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 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.

Star Trek news roundup!

Want to listen to this article? There’s an audio version at the bottom of the page.

I don’t really see Crazy Uncle Dennis as a news source for everything going on in the Star Trek galaxy! From time to time I have jumped in to comment on a big news story – the announcements of Strange New Worlds and Star Trek 2023, for example. But when small pieces of news crop up I’m usually content to let other sites and social media outlets pick them up; there’s not a lot to be gained by me repeating a one-line news item that’s already floating around the Star Trek fan community!

In the last few weeks, however, there have been several of these smaller news stories, so I decided to compile the ones I think are most interesting into a short list – just in case any of these managed to pass you by. We’ll be talking about upcoming Star Trek productions, so if you want to avoid any chance of spoilers, now’s your chance to jump ship!

We have some Star Trek news to dissect today.

This might be an occasional series that I run here on the website, but there are definitely better places to go if you want to get the latest Star Trek news right when it’s breaking!

So without further ado, let’s take a look at a selection of news items that have come up over the last few weeks.

Number 1: Strange New Worlds is practically finished with filming on Season 1.

Hit it!

We have Anson Mount to thank for this one! Mount – who plays Captain Pike in Discovery Season 2 and the upcoming Strange New Worlds – posted on social media that filming is underway on the Season 1 finale. Assuming that the season was filmed in order, and that there aren’t many re-shoots or secondary shoots still to come – this means that the filming stage of production is almost over.

There will be a lot of post-production work to do between now and the series premiere next year, and the fact we haven’t seen anything official yet – no still images, no teaser, no trailer – suggests to me that very little post-production work has been done yet. With Discovery Season 4 coming up before the end of this year, I think the post-production team must be prioritising that series. However, with filming almost over that means Strange New Worlds has completed a big part of its production! The show looks set to be on track for a broadcast in the first half of next year.

Number 2: Star Trek 2023 gains a director and writer – and it’s not who you might’ve been expecting!

Shortly before the announcement of Star Trek 2023 back in April, we got the news that Kalinda Vazquez – who had written the Short Treks episode Ask Not and the Discovery Season 3 episode Terra Firma, Part II, as well as having been a producer during Discovery’s third season – had been tapped by Paramount Pictures to write a brand-new Star Trek film. Barely a month later came the announcement of Star Trek 2023, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who put two and two together!

However, along with the announcement that Star Trek 2023 will be directed by WandaVision’s Matt Shakman, we also learned that the script has been written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, who previously wrote Tomb Raider and Captain Marvel, along with Lindsey Beer, who doesn’t have many credits to her name thus far.

Does this mean that the Kalinda Vazquez project isn’t happening? Or is it now significantly less likely? Some outlets are staying positive, assuming that “no news is good news,” and that with no announcement that the Vazquez film isn’t happening that it must still be going ahead. Does that mean two Star Trek films are potentially in the works?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Number 3: There was a very small teaser for Lower Decks Season 2.

Boimler and Mariner reunited!

To mark one month to go until Lower Decks Season 2 premieres, we got a new very short teaser that Star Trek put out on social media. Unlike the trailer which we got for First Contact Day in April, this second teaser was far shorter and only showed off one part of one scene. I mentioned it briefly in the July episode of the DenPod – my unscripted podcast – but there really wasn’t an awful lot to say!

However, there are two points of note. The first is that this is the first time we’ve seen Boimler and Mariner together since Boimler’s reassignment in the Season 1 finale. It was cute to see them back together, as they came to work quite well as a duo across the show’s first season. But perhaps the most significant point is that Boimler appears to be wearing an ensign’s rank on his uniform.

I have several theories regarding Boimler’s possible route back to the USS Cerritos, and you can check them out by clicking or tapping here. Though it does seem inevitable that Boimler will be back with the other ensigns, this is the first confirmation we’ve had that it will be through some kind of demotion – assuming that this isn’t a dream or a flashback or something!

Number 4: Whoopi Goldberg made an appearance on the official Roddenberry Facebook page.

Whoopi Goldberg on the Roddenberry Facebook page earlier this month.

Sir Patrick Stewart made headlines in 2020 when he invited Whoopi Goldberg to reprise her role of Guinan in Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard. But since that moment on The View – the daytime television show Goldberg co-hosts – there hasn’t been any mention of Guinan in Picard. Two teaser trailers have come and gone without her, too.

So it was interesting to see Whoopi Goldberg appear reading one of the “Roddenberry daily quotes” – a series that I believe is being run by the official Roddenberry Facebook page. At least this confirms she has some involvement with Star Trek!

Goldberg recently appeared in The Stand – a miniseries which premiered last December on CBS All Access. I have no reason to doubt that she would do Picard Season 2 if she could – but the lack of information about her return to the role of Guinan could mean the story of the season has moved in a different direction since Sir Patrick Stewart’s invitation.

Number 5: Star Trek 2023 is rumoured to bring back the Kelvin timeline.

Is the Kelvin timeline coming back?

The official announcement from Star Trek and Paramount did not confirm this, but some outlets have been picking up on a rumour that Star Trek 2023 is going to bring back Chris Pine and the rest of the Kelvin timeline cast. I’ve debated the pros and cons of a Kelvin sequel in the past, and with Star Trek’s return to the Prime Timeline I’m not convinced that another Kelvin project is the right way to go.

This is just a rumour, though, and there are myriad possibilities for Star Trek 2023 and what it could be. Star Trek Beyond did clearly tease a sequel back in 2016, and there have been several proposals in the last few years that never got off the ground. Is now the right moment to bring back the Kelvin timeline?

Number 6: 4K versions of The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home are in the works!

The films will also be available on standard Blu-ray.

A new 4K Blu-ray box set has been announced, and the first four films starring The Original Series’ cast are being remastered. Why not all six, including The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country? Because that’s ViacomCBS logic, I guess. Perhaps they plan to sell the final two later as a two-part set, and then make another six-film set, pushing collectors to buy more and more versions of these films!

Considering the significant investment ViacomCBS has made in its streaming platform, I’m surprised to see them putting together a 4K Blu-ray box set. I can count on one hand the number of folks I know with a 4K Blu-ray player, and with streaming continuing to grow as a significant force in home entertainment, there’s something decidedly antiquated about any optical media in 2021.

Hopefully the remastered versions of the films will make it to Paramount+ after their launch on 4K Blu-ray! And maybe this means ViacomCBS will be willing to take another look at some other Star Trek projects in dire need of a trip to the remastering suite?

Number 7: ViacomCBS corporate news.

The ViacomCBS logo.

As Trekkies we need to pay attention to the business side of Star Trek on occasion. There are two stories out of the corporate side of ViacomCBS that I think could be potentially important to Star Trek’s future, and both have come up in the last few weeks.

Julie McNamara had been the head of programming for CBS All Access during the development of Star Trek: Discovery, as well as briefly the head of programming for Paramount+ when the service was re-launched. She’d been involved with CBS for a number of years, and was a strong behind-the-scenes force in bringing Star Trek back to the small screen.

The departure of an executive who was seemingly pro-Star Trek should not be taken lightly, and the franchise has suffered in the past due to corporate leaders who weren’t on board with the kind of stories Star Trek aims to tell. Hopefully her replacement will be as keen on continuing Star Trek as she was, but I’m at least a little concerned about this change in leadership.

Paramount+ is the digital home of Star Trek in the United States.

Secondly, there’s a rumour flitting around the business world that ViacomCBS and Comcast are seeking a merger. Comcast owns – among many others – American network NBC, the SyFy channel, the Peacock streaming service, DreamWorks Animation, and Universal Pictures. Comcast is reportedly the third-largest media company on the planet.

Whether such a merger would survive government oversight is a legitimate question, but one better-suited to corporate lawyers! From my point of view as a Trekkie, the concern I have with this kind of merger is that Star Trek’s importance would be reduced. Paramount+ expanded the streaming lineup already, yet the Star Trek franchise remains a significant part of Paramount+’s new content. However, if Comcast and ViacomCBS were to merge, the new company would have access to hundreds of new brands, shows, and films. The Star Trek franchise would suddenly find itself in a position of being far less important, and that could have consequences for future productions.

I don’t believe either of these news stories are reason to hit the panic button. But as a Trekkie, I’m invested in Star Trek’s ongoing success. Star Trek continuing to be a successful franchise means its parent company – whoever that ultimately ends up being – will continue to invest in the brand and produce more films and shows.

Number 8: To The Journey – the Star Trek: Voyager documentary – has officially entered production.

Logo for To The Journey.

Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, To The Journey has entered production with filming kicking off in Los Angeles. What We Left Behind, the Deep Space Nine documentary produced by the same team in 2018, was truly interesting, and I have no doubt that To The Journey will be a riveting watch as well.

Production is going to be slow, according to director David Zappone, with filming expected to continue well into the new year. When To The Journey is ready, I plan to write a full review, so be sure to check back!

Number 9: Playmates is going to produce a new line of Star Trek toys!

The official announcement image.

I have a rather modest Star Trek collection, but some of my favourite pieces are toys from the ’90s by Playmates. The brand became synonymous with Star Trek for much of the decade, producing action figures, dolls, vehicles, playsets, and prop replicas, and the company recently announced that they’ll be stepping back into the Star Trek franchise.

The teaser image shown off along with the announcement looks like it includes action figures or dolls of the following characters: Data, Michael Burnham, Admiral Picard, Captain Pike, Saru, and Discovery-era Spock. That’s unlikely to be the extent of it, though!

The Playmates logo.

The Star Trek franchise has been very poor in recent years when it comes to merchandise. Not only has there been a lack of things like action figures and prop replicas, but some of the products that have been created under the Star Trek license are just plain weird. I mean, does anyone want a Star Trek faction flag made by a company that usually makes flags for sailing ships? Which moron came up with that idea?

Regardless, it’s great to see ViacomCBS signing a contract with a proper toy manufacturer. I have some amazing Playmates figures in my collection – including Dr Pulaski and Morn! Hopefully this is the first step to many more Star Trek collectibles hitting the market.

So that’s it!

This has been your Crazy Uncle Dennis Star Trek news roundup! As mentioned above, I wouldn’t have necessarily written a full article about any of these, but the fact that several potentially interesting pieces of news came along in a relatively short span of time meant that I was quite happy to cobble them together into a nice list.

If this kind of situation occurs in future I may do the same thing. Otherwise, I hope you’ll stay tuned for much more Star Trek content to come! We’re less than a month away from the premiere of Lower Decks Season 2, and I’ll be aiming to review each new episode as they’re broadcast.

Until next time!

The Star Trek franchise – including all titles and 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.

Click or tap below to listen to the audio version of this article:

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: 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 review – Season 1, Episode 10: No Small Parts

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

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

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

The episode’s title card.

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

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

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

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

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

Freeman and Ransom with Landru.

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

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

Ensign Mariner on Beta III.

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

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

Boimler realises what he’s done.

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

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

The destruction of the USS Solvang.

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

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

Tendi and Rutherford meet their new crewmate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cerritos encounters the ship that took down the Solvang.

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

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

Jakabog, the Pakled captain.

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

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

The Cerritos is being cut up.

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

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

Mariner takes charge on the bridge.

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

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

The crew armed with Mariner’s contraband weaponry.

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

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

Peanut Hamper refuses the mission.

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

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

Rutherford and Shaxs aboard the shuttle.

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

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

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

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

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

Mariner in the captain’s chair.

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

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

Riker and Troi aboard the USS Titan.

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

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

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

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

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

Rutherford awakens from his coma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lieutenant Boimler of the USS Titan.

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

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

Boimler and Mariner in the bar.

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

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

Goodbye Shaxs… and Lower Decks Season 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The title card for Crisis Point.

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

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

This is where I live now. In San Francisco.

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

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

Mariner reprimanded by Captain Freeman.

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

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

Mariner’s therapy session.

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

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

Boimler explains his holodeck programme.

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

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

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

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

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

Boimler in the holodeck movie.

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

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

Mariner as “Vindicta.”

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

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

Tendi tries to talk some sense into Mariner.

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

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

Rutherford tells Billups what he really thinks of him!

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

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

The Cerritos’ saucer on the surface of the planet.

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

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

Mariner vs. Mariner.

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

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

Mariner learns a valuable lesson thanks to her holographic self.

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

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

Boimler learns that Mariner is the captain’s daughter.

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

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

Mariner apologises – has she turned the page?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to listen to this review? An audio version can be found below via the embedded YouTube video.

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

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

The title card.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The trial room.

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

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

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

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

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

The Romulan Bird-of-Prey.

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

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

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

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

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

Boimler stands up for Starfleet and his friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click or tap below to listen to the audio version of this review:

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

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

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

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

The episode’s title card.

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

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

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

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

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

Tendi and her new dog.

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

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

The special away team.

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

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

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

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

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

Boimler is “phased!”

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

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

Captain Ramsey and Mariner are reunited.

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

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

Rutherford and Dr T’Ana try to help Boimler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariner realises her friend has matured and moved on.

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

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

The bog-planet aliens with Captain Ramsey.

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

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

Tendi, The Dog, and Boimler meet their shipmates.

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

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

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

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

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

Boimler tells the Division 14 commander about the planned mutiny.

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

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

Ramsey learns that Mariner has been making mistakes on purpose.

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

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

Boimler and the Division 14 ship arrive at The Farm.

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

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

Rutherford rushes to the transporter room.

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

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

The space entity.

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

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

Mariner realises her ruse has been discovered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The title card.

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

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

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

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

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

Ransom misinterprets the ensigns’ odd behaviour.

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

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

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

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

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

The Drookmani captain had a familiar voice!

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

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

Fletcher demonstrating how “ready and focused” he is!

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

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

Dr T’Ana and the ensigns stand off.

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

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

Tendi and Rutherford in the mess hall.

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

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