Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 10: First First Contact

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’s title card.

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 lot of characters in play in First First Contact.

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!

Mariner overheard the news of Captain Freeman’s promotion.

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!

Apparently Starfleet doesn’t rate California-class officers very highly.

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.

Mariner spilled the beans on purpose.

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.

Captain Freeman and Mariner have a heart-to-heart on the bridge.

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.

Mariner and Jennifer the Andorian made up in the end.

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.

Tendi and Rutherford back in the Jefferies tube.

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 went to Billups for advice – both technical and emotional!

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.

Who could these mysterious figures be? And what did they do to Rutherford?

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!

Tendi eavesdropping on Dr T’Ana.

“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 and Dr T’Ana share a hug at the close of their storyline.

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!

Dr T’Ana is undeniably awesome.

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!

Boimler saved the day!

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.

Two dolphin Starfleet officers.

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.

Captain Sonya Gomez of the USS Archimedes!

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.

“It’s the Cerritos!” A poetic moment of symmetry.

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.

The episode gave the crew a science-based problem to overcome.

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.

The Cerritos tractors the Archimedes to safety.

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.

Captain Freeman was arrested – and we’ll have to wait almost a year to find out what happens next!

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 9: wej Duj

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 title card – in Klingon!

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.

Dr T’Ana and Tendi enjoying some downtime together.

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.

Though it wasn’t bad per se, Boimler’s sub-plot featured a style of humour that I generally don’t enjoy.

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.

T’Lyn (left) and Ma’ah were the breakout characters from wej Duj.

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.

There were a lot of different elements packed into a single episode this week, and the way they came together was brilliantly-executed!

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.

Commander Togg and other Klingon officers aboard the bridge of their Bird-of-Prey.

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.

T’Lyn’s Vulcan cruiser at warp.

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.

It turns out that a rogue Klingon commander has been arming the Pakleds and pushing them to attack the Federation.

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.

The Klingons made a welcome return in a semi-adversarial capacity.

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.

This moment between Rutherford and Shaxs was surprisingly touching.

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!

The crew of the USS Cerritos dropped what they were doing to rush to their posts!

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!

T’Lyn has been reassigned – could we see her aboard the Cerritos one day?

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is boldly going for asexual representation

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2, particularly the episode Where Pleasant Fountains Lie.

This article deals with the subjects of sex and sexuality and may be uncomfortable for some readers.

Growing up asexual is difficult. We live in a world that seems to revolve around sex and sexuality much of the time, with an awful lot of music, art, and entertainment dedicated to relationships and to sex. Graphic depictions of sex on screen may be a relatively recent phenomenon, but even in the 1980s and 1990s sex was a frequent subject on television, in cinema, in music, and in practically every other form of media.

Even the arrival on the scene of more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans characters in media didn’t bring much respite. Who people were having sex with changed, but the fact that they were having sex – and spent much of their time pursuing it in one form or another – had not. The growth in LGBT+ representation in media has been fantastic (though it is still far from perfect) but speaking for myself as an asexual person, it didn’t always succeed at resonating with me. I still felt alone, that my perspective wasn’t being represented.

The asexuality flag or asexual pride flag. You might’ve seen it before – it’s permanently flown in the upper-right corner here on the website.

In the few “sex education” lessons that I was given at school, there was no mention of the LGBT+ community, let alone asexuality. Sex was something that “everyone” had and wanted to have, and between the depictions and talk of sex in all forms of art and media through to peer pressure from my adolescent peer group, it was inescapable. The only people who might be celibate were monks, nuns, Catholic priests, and losers who couldn’t find a date. That was the way sex and sexuality appeared at the time I was discovering my own.

In the time and place where I was growing up, away from the more liberal and cosmopolitan cities, even being homosexual was considered something abhorrent, let alone being trans, non-binary, or asexual. People didn’t understand what any of those terms meant because they’d never been exposed to it, and even being suspected of being a “poof” or a “bum boy” was enough to send the bullies into a frenzy.

The new “progress” LGBT+ pride flag.

The process of “normalising” – and gosh do I hate that term – asexuality can only begin when asexuality is visible. There may be a handful of asexual activists both within and outside of the broader LGBT+ movement, but generally speaking the level of visibility remains low. Without that visibility, understanding and acceptance can’t follow. The same is true of any minority group – including transgender and non-binary.

It’s for this reason that I get so irritated when I hear people talking about “too many” gay characters on television, or how “in-your-face” LGBT+ representation feels. It’s like that specifically because these groups have been so underrepresented for such a long time, and by making LGBT+ depictions more overt and obvious, it raises awareness and draws attention to the LGBT+ movement and the quest for acceptance within society as a whole.

Greater representation of LGBT+ people is still needed.

Since I went public with my asexuality, I’ve started displaying the asexual pride flag right here on the website. You can see it in the upper-right corner both on PC and mobile devices. I do that deliberately with the express intention of raising awareness and pointing out that asexual people exist in all areas of life. My chosen subjects here on the website are entertainment – Star Trek, video games, sci-fi and fantasy, among others. But there are asexual people in all walks of life and with as broad a range of interests as everyone else.

Being open about my asexuality was a choice that I made in part because of the lack of representation and lack of awareness many folks have of asexuals and asexuality. Even by offering my singular perspective on the subject in a small way in my little corner of the internet, I feel like I’m doing something to advocate for greater awareness and greater visibility, because without those things I fear that asexuality will never be understood. And without understanding it’s very hard to see a pathway to broader acceptance of asexuality in society.

If you’re interested to read a more detailed account of how I came to terms with my asexuality, you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Title card for Where Pleasant Fountains Lie.

So we turn to Star Trek. As an adolescent dealing with some of these issues surrounding my sexuality, the Star Trek franchise – and other sci-fi and fantasy worlds – could offer an escape. Science fiction and fantasy tend not to be as heavily reliant on themes of sex as, say, drama or even comedies can be, and I think that may have been a factor in my enjoyment of Star Trek: The Next Generation during its original run.

Despite that, the Star Trek franchise is hardly nonsexual. Characters like Captain Kirk and Commander Riker are well-known for their many relationships, and episodes like The Naked Time and Amok Time, while never showing as much overt sexuality as some more modern shows, do reference the subject. Even characters who have proven popular in the asexual community – like Spock and Data – had sexual relationships. While the Star Trek franchise has been at the forefront of many battles for representation – famously showing the first interracial kiss and with episodes like Rejoined promoting LGBT+ issues – asexuality itself had never been overtly referenced in Star Trek.

Characters like Data have been talked about in an asexual context before.

Though the depiction of Lower Decks’ chief engineer Andy Billups wasn’t explicitly about asexuality, his story in Where Pleasant Fountains Lie presented the first significant analogy for asexuality in the Star Trek franchise – and one of the first ever on television, certainly the first that I’ve ever seen. In typical Star Trek fashion, the episode looked at the subject through a science fiction lens, with Billups’ unwillingness to have sex being tied to the medieval-spacefaring culture from which he came.

Star Trek has often done this. Rather than explicitly referencing a contemporary issue, writers will devise an in-universe comparison. The Doomsday Machine featured a planet-killing superweapon in an analogy about nuclear proliferation. In The Hands Of The Prophets told a story about Bajoran religion clashing with secular teaching in a story that was clearly about the creationism/evolution debate but that made no explicit references. Likewise we can say that Where Pleasant Fountains Lie is a story about asexuality – but one seen through a Star Trek filter.

The episode told a story about asexuality through a typical Star Trek lens.

As an asexual person watching the episode, I was floored. For the first time, a character in Star Trek shared my sexuality and feelings about sex. More than that, as the Hysperians’ plot to trick Andy Billups into having sex reached its endgame, the poor man looked so incredibly uncomfortable and ill at ease with what he was about to do. I’ve been there. I’ve been Andy Billups in that moment, and to see that portrayal was incredibly cathartic.

When I was fifteen I lost my virginity, succumbing to the pressure from my peer group and having talked myself into it. I thought that by doing so I could convince others – and myself – that I was “normal,” just like everyone else. Never having heard the term “asexual,” nor understanding that the way I felt about sex and genitalia was valid, I convinced myself that I must be the one who was wrong, that I was broken and that my sexuality simply did not exist as I now understand it. In that moment I felt a great deal of trepidation. This wasn’t simply the anxiety of one’s “first time,” but I was forcing myself to do something that I fundamentally did not want to do; something that disgusted and repulsed me.

I related to Billups so much during this sequence.

If you’re heterosexual, I guess a reasonable comparison would be having sex with a same-sex partner. Even if you could talk yourself into it, it wouldn’t feel right. And vice versa if you’re homosexual; having sex with an opposite-sex partner would feel fundamentally wrong. That’s the expression that I saw stamped on Andy Billups’ face in Where Pleasant Fountains Lie, and if I had looked in the mirror on that day in my mid-teens – or on any of the other occasions on which I talked myself into having sex with partners both male and female – I would have seen the exact same thing.

I believe that this is the power of representation. To truly see myself reflected in a fictional character has been an entirely new experience for me, and no doubt for other asexual folks as well. Lower Decks may be a comedy series, but this storyline has become one of the most powerful that I’ve seen in all of Star Trek. It was the first time I ever saw my sexuality represented on screen, and for as long as I live I will be able to go back to that moment and point it out to other people. There is finally an understandable, sympathetic metaphor for asexuality on screen.

Chief engineer Andy Billups: asexual icon!

As I stated in my review of Where Pleasant Fountains Lie, the depiction of Billups wasn’t perfect. There was a jokiness and a light-heartedness to elements of the story that clashed with the heavier themes that were present. But in spite of that, Billups’ story resonated with me. It’s an incredibly powerful moment to see any kind of asexual representation, and although there were jokes at Billups’ expense in the episode, he came across incredibly sympathetically. He even had his entire team cheering for him and chanting his name at the end – celebrating how he remained true to himself and didn’t have sex.

No asexual person should ever feel that they’re obligated to have sex. Sex education classes need to include asexuality alongside the rest of the LGBT+ spectrum so that asexual kids and teenagers can understand that the way they are is normal and valid. But education is only one thing that needs to change. Representation in all forms of media is exceptionally important too, and even a single depiction of a secondary character in one episode is already the best and most powerful asexual story that there has been in a long time – possibly ever. As more people become aware of asexuality and understand its place alongside heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, and other sexual orientations, the stigma or prejudice against asexuals and asexuality that exists in society will – in time – decrease.

Whether intentional or not, Lower Decks has joined the conversation and brought asexuality to mainstream attention in a way that I’d never seen before. It’s now possible for me to point to Where Pleasant Fountains Lie to show anyone who’s interested to learn more about asexuality and to see it represented on screen. That opportunity didn’t exist before, and I’m incredibly grateful to Lower Decks for this episode, this character, and this powerful story.

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 8: I, Excretus

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 and Star Trek: Picard Season 1.

I, Excretus was an exceptionally funny episode. Where other episodes of Lower Decks this season have offered a mixture of comic moments and drama, this week the comedy started in the first moment of the story and didn’t let up until the very end. Though the crew were put in peril thanks to the actions of a rogue drill instructor, the entire story was light-hearted and funny, with the villainous Shari Yn Yem played in an incredibly over-the-top way.

The episode had a “Saturday morning cartoon” vibe, feeling like a story in the vein of classic cartoons such as Wacky Races or Scooby-Doo, Where Are You. For the first time this season, all four ensigns and all four main members of the senior staff participated in a single story. Each of the ensigns had their own moments in the spotlight, but every drill they participated in and every action they took all played into the same overarching plotline.

“We won’t let you get away with this!”

This makes a change from the way Lower Decks has often operated. There wasn’t a B-plot this time to balance things out, and though Boimler spent much of the episode focusing on his own drill this still connected to the rest of the story in a significant way. As a result of bringing its characters together, everyone felt like they had a significant role to play; no character felt extraneous or unnecessary. And because there was only one real story to focus on, with no need to bring in side-characters or send anyone on their own mission, the entire episode felt well-paced.

I’ve commented on a couple of Lower Decks episodes this season that didn’t manage to strike the right balance in terms of stories and characters – usually as a result of trying to cram too many plotlines and characters into a single twenty-minute timeframe. But there’s no denying that I, Excretus doesn’t have that problem!

It was great to bring the show’s main characters together for a change.

Lower Decks has been rather odd in the way it’s used some returning characters and actors from past iterations of Star Trek. John de Lancie as Q and Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris both felt under-used in the episodes they appeared in, and if I were to make one criticism of I, Excretus it would be that Alice Krige’s role as the (holographic) Borg Queen was incredibly minor. It’s another case where it was wonderful to welcome back an actor from Star Trek’s past, but I would’ve liked to have seen her given more than just a couple of lines.

Sticking with the Borg, although Boimler was only facing off against them in holographic form, it’s still the first time we’ve seen active Borg drones in modern Star Trek. Star Trek: Picard Season 1 featured scenes set on a derelict Borg cube, and of course brought back Hugh, Seven of Nine, and other ex-Borg. But there was never any danger posed by the Borg; no threat of assimilation, no legions of drones, etc. It was actually great fun to see a semi-Borg story for the first time in such a long time in Lower Decks – even if it was just a simulation!

Boimler’s Borg encounter was a fun element of the episode’s storyline.

The design of the Borg was particularly neat. The entire aesthetic, from the drones to their ship, was right in line with their earlier appearances in The Next Generation, complete with larger “helmets,” black undershirts, and so on. Though the design of the Borg hasn’t changed that much, by the time of First Contact and Voyager they’d taken on a more streamlined look. Lower Decks brought back what I guess we could call “original” Borg, and that made their inclusion in the story even more fun.

As a complete aside, how much fun would it be to give Lower Decks a proper Borg story sometime? An episode structured like I, Excretus would be perfect, too, with the ensigns and senior staff all having to work together to overcome their cybernetic enemies. Of course the USS Cerritos wouldn’t do well against a Borg cube… but perhaps they could have trouble tangling with a Borg scout ship or probe! For a moment as the episode drew to a close I actually wondered if Boimler’s “assimilation” would be something the series would return to next week, perhaps even ending on a cliffhanger. But I suspect the season will close out with the return of the Pakleds either this week or next. Still, I’m officially putting it out there: a Lower Decks Borg episode would be fantastic!

Boimler faced off against the Borg Queen this week… albeit in holographic form.

The drill format and the use of what looked like portable mini-holodecks allowed I, Excretus to be absolutely jam-packed with throwbacks to past iterations of Star Trek. The episode’s entire premise gave the writers an excuse to delve deeply into Star Trek’s past, picking out classic episodes and thrusting members of the Lower Decks crew into those scenarios. It worked exceptionally well, and there were overt references to The Original Series, films, and The Next Generation that all slotted seamlessly into the plot.

It was also a lot of fun to welcome back a Pandronian. These “colony creatures” were first encountered in The Animated Series, but for obvious reasons proved impractical to depict in any of the live-action shows. Lower Decks has had a number of references to The Animated Series, and this latest one was neat too. Apparently the Pandronians are now on friendlier terms with the Federation than they were in Captain Kirk’s day!

The episode’s villain, Shari Yn Yem, was the first Pandronian seen in Star Trek since The Animated Series.

I, Excretus had a fun opening gag, but unfortunately it was one that had been spoiled by pre-release trailers. Though it was a lot of fun to see the ensigns accidentally abandoned by the Cerritos while on a spacewalk, knowing that it was coming kind of robbed the moment of much of its humour. As I said shortly before Lower Decks Season 2 premiered on an episode of my podcast, the marketing team seemed to go overboard with throwing out trailers, clips, and mini-teasers in the run-up to the season premiere. I actually ended up switching off and not watching all of them specifically because I wanted to avoid this feeling.

This is something I call “the Simpsons Movie phenomenon” – named for the incredibly bad way that film was marketed. Long story short, by the time I sat down to watch The Simpsons Movie I’d literally already seen every single good joke, visual gag, and funny moment because they were all included in the trailers! Lower Decks isn’t that bad – at least not yet – but it’s definitely something the marketing team should keep in mind. There’s a line to walk between getting viewers interested in an upcoming production and revealing too much, and Lower Decks has definitely come close to skirting that line sometimes. The entire opening of the episode prior to the titles set up this one joke – the ship warping away and leaving the ensigns behind. But a lot of folks will have already seen that moment because it was included in full in the trailers, depriving it of much of its impact. Though the episode as a whole was fantastic, and that moment at the beginning is quite funny, it’s something that I feel the show’s marketing team need to be aware of.

This moment had been shown ahead of time in the trailers for Season 2.

The opening joke came back into play later in the episode, and this is something Lower Decks has excelled at, particularly during Season 2. What seem to be one-off gags or jokes disconnected from the rest of the story actually prove to be important later on – such as the anbo-jyutsu match in Mugato, Gumato. Though the show still makes abundant use of throwaway jokes and one-off scenes, the fact that some seemingly innocuous moments end up connecting to the plot in a big way is testament to the quality of the writing. As a viewer it keeps us on our toes – we can’t be sure what’s just a joke and what might be important to the plot!

A big part of I, Excretus was showing how both the ensigns and senior staff struggled when forced to switch roles. This kind of team-building exercise can be important to morale, and perhaps we’ll see a future episode or story make reference to the lessons that the characters learned this week. Tendi’s story in particular highlighted this aspect of the episode – being put into a situation drawn from The Next Generation Season 5 episode Ethics, she came away from the experience with a great deal of respect for the decisions Dr T’Ana has to make on a daily basis.

Having the characters swap roles gave them a greater appreciation for their colleagues and the work they do.

Mariner was the character we spent the most time with during this portion of the episode. She got three separate drills whereas the others only got one each. Her first drill harkened back to Mirror, Mirror from The Original Series, complete with classic Terran Empire uniforms. Though the Mirror Universe has never been a personal favourite of mine, I’d actually be interested to see Lower Decks’ take on the setting in future. The glimpse we got this time was tantalising, and just like the Prime Timeline’s Cadet Tilly was a captain in the Terran Empire, maybe the alternate universe could shake up the command structure of the Cerritos as well. Captain Mariner, perhaps?

Her second drill took her to The Original Series again, this time the third season episode Spectre of the Gun. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for this Wild West-themed story, and though it didn’t take up a lot of time in the episode it was still neat to see. It also led to the revelation from Captain Freeman that Mariner took horse-riding lessons for two years, which was kind of cute.

Mariner during her Wild West drill.

Finally, Mariner got to experience polywater intoxication first-hand. And my goodness, if folks thought that Mugato, Gumato was “too adult” a couple of weeks ago, this sequence must’ve made their heads explode! As the holographic crew suffered from the strange affliction seen in The Original Series first season episode The Naked Time and The Next Generation first season episode The Naked Now, they engaged in all kinds of debauchery, much to Mariner’s shock and disgust.

There will be criticisms of that sequence, especially considering the weirdly squeamish, reactionary response to a five-second clip in Mugato, Gumato, and Lower Decks will have to face up to that. Some fans simply don’t like this style of humour. But as I said when I talked about this issue in more detail, as someone who is asexual I’m one of the people that you’d think would be offended or upset by these kinds of sexual jokes. But again, as with the moment in Mugato, Gumato, I just didn’t think it was a problem at all. In fact, some of the individual jokes during this sequence – such as Ransom getting a spanking and Mariner’s horrified reaction to it – actually made me chuckle.

Mariner did not enjoy this particular drill…

Rutherford got a Wrath of Khan-inspired moment during his drill, but unlike Spock was unable to sacrifice himself to save the ship. It was actually really cool to see the “monster maroon” uniforms in animated form, as well as to catch a very brief glimpse of what I assume would be the USS Enterprise in its refit configuration. Rutherford didn’t get as much screen time during this part of the episode, but his scenes harkened back to one of the best Star Trek films.

At first the senior staff thought they’d got it made! But as their drill ramped up and they were left in a cargo bay to stack crates while all manner of excitement seemed to be happening outside, they quickly became frustrated. Lower Decks originally promised us a look at the mundane activities away from the bridge, and stacking crates in a cargo bay seems about as boring a task as there is in Starfleet! Thinking back to episodes of Voyager or The Next Generation, though… someone has to have stacked those crates in the cargo bays!

The senior staff got a turn at being lower deckers!

As a “fish out of water” story, this side of the episode was fun. Putting the entire crew through their paces, then having them team up and use what they’d learned to defeat the villain made for an exciting, well-connected episode. Episodes like I, Excretus were exactly what I had in mind when Lower Decks was first announced, and although the A-plot/B-plot structure the show favours can work very well, once in a while it’s nice to see most of the characters working together and involved in the same storyline.

I had a great time with I, Excretus. The story was packed to the brim with very obvious callbacks to Star Trek’s past; the Mirror Universe, The Animated Series, even The Search for Spock were all represented in an incredibly fun, light-hearted story. Bringing the show’s main characters together for an outing that harkened back to old-school cartoons was truly fantastic, and I, Excretus will surely go down as one of the highlights of Season 2. Speaking of which… there are only two episodes remaining now that we’re into October. Where does the time go, eh?

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.

Star Trek: The Original Series + Star Trek: Lower Decks crossover theory: Lost human colonies

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2 and for the following Star Trek productions: Discovery Season 2, The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Enterprise.

Star Trek: Lower Decks hasn’t lent itself to a lot of theorising thus far! The episodic nature of the show and humorous tone have seen a lot of one-and-done stories, as well as stories that draw on Star Trek’s existing lore and history rather than adding to our understanding of how life in the Star Trek galaxy works. And that’s fine – it’s a great show, one which generally succeeds at capturing the essence of Star Trek while showing a more amusing side to life in Starfleet.

Last week’s episode, Where Pleasant Fountains Lie, has led me to craft a theory, though, and it’s one which connects to events right at the beginning of the Star Trek franchise, back in the days of The Original Series. In short: have you ever wondered why Captain Kirk and his crew seemed to encounter a lot of “aliens” who were indistinguishable from modern humans? It’s possible – at least according to this theory – that Lower Decks might have just provided us with a plausible in-universe explanation!

Has the existence of the Hysperians in Lower Decks solved a fifty-five-year-old mystery?

Before we look at either Lower Decks or The Original Series, we need to take a detour to Season 6 of The Next Generation. The episode The Chase attempted to provide an in-universe explanation for the apparent abundance of similar humanoid races in the Star Trek galaxy: the interference of an extinct race of ancient humanoids, who “seeded” worlds across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants with their genetic material, essentially acting as forerunners or ancestors to Cardassians, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, humans, and perhaps many other races.

Just like the Klingon augment virus in Enterprise, or the warp speed limit from Season 7 of The Next Generation, this seemingly huge revelation about the ancient history of the Star Trek galaxy has been entirely ignored since the episode in which it first appeared, not even getting so much as a mention in the hundreds of other stories that have been produced since. That isn’t to say this explanation is wrong or landed poorly in the fandom, but as often happens when an episodic series introduces a major story point, writers who came along later either didn’t know what to do with it or didn’t want to explore it further. Thus the ancient humanoid story is a self-contained one that doesn’t have a great deal of bearing on the wider Star Trek galaxy – though fans can, of course, choose to interpret the presence of humanoids through the lens of The Chase.

Did ancient humanoids “seed” the galaxy with their genetic data? And if so, does that account for the abundance of humanoid races?

But The Chase only provided an explanation for the existence of humanoids – Klingons, Romulans, humans, etc. What it doesn’t really explain in any detail is the existence of species that are anatomically and visually indistinguishable from humans, and The Original Series featured plenty of those! For example, we have the people of the planet Gideon (from The Mark of Gideon), the Betans (from The Return of the Archons and later seen in Lower Decks Season 1), the Iotians (from A Piece of the Action), the people of the planet 892-IV (from Bread and Circuses), and the Earth Two natives (a.k.a. Miri’s species, from the episode Miri). All of these races – and many more – are completely identical to humans.

Most of the aforementioned peoples were treated in their original appearances as being non-humans, natives of whichever planet the Enterprise was visiting that week. But it certainly raises some questions, especially considering that other alien races could be at least superficially different: the Bajorans have distinctive noses, the Vulcans and Romulans have their ears, and so on. How or why did the inhabitants of these worlds come to be indistinguishable from humans – is life in the galaxy somehow predisposed to evolve into this precise form? The Chase offers half of an explanation, but even then it isn’t perfect. Enter last week’s episode of Lower Decks: Where Pleasant Fountains Lie.

A Roman centurion from the planet 892-IV.

Andy Billups, chief engineer of the USS Cerritos, is human. But he isn’t a native of Earth, nor of any Federation member world – his people are the Hysperians, a group of humans from the planet Hysperia who had constructed a society modelled around a medieval-fantasy/renaissance fair lifestyle and aesthetic. The important thing to note is that the Hysperians appear to be independent of the Federation, with their own monarchy, laws, culture, and fleet of starships. Though on friendly terms with Starfleet, the Hysperians appear to exist independently of the Federation.

So Where Pleasant Fountains Lie has confirmed that human colonies existed outside of the jurisdiction of the Federation. We knew that already, having seen worlds like Turkana IV (homeworld of Tasha Yar) in The Next Generation, but Where Pleasant Fountains Lie expanded our understanding of non-Federation humans. It seems as though the Hysperians – or their ancestors, at least – shared a common love for fantasy, magic, and a medieval/renaissance fair lifestyle, and set out to establish their own colony on that basis.

The Hysperians have their own system of government, led by a monarch.

Another episode from The Next Generation is important here: Season 2’s Up The Long Ladder. This episode introduced two colonies of humans – the Bringloidi and the Mariposans. The former were a group of luddites; Irish colonists who disliked the use of technology. The latter were a group of scientists, clones of the original colonists. The important thing to note for the purposes of this theory is that the Federation was unaware of the existence of either colony until the Enterprise-D made contact with them in the mid-24th Century. For more than two centuries, both colonies were completely unknown.

So now we come to the heart of the theory that was inspired by Where Pleasant Fountains Lie. Suppose a colony like Hysperia had been established centuries ago, but contact had been lost. If the Federation were to encounter the Hysperians for the first time, they would seem like an entirely different people at first, as they have their own distinctive culture, system of government, and starship designs. They don’t appear to be at all similar to modern Federation humans as of the late 24th Century, and it’s only because their colony’s origins are known to us as the audience and to Starfleet that we treat them as an offshoot of humanity and not as an entirely distinct people.

Bringloidi leader Danilo Odell with Captain Picard.

Here’s the theory, then, in its condensed form: the peoples Captain Kirk met during The Original Series that are identical to humans are, in fact, lost human colonies. Just like the Bringloidi and Mariposans, their records have been lost or their destinations not recorded, but at some point in the past they left Earth, established new homes for themselves, and developed their own cultures and ways of doing things.

Some of these peoples could even be the descendants of abductees, such as those encountered in the Voyager episode The 37’s or Enterprise’s North Star. The humans saved by the Red Angel and transported across the galaxy that Captain Pike and Michael Burnham encountered in the Discovery Season 2 episode New Eden were developing independently of the Federation in the mid-23rd Century, and Pike even instructed his crew that the Prime Directive applied when dealing with the inhabitants of Terralysium.

Burnham, Owosekun, and Captain Pike on the planet Terralysium. The inhabitants were descended from humans saved by the Red Angel.

Just like the Hysperians chose to build their society around a fantasy/renaissance fair-inspired aesthetic and setting, maybe some of these lost colonies likewise had the intention of building a world based around shared likes and interests. Perhaps the original colonists of 892-IV were big fans of Ancient Rome and deliberately created a Roman-inspired society. Perhaps Miri’s ancestors terraformed their world to make it resemble Earth. Gideon may be an Earth colony that got out of control, similar to Turkana IV. Or, as we see in episodes like North Star and New Eden, perhaps peoples abducted at a point in the past tried to recreate the societies from which they came.

I’ve never been a big fan of the ancient humanoids from The Chase as an explanation for the prevalence of humanoids in the Star Trek galaxy. I don’t think the fact that Klingons, Cardassians, and humans are all two-legged, two-armed, air-breathing beings of similar heights and builds was something that needed this kind of in-universe explanation; it was enough to leave it unsaid that the galaxy is populated by humanoid aliens. Trying to provide an explanation actually led to over-explaining and drawing unnecessary attention to it.

Personally speaking, I never felt that the galaxy being full of humanoid races (like the Klingons) needed a complex in-universe explanation.

But when it comes to aliens that are identical to humans, the explanation from The Chase only goes so far. If we try to argue that the abundance of human-looking aliens is caused by the meddling of ancient humanoids who also caused the evolution of the Klingons, Vulcans, Cardassians, etc. then the obvious question is why are there not dozens of Cardassian-looking aliens, or Klingon-oids?

Instead, what we could say is that these peoples are more likely to be lost Earth colonies. Just like the Bringloidi and the Mariposans, knowledge of their existence was lost in between their departures from Earth and their encounters with Captain Kirk. If we take The Original Series episode Space Seed at face value, humans had been able to launch large spacecraft since at least the late 20th Century, and with World War III taking place in the mid-21st Century, it’s possible that the records of thousands of space launches were lost. Just like Khan and his followers set out from Earth, perhaps the ancestors of some of these peoples did as well. Some may also be the descendants of humans abducted by aliens in the distant past, and this could explain how some humans have existed independently of Earth for centuries or millennia.

Natria, leader of the Fabrini.

So that’s the extent of this theory, really! I think it provides an interesting alternative explanation as to why Captain Kirk encountered so many human-looking “aliens” during The Original Series. We could even potentially extend this theory to include races like the Betazoids.

Obviously the reason why so many aliens in Star Trek, particularly in the franchise’s early days, were identical to humans was because of limitations in budget and special effects. But that doesn’t have to be the end of it! We can craft intricate theories, partly based on things we’ve learned in other iterations of the franchise, to go back and explain these things. To me at least, the idea that races like the Iotians, Fabrini, and Betans are in fact lost offshoots of humanity makes more sense than the idea that they naturally evolved to be indistinguishable from humans.

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 7: Where Pleasant Fountains Lie

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.

Agimus – the evil computer!

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.

For the first time, Billups got a starring role.

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 Hysperians felt like they could’ve been a people encountered by Kirk in The Original Series.

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.

The Hysperian starship Monaveen.

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.

A significant part of the story revolved around Billups’ unwillingness to have sex. Is he asexual?

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!

I can strongly relate to how Billups was feeling during this sequence.

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.

Parts of this story were played for comedic effect, seemingly disregarding the disturbing, dark implications of tricking someone into having sex.

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.

Though this worked as part of the story, it felt out-of-place for Rutherford to be reluctant to work on a fancy starship engine.

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’s death always felt like a fake-out.

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!

There’s a lesson in getting out of one’s comfort zone.

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 fantasised about creating murder drones and ruling an entire planet.

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.

Boimler outsmarted Agimus – without telling Mariner what he was doing.

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.

Boimler fired his phaser at Mariner – but it was all a deception to trick Agimus and allow them to be rescued.

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.

What’s so bad about black liquorice?

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!

Agimus in prison, surrounded by dozens of other evil computers.

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.

The “adult content” controversy surrounding Lower Decks

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2, particularly the second season episode Mugato, Gumato. There are also minor spoilers for Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

This article deals with topics of sex and sexuality and may be uncomfortable for some readers.

The plan for today was to talk about new video game Kena: Bridge of Spirits. But while the game downloads (20+GB will take a while on my crappy internet connection) I thought it would be interesting to address a bubbling controversy involving Star Trek: Lower Decks.

When I watched the episode Mugato, Gumato a couple of weeks ago, the scene at the centre of this controversy barely registered. I was enjoying the episode’s central pairing of Ensigns Boimler and Rutherford, who teamed up for their first major outing of the season and I felt played off one another exceptionally well. As the two ensigns stumbled into mugato territory having escaped from an away mission gone wrong, they found themselves trapped by a pair of mating mugatoes. A third mugato appeared and seemed to be pleasuring itself by rubbing its horn, something the ensigns commented on.

This moment, which lasted only a few seconds, is at the centre of the “adult content” controversy now engulfing Lower Decks. I found the whole conversation to be quite odd, and reminiscent in some ways of the relentless attacks by people like Mary Whitehouse and the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association in the 1970s – the kind of reactionary, social conservative “outrage” that inspired characters like The Simpsons’ Helen Lovejoy.

British campaigner Mary Whitehouse.
Picture Credit: BBC/Forge Productions via YouTube

When I watched Mugato, Gumato for the first time, I remember rolling my eyes at this moment. Masturbation jokes are pretty low-brow, and I didn’t think it was especially funny. As someone who is asexual, jokes about sex and sexuality can be uncomfortable for me, but this one wasn’t particularly. I didn’t find it hilarious, but I certainly didn’t find it offensive. In an episode that had other good jokes, a busy story, and some further development of Ensign Mariner’s character to hold my attention and interest, I simply wasn’t all that bothered about a fragment of a scene that was clearly meant to be a joke. In my original review I didn’t even consider the horn-joke worth making note of.

I’ve said before that Star Trek: Lower Decks is an animated comedy first and a Star Trek show second. Though it largely succeeds at “feeling like Star Trek” – a pretty nebulous, ill-defined concept that means different things to different people – it’s a show that very much occupies a space similar to the likes of The Simpsons, Rick & Morty, and even shows like Family Guy. Jokes like this one are thankfully infrequent, but to be expected, and after watching sixteen episodes of the show across two years, I’m surprised that some people still don’t fully appreciate that.

The sight gag at the centre of the controversy.

Humour is a very personal thing, perhaps second only to musical taste in terms of being purely subjective. A joke that one person considers hilarious will be boring or even offensive to another, and as long as comedy is well-intentioned and not punching down or deliberately picking on one group of people, I’m okay with that. I haven’t laughed at every single joke in Lower Decks just as I haven’t at every joke in other comedy shows. Humour sometimes misses the mark for all of us.

The conversation around this moment in Mugato, Gumato has taken a strange turn, though. Some fans seem adamant that this kind of sexual joke or sight gag is somehow inherently “un-Star Trek” or beneath what the franchise should aim to be. And I fundamentally disagree with that assertion. To anyone making such a claim, I want to ask: “have you ever seen Star Trek before?”

The famously non-sexual Star Trek: The Original Series

The Deep Space Nine fourth season episode Bar Association saw the character of Rom make a comparable reference to masturbation. Oo-mox, a Ferengi term for pleasurably stimulating their ears, had been depicted in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as a very intimate act, so when Rom said he was performing it on himself it was meant as a joke. It wasn’t the funniest joke in that episode, but it was in keeping with Rom’s characterisation at the time and with the way oo-mox (and other sexual acts) had been presented in Star Trek.

One of the things I liked about Star Trek when I was growing up and struggling with my own sexuality was that the franchise didn’t put things like sex and relationships at the centre of every story. But even going all the way back to The Original Series, where Kirk would have romantic entanglements with a different woman almost every week, Star Trek has had this sexual dimension to it. Sometimes sex has been presented as something casual or jokey, and at other times the franchise has taken a very serious approach to sensitive topics. But to say sex has never been part of Star Trek is patently false and just ridiculous.

Rom mentioned the Ferengi “massage” known as oo-mox in the episode Bar Association.

One thing I admired about Mugato, Gumato is relevant to this discussion as well. The Ferengi poachers seen in the episode were harvesting the titular apes for their horns, then selling them on claiming the horns were an aphrodisiac. This environmental message parallels real-world poaching in Africa, where the trade in illegal rhinoceros horn is driving the species to extinction. It made sense, in that context, to see a mugato using its horn for some kind of sexual purpose.

When we compare Star Trek: Lower Decks to other animated comedies, there are far fewer of these low-brow jokes. Shows like Rick & Morty, Family Guy, and the like all lean far more heavily into sexual humour, and that’s something which is always going to be subject to taste. Personally, I prefer Lower Decks’ approach. These kinds of jokes can be funny – even to me – but the show is at its best when it finds ways to make the regular goings-on in Starfleet funny, or when it references obscure characters from past iterations of the franchise.

Mugato, Gumato had an important message about poaching for folks who could look past the jokes.

If you’re a regular reader and you saw my reviews of Lower Decks last season, you’ll know I’m not someone who would blindly leap to the show’s defence. I’m happy to criticise Lower Decks when I feel it misses the mark. For examples of that, take a look at my reviews of Season 1’s Envoys or Veritas, or even the Season 2 premiere, Strange Energies. In short, I’m not trying to defend the indefensible nor insist that Lower Decks can do no wrong.

I also feel that, as someone who is asexual, I have a different perspective on this. If the mugato masturbation joke was going to piss off anyone, it was going to be someone like me! It didn’t, because it just wasn’t that important. It wasn’t the focus of the episode, heck it wasn’t even the main focus of the scene in which it appeared. It was a throwaway sight gag that lasted all of a few seconds. The plot of the episode then moved on to other things. Like any joke, gag, or one-liner, it didn’t ruin the entire episode.

This moment just wasn’t a big deal in what was a busy episode.

People with an outside agenda are often looking for the next thing to jump on to further their cause and generate controversy, and in this case the anti-Trek folks think they’ve found a winner in Mugato, Gumato. But I’d wager a lot of them didn’t even watch the episode in its entirety before deciding this was something worth discussing, and even if they did, can we really argue that one sight gag that lasted a few seconds in a single scene was that important? Good luck if you try to argue with some of these folks, though. Their minds are made up about Lower Decks – and the rest of modern Star Trek.

If you watched Mugato, Gumato and hated that joke, that’s okay. If it spoiled the episode for you, that’s okay too. I’m not in the business of telling anyone how to feel, and with humour being something so subjective I can understand how a joke that goes over particularly poorly can ruin someone’s enjoyment. But to try to reduce Lower Decks to one insignificant gag in one episode does the series a huge disservice. It does Mugato, Gumato a disservice too, as the episode had a great central character pairing in Boimler and Rutherford and also saw a significant moment for Ensign Mariner’s characterisation.

Despite not being the star, Ensign Mariner got some decent character development in Mugato, Gumato.

I’m surprised that this has become such a big deal. It’s ironic, in a way, that the people who are most likely to use terms like “snowflake” are often the ones to become so aggressive when they encounter a joke or a television show that they don’t like. And to me, that’s what I see happening here. Something minor that’s being blown out of proportion either by folks with very short memories who’ve conveniently forgotten comparable moments in Star Trek’s past, or by folks who have a deliberate anti-Trek agenda.

I wasn’t a big fan of that sight gag in Mugato, Gumato. I thought it was pretty dumb, but after rolling my eyes at it I quickly forgot about it. It just didn’t matter that much in the context of the episode or of the series as a whole. Trying to ignore everything else Lower Decks has done across its first season-and-a-half and focus on one tiny moment in one episode is nitpicking in the extreme. That particular joke was, I would argue, out of character for the series. Lower Decks prefers a more referential style of humour, one which draws on the lore and history of Star Trek. There are other sight gags and moments of cringeworthy humour for sure, but to try to claim that this is all Lower Decks is isn’t just wrong, it demonstrates an ignorance of what the show has been and what it’s achieved.

Lower Decks is better than jokes like that, and I can understand if some folks want to tell the writers and producers that they expect a higher standard of humour. As I said, it wasn’t something I personally found funny either. But I just don’t see why this has to be such a big deal. It’s not representative of Lower Decks as a whole, and it’s not indicative of a series somehow losing its edge and trying to cater to a low-brow crowd. It was a throwaway gag in an otherwise-decent episode. I didn’t care for it, but you know what? I’d all but forgotten about it within seconds. It was only when people kept dragging it up – to the point that series creator Mike McMahan felt the need to defend it in an interview – that I felt compelled to add my two cents to the conversation.

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 6: The Spy Humongous

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2.

For the second week running, Lower Decks managed to strike the right balance in terms of stories and characters. The Spy Humongous spent time with the bridge crew, gave Boimler his own story, and gave Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford something to do as well. Crucially, the episode managed to make each of these three components feel significant; none felt under-developed.

Most importantly, all three storylines were fun! The bridge crew split up for this episode, with Captain Freeman and Shaxs on an away mission to the Pakled homeworld on a peace initiative, while Ransom and Kayshon played host to a Pakled “guest” aboard the ship. These two halves comprised a single story, while Boimler separated from the other three ensigns for his own character journey.

The Pakled spy got into a little trouble…

Tendi, Mariner, and particularly Rutherford took smaller roles this time in a story which put Boimler at the centre, but their paths crossed in a significant way toward the end. I’ve spoken numerous times about how amazing Mariner’s character arc across both seasons has been, and how enjoyable it has been to watch her grow. The Spy Humongous gave us some comparable character development for Boimler, as he came to realise that chasing a promotion isn’t everything – and that imitating great captains of the past isn’t any use in a crisis.

Several Lower Decks stories have felt like they could’ve been set in a school had the characters been different. I’m thinking of Mariner making up rumours about herself in Mugato, Gumato, as well as the “love triangle” in Cupid’s Errant Arrow last season. This time, the story of Boimler ditching his friends after being poached by a group of “cooler kids” likewise felt like it could’ve been about schoolkids. I don’t necessarily mean this in a negative way, if anything it’s a commentary on how the series takes familiar situations and gives them its own Star Trek-themed twist.

Boimler with the Redshirts.

Having only just settled his conflict with Mariner regarding his decision to prioritise promotion over their friendship in last week’s episode, as well as seemingly learning a lesson in the process, it was a little jarring for that moment to immediately be followed up by Boimler again ditching Mariner (and the others) in order to hang out with a new group who he feels – at least in the moment – are more likely to be useful to his ambition. This is a consequence of scheduling more than story; I said last week that both pairs of ensigns got stories that resolved lingering conflicts from Season 1, and that those stories might’ve been better-served by coming earlier in the season. Boimler’s plotline this time only reinforces that; at the very least this episode shouldn’t have immediately followed on from last week as it makes it seem that Boimler learned nothing – or very quickly forgot the important lesson he’d learned about friendship.

Scheduling aside, The Spy Humongous gave Boimler a satisfying arc. He began the episode enticed by the “cool kids” to ditch his friends and follow only his ambition, and for a time went along with their shenanigans. But when Tendi was in danger, Boimler knew what to do, and while the other wannabes tripped over one another to try to give “inspiring” speeches copied from past captains that they admired, Boimler recognised the problem and took the necessary steps to solve it. Even though doing so meant abandoning the new group of “cool kids” and by extension his aim of getting promoted again, Boimler prioritised problem-solving and friendship. His reward was a compliment from Commander Ransom, something which clearly meant a lot more to him than any “acting captain” role.

Being noticed by the Commander and receiving a compliment for his work was worth it for Boimler.

This was, unquestionably, a deeply satisfying character arc for Boimler to go through. Had it not come immediately following a similar moment last week it would’ve worked better, but that’s the scheduling issue again. The way that the episode tied this arc into the B-plot following Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi as they collected “anomalies” that the senior staff had been working on was neat as well.

Tendi actually got one of the more emotional moments this week. I think we’ve all had an experience, at some point in our lives, of either feeling genuine excitement for something or trying to show excitement for the benefit of others, only to have someone else shoot it down. That feeling of being crestfallen or deflated is exactly what Mariner and Rutherford inflicted on Tendi after shouting at her for being too enthusiastic and eager during one of their most-hated assignments aboard the ship.

Haven’t we all been Tendi in this situation?

This moment set up the remainder of Tendi’s story – as she was transformed into a scorpion-like monster by a strange artefact – as well as led to the crossover with Boimler. But as a purely emotional moment that I think a lot of us can relate to, it was one of the highlights of the episode for me.

I created this website in part to share my love of Star Trek with a wider audience. But I can remember many occasions where being a Trekkie or even simply mentioning Star Trek was enough to have someone react with derision or dismissiveness. Even within the Star Trek fan community and among friends, I can remember moments where expressing passion for the “wrong” part of the franchise became an issue. When talking to a Trekkie friend excitedly about 2009’s Star Trek shortly after the film premiered I was hit with that feeling when they reacted angrily having pledged to never watch the reboot. So in a very meta Star Trek way, I can relate to what Tendi must’ve been feeling! That sense of showing someone you care about something you’re excited for only to have that excitement ripped away is a very real feeling.

Tendi was transformed into a scorpion-monster.

Mariner didn’t get very much to do this week. The episode put her through a montage of unpleasantries to emphasise how bad this particular assignment was and build up to her shouting at Tendi. Aside from that she was relegated to a background role alongside Rutherford, whose characteristic love for all things Starfleet apparently doesn’t extend to Anomaly Collection Day either!

On first viewing I felt that Tendi’s loud and rather rude laugh at Boimler’s mess hall mishap at the beginning of the episode was a little out-of-character, but on reflection I can see that this was an attempt to set up the conclusion to her and Boimler’s stories. It’s not the first time that we’ve had an out-of-place moment like this which has become important later; Lower Decks isn’t always subtle in that regard!

This moment at the beginning of the episode became important later on.

The mysterious artefact that transformed Tendi was just a macguffin at the end of the day, but it was one that didn’t feel out of place in Lower Decks. The first episode of the season set up how “strange energies” were something Starfleet regularly has to put up with, and across the season we’ve also seen Lieutenant Kayshon turned into a puppet and met a self-duplicating species, so it definitely doesn’t come from nowhere! Star Trek has, in the past, leaned into this kind of weirder, inexplicable macguffin for many different episodes across basically every series, so again it’s right in keeping with the way the franchise has always operated.

As mentioned, Boimler was the hero of the day. He figured out that the macguffin was feeding off or amplifying Tendi’s emotions (though exactly why she became a giant scorpion is still not crystal clear!) and that the best way to save her – and everyone else – was to make her laugh. Looping back to what made her laugh uncontrollably at the beginning of the episode, Boimler used the mess hall’s replicators to cover himself in food, much to Tendi’s amusement and the disgust of the “cool kids” he’d been hanging out with all day.

Boimler saved the day – and his friend.

Though much of Boimler’s time with the other ensigns followed a familiar trope, one moment which stood out was his inspirational speech. This sequence was also incredibly well-animated, as the empty stage faded into a truly outstanding recreation of the bridge of the Enterprise-D. Boimler gave a great speech, one which could’ve been given by any of Star Trek’s past captains. Though he may suffer from anxiety and be more than a little neurotic, Boimler can make a difference when it counts. We saw that not only with the speech, of course, but also with the way he saved Tendi.

I was reminded of Boimler’s speech in the episode Veritas from last season. The joke in that episode (which I felt fell flat, sadly) was that he and his shipmates were never in danger, and on this occasion he similarly gives an inspiring speech when there are no real stakes. But his ability to speak well and to give that kind of rousing address is in keeping with where we saw him last season, and I felt it was worth making note of that.

This was a great moment in the episode, both in terms of the speech and the animation work.

I really thought that the Pakled spy was going to turn out to be something different, perhaps something that challenged the notion that the Pakleds were all as stupid as they appear to be. For the entire time the spy was on the ship, and especially when he snuck away, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for some kind of revelation. Was Shaxs – recently and inexplicably back from the dead – going to turn out to be the real spy? Was the spy actually better at his job than he let on? It was a hilarious double-bluff that, in reality, the Pakleds truly are as dumb as they seem to be.

There’s somewhat of an old-school cartoonish charm to the way Lower Decks presents the Pakleds. An alien race who all seem stupid in comparison to the rest of the galaxy could easily fall into the trap of stereotyping folks with learning difficulties, but because of the overly-exaggerated way the Pakleds’ stupidity is presented, it doesn’t come across as offensive. It manages to just be funny – and even though there’s surely more to come from this Pakled conflict before the season is over, I can’t predict where it’ll go or how it’ll end. There was a mention this week of a Pakled bomb being sent to Earth, but it seems as though Captain Freeman will be able to alert Starfleet in time to prevent anything bad from happening.

The Pakleds were back in The Spy Humongous.

Lower Decks has usually been great when it comes to depicting different-looking, aesthetically interesting planets. Pakled Planet was a little disappointing in that regard, as it felt rather generic. The action that took place there was fun and exciting, of course, but the background could’ve used a little spicing-up in my opinion. It could still have been kept simple – in keeping with the show’s depiction of the Pakleds – but a different colour palette (Pakled Planet was very heavy on yellow and brown tones) or some item or landmark of visual interest would’ve improved these sequences.

It was funny to see the various Pakled “leaders.” A queen, a king, and an emperor all seem to be parts of an overall hierarchy, one determined solely by the size of their helmets. I can’t help but wonder what consequences – if any – there will be for the Pakled revolution and overthrow of the previous leadership. Perhaps that’s something routine on Pakled Planet that won’t make any difference – but if so, why show that on screen? I can’t help but feel it’s setting up something that may be of importance later!

The Pakled Emperor.

It was particularly funny how the group of “cool kids” referring to themselves as “The Redshirts” – a Star Trek fandom expression dating back to the days of The Original Series. Redshirts were disposable minor characters who often ended up dead on away missions! Seeing the Pakled spy drifting through space after accidentally shooting himself out of an airlock was also a really funny moment.

So I think that’s about all I have to say this week. There was a great story for Boimler – albeit one that might’ve benefitted from taking place at a different point in the season – as well as some advancement of the Federation-Pakled conflict. There were some hilarious moments for all of the main characters, and particularly the Pakleds. Ensign Mariner took a backseat for the first time this season, but giving her an occasional break is no bad thing.

All in all, a great episode.

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 5: An Embarrassment of Dooplers

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.

Dr T’Ana contending with the Dooplers.

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.

Rutherford and Tendi’s B-plot was great this week.

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!

Tendi and Rutherford working on their USS Cerritos model.

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 and her senior staff had their hands full this week!

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.

There seemed to be some stereotyping when it came to the Dooplers themselves.

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.

This moment between Freeman and Mariner was very sweet.

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 kart-escape was a fun sequence.

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.

Boimler quite literally walks away from Mariner.

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.

Boimler and Mariner reunited.

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 4: Mugato, Gumato

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2. Minor spoilers are also present for The Original Series and The Next Generation.

Mugato, Gumato was a fun episode with some good jokes and perhaps more meta-humour than any other episode so far this season. It consisted of a main A-story and two much smaller B-plots, which in turn focused on Tendi, Dr T’Ana, and Captain Freeman. This week, however, the stars were Boimler and Rutherford, with Mariner playing a significant but smaller role.

Though we’ve seen them interact on a number of occasions already, it was a pleasant surprise how well the central Rutherford-Boimler pairing worked. Season 2 of Lower Decks has shaken things up from the usual first-season story pairings of putting Boimler with Mariner and Tendi with Rutherford, and the result overall has been that the four ensigns feel more like a group of friends who all like one another and work well together than ever before. There was less of a commentary on Rutherford and Boimler’s friendship than there had been with Mariner and Tendi in We’ll Always Have Tom Paris last week, but the duo arguably had a stronger foundation to build on as they’d been seen working together on several prior occasions. There’s also far less of a personality clash than with Tendi and Mariner!

The main story this week starred Rutherford and Boimler.

I’m not much of a “shipper,” but is it too late to start shipping Boimler and Rutherford as a couple? Some of their scenes together in Mugato, Gumato were just too cute, and though Rutherford and Tendi also make a great pair, I felt there was real chemistry between the two – and between actors Eugene Cordero and Jack Quaid. Maybe that’s one I’ll just have to settle for fantasising about… but if you ask me, it could work exceptionally well!

The episode’s opening scene didn’t feel great at first; I didn’t really like seeing the ensigns fighting one another to the point of drawing blood. There was a “girl power” vibe to it as Mariner was able to easily defeat Rutherford and Boimler – despite the fact that we’d seen that Rutherford has great martial skills in Season 1’s Envoys, but perhaps we can overlook that little inconsistency! As the title sequence kicked in I felt that the anbo-jyutsu match was going to be a let-down, but it actually set up the main thrust of the episode’s story well, and on reflection it was a solid way to open the story. It established that Rutherford and Boimler have been on the receiving end of Mariner’s fighting skills, so when they were confronted with the notion that she might be a super-spy it didn’t come from nowhere. While I didn’t like it in the moment – though seeing Shaxs calmly sit down and wait his turn was funny – overall I have to give it credit for setting up the plot quite well.

The opening act of the episode saw an anbo-jyutsu match.

I believe that Mugato, Gumato marks the first time that we’ve seen Denobulans outside of Star Trek: Enterprise – where main character Dr Phlox belonged to that race. It’s interesting to note that they seem to be Federation allies – or perhaps even Federation members – as of the late 24th Century, and perhaps that’s an indication that we might see more Denobulans in future. One of the anachronisms created by Enterprise being a prequel was that some races – like the Denobulans, but also including the Suliban and the Xindi – appear to have been known to the Federation in the mid-22nd Century but made no appearances in the 23rd or 24th Centuries. The question of why that might be (from an in-universe point of view, of course) is potentially interesting, and I wonder if we’ll see more from the Denobulans or other Enterprise races and factions in future.

The Denobulan couple were only on screen for a few seconds, but set up the main story. They encountered a mugato – an ape-like creature originally seen in The Original Series second season episode A Private Little War – and because the mugato are not native to that world the USS Cerritos was called in to investigate. This setup was neat, and combined elements from different eras of Star Trek, which was great to see.

A titular mugato. Or should that be “gumato?”

The name of the mugato – or “mugatu,” as Captain Kirk repeatedly called it – has long been confused, and this episode’s title made note of that. “Gumato” was the name of the animal in the script for A Private Little War, but this was changed during filming. Officially the animal is called the mugato, but as noted it has been pronounced several different ways on screen. Boimler voicing aloud that this is “inconsistent” was just one of several meta-jokes he made this time, including using the title of The Next Generation first season episode The Last Outpost to refer to the band of Ferengi that the away team encountered.

The use of the Ferengi as this week’s antagonists worked surprisingly well. The Ferengi were originally created for The Next Generation with a view to having them fill a role vacated by the newly-friendly Klingons as a recurring antagonist for Picard and the crew, but their appearance in The Last Outpost – in which future Quark actor Armin Shimerman played one of the Ferengi leaders – didn’t work as well as any of the writers and producers had hoped. The Ferengi would return in this capacity in episodes like The Battle, but the general feeling was that they didn’t work as well as intended in the antagonist role, and were subsequently shaken up to be more money-oriented, capitalistic, and arguably comedic by the time of Deep Space Nine. Lower Decks, however, very deliberately chose to play up the early depictions of the Ferengi on this occasion – and I have to say that I feel it worked exceptionally well.

The Ferengi were this week’s antagonists.

The Ferengi’s lightning-whip weapons made a return for the first time since Season 1 of The Next Generation, and while the special effects of 1980s live-action struggled to have them work as intended, in animation they actually come across as genuinely threatening weapons. The Ferengi’s motivation, while arguably basic, was very much in line with all of their prior depictions: their desire to capture and slaughter the mugato (or should that be mugatoes?) was entirely driven by a lust for gold-pressed latinum. Even the likes of Quark wouldn’t be above a scheme like this – though if this were a Deep Space Nine episode we’d have seen the Ferengi take on a more bumbling, slapstick look rather than the over-the-top villains ultimately portrayed!

There was also an ecological message buried in this side of the story, as the Ferengi’s treatment of the mugato was very much comparable to modern-day poachers hunting for rhino horn in Africa. At one point the Ferengi leader even made reference to mugato horn potentially being an aphrodisiac, which is one of the key factors encouraging real-world poaching. This was perhaps more of a minor point than it could’ve been; background to establish a related plot rather than being the driving force. But it came back into play at the story’s resolution, which was nice.

Shaxs confronts the Ferengi poachers. Note the energy whip weapons.

Speaking of which, unfortunately I felt that the way in which Boimler and Rutherford were able to convince the Ferengi to shut down their poaching operation in favour of a mugato conservation area was rushed. This is a consequence of the episode trying to jam three stories into its short runtime, and the result was that the resolution to the main story came and went in what felt like the blink of an eye. Nothing was wrong with the concept itself, and I like the idea of this eco-friendly solution, as well as Boimler and Rutherford using their brains and their mathematical and diplomatic skills rather than trying to attack the Ferengi head-on or use brute force. But it would’ve benefitted greatly from just an extra couple of minutes to play out.

If I had to choose one of the B-plots to cut it would’ve been the one involving Captain Freeman. Not for the first time this season Lower Decks has wanted to spend time with the captain and the bridge crew, but has simply lacked the runtime to successfully include everything needed to make much of their stories. Captain Freeman being the victim of a scammer was kind of funny – it definitely had its moments – but overall it feels more like a sub-plot that took away from the others without really giving much back. In an episode that already had Tendi and Dr T’Ana, Shaxs leading an away team, the Mariner super-spy story, Boimler’s team-up with Rutherford, and the Ferengi poaching mugato (or mugatoes?) there just wasn’t time for this bit with the Captain. It didn’t accomplish much of anything, and as much as I enjoy Captain Freeman as a character – and the performance by Dawnn Lewis – not for the first time in Season 2 I’m left feeling that perhaps Lower Decks needs to be a little less ambitious when it comes to the number of stories and the number of characters it tries to cram into a twenty-minute episode.

Captain Freeman got a story this week, but it arguably came at the expense of a better resolution to the main A-plot.

Though Ensign Mariner took a back seat for much of the story, her wonderful character arc was furthered in a big way by a significant moment in Mugato, Gumato. The revelation that she started a rumour about herself basically because she’s lonely and isn’t used to having friends really tugged at the heartstrings. As someone who’s also experienced loneliness and has few friends, I can empathise with Mariner. Likewise, Boimler and Rutherford’s willingness to believe the rumour because they’re not used to having a cool friend like Mariner is something that’s also very relatable.

What we seem to have learned here is that Boimler, Rutherford, and Tendi may be the first real friends that Mariner has made in a long time. In Season 1 we saw that she’s drifted far apart from some of her Starfleet Academy friends – like Captain Ramsey – and it seems as though Mariner’s desire to avoid certain types of people has caused her to feel quite isolated and lonely at times. She felt genuinely hurt at the notion that Boimler and Rutherford would believe the rumour she started – and I have to credit both the animators and a beautifully emotional voice performance by Tawny Newsome here for bringing that across in a pitch-perfect manner. As I’ve said before, Mariner’s character arc across Season 1 was wonderful to watch, and this moment follows on from her team-up with Tendi to continue that arc through Season 2 as well.

A dejected Ensign Mariner.

Mariner set up Boimler and Rutherford for their big moment, saving the day by convincing the Ferengi to give up poaching. Though I felt this moment was rushed, as mentioned, the fact that Rutherford and Boimler came up with a solution on their terms was great to see. After a story that had been partly about fighting and that started with an intro where the duo had tried to go toe-to-toe with Mariner in the anbo-jyutsu ring, the ultimate resolution was peaceful. This kind of story tells us that there are different ways to win – and not all of them have to involve violence. It’s okay not to be the strongest, because everyone has their own skills. I like that kind of message.

The mugato (or mugatoes) themselves were portrayed in basically the same way as they had been in The Original Series. Lower Decks kept the same design, and while it perhaps played up some of their more monkey- or ape-like qualities, for the most part I think what we got was a portrayal of the critters that was very much in line with their first appearance. They were present to serve as the background for a character-centric story rather than being the focal point, so that makes sense.

The Ferengi were convinced to give up poaching – in a moment that was, sadly, a little rushed.

The only story left to talk about is the B-plot which featured Tendi and Dr T’Ana. After her big outing last week it was fair enough for Tendi to drop back this time, but despite having a smaller story it was great to see that her characterisation is becoming more settled. This time we saw her go from being timid to assertive, not only with her colleagues and patients but also with Dr T’Ana herself. Though I don’t necessarily think we’re going to see her become the dominant force in her friend group any time soon, the lesson she learned this week about asserting herself may yet come into play in a future story.

Was it silly for Dr T’Ana to be so reluctant to have a basic medical scan? Absolutely. Do I care? Absolutely not, because it set up a truly hilarious sequence in which Dr T’Ana – already one of my favourite characters on the show – got to show off her most cat-like tendencies, which is a joke I swear I will never get tired of! Seeing her meowing and hissing as she ran through the Jeffries tubes was so funny, and poor Ensign Tendi struggled to keep up. Tendi’s broken arm was perhaps as close as Lower Decks has come to out-and-out goriness this season, but it worked well and allowed her to complete her mission. Tendi is nothing if not dedicated!

Ensign Tendi finally gives Dr T’Ana her medical scan.

Dr T’Ana also seems to be on the verge of renewing her relationship with Shaxs following his unexpected return, and their dynamic actually works really well. As the two gruff, short-tempered characters on the Cerritos, they work so well together. I hope a future episode can pair them up for more than just a few moments at a time – even if they don’t progress their relationship in a romantic way, I think they’d play off one another exceptionally well in any story.

There were plenty of fun moments in Mugato, Gumato, and two out of three stories worked really well. Other smaller things I liked seeing were the bartender with a strong New England accent – he seemed like a character right out of a Stephen King novel! The character of Patingi seemed like a less competent Steve Irwin, and that was fun too. Tendi’s montage of scanning different characters was clever, and saw her use a wide range of skills, including on the holodeck. But what I’ll remember the episode for most of all is how it progressed Ensign Mariner’s characterisation in such a relatable and downright emotional way. That, to me, is the real success of this week’s outing.

So I think that’s about all I have to say about Mugato, Gumato. As we approach the halfway point, Lower Decks’ second season has delivered plenty of entertainment and enjoyment. There’s a lot to love about the series, and I hope that Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike are finding their way to Lower Decks by now. I’m certainly encouraging everyone I know to give it a try!

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 3: We’ll Always Have Tom Paris

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1 & 2. There are also minor spoilers for Star Trek: Picard Season 1.

With only one real caveat, I had a good time with We’ll Always Have Tom Paris this week. The episode’s title was a play on We’ll Always Have Paris – a first season episode of The Next Generation, itself a quotation from the film Casablanca. There were three storylines this week, all of which worked pretty well.

Having mentioned a caveat, let’s get that out of the way first. Tom Paris’ role was very minor; I think he only had four or five lines. As happened with Q last season, I just felt that more could’ve been made of the return of a major character from Star Trek’s past. As it is, there was nothing “Tom Paris” about this character’s appearance. The story wouldn’t have been changed in the slightest had the character been named Engelbert Humperdinck or Crazy Uncle Dennis, and that kind of very minor cameo, in which a character takes on a role totally disconnected from anything they’ve done in the past, can feel a bit wasteful. If we compare Paris’ appearance to Riker’s in the previous episode, for example, there’s a huge difference in terms of what the characters brought to the story and how well their appearances landed. In addition I’d add that the design of Tom Paris likewise felt very generic, and it was only because of the voice that he was even recognisable.

Is this character design bland… or am I being particularly unfair?

It feels as though Paris had been jammed into an unrelated script simply to give the episode a punny title, and I guess after his return was teased in the second trailer earlier in the year, I’d been hoping for something more. Small cameo appearances can work, and Lower Decks has succeeded in the past by giving folks from Star Trek’s past a mere line or two. But because Tom Paris didn’t seem to be doing anything we’d associate with his character (touring the bridge and being a motivating voice in Boimler’s imagination) it just felt a bit too bland. All in all, this cameo turned out to be a bit of a non-event.

The rest of the episode was pretty good, though, and the Tom Paris stuff did serve as the foundation for an interesting Boimler story, so it wasn’t a total misfire!

Boimler and his Tom Paris plate.

As the characters themselves noted in one particularly meta scene, we haven’t really had Mariner and Tendi teamed up for an adventure of their own before. They did have some time together in last season’s Crisis Point, but there was a lot going on in that particular episode so they weren’t really the focus. It was neat to see them paired up on this occasion, and it was particularly interesting to see them realise how little they really knew about one another despite having served together for a year.

This episode is perhaps my favourite Tendi story so far. As I’ve mentioned more than once, Tendi felt rudderless as a character across the first season, and unlike the other three main characters never really found a niche on the series. We’ll Always Have Tom Paris has done more to solidify her character than all of her other appearances to date, and we’ve come away from the episode knowing more about her as an individual. There were elements of her past portrayals: her desire to be liked – as she went along with Mariner’s “let’s go and have fun” agenda – that we’d seen in Moist Vessel, her difficult relationship with her Orion heritage that we’d seen in Crisis Point, and her role as an assistant in Sickbay that we’d seen best in Much Ado About Boimler. All of those elements have now come together to give us a solid idea of who Tendi is, and I think we’re now in a place where we can say that her character feels settled.

This was by far the best Tendi episode in the series to date.

Lower Decks has previously paired up Boimler with Mariner and Rutherford with Tendi on several occasions, as well as putting Boimler with Tendi for one story and giving Mariner a handful of moments with Rutherford. It would be great to continue this theme of different character pairings, and now that we’ve had a “girls trip” perhaps the next thing to do is to put Boimler and Rutherford together!

We’ve all been in Tendi’s shoes at one point or another: having broken something and being desperate to fix it. The feeling of having messed something up, regret mixed with anxiety about what might happen, is something very relatable. As Tendi and Mariner broke Dr T’Ana’s family heirloom, I think it gave their storyline a youthful edge as well. Though it could equally be seen as a work-related screw-up, I think most of us can vividly remember being a child and breaking or damaging something and not wanting the grown-ups to find out!

Tendi after breaking the heirloom.

That sense of desperately trying to fix something or cover it up escalated as Mariner and Tendi visited a few different locations during their “girls’ trip.” Qualor II had been mentioned in The Next Generation, but a closer look at its surface in this episode gave the world a distinct vibe of Freecloud – the planet Picard took his new crew to in search of Bruce Maddox in Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. Their next destination, Starbase Earhart, likewise had a Picard connection, as it was the site of his first assignment after graduating from Starfleet Academy. Finally, they visited an Orion pirate den that was reminiscent of an Orion-run scrapyard seen in Discovery Season 3 just last year.

Each of these locations was distinctive, and it’s great that animation allows us to see such a variety of different worlds and locales in the course of a single episode. This is one advantage that animation can have over live-action! Each location also served a purpose for the duo, as they got progressively more desperate to fix Dr T’Ana’s heirloom.

Tendi and Mariner at Starbase Earhart.

There was a danger that this storyline would’ve come across making Mariner out to be “the bad guy” again, since it was a direct result of her nosiness and pressuring Tendi to open the box that the heirloom got damaged in the first place. But I think the rest of the story, and Mariner’s willingness to help put things right, made up for that. I didn’t come away from the episode feeling that Mariner had been horrible to Tendi; curiosity is normal, after all.

The way the story was ultimately resolved was fun, too. Firstly, the shuttle bouncing off the Cerritos’ shields, and the damage report being “none” was one of the funniest moments in the season so far. Mariner’s line about how “there was a bee!” was also incredibly funny, as was Dr T’Ana tending to Tendi’s scraped knee. The whole sequence was hilarious. But beyond that, Dr T’Ana not caring at all about the heirloom and just wanting to play in the box was amazingly funny – as anyone who has a pet cat can attest!

Dr T’Ana with her beloved box.

Lower Decks has gone out of its way on several occasions to play up the cat-like tendencies of Dr T’Ana, and every time I find myself laughing out loud. As I’ve said before, Dr T’Ana is one of my favourite secondary characters on the show, and moments like this are exactly why. She’s proven to be an excellent comedic character.

Mariner and Tendi learned a lot about each other over the course of their adventure, including challenging some of their preconceptions about one another. Though I never got the sense that they weren’t on friendly terms, their relationship should be stronger than ever from this point onwards, and any future Mariner-Tendi story can use this episode as a foundation to build upon. All of that is positive for the series.

Mariner and Tendi developed a solid friendship over the course of their adventure this week.

Now we come to the biggest surprise of the episode – and of the season so far – the return of Shaxs! The Bajoran security chief’s death was a poignant moment in the Season 1 finale, as he was killed in action saving Rutherford’s life. As a moment of pure shock value, seeing him back aboard the Cerritos was a complete success, and I wonder if we’ll get to learn more about his journey back from the grave. Whatever it was certainly seemed to have an effect on Rutherford!

We got to see Rutherford out of his comfort zone this week, and it was great to see him outside his usual role as he chased down Shaxs and tried to figure out what might’ve happened. As I said last time, Rutherford’s memory loss storyline that had been set up in the Season 1 finale ended up going nowhere – and this week he even said that he had some of his memories back (somehow) – so giving him a storyline involving the return of Shaxs set him up to do something a little different.

Rutherford’s storyline involved figuring out what happened to Shaxs.

Though we didn’t spend a great deal of time with him last year, Shaxs was a fun character and I was sad when he lost his life. His return is certainly welcome, but I hope that Lower Decks plans to do more with the “back from the dead” storyline than just explaining something to Rutherford off screen. Mariner and others mentioned a number of ways Shaxs could have returned, and in Rutherford’s mind we saw a few more – all of which referenced events in past iterations of Star Trek. But as Trekkies, I think we have a natural curiosity about these things. All we really need is some kind of technobabble explanation and that would suffice – so I hope we get it before the season ends!

Shaxs’ relationship with Rutherford is sweet, and the almost fatherly way he talks to his “baby bear” is something that the show can absolutely do more with. We haven’t really seen Shaxs interact with the other three ensigns yet, but Rutherford spent a short amount of time on his security team early in Season 1, and ever since they’ve been on good terms. It would also be great to see more of the teased relationship between Shaxs and Dr T’Ana – maybe that’s something that’ll come in a future episode too!

How did Shaxs come back from the dead?! Will we ever find out?

At first I thought that Boimler’s storyline – in which the Cerritos’ computer, replicator, and doors didn’t recognise him – was going to connect in some way to last week’s “transporter clone” storyline. After all, it wasn’t 100% clear which was the original Boimler and which was the clone! That didn’t happen, and by the end of the episode he’d got his security clearance set up and was back to normal again.

Seeing him crawling through the Jeffries tubes was neat, but as mentioned the stuff with Tom Paris – which connected to Boimler’s story – felt like a bit of a dud. It was all in-character for Boimler, though, whose anxieties and neuroses have been well-established in previous episodes and stories.

Boimler tried to make his way to the bridge.

After being unsure of Boimler’s ultimate fate following his promotion and transfer, it was nice to see him back aboard the Cerritos with his friends – even if he didn’t get much of an opportunity to interact with them this time. I’m sure we’ll get more of that in future, though.

So I think that’s about all I have to say on this occasion. This was the first truly outstanding Tendi episode; the first in which she was the real star. Mariner played a great supporting role, and we got to see their friendship really come to the fore. Tendi’s characterisation feels a lot more settled than it had in the past, which is great.

We’ll Always Have Tom Paris was Ensign Tendi’s first big centre-stage moment.

The return of Shaxs was unexpected, but it was accompanied by about a dozen callbacks to similar “back from the dead” storylines in past iterations of Star Trek, which was fun. I’m glad to have Shaxs back – and I wonder if his return is going to either have a lasting impact on Rutherford or perhaps become the subject of a new storyline later in the season. Maybe Shaxs being killed off every few episodes then returning without explanation will become a running joke!

In an episode with his name literally in the title, I felt that Tom Paris’ role wasn’t all it could’ve been. Further, the design of his animated character was incredibly bland; a rare miss in Lower Decks’ usually-good animated style. He did play a role in Boimler’s story, but as cameo appearances go his certainly wasn’t one of the best.

Despite that, I had fun this week. There were plenty of jokes and laugh-out-loud moments, and it was nice to see the four main characters reunited at last. In fact, this might’ve been the funniest episode of the season so far.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1 and 2 are 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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks review – Season 2, Episode 2: Kayshon, His Eyes Open

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!

Mariner and Jet in the sonic showers.

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.

Captain Freeman’s “command evaluation” was the only part of the episode that didn’t feel particularly necessary.

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!

Kayshon meets the bridge crew.

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.

The Tamarians are an interesting race – perhaps Kayshon will be a character who helps us learn more about them.

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!

Kayshon and Tendi with the Klingon sex hat.

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.

Jet and Mariner had an argument over their styles of leadership.

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.

Tendi and Rutherford ended up saving the day!

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 during a recent episode of the DenPod (my unscripted podcast) – 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.

Rutherford and Tendi appear on the Cerritos’ viewscreen.

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.

Riker is back!

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!

Will we see more of the Pakleds this season?

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.

I was not expecting to see a Boimler transporter clone!

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!

Have we witnessed the creation of… “Evil Boimler?”

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 ensigns are back together again!

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.

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

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Seasons 1-2,

Here we go again! After more than seven months with no new Star Trek, Lower Decks has returned to brighten our days once more!

Despite problems caused by the lack of an international broadcast limiting fans’ access to the show, the first season of Star Trek: Lower Decks was outstanding. The series broke new ground for the Star Trek franchise, being its first foray into the realm of animated comedy, yet at the same time felt familiar. Many of the jokes relied on references to past iterations of Star Trek, and as a whole Season 1 of Lower Decks felt like a love letter to the franchise and its fans.

Star Trek: Lower Decks has found an international home on Amazon Prime Video, and beginning with Season 2 fans all over the world are able to watch together, which is great news. I hadn’t realised until recently how much I’d missed my weekly appointment with Lower Decks, and it was wonderful to be able to step back into its fun take on Star Trek.

The episode’s title card.

Having been excited to see trailers and teasers for the new season earlier in the year, as Strange Energies approached I felt that the marketing department at ViacomCBS went overboard with showing us clips from the episode. I wanted to avoid the dreaded “Simpsons Movie phenomenon” – where a production gives away all of its good jokes and clever moments in marketing material ahead of time – so in the final few days leading up to the episode’s arrival I actually tuned out of all of these clips. I wanted to go into Strange Energies in as unspoiled a manner as possible.

The episode was solid, but perhaps not the best Lower Decks has had to offer. There were some clever jokes, fun references, and an A- and B-plot just like most of Season 1. The A-plot looked at the relationship between Mariner and Captain Freeman as they dealt with the titular strange energies that effected Commander Ransom. The B-plot focused on Tendi and Rutherford’s relationship in the wake of his memory loss at the end of Season 1.

Rutherford and Tendi got a secondary storyline in this episode.

Both of these storylines had some great elements and some that weren’t so good. When it came to Tendi’s desire to keep Rutherford as her friend, the whole thing just felt rushed. Within seconds of the two characters appearing on screen, Tendi had jumped down the rabbit hole of obscure technobabble medical conditions, and their story then raced through several sequences before coming to an obvious conclusion. The only time either character had a second to breathe was in the episode’s final moments.

Tendi has been a character that I felt failed to really find a niche in Season 1, despite Lower Decks putting her in several different situations. The one constant in her characterisation had been her friendship with Rutherford, so this storyline did have a solid foundation to build on. Perhaps if more time had been dedicated to it it could’ve worked better; such is the peril of making an animated series with episodes that barely reach the twenty-minute mark.

Rutherford and Tendi’s B-plot felt rushed.

As for Rutherford, though the memory loss was mentioned, it really served as little more than background for the unfolding story. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Rutherford coming to terms with his lost memories and re-forging the friendships he had in Season 1, not just with Tendi but also with Mariner, Boimler, and characters like Billups in Engineering. This story with Tendi worrying about the future of their friendship could still have worked in that context, but could’ve perhaps come in episode 2 or 3 of the season, after we’d seen a little more of Rutherford rebuilding after losing all of those memories. In that sense, one of the last big moments in the Season 1 finale felt like it was underused at the beginning of Season 2. There’s still scope for some Rutherford memory loss moments, I suppose, but they’ll come after this story has already effectively reset him to the way he was last year.

When the episode’s A-plot focused on the relationships between Mariner, Freeman, and Ransom I was concerned that we were going to see Mariner undo all of the growth and development that made her arc in Season 1 so powerful and interesting to watch. I was glad that it didn’t happen; the story built on that character arc and took the characters to different places without trying to undo what had come before.

Strange Energies devoted a lot of time to the relationship between Mariner and Captain Freeman.

It makes sense for characters as different as Freeman and Mariner to find it difficult to work together at times. And it makes sense for Ransom, as the ship’s first officer, to see Mariner’s newfound status and special treatment as an issue, so all of the building blocks that went into this side of the story worked as intended. Just as it took an extreme and unusual event in the Season 1 finale for Mariner and Freeman to overcome those differences and work together, it took another such event this time for them to realise that they didn’t enjoy their new dynamic as much as they pretended to. There’s almost a mirror feel to these characters’ stories in this episode and the Season 1 finale from that point of view; they form a duology.

Once a secret is revealed, though, there’s no way to cover it up again. And the show realised this; it isn’t possible to reset Mariner to the insubordinate angsty teenager that she was at the beginning of Season 1 because the nature of her relationship to Captain Freeman is now a known quantity, and we’ve already seen her growth in that regard. So Lower Decks charted a new path for Mariner, one which will hopefully allow her to do things on her own, keep some of her rebelliousness, but at the same time not completely regress or revert back to the way she was and undo that wonderful Season 1 character arc.

Mariner still gets to be a rebel, but hasn’t been “reset.” I think that balances things well!

Mariner undergoing a character regression was one of my fears for Season 2, and I’m glad that – so far, at least – Lower Decks has managed to avoid that temptation. A show can still be episodic if it has character arcs and genuine character growth, and what I’m hoping Season 2 will deliver, at least in regards to Mariner, is the best of both worlds from that point of view.

It was an interesting choice to begin Season 2 with an episode that essentially sidelined Boimler. He got a few seconds of screen time right at the very end, but that was all. After all of the speculation about a possible demotion or a return to the Cerritos, for it not to have happened in the first episode was a bold decision – one which worked well.

Boimler, Riker, and the bridge crew of the USS Titan.

Had Boimler been included in Strange Energies in any meaningful way (such as by returning to the Cerritos), realistically one of the other storylines would have had to be cut entirely in order to make his promotion-demotion story work. As it is there’s already a concern that undoing Boimler’s promotion so soon after granting it could be a problem, so keeping him out of the first episode and just teasing that things aren’t going well for him on the Titan was clever – it seems like it’s setting up a pathway for him to perhaps lose or voluntarily give up that role in a future episode.

Though I do have some theories that I posited before the season kicked off, I’m still not sure how Lower Decks will square that circle. Since we’ve been talking about Mariner and her Season 1 character arc, I want to repeat that I hope Mariner doesn’t intentionally sabotage Boimler’s new role and promotion. She seemed mad at him in the opening act of Strange Energies, but also said she couldn’t really blame him for leaving as the episode reached its conclusion. So there’s hope, from my perspective, that whatever reunites Boimler with the rest of the group won’t be all down to Mariner!

Boimler is clearly not settling in well aboard the Titan.

I’m curious to see if we’ll get a full Boimler episode next week – or at any point this season – showing him under Riker’s command aboard the Titan. If so, perhaps the conflict the Titan was engaged in with the Pakleds at the end of Strange Energies may have set that up. It was great to have Riker back, though, even just for a brief moment.

Ransom becoming a god-like entity was perhaps the weakest part of the episode, even though it served as the catalyst for a solid Mariner-Freeman storyline and managed to include some decent and clever jokes. Perhaps it felt too over-the-top, as if Lower Decks had turned the silliness up to 11 mere moments after the season debuted. Or perhaps there was just something about the way Ransom turned 180° from his usual laid-back self into a ship-eating monster that just felt forced or didn’t stick the landing.

I wasn’t wild about this part of the story.

Plus the whole “kicking him in the balls” ending was pretty silly and childish, even by Lower Decks’ standards. I usually enjoy even the lowest-brow humour that the show has to offer (the line “he’s got wood” was one of the funniest for me in all of Season 1, for example) but something about this being the ultimate resolution to Ransom’s newfound godhood just seemed… cheap? It was definitely exceptionally silly.

It was funny to see how casually Mariner, Dr T’Ana, and others treated what was happening to Ransom, as if these “strange energies” are something everyone in Starfleet has encountered or heard of at some point. And the callback to Where No Man Has Gone Before – Star Trek’s second pilot – was definitely appreciated, as was the way Dr T’Ana became convinced that squishing Ransom with a boulder was the only solution to the problem. Lower Decks has been packed full of these references and callbacks since it kicked off last year, and I was glad to see more of the same this time around.

The Gary Mitchell reference was neat.

The Cerritos is continuing its mission of second contact, and this week we met a new race – the Apergosians. Their design was okay, but nothing groundbreaking – though they really just served a role in the story instead of supposedly becoming a race we’re going to spend a lot of time with, so I guess that’s okay. Not every alien has to be unique and distinctive! Their leader, who was pretty much the only Apergosian to get a speaking role, was very picky and almost neurotic, and I wondered if Lower Decks was going to do some kind of story about autism or Asperger’s syndrome – perhaps the name of the alien race also contributed to that. As it happened the story went in another direction, which was probably for the best.

Dr T’Ana was great comic relief in Strange Energies, and she’s one of my favourite secondary characters on the show. The moment where Ransom used his new powers to turn her hypospray into an ice cream cone was already hilarious, but then the fact that she just shrugged and started eating it almost made me spit out my drink. I had to pause the episode and recover my composure! Her boulder obsession was also pretty funny; having become attached to the idea that this was the only way, she just went off in search of a boulder disregarding what Mariner and Freeman did. And seeing her driving a forklift was funny too.

Dr T’Ana, forklift driver!

So I think that’s about all I have to say about Strange Energies. It wasn’t the best Lower Decks has had to offer, dragged down a little by the Ransom storyline. Its B-plot also didn’t really accomplish very much and felt rushed. But there were some funny moments, good jokes, and satisfying interplay between two pairs of characters. The fact that Strange Energies has started to chart a path for Mariner that doesn’t revert her to her early Season 1 portrayal while still keeping her relationship with the captain and chain of command strained will hopefully lay the groundwork for more fun antics as the season rolls on.

A solid if unspectacular start to Season 2, then. All things considered I’m satisfied with that!

Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video internationally. 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.

Ten great things from Lower Decks Season 1

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

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

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

Lower Decks is coming back soon! Yay!

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

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

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

Number 1: Ensign Mariner’s character arc.

Ensign Beckett Mariner.

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Freeman is Mariner’s mother.

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

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

Number 2: The return to an episodic format.

Tendi in the episode Moist Vessel.

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

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

Commander Ransom leading an away mission in Temporal Edict.

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

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

Number 3: The theme music.

The USS Cerritos in the title sequence.

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

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

Number 4: “He’s got wood!”

A contender for best line of the season?

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

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

Number 5: The return of the Edosians.

The Division 14 commander with Tendi and Boimler.

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

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

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

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

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

Number 6: Basically everything about Dr T’Ana!

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

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

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

Dr T’Ana and the ensigns have a standoff!

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

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

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

The USS Cerritos in all her glory.

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

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

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

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

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

Number 8: Badgey

Tendi with Badgey in Terminal Provocations.

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

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

Badgey almost got Ensign Rutherford killed in the season finale!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boimler wielding a Next Generation-era phaser.

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

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

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

“It’s the Titan!”

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

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

Riker and Troi on the Titan’s bridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lower Decks and Prodigy at Comic-Con

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!

Star Trek: Prodigy is coming soon!

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 USS Protostar will be the kids’ home in Prodigy.

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!

Zero, a Medusan character.

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!

The bridge of the USS Protostar.

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!

A closer look at Rok-Tahk.

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!

Boimler and his Paris plate.

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!

The ensigns watch as the USS Cerritos warps away!

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!

A Tamarian character could make for some great moments of humour.

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.

The four ensigns, reunited!

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.

Ensign Mariner in the new trailer.

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.

What the heck is this? ViacomCBS, this is no way to run a social media marketing campaign.

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.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 theory – Lieutenant Boimler

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, the teaser for Season 2, and for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

We recently took a look at the Season 2 teaser for Star Trek: Lower Decks, and made a few guesses about what some of the scenes might entail. Season 2 is due to be broadcast beginning in mid-August, exactly one year after Season 1 made its debut, and though it’s a little way off yet it’s never too early to indulge in some theory-crafting and speculation!

Because of its largely episodic nature, Lower Decks Season 1 didn’t lend itself to the creation of too many theories. For the most part, events took place in a single episode, and the crew warped away to a new adventure the week later. But No Small Parts, the Season 1 finale, brought about some big changes for the series, and creator Mike McMahan promised that these wouldn’t simply be undone, resetting the show off-screen in time for Season 2.

Boimler and Mariner in Season 1.

Aside from the death of poor Lieutenant Shaxs, the two biggest changes came with Ensign Rutherford losing his memory – or at least his memories of what took place in Season 1 – and perhaps most significantly, Ensign Boimler’s promotion and reassignment to the USS Titan. It’s this latter point that we’re going to look at today.

Somehow Boimler has to get back to his friends aboard the USS Cerritos – but how? And when? At least part of the teaser showed us Lieutenant Boimler in his new role as a bridge officer on the USS Titan, so we know whatever it is won’t happen off-screen, as Mike McMahan promised. Were there any clues at all in the teaser that we could point to when it comes to Boimler? After all, he wasn’t shown interacting with the other three main characters at all. Let’s find out, shall we?

As always, it’s worth saying that I have no “insider information.” I’m not claiming that anything listed below will definitely happen, it’s guesswork and speculation from a fan. Nothing more. With that out of the way, let’s consider eight ways Lieutenant Boimler could find himself back aboard the USS Cerritos.

Number 1: Boimler asks for a demotion voluntarily.

This is not the face of a happy officer!

The Season 2 teaser seemed to show us two significant things about Boimler: he doesn’t understand Captain Riker, and he seems to be out of his depth on the USS Titan. Boimler is neurotic and prone to panic, as we saw in Season 1, and neither of those traits make for an officer who’s good in a crisis. The Titan, unlike the Cerritos, is a much more adventurous starship, seeking out new life and getting into all kinds of scrapes. Perhaps, after spending some time there, Boimler realises he’s simply out of his depth.

There’s no shame in admitting a task is too difficult, and rather than struggling on with something he simply can’t do, Boimler may approach Captain Riker and ask to be transferred back to the Cerritos, taking a voluntary demotion.

Boimler on the bridge of the Titan with Captain Riker.

Though we didn’t hear Marina Sirtis’ voice in the teaser, it’s possible she will reprise her role as Counsellor Troi, and if she’s back perhaps Boimler will turn to her for advice about what to do. Troi was always gentle and polite in the way she approached even the most neurotic of officers – like Lieutenant Barclay – but perhaps this could be a moment for Lower Decks to subvert that by having her tell Boimler to jump ship!

Either way, sometime in the first episode (or first couple of episodes, at least) Boimler may approach Captain Riker and ask for a demotion, telling his new commanding officer he doesn’t feel up to serving on the Titan.

Number 2: Rutherford or Tendi accidentally get Boimler demoted.

Rutherford in the Season 2 teaser.

This could play well with the “Rutherford’s lost his memory” storyline, but a subversion of the audience’s expectations that either Boimler does something to get demoted or Mariner deliberately gets him kicked back to the Cerritos would be to make it the inadvertent fault of Tendi or Rutherford.

At this stage it has to be said that most keen fans of Lower Decks are expecting one of those two scenarios to play out. Mariner was the character who seemed most hurt by Boimler’s decision to leave the Cerritos – and to not tell her beforehand – so it stands to reason she might want to interfere and get him back. We’ll consider that in a moment. Boimler’s tendency to mess up and panic could also see him bumped back to the Cerritos, and that’s another fan expectation.

Tendi in Season 1.

But Lower Decks has done well with challenging those kinds of expectations in Season 1, and I hope Season 2 won’t go down any obvious paths. Rutherford is known for his love of technology, but that has landed him in trouble more than once in Season 1. Perhaps one of his inventions gets out of control and harms the Titan, making it seem as though Boimler is responsible?

Tendi, as I’ve mentioned more than once, felt somewhat rudderless last season, and hasn’t really settled into her role as well as the other three main characters. But we saw her ability to screw up in the episode Moist Vessel, where she accidentally ruins an “ascension.” Perhaps she could have some kind of similar accident here, one that causes Boimler to get demoted.

Number 3: Mariner gets Boimler demoted on purpose.

Boimler and Mariner in Season 1.

As mentioned, this has to be one of the firm favourites in the fan community for how Boimler will end up back on the Cerritos in Season 2. Despite that, however, I think it would be an awful choice for the show, undermining Mariner’s character progression across Season 1. I really hope Lower Decks doesn’t go down this route.

Where Lower Decks didn’t do so well in Season 1 – at least in my opinion – was in trying to make Ensign Mariner out to be some kind of “ultimate badass;” Starfleet’s answer to Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty. That kind of character can succeed in comedy – as Rick himself proves – but in a Starfleet setting, and particularly coming from a junior officer, it fell completely flat every time the show tried it.

Mariner in the captain’s chair in the Season 1 finale.

Mariner had a truly satisfying arc across Season 1. She came to understand more about herself and what she does and doesn’t like about serving in Starfleet, and even put aside her differences with Captain Freeman – her own mother. Reverting back to how she was at the beginning of Season 1 by selfishly putting her own wants ahead of her friends would be worse than just a regression, it would be a betrayal of her character.

Regardless of what I think, the possibility exists that Mariner may try to sabotage Boimler’s promotion, intervening in just the right way to get him demoted and reassigned back to the Cerritos.

Number 4: Boimler gets promoted.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Boimler aboard the USS Titan.

So far we’ve considered possible ways Boimler could get demoted – but what if his return to the Cerritos is prompted by a promotion instead? Boimler was a junior lieutenant at the end of Season 1, and in that role was able to serve on the Titan. But perhaps the Titan doesn’t have space for a full lieutenant and he bounces back to the Cerritos after an especially successful assignment!

A lieutenant is still a relatively junior officer, and Boimler attaining such a rank wouldn’t necessarily undermine the premise of Lower Decks. He could continue to work with the other three principal characters even if he technically outranks them, and that could become a source of humour.

Boimler in Season 1.

I’m not sure how likely this one is given the show’s original intent was to focus only on ensigns doing menial tasks aboard a starship, and while having a lieutenant in their midst would open up different storytelling options – and options for jokes and humour – it does, in some respects, go against what the show intended to be about.

Having Boimler be promoted would be a subversion, though, completely challenging audience expectations for how he returns to the Cerritos! That in itself could make it worth doing – after all, he can always get demoted again later if a storyline requires it!

Number 5: Something connected to an away mission.

Though he isn’t easy to spot, in the upper-right of this image from the teaser you can see Boimler.

The image above is taken from the Season 2 teaser, and seems to show Boimler on an away mission. While three colleagues defend the position, Boimler appears to be working on some kind of computer terminal. It isn’t possible to tell who the three are, but they clearly aren’t familiar characters from the Cerritos; certainly not the three ensigns. So perhaps this away mission takes place while Boimler is assigned to the Titan.

If the away mission goes wrong, or if Boimler’s role in it does, perhaps it’s what leads to his demotion and/or reassignment. Alternatively, this could be the moment Boimler decides for himself to step away from the Titan; perhaps the away mission was too stressful for him. It certainly looks like he’s under pressure!

“Zoom and enhance!”

I can’t tell what it is that Boimler is working on. It could be a power generator, a weapon, some kind of factory, or something else entirely. It’s underground, which suggests it could be something that’s supposed to be a secret. And Boimler and the others aren’t wearing Starfleet uniforms, which could mean they’re undercover. They might even have been captured and this moment is depicting their escape.

Though this could be a holodeck programme or something else, it appears on the surface to show Boimler in a difficult situation. Given how prone he can be to panicking and overreacting, that could mean it’s the moment where he decides – or someone else decides on his behalf – that he needs to take a step back and return to a more junior role.

Number 6: Boimler is demoted by Riker.

Troi and Riker conducting crew evaluations in The Next Generation Season 7 episode Lower Decks.

This could be connected to the away mission above, or it could be something different, but perhaps the best explanation is that Riker, after evaluating Boimler’s performance for himself, simply decides that he isn’t cut out to be a lieutenant or to serve on the Titan. There may not be one single event to point to as the cause; instead we may see a number of smaller mistakes across the course of the first episode or two.

In the Season 2 teaser, Boimler appeared to be serving on the bridge and failed to understand one of Riker’s commands. At the same moment, the USS Titan was drifting toward some kind of anomaly and was under attack by at least one alien ship. Boimler’s failure at a key moment like that – even if it were prompted by Riker’s confusing turn of phrase – could be the cause of his demotion.

Boimler and Riker on the bridge of the USS Titan.

If Boimler is to be demoted back to ensign, having that be caused not by Mariner or the others would probably be the best way to go. It may not paint Riker in the best light, but this “version” of the character is different, and in the context of Lower Decks it would probably be fine even if Riker came across as too harsh. Keeping Mariner out of things would probably be the best way to go, allowing her friendship with Boimler – one of the high points of Season 1 – to remain in place.

We know from the way he conducted himself in Season 1 that Boimler can be anxious and easily overwhelmed, especially when things start to go wrong. Though his role in the episode Temporal Edict showed he can be a competent officer, at numerous other points across the season he panicked and allowed circumstances to get away from him. Riker may simply decide, based on that evaluation, that he isn’t cut out for a role under his command – at least, not yet.

Number 7: Mariner challenges Riker to an anbo-jyutsu match.

Mariner in anbo-jyutsu armour in the Season 2 teaser.

One of the most interesting moments in the Season 2 teaser was Ensign Mariner donning anbo-jyutsu armour. Anbo-jyutsu was a 24th Century martial art seen in The Next Generation Season 2 episode The Icarus Factor, and the only major character we ever saw participate in a match was… Will Riker!

The Season 1 finale confirmed that Riker and Mariner know each other to some extent, though he clearly wasn’t keen enough to offer her a role on his ship! But given that they have some kind of history, and that Riker knows Captain Freeman as well, perhaps Mariner will try to use her connection to Riker to get Boimler back.

Riker in anbo-jyutsu armour in The Next Generation Season 2 episode The Icarus Factor.

In short, here’s this theory: Mariner challenges Riker to an anbo-jyutsu match. The prize? Boimler. Though this would surely be conducted over Boimler’s objections, whoever wins the match – surely Mariner! – would get to keep Boimler. When she wins, he gets transferred back to the Cerritos even if he doesn’t want to or didn’t do anything wrong.

This could be played for laughs far more easily than Mariner mean-spiritedly trying to sabotage Boimler’s career. And if his time on the Titan wasn’t mentioned subsequently, we wouldn’t necessarily have any reason to feel that Boimler holds a grudge for his reassignment to the Cerritos. He may, as mentioned, even get to keep his new rank in such a scenario. This would involve Mariner, the show’s protagonist, and allow her to get her way, but wouldn’t drag her character back quite so far as if she deliberately did something to get Boimler kicked off the Titan.

Number 8: Boimler remains on the USS Titan all season.

The USS Titan in the Season 2 teaser.

With all of these theories for how Boimler could end up demoted and back on the Cerritos we’ve missed something obvious! Instead of any of that happening, Boimler could instead remain aboard the Titan.

There are many ways that the characters could still work together at a distance – and given that the current state of the world has a lot of people working remotely, there could be something rather timely in a series of stories that show Boimler having to video call with his friends instead of being able to spend time with them in person!

Boimler was very excited to see the Titan in Season 1!

The Titan and the Cerritos, at least at the end of Season 1, were both operating in roughly the same region of space. Perhaps Season 2 will see them work in tandem, or as part of a larger fleet. I’m not sure how this would work with the “second contact” mission that the Cerritos had in Season 1, but we didn’t see that many second contacts in Season 1, with the Cerritos also undertaking other assignments.

Perhaps the solution to the “Boimler problem” has been staring us in the face the whole time – he doesn’t need to be reassigned or demoted, and can remain in the role he worked so hard to win last year.

So that’s it. Eight theories for Lieutenant Boimler’s role in Season 2.

Boimler at his post on the Titan’s bridge.

In many ways, Boimler being promoted and reassigned felt like it could have marked the final end of Lower Decks; the series finale. And perhaps that was how it was originally written before the creative team knew that a second season was definitely going ahead. Though Lower Decks has now been renewed for a third season and will hopefully run for several more beyond that, the natural end for a show like this, focusing on characters of lower rank, is to see them promoted and moving on to bigger things. Boimler’s role on the Titan could have been that moment for the series.

We didn’t see any signs in the Season 2 teaser of Boimler back in his old uniform, nor interacting in any way with anyone from the Cerritos. So at this stage we have to say that anything could happen! He could return to his old role right at the beginning of the season, he could stay on the Titan for an episode or two, and so on. How he might end up back on the Cerritos is also entirely unclear, and all I can do at this stage is make a few guesses!

Ensign Mariner in the Season 2 teaser.

For my two cents, I hope that if Boimler is to be kicked back to the Cerritos, it doesn’t come at the expense of Mariner’s character growth. She clearly wants him back, and that’s understandable. But if she were to interfere and sabotage him, even though it’s a comedy and such a moment would be played as a joke, it wouldn’t feel right. Lower Decks worked best by making the everyday goings-on in Starfleet funny. Where it didn’t work were the moments where Mariner’s selfishness and lack of care saw her put her own wants ahead of the crew or Starfleet’s mission.

It’s now officially less than four months until Lower Decks will be back on our screens. Although we’ve already seen a short teaser, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a longer trailer as the season approaches. If we do get one, be sure to check back as I’m sure to take a look at it. And beginning in mid-August, I hope you’ll stay tuned for episode reviews as well as discussion of the series.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available. The series is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Lower Decks – thoughts on the Season 2 teaser

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 and the teaser for Season 2. Further spoilers are present for the following: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Nemesis, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Star Trek’s First Contact Day event took place earlier this week, and in addition to some fun panels with members of the cast and behind-the-scenes teams we got three teaser trailers for upcoming Star Trek shows. I’ve already taken a look at elements from the Discovery Season 4 teaser and the Picard Season 2 teaser, so this time it’s Lower Decks’ turn to go under the microscope! And a microscope seems appropriate considering series creator Mike McMahan called this teaser a “microscopic look” at the upcoming season!

If you missed my write-up of the First Contact Day event, by the way, you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Lower Decks is not really a show that lends itself to a great deal of theory-crafting. Its episodic format and somewhat random nature mean speculating about specific storylines feels futile! Despite that, however, there are a couple of big questions raised by the teaser, and I’ll do my best to look at them in turn.

Ensigns Tendi, Rutherford, and Mariner in the teaser.

First up, the bridge crew. Aside from Commander Ransom (who appeared to be possessed!) the rest of the bridge crew were absent from the teaser. What could that indicate? After Shaxs was killed off at the end of Season 1, it feels as though the main characters are not as “safe” as we might expect, so perhaps another member of the senior staff won’t survive the season? That could be one explanation! Alternatively, the bridge crew could’ve been kept under wraps to avoid spoiling Shaxs’ replacement, particularly if there’s a new character who’s either visually distinctive or perhaps a returning character from a past iteration of the franchise.

We’ve seen a number of guest-stars across Season 1 who had been involved in Star Trek in the past – such as John de Lancie and JG Hertzler – but it would be potentially really interesting if someone we knew well from a past iteration of the franchise were to have a recurring role. Tuvok could replace Shaxs as head of security, for example, or time-travel shenanigans could see the return of someone like Travis Mayweather from Enterprise. That could be a great twist, and bringing back a character who doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else in the franchise right now seems like a lot of fun!

Ensign Mayweather of the USS Cerritos?

We’ve seen Prodigy go down a similar road with the return of a holographic Captain Janeway, and that series has a lot of potential. Maybe it would risk feeling repetitive coming so soon after Prodigy’s announcement of Janeway’s return, but even so I think it could be fantastic if done well. There must be plenty of ex-Star Trek stars who’d love the chance to come back even in voiceover form!

Next let’s look at Ensign Rutherford. At the end of Season 1, Rutherford’s trademark cybernetic implant was ripped out. This put him in a coma, and when he awoke he was missing all of his memories from Season 1, including meeting Tendi. In the teaser, though, his implant was back (and looking exactly the same as it did last season) and he seemed to be friends with Tendi and Mariner again – so what happened?

Rutherford’s cybernetic implant was ripped out in the Season 1 finale.

We’ve been promised that Season 2 won’t simply “reset” Lower Decks and ignore the events of the Season 1 finale, so somehow Rutherford has gotten a new implant and rebuilt his relationships with Mariner and Tendi. I hope we get to see at least some of that, because there’s potential in a “we used to be friends but you can’t remember” storyline, both from a dramatic and comedic perspective.

The implant was okay, and certainly gives Rutherford a distinctive design. Having had it removed in Season 1, though, there was potential to redesign it or do something different with Rutherford, and changing things up for him could open up new storytelling possibilities for the character. We’ll have to see what – if anything – the show does with all of that.

Rutherford’s implant is back!

That brings us to Boimler! At the end of Season 1, Boimler was promoted and transferred to the USS Titan under Riker’s command. Mike McMahan had already said that Season 2 would begin with him serving there; as mentioned there would be no “reset” to keep him on the Cerritos. And we saw in the teaser the first signs that his posting was not going well!

After cutting to Boimler, the first thing we see is him screaming loudly, panicking and unable to cope with whatever bizarre situation the Titan has got itself into. Up next, with the ship seemingly on course for a nebula, ion storm, or other spatial anomaly, Boimler doesn’t understand one of Riker’s turns of phrase, loudly exclaiming “what does that even mean?!”

Boimler’s new posting doesn’t seem to be going so well…

It seems safe to assume that, somehow, Boimler will find himself back aboard the Cerritos. But how? In one of the teaser’s other scenes, we seemed to see Boimler taking part in some kind of away mission, working on a computer while three other figures – clearly not the three other ensigns – defended him from being attacked. Did this mission happen during his time on the Titan? The absence of the other ensigns hints at that, and not seeing the three of them together at all in the teaser suggests that Boimler could remain aboard the Titan for more than just a few minutes during episode 1!

For a show that bills Mariner as its main character, we didn’t see as much of her in the teaser as I might’ve expected. She was briefly seen wearing anbo-jyutsu armour (first seen in The Next Generation Season 2 episode The Icarus Factor) and again fighting off a group of Cardassians. Neither of those short sequences told us much from a story point of view – except that, at some point in the season, she presumably takes part in an anbo-jyutsu match and battles some Cardassians!

Mariner in her anbo-jyutsu armour.

The Cardassian fight looked like it could potentially be a flashback; on rewatching it I’m not entirely sure why I think that, but it was my initial reaction so I’m sticking with it! We saw a flashback of Mariner in Season 1 when she visited Deep Space Nine, so perhaps this will be something similar. And it’s worth noting that the only anbo-jyutsu match we’ve ever seen in Star Trek featured Riker – who will be making an appearance in the season. Could Mariner face off against Riker? And if so, could the “prize” be getting Boimler back?

Other things I spotted in the teaser were: a Miranda-class ship coming under attack, a mugato (the white ape-like creature with a horn) from The Original Series Season 2 episode A Private Little War, Ransom’s “possession” possibly taking place on either the Klingon or Cardassian homeworld (a guess based on the architecture in the background), Mariner’s Cardassian fight taking place in front of four lights (perhaps an homage to The Next Generation Season 6 episode Chain of Command), and the Titan seemingly coming under attack while on course for the anomaly.

It’s not easy to spot from this angle, but that’s Boimler in the upper-right, working on the computer terminal.

The only character who didn’t have much to do in the teaser was Ensign Tendi. She had one moment with what looked like a snake-alien (or perhaps just a bunch of snakes) and she had the trailer’s only real line, wondering about how Boimler is getting on. In Season 1 Tendi never really found the right fit, with different stories trying out different personalities for her. She spent most of the season in “new and eager” mode, overawed by every small detail she encountered. Attempts to move her away from that had her turning clumsy, like Boimler, or into a super-genius like Rutherford, and I never really felt that Tendi was a settled character. Perhaps her lack of role in the teaser is indicative of that trend continuing – but I hope not. It would be great for her to find a niche and settle in.

For a teaser that barely clocked in at thirty seconds, the Lower Decks team crammed a heck of a lot in! I’m sure I missed things even having rewatched it a dozen times, so be sure to take a look for yourself to see what you can spot!

The USS Cerritos.

The first season of Lower Decks was fantastic, but sadly marred by a stupid decision on the business end from ViacomCBS to split up the show’s broadcast by geography. The resultant damage to Lower Decks from lost hype and interest was a problem during Season 1, and there’s no getting away from that. However, now that an international agreement has been struck to give Lower Decks a home on Amazon Prime Video, its future feels a little more settled.

Speaking of the show’s future, a third season has now been confirmed. With all of the other exciting things going on from First Contact Day I didn’t spot that announcement at first, but it’s now official! Obviously ViacomCBS was pleased with the reaction to the show both in the USA and around the world when it finally made its international debut, and that’s great news. If the creative team can keep up the quality, it would be great to see it run for four seasons, five, or potentially even more.

Lower Decks is the only upcoming Star Trek project to have an official broadcast date: Season 2 will premiere on the 12th of August. Presumably that means the 13th of August for the rest of us! Oh well, that’s only four months away! We can start to get excited already!

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and other countries and territories where the service is available. The series is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Lower Decks and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek’s “First Contact Day” event – roundup and impressions

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, and most importantly, there are spoilers (including images) from the teaser trailers for Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, and Discovery Season 4. There are also spoilers for Prodigy.

Yesterday was “First Contact Day” – the 5th of April is the day in 2063 when humans made first contact with the Vulcans, as depicted in Star Trek: First Contact. We’ve seen the event celebrated within Star Trek on a few occasions, and apparently one dish often served is salmon! But we’re off-topic already.

The creative team in charge of Star Trek set up First Contact Day as a digital event, somewhat akin to last year’s Comic-Con @Home presentations, and other similar events that they’ve done periodically. It was marketed on social media, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. But it wasn’t 100% clear how fans were supposed to access the virtual panels – whether they were just going to be available on the website, on social media directly, or even via Paramount+. Even navigating to the right part of the Star Trek website took clicking through several links.

It wasn’t exactly clear how to get to this web page.

That confusion was entirely self-inflicted and clarifying it would have been easy to do. It was almost as if the social media/website teams were making watching the panels “live” – they were actually pre-recorded – as difficult as possible. Thankfully all five of the panels were later made available on YouTube (vital for me, so I could go back and take screenshots!) But while we’re complaining about Star Trek/Paramount+/ViacomCBS’ social media, if you want to watch the full panels on YouTube I advise you to do so fast – in the past, some Star Trek videos, including one of the trailers for the first season of Picard and last year’s Comic-Con panel I mentioned earlier, were taken down by YouTube’s copyright protection algorithm. Hopefully that won’t happen this time, but it’s worth keeping in mind the possibility.

One of the pre-event social media posts was really tantalising and very well put-together. A “teaser” clip of a viewscreen which briefly flashed up two numbers – that looked like map coordinates – got a number of Trekkies talking and speculating, successfully building up a degree of hype for the First Contact Day event. In 2021, this kind of audience engagement via social media is vital for any franchise, and I’m glad to see Star Trek at least making an attempt!

What looked like the bridge of the USS Discovery…
…and the mysterious numbers!

So let’s start with the big news!

We got teaser trailers for Lower Decks Season 2, Picard Season 2, and Discovery Season 4! In addition, we got to see the design for Captain Janeway in Prodigy. Each of the panels gave us a few clues and tidbits of information about these upcoming Star Trek projects, which was fantastic.

The mysterious numbers mentioned above did in fact turn out to be coordinates – for a convention centre in Chicago! Star Trek: Mission Chicago is going to take place in April 2022, and will be the first in-person convention since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Perhaps it’s because I was never going to be in attendance, but I’m not sure the convention was the strongest way to end the First Contact Day event. It was saved for the last moment by co-hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton, and it just felt a tad anticlimactic after an event that had seen so much other exciting news.

For me at least, this wasn’t the strongest way to end the entire broadcast.

With so much going on, and so many amazing reveals, it’s hard to know what to talk about first! Let’s start with Prodigy, since the newly-revealed image of Captain Janeway is probably going to be seen as First Contact Day’s most iconic takeaway. While there was no trailer or teaser for the series, which I admit I had been half-hoping for, we did get a bit more information.

The series is set several years after Voyager, at roughly the same time as Lower Decks, in the 2380s. And the reason why none of the aliens we saw in the first teaser image a few weeks ago look familiar is because the show is set in the Delta Quadrant. The aliens are (presumably) all Delta Quadrant natives who are, according to the show’s creators, totally unaware of Starfleet or the Federation.

The new Captain Janeway design for Prodigy.

The version of Captain Janeway that they encounter is a “training hologram” that has been left behind on some kind of training vessel, presumably by the USS Voyager as it passed through the Delta Quadrant. This is the abandoned Starfleet vessel that had been mentioned in the show’s original description.

The design of Janeway is just fantastic. Modern Star Trek has not been shy about changing up classic designs, but Janeway retains her Voyager-era uniform and combadge, and the design manages to blend the way she looked in the show with a CGI-cartoon aesthetic just perfectly. Looking at her, you know immediately who she is! I honestly cannot fault the design, and I can’t wait to see her in action along with the new crew.

The rest of the Prodigy crew.

The premise of Prodigy has now fully taken shape. The setting has been laid out and the crew assembled. Now all we’re missing is the ship itself! Could that be the Delta Flyer?

The creators of Prodigy talked about how the new series will be great fun for kids, stimulating their imaginations and creativity. Both words, “imagination” and “creativity,” came up several times during the panel, and it sounds as though they’re really pushing hard for Prodigy to be something more than just background noise or brainless entertainment. The best kids’ shows do this, and as a result have a lot to offer kids and adults. There was a mention that Prodigy is for “all ages,” which is great!

Finally, Prodigy promised a number of surprises and connections to Star Trek’s broader canon, both of which I like the sound of! There was a hint that one of the characters we saw in the teaser image has a connection to The Original Series; my first guess was the rock-like alien perhaps being a Horta, as that was something I guessed at when I first saw the image. But we’ll have to wait and see on that!

Could this character be related to the iconic Horta?

So that was Prodigy. Since we’re looking at animation, let’s move on to Lower Decks next.

Creator Mike McMahan was involved in a panel that looked at Star Trek’s sense of humour. Considering how many “critics” attacked Lower Decks before it was broadcast for being an un-serious take on Star Trek, I think it was worthwhile to remind people that humour has been a huge part of the franchise going all the way back to The Original Series. McMahan in particular noted the interactions between Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy as being a great example of this.

The panel concluded with the aforementioned Lower Decks Season 2 teaser, and in a scant few seconds there was a lot going on! Here are just a few of the things I noticed: Rutherford’s implant is back, meaning his design remains unchanged despite the events of the Season 1 finale. Boimler, as promised, remains aboard the USS Titan, though his posting doesn’t seem to be going well!

Lieutenant Boimler doesn’t seem to be having “the time of his life” on board the USS Titan!

Jonathan Frakes will return as Riker, which we had assumed but hadn’t been confirmed. At one point, Mariner wore what looked like the anbo-jyutsu armour from Season 2 of The Next Generation – something Riker wore once in that show. A Miranda-class ship was briefly shown. And finally, there was a sequence in which Mariner appeared to be fighting several Cardassians!

There’s a lot to digest in just those few seconds, and taken out-of-context it’s hard to be sure of what’s going on! What we didn’t see was Boimler interacting with the other three main characters, and perhaps that’s to keep his fate a secret. Or perhaps it’s indicative of the fact that he will remain aboard the USS Titan for several episodes!

Ensigns Tendi, Rutherford, and Mariner in the Lower Decks Season 2 teaser.

Lower Decks Season 2 looks to be coming together nicely, and there was a lot shown off in the teaser that seems to be from quite a few different episodes. We now know that Lower Decks Season 2 will premiere on the 12th of August, which is pretty much one year after Season 1’s debut! So that’s fantastic news, and it means we’ll get at least some Star Trek this year!

Discovery’s fourth season is also scheduled for 2021, though no date was confirmed. After an interesting panel which focused on Nichelle Nichols and a documentary that has been made about her and her work and influence over women at NASA called Women In Motion, Sonequa Martin-Green introduced the first Season 4 teaser trailer.

The Women In Motion panel.

Before we look at the teaser in depth, I enjoyed the Women In Motion panel. One point that came up is the value of representation, which was something Michelle Hurd (Star Trek: Picard’s Raffi) discussed at length. Representation matters in entertainment, and I’ve had an essay in the pipeline on that very subject for a while. One of these days I’ll get it finished!

On to the teaser trailer. The first thing to note is that Discovery’s uniforms have been changed. The grey design appears to have been retired in favour of a more colourful look – the basic layout of the uniforms appears to be very similar, but the colours have changed. This is something I predicted a few weeks ago, and I look forward to seeing more of the new uniforms at some point soon; it’s difficult to assess them fairly from a few short scenes in a teaser!

Owosekun and Burnham sporting the redesigned, more colourful uniforms in the Season 4 teaser.

After the Burn in Season 3, it seems as though Discovery is returning to another “natural disaster” concept in Season 4. An “anomaly” described as being five light-years in diameter seems to be threatening both the Federation and other worlds, perhaps meaning there will need to be some working together to figure out a solution.

After Seasons 1 and 2 both ended up being about fighting and had major villains to defeat, it was a nice break for Discovery to largely have to deal with a scientific problem in Season 3, so I think the same concept could work well again. I just hope that it doesn’t end up feeling either repetitive, as though copying the Burn, or anticlimactic, coming after the galaxy-wide catastrophe and simply not being as impactful.

Damage to the USS Discovery in the Season 4 teaser.

When I heard talk of a gravitational anomaly that was several light-years wide, my first thought was the Nexus, as seen in the film Generations. That “energy ribbon” was known to be able to damage starships and even planets, and though we didn’t see any evidence of the Nexus, perhaps it could be the cause of this strange anomaly?

It looks as though the USS Discovery takes a beating in Season 4, and may even end up destroyed or irretrievably damaged! At one point, Burnham was the sole figure on the bridge and had to wear a helmet, presumably because of the extent of the damage suffered by the ship. Though the uniforms have been redesigned, I didn’t see any significant changes to the internal design of the USS Discovery itself, which is something I think would be nice to see now they’re established in the 32nd Century.

Burnham in some kind of armour or space suit in the Season 4 teaser.

It was great to see Cleveland Booker back, and it seems as though David Ajala will be back as a regular cast member for the show. Book was such a fun character in Season 3 that I’m thrilled he’s back. He wasn’t in a Starfleet uniform, so it seems as though he’s keeping his status as an outsider. That worked well in Season 3, so why change what works?

Lieutenant Detmer appears to have upgraded her cybernetic implant! We saw at least one glimpse of a scene in which the USS Discovery appeared to lose artificial gravity, which is something rarely seen in Star Trek. We saw the return of the President of Ni’Var, who appeared in Season 3, as well as the debut of a new character who seems to be a Federation official.

At one point, the ship appears to lose its artificial gravity!

Saru was shown briefly, and looks to be in some kind of diplomatic or ambassadorial role based on the few seconds he was on screen. We also saw one other Kelpien, a couple of unknown aliens, and Burnham once again talking about togetherness and unity as ways to tackle the threat they all face – presumably this anomaly. And most importantly: Grudge is back!

So all I can think to say is “wow!” Discovery Season 4 looks action-packed to say the least! We didn’t see either Admiral Vance or Kovich; the latter we know is returning but I certainly hope Admiral Vance will be back as well. Oded Fehr’s performance in Season 3 was fantastic, and it’s wonderful to have a Star Trek admiral who does what’s right and isn’t an adversary; it makes a nice change!

The USS Discovery was also briefly glimpsed in the Season 4 teaser.

Based on what we saw, Discovery Season 4 looks fantastic, and getting confirmation that it’s aiming for a 2021 release is great news as well. Though no date was given, at this stage I would assume (alright, guess) that we’ll see something of a repeat of last year, with Lower Decks running from August to October, and Discovery Season 4 picking up sometime in mid-October; certainly before Halloween. It would then run through the autumn and winter before concluding sometime in the New Year. That was 2020’s pattern, and with Lower Decks scheduled for August, I think we can reasonably guesstimate that the same thing will happen this year as well.

That brings us to Picard, which was one of the first things we saw! The Picard Season 2 teaser was totally unlike the Lower Decks and Discovery teasers, being comprised of no filmed scenes and featuring no characters – which makes sense, given how early in production the season is! Despite that, however, in the short teaser we actually got a lot of information – or possible information – about what might be going on!

A model of the USS Stargazer in the Season 2 teaser.

Firstly, time travel appears to be involved. Specifically, travelling backwards in time. This was represented by an hourglass running in reverse. We also saw the teaser linger very prominently over a model of the USS Stargazer – Picard’s first command. There was also a glimpse of Paradise Lost, an epic poem about falling from grace and the rejection of God. I’m sure that’s a tease at something… but what? Then we got the biggest bombshell of the entire teaser: Q is returning!

John De Lancie, who plays Q (and who recently appeared in Lower Decks) joined Wil Wheaton and Sir Patrick Stewart to confirm Q’s return, and it was great to see him back! The combination of time travel plus Q seems to make for an interesting setup to the new season!

John De Lancie will reprise his role as Q in Picard Season 2!

The USS Stargazer was under Picard’s command for more than twenty years, seemingly from the 2330s to the 2350s. Having spent so much of his life aboard the ship, revisiting it makes a lot of sense for the show! It’s also an almost-blank slate, as aside from a few references and lines here and there across The Next Generation, the Stargazer’s exploits are largely unknown. We do know that the ship was involved in the Cardassian Border Wars, and that Jack Crusher served aboard the ship before being killed. In voiceover, Picard talked about time being the real “final frontier,” and about the desire to do things differently.

A couple more hints about the storyline and Q’s involvement came in the panel which followed. Sir Patrick Stewart made a couple of references to Q appearing in an “episode” using the singular, so perhaps Q will be back for just one appearance! It doesn’t sound as though Q caused whatever time-related event is happening, which is also a point of note.

The very creative way Q’s involvement was announced!

Q’s arrival was said to come at a “shattering moment” – perhaps the moment that time shattered? Or perhaps a moment in which Picard feels traumatised, as Sir Patrick Stewart and others made reference to Picard being “traumatised” both by his past and whatever is going on in the new season.

There seemed to be a hint that Picard may visit more than one time period, as well as Jonathan Frakes’ inclusion suggesting that Riker may make a reappearance in Season 2 as well. My first thought, putting all of these elements together, is some kind of follow-up to the events of All Good Things, the finale of The Next Generation. In that story, Q allowed Picard to move between three time periods in order to solve a puzzle – events in the future were having a causal effect on events in the past! Perhaps some kind of similar “anti-time” story is on the cards?

An hourglass running backwards was one of the key visuals in the teaser.

Q appeared in the first episode in which we met Picard – Encounter at Farpoint right at the beginning of The Next Generation’s run. As I said once, it would be poetic if he were also to appear in the episode – or at least the season – which marks Picard’s end as a Star Trek character as well. Though a third or even fourth season of Picard was said to be there for the taking if Sir Patrick Stewart wanted to do it, I wonder if Q’s inclusion in Season 2 may mean that it will be the last season of the show – and may even see Picard killed off.

That’s pure speculation on my part, though!

With production having only been going on since late February, I’m not surprised that Picard didn’t have more to show at this stage. It seems certain we won’t see Season 2 before next year, and that’s actually okay! As excited as I am to continue the journey, we’ll have plenty of Star Trek to get stuck into later this year.

What relationship will Paradise Lost have to the plot?

So that wraps up my thoughts on the three teasers (plus one image) that we got during yesterday’s First Contact Day event. Before we go, though, I want to talk briefly about the other panels.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: First Contact (gosh I feel old now, as I remember seeing it at the cinema!) There was a panel hosted by Wil Wheaton that featured Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and Alice Krige – the actress who played the Borg Queen in that film. It was a very sweet panel, as all the participants had fond memories of working on the film.

Krige in particular spoke very highly of working with the cast of The Next Generation, and being welcomed aboard by a team that had been working together for almost a decade at that point. There were some lighthearted moments too, as Frakes was quizzed over his “Two Takes Frakes” nickname! It was a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see that, even after so many years, the cast still enjoy one another’s company.

The Star Trek: First Contact 25th Anniversary panel.

The only panel I haven’t touched on yet was that hosted by Mica Burton in which several designers and artists participated. It reminded me of a book I own called Aliens and Artifacts which similarly looks at makeup, uniform design, prosthetics, and so on, and how all of those things are created by artists behind the scenes.

It’s always interesting to learn a little more about how these things work, and it was neat to hear from some of the folks who have been involved with designing new aliens, new uniforms, and other aesthetic elements that go on to be iconic and emblematic of Star Trek.

The artists’ panel was interesting.

So that’s it! First Contact Day was interesting, and we got to learn a lot about upcoming Star Trek projects! The return of Q in Picard Season 2, as well as a time travel story, sounds interesting. Discovery Season 4 looks to be playing up the strengths of Season 3. And Lower Decks looks like another wacky good time! It was great to see Captain Janeway’s design in Prodigy, as well as learn a little more about that series. Though I hoped to find out when it will debut or even see a trailer, I’m content to wait and let the creators get it ready first!

I had fun with First Contact Day, and I encourage you to check out all of the panels in full if you haven’t already. At the very least, watch the teasers for yourself! You can find all of the First Contact Day panels by clicking or tapping here to go to the Paramount+ YouTube channel.

The Star Trek franchise, including all properties mentioned above, is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

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

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

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

Ensigns Boimler and Mariner.

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

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

Ensigns Tendi and Rutherford.

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

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

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

Commander Ransom and Captain Freeman.

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

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

Dr T’Ana.

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

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

The USS Cerritos.

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

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

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

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

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

23 weeks of Star Trek comes to an end…

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

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

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

Burnham and Book in the third season premiere of Discovery.

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

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

Ensign Mariner from Lower Decks.

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

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

The USS Discovery crash-lands in Far From Home.

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

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

Dr Gabrielle Burnham was a member of the Qowat Milat.

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

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

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

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

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

The arrival of the USS Titan.

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

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

Saru in command of the USS Discovery.

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

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

There will be more Lower Decks to come!

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Lower Decks is finally getting an international broadcast

Five months too late.

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

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

Ensign Mariner.

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

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

Ensign Boimler.

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

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

Ensign Tendi.

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

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

Ensign Rutherford.

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

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

The USS Cerritos at warp.

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Lower Decks and the ethics of piracy

No, not piracy on the high seas. We’re going to take a look at copyright infringement, and this is a contentious topic so let’s be clear up front: in practically every jurisdiction around the world, piracy is illegal. I am categorically not encouraging it nor am I condoning it. This column aims to be an honest discussion on the moral and ethical implications only, not the legal ramifications.

The journey to writing this column began in July, when Star Trek: Lower Decks was announced. The announcement came with a US/Canada premiere date and weekly release schedule, but nothing for the rest of the world. Trekkies like myself who aren’t from North America held our breath and waited. More information about the show came out, but no international release date. Then a trailer was published, but again no international release date. Star Trek’s Comic-Con panel approached, and I considered this the last reasonable chance for news of an international broadcast. But again, fans were let down.

Lower Decks premiered on the 6th of August, but only for North American viewers. ViacomCBS not only chose not to broadcast the series internationally, they haven’t made any public statement on the issue. And don’t get this twisted around saying it isn’t the company’s fault because of coronavirus or some other issue; they are in full control over when to broadcast the series in the United States, and if they couldn’t secure the international broadcast rights for whatever reason before the 6th of August, it was entirely within their power to delay the series until they had come to an agreement with an international distributor or broadcaster. It was thus ViacomCBS’ decision – and their decision alone – for Lower Decks to be split up and shown to some fans but not others. And it is undeniably their decision not to address the problem in public.

In such an environment, is it any surprise that Trekkies outside the US and Canada turned to piracy to access the series? If it’s literally unavailable any other way, and there is radio silence on when it may become available, what choice to fans have? The answer is that there is no choice, and ViacomCBS made it that way. They practically invited piracy of Lower Decks not once but twice: first through the utterly moronic decision to segregate the show by geography, and secondly by not even giving lip service to the problem. Look at any social media post from official Star Trek pages in July and early August – each one received many comments asking about Lower Decks’ international broadcast, and every single one was ignored.

We can set aside my usual arguments about how this harms ViacomCBS’ own negotiating position – assuming they still plan to sell the show internationally – because that’s something I’ve covered repeatedly and it isn’t what this column is about. Purely from a moral and ethical standpoint, is it wrong to pirate Lower Decks?

When a television series, film, or video game is made available to the general public, I think most people would say that piracy is not acceptable. Most of us agree that the actors and behind-the-scenes staff deserve to be paid for their work, and the investors in the company who bankrolled the project deserve to see a return on their investment. We can talk at length about how some large media corporations make excessive profits for a select few shareholders and managers, but as a general rule, most people agree with the principle of paying entertainers for the entertainment they provide.

This is the reality of how entertainment works. Companies producing a television series, video game, or film need to raise money to create their project and see it to fruition, and somehow they need to recoup that money as well as make a profit to fund their next title. Nowadays there are myriad ways to do this, including streaming platforms online. If everybody engaged in piracy, it would be very hard for any company to make any new work of entertainment, because they would have no way of making their money back.

So when a work of entertainment is made available, most people stick to doing one of two things – pay to enjoy it, or don’t participate.

But that argument is only valid in cases where content is available via lawful methods. Lower Decks, as we’ve already established, is only in that category if you’re lucky enough to live in the United States or Canada; the two countries combined are home to less than 5% of the world’s population. So if 95% of the population are denied access to something, what options do they have? Wait an indeterminate and possibly unlimited amount of time? It’s been over a month since Lower Decks debuted and in that time ViacomCBS has said precisely nothing. How long are we supposed to sit on our hands?

In the case of another recent series that made this mistake, waiting became incredibly problematic. We could argue from the point of view of “hardcore” Trekkies that nothing in Lower Decks has been a massive spoiler. There isn’t one character or one moment to point to – at least, in the first six episodes – which if it had been spoiled ahead of time would have majorly ruined our enjoyment. But in some shows that isn’t the case. Disney+ launched in the United States months ahead of the rest of the world, and one of its big draws was the first ever live-action Star Wars series: The Mandalorian. The end of the first episode contained perhaps the biggest twist in the entire first season: the Mandalorian’s target is a child, nicknamed “baby Yoda” by the internet.

Baby Yoda was everywhere in November and December last year. Screenshots and clips were all over the internet, and baby Yoda was in so many memes! Friends and family members of mine who don’t know the first thing about Star Wars had seen baby Yoda – so imagine being a Star Wars fan, unable to watch The Mandalorian simply because of where you live, having that massive reveal and the emotional core of the series spoiled months before you could see it.

Before the dawn of the internet it wouldn’t have mattered. In the 1990s, when I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and the other shows of that era, the fact that we in the UK were getting them a couple of years after their American premiere wasn’t something I ever noticed. Even within Star Trek fan clubs and at Star Trek fan events in the ’90s, there were no spoilers. And yes, I went to numerous such meet-ups and events at the time.

But in 2020, companies can’t get away with that any more. Not because of the tiny minority of people who take a kind of twisted pleasure in deliberately spoiling something for others, but because social media and the internet in general becomes awash with spoilers. If you follow Star Trek’s official social media, as I do, you’ll have picked up numerous spoilers for Lower Decks, as their social media channels throw out plot points, lists of Easter eggs, and all manner of other things almost daily. And that’s not to mention fan-run pages and groups. In short, if you’re a fan of anything in 2020, chances are that, in some way, you go online to engage in that fandom, and that’s a breeding ground for spoilers.

In the case of The Mandalorian, baby Yoda hit the mainstream such that even the most careful fan wouldn’t have been able to avoid seeing or hearing about it. And when you’ve been burned by spoilers once or twice, it’s very easy to get upset and annoyed – and to turn to piracy.

When it comes to shows like The Mandalorian and Star Trek: Lower Decks, I think what I’d say is that piracy may still be legally wrong, but it’s much harder to claim that it’s morally wrong. We live in an interconnected, globalised world, where the internet means people from everywhere can be connected to each other and to the franchises they love at all times. Companies like ViacomCBS have actively encouraged this kind of globalism because it means a bigger market and more profit. But creating a global brand comes with a responsibility that extends beyond national borders. In the global, interconnected world that these massive corporations have encouraged, the least they could do is make their content available. ViacomCBS has been keen to promote Star Trek as a brand outside the United States, even setting up events in Europe like Destination Star Trek where actors and producers routinely draw huge crowds.

The franchise, at ViacomCBS’ behest, has become a global brand. There are Star Trek fans from the Falkland Islands to Timbuktu, all because the company has chosen to sell Star Trek and its merchandise to every country it can. But it seems that ViacomCBS only cares about its international audience for as much money as it can wring out of us, because as soon as there’s a tiny bump in the road they’re quite happy to cut us off and not share their most recent creation.

Star Trek doesn’t belong to Americans. It depicts a future where humanity is working together to learn and grow together to build a better world, something which seems the complete antithesis of a major American corporation cutting off its overseas fans with no information thrown our way.

With ViacomCBS being so disrespectful to its international audience, is it any wonder that Lower Decks has become one of the most-pirated shows of the last few weeks? I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone, because when there is no other way to access the series, piracy – by definition – becomes the only option. Anyone with a computer and even the tiniest inclination can find out how to download or stream Lower Decks, and when you consider that for 95% of the people around the world – including many Trekkies and casual fans of the franchise – it can’t be lawfully accessed, from a moral and philosophical point of view I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t.

Piracy is definitely against the law – but in this case, that doesn’t make it wrong.

Downloading and uploading of copyrighted material (“piracy” for the purposes of this discussion) is against the law in practically every jurisdiction around the world. This column should not be interpreted as encouraging piracy or copyright infringement for any television series, film, video game, or entertainment franchise. The Star Trek brand – including Star Trek: Lower Decks – remains the copyright of ViacomCBS. This column contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Okay ViacomCBS, let’s talk “priorities”

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

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

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

So let’s talk priorities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: The Next Generation re-watch – Lower Decks

Spoiler Warning: Spoilers will be present for The Next Generation and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

It’s only a couple of days now until the premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decksat least for viewers in the United States. The franchise’s first full animated series in over forty years looks like it’s going to be hilarious… but did you know that it isn’t Star Trek’s first “Lower Decks”?

On the 7th of February 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation aired the fifteenth episode of its seventh and final season. The episode was titled Lower Decks, and much like the new show, it took the action away from the main cast and the bridge crew. The episode wouldn’t be broadcast in the UK until April 1996 (that’s when I will have first watched it, as I was an avid Trekkie even in those days!) Let’s hope that ViacomCBS doesn’t plan on making us wait anywhere near as long as two years to get the new Lower Decks.

With the new show coming out, I thought it could be fun to step back in time twenty-six years and revisit the first Lower Decks.

No, not that one…

By this point in the history of the franchise, Star Trek shows had expanded well beyond a small cast of regular characters. Where the “redshirts” of The Original Series had been, to put it politely, one-time use characters by and large, The Next Generation had a handful of secondary characters who would augment the main cast. Ensign Ro, Guinan, Chief O’Brien, Lt. Barclay, Nurse Ogawa, and several others all had roles to play, and as the show went on some of them came to be increasingly prominent. This was a concept that Deep Space Nine would expand greatly, and that series had a far larger secondary cast, some of whom – particularly in later seasons – would be incredibly important across whole story arcs.

Lower Decks looks at four junior members of the Enterprise-D’s crew (and one civilian). Only two – Nurse Ogawa and Sito Jaxa – were familiar to us before the episode aired. Ogawa had been a regular character in scenes set in sickbay since the fourth season, and Sito had appeared in the fourth season episode The First Duty. The other three were new for this episode, but all would have significant, interconnected roles in the story. The episode can be overlooked when it comes to thinking about The Next Generation’s best offerings, in part perhaps because its premise means it spends so much time away from the main cast. I confess that I overlooked it myself when I put together a list of ten great episodes from The Next Generation a couple of months ago; I didn’t even consider it a contender! However, it’s a fantastic story and a great piece of television. While it isn’t unique in the Star Trek canon – Deep Space Nine would have many episodes where secondary characters were the focus, and the episode Good Shepherd, from Voyager’s final season, similarly features junior crewmen – it was unusual for The Next Generation, and features some genuinely emotional moments. Stellar performances from all of the guest-stars elevate the episode, and make what was an interesting story into something truly great to watch.

Nurse Ogawa would go on to have roles in two films – Generations and First Contact.

At this point, almost a quarter of a century from when I first saw it (gosh does that make me feel old) I’ve seen Lower Decks a number of times. I wouldn’t like to guess how many, but The Next Generation is probably my most re-watched Star Trek series so it’s been a fair number, I can tell you that! I’m always happy to go back, though, and this will be my first time writing about it and taking a deeper look at some of the moments within.

Lower Decks opens with Commander Riker and Counsellor Troi sitting in Ten-Forward. They’re engaged in something we almost never saw them do in The Next Generation – managing the ship’s crew! On a ship with a complement of over 1,000 people, this must be a huge task, yet with all the other adventures and hijinks that befall the crew, we never really get to see these quieter moments or the more “boring” tasks involved in running a starship of this size. This is actually something I hope we’ll see some of in the new Lower Decks, as I feel it’s an under-explored side of Star Trek and life aboard a Federation starship.

Troi and Riker are the Enterprise-D’s human resources department.

While they discuss officer assignments and promotions, a group of younger officers are seated a few tables away. This is where we meet the episode’s real stars – in addition to Ogawa and Sito there’s Ensigns Lavelle and Taurik, as well as Ben, the waiter in Ten-Forward. While the others are enjoying their evening away from their duties, Lavelle is obsessed with the prospect of promotion. This character setup was great, painting Lavelle as the career-obsessed type and showing that the others find it easier to relax. Setting up Lavelle’s fixation on his promotion will pay off a bittersweet moment for him at the end of the story.

This kind of story can be difficult – in the space of a couple of minutes the show has to set up several new characters and their relationships in a way that feels natural and not like there’s a huge dump of exposition on the audience. It’s really only Nurse Ogawa who’s familiar to the audience; Sito hasn’t been seen in three years at this point, and the others are brand new. So it was a clever scene, and I think it achieved its goal of introducing us to the episode’s main characters.

The group in Ten-Forward.

Riker and Troi’s conversation turns to promotion, specifically for the night-duty Ops officer. This is a role that both Lavelle and Sito are contenders for. Ben, the waiter, overhears, and after the tiniest amount of persuasion from the junior officers spills the beans; I get the impression this is something he takes a lot of satisfaction in doing! Setting up a conflict between the friends is an interesting way for the episode to go, and of course there’s only one job so one of them will be disappointed.

Sito and Lavelle are left stunned and concerned, and then the title sequence rolls. I will always love The Next Generation’s theme – even though it was, of course, “borrowed” from The Motion Picture!

After the credits roll, Riker is in the Captain’s chair on the Bridge, ordering a phaser lock. Sito is at tactical, with Worf standing over her shoulder, and Lavelle is manning the helmsman’s position next to Data. They’re conducting a battle drill – though that may not have been immediately obvious – and Riker seems a little disappointed with their response time.

Riker in command during the battle drill.

Riker seems to be harsh on Lavelle, reprimanding him for saying “aye aye” instead of “aye”, while in main engineering, Taurik is tasked by La Forge with writing up the battle drill report. Sito seems to be the one who really messed up – after the ship changed course she had to re-lock the phasers which delayed firing on the target. However, Riker seemed to take it easy on her, offering her advice instead of cracking down, and compared to how he treats Lavelle it’s clear who he favours.

Captain Picard emerges from his ready-room and orders an immediate course change, postponing a scheduled rendezvous, as the ship has received new orders. Picard summons the main crew – Data, Riker, and Worf – to the observation lounge, and Riker assigns Sito to the ops station next to Lavelle, who seems put out by her being given the role ahead of him. The system they’re travelling to is close to Cardassian space, and there’s some discussion about why they may be going there, and the two share a cute moment when Sito uses the expression “spider under the table” to mean a “fly on the wall” – eavesdropping on the senior officers’ chat.

Lavelle and Sito on the bridge.

Lavelle is worried that Riker favours Sito for promotion over him, but it doesn’t seem to hurt their friendship at all – despite knowing they’re effectively in competition their friendship remains solid. I liked this characterisation; if Lavelle became too cold, distant, and unkind toward Sito he’d be much harder to root for as a character.

In engineering, Taurik tries to show La Forge a theory he learned at Starfleet Academy to increase the ship’s engine efficiency. La Forge initially seems interested, but Taurik may have jumped the gun by suggesting it be rolled out to the Enterprise’s engines without completing a simulation first. Taurik has other ideas to help too, but La Forge – seemingly annoyed – basically tells a confused Taurik to get back to him later.

La Forge listens – briefly – to Taurik’s proposal.

Two things come out of this for me: the first is that Lavelle and Taurik have comparable issues with their commanding officers. And secondly, we see how a junior officer can feel that they’re being treated not necessarily unfairly, but perhaps that they feel they’re taken less seriously. The Next Generation in its first few seasons would sometimes put the character of Wesley Crusher in a vital position where his ideas and plans were listened to by the whole crew; this episode feels, at parts, like a total reversal of that. The way Taurik is treated by La Forge here is just one example.

The next scene features Nurse Ogawa in sickbay. In contrast to how Taurik and Lavelle have, at best, complicated relationships with their superiors, she and Dr Crusher are on much more friendly terms. To the audience this undoubtedly makes sense – Ogawa is a character we’re much more familiar with as by this point in The Next Generation’s run she’s already made thirteen appearances going back over three years; she’s a character we’ve seen in sickbay often, and her relationship with Dr Crusher has been touched on previously. Ogawa is being recommended for a promotion to lieutenant – if only it were that easy for Sito and Lavelle!

Dr Crusher uses Ogawa’s first name – Alyssa – and they talk about her personal life and who she’s dating. Ogawa treats her as a friend, and I loved this dynamic.

Ogawa learns of her impending promotion to lieutenant.

The ship drops out of warp, and back in Ten-Forward, Sito is talking to Worf about her brief stint manning the ops console. Worf is the one who recommended Sito for the position – and on the other side of the room, Taurik, Lavelle, and Ben the waiter are looking on. Ben is on first-name terms with Commander Riker, much to the shock of Lavelle. Taurik and Ben convince him to strike up a conversation with his commander, as getting to know him on a personal level might improve their relationship.

What follows has to be one of the best scenes in the episode. Lavelle makes a truly cringeworthy attempt to talk to Riker, mistakenly believing him to be from Canada when he’s in fact from Alaska, and generally making a fool of himself in a moment that I certainly could relate to – and I’m sure lots of people who’ve made conversational missteps can too! As mentioned, Lavelle could have come across as a kind of selfish and egotistical glory hunter, chasing his own promotion and ignoring his friends if the character had been less-well written. But this moment, and the other with Sito on the bridge, go a long way to humanising him and making him relatable.

Though Lavelle doesn’t see it, as he excuses himself and slinks away, there seemed to be a moment of hope for his cause at the very end; despite everything, Riker was at least amused by the conversation and smiled to himself.

Lavelle realises his chat with Riker is not going well.

The Enterprise-D is holding position 5,000km from the Cardassian border – which is practically a stone’s throw when dealing with the vastness of space. Captain Picard is concerned, seemingly waiting for a ship to arrive, when Worf detects a small object that could be an escape pod. The pod is 50,000km inside Cardassian territory, and the captain wonders aloud how it will be possible to retrieve it. The only one of the ensigns present on the bridge in this moment is Lavelle, and from this point on the episode begins to split the characters up for important events.

I love this setup – each of the characters, as the episode progresses, will learn part of what’s going on, but it won’t be until the very end that they can put all the pieces together and establish the whole story. This is what really gives the episode its unique feel; following the junior officers who don’t know everything that’s happening but must carry out their orders regardless.

In engineering, Taurik and La Forge work to increase the effectiveness of the transporter to be able to beam the individual from the life support pod onto the ship. I have to confess at this point that I feel that 50,000km seems like a very limited range for the transporter. I wouldn’t like to say with certainty, because Star Trek in general can be vague with things like distances in the few instances where we get specifics, but I’m reasonably sure we’ve seen the transporter used over greater distances before with no issues.

La Forge and Taurik work on beaming the occupant of the life support pod to the ship.

Interestingly, and continuing the theme of the junior officers not knowing the full story, La Forge orders Taurik not to scan the life pod’s occupant to determine his or her species. Again – this seems like something that might be helpful or even necessary for using the transporter, but Star Trek’s technology is vague enough that it can be made to fit circumstances like this!

In sickbay, Ogawa helps Dr Crusher prepare for the arrival of the mysterious figure, but when they’re ready Crusher orders her to leave the room. In the hallway she meets Sito, who has been posted at the entrance to sickbay in her capacity as a security officer. They wonder aloud what’s going on; Sito isn’t letting anyone but the senior officers inside. As Ogawa departs, Captain Picard arrives and seems to briefly hesitate when greeting Sito.

Ensign Sito and Nurse Ogawa wonder what’s happening in sickbay.

Lavelle asks Riker on the bridge if he can work another shift; he says he needs the extra training, but Riker tells him it’s a bad time. Captain Picard leaves sickbay and orders Sito to accompany him. En route, he asks her if she’s a qualified pilot, and in his ready-room queries her past record from the Academy – the events of the Season 4 episode The First Duty. In that episode, Sito, Wesley Crusher and a couple of other cadets were involved in a plot to cover up the death of a fellow cadet who died during an illegal flying manoeuvre. Sito defends herself to the captain, and defends her record and her character.

We see Picard being far more harsh than usual, and something definitely seems “off”. Picard has always believed in telling the truth, as indeed we saw in the episode in question. But he’s also a believer in second chances; Sito would never have been allowed aboard the Enterprise-D without his permission, so his words seem overly critical and perhaps even unfair.

Ensign Sito and Captain Picard in the turbolift.

In one of the shuttlebays, Taurik is using some kind of beam on a shuttlecraft. It wasn’t obvious at first, at least not to me, but it’s revealed in short order that he is in fact firing a phaser rifle at it, “intentionally damaging” it as he puts it. La Forge tells him it’s a requirement to test shuttles in this manner from time to time, but like Taurik, the audience is just as surprised at such an odd regulation!

Taurik cottons on pretty quickly – La Forge is making it seem as though the shuttle was escaping an attack. He tells the junior officer it’s a coincidence – but both of them know that the other knows the truth. The way Taurik is presented is very much in line with other Vulcans – he’s very clever, but also not at all subtle about concealing the fact. Instead of keeping to himself what he knows about the work he’s doing on the shuttle, he shows off to La Forge that he’s figured it out – in spite of the fact that it could potentially cause problems for him.

Taurik fires his phaser rifle.

In sickbay, Dr Crusher swears Ogawa to secrecy before revealing their patient – a comatose Cardassian! It couldn’t be anyone else this close to Cardassian space, right? The seventh season of The Next Generation was running concurrently with Deep Space Nine’s second season – in fact, the day before Lower Decks premiered, the 14th episode of Season 2 had aired. So by this point in the history of Star Trek, the Cardassians have taken shape as a significant antagonist faction.

The junior officers – and Ben – are playing poker while off-duty in the next scene, and of course conversation turns to why they are where they are and what might be happening. Sito is of course upset because of her conversation with Picard. Playing poker has been a hobby of the Enterprise-D’s crew for the whole run of the series, and giving the junior officers the same hobby ties the two groups together neatly (if somewhat transparently).

The poker game.

The scene is juxtaposed with the senior officers’ poker game – where the topics of conversation are the junior officers! Riker disagrees with Worf recommending Sito for the role at ops, and Dr Crusher has spotted Ogawa’s boyfriend talking to someone else in Ten-Forward. The scenes jump between the two poker games in what is a pretty clever sequence.

I once again liked Lavelle’s conversation with Sito – despite wanting the promotion for himself, he reassures her when she’s feeling low after her dressing-down from Picard, strongly emphasising their friendship is what matters most to him. The poker games draw a comparison between Lavelle and Riker, something which Troi also picks up on, to Riker’s annoyance. Riker wins his hand, but Lavelle loses; he was bluffing. Perhaps that says something about the positions the two men are in?

As several people depart each poker game, La Forge arrives at Taurik and Lavelle’s quarters to summon Taurik to engineering.

La Forge and Taurik in the latter’s quarters.

Ben is the only character who’s able to flit between the two groups – and as Lavelle retires to bed, he joins the senior officers’ poker game. The next day, Worf springs a surprise test on Sito in her martial arts class – he claims it’s a Klingon ritual that the test must be unannounced. He blindfolds her and proceeds to beat her several times in a row.

Sito eventually protests; removing the blindfold she declares is isn’t a fair test. Worf tells her that she has passed – the test was not about defeating him while blindfolded, but about standing up for herself. Combined with what she’s just been through with Picard, the sense that the senior officers are all testing her is starting to build!

Worf blindfolds Sito for his “test”.

Inspired by the lesson from Worf, Sito heads straight to Captain Picard’s ready-room to respond to what he had told her earlier. Standing up for herself, she insists that if he won’t judge her fairly, she wants to be transferred to another ship.

Captain Picard wasn’t being unfair or unduly hard on Sito for no reason. As we suspected, he had an ulterior motive. The ops position will have to wait; Sito is being assessed to see if she’s capable of being given a very dangerous assignment – she’ll learn the details at a briefing with the senior officers. I’m glad that Captain Picard had a proper reason for treating her the way he had earlier; it seemed to run very much against his character and it needed an explanation!

Captain Picard listens to Ensign Sito defend herself.

A brief scene in sickbay sees Ogawa telling Dr Crusher that her boyfriend had proposed – Dr Crusher had been seconds away from telling her about seeing him with another woman! The action then cuts to Sito’s briefing. Captain Picard, Riker, and Worf are joined in the briefing room by the Cardassian from the escape pod. His name is Joret Dal, and he’s a Federation spy who brought them information about Cardassian military operations, and he now has to get home.

The mission sounds very dangerous – Sito is a bargaining chip to help Joret Dal cross the border, and when he makes it he’ll launch her home in an escape pod. The border is heavily militarised, and crossing it will almost certainly mean they’ll be intercepted by the Cardassian military. However, he believes that if he has a “prisoner”, it will make the crossing easier.

Joret Dal, the Cardassian spy.

It isn’t clear how or why Joret Dal came to work with the Federation, but Sito readily agrees to the mission. Earlier, Captain Picard had told her he asked for her to be assigned to the Enterprise-D to she could have a chance to “redeem” herself after the incident at the Academy; I can’t help but feel she sees this mission as her shot at redemption.

Sito is ordered to report to sickbay, and to keep the mission secret from everyone – which of course includes her junior officer friends. Out of everyone present, it’s Worf who seems to be most concerned for her safety. Captain Picard didn’t order her to undertake the mission, but in a way, being in the room with the captain, first officer, and the Cardassian spy put her in a very uncomfortable position if she had wanted to refuse. Combined with what Captain Picard said earlier about redemption, there’s an element of psychological persuasion going on that isn’t acknowledged, but is definitely present. Despite the way it’s presented as being Sito’s choice, I confess I find the circumstances a little concerning. She wasn’t coerced, not exactly. But she was certainly placed very deliberately into a position where refusing the mission would have been very difficult.

Ensign Sito accepts the mission.

As Sito departs, Worf looks very concerned. Joret Dal says “I didn’t realise she would be so young”, clearly foreshadowing what’s to come. At the damaged shuttle, Worf and La Forge are with Joret Dal. Sito arrives, having been made-up by Dr Crusher to look as though she had been hurt. Worf is even more alarmed at seeing her; he clearly cares deeply for her – in a platonic way, of course.

Sito expresses her thanks to Worf before departing aboard the shuttle – again, more foreshadowing and setting up what’s about to happen. After telling him she’ll see him soon, Worf is left to stand watching as the shuttle door closes, leaving her alone with Joret Dal and about to undertake the mission. Seeing a sensitive side to Worf may not be something I would’ve thought I’d have wanted to see, but it absolutely was. He was almost behaving like a father or older brother to Sito, building up her confidence and looking out for her. It’s a side of him that we don’t see often, despite him having a son of his own.

Worf watches wistfully as Sito boards the shuttle.

Aboard the shuttle, Joret Dal tells Sito he doesn’t consider himself a traitor for working with the Federation. He feels that the Cardassian military engages in too many pointless battles with the Federation, and no longer serves Cardassia properly. His motivation isn’t that of a spy, but of a patriot. His character, which doesn’t get much screen time and thus could have come across as wholly one-dimensional, ends up feeling very real and well-rounded in just this short scene.

Sito and Joret Dal share a moment – they both realise that they have at least over-generalised each other’s people. She never thought she’d see a Cardassian who was tired of war, and he never thought he’d meet a Bajoran who would help him. There are two strong moral lessons in these moments for us as the audience: war and international relations are far more complicated than it may ever seem, and it’s possible to misjudge someone on the basis of their background or even their race.

The shuttlecraft.