fans outside the US and Canada exist.

Far from being “a priority”, ViacomCBS has completely ignored its overseas fans. Not only have they done so by not securing the broadcast rights for the show before premiering it in the United States, but by failing to tell us anything. Star Trek’s official website and social media channels are all gearing up for Lower Decks’ premiere, yet there hasn’t been any acknowledgement of this problem. The social media managers ignore comments and messages asking about the international release date, and we’re left with the inescapable realisation that ViacomCBS simply does not care. Calling that “a priority” when it’s patently nothing of the sort is really just insulting.

I feel sorry for Mike McMahan and the rest of the cast and crew of Lower Decks. This isn’t their fault, yet they’re left picking up the pieces. To McMahan’s credit, he has at least acknowledged that there’s a problem, which ViacomCBS has wholly failed to do. And I appreciate that he at least gives lip service to Star Trek’s international fanbase. This article was prompted by his comment, as I find the use of the word “priority” to be a complete joke, but it isn’t his fault at all; ViacomCBS have put him in an awkward position through their own ineptitude and lack of care.

The launch of Lower Decks should be a moment where Star Trek fans from all over the world could come together and celebrate a new addition to the franchise we all love. Instead, it’s ruined by ViacomCBS choosing to prioritise one group of fans over another. They have deliberately chosen to release the show without securing its international broadcast rights, clearly demonstrating that Star Trek’s overseas fans do not matter to them in the slightest. It’s clear where their real “priorities” lie.

The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Lower Decks – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.