Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Tries To Handle The Truth In “Veritas”

“Veritas”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 8 – Debuted Thursday, September 24th, 2020
Written by Garrick Bernard
Directed by Kim Arndt

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

As Lower Decks heads towards the end of its first season it takes on another classic Trek trope, but this time with more mixed results. While there are a lot of funny moments, much of the humor relies too much on fan service references. The episode nicely leans into some of the series themes but doesn’t really move the ball forward when it comes to our characters. “Veritas” is elevated by its guest stars, most notably veteran actor Kurtwood Smith returning to the franchise in a new fun role.

Did you say Kurtwood Smith is in this, now I am totally nervous. Do I look nervous?  OMG.

 

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

12 Angry K’Tuevons

This week the Lower Decks band is playing the courtroom episode song, starting us off with the smooth stylings of a real Star Trek VI Klingon trial vibe. The Cerritos is in orbit of K’Tuevon Prime, and our gang of ensigns finds themselves called as witnesses to “speak the truth” about the senior officers, who are being held aloft in some kind of beam. Clar, the lead alien, presents them with “the Horn of Candor” (one of their “most sacred horns”). And thus the structure of the episode is set up, with a series of flashbacks told by each of our ensigns, starting with Mariner.

Clar—played masterfully by Kurtwood Smith—demands to know of the “wondrous events” of Captain Freeman on the bridge of the Cerritos during a confrontation with some bug aliens named the Clicket. As Mariner and Boimler were late to arrive at their posts, they don’t really know what’s going on except that Clicket captain is really upset over how the captain thanked them for giving her a map. There is even more miscommunication when Mariner fires a warning shot after the captain asks her to send “a message,” which was supposed to be a dinner invitation and not phaser fire. I’m with Mariner on this one.

Clar is not satisfied with the flashback, demands to know more about the map, and threatens Mariner with the tank of contempt, which is full of giant wriggling eels.

Despite what everyone says, Brad refuses to stop doing his Wesley impersonation.

My Cousin Vulcan

You would think Rutherford’s flashbacks would satisfy Clar because of the accuracy of his cybernetic implant, but on the stardate in question it was glitching and causing blackouts, leaving some frightening and funny gaps in his story. Rutherford was speaking the truth of a mission he went on with Shaxs and Billups, who finally gets something to do.

The disjointed story takes us on a hilarious covert HALO drop into a Vulcan museum to steal a Romulan Bird of Prey, a distracting fan dance that would make Uhura proud, a perilous spacewalk with Billups having TNG flashbacks due to a lack of oxygen, and then for some reason, a Gorn wedding. None of this satisfied Clar, so Sam was sent to hover over the eel tank too.

I agree sir, we will never speak of this again.

Judgment at Romulus

When it’s Tendi’s turn to speak the truth—this time about Ransom—she’s hampered by the fact that her story is classified by Starfleet. It turns out though yet another failure to communicate (this time over the name “The Cleaner”), she fell into a covert mission aboard the Romulan Bird of Prey that Rutherford sort of remembered helping to steal. Using that map to the neutral zone from two flashbacks ago, the overly enthusiastic Orion ends up joining Ransom’s special ops force to extract “the package” from a facility on Romulus. It’s all very hush-hush, so her flashback is humorously seasoned with bleeped audio redactions and black bars to protect the identities of the team.

Needless to say, Clar was not happy about this and sends all three testifying ensigns into the vat of eels, which for some reason is now also being boiled.

Tendi gets a finger-gun lesson from Ransom.

Legally Boimler

With his friends in peril, Brad finally puts his big boy pants on, laying on some “veritas,” which is that as lower deckers, the ensigns “never know anything!” They can’t satisfy this odd line of inquiry about the senior officers, whom Clar imagines are all “infallible heroes,” like all members of Starfleet. So Brad drops some more truth, that the bridge crew of the Cerritos put on their space suits one leg at a time just like everyone else… and they make mistakes.

He uses his flashbacks to recall some fun and winning moments, like when Ransom hit on a Salt Vampire and that time Dr. T’Ana thought she was in a parallel universe when she was just on the wrong ship. The highlight of this reel of Seniors Officers Gone Wild was the time that Q (yes the real Q in full de Lancie judge robe glory) dropped by the Cerritos, bewildering the bridge crew with some crazy Q puzzle to prove humanity is worth saving. Classic.

Dr. Crusher is having that dream where she is a cat again.

A Few Good Aliens

Brad declares the whole trial a sham, which turns out to be sort of right:  The final—and should be obvious—miscommunication twist was that this never was a trial. Clar isn’t an interrogating prosecutor, he’s a thankful kidnapped-by-Romulans magistrate, rescued by the crew of the Cerritos. He was “the package” that all those flashbacks led up to. The creepy courtroom? Actually, one of the “nicest event silos” on the planet, and it’s where Clar got married. The bridge crew isn’t being held in stasis for judgment but in the “beam of celebration” awaiting their story to be carved in stone. Of course, Mariner isn’t cool with all of this.

After getting commendations for standing up for Starfleet ideals in the face of death (even though they were really facing a party venue full of balloons) everything resets back. The captain gives some lip service to keeping the crew informed but once pressed to tie up some serious loose threads, she doesn’t follow through, and our four ensigns are sent back out into the blissful ignorance of being lower deckers, as it should be.

Oh, and Q returns at the end to drop some Picard references, which was nice.

Are you ready to rock K’Tuevon Prime?

ANALYSIS

A drink of truth, with a twist

On the surface, this episode was a charming homage to classic Trek courtroom dramas from Star Trek VI to “Measure of a Man” to “Drumhead” (which got literally name-dropped by Brad). But “Veritas” (Latin for “truth”) took this deeper, telling an in media res story through a series of flashbacks hearkening to cinema classics like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Usual Suspects. (This was also put to use in several Star Trek episodes, including TNG’s “Suspicions” and Voyager‘s “Thirty Days.”) It’s good to see Lower Decks take risks in how it shapes its stories, although “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” was more successful with its experimental homages.

Like any story with a twist, it’s overly dependent on that payoff at the end, in this case, the big reveal of the party. It was fun, but suffered from the Shyamalan effect of feeling like too much setup and not enough punchline, and maybe not all that surprising either. And the whole setup led to yet another retelling of the theme we know all too well at this point, which is this show is about the lower deckers, who are only witnesses—and in some cases unreliable narrators—of the traditional cool Star Trek sci-fi stories happening on the bridge. We get it.

The senior officers Halloween 2380 costumes were well-coordinated.

Building characters

One of the areas where “Veritas” excelled was with the character moments and humor. Each of our main four ensigns got to lean into what makes them unique and funny. From Brad reading all the senior officer’s logs to Tendi being concerned for the eels while she is also being boiled to Rutherford glitzing out after questioning a cybernetic Klingon font upgrade to Mariner bluffing her way through an encounter with some bug aliens, roll with it.

And Lower Decks delivered on its promise to bring back legacy voices and characters without being fully gratuitous. It was great seeing John de Lancie’s Q again, in full toying-with-humanity form. But he was introduced in a way to make a point and fit well within the theme of the episode, even with all the name-dropping.

And the show continues to excel and expand with great new characters, with Clar as a welcome addition. Kurtwood Smith oozed menace and deftly switched after the twist to become just a guy trying to do a nice thing who’s dealing with annoying party planners. It was great to hear Discovery guest actor Ken Mitchell show his funny side as the Clicket Captain Tweerk. And even though Commander Billups has been recurring, this is the first episode where veteran comedy actor Paul Scheer has been able to show how funny he can be.

The best animated comedies build a roster of characters beyond the core family. Where would The Simpsons be without the likes of Flanders and Mr. Burns? Or Family Guy without Tom Tucker and the Evil Monkey? Slowly but nicely Lower Decks is also building a bench that it can hopefully rely on in seasons to come.

The K’Tuevon Chuck E. Cheese is pretty nice.

Only two more to go

“Veritas” was a solid effort, ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack of the eight Lower Decks episodes so far. It presented a somewhat confusing story, which was either a bug or a feature, depending on your point of view. But if you are one of those who needs to totally understand a plot, this one may require a second viewing.

But did T’Ana really shave her *****?

MORE BITS

Today we learned

  • Stardates for flashbacks were 57818.4 and  57791.1
  • Tendi “really” likes ice, replicates a lot of it.
  • Tendi also knows Kung Fu or some kind of martial arts enough to beat up four Romulans.
  • Boimler takes pottery classes.
  • Sam Rutherford’s full first name is Samanthan
  • Ransom has a Starfleet insignia neck tattoo, matched with the same on members of his covert team
  • There is another California-class ship named the USS Alhambra

Laugh lines

  • “Then we’ll have to live on Earth, where there’s nothing to do but drink wine and hang out at vineyards and soul food restaurants.”
  • “Dude, I work on a spaceship. We don’t have maps. We have stellar cartography.”
  • “Who cares. Bug alien. Roll with it.”
  • “You know who I hate? Remans.”
  • “I tried to be reasonable. I tried to get to the truth. Today didn’t have to end in eels.”
  •  “Get out of here, Q. We are done with random stuff today. We aren’t dealing with any of your Q bullsh*t.”

I need to cut back on the LDS

More to come

Every Friday the new TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network. And on Saturday we will post our weekly analysis of Easter eggs and references for this episode.


New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It has not yet been announced where and when Lower Decks will be available outside of the USA and Canada.

Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.

Subscribe
Notify me of
47 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This episode reminds me of The Orville for some reason. I don’t know why but it just does.

They can handle the truth!

Yeah, I get more of a Futurama vibe from it. The Horn of Candor not too dissimilar from the What If Machine.

It could have made a good episode of The Orville too, but the pacing probably would have been slowed down for a 1-hour episode. I think it was perfect how it was. Afterall, we only paid for 22 minutes! LOL

It’s a good episode but boy they most stop the name drops which even extends to naming the actual episodes. So you’ll hear characters say SPACE SEED or DRUMHEAD, that’s not necessary guys. Please stop, it’s fourth wall breaking.

It isn’t. That’s not what “fourth-wall breaking” means since the terms are used in context. “Space Seed” does, in fact, refer to Khan, and the term “drumhead” has a meaning–it’s not just an episode title. Fans misuse the term “fourth-wall breaking” as often as they misuse the terms “Easter eggs” and “plot hole.” It would be a fourth-wall break if, for instance, they mentioned William Shatner or Gene Roddenberry or the show Star Trek. Using episode titles in context is not breaking the fourth wall. Had they said “the episode ‘Space Seed'” or “the episode ‘Drumhead,'” then THAT would have been fourth-wall breaking.

That’s over the top. The fan service and constant references is getting annoying. Dvorak is right.

No. He really isn’t. I correctly defined what the term fourth-wall breaking means. At no point in the episode was the fourth wall broken. Deadpool breaks the fourth wall. “Veritas” did not.

Last week you were saying how great the series in, three weeks before that you were whining about how you didn’t like it just like you are this week.

Faze Ninja doesn’t like Lower Decks. Must be an even-numbered week. :P

was the term “Space Seed” a thing in the episode?

Yes, at the end, Spock said it would be interesting to return to Ceti Alpha V in 100 years and see what crop had sprung from the seed they’d planted that day.

Or something like that.

That line is what made Harve Bennett and company decide to revisit Khan for Star Trek II.

Thank you, Rios! Jesus, people are getting way too carried away with what breaks the fourth wall and what constitutes an Easter Egg around here. Listen to Rios – they know what they’re talking about!

Raise your hand if anyone else thinks characters blurting out episode titles(how on earth would they know them?) is fourth wall breaking.

It’s not fourth wall breaking lol

Q mentioned the title of “All Good Things” in the final ep of TNG. :P

But All Good Things was a figure of speech long before it was the title of an episode of Star Trek. That’s different than barking out “Space Seed” (which, I’ll admit, I did NOT hear in this episode, but my attention is not as rapt as it generally is for Trek when I watch “Lower Decks”…

and now that I post I catch your sarcasm…. sorry.

Of course you are right. That is classic fourth wall breaking. It makes aware to the audience that it is watching a show.

No, it isn’t. You guys really have no idea what the term means.

It means you break the wall between the protagonists of a story and the audience, Refering to titles that exist in that form only in our reality does that. If you have a better definition, I’m happy to consider those. Just to say, you have no clue, is no argument.

This is hardly the first time characters in Star Trek have mentioned episode titles. Not even remotely.

I think it was probably just fan service, but I can write it off as somewhere in the last century the Kirk vs. Khan story was covered in a famous book or documentary titled “Space Seed”.

I mean, surely someone read the reports of Kirk and Khan and the later rematch at Regula 1, followed immediately by events where a famous Starfleet officer CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD!

Probably more than one bestselling book there!

Raise your hand if you actually know what breaking the fourth wall means.

Put your hand down, Dvorak; you have no clue. It is a term with an actual, literal — and I mean “literal” literally — definition. This episode did it zero times.

Speaking of “fourth-wall breaking”, my favorite line in the episode was the guy who walked into the silo and stated that Clar had it booked for only 22 minutes. I checked the timestamp on it and he walked in right at 22 minutes.

how exactly is the term space seed used in the Episode? i rembere it as something like: …
with a space seed….

i am pretty sure they not just said the words space seed in np context.

How could you review this episode and NOT mention the reference to the giant Spock clone??

This giant Spock clone was alive and well at the end of TAS episode. Whatever happened to him?

Best episode of the season! I loved the music from Best of Both Worlds.

Pretty deep dive for Roga Danar, too!

(Oops, that should be a reply to Rios.)

Last edited 1 month ago by Thorny

probably the most beautiful episode yet.
I guarantee more than a few of us will be freeze framing the Vulcan museum background.
those scenes with the TOS Bird of Prey? Glorious!

While I like all four of the Lower Deckers, Tendi is quickly becoming my favorite.

I like Tendi, though sometimes she’s a bit much, depending on who is writing her, but what I can’t get over is her uniform….. command red and engineering/security gold all have black boots with departmental soles and trim. But sciences and medical have white boots for some strange reason it irks the shit out of me. Looks sloppy from a uniform perspective.

I really like STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. I like and dislike the references to other series. I know it’s a TV show but it seems weird that they would know things like Troi’s wardrobe. Specific references to episodes and characters seems out of place like how would they know about such things that would never really be known beyond a particular starship. The TNG episode “Descent” makes sense that Starfleet officers elsewhere would mention it. Do people in the armed forces talk about random officers/soldiers from the past? I can imagine the big names in military history but not the Ensign Kims.

Maybe there are obsessive fan websites, or the equivalent, within Starfleet. These characters are basically Starfleet superfans.

This is a good justification. I’ll take that.

That “Descent” reference never sat quite right with me….. Lore teaming up with the Borg (Descent, Parts I and II) took place in TNG’s 6th/7th season (2369/2370), yet Mariner and the DS9 crew discussing it were wearing uniforms circa 2373 (those sweet-ass First Contact suits). This wouldn’t have been a problem, but they were discussing it like it happened quite recently. Loved the rare DS9 reference on the series, but they bungled it :(

I don’t think they bungled it at all. Not all info travels instantaneously. Best guess is that the mission/events were classified for 3-4 years. Maybe once “First Contact” happened, Starfleet felt the recent danger from the Borg was passed and it would be ok to let that story out.

Also, last week, the guy on the Division 14 ship who was rapidly aging and getting younger was wearing a First Contact-era uniform, no one else was. I am sure they had a specific reason for it, so I doubt they would just screw up a clear uniform choice like that. What about that?

It was established as a long trip to the Farm in the episode, so that crewman could, in all likelihood, have been collected in the FC-era uniform then others collected in the LDS-era uniforms en route to the Farm. That never bothered me.

Now, I stand by my previous assertion about the FC-era uniform and the Descent/Lore & the Borg news. My impression was that Mariner’s crewmates were talking like this was new news, not declassified news. Besides, such a convoluted likelihood (the declassified news explanation) would be poor storytelling since it was never explained within the context of the episode. What about that?

Even though it wasn’t my favorite, this definitely had to be the funniest one for me. So many lol moments in this episode, especially the scenes with Ransom and Tendi infiltrating the Romulan ship. I died laughing when they were bleeping things out to keep parts of the mission classified. The entire ‘court room’ scenes were funny with a crazy twist. Just a lot of great moments in this. LOVED Qs cameo. Basically what I thought it would be, he would pop in and have a few jokes but it was great to see him back. Loved the end scene with him and the ensigns too. They have to get him on Picard at some point! Even if it’s just one episode of the two hanging out at Picard’s vineyard drinking wine and talking Shakespeare. ;)

Only had time to watch it once but will again today. It’s nuts we only have two more episodes. Man these seasons goes SO fast now. :(

Last edited 1 month ago by Tiger2

“Man these seasons goes SO fast now. :(”

From a glass half full perspective though, it means the moment of truth for Discovery season 3 is arriving fast :)

I wish they’d tone down the constant references. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re not; either way, there are too many of them by far.

Even so, I thought this episode was good.

Not bad! I enjoyed it.

The name-dropping has moved past fan service and is part of the characters — they are hard core fangirls/fanboys.

I enjoyed this one.

I really appreciate this new theme in Lower Decks where the Lower Deckers incorrectly assume the worst in a situation that turns out to be benign (eel tank notwithstanding).

In this episode the joke/plot-point ran through about 22 minutes, rather than just a few seconds in earlier ones, but it seems a gentle way to show how compartmentalization of information leads to misunderstanding, distrust and stress for lower ranks in an organizational hierarchy.

No matter how forward and idealized Starfleet may be, this would still be an issue. Imagine what it would have been like down in the bowels of the Enterprise (whatever) while the bridge crew dealt with a red alert.

More of the same. Only this one looked more like an excuse to string together as much fan service as they could.

Fan service is fun but there is a point when it becomes distracting. And this show does not seem to know where that line is.

Anyway, same old same old. Not very funny. Just a small chuckle and a clever bit and that was all. Still hugely disappointing.

I can’t believe how irritating this episode was.

There’s the mile-a-minute dialogue, the torrent of empty references, and this unending screaming match of the trial / party which revolves around this very underwhelming reveal, intercut with with the covert ops missions, which were also somehow screaming matches. And there’s Q, who shows up to be nothing more than a living reference, I guess? References don’t make for a TV show.

By contrast, the previous episode was actually pretty good. There were plenty of references without really relying on them to tell the story, it was fun to play with the fridge logic question of “what does Starfleet do with all its science-experiment-gone-wrong crewmembers?”, and the dynamic between Mariner and her old friend was interesting despite covering ground we’ve already seen (Mariner is hyper competent but sabotages her promotions on purpose due to her issues with responsibility). That episode actually builds on one particular reference in an interesting way too: the Oscar captain’s sinister laugh is just how Edosians sound when they laugh, which foreshadows the twist in that episode but only if you get the reference! See, this is actually *clever*. Unlike anything we saw this week!

This series has just been so incredibly uneven. For every episode which hits the right notes of Trek optimism, humour, and characters doing somewhat mature things, we get an episode like this one which is about nothing and induces a headache. Or, an episode like Terminal Provocations, where we solve one violent problem (an alien throwing space junk at Cerritos) with another violent problem (the computer core monster creature), and where our lead ensigns also help destroy the career of an officer who was actually pretty likable. Some optimistic future, that. I can’t figure out who this show is for: the references are clearly aimed at established fans, but what fan of Star Trek’s morality plays and idealized future is also going to enjoy these empty plots and dialogue on amphetamines?

Lt. Shax’s derogatory comment about the nerve pinched vulcans “Tell that to Spock and Spock”, was a bit surprising.

After last week’s good one, this episode was terrible. Nonsensical and a mile a minute dialogue.

And PLEASE, enough with the constant references and fan service, my god. It makes the Trek universe feel tiny.

Last edited 19 days ago by Steve