Star Trek Lower Decks (LOW) Season 4
TwovixI Have No Bones Yet I Must FleeIn the Cradle of VexilonSomething Borrowed, Something GreenEmpathalogical FallaciesParth Ferengi's Heart PlaceA Few Badgeys MoreCavesThe Inner FightOld Friends, New Planets
Stardate 58724.3: The crew of the USS Cerritos is tasked with transporting USS Voyager NCC-74656 to Earth, where the historic starship is going to be displayed at Starfleet Command. Billups and T'Ana are beamed back to the Cerritos just before Voyager goes to warp. However, a leaf from a plant causes their patterns to be fused to an entity named T'Illups, the same way it happened to Neelix and Tuvok. Captain Freeman learns that Janeway eventually solved the problem by killing the hybrid Tuvix. Freeman's goal is to find an alternate solution. Yet, T'Illups has already prepared to save their existence, by replicating the accident and combining the patterns of other crew members as well, starting with Freeman and Dr. Migleemo. Tendi and T'Lyn can escape. The Vulcan ensign takes control of the transporter and beams all the fused crew members into a confinement field. Unfortunately she thereby creates a meatball, whose individual patterns she can't isolate. Tendi, however, finds a way to separate the personal traits and restore the original people. Meanwhile on Voyager on the way to Earth, the bridge crew accidentally sets macroviruses free that reproduce and spread through the ship, launch harmful holoprograms such as Chaotica and eventually activate Borg nanoprobes. The ship is on the way to the Borg now, and Boimler is the only one of the crew not yet incapacitated. He confesses to Mariner that he doesn't want the promotion that Ransom announced to him, but Mariner tells him that it was her who suggested him because she believes in his abilities. With new confidence, Boimler confronts the villains, while Rutherford disables the ship's bioneural computer system using Neelix's cheese. As the ship is on display now as planned and the Cerritos crew has been restored to normal, Ransom promotes the Lower Decks ensigns except for Rutherford to the rank of lieutenant junior grade. Meanwhile in Klingon space, Ma'ah's Bird-of-Prey runs into a seemingly disabled unknown vessel that suddenly gets activated and destroys the Klingon ship.
Lower Decks returns with an episode that strives to celebrate Voyager in a similar fashion as "Hear All, Trust Nothing" was a homage to Deep Space Nine. Yet, although Lower Decks already featured Tom Paris in season 2, characters from the classic series are sadly missing this time. Also, "Twovix" reminds me even more of "Kayshon, His Eyes Open" where the references superseded the story likewise. I appreciate that on both occasions there are in-universe reasons for it. However, the concept to pack as many legacy exhibits as possible into 20 minutes is neither very special nor overly creative in a series that has like two dozen in-jokes in every single episode anyway.
Although I still enjoy the references in "Twovix" and in Lower Decks in general, they only become funny if there is something about them beyond their mere presence or mention. It honestly never really mattered which exact holograms or other items were chasing our friends. But I had to pause, laugh and rewind whenever there was a new twist, such as the computer saying "Safety protocols set to random", the virus flying around with Harry's clarinet or Boimler introducing himself as the "Son of Captain Proton" to the baffled Chaotica. There are only few moments like these that elevate the episode above the level of mere slapstick.
I may be asking too much, but I would have hoped for more thoughtfulness than usual in the story. Although it is in line with what routinely happens to mutated crew members in the series (the worst example being Ransom in "Strange Energies"), it would have been fitting for T'Illups to receive a minimum of character development instead of becoming a stereotypically mad villain. "Tuvix" is among the most controversial Star Trek stories still today. It gets mentioned multiple times in "Twovix" how Janeway committed an act of murder. It would have been desirable for the crew to find a solution without killing anyone (which may even have been funny). But the exact opposite happens when other crew members get fused as well and ultimately end up in a gross meatball, with several evil Tuvixes getting killed along the way. The tough issue of who is allowed to survive and why gets played just for laughs here.
On the other hand, in spite of the trivialization of the topic the LOW episode comes up with a new aspect to the ethical issue of Tuvix, one that I already addressed some 20 years ago. What if Tuvix hadn't been an intelligent and charming person but a complete idiot? Would fans still accuse Janeway of murder? Pretty much this is the excuse that Tendi and T'Lyn cite when they split up the purportedly non-sentient meatball and restore the original crew members. I can't say whether the comical episode will rather fuel or kill the old discussion with this new input.
I am happy that Lower Decks is back, but I would have expected more of a story and less of a slapstick sequence. "Twovix" gets its points for being set on Voyager in the first place, for a couple of successful jokes and for a decent amount of character development.
- Neelix's cheese is from VOY: "Learning Curve", the macrovirus from "Macrocosm", the salamanders from "Threshold", the clown from "The Thaw", Michael Sullivan from "Fair Haven" and "Spirit People", Dr. Chaotica from "Night", "Bride of Chaotica!" and "Shattered" and, of course, Tuvix from "Tuvix".
- Mariner mentions "that Pike thing we aren't supposed to talk about", alluding to the events of SNW: "Those Old Scientists".
- We know from PIC: "The Bounty" that Voyager will be located in Geordi's museum still almost two decades later.
- Remarkable dialogue: "You know, growing up, I had a dragon named Fiddlesticks. He was such a good boy. He protected me from all sorts of affectionate..." - "Oh . Why is it people always have to tell me about their pets?" (Billups and T'Ana)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I hope it's not a Romulan Neutral Zone thing. Spy stuff's so boring." (Mariner, with her mother saying pretty much the same a little later)
- "Oh, my god, we get to do something on Voyager? Uh, you know, 'cause, I mean, Boimler's gonna flip." (Mariner)
- "Safety protocols set to random." (Voyager computer)
- "This area is proud, confident and a little silly. Oh, that's the captain." (Tendi)
- "I am the son of Captain Proton!" (Boimler, to Chaotica)
- Remarkable ship: USS Voyager NCC-74656, which looks gorgeous as an animated version as well
- Remarkable change: The opening credits were changed to include the Whale Probe from "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" in the big battle that the Cerritos withdraws from.
Stardate not given: A Romulan ship gets attacked and destroyed by an unknown vessel. Meanwhile on the Cerritos, Mariner overhears a conversion with Shaxs, in which Commander Ransom mentions she won't be his problem for long. Mariner thinks he is giving up on her and starts to work actively on her demotion by provoking Ransom. Rutherford, on the other hand, is disappointed that he is now separated from his friends. He works on engineering improvements to impress Billups and get promoted. But a new guy named Livik always beats him to it. Ransom, Mariner and a fresh ensign named Gary arrive at a galactic zoo where two humans are being held against their will. The curator named Narj, a botanical lifeform, is willing to release them. But then a cute and seemingly harmless creature named Moopsy is set free and begins to devour lifeforms with bones. They run to a safe room, where Ransom and Mariner have a discussion about her defiant conduct. He clarifies that he said she wouldn't be a problem for long because he expects her to fit in her new position. Mariner affirms she didn't release Moopsy, which he believes. The ensign blames Narj, who is a tree after all and doesn't seem to have bones. But then Moopsy finds a way into their hiding place and swallows Narj. Mariner, Ransom and Gary escape and close the door behind them - only to notice that the creature is now in the main control room. The station is going to crash into a planet. Mariner volunteers to lure Moopsy out of the control room. Ransom, however, has a better idea. Using his teeth as bait, they manage to lock up the creature in a habitat and stabilize the orbit of the station. It turns out that the imprisoned humans actually released Moopsy to get control over the zoo. On the Cerritos, Boimler is unhappy with his new quarters, which is right next to the bright red glow of the Bussard collectors. He gets a new one that happens to be located between the thin walls of two holodecks. Rutherford is not happy either, as Livik is going to get a pip for his engineering efforts. He tells Tendi that he himself turned down previous promotions, upon which Tendi asks Billups whether Rutherford shouldn't be promoted right now. Billups gives the pip to Rutherford, who joins Boimler in his new quarters, once again next to the nacelle - but the engineer knows how to dim the windows.
"I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee" appears like a cookie-cutter Lower Decks episode at first glance. We are familiar with most of the motifs and especially with the patterns of behavior of our four main characters. Mariner once again does everything to piss off her nemesis Ransom and becomes an "insubordination supernova", like already in "Temporal Edict", "Strange Energies" and "The Least Dangerous Game". All three instances are even explicitly mentioned, a bit as in a justification why the same happens all over again. Boimler keeps struggling with the cussedness of things, Rutherford with his honor as an engineer and Tendi with keeping the gang together, much like on several previous occasions. It seems that as much things have changed for the four junior officers, as much they stay the same.
Yet, I don't think this is a bad thing. I love how well the writers understand their characters and work out how they react to adverse circumstances. Perhaps it is a bit repetitive. Perhaps some more things should change. But the story comes with so many wonderful details. Especially the idea that Boimler's quarters would be bathed in the red light of the Bussard collectors or that it could be located between two holodecks is hilarious. I love to see the "Tucker tubes" (they finally have a name!) and the improved "Billups tubes". And although the way Rutherford receives his promotion after all is gratuitous, this is in line with how things always worked between him and his superior officer Billups. It also solves an issue that bothered me at the end of "Twovix" because I was worried he would become a second Harry Kim. My only real problem in the episode is with Mariner beating out Ransom's teeth, which is unnecessarily gross, although it too has happened before.
The human habitat in the galactic zoo is much like in the episode "Command Performance" of The Orville (although this in turn is based on "The Cage") and Moopsy is a similar creature as Nibbler from Futurama. I don't mind if concepts from other universes are reused, if they are funny, not too obvious and suit the story.
"I Have No Bones Yet I Must Flee" is a well-rounded Lower Decks episode, not very special in terms of the story but with strong characterizations and only small problems. I hope that next week's episode will reveal a bit more about the mystery ship because after two isolated incidents of it destroying a Klingon and then a Romulan vessel it will otherwise be boring if the same happens all over again.
- Ransom and Shaxs wear the same outfits and are doing the same exercises as in the infamous gymnastics scene with Troi and Crusher in TNG: "The Price".
- We can see the Una Chin-Riley poster from "Those Old Scientists" again - unfortunately including the nacelle pylons of the reboot Enterprise.
- The device that Rutherford works on in the end is Wesley Crusher's tractor beam from TNG: "The Naked Now".
- Remarkable dialogue: "Hey, Billups! Can Rutherford have his promotion for that time he removed the hull?" - "Oh, sure. Ah, sorry, Livik, maybe next time." (Tendi and Billups)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Hopefully, he [the sub-commander] doesn't get too comfortable, for soon my plans will come to fruition and his life will be disrupted." (Romulan officer)
- "Narj has to admit that Narj does have a hard time telling non-botanical creatures apart." (Narj)
- "Now it's trapped in the... station's main control room!" (Ensign Gary)
- Remarkable scene: Tendi orders Rutherford to continue to be her friend.
- Remarkable ship: The vertical Romulan starship is based on a draft by Andrew Probert for the Romulan Warbird, which he later modified to a more conventional horizontal orientation.
Stardate 58759.1: The Cerritos assists the Federation world Corazonia, which is an ancient ring structure controlled by a friendly computer named Vexilon. The problem is that Vexilon increasingly exhibits malfunctions. Captain Freeman arrives with Ransom. She decides she doesn't need help from an engineer and starts the repair of the ancient system herself. In the meantime, Boimler is supposed to remove Corazonia's old power relays with the support of T'Lyn and four ensigns. But he is not ready to delegate and does the work all alone. On the Cerritos, Lieutenant Dirk orders Mariner, Rutherford and Tendi to scan each single chip in the isolinear chip junction. After a while, he returns and reveals that there is a second layer of chips to be scanned as well. Annoyed by the tedious task assigned to them, the three decide to play a practical joke on Dirk by rigging his quarters so he would get trapped in a Chula game (from the anomaly storage) upon entering. Dirk, however, affirms them how crucial the chips are and he reveals that the Chula game traumatized him as a child. While Mariner distracts Dirk by conversing about boring Tellarite slop jazz, Tendi scans the remaining chips and Rutherford tries to remove the booby trap. But he ends up in the game and manages to clear the room just before Dirk approaches. On Corazonia, Freeman rules it is time for a software update, but now Vexilon shuts down completely. She remembers that there has to be a safe mode and reboots. However, that comes with a reset to the default configuration, and Vexilon begins to terraform the world anew, creating active volcanoes. Freeman discovers that, to restore the system the way it was, power needs to be routed through the station that Boimler's team (and actually just Boimler himself) is working on, so she orders him to put back all power relays. T'Lyn convinces him to involve his team this time. They finish the task. Then, however, a turbine overheats while Vexilon is still not up and running. Boimler stays behind alone and is ready to press the emergency shutdown. But the turbine explodes, and he has to be resuscitated. On the ship, Dirk and Ransom are amused that the three lieutenant JGs bought Dirk's melodramatic Chula game story.
"In the Cradle of Vexilon" forgoes the customary cold open and starts with the opening credits. This is probably supposed to buy time because three story threads are packed into the following 23 minutes: Freeman's struggle with ancient technology, Tendi, Rutherford and Mariner's struggle with the disagreeable Dirk and Boimler's struggle with his own responsibility. In my impression, this is too much for the episode to handle. The thread about Freeman trying to repair the computer and thereby doing even more damage provides the frame and would have been the one with the most potential in my view. I would have loved to see more interaction between her and Vexilon, more weird malfunctions of the ancient operating system, more involvement of the local population and more of their fascinating world. But that opportunity is squandered. The story switches to her and the eponymous computer only infrequently, and essentially only to establish that a new situation on Corazonia comes about.
This leaves some more time for Boimler's first mission as the leader of an away team. He is not used to have people under his command. And while he himself is sure about his abilities (at least after a "confidence boosting ritual" as T'Lyn calls it), he is uneasy about delegating tasks. Boimler is just too worried that his team could screw up or could even get killed, for which he would blame himself. I don't think this is unrealistic. In fact, it happens more often than not in real life that superiors would do something they deem important themselves, taking away responsibilities from their team. I like the pairing of Boimler with T'Lyn in this regard. She has a refreshingly direct way to tell him what's wrong but eventually comes across as almost empathetic when she motivates him to work with his team. Unfortunately this part of the episode ends in a way that is both inappropriately drastic when the building explodes with Boimler inside and unnecessarily unrealistic because he can be saved. I also think that the message "All for one, one for all" would have been more impactful with him making it in time. Aside from this one point of criticism, however, this part works well for me.
Yet, even the Boimler thread falls short of what should normally have been the side story. On the Cerritos, Rutherford, Tendi and Mariner are being hazed by Dirk and have to perform dull tasks like several times in the series before. I can see how this is supposed to demonstrate that, unlike temporarily for Boimler, not much has changed for them. It just doesn't get very interesting. Lancelot the ferret is lame and the idea to involve the anomalies that for some reason are stored aboard the ship (as already seen in "The Spy Humongous") and are not secured in any fashion is uninspired. Once again, like already in "Kayshon, His Eyes Open" or only recently in "Twovix", there seems to be an ongoing competition of how many legacy items can be squeezed into an episode. Well, the whole thing eventually becomes funny as soon as our three friends need (or think they need) to make sure the work is done and the trap gets removed. And at least the Chula game, the talking box and the variant of the Kataan probe have some limited story relevance after all.
Overall, "In the Cradle of Vexilon" is below average and could have been better, had it been all about the mission to Corazonia.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Statistically, ensigns serving under recently promoted commanders are more likely to experience death and/or dismemberment." (T'Lyn)
- "A mountain or possibly a volcano has appeared. - Ah. It is a volcano." (T'Lyn)
- "Was that an entire simulated life? - I miss my wife." (Betazoid box, after getting zapped by the Kataan probe)
- Remarkable fun scene: The Corazonian artist speaks of the terrible statues she made last week. Ransom has a look and says "Yeah, that's a pretty clumsy expression of form", only to learn that she actually meant the statues on the other side - which practically look the same.
- Remarkable props: The anomaly storage includes a Kataan probe (which looks different than in TNG: "The Inner Light" and LOW: "Kayshon, His Eyes Open", though), a lirpa, a bat'leth, Nomad, a Medusan box and protective glasses, a Betazoid talking box, a Romulan cloaking device, the Chula game by the Wadi and "the hat that turned Billups into a church tower".
Stardate not given: D'Vana Tendi's sister is getting married on Orion, for which Captain Freeman grants the lieutenant JG shore leave. Tendi is not happy to return to her planet but agrees to demonstrate the goodwill of Starfleet after the recent disappearance of an Orion ship (which was actually destroyed by the mystery vessel). As Tendi, Mariner and T'Lyn are departing for Orion, Boimler and Rutherford argue about the right way to take care of the bonsai in their quarters. They settle their conflict as they both dress up on the holodeck as Mark Twains. As Coqqor, a Chalnoth, threatens with violence because the Cerritos is going to scan a nebula he claims for himself, they suggest he should try out the holodeck scenario, but it maddens him even more. Only the bonsai pacifies the Chalnoth - he devours it. On Orion, it turns out that D'Vana belongs to one of the most powerful families in the Syndicate. She learns that her sister D'Erika has been abducted. Although bride kidnapping is a tradition, there is something irregular about it, and her mother wants D'Vana, the prime daughter, to rescue her. As she sets out to search for D'Erika's ex Nya'al, the main suspect, in the night life of Orion, everyone is in awe of the Mistress of the Winter Constellations. She eventually finds Nya'al, who turns out innocent but reveals that he has seen D'Erika at a ship graveyard. This is the place where the sisters used to hang around and where D'Vana made the decision to go to Starfleet instead of becoming an assassin for the Syndicate. D'Erika, who ran away from her wedding on her own will, shows up and challenges her sister to a duel. After D'Vana had left, she took over her role in the Syndicate, for which she isn't sad. But D'Erika is afraid that she wouldn't live up to everyone's expectations. After confirming that D'Erika performs well in her criminal career, D'Vana powers up the old Raven-type ship to make it to the wedding in time.
After Vina was seen as an Orion slave girl in a Talosian illusion as soon as in "The Cage", the species showed up on just a handful occasions in TOS and TAS. Although the Syndicate got mentioned, Orions themselves never appeared once in TNG, DS9 or Voyager, the three arguably most defining series of the franchise. Only the fourth season of Enterprise reintroduced them to Star Trek, picking up the "slaver" theme from TOS, rather than that of the "pirates" from TAS. The episode "Bound" came with the revelation that not the males but the ostensibly enslaved Orion women are actually in charge, thanks to their pheromones. In my view, this was meant more like a joke than as a serious explanation for how their society works. Maybe the ambiguity about slavery is the reason why modern Trek focuses on the pirate aspect again. We could repeatedly see Orions in that role in DIS, SNW and LOW, with nothing hinting at either a patriarchy or a matriarchy.
I can see how "Something Borrowed, Something Green" tries to bring the two stories together again. Mariner explicitly mentions the pheromones of the "Orion showgirls" (in "Bound") and insinuates they were made up by Starfleet to save a captain's (Archer's) reputation - only to be proven wrong by how the planet presents itself. Women are in charge everywhere on Orion. They are tough and aggressive, whereas all men without exception are sexual objects, suckers for pheromones or just dumb. It may be possible to align that with canon because, as I already mentioned, we know absolutely nothing of the Orions of the 24th century from classic Trek. But rather than explaining what has or what could become of the Orion society shown in ENT: "Bound" over 200 years later, the transformation of Tendi's world to a total matriarchy seems to follow a real-life feminist agenda, including unusually sexist comments about men from the two non-Orion women.
With the exception of the above issue, the story featuring Star Trek's first visit to Orion is strong. Many locations on the planet and other motifs are enjoyable because they are a bit like a naughty version of present-day Earth, like in gangster movies. Most importantly, the trip deepens the friendship of the newly promoted lieutenant JGs, which also includes T'Lyn, who clearly appreciates the little adventure as well. We learn a lot about D'Vana Tendi's motivation to leave the planet, but just as well about what "normal" Orions such as her sister would long for. T'Lyn and Mariner affirm that they see D'Vana as the person she has become and not the one she could have been as a Syndicate assassin. Conversely, D'Vana has to concede that D'Erika belongs on the "Crime Throne", a statement that might have left a bad taste in classic Trek, but that is still appropriate in Lower Decks. I think slightly overstepping the moral limits of the live-action shows is part of the fun.
Meanwhile on the Cerritos, Boimler and Rutherford seem to form an almost symbiotic relationship as "Brutherford" in their shared quarters, only to clash over the petty issue of how to take care of a bonsai. This is still the best part of their story, which becomes increasingly lame in the following. I don't get what is interesting about them arguing as Mark Twain impersonators with fake accents on the holodeck. If I'm not mistaken, there are no recordings of Twain's voice and I doubt he spoke like that. But it becomes downright absurd when Freeman and the Chalnoth try do the same to resolve their conflict. What in the world could have led the ferocious alien to partake in the first place? This element of the story is weird for the sake of looking weird. Likewise, why would the Chalnoth react to the word "bonsai"? I could have thought of much less contrived ways to get him to eat the bonsai and thereby to bring about the actual and only joke in the whole plot thread.
Tendi's personal journey in "Something Borrowed, Something Green" is both delightful and insightful, although it comes with unnecessary wokeness. The B-plot about Boimler and Rutherford, on the other hand, is lame. I also think that the destruction of alien ships by a mysterious new enemy has become boring by now, considering that we still don't learn anything new and that it still remains an isolated incident (with just one casual mention). There is no arc of suspense in the story that is apparently supposed to become a big thing in this season.
- This is the first time a story takes place on the Orion homeworld.
- A Chalnoth named Esoqq previously appeared in TNG: "Allegiance".
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Wait - wedding, sister, parents? Tendi, I'm sorry, I'm freaking out... This is more backstory than I have ever been able to get out of you." (Mariner)
- "Wow, everyone here really loves getting carried around on platters." (Mariner)
- "We don't trust Starfleet data. It's too nuanced and thorough." (Coqqor)
- "I know you're turning in your observations to the High Council, but maybe could you leave off some of the stabbings?" (D'Vana Tendi)
- "Why is Starfleet so obsessed with scanning?" (D'Erika Tendi)
- Remarkable starships:
- I love to see the Raven design from VOY: "The Raven" and "Dark Frontier", although it is incredible that it could be powered up after resting and rusting on the the planet for years.
- I also like that we see two Orion ship types that appeared on Enterprise, although we would have expected them to be new types after over 200 years.
Stardate not given: Lieutenant T'Lyn compiles a report for the captain of the Vulcan cruiser Sh'vhal. She was transferred to the Cerritos for disciplinary reasons and wishes to return. Three Betazoid ambassadors come aboard the ship on a classified mission, for which radio silence is implemented, so T'Lyn can't send her message. Soon the crew starts to party boundlessly and act crazy. Captain Freeman decides to take the three ambassadors to sickbay. She suspects one of them may suffer from a Betazoid condition known as Zanthi fever that would telepathically transfer their emotions to the crew. T'Ana finds no indication of Zanthi fever in them, but they turn out to be agents of the Betazoid intelligence service and take control of the bridge. Meanwhile back in sickbay, Mariner and T'Lyn notice that the Vulcan lieutenant is the source of the heightened emotions on the ship. She is frustrated about not being able to send her message and afraid that she may not have enough Vulcan mental discipline, which has an impact on the crew. After Mariner assures T'Lyn that everything about her is very Vulcan, the condition improves, and the crew returns to normal. On the bridge, as the three Betazoids begin to argue after reading each other's minds, Freeman manages to alert security. She turns around the ship just before it enters the Romulan Neutral Zone. T'Lyn decides to stay on the Cerritos. As the three agents beam off the ship at Betazed, they give Freeman a PADD with intel gathered on the mystery ship.
After seeing the preview images of the three middle-aged socialites in "Empathalogical Fallacies" and reading they are Betazoids, I naturally expected them to be modeled after Lwaxana Troi and to stir up all kinds of trouble on the ship. When TNG originally aired, I wasn't a fan of Deanna's mum. The character needed quite some time to grow on me. Yet, in light of the possibilities it is a disappointment that the three guests on the Cerritos are never more than generic troublemakers. The only good reason for them to be middle-aged Betazoid women is the red herring that the cause of the crew's debauchery is believed to be Zanthi fever. Well, we also learn that Caitians used to hunt Betazoids in a tasteless note that acts as an unnecessary excuse to let the resident cat go as crazy as everyone else does anyway, without there being a punchline or further consequences (not that I would want it to be mentioned again).
Aside from being rather boring, the roles of the three Betazoids, their thoughts and their actions don't make much sense. I can see the intention to show that they are not a good team and that they fail despite their abilities. Still, there are aspects of their story that simply don't work for me. First of all, considering that their cover mission as ambassadors is classified anyway, including radio silence, there is not a big deal about them actually being secret agents. Why do they believe their (overrated) cover is blown when Freeman merely suspects they inadvertently transfer their emotions to the crew? Can't they read the captain's mind and recognize she is clueless? Why would they take control of the ship, with the inevitable consequence that everyone would learn of their secret mission? They could at least have tried to let Freeman in on it. Why would they want to cross the Romulan Neutral Zone against all reason? Commodore Stocker was just as stupid in TOS: "The Deadly Years" but I don't believe that two wrongs make a right and that this is an apt homage.
Although seeing the crew act crazy is fun, the A-plot is pieced together from clichés and WTF moments and is devoid of a real reward in the end. Only the bummed Romulans are amusing after the Cerritos narrowly avoids entering the Neutral Zone.
The plot thread about Boimler is even more incoherent (and more cluttered with gratuitous references). I still understand what it is about in the beginning when he tries to memorize the names of the entire crew and Rutherford thinks his overambitious friend needs some sort of relaxation therapy. Boimler is already accustomed to joining strange recreational activities on the ship, as seen in "The Least Dangerous Game" when the goal still was to prove himself as "Bold Boimler". It is nice to see that his "bridge buddy" Shaxs takes "Baby Bear" under his wings this time and lets him in on the (unimpressive) secrets of the security department. But this doesn't fit together to a story at all. Although Shaxs arguably makes it up for the disappointed Boimler, the "ritual" with the Malcolm Reed puzzle and the tarot cards is similarly absurd as the idea to resolve conflicts wearing a Mark Twain wig. Does Boimler learn anything about himself? Or about the security people (except that they are a weird bunch)? I don't think so. Does he contribute anything to the recapture of the Cerritos? No. In the end, the far-fetched punchline of this whole thread is that poetry slam and charades for some reason help Shaxs's people withstand telepathic attacks.
The saving grace of this otherwise pointless episode is the part about T'Lyn, who tells some of the story with log entries in a "Data's Day" manner. Maybe some fans would have liked her to become more easy-going and essentially more human, based on her development in the past couple of episodes. But she is still all Vulcan and does not want to change anything about that, although she arguably understands humans and other humanoids better than before and sort of enjoys being among them. Mariner too may have wished T'Lyn would lighten up, but learns that she should accept her friend the way she is. The main characters in this fourth season are written very well so far, the overarching stories often aren't.
The story avoids to address the severity of T'Lyn's condition. She herself states only implicitly it could be the Bendii Syndrome. Perhaps it is a similar but comparably harmless illness after all. If it isn't, she may still have time at the age of 62, or she may soon be unable to control her emotions just like Sarek in TNG: "Sarek". I hope that a future episode will make up for this omission.
Regarding the mysterious destruction of ships, the episode comes at least with a little progress but that is a scant consolation.
- Ambassador Sarek suffered from Bendii Syndrome and transferred emotions to the crew in TNG: "Sarek".
- Lwaxana Troi had Zanthi fever, which made her project her emotions on the crew in DS9: "Fascination".
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Wait, is everyone getting weird all of a sudden? Why am I yelling?!" - "This crew is always weird and yelling." (Mariner and T'Lyn)
- "There is no character flaw. Can you imagine anything more Vulcan than Bendii syndrome? Hello? I mean, Spock's dad had it and he was Vulcan as a motherf*cker." - "Hmm. I suppose, by the transitive property, I, too, must be Vulcan as a motherf*cker." - "Yeah. Logic, bitch." (Mariner and T'Lyn)
- Remarkable quote: "I wish I could roundhouse kick this situation in the face, but I can't. It is one of those rare types of problems that can't be kicked." (Mariner)
- Remarkable facts:
- T'Lyn is 62 years old.
- The three previously seen members of the Merp species on the ship are apparently named Merp, Big Merp and Sleepy Merp.
Stardate 58901.5: The USS Cerritos and the USS Toronto are in orbit of Ferenginar. The planet is going to submit its formal application for Federation membership. Admiral Vassery and Captain Freeman welcome Grand Nagus Rom and Leeta aboard the Toronto. However, instead of signing the contract as expected, Rom only talks about baseball and Leeta is keen on getting the fine print changed in favor of the Ferengi. Meanwhile, Ransom orders Mariner, Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford to update the travel guide on Ferenginar. The latter two pose as a freshly married couple. This gets them into awkward situations, as the hotel named Lobe's Lodge arranges all kinds of fancy honeymoon specials for them. They master the challenge. However, Migleemo shows up in the restaurant, on the search for new food, and accidentally reveals that the two are not a couple. Tendi and Rutherford save the situation by pretending that the three are actually a love triangle and that the disappointed Migleemo came to ruin their honeymoon. Mariner meets her old friend Quimp but gets drunk and uses the next best opportunity to get into a fight. Boimler plans on reviewing museums but gets stuck in his suite and in the world of Ferengi television. Rom, Leeta, Vassery and Freeman beam down to the palace of the Nagus where the admiral hopes to finalize the contract, but Leeta and Rom come up with increasingly absurd demands. Freeman eventually steps forward and hands the Grand Nagus a PADD with a proposal that would grant him a signing bonus of one billion bars of latinum with the sole condition that he wins one more planet for membership. Rom happily signs the contract, only to learn that the fine print says the planet specifically is Qo'noS. Rom is baffled but then acknowledges Freeman's understanding for his culture. He finally ratifies the standard contract for membership application with no extra conditions.
It's been a long time since Star Trek last visited the capitalist paradise of Ferenginar. I love the efforts that went into the animated version of the planet. This applies to legacy features such as the rain, the skyline, the round doors and the overblown décor, and just as well to new ideas such as the ceremonial invoice, the for-profit toilet, the awful TV shows, the library that was converted to a casino and my absolute favorite, the Dominion War monument of lost profits. It is a pleasure to see and hear Leeta and Rom again. As much as their reign may have transformed the planet, the core values are all still the same. Attentive viewers can even spot a few traditionally naked women.
"Parth Ferengi's Heart Place" is so full of details that it is hard to resist the urge to pause every few seconds. This time I mean it in a positive sense. Most of the references are appropriate because we are on a planet that was clichéd already some 25 years ago when it appeared on DS9. It is
logical profitable to sneak in Slug-o-Cola product placements everywhere and all kinds of jokes about the defining qualities of the Ferengi culture. I would only have reduced the number of verbal mentions of legacy places and characters, especially of those unrelated to the Ferengi. Also, the Federation theme restaurant is another one of those visual reference overkills that I'm tired of.
Regarding the story, the most important plot thread is the one about Leeta and Rom's attempts to get the Federation to agree to all kinds of concessions in Ferenginar's favor. As I already mentioned, as much things may have changed since they are in charge, as much they stay the same. It was obvious that Freeman, who warned Vassery early on that this a "dumb cop / reasonable cop" scheme, would eventually "out-Ferengi the Ferengi" (I waited in vain for someone to say exactly that) in order to avert damage to the Federation. Although I totally expected her proposal to be a trick, the revelation that she put the obligation to win Qo'noS of all planets for a membership into the fine print was hilarious, as was Rom's reaction when he expressed his gratitude for respecting his culture.
I don't think that this was even meant to be the main plot but more like a framing device for the adventures of our junior officers on Ferenginar. The story about Tendi and Rutherford as the newly wed couple is the most fun. It is cute how they stumble from one embarrassing situation into another, repeated blushing included. Well, the character of Parth is a bit lame and his job title of a "hug-cierge" is overly cringey. But weird is part of their job on Ferenginar after all. Unfortunately this plot thread goes south when Migleemo shows up. I get the joke that the alleged "love triangle" of Rutherford, Tendi and Migleemo is a parody on soap operas, especially since exactly this was foreshadowed in the sitcom Boimler was watching. I am aware the resolution is unconvincing by design but it isn't funny in any way.
Although hardly anything of note happens and he just stays in his hotel room, I think that Boimler's binge-watching of ad-polluted Ferengi TV shows works better as a comment not only on Ferenginar but also on real-life developments.
Mariner meets the guy named Quimp again (from "Envoys"). I thought she had changed, but soon she relapses into old behavioral patterns and starts a brawl out of the blue. Maybe she somehow thinks that being with her old pal Quimp is an occasion or justification to fall back to old habits. Fortunately Quimp actually seems to have changed. He calls out that Mariner is rebellious without a reason. He also seems to care more for her than she would have expected. This plot thread is unwarranted and remains inconclusive, but at least it addresses some of Mariner's issues in a more serious fashion than usual.
60% of season 4 have passed by now, and I'm still waiting for any progress in the story about the mysterious enemy ship that goes beyond insinuations. But more importantly, I'm still waiting for an episode that really captivates me. "Parth Ferengi's Heart Place" is visually impressive, it has many good laughs, but the stories are overall only average. I still hope that this is part of a plan and that Lower Decks comes up with something very special in the four remaining episodes.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "We also need someone to act as a couple. And since the Cerritos is statistically the horniest and least romantically committed crew in Starfleet, we have no married officers aboard." (Ransom)
- "Oh, it's like what heaven would look like if God was stupid." (Mariner, upon arriving on rainy Ferenginar)
- "They just lie to you? Hilarious." (Boimler, about the Slug-o-Cola TV ad)
- "Oh, look! The waiter's wearing one of those old velour uniforms that used to catch fire all the time." (Tendi, about a red shirt)
- Remarkable ship: There is a new Ferengi ship, smaller than a D'Kora class. Unfortunately we don't see much of it before it gets destroyed.
- Remarkable props:
- I bet most fans recognized Mariner's self-sealing stem bolt.
- A more obscure visual reference is the colorful Rainbow Model A-5040 lamp (from the 80's, of course) as on Kivas Fajo's ship.
- A painting in Boimler's hotel room, as he is watching TV, looks conspicuously like the Paramount+ logo.
- Remarkable appearances: Max Grodénchik as Rom and Chase Masterson as Leeta
- Rules of Acquisition:
- Rule #8: "Small print leads to large risk."
- Rule #10: "Greed is eternal." (only number mentioned, established in DS9: "Prophet Motive")
- Rule #62: "The riskier the road, the greater the profit." (established in DS9: "Rules of Acquisition")
Stardate 58934.9: After having been salvaged from the battleground in the Kalla system, the hologram Badgey takes over a Drookmani ship and keeps its crew under mind control. Meanwhile, a Bynar vessel goes missing. While the Cerritos is investigating the disappearance, Boimler and Tendi are sent to the Daystrom Institute on Earth. Tendi's presence is requested for Peanut Hamper's parole hearing. AGIMUS claims to have intel on the Bynar ship but refuses to disclose it to anyone but Boimler. The lieutenant doesn't trust the computer at all, but AGIMUS tells him that one of his drones recorded the incident and provides the correct stardate as proof. Although they suspect he is up to something evil, the two take the computer on a shuttle trip. AGIMUS seizes control of the shuttle and heads to a beach in Ecuador where he is going to meet Peanut Hamper. Their plan is to take over the planet Plymeria. He is disappointed when the exocomp doesn't show up and decides to enslave the planet alone. Having accomplished that, AGIMUS is sad that Peanut Hamper still isn't with him. Tendi finds out that she has returned to the Tyrus VII-A research station, the home of the exocomps. When they arrive, Peanut Hamper confesses that her fake speech for the parole board that she practiced with AGIMUS was genuine, and AGIMUS says the idea to subjugate a planet was only an excuse to spend time with her. Before he is locked up in the institute again, he reveals to Boimler that the apparently destroyed Bynar ship was in fact abducted. In the meantime, the Cerritos encounters the Drookmani ship with Badgey in control, who begins to fire at the Starfleet ship. Rutherford floats over in an act of self-sacrifice but Mariner follows him. When Rutherford hugs his "son", Badgey is moved and stops the attack. But then he splits up, by which Badgey disposes of his "good" part in the form of another entity called "Goodgey". Rutherford calls the purpose of Badgey's actions into question, and the hologram splits up yet again, this time isolating his logical components in the form of "Logic-y". As Badgey prepares to upload his evil code to every single Federation computer, Logic-y makes a last attempt to rejoin him but gets deleted in the course. No one can stop Badgey now - except that he recognizes that exploring new dimensions is a better way to use his immense power.
Lower Decks has introduced three megalomaniacal artificial intelligences as recurring characters in the course of its run: the hologram Badgey, the exocomp Peanut Hamper and the computer AGIMUS. It was desirable for them to reappear in some fashion. However, it is very contrived that they all stir up trouble in the same episode. The "extremely suspicious timing", as Ransom puts it, still makes sense in the case of AGIMUS and Peanut Hamper, who became friends and plotted something evil while locked up in the Daystrom Institute. Unfortunately my hope that the Badgey connection would turn out to be more than an incredible coincidence was in vain. I don't think the appearance of all three of them in a single episode was worth it, considering that AGIMUS and Peanut Hamper don't even encounter Badgey. Also, both plots would have needed more time to evolve.
The only way that the presence of all three villainous AIs is plausible is in a symbolic sense. Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford meet their digital nemeses again. This leaves Mariner as the only one of the four Lower Deckers without a purpose in this formulaic story. It is gratuitous that she follows Rutherford to the Drookmani ship controlled by Badgey, where she turns out to be as helpless as everyone else. On the other hand, we may rate exactly that as an ironic twist because we would normally expect her to be instrumental to the solution of a crisis. It is telling in this regard that Rutherford doesn't even acknowledge Mariner for the one useful remark she makes during their fight against Badgey.
But if we're honest, none of the four lieutenants junior grade has a really active role in "A Few Badgeys More". They are more or less bystanders and leave the action to the AIs. All of them are just lucky to prevail in the end. Boimler and Tendi have almost infinite patience with AGIMUS, even as the evil computer kidnaps them and enslaves a planet(!), all in the hope that he might reveal something about the disappearance of the Bynar ship. Regarding Tendi and her former best friend Peanut Hamper, these two have no interaction at all until one scene in the end. We don't even see the hearing at the parole board, which could have been a lot of fun. Rutherford is stronger involved, but in a mostly passive role as well. After hugging Badgey and thereby causing his "son" to split up, he has run out of options. I think that in spite of the emotional involvement that does or should exist, "A Few Badgeys More" has little character development for our main characters, which so far was season 4's strong suit despite its often run-of-the-mill story ideas.
I also have a problem with Tendi and Boimler just standing by and witnessing indifferently how AGIMUS subjugates a planet, whatever the computer exactly did to the inhabitants and was simply skipped.
But the arguably biggest bummer of the episode is the rushed and gratuitous fashion how Badgey becomes ominpotent, changes his mind and ascends to the Big Koala instead of killing everyone. It was a cute idea and also quite funny how "Goodgey" and then "Logic-y" were created when the hologram got rid of disturbing virtues that stood in the way of his revenge. Compared to that, it is disappointing that in the end Badgey simply decides that it makes no sense to blow up every warp core. This may be meant to be a spiritual experience yet comes with almost the same logical reasoning he applied right before he shed "Logic-y". The fact that "Logic-y" tried to reunite with Badgey before he was broken may serve as an explanation. But even if the story had worked out better that something of "Logic-y" remained in Badgey and caused him to stand down because his actions are pointless, it still wouldn't have been a good twist.
I suspect that some readers of my reviews want to dissociate themselves from people who they rate as "haters", and they wouldn't bother to read on once they find their preconceptions confirmed. Congratulations if you are still here!
Mind you, there are many things I like about "A Few Badgeys More". It has some of the best laughs of the season. I just love to see the Bynars again, and I hope it won't be the last time, considering that they were kidnapped and not killed. It is also great that the show returns to Tyrus VII-A, which is Peanut Hamper's home after all and where robots of her kind are still doing menial work. The group session for the evil computers, the movie show with "Lassie" and AGIMUS's diabolic pleasure in watering plants are hilarious. I like the idea that a gullible therapist would approve of AGIMUS being able to replicate drones for gardening, although I am a bit afraid that this may be interpreted as an argument that real-life prisoners shouldn't be granted too many freedoms. And as already mentioned, the creation of the characters of "Goodgey" and "Logic-y" is a wonderful twist and makes sense in the story. It is also a pleasure to hear Jeffrey Combs again! He could read a phone book with his AGIMUS voice, and it would send shivers down my spine.
So there's a lot in "A Few Badgeys More" that in my view doesn't work out as well as it could, perhaps if the AGIMUS/Peanut Hamper love story and the Badgey's violent return had been two separate episodes. The details, on the other hand, are brilliant. I also dig that Lower Decks relies very much on its own legacy again and on relevant references from legacy Trek, instead of citing arbitrary names and places ad nauseam.
- The Bynars previously appeared in TNG: "11001001", more than 35 years ago.
- Tyrus VII-A was shown in TNG: "The Quality of Life" as the place where the exocomps were constructed.
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "He asked for me by name?" - "Well, kinda. He said 'the stringy ensign meat pipe' who betrayed him." (Boimler and Ransom, about the request of AGIMUS)
- "Oh, nice to uh, meet you, Mr. Hamper." - "His name's Kevin." (AGIMUS and Peanut Hamper, about her father)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Taste wet sustenance! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" (AGIMUS, as his "gardening drone" waters the plants)
- "It's my new wireless upgrade. I told my therapist it was for gardening, but in reality it was for scheming!" (AGIMUS, the upgrade he uses as a weapon)
- Remarkable ship: The angular Bynar ships looks really cool!
Stardate not given: Everyone but Mariner is excited as the four lieutenants junior grade beam down for a cave mission on Grottonus. Suddenly rubble falls from the ceiling and traps them in the cave without them being able to call for help. Even worse, the moss on the floor turns out to be carnivorous. Boimler knows that gammanite can be used to boost the comm signal. He recounts the story of him being trapped in a cave on Kyron IV with Levy, the notorious conspiracy theorist. He dismissed Levy's suspicions that they were set up by the Vendorians in a morality test, until exactly this turned out true. The Vendorians eventually gave him the hint about the gammanite. Rutherford tells of how he was in a cave on Balkus IX with T'Ana and attempted to find a plant to heal swamp rash, when their local guide was fatally wounded by a grafflax, a ferocious animal. In order to survive, the guide impregnated Rutherford, who then gave birth to a "cave baby". Eventually he managed to communicate with the grafflax that was just trying to protect its own baby. Mariner reveals that she crash landed a shuttlecraft in a cave on Glish when she was on a mission with the Delta Shift and Asif broke his leg. In order to obtain pergium and power up the shuttle again, she and Karavitus tried to traverse a temporal field that made them age rapidly. However, Ensign Amadou found a freely accessible pile of pergium that allowed them to escape. In the cave on Grottonus, the four Lower Deckers are now completely engulfed in the moss, which suddenly begins to talk and requests to hear Tendi's story. So Tendi tells of how the quartet were trapped in the turbolift for hours on her first day on the Cerritos, after the rage virus had been cured. The moss agrees to release them in exchange for more stories. What Tendi, Mariner, Rutherford and Boimler don't know is that the Vendorians are actually behind the scenario of the "sentient cave", in another morality test.
In another attempt to squeeze as many stories as possible into a single episode, "Caves" uses a framing device in much the same fashion as already "Veritas". It is not just my impression but seems to be the consensus among fans that the season 1 episode failed because after the many crazy and incoherent things that had happened in the recounts the resolution of the frame story was not rewarding at all. It surprises me that the writers draw on the recipe again, and even with a very similar outcome. In both episodes it turns out that aliens capture the Lower Deckers, put them to the test and let them tell stories, without having a comprehensible motive. "Caves" works somewhat better than "Veritas" because of the cave theme that connects the single stories with each other and with the frame story. Yet, it would have been desirable for our Lower Deckers to reinvigorate their friendship without gratuitous alien help.
It must have been some 15 years since I added a brief entry about caves to my page on Star Trek Clichés. I reckoned that about 20% of all Trek episodes have at least one scene taking place in a cave. Well, in Mariner's experience it is more like a third, but who am I to argue with an actual junior officer? Jörg and I investigated the various set re-uses that caused caves on different planets to look the same. This is Mariner's and Boimler's impression as well. It is hilarious and also satisfying how the creators of the series write stories from the viewpoint of the fans.
Although I like the idea of the common cave theme of the episode, the single recounts remain sketchy. Each of them lasts only three or four minutes. It is like big story concepts were made into casual anecdotes. It is probably true that to Boimler's big surprise Levy was right about his weird Vendorian theories, as indicated by the appearance of the aliens in the end. Likewise, it seems that Rutherford really was pregnant with a cave baby and didn't tell anyone and that Mariner really became friends with the Delta Shift (in the course of which poor Asif lost a leg). Yet, owing to the little time they are conceded, these three stories have the air of being less serious than what happens in the present. Also, all this merely serves to illustrate how our friends are not as close any longer as they used to be, rather than being events that have an impact on them.
Ultimately Tendi's realistic anecdote from the time just after the events of the series premiere "Second Contact", which is harmless in comparison and endearing, is ironically the most important one for their friendship. I'm not really content with the cave stories, but this last one reconciles me with the episode, which ends on a wonderfully positive note.
- Continuity: Vendorians previously appeared as sneaky shapeshifters in TAS: "The Survivor" and LOW: "Envoys". The aspect of them performing morality tests is new.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Stupid cave mission. I feel like I've been in this cave a hundred times." - "Caves do all kind of look the same, don't they?" (Mariner and Boimler)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "It feels like a third of all our missions are in caves." (Mariner)
- "Ugh. Vendorians don't care about human morality. Look, I know you're some outside-the-box math genius, but do you ever wonder why you've been stuck at the same rank for, like, a decade? No wild, unfounded theories on that? Huh? Well, it's because you're insufferable. Wolf 359 was a tragedy, Q exists, Picard isn't some hologram, and Voyager's EMH is!" (Boimler, to Levy)
- Remarkble scene: T'Ana uses the phaser to vaporize a stinking diaper.
Stardate not given: When venomous creatures attack an outpost on Persioff IX, Mariner once again unnecessarily risks her life. She hurries to restore the forcefield, although she could have taken a protective suit. Captain Freeman has intel that the unknown enemy now targets ex-Starfleet officers such as Seven of Nine, Beverly Crusher, Thomas Riker or Nick Locarno. The Cerritos is to find and escort Locarno to safety, but Freeman is worried Mariner could use the opportunity and get herself into danger again. Tendi recommends to send her to repair an old space buoy in the Sherbal system instead. As T'Lyn, Tendi, Boimler and Mariner have finished the boring work on the station, their shuttle is attacked by a rogue Klingon Bird-of-Prey. They transport down to the surface of the planet Sherbal V, which is frequently ravaged by storms. They witness ongoing struggles between members of different species that are all stranded here. Mariner sneaks away from her friends and gets into a fight with the Klingon Ma'ah. The two need to seek shelter when glass begins to rain from the sky. Ma'ah gets Mariner to talk about her problems. She says that it all started with her Academy friend Sito Jaxa getting promoted ahead of her and then killed in action and continued with the horrors of the Dominion War, after which she was unwilling to be more than an ensign. Ma'ah tells Mariner she should honor her friend and accept the promotion, and she admits that he is right. They join forces to convince the castaways (Romulans, Ferengi, Cardassians, Bynars) to work together. When Tendi aka the Mistress of the Winter Constellations appears, the Orions too agree to cooperate. They plan to modify an old station on the surface to transmit a distress call. But then Mariner is suddenly beamed away. Ma'ah has a plan. As the Klingon Bird-of-Prey appears to destroy the transmitter, he and his new allies capture the ship. Yet, there is no sign of Mariner. In the meantime on New Axton, Freeman, Shaxs and Rutherford attempt in vain to purchase information about Locarno's whereabouts from a broker. No one on this planet likes Starfleet. An alien bounty hunter appears and manages to obtain the information instead. This alien turns out to be Billups. Freeman was aware of the bias of the people on New Axton and used it against them. As they arrive at Locarno's place, he is not there - but they are baffled to find the schematics of the mysterious enemy ship. Mariner wakes up on that ship and learns that no one else but Locarno is the perpetrator...
In a similar fashion as it happened before the release of PIC season 3, the people in charge of Lower Decks freely provided the first eight episodes of their season 4 in advance to the access media but remained tight-lipped about the last two. Not even the titles were revealed. This may have been done because there are big surprises in the two-episode finale, or simply to raise everyone's expectations. I personally think that season 4 so far at most measures up to season 1. There were no bad episodes lately but a chronic lack of highlights and an overarching storyline that has become boring.
So is "The Inner Fight" the treat or the reward that I was hoping for?
"The Inner Fight" is satisfying because it reveals what has happened to the starship crews that were kidnapped by an unknown force throughout the season. We still have to wait if and how their kidnapping makes sense. But right now, I am happy how the episode pulls off a classic "former enemies work together" story.
Perhaps even more importantly, the episode gets to the bottom of Mariner's trouble with being in Starfleet. The cold open corroborates how aggressive and almost suicidal Mariner has become since her promotion. After refusing to talk about it with her closest friends and running away to get into another fight, she opens up herself to her Klingon opponent of all people. It may be a bit contrived how Ma'ah recognizes that Mariner wages war with herself, as if he were her counselor, which sparks their conversation. But I like how Mariner eventually confesses what's wrong with her to the fellow warrior. Well, the glass rain may give her a welcome excuse to finally talk with someone. Still, we need to wonder why she apparently never let in anyone of her friends. It almost seems she wants to keep up appearances, a bit like her mother customarily does, albeit under completely different circumstances.
This is the perhaps most serious Lower Decks episode since "No Small Parts" thanks to Mariner's confession. I personally wouldn't overrate it as a comprehensive explanation for why she doesn't want to be promoted and why she defies authority. The first was shown in a somewhat different light in LOW: "Moist Vessel" when her promotion turned out a nuisance, rather than something terrifying. The latter is at least in part because of a mother-daughter conflict, as seen in LOW: "Crisis Point". There are likely several reasons why Mariner has become the person she is, but the story about Sito is definitely an important part of the puzzle.
I think the story could have been even better without the many coincidences that lead to Mariner and her friends being stranded on a planet together with Ma'ah and the other kidnapped crews, while the Cerritos is trying to find Locarno, who turns out to be the perpetrator. The very idea of Nick Locarno's return, on the other hand, isn't a problem because I like appearances of legacy characters if they are meaningful (which unfortunately didn't apply to Robert Duncan McNeill's previous cameo in "We'll Always Have Tom Paris"). Actually, there is one more reason why I am glad that it is Locarno because when Mariner woke up in the "minimalist hell", I half expected a crossover with Discovery's 32nd century.
Overall, "The Inner Fight" is a step up from the eight first episodes of the season, and I expect the season finale next week to be even better.
- Continuity: Nick Locarno was expelled from Starfleet in TNG: "The First Duty". That was in 2368. About two years later, Sito Jaxa appeared as an ensign on the Enterprise. At that time, Mariner may not have graduated yet. So Mariner should be over 30 years old in the present (2381).
- Remarkable dialogue: "Oh, no! Those monsters are going to [bleep] kill us all!" - "What? I thought you loved them." - "Only when the fence is up." (outpost scientist and Mariner)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Last week she jumped out of a shuttle to fight what she thought was a Borg. It was just a pile of junk, but still." (Ransom, about Mariner)
- "It will be 2.47 times more perilous if you remain uninformed of the details." (T'Lyn, to Mariner)
- "Klingons do not hug." (Ma'ah, to Mariner)
- Remarkable fun scene: Freeman thinks that the little alien with the big head (who looks just like Balok from TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver") is a puppet, grabs and shakes him, until Rutherford informs her that he is alive.
- Remarkably unsavory scene: The scientist's eyes popping out (although it was just mentioned)
- Remarkable logo: Nick Locarno's jacket and the Klingon BoP are adorned by a stylized depiction of the Kolvoord Starburst that got Joshua Albert killed and himself fired.
- Remarkable costume: The protective suits look a bit like the spacesuits from TOS: "The Tholian Web".
Stardate not given: Nick Locarno has gathered a fleet by bribing discontent crew members on various alien ships. He broadcasts a message to the Alpha Quadrant, in which he calls for all lower deckers to mutiny and join his independent Nova Fleet, whose headquarters in the Detrion system is protected by the impenetrable Trynar shield. Locarno also boasts a Ferengi Genesis device as an "insurance". Mariner, however, does not support his cause, grabs the Genesis device and runs to a docked Steamrunner-class ship. Locarno's allies insist on pursuing her. In the meantime, D'Vana Tendi has an idea how to help Mariner, although this would be against Freeman's direct orders to stand down. The Cerritos arrives at Orion where the lieutenant hopes to receive help from her sister D'Erika in the form of a warship. When D'Erika refuses, D'Vana calls for "barter by combat". She surprisingly nominates Dr. Migleemo to fight for the Cerritos, knowing that the big and strong Orion opponent B'eth is allergic to bird feathers. But when B'eth collapses, Dr. Migleemo gets buried beneath her and loses the fight. D'Erika demands the Cerritos as a prize. D'Vana, however, offers something more tempting and promises to return to Orion. Freeman gets the warship she wanted, but it is a wreck. Inside the Trynar shield, Mariner manages to evade the enemy ships for some time. But then she gets surrounded. Her last resort is a hazardous nebula. After his allies refuse to follow her, Locarno enters the anomaly alone. He eventually beams over to Mariner's ship, only to find that she has activated the Genesis device. The Cerritos under Boimler as acting captain uses the huge Orion ship as a battering ram to break through the shield and keep it open long enough for the captain's yacht commanded by Freeman to slip through. Mariner can be rescued, but Locarno stays behind, tries in vain to deactivate the device and dies in the explosion, which creates a planet from the matter of the nebula. Charges against Freeman for disobeying her direct orders are dropped because she managed to establish diplomatic talks with the Orions. Yet, for Tendi this means she has to return to her people...
After last week's "The Inner Fight", I would have expected nothing less than an exciting season finale. And indeed, in a quick check, "Old Friends, New Planets" ticks almost all the boxes. It starts with an absolutely wonderful flashback to the Nova Squadron and Mariner at the Academy. It has visually spectacular space action with "The Wrath of Khan" vibes, also as the music is concerned (a fan service that works better here than it did in PIC season 3). The jokes are really good, with just one exception. At thirty minutes run time, this may be the longest Lower Decks episode, and it uses the extra time mostly well.
I like very much how Mariner is involved. Last week, she reconsidered her obstinacy to take responsibility in an unusually serious scene. Now she sort of faces her old demons in the form of Nick Locarno. Well, Mariner hardly knew Locarno when they were at the Academy, as she concedes herself. However, she is aware that his name stands for recklessness and irresponsibility. In other words, for an attitude that she may have exhibited herself at times but that no longer governs her. Also, after her confession that Sito Jaxa's death threw her off course, the encounter with the former Nova Squadron leader Locarno is particularly bitter because he is alive although in her view he would have less deserved it. Of the many coincidences that I complained about in last week's review, at least this one absolutely pays out in the story.
Locarno's motivation is explored at two points in the episode. When he broadcasts his speech, he ostensibly strives to unite the underprivileged crew members of the galaxy much like a 24th century Lenin. His address to the "lower deckers" also ties in nicely with the very concept of the series. Later however, when he faces off with Mariner and she attempts to convince him to stand down, he has to confess that his actual motive is selfish. He wants his "perfect life" back. As already in "The Inner Fight", Lower Decks gets serious for a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, we never learn what Locarno imagined his new "perfect life" to be like. Hiding behind the Trynar shield for the rest of his life, waiting for someone to eventually break through? That doesn't sound desirable at all. We are probably not supposed to think further about what he actually wanted. Despite the effort to give Locarno a credible cause he sadly ends up as a stereotypically mad villain.
Overall, whereas "The Inner Fight" came with a couple of nice twists, "Old Friends, New Planets" more or less just finishes the story, and ends in the big boom we could have expected.
I am also a bit disappointed that Ma'ah doesn't reappear. I understand that the focus was supposed to remain on Mariner and Locarno, still it would have been appropriate for the Klingon (and the other high-ranking officers) to show up again in some fashion.
Rather than that, in the perhaps only real surprise the story revisits Orion and D'Erika. Although it is clichéd that on every alien planet conflicts would be solved in a ritual combat, I enjoyed the side plot (with the exception of the unnecessary and lame Mark Twain joke that doesn't become any better in this iteration).
Taken together, "The Inner Fight" and "Old Friends, New Planets" form an exciting finale of a season that so far played safe and was merely average. But they are not quite among the best episodes of the series. Anyway, I'm confident that the writers haven't run out of ideas yet, and I'm looking forward very much to season 5!
- Nick Locarno and Tom Paris were both played by Robert Duncan McNeill in live-action Trek. It was obvious that this Lower Decks episode just had to comment on the likeness.
- The Genesis device famously appeared in "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" where its explosion created a planet from a nebula in a very similar fashion.
- Vassery says that Starfleet can't attack Locarno's "Nova Fleet" and orders everyone to stand down. The reason he cites is that Klingons or Romulans may be injured, who turned against their captains "in bloodless coups". I doubt that any of the other governments would give a damn about the traitors.
- Mariner can just activate any ship (even a decommissioned one) with her mother's access code and no further security measure (such as voice recognition)?
- How did Nick Locarno get his hands on the Steamrunner-class ship in the first place? What is the power source of the Trynar shield? How can he have a technology to abduct ships without leaving a trace? And where did his immense wealth come from anyway?
- The Orion destroyer is more than 10 kilometers long and must be a thousand times as heavy as the Cerritos. Even if we assume a more reasonable size ratio, how could the Cerritos tow the immense ship to the Detrion system in the first place? At warp?
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "Clearly, his emotional behavior conflicts with his culpability." - "Yeah, he's an a**hole". (T'Lyn and T'Ana)
- "He looks like Tom Paris." - "I don't see it." [later] "They have, like, the same face. They're identical." - "No, I just don't see it." (Rutherford and Boimler)
- "I thought you were smarter than everyone else. Sounds like you're just another apologist for a broken system." - "Hey, Starfleet's not perfect. They mess up all the time. But in the end, they're trying to do what's right." (Locarno and Mariner)
- "Wait, I thought you guys liked each other now." - "No, no, no. Only when we're Twaining." (Tendi and Rutherford, about Livik)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "If you're tired of risking your life for soulless bureaucratic captains who don't even know your name, if you fear following the orders of incompetent commanders who failed into seats of power, if you're stuck on the lower decks, then I invite you to join us in the Detrion system." (Nick Locarno's speech)
- "All right, you are my first officer. My little buddy. Please, no exploding." (Mariner, as she buckles up the Genesis device)
- "To deactivate detonation, please insert two bars of latinum." (Ferengi Genesis device)
- Remarkable ships:
- The Steamrunner-class USS Passaro NCC-52670 is named after CG artist Fabio Passaro, who passed away in 2022. The registry commemorates his birth date May 26, 1970.
- The size of the Orion destroyer is absurdly exaggerated, but the design looks cool (a bit like the Hirogen Venatic class).
- The Orion ship at the end of the episode is of the type that could be seen in TAS: "Pirates of Orion".
- Rules of Acquisition:
- Rule #91: "Your boss is only worth what he pays you."
- Rule #289: "Shoot first, count profits later."
- Remarkable appearances: Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher and Shannon Fill as Sito Jaxa