Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Gets Smart In “The Spy Humungous”

“The Spy Humungous”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, September 16, 2021
Written by John Cochran
Directed by Bob Suarez

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

After tying up loose ends in the first half of the season, Lower Decks finds a smart way to get back to basics and move forward with a funny story that reveals just how far the characters and this show have come.

The USS Cerritos in “The Spy Humungous”

WARNING: Spoilers below!

Dirty jobs

With the senior officers dealing with important Pakled diplomacy stuff, our favorite ensigns again find themselves literally doing the dirty work. Always-enthusiastic Tendi is excited over the “anomaly consolidation” assignment, but Mariner (and even the usually optimistic Rutherford) see it for what it is: take out the trash day. It’s crazy dangerous space science trash, but still trash, and classic Lower Decks. Boimler is excited too, but his lingering ambition leads him away with some new “friends”—but we’ll catch up with Brad later.

The trio sets off to collect all the junk the senior officers have accumulated that can’t be easily disposed of. Room by room, Tendi gets excited… and a bit clumsy, and Mariner and Rutherford pay the price with hilarious sight gags that include Sam experiencing “full molecular engorgement” (aka getting supersized by a broken frog bone) and Beckett getting stung, zapped, burned, and slimed by various alien thingamajigs. After Mariner admonishes her with “Stop trying to make this fun!” Tendi’s unbridled enthusiasm finally gets bridled when she ends up on the short end of the weird science stick, getting pooped out by a screaming blob creature. Oh, and then she gets turned into a giant rage scorpion that starts rampaging through the ship. So, yeah, Maybe Mariner is rubbing off on her a bit. Girls trip!

At least we know it works.

Licensed to imbecile

Captain Freeman finally gets that respect she desperately seeks with a diplomatic mission to negotiate a cease-fire with the dimwitted yet dangerous Pakleds. But her mission on the surprisingly nice if not a bit garish (and unsurprisingly simply-named) Pakled Planet runs afoul quickly—and not just because they keep calling her Captain Janeway. Not only does she struggle to find a Pakled with a big enough helmet to actually talk cease-fire, but she loses all trust when a defector named Rumdar is found on the Cerritos.

As Ransom and Kayshon escort Rumdar around the ship, he is quickly sussed out to be a spy—but not exactly 007, unless you are counting IQ. But even this Dr. D’oh tires of being shown things like the “top secret Starfleet gift shop” and gets lost aboard the Cerritos. Freeman ignores Shaxs’ suggestion to just beam back to the ship, seeing this as an opportunity to run through even more cheap but fun dumb Pakled gags and learn what these idiots are up to. Things get tense when “Her Mushesty” the Queen demands to speak to Rumdar, and the brown really hits the fan as they escalate layers of Pakled royalty until the Emperor is overthrown in a revolution. These guys really do respect the “strong,” and the new leader really likes that big giant helmet.

If we drop down, these morons will probably stab each other.

Acting captainy

The ensigns continue on their own adventures, oblivious to the galactic intrigue. Brad splits off, lured over to a different group of power-thirsty ensigns who have dubiously named themselves “red shirts.” The informal group works together to help each other “rank up,” and they see Brad as a prime candidate due to his time on the Titan, since they’re obsessed with Riker, as are we all.

Step one for Brad is to get a makeover, led by Jennifer the Andorian—yes that Jennifer—to make him look like a leader, complete with a new hairdo and some kind of uniform buff that takes him from zero to hero. The next step to the captain’s chair is speechifying practice, and after a stumble, Brad envisions himself on the old Enterprise-D and delivers an inspiring, rallying call that would give William T. a run for his no money in the future. Brad is really feeling it and Ensign Casey—now revealed to be a full-on ‘80s teen movie bad guy—swoops in for the kill, suggesting now is the time for Boimler to join the popular kids and stop being friends with those other losers who are always “elbow deep in some kind of slime.”

Shut your mouth, Jennifer.

What brown can do for you

The two ensign cliques converge with Scorpion Tendi’s rampage. The Red Shirts seize the moment, each ready to step in and inspire the crew! Brad sees these stuffed shirts for what they are—all talk, while he is all action, using his true superpower: pratfalls. By IDing the mood cube that scorpioned D’Vana, Brad orders up more and more replicator items to slime himself with. The glorious finishing move was “taffy, honey, shrimp, soda, corn, steak, chicken nugget, crispy lemon rock candy, chili, gravy, chocolate sundae. Hot!” Tendi quickly laughs back down to Orion-sized. Even the Redshirts (sans Casey) are seeing that Brad has the right stuff… in fact, he is covered in it. Ransom notices too, complimenting his leadership. Take that, Casey.

As for Rumdar, he was found floating outside the ship after accidentally using an airlock for the bathroom… good thing Pakleds are simply too dumb to die in the vacuum of space. The glorious spy is triumphantly returned to Pakled Planet just in time to stop the “Janeway die!” angry mob, but Captain Freeman has one more trick left, getting Rumdar to reveal the Pakleds’ true plan to attack Earth. But as the Pakleds saw it, they “just beat Captain Janeway!” How has Starfleet not wiped out this lamebrain menace yet?

All is well again back on the ship, with our core four ensigns reunited in friendship and Casey relegated to cleaning up “something unspeakable” Rumdar did in airlock 17. And in a bit of a coda that will probably be the thing that most fans talk about and remember most from this episode, they use a “submanifold casting stone” to make a crank call to Armus. Tasha Yar avenged!

Dumber, as the ice melts.

ANALYSIS

Getting smarter

With all those hanging season one finale issues resolved over the first half of season two, “The Spy Humungous” was able to both return to the series’ roots and work off all the character growth the series has established. Stories like our favorite ensigns dealing with leftover crazy science anomalies—like the ship’s second contact core mandate—is where Lower Decks shines by having fun exploring the consequences of all those big Star Trek “A” stories.

And with all the bonding done through the first half of the season, our characters can now fully trust each other. In a smart bit of writing, Mariner complimenting Boimler for peeling off to have his own story with the other ensigns was earned through previous character development, ensuring the audience didn’t see it as a return to their previous abandonment issues. Tendi and Mariner’s recent bonding also pays off here with some additional growth as each realizes they balance each other out.

Our little Brad is growing up a bit too. He can be open to his ambition for the big chair, but his inner fanboy doesn’t stop him from understanding that leadership isn’t about pretending to be someone else, but finding your own path. Even though he can pull off the inspiring Starfleet speech, sometimes it’s just about doing the work, a good theme for the show itself. This was something we saw the Captain and Ransom doing as well as they smartly tied up the Varuvian bomb plot introduced in episode 202. In fact, the smartest thing about this episode is how none of our characters had to do anything dumb in order to move the plot forward. Sure, mistakes were made, but for the most part, all of our main characters were on top of their game, and we still had a lot of laughs with them along the way.

Having fun yet?

Message, Mike?

This may be reading into things, but dueling storylines for the ensigns feels like it could also be a comment on fandom itself. Instead of different factions clashing, maybe they can learn from each other. To have Mariner tell Tendi she and Rutherford were being “punks,” and they “should have fed off your enthusiasm, not tamp it down” sounds like a good message to anyone trying to rain on anyone else’s enjoyment of something. There may also be a similar lesson taught by Boimler to those who focus so much on surface issues and idealize things instead of appreciating the effort and the work.

Too cute for a cynical caption.

Final thoughts

Season two continues to impress with another solid outing. It’s nice to see the storylines and characters start leaping forward. While “The Spy Humungous” was long on sight gags and jokes related to slime and even poop, it never felt crass, although the “dumb Pakled” thing may be wearing thin, especially if we are to consider them a genuine threat with real stakes. That being said there were a lot of laughs with the big brown guys and guest stars like Brian Posehn and Rich Fulcher were born to play Pakleds, continuing the show’s tradition of strong guest star comedians.

The show is also settling into the right balance of Trek gags and references, with deep cuts like the stooping Kzinti to satisfy the superfans and using knockout punches like the Armus gag in just the right way. Lower Decks is getting smarter, funnier, and more heartwarming as it heads into the final episodes of its sophomore season, with no slump in sight.

Wait, we like Jennifer now?

MORE BITS

Random stuff

  • Stardate 58105.1
  • The episode title may be a play on the online game Among Us about uncovering imposters aboard a ship.
  • Collected anomalies that can’t be disposed off are all packed up and sent to a special Starfleet facility.
  • Even though it focuses on second contacts, the California-class USS Cerritos has a number of specialized science labs.
  • According to Boimler, Captain Riker “constantly” cleans his trombone, and it’s “kind of disruptive.”
  • Does the Cerritos actually have a gift shop and juice bar, or were those just ruses for the Pakled spy?
  • Lt. Winger Bingston has a new one-man show where he plays all the moons of Jupiter.
  • The Kzinti ensign seen in recent episodes speaks for the first time.

Laugh lines

  • If you keep doing Picard-level peace-brokering like this, they might give you an Enterprise.
  • So what has you seeking asylum? Religious persecution, leading a rebellion, some sort of sex stuff?
  • I guess they had to put extra room in his pants. For his legs!
  • Where could he be? He is giant and brown.
  • We work in Starfleet, slime is a given.
  • I am now Pakled leader. Behold my giant helmet.
  • Hang in there Tendi, don’t get digested.
  • Who among us has not been pooped out by an alien creature?
  • Hey Armus, you look like a big bag of crap.

Storytime with Dr. Migleemo is not for the faint of heart.

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.

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

Loved it, but how do the “stupid Pakleds” know of Janeway when she’s been thousands of miles away? Asking for a friend ;]

Janeway is an admiral and part of the upper brass. Why would they NOT know of her?
Responding for a friend.

Voyager would have been back about 4 years before the current episode (roughly). I’m sure it made headlines and much was told about their adventures.

Three years. They came back in ’78, this is ’81.

They know about Janeway because the writers have to pack in as many Trek references as they can. They think it’s funny but it’s not. It’s just dumb.

For a while there, I thought the Kzinti was voiced by Ethan Phillips. Overall, an enjoyable episode.

Is he not voiced by Ethan Phillips?

Nope, voiced by Fred Tatasciore.

It’s great to see Janeway back and a nice little cross promotion before Prodigy begins next month. Paramount is really smart and strong.

I just love this show to death. Every episode has been great this season, including this one. I laughed so many times in this episode. Prank calling Armus? Who even thinks of thtat?? I never thought after 3 OK Kelvin movies, Discovery and even Picard it’s this show that has brought me back to Star Trek again I haven’t felt since Enterprise ended. Never would’ve thought it.

I very much agree with you. Paramount is really smart and strong. For some reason, this last sentence sounds Pakled English.

I love this show to death too. Prank calling Armus was pure genius. In fact, it was real genius, as it reminds me of the scene in the movie “Real Genius” where the Chris Knight character (Val Kilmer) and his gang of nerds prank call the elitist, snobby Kent character by implanting a receiver into one of his teeth and using his braces as antennae and his whole head as a speaker.

Incidentally, when I was a teenager, one of my female cousins had a black car that she equipped with all kinds of gadgets, including a PA system. The other cousins and I dubbed it the Batmobile, but in hindsight, it looked more like the Green Hornet’s car, Black Beauty. A few times when I was riding with her, whenever we saw a stranded motorist at the side of the road, I would use the PA to call out, “NEED HELP?” Naughtily, we would not stop, and as we drove by, I would look back and see the poor motorist seemingly spin his head around, looking for the source of the voice. We were really, really naughty.

Wow that’s really funny! You guys went the extra mile. Me and my little brother used to pull a lot of pranks on people when we were kids too, especially prank calling people ALL the time. It was our specialty lol. Most knew we were kids so a lot of people didn’t seem upset about it. Some would hang up on us. Once someone threatened to call the police on us, which scared us and stopped us from doing for an entire month. But then started again! I was probably around 10 or 11 years old when we did it.

Today it’s a lot harder to prank call anyone, because we all have caller ID and stuff on our phones. But the Armus scene actually brought back a childhood memory in a way.

I heard of the movie Real Genius but never saw it.

I enjoyed Real Genius. William Atherton gets to play another jerk, too. He seemed to get typecast for a short while there.

I agree with you that this show has come as a pleasant surprise. It’s the first one that I really want to add to my Star Trek library and watch again over and over. That says it all!

Funny because if you are comparing Paramount to a Pakled then I would be forced to agree.

I do think this is a ‘different’ Trek. However, the last couple of episodes seems like it’s more a lower decks version worthy of being ‘Star Trek’. Two good episodes in a row. I hope they can keep this up. I know TNG had a couple of rough years before really taking off. Hopefully they are learning from this and keep the feel and laughs of the past couple of episodes going.

It was a solid episode. The show has comedy, heart, and a moral message. These last few have been very trek like.

Oh and keep the comedy with the Pakleds. I was laughing very hard.

Hear hear! It’s just a great celebration of Star Trek in general and with a lot of heart. I love being back in the 24th century again (and yes the Pakleds rule…but also depends on the size of their helmets ;)). I love all the new characters, seeing legacy characters brought back like Paris and the Rikers but just impressed with how much these writers both understands and presents the entire franchise as a whole.

I said this before, but LDS feels like the ultimate ‘glue’ to the entire franchise. It doesn’t just do a great job covering all the 24th century shows but also how it includes ENT, TOS and TAS as well. Nothing feels left out (and Those Old Scientists especially has actually gotten a lot of love this season). I have no idea how well a newbie can follow it lol, but as a long time Trek fan, it does hit all the chords and bring me back to a time I loved Star Trek the most. I truly hope this show goes on for a long time.

Actually, a newbie would NEVER get most of the gags that come close to being clever. They are too deep in Trek lore for newbies to get. But if the newbie was 8 years old, they may like the other gags.

Jennifer and the audience on the ocean.

I really like how when the Kzinti Starfleet officer stooped down, he looked like the Kzinti Telepath in TAS: “The Slave Weapon.” He is definitely a brownnoser if he has to stand erect like a human.

I laughed out loud at that. Maybe all the Kzinti just have terrible posture…

From their point of view, humans have bad posture. Since the Kzinti Starfleet officer advised Boimler to fix his posture, he is an exception to this view, and although he can fix his own posture, he still has Kzinti digitigrade legs and feet.

I think the pakleds’ obsession with big helmets has to be a hint as to who is manipulating them. I would guess it’s the Breen because they’re the only Star Trek villains I can think of who are always seen wearing helmets.

I’d like to see the Breen explored a bit more – Lower Decks could be a good place for that.

After rewatching the episode, I noticed that the name of the ship “U.S.S. Cerritos” on Rumdar’s T-shirts is written in the font from TOS.

nice how Boimler is coming into his own!

Is he, though?

Once again, a review weeks after the episode aired so no one will be reading this. But doing it anyway.

First… P+ is showing commercials in front of their shows. Sorry but promos for other shows ARE commercials. It’s pathetic and another reason why P+ is crap.

I have to admit, the Keyshon character and his lapses to the metaphorical language have been entertaining. It is a good gag. But it’s a gag that is rooted awfully deep in Trek lore. It’s unlikely anyone other than a higher than average fan will even get the joke. But still, using the Pakled’s as the show’s antagonists is a pretty bad call. I can see using them as the butt of jokes for an episode or two. But anything beyond that just doesn’t work. 

Is that weird alien a Kzinti? When he hunched over it jarred my memory banks.

Overall reaction… What the F???

I did enjoy the Dr saying “What the F?” Because it was exactly what I was thinking.

I do find it odd that they are “taking out the trash” when a lot of those items sure did seem like actual life forms.

Now addressing points in the review. So repeating the enlarged hands joke from Star Trek ’09 was a “hilarious sight gag”? Sorry. No It was just dumb. It actually worked better in Trek ’09. And it wasn’t a great gag to begin with.

Speak for yourself. This Riker obsession is weird.

Who is “that” Jennifer? Are we supposed to know this person?

That coda with Armas was just another fangasm moment. I find it odd that a complaint many had with the first season comedy of The Orville was that it wasn’t “organic”. Yet THIS IS? No. The bulk of the fangasm gags in this show not only are not funny but just don’t ring true for the moment. They feel forced. Nearly every single Trek reference to other shows feels VERY forced. None of them work. It doesn’t get more inorganic than that. So why is THAT comedy OK? As inorganic as it might have been on “The Orville” at least much of it was actually funny.

Did Mariner “compliment” Boimler for peeling off? I sure didn’t see it. Seemed to me she was irritated with him for peeling off and hanging with the red shirts. Although in this case, such a response was actually reasonable. Unlike her behavior before.

They did nothing dumb to move the story along? They do dumb things all the time! Normally in comedy those dumb things are funny so it has to happen. But when they aren’t funny, they are just dumb. This show is actually the most simplistic Trek I have ever seen. Which again, is why the show is obviously squarely aimed at the single digit crowd. This is the show that should have been on Nickelodeon. I am still betting money that Prodigy will be more mature and adult than this show ever will be.

If the message was “stop tamping us down” it’s an awfully self serving one. It’s almost like they know they are making garbage but are begging people to stop calling out their work as garbage. Afterall, they worked hard to make this for us. Yes. We know. A lot of effort was made. But guess what? When my kid did a lot of hard work in the yard, yet the yard was still a complete mess I did not give him credit for “doing the work”. I told him he needed to do the work CORRECTLY. He had to go back and do it right. And eventually he did. It’s called learning. You make mistakes and fix them. Lower Decks has no desire to correct their mistakes, it seems. Only to chastise people who don’t appreciate “their effort.”

The show continues to be flat and unfunny with occasional signs of cleverness. And that does not look like it is going to change.