Review - The Bonkers Fun That Is Star Trek: Lower Decks S1

LOWER DECKS 2×01- “Strange Energies” review

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Lower Decks is back for Season 2 and it’s better than ever! I’m sure by the end of the season, I’ll just sound like a broken record but what else can I say other than this show is brilliant, clever, subversive in all the right ways, and funny as hell!

If there was ever a crew that I would pick for efficiency in dealing with strange energies and godlike people, it would be the Cerritos crew. After all, in a span of about 20 minutes, they fixed the issue and no one even needed to die, which is more than I can say for some other crews throughout Trek history whose track records are not that glowing in successes.

We began the episode with Mariner seemingly held hostage by the Cardassians. But we soon realize this is just her workout routine/therapy session. While others, like a certain Andorian named Jennifer, would do yoga, Mariner is staging full on prison breakouts for fun, which only goes to prove that Mariner is my kind of gal. This whole sequence is also proof of what Lower Decks does best, delivering character details through an exciting and visually stimulating environment that shows the viewers what the characters are feeling instead of boring bland exposition. Not only do we learn that Mariner is frustrated that she and her mom are getting along and it’s kind of weirding her out, but she’s still mad at Boimler for leaving her. Mad enough to leave his hologram version staring at some Cardassian light show in fun and quick callback to TNG’s Chain of Command. It’s these little character beats that this premiere puts on display with such mastery even as it has you laughing at Mariner’s seemingly seething hatred of Jennifer the Andorian despite supposedly not being allowed to interpersonal conflict.

(CBS) How many lights to you see?

But Mariner is not the only one frustrated, her mother Captain Freeman is also frustrated at feeling like having to share command with her daughter. However, neither is willing to admit this isn’t working out for them like they wanted, and the lack of honesty has left a third person, Commander Ransom, feeling just as frustrated as the mother and daughter duo. And it’s this frustration that serves as the central conflict of the episode as Mariner’s power-washing side mission on the Apergosian planet leads to Ransom getting hit with strange energies and going godlike a la Gary Mitchell from TOS.

I have to say though, Gary Mitchell simply does not have Jack Ransom’s style. I mean, only the genius that is Ransom could create a utopia with gym equipment for working out and sending his own floating head into space to bite his ship and attempt to take over as Captain. What did Mitchell do, death by foam boulder? Totally weak!

Not to mention Floating-Head Ransom even in his villainy managed to get Mariner and Captain Freeman into an unexpected therapy session where they both had to eventually come clean and admit that they don’t like working together and simply disagree on many things. Freeman tries to talk Ransom down through praise and Mariner just continues applying force to his neutral zone. But the true savior of the day is Doctor T’Ana. After repeatedly informing everyone that she’s going to get a boulder, she was true to her word and plop a giant boulder on Ransom that finally smooshed out the godlike powers.

(CBS) Tendi might care a bit TOO much about Rutherford

With Ransom going to make a full recovery, Mariner and Captain Freeman agree to go back to a friendly version of their mutual workplace antagonism. But something tells me that won’t spell good for Captain Freeman wanting to get that promotion to captaining a capital ship. Speaking of ships though, who’s getting on the Ransom and Stevens ship?

While Ransom was attempting to eat the ship though, Tendi and Rutherford were having their own bit of strangeness. Tendi grows worried that Rutherford has been off since he lost his memories. He’s dating Barnes, whom he broke off with in the first episode of Season 1, and he likes pears now when he didn’t before. But what was in the beginning presented as medical concern grows increasingly extreme with Tendi chasing Rutherford around the ship attempting to do medical procedures, only to admit that what she was afraid that if he was changing opinions on so many things that he might decide one day that he didn’t like being her friend anymore.

And again, this displays something that Lower Decks is so brilliant at, subverting expectations and not losing the heart of these characters. What could have been a trope filled jealousy arc ends up with two friends bonding through their love of science, even if one was just chasing another from his date while amid a ship wide crisis.

Lower Decks revels in the absurd and that’s to its credit. Even its crew revels in the absurd. I laughed out loud as Barnes didn’t flinch from the drama of her date and simply left telling Rutherford that when he’s cured, he can just meet her and the other girls from Cetacean Ops for swimming. This prompting Rutherford’s genius line of “I just want to go swimming with girls!” as he ran away from Tendi chasing him to get at his brain. Or when the Apergosian leader, voiced by the great Randall Park, took forever to pick a subspace communication number because of his culture’s value on numbers, and then yelling at Ransom to stop transforming his constituents into Ransom clones.

But despite all its hilarity, Lower Decks doesn’t forget the most important focus is always on their characters. Even in under 25 minutes, the show manages to always give every character forward momentum in their journey. It never feels like a reset, it never feels like characters are standing in place. Every scene gives them conflict that allows them to grow as people. So even as Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford chat about things feeling like it’s back to normal, we know that all of them have had their own individual growth.

There’s one person, though, who may not be enjoying his growth as much as he thought, and that’s Boimler. It was his dream to go serve on the Titan, to move up the ranks, but as we cut to him screaming on the bridge, the action seems the furthest from Boimler’s dreams of what his life was going to be. Needless to say, he does not seem to be loving his job battling the Pakleds and riding into weird anomalies that stretch out your face. Captain Riker, however, LOVES his job just as much as Jonathan Frakes loves his job making Star Trek, and who could ever doubt his joy and glee?

You can reach Captain Pike-A-Chu on twitter @CaptainPikeachu

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