Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Delivers Us From Evil In “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie”

Lower Decks - Where Pleasant Fountains Lie

“Where Pleasant Fountains Lie”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 7 – Debuted Thursday, September 23, 2021
Written by  Garrick Bernard
Directed by Jason Zurek

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

Lower Decks mines a lot of humor from classic Star Trek storylines, with a big assist from a longtime veteran of the franchise in a fun new role.

Jerry O’Connell as Commander Ransom

WARNING: Spoilers below!

Do you want to play a mind game?

Once again, the USS Cerritos is dealing with the aftermath of all the action—in this case, a devastating 100-year war on an alien planet, all driven by a manipulative AI. Classic. The crew is there to help the aliens pick up the pieces and take that evil computer off their hands, with Mariner assigned to shuttle AGIMUS to the Daystrom Institute. At first, Boimler is set to show off his new “wet work” (ick) USS Titan experience to phaser rifle some dangerous giant centipedes on another planet, yet he ends up getting assigned to help Mariner on her boring evil escort duty. Curious.

It doesn’t take long to see that AGIMUS—played to perfection by Jeffrey Combs—has a one-track mind, wanting only to manipulate someone to plug him into something computerized so he can take over anything and everything he can get his grubby little wires into. And he may get his chance after the shuttle crashes on a hot, desolate planet where the only thing left working is a replicator that can only make black licorice. Gross. AGIMUS quickly susses out that his path to galactic domination lies with creating a rift between the ensigns, primarily by negging the “Evil computers are so chatty” Mariner and befriending the “We have a duty to respect sentient life” Boimler, who takes to carrying AGIMUS around in a makeshift evil computer Babybjorn.

AGIMUS gets the ammo he needs with the reveal that it was actually Mariner who got Boimler taken off the abominable arthropod assignment. It’s obvious to everyone that the computer is manipulating them, but Brad takes the bait and things escalate quickly with accusations and counter-accusations while a smug AI delightfully soaks in the animus. After being called naïve by his supposed friend, Brad goes full dark side and phasers her down (stun setting, so he’s not full-on evil, yet). Brad slinks off, intent on plugging AGIMUS’ excited danglies into a derelict ship.

No, you can’t pull off a ‘stache like Billups.

Family matters

Back on the Cerritos, the crew is helping out a ship in distress, but not any ordinary ship. In a Billups backstory bonanza, we meet the chief engineer’s mother, who is a queen—making him a prince—and her Renaissance Faire flagship needs his help. Or this is just another one of her tricks to get him to have sex? Really! Queen Paolana of Hysperia flounces in, promising she only needs Billups to get the “dragon’s breath” (engines) working again, but he is on guard for her lifelong goal to get him to lose his virginity, triggering a royal succession he has tried to renounce. Finally getting a chance to show off his comedy chops, Paul Scheer’s Billups is ready with lines like, “It’s time to prove to my mother I am more than a royal stud.”

After hesitating due to a desire to stay in his safe comfort zone, Tendi convinces Rutherford to join Billups and check out that “fancy cruiser stuffed with puffy monarchs,” delighting us with this kooky ye olde timey society mixing warp and horsepower. Andy—now revealed to be “Andarithio”—gets to work sorting out the “elf matrix” (subspace field matrix) all under the watchful eye of the queen and her pair of sexy guards. After Sam figures out the problem and the ship is repaired, all seems well until the Monaveen’s engines explode, killing Rutherford and the Queen. OMG! Billups finally accepts his destiny, resigns his commission, and accepts that he must perform his true duty, the “royal copulation.” Tendi is devastated—not about Billups doing the regal beast with three backs—but the whole Rutherford being dead thing.

Behold, the royal mustache saves the day.

The better of two evils

Back on the starship graveyard planet, Darth Boimler has succumbed to AGIMUS, plugging him straight into a ship he hopes can fly them off the planet. Cue expected maniacal laugh as Combs goes full villain monologuing, revealing he is set to reign over the system with his fleet of “murder drones” and nothing can stop him… right? Mariner shows up right in time to see that Brad did indeed learn a few tricks of his own during his time on the Titan, including using AGIMUS’ own battery to power a distress call. Turns out all the evil computer has control of is the ship’s dimmer switch and his whole dark side thing was a ruse. She is impressed, “Who is the evil computer now?”

Determined to find what’s left of Rutherford, Tendi beams over to the Ren Faire ship only to find Sam at a feast with the Queen. Cue maniacal laugh two. The Queen had her own evil plan: faking their deaths to get her son into the sheets, again for royal succession, and with her guards. Sam is ready to jump into action to defend Billups’ virginity and engineerhood, thwarting dangerous minstrels and knights, and getting there just in time before Andy’s kingdom come. Huzzah!

With all the plotlines resolved, it was time for our characters to learn some lessons. While Boimler was faking the level of his anger towards Mariner, there was still the issue of Beckett’s overprotectiveness, which was resolved after their rescue.  Tendi and Rutherford also sort out her guilt for pushing him into danger, but left her to deal with some realizations about her feelings about it all. Billups and Queen Mom also come to terms as he triumphantly returns to his beloved realm in engineering. As for AGIMUS, he faces his greatest test yet, filed away at Daystrom’s “self-aware megalomaniacal computer storage,” pitting him against his evil peers not impressed with claims to “Tremble at my power.” But I was impressed, with both him and this episode.

Sir knight, a toast to your fine ‘stache.

ANALYSIS

Everything old is new again

“Where Pleasant Fountains Lie” is a fantastic mix of classic Trek tropes, fun new concepts, and a dash of character development. Oh, and it’s pretty damned funny, helped along with great guests stars including June Diane Raphael as the (evil-ish) Queen and of course the great Jeffrey Combs as AGIMUS the evil computer. While it has two totally separate character and plot storylines, they still remain connected through the themes of seduction and thwarting of evil plots. While a lot of the gags were sexual, the humor remained organic and fun, even the unexpected reveal of Billups’ backside, avoiding the rise of any “pearl-clutching” as mentioned in our recent chat with showrunner Mike McMahan.

Once again, Lower Decks leans into the show’s premise with the USS Cerritos arriving after what we assume was some other ship’s Starfleet heroics that ended a war caused by a dangerous computer set to destroy a civilization, which is of course classic Star Trek  going back to episodes like “A Taste of Armageddon” and “The Changeling.” The crashed shuttle setup is also a classic, with the bickering crew tensions reminiscent of episodes like DS9’s “The Ascent” and TOS’ “The Galileo Seven.” And who can see Queen Billups and her meddling (plus her cleavage) and not be reminded of Lwaxana Troi. Yet never does any of this feel like a copy or playing the greatest hits; instead, it is another example of this show singing a catchy new tune that rhymes.

This planet is hotter than Billups mustache after an hour in a Jefferies tube.

Strange new civilization

Even within the classic episode structure, the show finds ways to develop our characters. Boimler’s growth and confidence gained from his time on the Titan are on full display, bumping up against Mariner’s need to protect her little buddy, but she’s learning to let that go. Rutherford, with a little help from Tendi, also learned to take some risks, so much so that now Tendi sees just how dangerous life can be in Starfleet—and maybe she is also seeing that there is one particular friend she is extra worried about. Others can see just how much she cares about Rutherford, including a surprisingly touching and uncharacteristically sensitive Dr. T’Ana.

It was nice to finally learn more about the under-utilized character of Billups (and voice actor Paul Scheer), which also allowed for some creative world-building. There is something wonderfully intriguing about the Hysperian civilization. Introducing us to new space cultures is at the core of the show and a society of people who want to live the Renaissance Faire lifestyle–complete with dragons–actually seems pretty plausible. The visit to the Monaveen with its dancers, fancy talk, and onboard dragon will not soon be forgotten.

Your father’s mustache was quite regal, sir.

Final thoughts

As we head into the final episodes of season two, Lower Decks is fulfilling its promise by delivering one of its most “Star Trek-iest” episodes yet. Without leaning on references or nods—of course, there were some—the show never forgets to be funny first, while remaining true to what also makes Star Trek great, telling intriguing sci-fi stories seen through the eyes of a beloved family of characters.

Mustache, give me strength.

MORE BITS

Random stuff

  • The episode title (and theme of seduction) is taken from Shakespeare’s erotic poem Venus and Adonis.
  • Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) does not appear in this episode.
  • According to Boimler, the primary difference between a phaser rifle and a regular phaser is that a rifle take two hands to operate.
  • This is the fourth Star Trek series to feature Jeffrey Combs, who has played a number of different characters including the recurring roles of Brunt and Weyoun on Deep Space Nine and Shran on Enterprise.
  • Billups’ mother Queen Paolana was voiced by Paul Scheer’s real-life wife June Diane Raphael.
    • Scheer and Raphael host the podcast How Did This Get Made? with Jason Mantzoukas of Star Trek: Prodigy.
  • Hysperian society may be inspired by the sci-fi fantasy Hyperion Cantos series.
  • Shuttle Yosemite, which was first featured in the series premiere, was destroyed.
  • The episode featured a new ship map (aka Master System Display) for the Cerritos made by legendary Star Trek designer Mike Okuda.

Laugh lines

  • I don’t know why I keep giving alien street food a chance, it’s such a gamble.
  • Sorry man, no getting eaten by an arthropod today.
  • Mother, if you are planning on tricking me into intercourse, think again.
  • Evil computers are so chatty.
  • You’re too late. My royals guards are trained from birth to skip foreplay.
  • You were too busy scheming to notice. You’ve been Boimed.
  • You both suck, you don’t understand what being an evil computer even is.

What? We got Mike Okuda? Does he have a mustache?

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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Well…. that lookey-loo Mugato doesn’t look so naughty now, does it?

Meh, they were very anthropomorphized, still think that was a bit ill-judged. But as McMahan pointed out, they made it clear from day one it is an adult-oriented cartoon.

McMahon lied. The humor and storylines are aimed SQUARELY at the 7-9 year old crowd. So he throws in a bare ass or sex reference from time to time. It’s completely inappropriate with the rest of the series but I guess that’s his way of pretending the show is “adult oriented”. Sorry Mike, but “adult oriented” does not mean bare butts and naughty references. It means more adult oriented jokes. Not soft inoffensive gags and old show references.

My “laugh out loud” line in this was “Did his kingdom cum?”.
And this is from someone that was not impressed with the horn-jerking Mugato scene.

My favorite line too!

The caused an eyeroll for me.

But I did get a small charge out of the “alien street food” line.

I thought this was a great episode with a legit story. And look! Only one Data reference! The other episodes all feel like strung together nods to other shows that become tiresome and take you out of any reality that the story at hand has. More original stories, less shoehorned-in references to other shows. :)

I noticed that last week and this week…. more story and less relying on trivia from previous series/episodes. This week especially.

why did it take so long to bring back Combs to Trek, he’s absolute gold, especially here, maybe one of his top 3 Trek characters ever.

“You’ve been Boimed!”

I hope we haven’t seen the last of AGIMUS.

Yeah… An evil computer was good casting for him here. Too bad he couldn’t be funny. He can be. He was hilarious in Re-Animator.

Anyone else notice there was an evil cbs computer in the mix?

Yes!!! Did a screen grab to show my crew!

Another Solid Episode!

I’m loving this season. It has character development, lots of humor, new worlds, new civilizations, friendship, and those themes that sperate trek from other shows!

I can’t wait to see what they bring in the last few episodes.

Not a single laugh. Not funny, boring. Disappointing after the last two. They really don’t understand humor. Time for someone else to take charge.

*In your opinion.

You might want to look at the other comments. Plenty of people enjoyed it!

Lower Decks has never been laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s plenty amusing and I was smiling throughout this episode.

I think the showrunners are doing just fine.

I had to chuckle at this comment. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree as I did enjoy it but there’s literally only 19 comments on this story and that includes my post!

*In your opinion.

Uh, isn’t that kind of implicit in reviews of Star Trek episodes? Insightful, this one is. :)

It wasn’t my favorite episode of the season, but I thought the Boimler/Mariner story was pretty funny. The other story had its moments but went a bit over-the-top.

Pretty much my assessment too Thorny.

After reading the comments and a rewatch, I’ll revise my comments. The Boimler/Mariner story was fine. It wasn’t LOL, but I don’t always want a story to be that way. The engineer and his mother story was too much over the top to enjoy. There was an error with the captain calling the engineer a LT when he has LT Cmdr pips.

Mostly agree. The alien street food gag got a very small chuckle. But apart from that…. Nothing funny. Everything about this show is groan worthy.

Like Star Trek Discovery, this show is in dire need of a 100% complete overhaul. Animators, producers, writers and cast. And get people who know FUNNY! I know they are becoming more and more rare these days but come on… There have got to be SOME still out there…

LDs has not really been my cup of tea, so I haven’t watched many episodes. I was reading an interview with Combs earlier today and he said something that caught my attention. He said it took a while to get used to the timing of the show – and I all of a sudden realized that is one of the main reasons I don’t watch the show.

I unfairly compare it to a live action show and of course that is not a fair comparison. Because it is a short cartoon, they squeeze a lot of action and dialogue into a short 30 minute show. In real-life, few of us talk as fast as the way Boimler, Mariner, Tendy and Rutherford speak – so as Combs pointed out, the pacing is quite a bit different than what we would see in a live action show. Plus they have a lot broader spectrum of reality, capable of delivering a level of physical comedy and action that is only possible in animation.

I know that someone suggested a possible one-off live action episode of LDs and that is definitely something I would check out. I am sure the actors would love it too, even if it were just for one episode. Btw I did watch yesterday’s episode because of Combs and IMO it was quite good with writing and themes worthy of Star Trek. The same can be said for the few LDs episodes I have seen, so I can definitely see why many readers of trekmovie.com like the show.

“I know that someone suggested a possible one-off live action episode of LDs and that is definitely something I would check out.”

Really? What do you mean by someone? Someone at CBS / Viacom? You do work there, don’t you? I’d LOVE to see these characters in flesh and blood. That would help me mentally aligne the show with traditional Trek…

I really liked this episode a lot because it felt like a (condensed) classic Trek episode. It was nice not to be drowned in easter eggs for a change. And since I have a thing for Trek’s fictional names, I really loved the terms Monaveen, Hysperia and AGIMUS… so classic…

Queen Paolana… gosh… did they name her after a Bavarian beer brand? :-) Does anyone out there know Paulaner?

I also dig Billups’ celibacy which resonates with my own life choice. My favourite line in all of Star Trek is Ilia’s “My oath of celibacy is in on record!” I’m so glad Ruthie saved Billups’ virginity.

I would have loved to see the Monaveen in life-action. Such a neat ship…

The idea of a culture based on mythological magic was hilarious 😂 I really liked that idea, and the way that Billups fit into it all.

I also liked how there’s something clearly going on with Mariner. She never denies the interaction with Ransom that the Weyoun computer showed Boimler. Colour me intrigued.

I did enjoy that Weyoun got Boimed though 😂 (I forget the name of the evil apple Macintosh in the episode), I hope he makes lieutenant – I wouldn’t want him to beat ensign Kim’s record…!

Was there also a star wars reference when they slid down the sand dune to the ship? Force awakens much?

Anyway, another great episode that made me laugh. LDS is great 😂

our beloved Okuda is back to do the technical drawings of the Cerritos? he must be wrong … I don’t see turbolifts moving into boundless spaces …

Storylines also countered each other with Tendi egging Rutherford on, vs Mariner being overprotective towards Boimler.

First, there was a genuinely funny line about “alien street food.” Wasn’t super funny. But I enjoyed it more than nearly everything else on this show I’ve seen thus far…

This episode wasn’t obnoxiously stupid. The “evil computer” thing was pretty rife for gags. But they went the soft route. No real stings. Which is typical of this show.

One thing I noticed was that Quaid read a line in a way that actually took away the humor. Which somehow feels right for this show.

Why the A and B stories? Really… The shows are 20+ minutes. They can’t come up with enough to fill out more than 11 minutes in one plot?

Still not seeing what Boimler and Mariner see in each other. There is no chemistry there. Nothing even developing. Everything they do together feels forced and unnatural.

Credit them with Boimler. He wasn’t full on stupid in this one! It does go against nearly everything they have shown him to be. Which made him weirdly out of character.

The author of the review said that Mariner’s overprotectiveness was resolved. Was it though? Didn’t see it. BTW.. All the so called character building has never felt genuine. All of it feels forced and unbelievable. But really more simplistic and childish than anything else. The weird part is from time to time the show throws in some sex stuff to take it away from the younger child crowd the humor is obviously aimed at. The show still doesn’t know what it wants to be. Dumb adult sex romp or soft child semi-cleverness.

This line, “the show never forgets to be funny first” Made me do a spit take. The show has completely forgotten to be funny first. From day one. Their first rule has typically been, how many old show references can we cram in? In this case, not that many. Just the Arsenal of Freedom drones and that was about it. Maybe a few more that I missed. This this episode was not typical in that fashion. But still not funny.