Star Trek Lower Decks (LOW) Season 2 Guest Reviews

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Strange Energies


Strange Energies


"Strange Energies"

Stardate not given: The USS Cerritos is orbiting the planet Apergos, completing the last details of "second contact mission" between the inhabitants and the Federation. Hoping to clean soot off several of the ancient buildings in the Apergosian capital, Ensign Mariner inadvertently activates an ancient artifact powered by "strange energy." When Commander Ransom is struck by a discharge of the strange energy, he begins to possess godlike powers, which threatens both the Apergosians and the Cerritos. Fortunately, Doctor T'Ana is able to stop Ransom using the same procedure employed by Captain Kirk when his helmsman Gary Mitchell was exposed to strange energy at the galactic barrier.


Did Spock's resurrection in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" cheapen his sacrifice in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?" Although Spock was my favorite character in the original series and I wanted him back, I nevertheless think it did. At the end of Lower Decks' first season, I gave the finale a "10" for unexpectedly blowing up its own formula. Boimler was promoted and transferred off the ship to serve on Riker's USS Titan. Ensigns Tendi and Rutherford's season-long flirtation was upended when he lost his cybernetic implant and his memory of their relationship. And finally, the season-long feud between Ensign Mariner and her mother, Captain Freeman, ended with both resolved to act together as a mother-daughter team.

However, within the course of a single episode, Lower Decks fully resets Tendi, Rutherford, and Mariner back to their first season formulas, leaving only Boimler's advances intact. Apparently, the writers were not up to the challenge they set for themselves and decided to immediately flee back to safety. Lower Decks is a face-paced series, but the speed of the reset is jarring and abrupt.

Mariner and Captain Freeman explain that their mother-daughter team hasn't worked out through lengthy exposition. It's a bit amazing that this makes one of the most visually exciting sequences in all of Star Trek -- Mariner's escape from a (holographically generated) Cardassian prison asteroid -- rather duller than it should be. Likewise, Tendi's concern that she's losing Rutherford escalates far too rapidly from cute to preposterous madness. Both resets would have worked better, had the writers given the characters the chance to experience the dissonance of the altered relationships. Let Rutherford have a date and even a relationship that goes wrong before he returns to Tendi. Why not see how the mother-daughter team doesn't work at least once prior to tanking it in exposition?

The A-plot centers on Commander Ransom receiving god-like powers. Like Commander Riker when tempted by Q (TNG: "Hide and Q") or Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell when exposed to strange energy (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), he is not up to the challenge. His inflated ego causes him to recreate the planet into a society of shallow worshipers while he attacks the Cerritos in a way reminiscent of Apollo (TOS: "Who Mourns for Adonais?"). Once again, the story seems too abrupt, but it's rather fun that the whole incident is par for the course for Doctor T'Ana, who treats Ransom's condition as if it were Starfleet routine.

All in all, "Strange Energies" was a bit of a mixed outing. Hopefully, having pushed through these resets, Lower Decks has now cleared the decks to recover its pacing for the second season.


Rating: 6 (John Hamer)


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