Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Shakes It Up In “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”

“We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 3 – Debuted Thursday, August 26, 2021
Written by M. Willis
Directed by Bob Suarez

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

Season two settles in with just as much fun and humor as season one, while bringing some added depth and development to our main characters. Oh, and Tom Paris as a plate too. Sorry, minor spoiler.

Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler and Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner

WARNING: Spoilers below!

Back to normal?

After all the excitement in the first two episodes, our four ensigns seem ready to get back into their routine friendships on the USS Cerritos. However, the familiar feeling that starts the episode soon reveals three of our lower deckers having crises that border on the existential variety.

The problems unfolding in the opening scene in the mess hall set up what will be our A, B, and even C storylines. Tendi rushes through her meal as she is rediscovering her ambition and turning her hyperactive gaze to the goal of getting on Dr. T’Ana’s good side. Boimler is having trouble reintegrating on the USS Cerritos as the ship’s new security protocols literally won’t even let him order lunch. And seeing the formerly dead Lt. Shaxs casually ordering a hot dog totally upends Rutherford’s meal—and life—and not just due to Shaxs’ dubious choice of spicy kiwi ketchup.

That’s right Brad, keep Jennifer waiting.

Girls Tripping

Despite the title, the main story in “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris” actually has nothing to do with the former helmsman of the USS Voyager. After getting an assignment from T’Ana, Tendi taps Mariner to join her on a mission to Qualor II to pick up an old family relic of the doctor’s. In a clever meta moment, they remind the audience they’ve never had the chance to work together even though they are nominally part of a core group of four friends.

Their infectious enthusiasm has them imagining their mission as a fun “Girls trip!” However, after arriving on Qualor II and knocking back some alco-slushies, we start to see some tension. Through a series of escalating calamities that would test even Lucy and Ethel, these two realize they don’t really know each other at all. And after accidentally breaking Dr. T’Ana’s ancient Caitian libido scratching post—which Mariner lovingly names Jeremy—this not-really-a-friendship is really put to the test.

A quick trip to a seedy bar at Starbase Earhart to hustle some Nausicaans at Dom-jot is fun for some nostalgia but is no help on the quest to fix the sex scratching post. This all leads to the episode’s very welcome deep dive into Tendi’s Orion past as the pair heads to a real pirate outpost where D’Vana reveals she was more badass than any of Mariner’s holographic fantasy versions of herself, and bears the awesome Orion title of “Mistress of the Winter Constellations.” So. Many. Questions!

Mariner has to go undercover as an Orion, a time-honored Trek tradition of racial disguise, but in a nod to how times have changed, Beckett hopes no one is there to get a photo of her culturally appropriating greenface. And as their girls trip turns into bickering, the distraction exposes Mariner for the enemy human she is, turning this homecoming into a run for their lives.

You don’t need to be a time traveler to know hustling Nausicaans is a bad idea

Unauthorized Bradward

Brad’s crisis is more personal, and this is the one tied into the titular Tom Paris. The young ensign is excited to meet another one of his personal heroes with the added goal of getting him to sign his collectible plate; Brad is such a Starfleet superfan that he saves time by referring to the USS Voyager as “VOY.” See folks, he’s just like us—except we never actually say “VOY.” (But that just shows how dedicated he is to Star Trek Starfleet.)

Brad’s problem is that he can’t get from the lower decks hangout to the bridge because no doors on the ship will open for him. The Cerritos itself gets a bit snarky, telling Brad he is “unauthorized personnel.” Poor Brad! Rejected from his dream job on the USS Titan, he finds himself forced to crawl through the Jefferies tubes just to get to the bridge. To make things even worse, Paris is on the bridge showing off at the helm, a process which could result in the ensign getting roasted while taking a shortcut through some plasma conduits. Boimler just can’t catch a break, but amazingly, the Paris collectible plate holds up through all of this. Get yours now for $29.99… seriously, that’s real.

Welcome home, Brad.

Return of the living Bajoran

How many times have we seen someone on Star Trek come back from the dead? It’s almost a cliché. Now that Shaxs has come back from the dead, Rutherford—who’s had his memory reset—just can’t wrap his head around it, and becomes obsessed with figuring out how the security officer who sacrificed his life is now roaming around the ship without much notice from anyone.

The problem? Apparently, it’s rude to ask the reanimated exactly how they’ve come back, a lesson learned the hard way by Lt. Cody, who was reprimanded and reassigned merely for asking. But Sam can’t let it go, as he is literally haunted by a hilarious montage of various types of resurrected Shaxses.

Pull my finger…

Brigging it

All of our stories are resolved in the same way: by our characters getting real. Tendi and Mariner open up to each other and admit they each have their own way of keeping others at a distance. With the girls trip bonding finally realized, they can now work together to escape the horde of Orions who seem to really hate humans. Why so angry, guys? The last remaining issue is T’Ana’s now even more damaged and incomplete sex post, so Mariner uses her rule-breaking superpower to harmlessly ram the shuttle into the ship’s shields to account for the damage, so off to the brig she goes, again. Turns out T’Ana didn’t care about the post anyway; she just wanted the box for some serious cat-in-heat purring action.

Brad also got honest, but with himself, and with a little help from that Tom Paris plate, via a fume-induced hallucination. The plate also solves the tube trap when he jams it into a circuit, dropping the poor ensign onto the bridge from the ceiling. Sadly, Paris gets the disheveled ensign confused with one of Star Trek’s biggest mistakes, a Kazon, but it turns out getting a black eye from one of his heroes is actually a high point of Brad’s day. As pointed out by Mariner, “There’s only like a couple of people in the quadrant who say they got beat up by Tom Paris.”

As for Rutherford, he just had to be honest with Shaxs, who felt for his old “Baby Bear.” Aww. Turns out the bridge crew keeps their resurrection secrets for good reason: to spare the sanity of the crew from the truth of the “scientific depravity” that would haunt them. He then tells Sam all about it, leaving him haunted and shaking. We only get a taste… something to do with a Black Mountain.

And that leaves our four pals back together again, once more hanging with Mariner in the brig, her second—possibly first—home. Boimler can even use doors and everything. All is Lower Decks in the world again.

Who has one thumb and one Delta Quadrant black eye?

ANALYSIS

Trying something new

With things settled and all four of our ensigns back together, the show provided a nice change of pace by shaking things up and trying some different character dynamics. Writer M. Willis provided her own commentary on the matchup, with Tendi saying, “Sort of weird we haven’t been paired up until now… Sort of a glaring omission.” Both Tawny Newsome and Noël Wells were up to the challenge, carrying most of the load for this episode on their backs, with their girls trip! misadventure.

This episode also continued this season’s welcome trend of developing the characters, opening up with more personality-based humor. This was especially true for Tendi, who really needed more fleshing out, and we now have some fun and intriguing answers to questions about her background leftover from season one. However, just like the first episode of the season, there was a bit too much going on to really give us a completely satisfying bite from each storyline. Trying to cram three storylines into 23 minutes strains the format.

The return of Shaxs and the talented Fred Tatasciore is quite welcome, although his name appearing in the credits for first two episodes along with the character being spotted in trailers sort of gave away the game. But in a nod to the show’s short time allotment, and in another bit of holding up a mirror to the franchise, Willis found a clever way to resurrect a character without dwelling on the hows and whys of it all. They wanted him back, we wanted him back, and they gave us at least a few episodes to honor his genuine sacrifice. Although since he’s back, does that mean they missed an opportunity to solve Dr. T’Ana’s little personal problem? Rrow.

How much for the cat head?

Delta flying

Much of the excitement around Lower Decks has been its use of callbacks to Star Trek, including bringing back veteran actors to reprise their roles. With Tom Paris, they telegraphed this early on with both the trailer and the episode title. What’s welcome is that Lower Decks is still using these pop-ins sparingly and organically. The episode carried his name, but it wasn’t all about Tom Paris, it was still about our heroes, the lower deckers. Robert Duncan McNeill was great and had a bit of fun with the role —maybe not quite as much fun as Jonathan Frakes has with Jazzy Riker—but he fit right in with the tone of the show.

And this episode also kept the season two trend going of balancing all the various Star Trek references and Easter eggs. Sure, there are plenty of familiar fun things on Qualor II, but they are little bonuses for the invested fans. Lower Decks works best when it allows our characters to drive the humor and doesn’t expect the audience to get its laughs from all the Trek gags.

Is that street corn or a new full pip?

Final thoughts

Another solid season two episode shows that the team behind Lower Decks knows what already works on the show and where they can find some new areas to explore. The series also shows confidence in moving beyond simple Star Trek gags to add a bit of loving commentary on the franchise itself. Like Brad, we know that they love it, even when it punches you in the face.

The doctor will frantically scream at you now

MORE BITS

Random stuff

  • This is the 800th episode release in the franchise. (as counted by CBS/Paramount+)
  • Boimler asked the replicator to make him a papusa, a Central American griddlecake.
  • Boimler hummed part of the theme to Star Trek: Voyager. In season one he did the same with the theme to TNG.
  • Tendi is a big fan of Klingon Acid Punk music.
  • Mariner was previously posted to station Deep Space Nine at the same time as Worf.
  • The Cerritos is Mariner’s 5th ship posting.
  • Mariner revealed she has a type: bad boys, bad girls, bad gender nonbinaries, and even bad Bynars.
  • Tom Paris has been promoted to full lieutenant after last being seen in the Voyager finale as a Lt. JG (three years prior).
  • Qualor II promoted a performance of the Zebulon Sisters, who performed the Chu Chu dance on the USS Cerritos in season one.

Laugh lines

  • “I can’t rely on people getting syndromes.”
  • “Whatup? We doing sci-fi stuff today?”
  • “Is he still a salamander?”
  • “Nexus, time-ribbon, same thing.”
  • “Why even listen to Klingon if it isn’t punky or acidic?”
  • “Look at these claw marks, they are like from her horny great-grandma.”
  • “Did you get your bowl signed by Chakotay or whatever?”

Qualor II makes Freecloud look subtle

More to come

Every Friday the 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. On Saturday, we’ll post our weekly analysis of Easter eggs and references for this episode.


New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. It is available on Amazon Prime Video internationally on Fridays. It will debut in Latin America on Paramount+ in September.

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

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I really liked this one, too. I continue to be happier with this show than with any other Trek made in a long time.

I do have to take exception to an accounting that posits this is the 800th episode, though. That only makes sense if one a) excludes “The Cage” (or, you know, any one other episode; “The Cage” is the only one I can even think of a reason why someone might not count it, so I’m assuming it’s that); b) uses the two-parter versions of the ten feature-length episodes from the four shows of the Berman era (“Encounter at Farpoint”, “Emissary”, “All Good Things…”, etc.), so that the count is increased by ten; and c) also counts the ten “Short Treks” shorts as “episodes”. I could kind of see doing that last thing, but it’s not how I would roll, and the first two are just… wrong.

Memory Alpha considers it #804, so yeah. I would consider this to be debatable based on what you consider an episode.

I was really tired due to insomnia, I watched this at 1 am and it was a great and funny episode; because I didn’t have time to really think and I just let the episode do its own thing w/o me looking hard for the hidden eggs. One of my favorite Lower Decks’ episodes.

Just remember, “It’s always Christmas in the Nexus.”

That was funny as hell

Suddenly Lower Decks is funny. The adult Star Trek comedy cartoon I didn’t know I wanted.

It’s been funny since it began.

Yeah certainly for me!

I found season 1 vaguely amusing; only one joke ever got a legitimate chuckle out of me. Oddly enough, it was one of the first jokes in the first episode– “banana banana banana”. I can’t even explain why it made me laugh. Maybe because that was something that could legitimately happen on the show?

After that, I found the show to be a light, silly diversion, but it rarely made me chuckle, let alone laugh out loud. I generally watched it while working– it was something diverting to pass the time; the show didn’t do barely enough to keep my attention that I sit and watch it on its own. The jokes were mostly juvenile (not vulgar, just childish), or silly sight gags. Again, amusing, but nothing terribly exciting as far as a comedy goes.

This season has been a lot more thoughtful, jokes that are a more well-constructed, and i’ve found myself putting there things aside while watching. The humor is more than just some verbal gags and zany behavior, the situations themselves genuinely funny unto themselves, then the jokes and visual gags add to it. The other stuff– the juvenile humor, the silly, zany stuff– it is still there, and is good to keep things moving, but I’ve laughed out loud a handful of times per episode at better, stronger jokes than before.

I have to admit, this episode got the biggest laugh out of me so far with the dr getting her “family heirloom” delivered. haha

Being an astrophyiscophile, I think Tendi’s Orion “title” of “Mistress of the Winter Constellations” is a nod to Earth’s own Winter Constellations, which includes the constellation of Orion.

Please pardon my typo. I misspelled my username.

It should be Astrophysicophile.

Of course, I don’t think the planet Orion’s Winter Constellations and Earth’s Winter Constellations are one and the same.

But I have wondered where the planet Orion is in the constellation Orion.

For that matter, I wonder whether the Orions called themselves Orions, whether oh-RYE-ons or OR-ee-uns, and their planet, Orion, or the names of the species and planet were exonyms given by humans.

Anyway, this episode has shown more Orions than any previous episode or movie, in just about every shade and tone of green, except the green with the dominant blue undertone of the Orions from the TAS: “The Pirates of Orion.” I want more Orions! I want to see, to quote Kirk, “Orion, at the dawn of its civilization!”

I don’t think the Orions call themselves Orions. That must be a Fed Standard / English name applied to them because of the position of their planet in the Orion constellation. In their indigenous language there certainly is another term. Vulcans aren’t Vulcans in Vulcan either, probably the V’Tosh in Vulcan language just as the Romulans are Rihannsu in Romulan.

I agree with you, although the term “Rihannsu” hasn’t been used in any show or movie yet. Heck, I want more Romulans, too! I want to see the Earth-Romulan conflict, the hundred year war between the Romulans and the Vulcans, and Vulcan during its martial, savage, aggressive colonizing period. So if we get any of that, the term “Rihannsu” could be used.

Well the colorist who did TAS was partly colorblind, so many aliens were “off”. Grayish white Andorians, Klingons wearing pink, etc. To him the male Orïins looked greenish?

According to Memory Alpha article on TAS (https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Animated_Series), the director of color Ervin Kaplan (the article misspelled his first name as Irvin) wasn’t color blind but that he chose the off-colors. So, since he got other colors – for instance, the Starfleet uniform colors – correct, then the off-colors are canon, and we can blame it and any other animation errors – such as incorrect uniform colors and divisions – on Q.

This one had more laughs than the first two episodes combined, and some decent character development too. Well done, LD!

Veritas and We’ll always have Tom Paris are two of my favorite LD episodes.

Dr. T’ana with her box made laugh really hard.

Boiler in the Jeffries tube and falling on the bridge was another favorite.

Boimler

“It’s a Kazon!”

I thought this one was terrific. Granted, I thought the first two of the season were also terrific.

You gotta love just how dedicated Dr T’Ana is to her personal cravings. To quote her log file: “Argh, I need a bowl of cream!”

“Did you get your bowl signed by Chakotay or whatever?”

Disappointing episode !
Guest Stars especially Trek-Veterans should be really involved in the Story.

I feel the exact opposite. I don’t want them walking in and taking over the show. I very much appreciate the restraint on the writer’s part. Yet, the guest stars all still manage to land at least one really good joke each. Q got a good one, and Paris’ “Kazon!” got a good laugh from me.

Interesting that Riker has gotten some meaty material, but still genuinely feels like a guest star. That’s a good thing.

Once again Boimler is Mariner’s punching bag. Also if she was assigned to DS9 at the same time as Worf how the hell did she not feel the wrath of both him and Sisko?

Glad to see Rob back as Tom Paris and looks like he stayed in Starfleet for good after his little stint in the DQ.

Who said she didn’t? Mariner said this was her fifth (sixth?) assignment. Sounds like Sisko gave her the boot in short order.

Or if Sisko hasn’t come back from the Celestial Temple yet, Kira gave her the boot.

It’s spelled “pupusa” – carry on.

I’m still having difficulties adjusting to the overabundance of easter eggs refering to old series and movies. With this fictional world, these series aren’t series anyone can watch and refer to. They are real-life events. There is a multitude of issues:

How can any lowerdecks officer about an unimportant little starship know so many details about any of these events? The adventures of VOY in the DQ…
Okay, someone may have wrtten a book about that upon their return and I get why these people would become celebrities simply for having gone there first. DS9 played a pivotal role in the Dominion War and any historical ENT, be it NX-01, NCC-1701 or the D has certainly become household knowlege for their extraordinary achievements. But those details about characters, events and phenomena… It’s a bit too much…

Even more illogical is the insane focus of the characters on these particular ships. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ships in the fleet which all have some great adventures. Why do they only quote those characters and events. I know, it’s because we as the fans know these events but it doesn’t feel natural within the fictional context.

The insane amount of collector’s items last week in that collectors’ ship felt also quite odd. Again, we know these items (most of them), but about the rest of the galaxy? Why are there only (or mostly) items from well-known Trek shows? That’s way too meta if you ask me…

Again, as with the humor in general, easter eggs are a matter of frequency. Drowning in easter eggs like Kirk in Tribbles doesn’t feel logical or natural but forced…

Garth, I have a few in universe thoughts.

Learning by analyzing previous leaders and situations is standard practice in business administration, public administration and modern day military science.

For ensigns and Academy cadets, logs and case studies of major events of the capital ships, especially the flagship would certainly be required reading. Boimler is command track, so all the more so. The major events of TNG would have been extracted from logs and packaged for study by instructors at the Academy. First contact with the Borg for certain. Major encounters with the Dominion also certainly.

The point is more that until the Cerritos, Star Trek almost always involves the ships that are the flagship or most involved in Federation shaping events. So, of course they will be written up and dissected for students. This is like asking why anyone with a business degree would know case studies of AT&T, IBM, General Motors, or Amazon.

And there will always be those who will take that to the extreme and obsess over favourites.

Thanks. Those are very helpful thoughts,

Hope it works for you!

Very happy that Shaxs is back (that new guy wasn’t working for me).

I thought the bit where the shuttle bounced off the shields was hilarious 😂 and Freeman asking if there was damage (“none”), then saying “that was weird” 😂 reminded me of the TNG one with the guy who escaped Zefram Cochrane’s prison on that moon…

I’d like them to fill in some of Mariner’s time on DS9 though! If anyone can follow up on DS9 events, LDS can. Maybe ask Ira and the boys if they can use the Jem’Hadar convert to the Bajoran religion storyline from the doc? Ok maybe not but that’s the best post-VOY storyline the franchise has produced!

Looking forward to next week’s episode!

Great episode! Loved every minute of it! This show just gets things so right I’m hoping DIS and PIC will get next season.