Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-3.
Ah, it feels good to be doing this again! After a ten-month hiatus, Star Trek: Lower Decks is back on our screens with a ten-episode third season to take us all the way to Halloween! Although the season premiere didn’t quite hit the high notes that I was hoping for, it’s still great to welcome the series back. There’s been some big news about Lower Decks over the last couple of months – a crossover episode with Strange New Worlds is on the cards for next year, if you somehow missed that announcement.
After Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger with an incredibly powerful episode, I was hoping that this new season would bolt out of the gate and keep the quality high. Unfortunately, Lower Decks’ tendency to go for the non sequitur ending meant that the season premiere, while fun and entertaining at first, fell flat as it reached its conclusion. A well-established cliffhanger that ended Season 2 was wrapped up in an odd and ultimately unsatisfying way, with all of the significant events taking place off-screen. While we got a fun adventure with our favourite ensigns that took up the first four-fifths of the episode, the ending let it down massively.
Grounded was an episode that was full of little nods and references to past iterations of Star Trek, and I certainly appreciated that. It was fun to get a look at Bozeman, Montana as it appears in the 24th Century, for example – including the infamous statue of Zephram Cochrane that we first heard about in First Contact. The outfits worn by the main characters recalled past Star Trek stories, including Rutherford’s Jake Sisko-inspired jumper and Boimler’s vest, which was first seen adorning Wesley Crusher in The Next Generation.
There was some gentle poking fun at Disneyland and Disney World in the presentation of the Bozeman, Montana complex, and that was certainly cute. The Phoenix “ride” that the ensigns hijacked to take to the Cerritos reminded me of the ride Star Tours at Disney World, particularly in the queue area. And the churros that Rutherford and Tendi were seen snacking on are likewise a Disney Parks staple!
Back to Star Trek, we had callbacks to and parodies of the Picard family vineyard – which has most recently appeared, of course, in both seasons of Star Trek: Picard, though here it was seen closer to its appearances in Family and All Good Things. Sisko’s Creole Kitchen – the family restaurant operated by Benjamin Sisko’s father Joseph – was the setting for one scene, and we also got name-drops of Tuvok and Captain Bateson (the character played by Kelsey Grammer in The Next Generation Season 5 episode Cause and Effect) during Captain Freeman’s truncated explanation of her trial and the events leading up to it.
Finally, and this was a neat inclusion, James Cromwell reprised his role as Zephram Cochrane – albeit in holographic form. The musical sting from First Contact brought a tear to my eye, and the launch of the Phoenix was an incredibly neat sequence. The addition of a random theme park guest (and a cowardly one at that) kind of detracted from the moment a little, but that was a classic Lower Decks move in its own way and one I can’t really hold a grudge against.
Once we’ve finished wading through the nostalgia, though, I’m left feeling that Grounded was a little hollow; an episode of false starts and setups that led nowhere – or to a disconnected, unpredictable conclusion that may have been “trademark Lower Decks” in some respects, but where the execution of its final twist and closing moments left a bit of a sour taste.
At first, Ensign Mariner seemed to be on a quest driven by emotion. But that emotional setup didn’t go anywhere, and her relationship with her mother arguably ends the episode in a worse place than it had been at the start. There seemed to be a story about Starfleet’s trustworthiness that could’ve harkened back not only to stories like The Search for Spock but that also could have connected with themes in recent seasons of Discovery and Picard – but it also didn’t go anywhere. And there was the fear that Ensign Mariner had that Captain Freeman was being mistreated because of her “lowly” status as captain of a California-class ship. That concept also hit the wall.
Then there was a particularly harsh judge for Captain Freeman’s trial who was mentioned once, never seen on screen, and whose influence appears to have had no impact whatsoever on the story. Boimler’s logs turned out to be unusable because of their content. That joke wasn’t even especially funny – yet it was the punchline of a whole chapter of the story, one that ended up going nowhere as a result. These are just some of the false starts and red herrings that Grounded threw at us.
The problem with these ideas isn’t that any of them are bad – it’s that Grounded threw them all out and then paid off none of them in a significant way. The idea of Starfleet being biased, or of a “conservative court” picking on officers from lower positions are both really neat concepts that even a comedic series like Lower Decks could have explored… but it seems to have dropped them just as soon as it had picked them up.
The first three-quarters of the episode did a decent enough job at setting up Mariner’s grief and fear, but the culmination of this storyline was far too short and one sequence on the bridge of the Cerritos wasn’t enough of a pay-off. When the rest of the ideas introduced to us in the first part of the episode went nowhere, there was basically nothing left and no way to salvage the story. Grounded’s “big twist” was that Captain Freeman was acquitted at her trial with no input from Mariner or the other ensigns, but it was just… nothing. It wasn’t especially clever, it certainly wasn’t funny, and the fact that it was rushed through with a brief montage to explain what really happened just felt incredibly anticlimactic.
Worse, Grounded picks up an unfortunate trend from earlier in Lower Decks’ run. By encouraging us as the audience to get invested in the ensigns’ story and believe that they were on a Search for Spock-type last-ditch mission to save their captain, only to turn around and show us that she was never in any real danger and didn’t even need their help, the show and its creators almost feel like they’re laughing at us. As if the audience’s investment in the story they set up is part of the joke. I noted this with disappointment in Season 1’s Veritas, and it’s a shame to see this unfortunate trope reoccur now that Lower Decks is entering its third season. The show should aim to be better than this.
When Captain Freeman walked through the shuttlebay doors, flanked by her senior staff, I admit it was a surprise. But it didn’t feel real – I felt sure that she’d turn out to be a hologram, a changeling, a disguised Pakled… basically anything else other than the real, newly-freed captain. And the reason for that is simple: the story doesn’t flow. This conclusion is, as I said at the beginning, a non sequitur; it doesn’t follow on naturally from the story we’ve spent the rest of the episode following. And for some people, maybe this kind of twist works. For me, it didn’t. And when the entire episode is built around this one big, explosive moment, its failure condemns the entire episode.
Perhaps that last statement was a tad harsh. There are neat moments across the first portion of Grounded that really plucked the right nostalgic strings, and others that were amusing in one way or another. I liked, for example, the kindly old man who operated the transporter, and how none of the ensigns had the heart to stun him and tie him up. That was a fun way to throw in a twist to what felt like a predictable storyline.
However, all of those neat moments feel soured by the episode’s ending. Partly this is because going back and rewatching a story with a bad ending always feels like a tainted experience, but also it should be said that it feels like some of these moments were wasted time. Captain Freeman blitzed through a montage and explanation of the Pakleds’ scheme and her trial that lasted barely a minute, and perhaps a longer sequence – that could have included flashbacks to the trial itself and/or the events surrounding it – might’ve gone some way to making up for the rug-pull. I’m not sure that would’ve saved Grounded, but maybe the episode could have been transformed from a disappointment into something merely underwhelming.
Had the Captain Freeman reveal been made at the halfway point, instead of three minutes before the credits rolled, more time could’ve been dedicated to explaining her situation, she and Mariner could’ve enjoyed a longer conversation to process what happened, and some of the ultimately unnecessary fluff could’ve been cut from earlier in the story.
So I’m sorry to say that Lower Decks continues a trend of season premieres that don’t hit the high notes that we know the series can reach. Grounded was undermined by the decision to have the ensigns’ story not matter – and while, in some ways, that’s the point of Lower Decks as a whole, the way in which it was executed here is what let it down. I don’t mind following the ensigns as they follow orders, complete insignificant tasks, and the like… but setting up a story in which they seemed to be on a dangerous adventure only to yank it away at the last minute and show how pointless it all was, well that just doesn’t make for a fun, worthwhile, or entertaining ride. At least not for me.
Star Trek references dripped from every orifice in Grounded, but the inclusion of so many locations, characters, callbacks, and name-drops couldn’t save an episode that was, unfortunately, spoiled by a poor ending. After First First Contact had set up Season 3 for greatness, this first episode feels like a swing and a miss from Mike McMahan and the team.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks and all other properties discussed 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Season 1, Discovery Season 2, and The Next Generation.
Where has the time gone?! It seems like just yesterday that we were settling in for the premiere episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, and now we’re already waving goodbye to the series as the season comes to an end. With a couple of weeks until Prodigy premieres – at least for folks lucky enough to have Paramount+ – and with Discovery Season 4 still a month away, there’s going to be a gaping hole in my entertainment schedule!
In the days ahead I’d like to take a look back at the season as a whole, so I hope you’ll stay tuned for that here on the website. But for now we’ve got one final episode to get stuck into, so let’s talk about First First Contact!
The episode was surprisingly emotional, presenting the crew with a difficult scientific problem to solve and pushing them to work together, harder than ever before, to save both a stricken starship in jeopardy and an entire planet. It brought back a well-liked character from The Next Generation, gave all four ensigns moments of character development, and had a stunning climax that both mirrored the finale of Season 1 while showing how far the Cerritos and her crew have come. And then, to cap it all off, First First Contact ended on a truly shocking cliff-hanger – one we’ll have to wait until next summer to see resolved!
Sometimes Lower Decks has felt like it’s bitten off more than it could chew, with too many characters and story threads in play such that some or all weren’t all they could have been. But despite First First Contact giving each of its main characters a role to play, as well as bringing in guest stars and recurring characters, it primarily stuck to one main story throughout and thus allowed everyone to participate in that story in a way that felt natural. No character felt under-used, and the story was well-paced.
There were a handful of minor contrivances that we should acknowledge. In order to give all four ensigns a significant role in the story, particularly after three of the four were sidelined last week, the plot of First First Contact did include a little forced drama. There’s nothing wrong with that sometimes, and it isn’t a criticism! But things like Tendi being transferred and Rutherford’s sudden concern about saving backup memories did feel a little contrived. It was done to give everyone a role in the story as well as to give each of the four a strong emotional moment, so I think it’s excusable in that context.
Usually I’d pick on one storyline or sub-plot that I felt was the weakest, but honestly on this occasion every aspect of the episode feels as strong as every other. The drama began during the pre-titles sequence, when Ensign Mariner overheard that Captain Freeman will be offered a transfer to a bigger and better ship – and won’t be able to bring any of her crew or senior staff with her. From there the episode continually upped the stakes, resulting in a tense, exciting, and emotional episode. It was a wild ride from start to finish!
Since we mentioned Captain Freeman, let’s start there. It makes sense that, in light of her achievements particularly with the Pakled conflict but also in other areas, that she’d be a promotion target. She’s been a strong captain across the show’s first two seasons, and I’m sure that Starfleet is always on the lookout for officers like Captain Freeman. We’ve heard on a number of occasions that California-class ships are pretty low down in the Starfleet hierarchy, so transferring a senior officer from a “lowly” post to a more significant post is something I can absolutely imagine the organisation would do – it is, after all, a meritocracy.
What I didn’t like about this transfer storyline was the notion that Starfleet command appears to have essentially written off people like Billups, Shaxs, and especially Freeman’s first officer Commander Ransom. This is one of the aforementioned plot contrivances, as it was necessary for the senior staff to be upset with Captain Freeman to give this aspect of the story some more weight. But purely from an in-universe point of view, I didn’t really like that Starfleet was basically saying that the senior staff of the Cerritos are California-class quality and can never be anything more than that. It kind of undermines the meritocratic nature of the organisation that we were just celebrating!
It was interesting to see the senior staff and Captain Freeman at odds with one another, though. That’s something Lower Decks hasn’t really tried before, and it worked well. Both sides are right in their own ways – Captain Freeman wanted to wait for the right moment to discuss the subject, especially with an important mission at hand. But the rest of the senior staff had every right to be upset at being kept out of the loop.
Mariner was, of course, the instigator of this drama. But her arc across the episode didn’t undermine her character progression that we’ve come to see and love over the past two seasons. Her acting out on this occasion wasn’t caused by a desire to be a chaotic troublemaker, but actually came from a place of genuine love. She’s come to enjoy working with her mother, especially since the events of Season 1’s Crisis Point and the unveiling of their family connection in Season 1’s No Small Parts. The idea that she was going to lose her mother after having only recently begun to enjoy their new dynamic was something she found impossible to deal with at first, prompting her to tell the senior staff and cause what she knew would be a fight.
In some ways, the argument between Mariner and Freeman earlier in the episode – in which Mariner told the captain she’d never want to work with her ever again – did feel regressive. In the moment it seemed as though the progress Mariner had made in her relationship with her mother – which was also reflected in her attitude toward working in Starfleet – was slipping back to its early Season 1 state. But as the story moved along and we came to understand why Mariner was so upset it all made perfect sense and the pieces fell into place.
One of my favourite things about Lower Decks over its first two seasons as a whole has been the way Ensign Mariner’s characterisation has been handled, and First First Contact was the icing on the cake. We got to see firsthand just how much serving with her mother has come to mean to her, and how devastated she was at the thought of losing her. It wasn’t, as she claimed at first, because Captain Freeman would protect her from getting court-martialled! She genuinely came to care about their rebuilt relationship, and that changed her attitude toward at least some of the work she does as an ensign. It’s been a wonderful transformation to see play out, and it needed two full seasons with these moments scattered along the way to properly unfold.
We also got a moment between Tendi and Mariner that built on their solo adventure in We’ll Always Have Tom Paris earlier in the season. As Mariner was struggling, it was Tendi who snapped at her and finally got her to see sense. I loved her line about friendship, it really knitted together all of the loose ends of Mariner’s season-long character arc. We’ve learned how she’s been avoiding making friendships and pushing people away because she fears losing those friends when they inevitably move on, but as she found with Rutherford, Tendi, and Boimler she doesn’t have to be frightened of that. That conversation prompted her to rush to the bridge and have a heart-to-heart with the captain in what was perhaps the sweetest moment in the entire episode.
Jennifer the Andorian has been a background character this season, and if I were to nitpick Mariner’s storyline in First First Contact I’d say that the Jennifer rivalry wasn’t as well-developed as it could’ve been prior to its resolution at the end of the episode. We’d seen Mariner mention her a couple of times, particularly in the season premiere, Strange Energies. But Mariner’s big rivalry with a secondary character in Season 2 came with Jet in the episode Kayshon, His Eyes Open. There was enough of a Mariner-Jennifer conflict to make the way they resolved things work – and I loved seeing Jennifer come to Mariner’s rescue – but it could have been developed further before they sat down together.
I wasn’t certain if Mariner’s line about “liking” Jennifer when they talked in the bar meant that she has a crush or some kind of romantic feelings toward her, though Jennifer’s reaction seemed to suggest that. Mariner has previously said that she’s dated males, females, and non-binary people, so I think we can infer that she’s pansexual and would thus not be averse to dating someone like Jennifer. Watch this space, because I think it could be interesting to give Mariner a romantic relationship in future.
Rutherford’s story was perhaps the shortest this week. He spent much of his time with Tendi, racing around the ship after she misunderstood Dr T’Ana and felt she was going to be transferred. The Tendi-Rutherford pairing has always worked well, and the pair revisited some of their earlier haunts, including the Jefferies tube where they spent time together in the episode Envoys back in Season 1.
His main concern this time came from his missing memories, and his desire to never again forget any part of his friendship with Tendi. It was very sweet that Rutherford would be so cautious about backing up his memories after losing them at the end of Season 1, but as with the only other real mention of this storyline this season, I feel like this story came a bit late in the day. Rutherford’s memory loss could have been more than Lower Decks ultimately made of it, and while this week it did lead to a couple of sweet moments both with Tendi and with Billups, I still feel it could’ve been handled better overall.
The visual gag of the pop-up was funny, though, and gave Rutherford a reason to let Tendi guide him – literally as well as figuratively. We know from episodes like Crisis Point that Rutherford has a great respect for Billups, so it made perfect sense for Billups to be the one he’d turn to for advice. He listened to Billups’ advice too, eventually deleting his backups to free up space in his implant.
Rutherford’s cyborg status had never been called into question. Everyone on the crew simply accepted him for who he was, and that appeared to be that! However, First First Contact has set up an interesting mystery in regards to Rutherford’s cybernetics: who were the mysterious figures seen augmenting him, and if he didn’t choose to be augmented voluntarily, why does he have his implant? I have no doubt this will be explored in Season 3, so watch this space!
Lower Decks has never been particularly bothered about borrowing themes and character types from Discovery, preferring instead to focus on The Next Generation era. But in Rutherford we have a character who has at least some similarities to Discovery’s Airiam – a character who really only came into her own shortly before her death in Season 2. Airiam was similarly a cybernetically-augmented human, though her cybernetics were a result of an accident she suffered. Rutherford’s suppressed memories could hint at a similar fate – perhaps he was injured while on some clandestine assignment for Starfleet. Maybe Section 31 are involved! In future I might write up some of my guesses about Rutherford’s pre-augmentation past, so be sure to stay tuned for that.
Though it went somewhat understated in the episode, Rutherford came up with the idea that ultimately saved the day – for the second season finale in a row! It was his plan to jettison the Cerritos’ outer hull that allowed them to make it through the asteroid field in time to save the USS Archimedes, and in an episode that wasn’t all about Rutherford it was nice that he got one of the most significant story moments. First First Contact had several key moments that mirrored the Season 1 finale, No Small Parts, and this was the first of them.
It never seemed plausible that Tendi was so bad at her job that she’d be kicked off the ship, and as mentioned this storyline did feel a little contrived. But it gave Tendi the opportunity to spend time with Rutherford and to give Mariner the talk that she needed to come to her senses and fix her relationship with Captain Freeman. I think it gets a pass in that regard!
“Overhearing something and misunderstanding it” is a bit of a sitcom cliché, but it was generally handled well in the episode, and the moments where Tendi felt like she had to run and hide from Dr T’Ana were kind of funny. It ultimately led to a cute resolution with the pair hugging it out – and Dr T’Ana purring! I’ve said on a number of occasions that I love how Lower Decks has played up the cat-like features of Dr T’Ana, and this was yet another example of that.
However, as a concept I’m not really sure I follow what this storyline wanted to say. Though medical and science are related departments they’re hardly the same thing, and transferring someone who wants to work in medical to a science position doesn’t necessarily feel like a promotion. To be fair, Tendi has never really settled into a specific role in a specific department on the ship – only Rutherford really feels settled as an engineer; the other three ensigns appear to get a variety of different roles depending on the needs of individual episodes. But having Tendi in sickbay has generally worked very well.
Tendi makes for a great medical officer, both from an in-universe and story point of view. We saw this firsthand this week when her quick thinking, ability to stay calm, and medical training helped her save Boimler’s life. Her kindness is a stark contrast to Dr T’Ana’s grumpy nature when dealing with patients, and she’s always seemed to know a lot about biology and medical science – even creating her own animal, The Dog, in the Season 1 episode Much Ado About Boimler. I just didn’t feel that Tendi was in any way trying to position herself for a transfer to a more scientific role, and as recently as I, Excretus a couple of weeks ago seemed thrilled at the idea of taking on the role of chief medical officer.
I wonder if this is just another contrivance for the sake of this episode, and whether we’ll actually see Tendi assigned to scientific bridge duties beginning in Season 3. It would be no bad thing to give her moments on the bridge, particularly if Mariner and/or Boimler are also present at the helm or navigation positions, so perhaps this should be seen more as an expansion of Tendi’s roles aboard the ship rather than a straight transfer. Hopefully shuffling her out of sickbay – if indeed it does happen – won’t mean we get to spend less time with Dr T’Ana; she’s one of my favourite characters!
Boimler got some sweet moments this week. Making a banner for Captain Freeman – based on the famous “Captain Picard Day” banner that recently reappeared in the premiere episode of Star Trek: Picard – was incredibly cute, and I’m never not impressed with Boimler’s enthusiasm for his ship, his captain, and all things Starfleet.
He also got to save the day, diving down to release the final exterior hull panel while Mariner rushed to the bridge. Mariner, as mentioned, definitely needed this moment with Captain Freeman to resolve their conflict, but I liked that it gave Boimler the chance to play the hero for a change. We’ve seen Boimler step up while under pressure before, particularly in the episode Kayshon, His Eyes Open earlier in the season. But on this occasion his actions saved two starships and a whole planet – so that’s pretty great going!
The change in Boimler’s characterisation across Lower Decks’ first couple of seasons has been more subtle when compared with what we’ve seen from Mariner, but when we see Boimler being prepared to take on a difficult task like this, it’s hard to see how the Boimler we met at the beginning of Season 1 would’ve had the confidence to do so. His friendships with Tendi, Rutherford, and especially Mariner – as well as his jaunt aboard the Titan – have seen him grow in confidence. He still has his anxieties and neuroses, but he’s become a more confident person since we met him. That arc has likewise been incredibly satisfying, and culminates in moments like this one.
Are the dolphins aboard the Cerritos Earth dolphins, do we think? It was certainly implied that they could be based on their familiar dolphin chittering! If so, it raises a very interesting question: is Earth now home to more than one sentient life-form? We’d seen with the Xindi that multiple sentient races can evolve on a single world, so it isn’t impossible! Dolphins are, from a real-world point of view, very intelligent. So are crows, so maybe Lower Decks could introduce us to a sentient crow one day! Crows have, after all, recently entered their very own stone age. That might sound bonkers, but it’s true.
It was very sweet that First First Contact brought back the character of Sonya Gomez. We first met her in Q Who, back in Season 2 of The Next Generation, and in the years since she’s clearly done very well for herself – rising all the way to the rank of captain. Lycia Naff, who played the character in The Next Generation, made a welcome return to Star Trek to reprise her role.
Captain Gomez got a very sweet, very poetic moment with an ensign on the bridge of the Archimedes that harkened back to her famous clumsy moment with Captain Picard in Q Who. For us as the audience – and perhaps for the actor too – that moment was a cute way to bring things full-circle, as well as showing off just how much Gomez has grown and changed over the course of her career. She’s in charge of an Excelsior-class ship – and the design of one of my favourite ships was beautifully incorporated into Lower Decks’ animated style.
Unlike a couple of other guest-stars across both seasons of Lower Decks, Captain Gomez’s role felt substantial. She and her ship weren’t on screen the entire time, but the role they played was significant, both as a driving force for the events of the episode but also in its own right as the reappearance of a significant and well-liked character. It was handled well and it was great to see Captain Gomez in action once more.
In a moment of symmetry with the Season 1 finale, this time the USS Cerritos got to be the ship that saved the day! In No Small Parts the Titan, under the command of Captain Riker, came racing to the aid of the Cerritos when the battle against the Pakleds seemed to be going badly. In First First Contact it was the Cerritos that swooped in to save the Archimedes – and a bridge officer aboard Captain Gomez’s ship even used the same line as Boimler in the Season 1 finale: “it’s the Cerritos!” That moment really got me; it was perfectly poetic, and a fantastic way for the story to end.
First First Contact presented the crews of the Cerritos and Archimedes with a scientific problem, not a military one. It’s easy to think that Star Trek is at its most exciting and action-packed when there are enemies to fight and battles to participate in, but for me the franchise has always been at its best when it’s looking at exploration and scientific puzzles. First First Contact absolutely epitomises the spirit of Star Trek as a show about science, exploration, and the wild, wonderful, and occasionally dangerous galaxy that awaits humanity beyond Earth.
By presenting the crew with a scientific puzzle, one that wasn’t easy to solve, First First Contact showed how amazing and exciting Star Trek can be when there are no Borg or Klingons or Pakleds bearing down on our heroes. The episode was so well-paced that we really got a sense of this race against time to get the ship ready to race through the asteroids and rescue not only the Archimedes but the planet it was threatening to crash into.
I was a little concerned, particularly as Commander Ransom did his best to navigate the asteroid field, that there’d be some kind of deus ex machina ending – the Archimedes would have saved itself or another ship (like the Titan) would have beaten the Cerritos to the punch, with the joke being that all of the crew’s hard work was for nothing. As a comedy series first and foremost, that kind of storyline is always a possibility. But having seen Captain Freeman and the whole crew go to so much effort such an ending would have really fallen flat, and I’m glad that, on this occasion at least, Lower Decks allowed the crew a huge win.
Rescuing the Archimedes was a very emotional moment in what was already an emotional story. The crew came together, despite their initial differences, and pulled off a one-of-a-kind rescue mission. We’ve never seen the likes of this in Star Trek before, yet the idea of stripping off a ship’s outer hull when not at warp feels like it fits perfectly with what we know of the way starships work. It was a fantastic story idea, and it came to fruition perfectly in the finished episode.
So we come to the final scenes! After expecting to be offered a promotion, Captain Freeman was arrested by Starfleet security, charged with bombing the Pakleds’ homeworld. This was a truly unexpected twist; it had seemed as though wej Duj last week wanted to draw a line under the Pakled conflict storyline. It was, somewhat unfortunately, the second “misunderstanding” scene after Tendi’s conversation with Dr T’Ana, but I guess that couldn’t be helped.
This epilogue was almost certainly added into the episode later, once the team knew that Season 3 was officially confirmed, as it didn’t flow at all from anything else in the story. It’s left Lower Decks on a cliff-hanger – one which we’ll have to wait a long time to see resolved! That’s not new for Star Trek, of course, as many seasons have done something similar in the past. It was definitely a shocking twist, and it was very well-executed. Even as Captain Freeman walked into the room I had no idea what was about to happen.
Obviously we know Captain Freeman is innocent – and surely she’ll be able to prove that. But we won’t get to see how that happens until Lower Decks returns next year (well, I hope it’ll be next year!) so I guess we’ll have to sit on our hands until then! Did the Pakleds accidentally blow up their own planet? Or did the rogue Klingon commander from wej Duj plant the bomb as a contingency plan to ensure war would break out? There are a few different possibilities – but if Season 2 has been any guide, Lower Decks won’t go down any path that we might expect!
So that was First First Contact – and that was Lower Decks Season 2! There were a couple of episodes that didn’t hit every high note that I’d have wanted, but overall the season as a whole was fantastic. We got some incredibly fun Star Trek hijinks with the crew of the Cerritos, plenty of unexpected twists and turns, the return of several classic characters, and some wonderful moments of characterisation and drama. It’s been an outstanding ten weeks – and I can hardly wait for Season 3.
Stay tuned here on the website, because sometime soon I’ll write up a retrospective look at Season 2. There are also a couple of theories relating to the Pakled bomb and to Rutherford’s background that might get the full write-up treatment in the run-up to Season 3. Although Season 3 is undoubtedly a long way off – ten months or more, at least – if and when we start to get information about the series, casting announcements, or a teaser trailer I’ll also be taking a look at those as well. It’s sad to bid farewell to Lower Decks – but it’s only a couple of weeks now until Prodigy arrives!
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2.
wej Duj – which is Klingon for “three ships” – was an exceptionally funny episode, and certainly one of the highlights of Season 2. What makes it stand out is that much of the humour came not from the main cast, nor even from secondary characters like the senior staff, but from guest-stars who gave us a glimpse at life on the lower decks of both Klingon and Vulcan ships.
Lower Decks promised us right from the beginning that we’d be looking at junior officers who get the worst assignments, so taking that concept and expanding it to show us the same kind of people on other vessels felt incredibly natural. It’s one of those ideas that just makes sense – and leaves you wondering why you didn’t think of it sooner!
The episode skipped the usual pre-titles sequence, so after the opening titles rolled we were straight into the action. The title of the episode was displayed in Klingon (or should that be Klingonese?), which was a very neat little touch. As an aside, wej Duj is the first Star Trek episode – out of more than eight hundred – to have a Klingon title!
The setup for the episode was interesting, and gave us a rare glimpse at a starship during a period of downtime. Most episodes naturally focus on adventures of one kind or another, yet when you think about it, at least some interstellar travel is going to be dull, waiting for the ship to arrive at its next destination. We’ve seen glimpses of that in episodes like Voyager’s Season 5 opener Night, but this was its first appearance in Lower Decks. As above, this concept feels like another natural fit for the series – showing us what some of the junior officers get up to while the ship is warping to its next destination.
wej Duj used that premise as an excuse to shuffle the ensigns off-stage, and the story progressed without much significant involvement from Mariner, Rutherford, or Tendi. Boimler got a B-plot of sorts as he tried to buddy up to Commander Ransom. This sub-plot relied on a lot of sitcom-style “cringe” humour as Boimler pretended to be from Hawai’i to ingratiate himself with Ransom and a couple of other officers.
This kind of humour, popularised by shows like Friends, isn’t always to my taste. While Boimler’s story definitely had some funny moments, its reliance on a sitcom cliché premise made it the lesser part of the episode – at least in my opinion. The way it ended was definitely amusing in its irony, though, as it turned out that neither Ransom nor any of the others were in fact from Hawai’i either – all having made up the same lie at different times.
The main thrust of the episode focused on two guest-stars: junior Klingon officer Ma’ah, played by Jon Curry, and Vulcan lower decker T’Lyn, played by Gabrielle Ruiz. Pinning the bulk of an episode on two brand-new characters was a risk, but it was one that paid off and worked exceptionally well.
Both characters – and their supporting cast of fellow lower deckers and the senior officers aboard their respective ships – were exceptionally funny in completely different ways. The juxtaposition of two of Star Trek’s best-known races was at the core of what made this comedy work; seeing the aggressive, barbaric Klingons drinking bloodwine and engaging in fights to the death then immediately hopping over to the stoic Vulcans who showed no emotion was key to making the episode as funny as it was.
wej Duj was also a very well-paced episode. In barely twenty minutes it had to bring together multiple story threads that began in very different ways and different places. It also had to balance three entirely disconnected segments and sets of characters, giving each enough screen time to allow for some development and for story beats to play out naturally. Not only did all of this work, with the pacing of each character’s story feeling just right, but wej Duj also connected the events every character experienced into the Pakled storyline that has been running since the end of Season 1!
I haven’t been afraid to criticise Lower Decks earlier in Season 2 when episodes felt overcrowded. Some potentially interesting storylines just didn’t get quite enough time to be fully-realised, and I stand by those criticisms. wej Duj was already an incredibly ambitious episode, considering everything it had to include, but seen in that light I think the fact that the writers, producers, and editors managed to pull it off is nothing short of remarkable.
It would’ve been easy to overlook one or more of the different stories considering the episode’s runtime and just how many characters and ships were in play. It really is a triumph of writing – and undoubtedly editing as well – that wej Duj worked as fantastically well as it did.
The Klingons were featured prominently in Star Trek Into Darkness as well as the first two seasons of Discovery, where some elements of their redesign proved to be controversial. Lower Decks returned the Klingons firmly to their familiar look – the one present from The Motion Picture right through to Enterprise. And as much as I enjoyed some of the Ancient Egyptian influence present in Discovery’s Klingon redesign, it felt absolutely wonderful to be back with the Klingons in their best-known aesthetic and to spend time aboard one of their ships again.
The aesthetic of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey on the inside was again very much in line with prior depictions. Everything from the lighting to the design used for Klingon computer monitors could’ve been lifted straight from Deep Space Nine or The Search for Spock – and I loved that the lower deckers were forced to sleep in hammocks that made the ensigns’ hallway look palatial in comparison!
The Vulcan ship was clearly based on the design of ships seen in Enterprise. Though Starfleet is the Federation’s main military and exploratory force, throughout Star Trek the Vulcans have been depicted as maintaining their own fleet of ships alongside Starfleet, so I don’t think it’s in any way a canon problem to have a Vulcan cruiser like this in Lower Decks. The relative power of the Vulcan cruiser compared to the USS Cerritos, which was on full display in the climactic battle, was very reminiscent of the way Vulcan ships would constantly outclass and outmatch the NX-01 in Enterprise – a neat little understated callback to Star Trek’s first prequel.
With the Klingon commander in league with the Pakleds, T’Lyn and Ma’ah – and later the USS Cerritos – were all drawn to the same place. The Pakleds had detonated a bomb given to them by the Klingon commander in the hope of destabilising peace in the Alpha Quadrant and sparking a war, and while Ma’ah challenged his commander, T’Lyn and the USS Cerritos both detected the residual after-effects of the Pakleds’ weapon detonation.
This moment set up the storylines coming together, and it was based once again on the Pakleds’ stupidity, which was pretty funny. The way Commander Togg reacted to the Pakleds’ detonating the bomb he’d provided was one of the funniest moments in the whole episode! Captain Riker had speculated that someone had been manipulating the Pakleds to become so aggressive, and wej Duj gave us the answer – a rogue Klingon commander.
As Discovery showed in its first couple of seasons, there’s plenty of life in the Klingons as villains. When stories get their warrior-barbarian culture right, the Klingons can feel very threatening indeed. I’d point to the Deep Space Nine Season 5 episode Nor the Battle to the Strong as just one example of that. But having seen the Klingons as allies throughout Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War in particular, and having had sympathetic characters like Worf, B’Elanna Torres, and General Martok, making the Klingon Empire as a whole an enemy once again wouldn’t be my first choice in Star Trek any more.
wej Duj found a clever way around this by giving us a character somewhat inspired by The Undiscovered Country’s General Chang. By making it clear that Togg was acting on his own, without the backing of the Klingon High Council or Chancellor – which should be Martok at this point in time, surely! – the story managed to be interesting and entertaining, but without dragging the Federation and Klingons into open conflict with one another. I think many Trekkies like the Klingons far better when they’re allies, with their aggressive nature turned on mutual enemies, than when they come into direct conflict with Starfleet – and I’m generally in that place too. While the Klingons can and do make entertaining villains, I enjoyed the way they were portrayed in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and would be loathe to see them as enemies once again.
T’Lyn and her Vulcan colleagues also provided the episode with plenty of humour. The absolutely deadpan way that all of the Vulcans spoke to one another was hilarious, and the way they interpreted very politely-worded statements as emotional outbursts or insults was a very funny send-up of Vulcan culture from Lower Decks’ writers.
Though they featured prominently in the images shown off before the episode’s broadcast, wej Duj only contained brief scenes involving Tendi, Mariner, and Rutherford. I’d have liked to have seen a little more of the ensigns and their “bridge buddies” during their down time. Tendi’s rock-climbing outing with Dr T’Ana was a cute reference to The Final Frontier, which saw Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy enjoying shore leave at Yosemite national park. Rutherford’s pottery-making class with Shaxs actually contained a very sweet moment between the two, with Rutherford calling Shaxs “Papa Bear” when the latter became angry and upset by Boimler mentioning Bajor.
Mariner didn’t appear to be enjoying her time with Captain Freeman at first, as the pair engaged in some mother-daughter bonding time on the holodeck and later in the captain’s ready room. But as they parted ways, both admitted that they had a good time together – another very sweet moment, and further evidence of the change in Mariner’s character and attitude that we’ve been tracking since midway through Season 1.
As the crew of the Cerritos scrambled to their posts from their leisure activities, the ship was awash with out-of-uniform officers. It was a pretty funny mix of characters in different outfits, and the sight gag of characters in everything from ball gowns to winter coats worked very well. It also showed that the crew are capable, despite serving on a “lowly” ship. These are still professional Starfleet officers, after all!
Two questions remain now that wej Duj is over. Firstly: is the Pakled threat now over? Their reliance on Klingon weaponry has now been exposed, and with Commander Togg dead there isn’t anyone left to manipulate the Pakleds and push them closer to all-out war, so perhaps the threat is now largely at an end. I feel that the Pakleds have been very funny in Lower Decks as adversaries, but the way they’ve been presented has left them feeling like a one-trick – or one-joke – pony. Perhaps the “Pakleds are really dumb” joke has run its course, even though there was plenty of humour derived from that premise this week. Better to end it before it outstays its welcome, though!
Secondly, the end of the episode saw T’Lyn dismissed by her Vulcan commander and forcibly reassigned aboard a Starfleet vessel. Could she be making her way to the USS Cerritos, perhaps? T’Lyn provided ample humour in her own incredibly Vulcan way in wej Duj, and while there probably isn’t room for a fifth lower decker as a major character, bringing her in as a recurring character or in a different department could be an interesting way for the series to go as Season 3 beckons. It’s probably not going to happen… but you never know!
The worst thing about wej Duj is that now it’s over that means there’s only one episode left in Lower Decks Season 2! The ten-episode seasons that many modern television shows use are a double-edged sword in some ways. We get more shows, and the episodes that are made generally get a higher budget as a result. But it does mean that seasons seem to race by very quickly! I’m sure that Lower Decks has a suitably explosive finale planned for the end of the season, though.
wej Duj was a completely different kind of episode for Lower Decks. It saw guest-stars take centre-stage for the first time, and the episode was largely carried not by anyone aboard the USS Cerritos but by a pair of Klingons and some stoic, bickering Vulcans. Seeing the life of lower deckers on a couple of different ships was an absolutely outstanding premise, and wej Duj pulled it off with aplomb. The complicated story was expertly weaved together as it reached its climax, and appears to have exposed and perhaps resolved the lingering Pakled threat.
I had a lot of fun with wej Duj, and it will go down as one of the highlights of Season 2 without a doubt. It was funny almost from the first moment, with suitable moments of tension as the complex four-starship battle unfolded. It’s set a high bar for next week’s season finale!
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2. Further spoilers are present for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series, The Next Generation Season 4, Discovery Season 1, and Picard Season 1.
Prior to the broadcast of Where Pleasant Fountains Lie, there was arguably more hype than for any other Lower Decks episode so far this season. The return of actor Jeffrey Combs to the Star Trek franchise – he’d previously played Shran in Enterprise and Weyoun in Deep Space Nine, among other characters – was something that the marketing team were keen to show off on social media, and with this episode having been teased earlier in the season, as its broadcast approached there was certainly a degree of hype.
Considering how a couple of previous returning actors’ roles landed – John de Lancie in Season 1’s Veritas and Robert Duncan McNeill in We’ll Always Have Tom Paris just a few weeks ago – I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But I was pleased to see that Combs’ character of Agimus – an evil computer – was handled well and played a significant role in the story.
I didn’t know that the one thing Lower Decks had been missing was a spotlight episode for chief engineer Andy Billups, but you know what? It worked far better than I would’ve expected. The rest of the senior staff – Captain Freeman, Commander Ransom, Dr T’Ana, and Shaxs – have had aspects of their characterisations and backgrounds explored gradually, with little tidbits dropped in previous episodes. Billups didn’t have much of that; the closest he’d gotten to a spotlight moment until this week was in Season 1’s Crisis Point, where he was part of Rutherford’s story.
Billups was certainly the least well-known of the senior staff, despite being Rutherford’s boss. Lower Decks just hasn’t spent as much time in engineering as it has in other areas of the ship, so he’d been a background presence at best for much of the show’s run to date. This week’s episode felt like Lower Decks was almost trying to make up for lost time by dropping Billups into a major plotline that not only gave him a starring role but that also explained much of his background.
One thing that I liked about this storyline is that it was a riff on the old maxim “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Billups, in his earlier appearances, seemed to be a bland, uninteresting human, probably from North America. He was dedicated to his work in engineering, and though he was on friendly terms with others on the senior staff, we never really saw him as a party animal or even having a close friendship. He seemed to be a pretty plain, uninteresting character – and we would’ve expected his background to match that persona.
Billups’ people – the Hysperians – are very far removed from that expectation! There was something about the Hysperians that reminded me very much of peoples Captain Kirk encountered during both The Original Series and The Animated Series; a throwback to Star Trek’s earlier days, where planetary societies based around ancient Rome or 1920s Chicago were commonplace. These kinds of stories and civilisations had faded from Star Trek by the time of The Next Generation, and it was a pleasant surprise to see Lower Decks bringing them back.
The aesthetic used for the Hysperians and their vessel was unique, too. Inspired by a “renaissance fair” – as the episode noted – there was something fun and whimsical about their appearance. On the surface, factions like the Hysperians may seem “less realistic” than others in Star Trek, but I’d actually argue the opposite. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to think that future groups of humans might settle colonies and establish societies based around mutual likes – it’s basically an extension of online communities where people share what they have in common.
The design of the Hysperian cruiser was neat, and both inside and out it reflected their “renaissance fair” society. The hallways being lined with huge portraits reminded me of more than one stately home that my parents dragged me to visit as a child, and I liked that the Hysperians re-named their ship’s systems to match their culture.
Billups’ storyline raised a very interesting question. Apparently, in addition to (or as part of) their medieval-fantasy culture, the Hysperians have a strange attitude toward sex and sexuality. Losing one’s virginity seems to be a big deal in their society – at least among the aristocracy. (Are all Hysperians aristocrats? Or are there peasants to go along with the knights and castles? An interesting aside!) So Billups had been avoiding losing his virginity as doing so would mean he would have to become king.
Given that Billups was incredibly reluctant to have sex – to the point that he had to be tricked into it – and that he seemed uncomfortable both before being taken to his quarters and immediately prior to getting into bed, I wonder if Billups might be asexual? Certainly this is one of the most overt references that the Star Trek franchise has ever made to asexuality, and although parts of it were – somewhat disappointingly – played as a joke, as someone who is asexual myself I find the whole thing particularly interesting.
Many asexual people – myself included – have had sex. This can be for a variety of reasons: societal pressure, the lack of education or awareness of asexuality, and the desire to appear “normal,” among many others. Because Billups seemed so genuinely uncomfortable at what would’ve been his first time, and that he’d made it to adulthood without ever losing his virginity, I’m wondering if we could make that inference. Billups chose to prioritise his work and his love of Starfleet over having sex, at any rate, so sex is clearly not a high priority for him.
We need more positive portrayals of asexual people in all forms of media – as well as portrayals of LGBT+ people in general. Though there were some issues with the way Billups’ role in the story was handled when viewed through that lens, such as how his apparent impotence was being played as a joke, I want to give Lower Decks credit for tackling this kind of story. Some folks might choose to attack the show for going down an overtly sexual route for part of this week’s story – particularly in light of the “adult content” controversy that blew up in the aftermath of Mugato, Gumato recently – but I’m honestly just pleased to see anything tangentially related to asexuality appear!
There is also a second dimension to this, and it’s one Star Trek has tackled recently. By attempting to trick Billups into sex, the queen and the other Hysperians were essentially forcing him into a sexual act that he couldn’t consent to. Billups also made it clear on several occasions that he categorically did not want to have sex. There’s a word for forcing someone into sex or tricking them into it under false pretences: rape.
Ash Tyler’s portrayal in Star Trek: Discovery, particularly in the latter part of Season 1, was a very powerful analogy for male victims of rape and sexual assault. Though the way Billups’ sexual encounter was handled in Lower Decks was very different, the premise is comparable. Star Trek has never shied away from tackling these tough topics, but Lower Decks didn’t really provide much closure in that regard. Rutherford’s timely arrival prevented Billups from being tricked into having sex, but there were no consequences for his mother and the Hysperians who tricked him. The whole thing was played very light-heartedly, and when we compare this to the powerful Ash Tyler storyline in Discovery it feels as thought it comes up short.
There was a distinct and out-of-place light-heartedness to the way the Hysperians and their queen were portrayed, both before and after their most recent attempt to trick Billups into a sexual encounter that he absolutely did not want to have. Lower Decks played some of this for laughs, and while humour is definitely something subjective, the jokes obscured some pretty dark and serious subject matter. Society as a whole needs to do better with helping and believing victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault, and male victims can be particularly invisible. Some male victims of sexual crimes have even reported being mocked and laughed at by law enforcement when they attempted to report what happened and seek help. Portrayals like this one don’t help the mindset that “men can’t be victims.”
Shelving that side of the story for now, we come to Rutherford. He played a role on this side of the story, but parts of it felt a little out-of-character. Though his conversation with Tendi at the beginning of the episode, in which he shared his reluctance to take on the assignment and work on a different ship, set up her devastation later on when she felt she’d pushed him to take an assignment that led to his death, the idea that Rutherford of all people wouldn’t jump at the chance to work on a fancy new starship engine for a change just didn’t seem to fit.
Rutherford’s death always felt like a fake-out, even though the episode put us through several minutes of seeing other characters reacting to his supposed death. The way Dr T’Ana informed Tendi was sweet, and I wish we could’ve seen more of the usually-grumpy doctor showing a softer, more sympathetic side for a change. Tendi of course reacted very strongly and with emotion – and the performance by Noël Wells was fantastic at that moment.
In light of Rutherford’s memory loss at the end of last season not really manifesting in a major way this season, and particularly after Shaxs came back from the dead in unexplained fashion, Rutherford was clearly not in any danger. I don’t even think that Lower Decks wanted to convince us as the audience that he was really dead, even though the characters went along with it at first. It wasn’t exactly a waste, as it set up the conclusion to the story quite well, but I’m not really sure what to make of it.
Rutherford being “dead” obviously hit Tendi the hardest. And even after he was shown to be alright, she was still very clearly affected by the experience. We might yet see some consequence of this in a future story; Tendi seemed very nervous and might try to interfere in a future story if she thinks it’ll help save Rutherford’s life. But that’s just speculation – it’s just as likely this whole thing will be forgotten as Lower Decks moves on to new stories in future.
Tendi and Rutherford spoke about getting him out of his comfort zone at the beginning of the episode. Though I stand by what I said earlier about Rutherford’s reluctance to work on a new ship being out-of-character, as a concept I liked what Tendi had to say. It can be important for everyone to push themselves and try something new. It can be something work-related, learning a new skill, or even visiting a different place for the first time. Though this wasn’t exactly the core of the story – and Tendi expressed regret when she thought Rutherford had been killed – the message itself is worth paying attention to for anyone who feels like they’re settled and haven’t tried anything new or different for a while. It’s very unlikely to end as explosively as it almost did for Rutherford!
On the other side of this week’s story were Boimler and Mariner, paired up once again for a mission aboard a shuttlecraft. After Agimus had been taken into Federation custody at the beginning of the episode, the duo were assigned to transport it (him?) to the Daystrom Institute for safekeeping. I liked that the Daystrom Institute was name-dropped here, as it has recently appeared in Star Trek: Picard. Dr Jurati was a scientist who worked there at the beginning of Season 1. The Daystrom Institute has appeared in other iterations of Star Trek as well, and was named for Dr Richard Daystrom, a computer scientist who appeared in The Original Series.
Jeffrey Combs has always played devious, villainous characters exceptionally well in Star Trek, and Agimus was no exception. Combs’ distinctive voice gave the evil computer a genuinely menacing quality, as each syllable dripped with malice and their attempts at manipulating Boimler and Mariner were obvious.
Agimus picks up another trope from The Original Series – computer-dominated societies. Lower Decks already brought back Landru at the end of Season 1, but there are other examples of this, such as Vaal and the Controller of Sigma Draconis VI. Again, this was a welcome step back to what felt like a story that could’ve been part of the franchise’s early days. Agimus is very much in line with the way other evil computers had been depicted – but elevated by Jeffrey Combs’ portrayal.
Though this side of the story teed up some Mariner-versus-Boimler tension, I was glad that the way that particular storyline ended showed Boimler in a positive light. Boimler has grown a lot since we first encountered him at the beginning of Season 1, and particularly after the lessons he’s learned this season about maintaining his close friendship with Mariner, if he had succumbed so easily to Agimus’ manipulations it wouldn’t have felt right.
But Boimler certainly had Mariner and Agimus fooled! I like seeing a more confident Boimler following his jaunt aboard the USS Titan. There must’ve been a temptation to reset the character after he returned to the Cerritos, but realistically an experience like that would have changed him. We see this change manifest in Boimler becoming more confident in his own abilities and more secure in his knowledge – even to the point that he surpasses Mariner in this particular story, figuring out a solution before she could and seeming to go along with Agimus only to gain access to the malignant computer’s battery.
It was a well-executed story, and one which didn’t come at the expense of Mariner. Though she was understandably unaware of what Boimler was doing, she wasn’t portrayed as being naïve or stupid in order to give Boimler his surprise ending. She underestimated him – believing him not to be ready for a different away mission. But we could also interpret her meddling as a desire to keep Boimler on the lower decks with her. Having lost him once, she isn’t prepared to lose him again. Whether she’s aware of that as she’s going behind his back isn’t clear – and I suspect that this side of their relationship will have to be explored again at some point. But this time, in the context of this story, it worked well.
Their shuttle crashing on a desert planet reminded me of The Next Generation fourth season episode Final Mission. In that story, Wesley Crusher and Captain Picard would similarly find themselves crash-landing on a desert world, and having to survive with a somewhat hostile companion. That episode would also mark Wesley’s departure as a permanent cast member (though he did return to The Next Generation for a couple of other stories). Whether intentional or not, it was neat to feel that Lower Decks was channelling that episode at points.
Agimus made for a difficult adversary for Boimler and Mariner to overcome, especially considering the crash severely damaged their shuttle. The stakes were raised higher by the damaged replicator and the loss of their emergency rations to an alien monster. It seems to have been around this point that Boimler formulated his plan! The joke about the replicator only being able to serve up black liquorice was also funny – as was the plant that also tasted of liquorice. I guess it must be an acquired taste – though I’ve always liked liquorice personally.
Mariner and Boimler’s trek across an unforgiving landscape also presented a comparison to their first away mission together in the second episode of Season 1: Envoys. That story saw Boimler at his most anxious and out-of-place; the contrast with the confident way he executed his plan this time around could not be more stark. The fact that both episodes saw an away mission aboard a shuttle go awry is interesting – Lower Decks is almost being poetic!
After their rescue, Boimler and Mariner returned to the Cerritos aboard a shuttle crewed by officers in the black-and-grey uniform style that Boimler wore aboard the USS Titan. Presumably these officers were from another ship, but it was interesting that they weren’t just picked up by the crew of the Cerritos. It was funny to see Agimus in their “prison” – surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of near-identical evil computers. Apparently out-of-control AI is a huge problem for the Star Trek galaxy… no wonder the Romulans in Star Trek: Picard were so concerned!
This week’s episode had two stories that both felt well-paced. Neither story felt rushed, and the number of characters present felt about right. Though the two stories went in completely different directions – literally and metaphorically speaking – both harkened back to The Original Series in ways that were very clever. It’s been a while since Star Trek produced an episode that felt so connected to the planets, peoples, and storylines of its first iteration, so that was fantastic.
Though there were some issues with the way Billups’ story was handled, I maintain that he could be asexual. At the very least there was an interesting asexuality-adjacent storyline this week, and it’s the first time that I can recall that Star Trek has come so close to touching on this subject. It wasn’t perfect, for the reasons I laid out above, but it was something – and there’s power in almost any form of positive representation, even when things aren’t perfect. If you’re interested to read my story about coming to terms with being asexual, you can find it by clicking or tapping here.
Mariner and Boimler had an exciting story too, and Jeffrey Combs put in a wonderful performance as the antagonistic Agimus. It was great to welcome him back to Star Trek – and to see solid evidence of Boimler’s growth as a character.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2. Minor spoilers are also present for Short Treks.
This week’s episode perhaps wasn’t the funniest of the season – though there were some good jokes and moments of humour – but you know what? It was by far the most character-driven and emotional episode we’ve seen probably since Season 1’s Crisis Point. The two main character pairings each got to talk out emotional issues that had been lingering since the end of Season 1, and perhaps my only criticism would be that this episode would’ve worked better slightly earlier in the season!
For the first time in at least a couple of weeks, I felt that Lower Decks wasn’t trying to cram too much into a single episode. There was time for Boimler and Mariner to have their story, Rutherford and Tendi to have theirs, and the bridge crew to also be involved in a way that ultimately connected to both other storylines and didn’t feel forced or rushed.
Having blitzed through the Rutherford memory loss story at the beginning of the season and effectively “reset” him to where he had been in Season 1, this week’s Rutherford and Tendi team-up – in which he comes to terms with his memory loss and realises he doesn’t need to compete against his former self – would have worked better had it come earlier in the season. There was still a considerable emotional payoff in what was, as mentioned, an episode brimming with emotion, but had we seen more of Rutherford struggling with his lost memories in any of the first four episodes, this week’s conclusion would’ve felt more natural and more earned.
Considering that An Embarrassment of Dooplers had to set up Rutherford’s struggles, elaborate on them, and reach a satisfying conclusion in what was a B-plot, I have to give the episode plenty of credit. Rutherford and Tendi’s story was compact, but it revolved around a single item – their starship model kit – and placing this simple macguffin in the story kept it laser-focused. Had the writers tried to bring in too many different ways that Rutherford’s memory loss was affecting him, the story could’ve become unwieldy and lost its emotional core. In this case less was more – and the episode delivered.
As someone who used to build scale models (yes, I was that weird nerdy kid you’d see in model shops and toyshops) I adore that the writers brought in this element to Rutherford and Tendi’s friendship. It seems like the perfect hobby for the pair of them, as they both adore the ship and seemingly everything else about serving in Starfleet. I can absolutely buy into the idea that they’d want to spend their downtime working on a starship model.
I also absolutely love Tendi’s explanation for why the model was unfinishable. The idea that they would use the model as an excuse to not hang out or to prevent people from bothering them while they shared their time off together is simultaneously something I can relate to (as someone who is neurodivergent and has a very low tolerance for interacting with people) and, in a narrative context, a very cute romantic gesture. For all of my talk last week about “shipping” Boimler and Rutherford – which I still think would be adorable, by the way – the idea that either Tendi or Rutherford came up with this way of keeping people away so that they could enjoy time together without any distractions is incredibly sweet. It’s a kind of nerdy sweet, which is even better!
Star Trek has always proudly shown off alien races that seem to be illogical or with traits that make very little sense. The Yridians always spring to mind during such conversations; would an entire race really be involved in information trading? How did they ever develop as a species if all of them are information dealers? The Bynars are another example: half-cyborgs who can only work in pairs. And don’t even get me started on the Q Continuum or Trelane (maybe Trelane is a Q?!), so when the Dooplers with their ability to self-duplicate were introduced in this episode, I barely batted an eyelid.
For some folks, though, I can predict that the Dooplers’ silliness might be a point of attack. There’s something kind of Rick and Morty-esque about this new race of aliens, and for some on the anti-Trek side of things perhaps they might latch onto that to criticise Lower Decks. But as I said above, there are myriad aliens and stories from past iterations of Star Trek that are equally silly or unbelievable – remember that episode of The Animated Series where the Enterprise ended up in a parallel universe where magic is real? Where do you think shows like Rick and Morty got their ideas from, anyway? Star Trek has always had aliens like the Dooplers – and if you want to get scientific about it, cell division (mitosis) is a thing, and a form of reproduction for many organisms. Perhaps the Dooplers simply reproduce in this asexual form – no, not that kind of asexual!
Captain Freeman had her hands full with the exponentially-reproducing Dooplers, though! I was reminded more than a little of the Short Treks episode The Trouble With Edward, in which tribbles quickly overrun the USS Cabot. That was a very funny episode – well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. I don’t think I really spoiled it too badly there, so definitely track down a copy!
There’s a fine line between a trope and a stereotype, though, and the exaggerated Jewish-American accent used for the Dooplers, combined with their social awkwardness and ease of embarrassment, felt like it strayed very close at times. It was a little uncomfortable for that reason, kind of like watching the depiction of recurring Family Guy character Mort Goldman (and other Jewish-American stereotypes that that series seems to love for some reason). Maybe you can accuse me of being overly-sensitive, saying it was just a joke, etc. But it wasn’t a comfortable portrayal for me, it was one which leaned into stereotyping in a way that Star Trek should really be above.
The Dooplers themselves were one-dimensional. There isn’t much more to say; complaints of falling into stereotyping aside, the Doopler ambassador was a character who basically had one trait: he was prone to embarrassment. That embarrassment was something Captain Freeman and her senior staff had been trying to avoid for the entire mission – until an ill-timed rant about how awkward the mission was led to the duplication process starting anyway. The whole “he was behind you and overheard you say things about him” trope was put to good use here!
Captain Freeman ultimately had the same motivation as Ensign Mariner in this episode, but mother and daughter approached their shared goal in fundamentally different ways. They also both experienced rejection, yet at the end found comfort in spending time together. Though the Mariner-Freeman family aspect wasn’t the main focus of the story, this smaller element didn’t pass by unnoticed. We got to see Mariner and Freeman wanting the same thing – to attend the fancy Starfleet party – and we got to see them go about it in very different ways, highlighting that they have both similarities as mother and daughter, but still some pretty significant differences.
The main thrust of the story focused on Mariner and Boimler, and this was their first major outing as a duo since the season began. Again, as with the Rutherford and Tendi story, I might’ve moved this episode to an earlier point in the season, as some of their emotional moments felt like they could’ve arisen upon Boimler’s return to the ship – not several weeks later. But despite that, we got a story that was both funny and emotional.
After arriving on the starbase, Mariner decides that they need to speak to a shady character to get information about the fancy Starfleet party – as its location was supposedly a secret. The payoff to this joke, of course, was that the party was being held in what seemed to be the main ballroom on the station, and all the running away from security was ultimately unnecessary! This aspect of the story was the comedic part, as Mariner and Boimler raced away in a dune buggy/kart to escape security.
The sequence that took Mariner and Boimler in their kart through a variety of different shops and locations on the station was pretty funny, and reminded me of something you might see in a romantic comedy film – and I mean that in a good way! The sense that they were on an out-of-control ride, complete with some pretty slapstick humour, was a much-needed lighthearted sequence in an episode that was quite heavy on emotion later on. The parade of different shops was also reminiscent of the promenade, which was a major location in Deep Space Nine.
After taking his promotion and transferring to the USS Titan in the Season 1 finale, one thing we saw was that Boimler was ignoring messages from Mariner. Though he almost certainly was doing so due to his anxiety (answering the phone can be very difficult for people with anxieties, especially if the expected conversation is something negative), she felt abandoned by him. Just last week we learned that Mariner has experienced this rejection and abandonment before – in that case, her defence mechanism became telling elaborate stories about herself and crafting rumours that would lead to a sense of dark mystery. She chooses to avoid many people because of her fear of being rejected as they move on and move up the career ladder. She’d considered Boimler to be different, so his “betrayal” hit her very hard.
Finally getting all of these emotions out and laying them on the table was cathartic. Not only that, but it continued Mariner’s wonderful character arc going back to Season 1, as her characterisation as someone who is lonely and struggles to maintain friendships despite her “cool” persona was again laid bare. The only part I found a tad unbelievable was Boimler’s response, telling Mariner that he “didn’t know [she] had emotions.” He’d been her friend long enough to know that she can be emotional, and just last week he saw firsthand how much his friendship meant to her when she was so dejected that he’d believe the silly rumour she started. But that aside, this moment was beautiful and well-executed.
Boimler choosing to ditch the fancy party packed with Admirals and Captains to be with her was a wrench for him and a sacrifice, but it was one that worked perfectly for the story. Just like Mariner has grown over the past dozen episodes, so too has Boimler. Friendship matters to him, and Mariner matters to him in this moment – more so than just some fancy party. He could’ve schmoozed with senior officers and perhaps tried to score another promotion, but it seems that he was willing to give up on that – at least for now – to be with her. It was an incredibly sweet moment.
So I think that’s about all I have to say this time. Both main character pairs got cathartic, emotional stories that reinforced their friendships, and we even got a moment between Mariner and the Captain to round things off. For the first time in three weeks, Lower Decks managed to get the balance right in terms of the number of characters and stories it tried to include. Every character felt necessary to the episode’s plotlines, no story felt rushed, and the slower pace of the closing moments worked exceptionally well. There was still time for humour and to make jokes, but the success of An Embarrassment of Dooplers was its emotional edge.
It was sweet to see Mariner and Boimler enjoying one another’s company as friends, and likewise with Tendi and Rutherford. Each pair dealt with issues left over from Season 1 in a way that worked, and though I would argue the episode could’ve been bumped up the schedule so it came earlier in the season, overall I had a fun time this week. There were some neat references to past iterations of Star Trek, too – obviously the Kirk and Spock callback in the bar was cute, as well as something that firmly established the extent of Boimler and Mariner’s relationship. By comparing them to Kirk and Spock I’d argue the episode went out of its way to stamp out any ideas of a romantic bond between them, despite the semi-romantic nature of its storyline. There was also a callback to Okona – a character from The Next Generation who appears to have started a new career as a DJ. We’d heard a while back that Okona actor Billy Campbell was making a return to Star Trek – supposedly in Prodigy – but his voice wasn’t heard in this episode despite Okona’s appearance.
Overall, a great episode that was thoroughly enjoyable. An Embarrassment of Dooplers slowed down just long enough to allow its four main characters to shine. Oh, and hearing Dr T’Ana swear four times in a single sentence will never not be funny!
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks. Minor spoilers may also be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Kayshon, His Eyes Open was a great episode. It’s only the second episode of the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to look back in a few weeks and say it was the best – or one of the best – offerings in all of Season 2. Both of its storylines worked exceptionally well, even though they were wholly separate. There were plenty of jokes, humorous situations, and comic moments, there was great interplay between different characters, including some new characters we didn’t know, and the episode resolved the Boimler situation in a way that was completely unexpected.
The episode opened with a scene that was simultaneously funny and interesting – and which set up the character conflict between Mariner and Jet. Though the comic situation with Mariner and Jet turning up the sonic shower was funny, it was also interesting to see the inside of a sonic shower. This is a technology that has been mentioned on dozens of occasions in Star Trek – going all the way back as far as The Motion Picture – but this is perhaps our best look at a sonic shower so far. It was also our first look at communal sonic showers (at least as far as I can recall) and it was interesting to note that junior officers and “lower deckers” are expected to use these kinds of facilities. This communal shower is something we would almost certainly find aboard ships like the USS Defiant – though past iterations of the franchise seem to imply that ships like the Enterprise-D and USS Voyager have individual sonic showers in their crew quarters. I couldn’t tell if Mariner and Jet were turning up the heat or the frequency of the sonic waves, though!
I neglected to mention this last time, but there has been a significant change to the show’s title sequence. The battle that the USS Cerritos retreats from now features Klingon and Pakled ships alongside Borg and Romulans. It isn’t clear who’s fighting who – the Pakleds and the Romulans seem to be firing at each other, with the Borg firing at everyone! A very confused battle, that’s for sure. The Pakled ships use the same design as the craft the Cerritos and Titan battled in the Season 1 finale.
After the title sequence we jump into the main thrust of the plot featuring Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi. On this side of the story there was only one part that I felt was a bit of a flop: Captain Freeman’s command evaluation. It didn’t really do anything for her character, and seemed to be present as a minor storyline only to provide an excuse for Freeman not checking in with the away team. However, I feel that the episode could’ve proceeded just fine without this unnecessary explanation, and reallocating the minute or two this took up to either the Boimler or Mariner-led stories would’ve been fine too. It’s nice to spend time with the senior staff as well as the ensigns, but on this occasion it was such a minor point that it could’ve been skipped and the episode would’ve been no worse for it.
The Cerritos being assigned to catalogue a collection of artefacts was a fantastic way for the episode to drop in a huge number of references to past iterations of Star Trek. Most of these played no role whatsoever in the story, but it was so much fun to try to spot all of the things in this collection. There were some contemporary references too – a vehicle that resembled the Curiosity or Perseverance rovers currently on Mars, as well as what looked like a fidget spinner (remember those?)
The titular Kayshon is, as the trailers had already established, a Tamarian. First encountered in The Next Generation Season 5 episode Darmok, the Tamarians were a race that the Federation had previously found it difficult to communicate with due to their peculiar language. Tamarians spoke entirely through metaphors, and without crucial context it was impossible for the universal translator to communicate meaning – even though it could translate many words in a literal sense. However, it seems that by the early 2380s (when Lower Decks is set) that limitation has been largely overcome!
One great thing about Lower Decks is how the show looks at the aftermath of some past Star Trek stories. In Season 1 we had the return of Landru, as the crew of the Cerritos returned to Beta III decades after Captain Kirk’s mission there. In this case, we get a much more positive portrayal of Starfleet and their actions. In the aftermath of the events depicted in Darmok, the Federation and the Tamarians evidently found ways to work together to overcome the language barrier, allowing at least one Tamarian to serve in Starfleet.
Kayshon himself didn’t get a lot of screen time, as he was turned into a puppet by the collector’s automated defence system. This was pretty random, but it was necessary to keep him out of the way in order for the Mariner-versus-Jet storyline to play out. I’m not sure if Kayshon is set to be a recurring character or not, but if so it would be nice to learn more about the Tamarians.
I won’t go over every item I spotted in the collection, but there were definitely some fun ones. There were multiple references to The Next Generation in particular, with items from episodes like The Pegasus, The Battle, and The Royale. Khan’s amulet/pendant was also displayed prominently, as were crates of Château Picard wine – a reference to the Picard family vineyard most recently seen in Star Trek: Picard.
Kahless’ “fornication helmet” was one of the most random, funny items in the whole collection, and became a minor plot point later in the episode. Dissecting a joke ruins it, of course, but this one is multi-layered for Trekkies and it works so well. Past iterations of the franchise have established that Klingon “love-making” is particularly aggressive and physically taxing, so the idea that some ancient Klingons might’ve worn helmets doesn’t come from nowhere. Gosh this is awkward to write about – I’m asexual, so any discussion of such topics is difficult!
The main thrust of the plot on this side of the episode was Mariner and Jet’s inability to work together. Both wanted to take the lead and assume command after Kayshon became incapacitated, but they have opposite styles of leadership that simply do not gel. Both characters want to be assertive, yet both realise that in doing so – and in competing with one another – they made mistakes that led to the situation becoming worse.
Some of this was a little on-the-nose; we didn’t need to hear the two characters say everything out loud to understand what was going on. But in a twenty-minute animated episode that was pressed for time, perhaps such things are to be expected! Regardless, none of the exposition from Jet or Mariner as they called each other out, and came to realise their mistakes, detracted from the story. It was still a solid character piece for them both.
Mariner in particular is our protagonist and our heroine, so naturally we’re more invested in her than we are in Jet. Mariner’s lines at this point in the story, recognising her own mistakes and perhaps more importantly, recognising why she had made those mistakes, feels right in line with her growth across Season 1. I’ve said on more than one occasion that Mariner’s Season 1 character arc has been one of the best things about Lower Decks, and I stand by that. The way she was able to recognise her own error here, and then throw the decision-making to Rutherford and Tendi, was great to see. Mariner appears to have solidified the better parts of that character arc from last time, and any fears I might’ve had of a regression or resetting of her character have proven to be unfounded.
Tendi and Rutherford are able to put their heads together and figure out an escape plan that neither Mariner nor Jet were able to, and while the situation aboard the collector’s ship was left unresolved (they abandoned ship with the defence system still online) the character story between Jet and Mariner worked exceptionally well.
Before we get into Boimler’s story I want to just look briefly at Rutherford and Tendi. Last time, their B-plot was very rushed and unfortunately didn’t work all that well. This time they were secondary players in a Mariner-centric story, which is fine. But I stand by what I said recently – Rutherford’s implant/memory loss storyline has been a waste of a good concept.
For whatever reason, Lower Decks appears to have shelved Rutherford’s memory loss, which was one of the final reveals at the end of Season 1. By the end of the last episode he was basically back to normal, his friendships with Mariner and Tendi having been re-established off-screen. There was an opportunity to play the memory loss thing straight, or to take a comedic look at it. There was also an opportunity to change up Rutherford altogether, perhaps by giving him different cybernetic implants that could do different things – or at least look a little different. As it is, the memory loss story that was set up at the end of Season 1 just didn’t go anywhere. It may yet play a role in a future episode, but if so it will be limited in scope to a single story rather than being a part of Rutherford’s character across the season. I’m left wondering why Lower Decks bothered to tee up something and then not follow it through.
Aboard the USS Titan, Boimler is doing his best. We saw him seemingly struggling in the trailers for Season 2, as well as at the tail end of last episode, but despite the way it may have looked, he does seem to be settling in as well as someone with his anxieties and neuroses possibly could. There has always been a little of Reg Barclay in the way Boimler is portrayed, and we definitely saw elements of that with him on this occasion, particularly the oblivious way he wrote down everything Riker was saying in the conference room.
Speaking of Riker, it was great to welcome Jonathan Frakes back to the role once more. We’d known he was coming back, of course, but having an entire Titan-focused storyline was great. It was a bit of a shame not to have Troi alongside him, but perhaps there wouldn’t have been enough time to give both of them enough to do to make it worthwhile.
The three members of the Titan’s senior staff that Boimler teamed up with for the away mission felt pretty bland at first, but when they were cornered by the Pakleds in the mine they came into their own. Boimler stood up for himself, telling them that he didn’t join Starfleet to fight and get killed, and seeing him say that they each shared their own reasons for joining up as well. Though we’re unlikely to see any of these characters again, I liked that this moment gave each of them a bit more personality – as well as showing off Boimler’s love of Starfleet once again.
The episode didn’t entirely conclude the Pakled threat, though. I wonder if we’ll find out more about their mysterious benefactor, the one Riker believed is orchestrating their attacks on Federation targets. This could be something that runs in the background all season, or it could be explored in-depth in another episode. In a way I’d like to see the Pakled situation resolved, though in light of Boimler’s hilarious line at the end of the episode about “serialised” stories and characters – a reference to the way other modern Star Trek series tell their stories – perhaps it won’t happen!
The away mission to the mine was a fun jaunt, and I think we really got to see Boimler at his best. He can be timid and anxious much of the time, but when pushed into a corner Boimler is willing to stand up for himself and for Starfleet, and we saw him do so here. Not only that, but his in-depth knowledge of past Starfleet missions allowed him to step up and save the away team.
One of the most interesting things going into Season 2 was the question of Boimler’s status on the Titan. I had a few theories about how and why he might get bumped back to the Cerritos, but I couldn’t have possibly predicted the direction Lower Decks would go in this regard! The Next Generation Season 6 episode Second Chances introduced Thomas Riker – a transporter-created clone of William Riker. Thomas would later be captured by the Cardassians after defecting to the Maquis, and his fate after that is unknown. To recreate that storyline for Boimler was so unexpected, but it worked wonderfully.
We can certainly nitpick it and argue that demoting one of the Boimlers after he’d saved the lives of the away team is unfair, but this was Lower Decks pushing him back to the Cerritos to allow the rest of the season to pan out, so I think we can overlook that. The transporter duplicate situation was such a random occurrence, yet it was one which harkened back to Star Trek’s past – and I love it. It worked brilliantly, being utterly unpredictable and allowing Boimler to return to the Cerritos with his head held high. He didn’t fail, he wasn’t booted off the ship, and he didn’t need to ask for a demotion after feeling overwhelmed. Circumstances simply got in the way, and I think for Boimler as a character, and for his self-esteem in particular, those are good things.
The second Boimler, the one who remained aboard the Titan, gave me “evil twin” vibes. He certainly seems a lot more confident and outgoing than “our” Boimler, and I can’t help but wonder if Lower Decks is setting up a future villain. Will a future episode revolve around a Boimler-versus-Boimler battle? We’ll have to wait and see!
Speaking of creating villains, Jet seemed very angry at being spurned by Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford at the episode’s end. There was a moment where his face was in the centre of the frame as he walked away where I was thinking that we’d just witnessed the creation of another villain. I won’t be surprised to see him come back in a much more antagonistic role later in the season, so watch this space.
So that was Kayshon, His Eyes Open. Definitely the high point of the season so far, and one of the best episodes that the series has yet produced. There were a lot of references to Star Trek’s past, several of which played significant roles in the story. The two principle characters featured – Mariner and Boimler – stayed true to their growth and arcs from Season 1, making them both feel like fully-rounded protagonists.
The animation, as always, was fantastic. Lower Decks has a great visual style, and seeing the different colour palettes used for the Cerritos and Titan makes for a wonderful contrast between different 24th Century aesthetics. The Cerritos is very much in the style of the Enterprise-D, whereas the Titan has a distinctive Enterprise-E/Sovereign class feel throughout. The contrast works incredibly well, and having two stories set on the two different ships really played this up on this occasion.
Several of the secondary or guest characters worked really well this week too. Obviously Jet played off exceptionally against Mariner, but also we had Boimler’s away team colleagues who, despite seeming pretty one-dimensional at first, soon came into their own.
Overall, I had a great time with this week’s episode. It’s set a high bar for the rest of Season 2, and I hope that the series can continue to rise to the occasion!
Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and around the world. 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy, including for upcoming episodes.
For this year’s Comic-Con @Home digital event the Star Trek franchise was more streamlined than last year, with panels for only two upcoming productions: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 and Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1. Though it would’ve been nice to see something from some of the live-action productions as well – not least Strange New Worlds, about which we’ve seen very little – the two panels were interesting! There’s more than enough to get stuck into as we look ahead to August and the autumn.
With Discovery Season 4 also scheduled to begin airing before the end of 2021, it seems like Star Trek will hardly be away from our screens starting in less than three weeks’ time, which is fantastic news. Prodigy doesn’t yet have a definite broadcast date, but the Comic-Con panel confirmed that the series will debut this autumn. If ViacomCBS wants to stick to one Star Trek show at a time, perhaps that’ll put it in late October, but watch this space!
In addition to the panels we also got a new trailer for both shows, which was great to see. This is the first time we’ve seen Prodigy in action, and I have to say that the show looks amazing. The animation is visually impressive, easily on par with the best offerings from the likes of Disney and others, and the spirit of exploration and adventure that’s been at the core of past Star Trek shows for so long seems to be present in the series in a huge way.
As I’ve said before, the best children’s shows manage to have things to offer to adults as well, and it seems like Prodigy will absolutely be that kind of series. The main characters appear to come together on some kind of junkyard or shipbreaking planet, which is where they encounter the USS Protostar – a pretty neat name for a ship! This setup could mean that the kids are orphans or even slaves, and the idea of escaping to a better life via Starfleet is a surprisingly grown-up theme for a series targeting a younger audience.
The inclusion of a couple of familiar Alpha Quadrant races (a Medusan character and a Tellarite character) is also interesting. How did these individuals come to be so far from home? Perhaps they were kidnapped or taken by slavers, though this would be a very dark starting place for a kid-friendly show! I’m curious to learn more about the characters and in particular their backgrounds – were they simply born on this world with no idea how they came to be there? The original premise of Prodigy stated that none of the kids had ever heard of the Federation or Starfleet – but considering the Tellarites are Federation members and the Medusans had contact with the Federation at least a century earlier, the reason why could be interesting. Or I could be getting over-excited about minor points of canon again!
On the design of the USS Protostar, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Obviously there’s a degree of canon-bending taking place; this starship design is new and the ship itself looks too large to have been docked aboard Voyager during the latter’s journey through the Delta Quadrant. I had wondered if we might’ve got something like a runabout or even a Delta Flyer, but now that I think about it, a “classic” Star Trek design with a clear bridge, saucer section, and dual warp nacelles makes a lot of sense from an aesthetic point of view. It’s obviously ViacomCBS’ aim that fans of Prodigy will go on to check out other parts of the Star Trek franchise and become long-term fans, so keeping things relatively simple and consistent in terms of the basic designs and visual styles makes a lot of sense.
Though we only saw the Protostar’s bridge very briefly, I got the impression that it was a mix of Kelvin-timeline and Discovery-era styles, giving the ship’s command centre perhaps more of a modern look than one directly inspired by Voyager and other Star Trek shows of that era. Again this is something that probably makes sense; some younger viewers may feel that, compared to more modern offerings, ’90s Star Trek (and other sci-fi) doesn’t look quite as flashy and futuristic as it could!
Both internally and externally I like the ship’s design, and I’m looking forward to seeing more and really getting to grips with the show and its characters. The Prodigy panel told us a little more about some of the characters, and we got to meet several of the voice actors as well. I liked what Kate Mulgrew had to say about the show, and I’m really feeling positive about Prodigy now. It’s something that feels like it has the potential to really inspire a new generation of Trekkies, and that inspirational aspect of Star Trek is something that has been present since the beginning.
We learned a little more about some of the main characters from the panel, too. Rok-Tahk, the large rock-like alien, is in fact the youngest member of the crew (something we knew already when the cast was announced). But this seems like it will play exceptionally well into a fairly typical children’s show theme: don’t judge a book by its cover! The co-creators of Prodigy talked about how she’s a character who looks tough, as though she could be a security officer, but is in fact much more of a scientist and doesn’t like fighting. These kinds of story beats can work beautifully, and can often be teaching moments for adults just as much as for children!
Let’s move on to Lower Decks now. There was a panel and trailer for the show’s upcoming second season, and we got a lot of new information! Firstly, perhaps the biggest reveal from the Lower Decks trailer is the return of another Voyager star – Tom Paris. It seems as though Paris isn’t exactly going to make an appearance in the show, but rather will be a figment of Boimler’s imagination. It looks like a fun scene, though, and there’s already a prop replica that’s been announced of the “Tom Paris plate” that Boimler talks to!
There’s a lot to unpack from the trailer, but here’s a rundown of the things I noticed having seen it a few times now:
The Pakleds are back! The Pakleds were responsible for the attack on the Cerritos and her sister ship in the Season 1 finale.
Riker and Troi are also back, as is the USS Titan.
Boimler is an ensign again. How that will happen is still unclear, but there were more than enough scenes with him in his ensign’s uniform to confirm he’s been demoted and reassigned to the Cerritos. That seemed inevitable!
The Cardassians and Ferengi will make an appearance, with the latter looking set to be antagonists.
Mariner and Tendi seem to get into a bar fight with a group of Nausicaans – in what looks like a callback to Picard getting into a similar situation in The Next Generation Season 6 episode Tapestry.
Shaxs’ replacement is a Tamarian! Also known as the Children of Tama, this race appeared in The Next Generation Season 5 episode Darmok. Their distinguishing characteristic is the way in which they talk exclusively through the use of metaphors. I think this could go on to be a significant point of humour across the season!
The ensigns appear to visit Freecloud – a planet first seen in the Picard Season 1 episode Stardust City Rag.
A possible visit to Deep Space Nine is on the cards – though this could be a different Cardassian ship or facility. I love that Lower Decks is unapologetic in its re-use of the aesthetic of ’90s Star Trek, though! The Cardassian hallway with its panels and buttons was instantly recognisable.
Promotion was mentioned – perhaps for Tendi and/or Rutherford? Having seen Boimler promoted at the end of last season, it would be funny to see the other three all get promoted (and him to not be) this time!
Is Mariner in the brig?
Boimler was briefly depicted as a Locutus-style Borg – but does he really get assimilated or might that be a nightmare?
The Cerritos appeared to encounter the Crystalline Entity!
Phew! That was a lot, and I have no doubt I missed just as many things!
In the panel that accompanied the trailer, creator Mike McMahan explained that the second season will be “funnier and bigger” than Season 1, which lines up with what I said last time! Having found its feet last year and definitively proved its concept, Lower Decks is now free to really go all-in, let its hair down, and crank everything up to eleven!
Lower Decks managed to retain much of what makes Star Trek “Star Trek” while at the same time having a lot of fun. It used so many different elements from Star Trek’s past as a source of humour without ever coming across as mean-spirited or laughing at the franchise and its fans. Not every aspect worked and not every single joke landed in Season 1, but everything I heard from the panel and saw in the trailer has got me genuinely hyped up to see more of the same in Season 2.
One character arc that worked extremely well in the latter part of Season 1 was Mariner coming to terms with her role in Starfleet and her relationship with her mother – Captain Freeman. Tawny Newsome, who voices Mariner, had something to say about their relationship during the panel, and I like the fact that Season 2 hasn’t simply abandoned or reset this dynamic. Watching some of these characters continuing to grow and embrace their roles is something I’m genuinely looking forward to.
Lower Decks Season 2 is now less than three weeks away, and I cannot wait!
The panels and trailers are available to watch on YouTube and the official Star Trek website at time of writing, but just before we go I need to have a little rant. ViacomCBS and the Star Trek social media teams make it far more difficult than they should to access some of these things. For example, the official Star Trek Twitter account put out the trailer for Lower Decks Season 2… but if you’re in the UK at least it was unavailable to watch! And the official Paramount+ YouTube channel doesn’t have either trailer at time of writing, nor does the official Star Trek YouTube channel, despite the panels and trailers debuting more than 48 hours ago.
Big brands in 2021 need social media followers, and making it difficult for your fans to find something as basic as a trailer (which I can only access via third-parties that re-uploaded it) is beyond poor. It’s shocking, and ViacomCBS needs to work on this and get serious about the way it publishes marketing material. If you’re trying to bring in fans and viewers, this is not the way to go about it.
Rant over! And now the article is over too. I hope this was a bit of fun and brought you up to speed if you missed the panels and trailers.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 will debut on the 12th of August on Paramount+ in the United States, and within 24 hours on Amazon Prime Video in other countries and territories. Season 1 is available to stream now. Star Trek: Prodigy is due to be broadcast on Paramount+ in autumn 2021 and may be broadcast internationally on Nickelodeon. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks, Prodigy, 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 château 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers present for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.
I’ve been eagerly awaiting what I believed was an imminent announcement of the release date for Star Trek: Discovery’s third season. Season 2 concluded well over a year ago, in mid-April 2019, and while Star Trek: Picard took up what had been Discovery’s early-year broadcast window in 2020, I still thought we’d have seen the show in late spring or early summer. Even with the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, I thought that Discovery should have been well on the way to finishing its post-production work by the time Picard Season 1 was drawing to a close. I was surprised to see no mention of Discovery aside from a very brief “coming soon” placeholder image when Picard concluded, but I still thought we’d see the show around the midpoint of the year.
It took me by surprise, then, when it was announced that Star Trek: Lower Decks is going to premiere on the 6th of August – in just five weeks’ time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for Lower Decks and I was still hoping to see it this year, but I always thought that the plan for 2020 had been to release Picard in the early part of the year, then follow that up with Discovery Season 3, before dropping Lower Decks in the autumn. So it’s a little bit of a surprise that Lower Decks is going first!
Evidently what must’ve happened is that Lower Decks is ready to be broadcast while work is still continuing in some areas on Discovery Season 3. If you follow Star Trek and Trekkies on social media, you may have heard over the last few weeks that some of Discovery’s post-production crew have said they’ve finished their work, but it seems there’s still more to do! Partly this is due to coronavirus impacting schedules and forcing many folks to work from home. But partly it seems that Discovery’s third season wasn’t as ready-to-go as I’d expected. I didn’t think we’d go from Picard’s first-season finale straight into Discovery Season 3, but I did think we’d see a release date announced.
As excited as I am for Lower Decks, I’m at least slightly disappointed with what feels like a delay to Discovery’s third season. With the ship and crew having left the 23rd Century behind in the finale of Season 2, I’ve been eagerly – and somewhat anxiously, I admit – waiting to see what kind of future they arrive in. I recently took an in-depth look at the Season 3 trailer – and you can see what I thought by clicking or tapping here.
We got a little more information about Lower Decks in the announcement, including a first look at the ship the show is set on: the California-class USS Cerritos. Named for a city in the Los Angeles area, the Cerritos is a pretty cool design in my opinion. With obvious visual elements of The Next Generation’s Galaxy-class, the ship has a familiar “Star Trek-y” design that’s instantly recognisable as part of the franchise.
It definitely feels as though care has been taken with this design, and that it was designed by someone with an appreciation for the Star Trek franchise as a whole. By being a smaller starship than, for example, a Galaxy-class ship, I think it also does a good job of conveying that this is a minor ship; not a flagship by any means, the Cerritos is of lower importance among the fleet. The saucer-plus-nacelles design is reminiscent of ships like the Miranda-class and Nebula-class; the former being best-known as the design used for the USS Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
I guess for now we’ll have to put Discovery on the back burner and start getting excited for Lower Decks!Star Trek can do animation very well, but this will be the franchise’s first fully-animated series in 45 years, as well as the first attempt to make a comedy series. The team behind the show – including Mike McMahan – have a good track record at producing successful shows just like Lower Decks, so there’s reason to be hopeful.
Unfortunately, as of right now ViacomCBS hasn’t announced who has the international broadcast rights to Lower Decks. Netflix has Star Trek: Discovery and Amazon Prime Video has Star Trek: Picard, so it could be the case that either of those companies snaps up Lower Decks as well. Hopefully an announcement will come soon, so we can get the show within 24 hours of its US premiere, as has been the case for the other two series since Star Trek returned to television.
So all that’s really left to say is this: roll on the 6th of August and the premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks! Let’s hope for a successful first season.
Star Trek: Lower Decks will premiere on CBS All Access in the United States on the 6th of August 2020. International broadcasts have not yet been confirmed. 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.