Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, Episode 1 – Debuted Thursday, August 25, 2022
Written by Chris Kula
Directed by Jason Zurek
In a welcome return to form, Lower Decks goes big on the laughs and the heart in a strong season debut.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Take that, conservative military court”
The fallout continues from Captain Freeman’s arrest at the end of season 2 and Mariner is not handling her impending trial well, taking it out on all the screens and breakable objects at Admiral Dad’s home. Somehow there is now video proof that Carol did the deed to Pakled Planet. With the Cerritos impounded and the crew grounded (Episode Title Alert), Mariner ignores her father’s faith in the system, deciding she is the one to exonerate Carol. The Admiral sees she is not acting rationally; I mean, she was even badmouthing the Golden Gate Bridge (“big dumb red thing”)—who does that?
With Dad no help, Mariner seeks out Boimler, miserable and oblivious at the family vineyard—which turns out to be a raisin vineyard, of course. Brad is feeling as “shriveled and hopeless and stuck on earth” as those raisins and jumps at the chance to save the captain, suggesting they use his suckup fanboy personal copies of the senior officer logs. If only they knew an engineer who could tell them where the Cerritos is. Rutherford! He is with Tendi, doing some Earth sightseeing at a familiar New Orleans restaurant, and the team hatches a cunning plan to get to the ship, which requires them to sneak into a secure Starfleet facility and deal with a “psycho badass” in charge of the encrypted transporter. The good news is that badass is just a sweet old “buffer buff” who would love to help but can only offer butterscotch candies and soup as some migrated space blobs are disrupting the transporters. If only they had some kind of ship… but something Tendi says about a missed stop on her Earth tour gives Mariner an insane idea.
“Hello, explorers and welcome to the 21st century.”
Welcome to historic Bozeman, site of the best Star Trek film of the ‘90s. The ensigns find a lot more than a giant statue of Zefram Cochrane reaching out to the stars, as it seems the events of that movie have inspired an awesome theme park celebrating humanity’s First Contact, although the Vulcans may raise an eyebrow at their scout ship being turned into a kiddie slide… which Tendi adorably calls “logical.” After getting matching hats and some churros, they focus on their objective. The gang boards a replica of the original Phoenix and gets ready to take it to the Cerritos, although due to extra seats, a nervous rando named Gavin is coming along for the ride, which is piloted by a hologram who likes to rock and roll just like the original. With apologies to Mr. Cochrane, Rutherford reprograms the ship to take them right to the drydock, leaving a newly confident Gavin in command to begin a new adventure trekking across the stars. [Spoiler alert: he reluctantly gets “rescued” at the end, so don’t worry.]
They soon find Boimler’s super-detailed logs for the mission to the Laap system, which is nowhere near Pakled Planet and should clear Carol. However, Brad just had to Boimler all over the logs with a series of embarrassing asides including issues with excess gas, dropping his tricorder in a toilet (again), and his habit of sniffing the captain’s chair. Becket loses it, saying this “blooper reel” can’t be played in court, but the team convinces her it’s worth trying… or so they thought. She tricked them into a shuttle programmed to return to Earth, leaving her to go full Kirk in Star Trek III and steal the ship. Her new crazy plan is to find the Klingons that made the Pakled planet bomb, but her friends (thanks to Brad’s quick thinking) return before she can end up on the short end of a bat’leth. After some fighting and bonding and a bit of an emotional breakthrough for Beckett admitting to just how much she needs her mom, they agree to return to Plan A with Boimler’s embarrassing but exonerating logs. And then some Starfleet Security ships show up. Come on guys, they were having such a nice moment.
“I’m your momma now”
Things look grim and Mariner prepares to take the fall for her friends, but now it’s Tendi’s time to shine. D’Vana shows it was no fluke that she was transferred to the Science Officer track, with an epic bluff about surveying the Verugament (those space blobs) who are now having a “mass reproductive event” (aka an orgy) on the hull of the USS Cerritos. The security guys come aboard and Tendi sets the gang to work in the shuttle bay doing some truly gross and painful work to help help the blobs procreate. Her enthusiasm for science truly inspires the security guys so this bluff is totally going to work… until they simply ask for the name of the commander who authorized the alien orgy-helping mission. Dramatic pause. Enter Captain Freeman along with Admiral Hubby and the whole bridge crew gang. Carol confirms it was she who issued that order, saving her daughter’s butt one more time.
After the hugs, it’s time for Freeman to explain how she got out of that legal jam with an epic montage full of major name-dropping detailing how an elite covert Starfleet squad got to the truth of the bombing of Pakled planet. Turns out it was the Pakleds themselves, because of course it was. In a “classic Pakled Samaritan Snare,” the smart guys framed Freeman so they can get the Federation to give them a nicer planet. Who would have thought Starfleet would come through… actually everyone except Mariner. And so now it’s time for Freeman to deal with her well-meaning but way-too troublesome ship-stealing daughter. Since the Cerritos was already Mariner’s last chance to stay in Starfleet, Captain Mom and Admiral Dad admit they can’t be the ones to discipline her with real consequences, so they bring in a ringer: Enter a very willing Commander Jack Ransom, who is all too happy to handle Becket’s double secret probation, and if she screws up one more time, she will be wearing her cool civvies full time. Hello, stakes for season 3—and welcome back Lower Decks!
Lower Decks returns strong with one of its funniest episodes yet. But even with some classic Lower Decks gags like Boimler getting slimed, the humor feels more character-based for this third and perhaps more mature season. Overtly evoking classic Earth-based Treks like TNG’s “Family,” we were reintroduced to our core four characters, learning new things about each and resetting the ensigns’ arcs for the new season, giving a double meaning to the episode title “Grounded.” Although Boimler’s vineyard being for raisins was a great gag, the other running gag of his obliviousness over the hot girls in Daisy Dukes fawning over him seemed a bit of an out-of-place throwback. A standout performance from Tawny Newsome takes us on a journey as Mariner keeps us laughing with her escalating freak-out, but then tugs on the heartstrings as she breaks down admitting just how afraid she is for her mom.
As in a classic sitcom, Mariner leaned a lesson, in this case that maybe she should trust the Starfleet system (at least sometimes), something everyone else around her tried to tell her but she just wouldn’t listen, which was both on brand for her, but also subverts some of the show’s own expectations by reminding us the senior officers aren’t the out-of-touch adversaries of our lower deckers; they actually know what they are doing because they are worthy Starfleet officers, so of course they do. And the lower deckers themselves each had their own moments, showing how smart they are and that they, too, are worthy of Starfleet, never requiring the idiot plot to keep the show or the humor going.
It was smart for the show to quickly resolve the season 2 “To Be Continued…” cliffhanger quickly and in an unexpected way. That, along with the quick resolution to the Gavin storyline, shows how Lower Decks is sticking to its core competence and format of tight self-contained episodes, which of course was the staple of 1990s Star Trek that inspired the show. But still, we now can see some arcs developing including a new confidence for Brad Boimler, a science-focused Tendi, and of course a new dynamic for Mariner and her minder Ransom, with these storylines offering some promising hijinks and character development.
Ensigns on some kind of Star Trek
Lower Decks is known for its callback and references, and this episode delivers on that and more. There are the deep cuts like the Ketracel White Hot sauce, and there were some deeper cuts in the FNN scroll, all of which will be explored in our usual follow-up Easter egg analysis. But the trip to historic Bozeman was a new kind of thing for the show, with a full-on celebration of a given Star Trek outing, which fit in well with the Earth-based theme of the episode. And you can’t help but be delighted by the indulgence from Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score to the amazing James Cromwell returning to voice a different kind of Cochrane, taking us on a magic carpet ride (if we finish our food and beverages from “Thirst Contact” before boarding the Phoenix). This along with the epic Starfleet mission montage bodes well for a new level of connections to Trek for season 3
There is a curious canon question here of when and how this theme park was developed. In First Contact, the 24th-century Starfleet crew didn’t have a full understanding of the true Cochrane, but this park had him down, including his goofy hat and love for Steppenwolf. This is set years later, so it appears that Picard’s crew updated the historic record. I like to think Reg Barclay worked as a consultant, maybe with some entrepreneurial Ferengi, to develop this updated historical attraction.
Lower Decks is back with more of the same, which is a good thing, but also ups the ante as the show feels like it is maturing, adding more depth and character-based humor. This all bodes well as it kicks off its third season, which holds the promise of being the best yet.
- The capital of Pakled Planet was Big Strong City.
- Beckett Mariner did not grow up on Earth.
- For the record, the Golden Gate Bridge is painted orange.
- Boimler’s family having a vineyard outside was established in “wej Duj.” It was outside Modesto, CA, which is where much of California raisins are grown.
- Thanks to his implant, Rutherford was able to recall the 19-digit coordinates of the dry dock.
- Chief Carlton “Denny” Dennis and “Captain” Gavin were voiced by Bobby Moynihan, best known for his work on Saturday Night Live, which included playing “Spocko” in a Star Trek skit with Chris Pine.
- Admiral Buenamigo (and one of the security guys) was voiced by Carlos Alazraqui, father of Rylee Alazraqui (the voice of Rok-Tahk on Prodigy).
- The shuttle that crashed back into the Cerritos was The Joshua Tree, but it didn’t look to be destroyed.
- You only have to be 100 centimeters (3 foot, 3 inches) to “Ride The Phoenix.”
- The Cerritos still had the hull plating stripped off, removed during the events of “First First Contact.”
- Boimler said his logs go back to 58018.7, which would be around the time of episode 203 (“We’ll Always Have Tom Paris”).
- Among his admissions, Brad revealed he dyes his hair purple and no one knows his real hair color.
- The Starfleet Security team were stationed at a Regula 1-type Starbase, which deployed Federation Attack Fighters.
- Captain Bateson’s team used an Akira-class vessel.
- The forger they tracked down was a Zakdorn.
- Admiral Freeman’s first name was revealed to be Alonzo. His wife shortens it to ‘Zo.
- FNN reported a “little boy” solved Fermat’s Last Theorum, which was actually solved in 1995. The TNG episode “The Royale” refers to it being unsolved, but the DS9 episode “Facets” references the proof by mathematician Andrew Wiles.
- The Pakled Queen was seen arrested during the epic montage.
- Yes, I know The Undiscovered Country came out in the ‘90s… still say STFC is better. Come at me!
- Get the fuck out of our way! – T’Ana.
- Nobody drives anymore, why do you need a bridge? This planet is whack. – Mariner.
- She was saving another ship for Kirk’s sake. – Boimler
- Want to test the sweetness of my bushel? – Genevieve.
- Don’t let the door hit ya where the big bang split ya. – Denny.
- We can’t tie this guy up, he’s like the sweetest old man in the world.
- We hope you enjoy yourself and make a first contact, with fun! – Hologram Zefram Cochrane.
- All right, buckos, prepare for your trek amongst the stars. – Hologram Zefram Cochrane.
- Oh oh, they are dressed like the 21st It’s just like post-World War III! – Rutherford.
- My shirt could be a little more asymmetrical. – Rutherford.
- I guess they were in search of a breeding ground and we’re it. So magical. – Tendi.
- Even covered in alien sploof, there is no place I would rather be. – Boimler.
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 debuted 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.