It’s been an epically long wait for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Episode 1, but it doesn’t pull any punches as it pushes viewers straight into the deep end of TOS canon and Lower Decks shenanigans.
When we last left the USS Cerritos, the rebel ensign, Mariner, and her mother/captain, Freeman, had struck a partnership to work together, Boimler had transferred to the Titan, and Rutherford had survived his implant being ripped out and replaced but had suffered memory loss.
The premiere hits us with the consequences of all this disruption on both the large and small scale.
The Cardassian detention center holodeck program is a perfect primer for returning audiences. Mariner’s able to provide exposition on her mommy issues while the program seems to have recognized some psychological issues in her relationship with former shipmate Boimler.
Cardassian Interrogator: You’re abandoning your fellow officer?
Mariner: Yeah, well, he did it first.
Furthermore, it demonstrates that the holodeck continues to act as a combination of fantasy and therapy tool.
Of course, Mariner also considers it her gym workout.
Jennifer: What are you doing?
Mariner: Cardio. Plus a little strength training.
Jennifer: So you work out by staging Cardassian prison breaks.
Mariner: Yeah, what do you do?
Jennifer: Ah, yoga.
Mariner: Wow, how unique.
When they introduce characters like Jennifer, I sometimes wonder whether it’ll lead to further conflict with the Andorian ensign or if she’s just incidental. After all, she was in a red shirt.
There are two relationship clusters addressed here: Mariner, Freeman, Ransom, and Tendi and Rutherford. In a lovely bit of parallelism, the relationships pass through similar milestone events.
First, there’s the disruption to the status quo. In the case of the triumvirate in Command, Ransom’s position as Commander is now undermined by Mariner’s “special arrangement” with Freeman.
Ransom: The away team is awaiting your orders, Captain.
Freeman: Sorry, Commander. I forgot you were there.
Ransom: That does tend to happen a lot these days.
Between Tendi and Rutherford, there’s the actual neurological damage that has changed Rutherford’s personality, leading Tendi down a path of catastrophizing the worst possible conclusion.
I’m worried about SMD, Synthetic Memory Degradation. It’s a rare condition that affects cyborgs with new implants. First, your opinions change. Then, your brain liquefies and melts out of your nose. Luckily, this is exactly what I’ve been training for. I will save my friend!
Then, there’s ZAPPING involved in both cases.
Ransom gets the titular “strange energies” while Tendi intentionally zaps Rutherford as part of her SMD treatment.
(And, yeah yeah yeah, I got the “SMD” joke. I’m choosing not to address it because, really, what is there to say?)
In any case, the resolution of both conflicts is some truth-speaking. Ransom’s omniscience forces Mariner and Freeman to be honest that their partnership isn’t really working for either of them.
I used to sneak away and do all sort of little, off-the-books side missions without cluing her in. Now, that’s impossible. She’s so happy. It’s very sweet. But I am losing my mind. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
I enjoyed most the attempt Mariner and Freeman make at talking out their disagreement about how to handle Murder God Ransom.
The use of sentence starters like, “What I hear when you say…” and “When you say that, I feel…” is incredibly familiar to anyone forced to take workplace conflict resolution workshops.
And, to be fair, they are an accessible and common language in the modern-day workplace. However, there is an implicit understanding that they are the last line of defense between (human) co-workers.
In a military context, Freeman’s command should be an absolute order. The partnership with Mariner also undermines that.
I won’t go too much into the reference to Gary Mitchell, a helmsman that met a tragic end on the first Shatner episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.
T’Ana pretty much covers it in her asides.
Freeman: Doc, how did they deal with Gary Mitchell?
T’Ana: Kirk smooshed him with a boulder.
For a show that builds much of its fan goodwill on familiarity with Star Trek: The Next Generation, it’s a nice flex to base this premiere on the (more famous) premiere of the series that started it all.
The Tendi and Rutherford relationship woes are actually the more worrying situation for me.
That she assumed she would be able to physically “fix” her friend is indicative of both the possibilities of the future and (maybe) the can-do nature of Orions.
Rutherford: Stop! You can’t just keep attacking me and trying to surprise me into getting better. If I do have this LSD thing.
Rutherford: Whatever. You can’t cure it like getting rid of hiccups.
Tendi: You’re right.
Rutherford: Thank you.
Tendi: I’ll have to get your brain out of your skull and freeze it so I can nanosuture your dendrites by hand!
As always, Tendi’s approach to solving emotional quandaries is … unique, and it’s true to the core of their friendship that Rutherford, despite his brain issues, still recognizes that they share an ultra-scientific way of seeing the world and its dilemmas.
Rutherford: So you were utilizing highly-invasive neuromedical procedures in order to make sure I liked you?
Tendi: Yes, you can hate me
Rutherford: How can I hate you? Tackling an emotional problem with scientific experimentation is exactly what I would’ve done.
It’s also telling that neither of them noticed the giant Ransom head (see? I didn’t call it a “godhead” despite it being exactly that. I’m not taking that low-hanging fruit, McMahan, so stop dangling it) attacking the ship, they were so focused on working out their issues.
I mean, Tendi was literally trying to suture Rutherford’s brain, so I guess dealing with her would be his priority.
In conclusion, everything (except Boimler) is back to the status quo by the close-out scene in the brig.
With Mariner and Freeman back on opposing teams, we can expect more insubordination than you can shake a phaser at. Meanwhile, Mariner can relish the memory of repeatedly kicking Ransom in the god-nads (ok, couldn’t resist that one).
Mariner: There’s a team waiting to take me to the brig, isn’t there?
Freeman: You know me so well.
Mariner: Love you, Mom!
Freeman: Love you, too! Never disobey me again!
Mariner: I do what I want!
Tendi and Rutherford are an unstoppable team once again.
And Stevens is about as happy as a pig in a blanket to be tucking in Ransom in sickbay with a story. Aw, I love that little buddy.
I don’t quite have my Easter Egg-spotting skills truly revved up yet, but I did notice Mariner’s getaway vessel in her holodeck prison break was NCC-1877, the USS MacDuff, which is HILARIOUS (and recurring as it was spotted last season in the shipyard alongside the USS Chimera).
My question is whether the Star Trek Expanded Universe will have to adjust its records since NCC-1877 was previously recorded as the USS Resolution.
As a rule, anything shown on TV is canon, so… ??? Geek question, I know, but anyone out there has an answer, much appreciated.
Also, I’m fascinated by the fact Fred Tatasciore’s name is still in the opening credits. Will Shaxs make a reappearance? Will the Prophets see fit to send him back?
Incidentally, Cameo of the Week goes to Randall Park as the Apergosian High Leader and the Honorable Mention to Missi Pyle as the Cardassian Interrogator.
Frakes is basically cast now, so despite that amazing final scene, he’s not eligible anymore.
So who has a good theory as to how Boimler gets reassigned back to the Cerritos? Demotion? Personal request?
CAN he return without losing face? Will he even have a face left after the Titan’s encounter with that anomaly?
Are you ready to fly again with the Cerritos? What gave you wings this time around? Hit our comments, full speed ahead!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.