Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Episode 9 – Debuted Thursday, October 1, 2020
Written by Ben Rodgers
Directed by Bob Suarez
The action ramps up in a big way for the penultimate episode of the season, with a fun rapid-fire dive into cinematic Star Trek tropes. “Crisis Point” pays off some storylines that have been building all season, and sets up the finale nicely. A strong performance from Tawny Newsome carries “Crisis Point,” with a little help from her friend and podcasting partner, guest star Paul F. Tompkins.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
The Wrath of Carol
“Crisis Point” begins in a quintessential Lower Decks way with a second contact; however, in this case the planet is home to some lizard people and some rat people, who happen to use the self-described “delicious” lizard people as food. And Mariner’s cannon is as loose as ever as she casts herself as the hero to inspire the lizards to overthrow their rat oppressors. We are also soon reminded that Mariner’s mom is also the captain when Freeman beams to put a stop to all this, unimpressed with Beckett’s “screw the Prime Directive” petulance. Solving the sentient-species-as-livestock problem with the promise of some replicators, Captain Mom sends her daughter to a fate worse than the brig: therapy.
Things also start very on-brand for Brad, who (as always) is obsessed with working his way up the system, this time with the goal of landing a spot in the captain’s advanced diplomacy workshop. To this end, he creates what Mariner rightfully describes as a “brownnosing program” in the holodeck that perfectly simulates the entire crew (using private personal logs no less) so he can practice ingratiating himself with the captain.
Mariner sees this as a golden opportunity to “work some s—t out,” and she commandeers Brad’s program to transform it into an epic movie, casting herself as the star and villain. And thus, our Lower Decks take on the Trek feature films is all set.
The Undiscovered Mariner
When Mariner’s “Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta” transforms the holodeck, everything changes, complete with flying credits, lens flares and even a movie-style aspect ratio. Nice touch. Mariner’s “Vindicta” is hell-bent on revenge against her meddling mom. There is a patina of a movie plot where the Cerritos is sent to investigate a ship impersonating second contacts on Idlocana VI. There they find Vindicta’s parody of a big bad ship, and following some dialoguing, the inconvenient cape-wearing villian sneaks onto the Cerritos with her two evil henchmen.
The movie-era satires, sendups, and sarcasms are flying by so fast you will want to do a rewatch just to catch them all. Mariner’s Vindicta is a mashup of revenge-obsessed baddies from Khan to Krall with just a little Kurtz thrown in for good measure. And since this is a movie, things are allowed go dark, and they do as Mariner’s id is on full display while she works out her demons at the point of a nasty disintegrating phaser step-by-step vaporizing the crew. Seriously Mariner, get help.
After some gruesome hilarity taking out simulations of Ransom and Shaxs, Vindicta finally faces down “the Freeman” on the bridge. Mariner’s revenge fantasy blows the budget as she explodes Vindicta’s ship to send the Cerritos into its own fiery crash landing. But things go off script when the captain is beamed away and Mariner faces her true adversary… herself.
The Search for Billups
Beckett’s hastily created movie also had parts for the other ensigns. Brad quickly bowed out of his minor role, which worked out well as “Shempo,” the sycophantic villain’s third henchman, was also her first victim. Tendi was set up as a sexy “savage warrior queen” leaning heavily on Orion pirate stereotypes, with Rutherford playing “Bionic-5,” Vindicta’s cyborg hype man.
But both D’Vana and Sam soon rejected the hench life set up for them by Mariner. Tendi made it clear it was not easy being green, exposing the prejudice she faces even from her friends, and bows out of the holodeck entirely. Sam took the program as an opportunity to finally give his boss Commander Billups a piece of his cybernetic mind, bailing on Vindicta to work out his own issues.
As for Brad, he just rolled with the cinematic punches and used the rewritten simulation to continue his original plan to figure out how to suck up to the captain. This created a lot of fun moments, like Brad quizzing the dying Ransom on what kind of cookies would be the best when trying to get on Freeman’s good side.
Dropping the pretense of her vengeful id, Mariner’s ego now faces her own simulated superego, and the therapizing really starts—with a lot of punching. Brad’s overly good simulation forces Beckett to see who she really is, someone who loves the ship, loves her friends, and—gulp—loves her mom. All it took was for her to see sim-Mariner sacrifice herself by blowing up the ship to save the crew to realize how she is just afraid to be the daughter/officer she can be and that “therapy works!”
Sam is also on a beautiful and strange voyage of self-discovery. Still in the guise of a marauder, he confronts his genuine feelings of admiration (and love?) for Commander Billups. After bonding over subroutines to beam the crew to safety, the unlikely pair hugs it out on the planet and they talk about “buffering the phase coil” together. Is that what the kids are calling it these days?
As for Brad, the whole simulation exercise has proven to be yet another failed attempt to garner promotion. After bringing the wrong cookies to sim-Freeman, he is unceremoniously thrown off a cliff by the sim-Jet (remember him, the second coolest guy on the ship?). Things get even worse when Brad witnesses sim-Freeman eulogizing her sim-daughter Mariner after her sacrifice. Yep, after nine episodes, Brad finally learns the truth about his best friend, and it breaks him—mostly because Freeman makes it clear that if anyone found out the truth in the real world, they would be on the top of her naughty list.
Like most episodes, things wrap up nicely with our ensigns palling around and bonding, and this time Mariner even gives her mom a fist-pound, which only makes the captain suspicious. However, for the first time in the season, we end on a bit of a cliff-hanger as Brad hangs back, burdened with the Mariner/Mom news he should have been told in episode one.
Even with all the fun spectacle, the strongest part of this episode comes down to the characters and how we see them grow and develop. A lot of this was done through the lens of Mariner being sent to the ship’s counselor. In a nod to the real-world era that spawned Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mariner decried “It’s the ‘80s dude, we don’t have psychological problems,” which was clearly not true. All season we have been putting together the complicated puzzle that is Beckett Mariner, the too-cool-for-space-school ensign that doesn’t want anyone to see how she really is just as much a dork for the Federation and Starfleet as Brad Boimler.
We also see development for our other ensigns, especially some surprising revelations about Rutherford. “Crisis Point” stands up well as an episode on its own, but it nicely rewards regular viewers with bringing home some of these character arcs.
Paul F. Tompkins was delightful as the food-metaphor-spouting Dr. Migleemo and hopefully, he will have a recurring role as a lot of these characters can use the help. It was nice to see the pompous admiral from “Moist Vessel” return, but there was a missed opportunity to play up his odd pronunciations, and Captain Freeman’s adoption of them to suck up.
Lower Decks: Beyond The Final Nemesis Picture: The Movie
What most people will take away from this episode is the love letter it writes to the Star Trek movie franchise, in all eras. The homages paid to the Trek films were broad and subtle, and almost entirely wonderful. And not only did they evoke this through visual style, but composer Chris Westlake upped his game in a big way to take the score to a cinematic level, leaning heavily on James Horner.
And while Lower Decks can go too meta, it worked this time through the magic of a holodeck episode. As Rutherford noted, “It’s a movie, you can do all sorts of beaming stuff in a movie.” This gives you some fun freeze-frame moments like seeing Mariner programming in parts of the actual script for the episode, including elements like Shaxs phaser bazooka, described as “(another special ‘movie budget’ weapon).” And the movie references weren’t just to Trek, but nicely paid little homages to other films including Star Wars and Aliens.
Most of the movie gags worked, even if you aren’t a fan. The beauty shots of the Cerritos in spacedock turned William Shatner’s Enterprise lust from Star Trek: The Motion Picture into a fun way too long gag. Although some homages did seem a bit indulgent, like the character signatures ala Star Trek VI. Lower Decks should never forget to service the laughs first and the fans second.
The Voyage Milestone
“Crisis Point” is yet another successful high concept outing for Lower Decks, and one of the stronger episodes of the season. Clever writing, superb design work, emotional music, and nuanced voice acting from Tawney Newsome all came together to give us a delightful movie-in-TV-show indulgence.
There is just one episode left and this time we are left with a bit thread to be picked up with the season finale. It can’t come soon enough.
Today we learned
- The simulation of Capt. Freeman has picked a warp catchphrase: “Warp me.”
- Many Orions have not been pirates for over five years.
- The gang like to skeet shoot with Leonardo da Vinci in the holodeck.
- Mariner dressed as Toby the Targ every Halloween, even when she was too old.
- There is not a California-class ship named after San Clemente, CA.
- “They are not oppressed. We raise them as food. They like it.”
- “You were kind of a Xon, to be honest. You probably were not going to make the final cut anyway.”
- “If this was actually happening they would send the Enterprise, but you know, artistic license.”
- “This isn’t my first overpowered space lord and it won’t be my last.”
- “Warning, the ship has crashed.”
- “When you get to hell, tell the Pah-wraiths that Shaxs sent ya special delivery straight from Bajor.”
- “Let me just take down the captain and then we can grab tacos.”
- “Thanks for ruining the awesome captain murder this was all building to.”
- “I know you might be a psychotic space raider whose boss just destroyed my ship, but you are alright in my book.”
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 Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher 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.