“Terminal Provocations” may not be the funniest episode of ‘Lower Decks,’ but it is the most strongly plotted episode yet

When a member of the Lower Decks screws up, Boimer and Mariner, against their better judgement, decide to help him cover his mistake which gets worse and worse every second. Meanwhile, Tendi and Rutherford get trapped on the holodeck with a murderous mascot and the senior staff of the USS Ceritos try and negotiate with alien scavengers who have laid claim to Federation property.

While last week’s episode was markedly funnier, I have to admit that I think that “Terminal Provocations” is a stronger episode. While it was funny, this episode demonstrated a stronger structure than we’ve seen in Lower Decks before. It expertly balances an A, B, and C plot, giving them enough time to develop and play out and, best of all, it allows each story to be important in its own right. I think I mentioned last week that I’m a big fan of concurrent plots that orbit each other, occasionally intersect, but never overplay each other. “Terminal Provocations” does this in spades.

The Boimler and Mariner story was pretty hysterical. Although I do think that Franklin’s true motivation was telegraphed a little too early, watching our favorite two lower deckers get roped into protecting one of their own and work as a team was a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed immensely watching Mariner’s character development since episode one and loved her attitude that, yeah, while she is a rulebreaker, she’s selective about which rules she breaks, never putting anyone in moral danger. Mariner is a starfleet officer unlike any that we’ve seen before. She values Starfeet, but not unearned authority and bureaucracy. She doesn’t care about moving up in rank, but will do what she needs to do to protect her own. She’s capable, she’s smart, she’s rebellious, but not stupidly so. Seeing her up against someone who is actually a bad Starfleet officer really shows who she is.

Guys, honestly… Mariner is one of the most unique characters who has been introduced into a Star Trek series.

I was also incredibly happy to see Tendi and Rutherford in an actual story. Sure, they’ve been featured before, but it’s mostly been inconsequential silliness as a an excuse to cut away from the main plot for a breather. It was crazy sweet to see the two of them play in plot that was not only a legitimate story on its own, but also screamingly hilarious. We’ve seen characters on the holodeck turn evil, but nothing like Badgy, a murderous Microsoft paperclip. Every scene with Badgy was hilarious and I laughed out loud with every threat he uttered.

Finally, the story with the bridge crew might not have been as featured as the other two, but it was still integral to the plot. Besides, watching them become more and more stressed as the aliens got more combative and the ship start falling apart was so much fun. I love that the show has seemingly made the bridge crew think that they are the stars of the show when they’re just supporting characters.

Out of all of the episodes of Lower Decks, I feel like this episode has best nailed the formula for a half-hour comedy and, although it wasn’t the funniest episode of the season, I do think it’s the strongest. Heck, on my second watch, I found that I was actually invested in the story more than the jokes.

Seriously, who would have thought that Star Trek: Lower Decks would have had the best freshmen season of any Star Trek show?

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