Star Trek: Lower Decks had an absolutely abysmal premiere. Between it’s immature humor to it’s blatant disregard for Star Trek canon, the series’ first episode was near universally panned by fans across the spectrum, to the point where many were unsurprised to find that the show has yet to be picked up for international distribution.
With such a low bar, many assumed that the series literally had nowhere to go but up.
Unfortunately, dear readers, it seems this starship still has trouble getting off the ground.
In the episode’s opening joke, an all-powerful energy being finds its way into the belly of the USS Cerritos. Encountering Mariner and Tendi, the being is immediately accosted by Mariner as she attempts to shove him into a containment tube in order to use his powers for her own benefit. After the being is reduced in size after using his energy to fulfill Mariner’s demand for a new Tricoder, Mariner leaves the being to roam freely around the ship before it shortly extinguishes in an attack against Captain Freeman.
Star Trek fans may be going ballistic noting all the ways this small interaction violates numerous Starfleet regulations, and unfortunately for them, the episode’s writing only goes downhill from here.
The primary story for this episode follows Boimler who has been assigned a mission to escort a Klingon warrior to an upcoming interplanetary peace accord.
Much to his frustration, Mariner inexplicably forces her way onto the mission and proceeds to disregard protocol and essentially party with the Klingon, an old acquentaince of hers, drinking heavily onboard the landing ship and reminiscing about their past adventures.
Instead of descending directly to the peace accords, Mariner and the Klingon force Boimler to detour to a Klingon sector, where the two disembark from the ship only for it to be hijacked by their drunken charge.
The pair proceed to encounter numerous alien species, from Andorians to Ferengi, as they search the unknown planet for their ship. During this expedition, Boimler continually finds that the information he’s gained on alien cultures and species is useless, while Mariner displays her mastery of interspecies interaction and cultural respect.
Eventually, the pair find the ship, dump the drunkenly passed out Klingon general on the doorstep of the accord meeting location, and return to the Cerritos with none of their commanding officers the wiser about the on-world events.
Meanwhile, the episode’s b-story focuses on Ensign Rutherford, who finds himself conflicted between his Engineering work schedule and a promise made to Tendi to watch an upcoming pulsar together. In an effort to keep his promise to his new friend, Rutherford begins exploring the various work crews for a position that would not interfere with his social plans.
Moving from the Bridge, to Medical, to Security, Rutherford finds that none of these positions satisfy him as much as Engineering, and the bionic ensign eventually returns to his original post, only to discover that Tendi would have been satisfied simply watching a live video feed of the event together.
While the basic premise of the episode, the escort of an alien envoy to a diplomatic event, is undoubtedly Star Trek in its concept, its execution is far from satisfying for anyone from casual fans to diehard Trekkies.
Like last week, the biggest problem with the episode is its failed attempts at humor. Most of the jokes , such as Mariner breaking the fourth wall to drive home the poor assessment of the lower decks as “glamorous” or her confusion over the identity of the Klingon envoy due to how all Klingon names sound the same, again feel like bits from an SNL Star Trek skit that has far outworn its welcome.
Conversely, when Lower Decks is not attempting to do Star Trek-focused humor, audiences are treated to nothing more than immature toilet humor. Moments such as the opening scene’s energy being “farting” items into existence, the Klingon general boasting that he “must update [Mariner] on his many sexual conquests” or Boimler being literally stabbed in his genitals by an alien creature feel less comical and more out-of-place for the setting and property.
These moments are more baffling than anything, as the overall Star Trek franchise feels like the most wildly inappropriate vehicle to use to deliver fart jokes.
Aside from the humor, the overall writing of the episode is wildly inconsistent, particularly in the behaviors of the cast. Boimler, who has been seen as a strict adherent to the rules and protocols of Starfleet, is seen running into a bar, Phasers blazing, in an attempt to stop alien patrons from engaging in a bar fight without even assessing the situation.
Rutherford’s entire story revolves around his search for a schedule-appropriate career, an issue which could have more likely been solved by simply asking for a moment of leave or rest. These curious moments lead the characters feeling less like individuals and more like blank slates the writers can use for any joke at any time, regardless of characterization.
However, by far the worst aspect of the episode and the overall series thus far, is the character of Mariner. In this episode, Mariner can be seen once again drinking heavily on the job, treating the areas and duties of the Starfleet with blatant disrespect, and referring to herself as a “badass, cool” person.
One gets the feeling that she’s supposed to be played as a “quirky” character with “attitude”, but she just comes off as outright annoying.
It also feels safe to say that Mariner is deep within Mary Sue territory. Her blatantly insubordinate actions are never punished, with Boimler even questioning “Drinking, landing in an unsecured district? That’s how you choose to represent Starfleet?”
At one point, Mariner informs Boimler that she knows how to deal with every alien race and culture they’ve encountered simply because “I’ve been places, I just pick stuff up”, while the very ending of the episode shows she was able to orchestrate an entire fake-murder-attempt against her and Boimler simply to elevate her friend’s spirit.
Mariner is presented as flawless, overtly skilled, “one-of-the-guys” type of characters, despite never facing any sort of consequence or struggle on screen.
Surprisingly, the episode does have moments of genuine entertainment, though these come entirely from Rutherford’s story. In a training fight against a company of Borg Soldiers, presented as part of his Security crew training, Rutherford discovers his robotic implants give him an “Upgrade”-esque edge in combat and proceeds to stylishly wipe the floor with his opponents.
The episode’s running gag, wherein Rutherford nervously explains to various commanding officers that he wishes to request a transfer only to be met by overwhelming support and enthusiasm from the respective crew was also genuinely funny, though this may be because it juxtaposes the true nature of Star Trek stories against the dark and juvenile direction the franchise is currently headed in.
Overall, Envoy does little to bring Star Trek: Lower Decks into the good graces of its audience. The scenes that are most appealing deal with the entirety of the Cerritos crew, with the moments focusing on the titular “Lower Deck” members are near unbearable. The show remains a confusing piece of media, directionless and without a target audience, and early indicators suggest that this will be the case all season long.
- Rutherford vs The Borg.
- The running joke of every crew on the Cerritos being supportive and encouraging.
- The toilet humor and continual disregard for Star Trek’s overall setting.