“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher 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.