The Cerritos is tasked with assisting the USS Archimedes, a very nicely realized Excelsior refit, in making first contact with an alien species, but when the Archimedes is disabled by technobabble science fiction nonsense, the Cerritos must enact an insane plan to save her from crashing into the very planet she was supposed to open a dialogue with. This is also complicated when the news that Captain Freeman is planning on leaving the Cerritos for a new ship which, of course, really upsets the crew.
This season… this entire series has been the closest to a perfect season that Star Trek has ever accomplished.
Yes, you heard me correctly.
This animated comedy about Star Trek just executed a near perfect season. The show isn’t just funny, it’s engaging, it has all of the things we love about Star Trek while making fun of all the things we love about Star Trek, and best of all, the characters aren’t the caricatures we thought they were. They learn, they grow, and they slowly become their better selves.
I have no doubt one day that Mariner and Boimler will be captains, that Rutherford will be a chief engineer, or that Tendi will be the head of sciences on a starship. These people aren’t stupid, they aren’t disrespected by the writing, and they aren’t nerfed idiots… they are capable, competent, and complex.
This episode, for example, dissected Mariner. From the beginning, as soon as she heard about her mother’s promotion to another vessel, she made it her mission to hurt her by spreading the misery that she herself was feeling to others. While at first, you are led to believe that Mariner is just being a jerk for no reason, it soon becomes obvious that she is the one in the most pain and that losing her mother to another assignment is really hurting her. What I loved best about this revelation is that she is called out on it by the very people she was trying to get on her side and it’s really a fine bit of writing. Her entire character is taken apart and broken down until she realizes, rightfully so, that she pushes people away. By the end of the episode, she’s letting people in… even Jennifer the Andorian who she hated for no reason.
The episode is highlighted by the truly amazing spectacle of the Cerritos literally shedding its outer hull to come to the Archimedes‘ aid. Not only was this an amazing and engrossing visual, but it was made utterly beautiful by the direction and music. I know that TrekCulture already mentioned this, but they don’t own it so I’m going to mention it too, the moment when Tendi is looking down at the nacelles and the hull plating ejects is such a beautiful moment that you have no choice but to shut up and watch.
Through it all, however, I think that the greatest feeling I had while watching this episode is realizing that it wasn’t just the Lower Deckers who grew, but the entire bridge crew. We’ve seen the self-centered Commander Ransom become an empathetic leader, we’ve seen Billups become a well-rounded character with a new sense of self-assuredness, we’ve seen the gruff, no-nonsense Doctor T’Ana soften to her underlings, and we’ve seen Commander Shax go from being an overly aggressive Word parody to a person dealing with PTSD with a great love and respect with those he served with.
Every single member of this crew has become their better selves and I just love this series for doing that.
Lower Decks takes more chances than its live-action brethren, it isn’t afraid to take the series to places it normally can’t go, and it does it with a wink, a smile, and makes it all look so easy. Lower Decks is a masterful series and deserves more respect in the Star Trek pantheon because it represents the best of the Star Trek pantheon.
The third season of Lower Decks simply cannot get here fast enough.
Bravo to the best season this 54 year old franchise has ever seen.