Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2, Episode 9 – Debuted Thursday, October 7, 2021
Written by Kathryn Lyn
Directed by Bob Suarez
In the penultimate episode of season two, Lower Decks has a lot of fun shaking things up with an ambitious episode that pays off with great character moments and season plot developments.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
With the Cerritos taking an extended warp, the crew has time for some much-needed R&R and the show relaxed its format a bit before the big season finale. Once again, Boimler finds himself the odd ensign out, with each of his pals already set up with a “bridge buddy.” Mariner can’t get out of her mom bonding time, Tendi is roped into some Star Trek V rock climbing with T’Ana, and Rutherford is set for therapeutic pottery with Shaxs. After a disastrous attempt with Kayshon, his waistline challenged, Brad tours the other ensigns’ bonding sessions, coming up empty on each in a series of fun fails.
Fresh out of any butts to kiss, Brad stumbles upon an informal group of Hawaiian officers centered around Commander Ransom. Given a choice between staying honest and true or lying to get in on the luau, he went full-on “Aloha!”—because of course he did. The need to suck up is strong with this one. Poor Brad wishes he were in some other fleet with a “rigid social structure,” sparking the clever spin for this episode as we learn how some alien lower deckers have it.
Cut to the Klingon Bird of Prey Che’Ta as we meet four new lower deckers, who of course also sleep in a hallway. In between the headbutts and talk of gagh we can see that much is familiar with this likable group, especially M’ach. Obsessed with advancement and steeped in empire lore and honor, this Klingon Boimler sees opportunity in siding with the captain in a deadly conflict with the first officer. Eventually, M’ach is rewarded with the post after showing unwavering loyalty, along with a willingness to do even the dirtiest jobs, like picking up after the captain’s targ.
However, our new Klingon character starts to pick up on the warning signs from the now former first officer when the Pakleds show up and all sorts of dots start to connect. It turns out Captain Dorg is the puppet master behind the Pakled attacks on the Federation in hopes to destabilize the region, allowing him to lead the empire in taking over… a plan only a Romulan could love. Unfortunately for this low-rent General Chang, his dimwitted Pakled allies “tested” the planet-busting bomb intended for Earth, which surely someone will notice…
We also meet a third group of four lower deckers aboard the Vulcan Cruiser Sh’Vhal, in a serene contrast to the Che’Ta and Cerritos. Again, one stands out as T’Lyn reveals herself to be the Mariner of this crew with her “outrageous” outbursts of subtle individuality and intuition. Bucking the system pits T’Lyn against her own compatriots with some next-level passive-aggressive jousting. “I merely wish for you to join me in broadening your definition on how to synthesize data.” Burn!
This immediately likable character eventually gets the notice of the captain, played with the deadpan directness Marc Evan Jackson is known for in roles on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place. While agreeing to divert course to investigate the anomaly T’Lyn detected without authorization, he is quite displeased with the effect this dry destabilizer is having on his ship.
Our three lower deck stories bubble up to the top as the Cerritos arrives at the rendezvous with Che’Ta and the Pakled ship (named “Pakled,” because of course it is). Much to the surprise of Captain Freeman, both ships start firing, resulting in much chaos and spilled mai tais. It’s come-as-you-are to battle stations time and with things looking grim, Boimler comes clean to the Hawaiians. Turns out all of them were faux islanders; even Ransom admitted his whole Hawaiian deal started when he was an ensign doing his own bit of sucking up. It’s a nice moment, except it looks like they are all going to end up dying wearing brightly colored tropical shirts.
But before you can say Deus Ex Logica, Sh’Vhal shows up in dramatic Enterprise-E in Star Trek First Contact-style. Then thanks to an untested shield modulation from that rebel T’Lyn, the Vulcan Cruiser turns the tide in an exciting battle sequence. Over on the Bird of Prey, M’ach digs deep and sees there is no honor in the captain’s scheme to destroy peace. Initially no match for the larger, stronger, and better-armed captain, M’ach is able to win the day thanks to the loyalty of that gassy targ.
Accepted by the Klingons as Captain M’ach, he orders the ship out of the fight and back to the homeworld, with the now outnumbered Pakleds soon chased away. T’Lyn’s actions may have saved the day, but her calm “unstable” antics get her booted from the Vulcan fleet, reassigned to Starfleet where her whole thing may fit in better. As for Boimler, his pals promise to stick together for their next extra warp time. And in the end he still gets what he needs, with Ransom sending a cadet (or maybe acting ensign) his way to mentor.
Lower Decks goes “Lower Decks”
Lower Decks decided to shake things up a bit as it heads to the season two finale. From start to finish, “wej Duj” is the kind of daring thing showrunner Mike McMahan and his team now have the confidence to do, knowing the audience will come along. While the look at the character’s off-duty lives is reminiscent of episodes like TNG’s “Data’s Day” or Voyager’s “Alter Ego,” this episode feels like the “Lower Decks” of Lower Decks. That TNG episode focusing on newly introduced junior officers was an inspiration to McMahan, and Ransom’s Hawaiian storyline is a nice nod to how one of the characters in TNG’s “Lower Decks” thought the Alaskan Riker was Canadian. Boimler’s ending line about how “the real action begins on the lower decks” was a bit on the nose, but still perfect.
Moving away from some of the broad laughs that have exemplified a lot of season two, this episode’s humor was far more subtle. While still funny, it relied on character and situations, like the subtle tension between the Vulcans who saw the slightest deviation in T’Lyn as being “out of control.” Even with the change of structure and introduction of entirely new characters, director Bob Suarez kept the pacing just right, seamlessly transitioning from ship to ship. These jumps even provided some clever moments like the Vulcan captain telling the relatively calm T’Lyn she was acting like a child and smashing to Boimler squeeing through the air on rocket boots in a Star Trek V gag that stood out in an episode which mostly avoided relying on those kinds of lore nods. This all led up to an action-packed battle sequence just as exciting as some of the best of Trek, including the films (helped along with some movie music).
While we were introduced to new characters and whole other ships, the episode still found the time to give all of our Cerritos gang (lower deckers and bridge crew) moments to shine. There was genuine character growth on display from Mariner and mom bonding to Rutherford helping Shax with his post-war issues: “Take your never-ending bonfire of rage and bury it in the clay.” Brilliant. And Boimler was eventually true to himself and got that respect he deserves, although at this point it’s getting hard to justify why he is still an ensign.
Although this episode had a lot of character stuff going on, including the introduction of new characters, it actually moved the season’s plot arc forward in a big way. Since the season one finale, there has been a mystery as to why the previously assumed harmless Pakleds have suddenly become a big threat, and we now know who was pulling the strings, and even provided the Varuvian Bomb we learned about earlier this season. While Dorg is dead, the Pakleds did get another bomb, so there will likely be more to resolve in the season finale next week. Having a rogue Klingon captain be the mysterious puppet master feels like a missed opportunity to do something more fun, like the transformation of the obscure Pakleds themselves from dimwits to the big bad villains of Lower Decks.
Hopefully, the introduction of the Klingon and Vulcan ships and crews won’t just be a one-off. While brief, the time on both ships felt genuine, helped build the world of Lower Decks, and also blended well with the bigger galaxy that is Star Trek. M’ach and T’Lyn are great additions to Lower Decks and we hope to see them again. It would not be surprising to see T’Lyn end up on the Cerritos, and you can just imagine her nerd bonding with Boimler and driving Mariner crazy with their clashing styles of rebellion.
Lower Decks continues to build upon strength as it sets up its final chapter of season two. Instead of just repeating what works, the show is willing to take risks and change up the format while still remaining true to its themes, and never forgetting to be funny along the way.
And ending the episode with lower deckers of Borg Cube 90182 for the credit sequence was simply genius.
- First Star Trek episode with title in Klingon (written in Klingon), which translates as “Three ships.”
- Speaking of Klingon, this episode credits the creator of the Klingon language Marc Okrand as dialect coach and translator.
- Boimler took Tamarian at the Academy.
- Boimler grew up on a vineyard in Modesto, California.
- Ransom is from Tycho City, on Earth’s moon.
- Benzar’s third moon is named B-9-3, and Ransom’s cousin lives there.
- Shaxs was part of the Bajoran Resistance during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor.
- Captain Freeman is experiencing hot flashes.
- Rutherford played with the DS9 model Tendi gave him in “An Embarrassment of Dooplers.”
- The ship class for the new Pakled ships is “Clumpship,” and they are all possibly named “Pakled.”
- Pakled term for red alert is “red alarm” and they call bombs “boomers.”
- There is a 24th-century version of the classic board game Clue set on a Starfleet ship.
- Captain Freeman wore a “RITOS” shirt in the same style as the “DISCO” shirts seen worn on the USS Discovery.
- The 24th century Vulcan Cruiser showed a consistent design philosophy with those as far back as the 22nd century.
- While Borg Cube 90182 appears like it could reference a California Zip Code, it isn’t a used code.
- Let us eat before the squirmiest Gach is devoured.
- Logical? Are you a Vulcan now? Maybe you should trim your bangs and join a science vessel.
- Save me a seat at lunch, unless I die an honorable death, then somebody else can have it.
- Klingon blood runs as reddish/pink as ever.
- Fighting fascism is a full-time job!
- He could demote me to work at a penal colony where I have to mate with the enemy to form a new civilization.
- Captain, the leg has been passed, it was an honorable movement.
- I’m going to make a cute little ashtray for my incense. It’s going to look like a puppy.
- We have replicators, why is there a chef, that’s just shady.
- Let’s give the Pakleds a taste of their own mushfroot.
- They’re all from moons. They’re probably talking about tides and werewolves.
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.