Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Comes To Play In “The Least Dangerous Game”

“The Least Dangerous Game”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, Episode 2 – Debuted Thursday, September 1, 2022
Written by Garrick Bernard
Directed by Michael Mullen

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

Lower Decks remains strong with another funny episode that focuses on characters trying out new things for season 3.

Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, and Noel Wells

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“Today I am a new Boimler, a bold Boimler”

Our four lower deckers are back together on board the USS Cerritos, taking some time out to play “Bat’leths & BIHnuchs” with a virtual Martok as dungeon master. They are all having fun role-playing as Klingon warriors with the exception of Mariner, who grouses over her new minder Ransom just waiting to bust her out of Starfleet for breaking protocol again. Boimler’s mood is also soured upon learning that a former fellow Cerritos ensign got a field promotion to captain of the USS Inglewood. Tendi points out that (now captain) Vendome’s “meteoric rise” resulted from his risk-taking. This is opposed to Boimler’s instinctive caution, demonstrated by his avoiding getting “cave-killed” in the Klingon game, which results in a big-time loss of honor, of course.

After Tendi suggests Brad try a new approach, he begins to Vendome his life by taking up all opportunities, starting with a very physical game of Springball with some bros. He, of course, ends up on the floor but his “sustained screaming” did impress Shaxs—so the next stop on Brad’s tour was the security chief’s Bajoran dirge choir followed by standing in as a “skeletal boy” for Chief Lundy’s figure drawing class. And Boimler actually likes all of it, especially getting in good with Shaxs and no longer being creeped out by creepy Lundy. He proudly declares to everyone in the Cerritos bar he will now say yes to everything, which is overheard by a terrifying alien named K’ranch. K’ranch gets Brad to agree (against Tendi’s advice) to become prey, satisfying K’ranch’s racial instinct to hunt. After learning this “hunt” is no metaphor, the ensign sets off running for his life and screaming in terror, which is back on brand for Brad.

Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, and Nolan North as K’ranch

“Starfleet isn’t all about being fed fruit by erotic aliens with slightly different nose ridges”

The ship’s actual mission of the week is to help the Dulainians, wellness-crazed aliens who need a fix for their stuck orbital lifts (don’t call them space elevators, but they are space elevators). Mariner is teamed up with Ransom and is shocked to find out they will be doing elevator maintenance while Billups and Rutherford handle the liaising with the locals down below. The engineers are shocked by this too, but definitely happy to interface (and inter-tongue) with the scantily clad locals in the tropical paradise. Meanwhile, Mariner is arms-deep in sparking conduits, raising the tension level even higher with Ransom, who seems more interested in getting in his workout reps than helping with repairs. Beckett thinks she is vindicated when Billups reports it’s getting tense down on the planet after some “Justice“-like diplomatic snafus, but Jack defiantly sticks with his plan, suggesting the engineers just riff “about the Prime Directive, and all that stuff,” and admonishing Mariner to trust her superiors.

After things continue to deteriorate on the surface, with Billups up for sacrifice (due to his bellybutton being an outie), Mariner returns to form and takes matters into her own hands. In mid-attempt, Ransom calls to say she was right: He was just pushing her to prove she would defy his orders. Impressed she didn’t go rogue, he agrees it’s time for them to go save the engineers. Unfortunately, the call came after she had already gone rogue by skydiving off the platform, so she deploys her chute and runs up a lot of stairs (and even a climbing wall—it’s a wellness planet, remember?) to rendezvous with Jack, who has a crazy plan to skydive off the platform. They arrive just in time to find Billups and Rutherford about to be dropped into the mouth of a broiling volcano.

Tawny Newsome as Mariner and Jerry O’Connell as Ransom with some angry natives

“Thanks again for the mimosas”

Back on the Cerritos, K’ranch’s hunt has Boimler dodging a variety of sharp weapons throughout the ship and even into the Cetacean Ops pool, which the Belugas aren’t happy about. Regretting his decision to become prey, Boimler thinks he’s found salvation when he runs into Captain Freeman. Unfortunately, Carol was previously charmed at brunch by K’ranch (complete with mimosas), and she’s glad the alien found someone to help with his need to hunt, lecturing Boimler to respect K’ranch’s culture. Eventually, Brad ends up at the gang’s favorite hangout where he gets some advice from “Martok” to never let your foe define you. Filled with a warrior’s heart, Brad suits up to turn the tables, declaring to K’ranch that now the hunted has become the hunter.” Well, actually he wasn’t able to get all that out due to getting speared in the shoulder by K’ranch. But Brad’s worse fears of getting killed are abated when K’ranch just gets some cool selfies for the Kromsapiod ‘gram with his “catch and release” prey.

As for the elevator mission, Ransom was able to quickly diffuse the situation by ripping off his shirt to reveal the kind of sculpted abs that say “let’s parlay” in any language. Later, he and Mariner start to bury the hatchet: She admits she really does want to stay in Starfleet, and he apologizes. These two still have their issues so she is not out of her probation problem yet. As for Brad, in the end he earned K’ranch’s respect and some high praise delivered to the captain, making passing out from blood loss totally worth it. Things wrap up nicely, bookended by another round of “Bat’leths & BIHnuchs.” And even after his new risk-taking plan gets his character beaten to death by his own ripped-off arm, Brad is ready to stick with being “Bold Boimler.”

Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, and Nolan North as K’ranch

ANALYSIS

A new game

“The Least Dangerous Game” is another funny Lower Decks episode, but also shows how season 3 is changing things up a bit with more character-based gags. The laughs come from character development; both Boimler and Mariner are trying to change, with each running into a few snags as a result of their evolution. Jack Quaid and Tawny Newsome are up to the task of finding different nuances to their characters while still keeping true to what has made them work for two seasons, with Quaid finding new ways to deliver Boimler’s signature scream. Even sticking with the core mission-of-the-week structure, we are still starting to see some good arcs for our characters for the season, as set up in the premiere.

Jerry O’Connell as Commander Jack Ransom and Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner

The episode was jam-packed with an impressive mix of action, humor, and heart without the pacing ever feeling too frenetic. Things were shaken up a bit with Rutherford and Billups taking the diplomatic mission, creating more hijinks, and giving the under-utilized comedic talents of Paul Scheer a chance to shine. While one might want to learn more about the navel-obsessed Dulainians and the “checks and balances” of the strange leadership structure, the periodic odd tidbits were part of the fun and helped build the tension for the away team.

Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford and Paul Scheer as Lt. Commander Andy Billups

While there are abundant references and nods to classic Star Trek, including a nice little legacy cameo, there continues to be a bit of a dial-back on this element of the series. Instead, the series is moving to find humor and moments by calling back to its own canon, like Vendome the Boilian, creepy Lundy, another visit to Cetacean Ops, and the like. Lower Decks has built its own world, and instead of relying on past Trek, can now use it strategically for even more impact. But don’t worry, the nods and deep cuts are still there, so keep an eye out for our follow-up Easter egg analysis.

Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs and Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler

Final thoughts

Lower Decks continues to impress with this more mature but still hilarious third season episode.

Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, and Noel Wells as Ensign Tendi

MORE BITS

Random stuff

  • J.G. Hertzler returns to voice Martok, credited as “Martok” (with the quote marks) because he was a virtual Ferengi knock-off.
  • Vendome was a Bolian ensign seen in six previous episodes of Lower Decks, including the season 2 finale.
  • Boimler said Vendome was “a guy who gets hit with a spear on away missions,” describing the events of episode 103, “Temporal Edict.”
  • Vendome’s ship, the USS Inglewood, is presumably another California class and named for Inglewood, California.
  • K’ranch (Nolan North) was inspired by Tosk from the Deep Space Nine episode “Captive Pursuit,” although he definitely has a few Hirogen traits.
  • K’ranch’s helmet gave him targeting info, akin to The Predator.
  • Boimler’s storyline is reminiscent of George Costanza in the Seinfeld episode “The Opposite,” as noted in an interview by Mike McMahan and Jack Quaid.
  • Boimler weighs 61.2 kilos (135 pounds), as guessed by Lars Lundy.
  • Ransom says to be careful not to “accidentally become a king” a common trope and especially ironic for Billups, who has avoided ascending to the throne of Hysperia.
  • Matt and Kimolu, the Belugas, return after their first appearance of Cetacean Ops in the season 2 finale.

J.G Hertzler as “Martok”

Laugh lines

  • Oh, I would love to be a number one’s number one. – Boimler.
  • You beg for your life like a blHnuch and live out the rest of your days not as a warrior, but as a dentist! – “Martok”
  • You are going to have a blast. We have the saddest dirges in the quadrant. – Shaxs
  • Wow, that guy is such a drama magnet. – Kimolu
  • These guys are one of those cultures that run everywhere and kiss hello, right? – Mariner
  • Starfleet isn’t all about being fed fruit by erotic aliens with slightly different nose ridges. – Ransom
  • Oh, he’s good. You better run. – Captain Freeman
  • When you decide to switch it up and become the hunter you can’t just announce it and stand there. – K’ranch
  • Sorry I’m late, had to make a quick trip to the little commander’s room. – Ransom
  • Wow, psychic baby, evil computer, and a volcano? You guys ever hear of overkill? – Mariner
  • Old Boimler was into moderation; bold Boimler is into boldness.” – Boimler

Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, and Paul Scheer as Lt. Commander Andy Billups

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 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.

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Ok so that was a good episode i enjoyed it a lot and it was better than last weeks episode.

I loved seeing Martok again even if it was not really him but a ferengi game knockoff. I do hope we
see the real Martok again.

I liked seeing Boimler standing up for himself more and less of the no Boimler.

I felt Ransom was a bit annoying in the episode yes i know he is a commander and Mariner is just an ensign
but he really should be open to hearing her opinions and wanting to help Rutherford and Billups.

Overall a good episode and I’m looking forward to next weeks episode.

I liked this one but I definitely enjoyed last week’s episode A LOT more… Last week I had to watch it twice in a row. This one was a more random episode.

Have to admit the humor in the one was a little more random, less referential…so it was less satisfying than usual. But still a fun time, what a gift this show has been!

When this started, they described Ransom as “Riker on speed”. He kind of lived up to that because he has Will’s most gnawing character defect: seeing someone who serves underneath him as a service record first and a person a distant second. We’ve seen Beardo the Weirdo be jovial and also be a jerk to the lower decks and his credentials syndrome is why.

Are you trying to win the “most uncalled for statement” award? Or maybe you have a chip on your shoulders… Maybe you’ve been burned by a superior at work?

Or maybe you’re just having a bad day… It happens. But Riker is anything but a weirdo…

Jeez, you had your coffee today I guess…lol Paul was obviously being humorously sarcastic. And Riker does have a bit of the “credentials syndrome” in his personality for sure.

Oh, OK. I guess I missed that…

Note to self: Only 2 sugars in my Starbucks tomorrow, instead of 4…

:-)

Unfortunately, dry humor rarely translates well in print. I’ve been guilty of that myself on more then a few occasions. While I like the Will Riker character, the “credentials syndrome” observation isn’t far off the mark….

Me too!

Ransom’s point is that there are times junior officers/staff need to just trust and accept the learning opportunity.

Mariner’s attitude of locking people in their expertise had a lot more credentialism in it.

She needs to learn if she’s on the command track, and Billups should be able to navigate some diplomatic niceties at his rank. The subordinates with the perfect set of expertise and expertise aren’t always available.

I enjoyed as always, but I have a feeling the real meat of this season lies ahead. I appreciate the ongoing Mariner / Ransom arc.

Random observation: with this episode, Lower Decks ties TAS for “longest running animated Star Trek series by episode count”, not that there are a lot of contenders. It already is the longest by number of seasons; next week’s episode will make it the longest by any metric.

That’s an awesome stat to point out. Yay for more animated Trek!

Like all Lower Decks episodes, this one is fun. But it’s not brilliant. So far, this season has ranked below one and two for me. It’s enjoyable, yeah, but I feel like something is missing. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but I’m not laughing out loud like I was with the prior seasons.

That’s interesting, because this is the first season that I’ve actually liked. :-) Takes all kinds…

When you watch a show with too much expectations and wonder if you are ever going to laugh the entire time, the show is bound to suck.

Try not to watch with any expectations and comparing with other seasons and shows.

That’s two eps in a row in which I am seeing less “head scratching/crazy shit” going on — and while I am not saying my less than stellar opinion on this series has definitively changed yet, I am getting hopeful given the first two eps of this season have been superior to most of the eps in the first two seasons in which they really stretched things to get laughs.

Perhaps McMahan’s been “listening” to the fans on this and other Star Trek forums who have provided constructive criticism over the first two seasons, and now it’s showing in some tweaks they have made?

“… they really stretched things to get laughs”. Well duh! That’s the point man! They purposefully go overboard to get laughs, that’s why it’s a comedy… If you take it too seriously, it’s definitely going to grate on you (as, apparently, it has).

I disagree. It is ALSO suppose to be canon, and because of that they should NOT GO OVERBOARD with the craziness to get the laughs. Sure, still do the humor, but consider canon and how the humor holistically fits in with real Star Trek stories.

And I am seeing more of this approach so far if the first two eps this season, so I am hoping that this is the new normal for the show.

Sounds like you want “full-on Simpsons” humor. I don’t. IDIC

D’oh! It’s a comedy AND it’s a cartoon, so that gives them more wiggle room. I see your point and like you say, IDIC. Going full-on Simpsons is not what I was thinking though. But if that was to happen, I would just take it all in proper context and not take everything at face-value. It’s like art, everyone sees it differently.

Fair enough :-)

Ever play the Klingon hijacks the Enterprise VCR game with Robert O’Reilly back in the day? The Martok game gave me some flashbacks to that.

I can’t help but think this was at least in part a deliberate homage to that.

I wonder whether there’s any chance of some of those old VCR board games being reissued, with the footage remastered and now presented on DVD and/or Blu-ray? I don’t know whether there’s enough of a market for that to make it viable, but I know there’s at least some market for it.

——————————————

This was the second episode of this show in a row featuring an established Star Trek vet returning not exactly as a character they’d played previously, but as an electronic recreation thereof (with James Cromwell last episode), and the third overall for the show (with Alice Krige last season).

Good question. Me personally, I would be interested in seeing the old footage from the TNG game enhanced and placed in some kind of modern video game interface, LCARS included of course. That might be fun.

It definitely was an homage for Star Trek Klingon..I just looked at the actors in that and there are so many recurring actors that I didn’t remember…even J.G. Hertzler was in it…I didn’t remember that at all. I remember Gowron and this guy https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/John_Cothran,_Jr.

YES! I had to think of that as well. Captain Kavok :-)

Yes, I have that game and it was a blast. I got the same feels from this episode. BTW: I always wondered what happened to the John deLancey Q version of that game? I know they shot his footage and all, but was the game actually produced? I think they shot the scenes on the TNG sets right before they red-dressed them for Generations.

I laughed out loud quite a bit during this episode. The heartiest one was Boimler’s in-game demise where the bartender tears off Boiler’s character’s harm and kills him with it and Martok sums it up that he dies without honor because “he died at his own hand.” The laughs just keep coming. Love Lower Decks!

I was thinking and laughing at that one for hours later! Who comes up with these lines??

For me, this was hands down the funniest episode of the series so far. When K’Ranch started taking selfies with his little selfie stick I honestly had tears running down my cheeks. It was hysterical.

Absolutely over the moon this is back!

I don’t think Ransom was worried about Billups becoming king of this planet. I thought he was worried about Billups losing his virginity, and being forced to ascend to the throne of his own planet.

I saw it as Ransom being sarcastic. Which, now, is a form of comedy WAAAAAY above Ransom’s head.

Yeah, I don’t think he was being serious. I think he was basically making a lame joke. After Billups explained that the aliens kissed instead of shaking hands, Ransom was telling him to be careful not to get laid, or he could become a king.

Did anyone else gets vibes of the TOS episode, The Apple?

It can’t just be me lol. I read the review maybe they will suggest it too and that the Dulainians are a LDS version of the Vaalians from that episode. I mean c’mon:

https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Vaalian

And they also worship some questionable entities lol. Overall I thought the episode was good, but not great. It felt a little generic for me. It was a little by the numbers and LDS is never by the numbers lol I liked all the story lines, I just think they could’ve been stronger. But I liked all the character interactions. I just love Tendi. It was so sweet and innocent how she turned K’ranch down to be pursued in the hunt. It was great to see Mariner (almost) obeying orders lol. I couldn’t blame her either. Ransom was willing to sacrifice those guys just to make a point. Of course it all worked out, but still.

Loved the ending with K’ranch though. This show is so good because every episode they find a way to point out Star Trek values that isn’t always obvious. K’ranch comes off savage but in the end he respects all life and has learned a way to follow his culture without killing for it.

I liked it overall, but kind of felt this was going to be a weaker one going in. Still a good episode but could’ve been better IMO.

There are similarities between the Dulainians and the Vaalians, but then there are also the Edo with that same vibe :-)

That’s a great example too. A reviewer on YouTube pointed it out as well. Knowing McMahan, he could’ve purposely combined both species to create this group.

Ah, that could be now that I think about it. Good catch!

Oh and we got one canon confirmation and that is Martok is still the Chancellor! Good to here he’s still fighting off threats or assassination attempts for his position! Kapla!

This episode my not hit the highs that this show has reached, but it’s a perfectly serviceable episode — it’s funny, smart, respectful to the canon and characters, and gives us some worldbuilding.
One thing I wanted to comment on as I watched the first two episodes of S3: how wholesome they’ve been. That may be an odd adjective, but hear me out.
It’s funny without punching down or demeaning characters or disrespecting canon, or crossing any lines. And the message shines too. In both episodes (and pretty much all Lower Decks) the message is *the system works*. Starfleet is a.ways seen as fundamentally good and the characters without question trust that Starfleet and those in Starfleet will do the right thing for the right reason. The Federation is a good, safe place. A utopia.
I really do not mean to use this to knock some of the other shows -all of which I like- but animated Trek is my favorite for this reason. It’s refreshing to see that wholesomeness.

I agree. I do love the message Lower Decks presents and that is ultimately the Federation is a society that you can trust and believes in the ideals it preaches. It doesn’t mean it’s ‘perfect’ but it does strive to be a society that believes in progress, equality and optimism. Again, why I think people have really been drawn to this show, because even with all the wackiness that goes on, underneath it all it still projects the 24th century as a beacon of hope and positivity that wants everyone to feel they are all valued in it.

I lost it when Mariner was sleeping and flailing her hands and legs while falling from the elevat…sorry, orbital lift! Good episode! Martok was great, awesome legacy character return, even if he was a cheap Ferengi knock-off.

I thought this was lovely. Nice and crisp pacing and growth for Boimler and Marriner. Funny too, I liked how the planet stuff kept escalating. I’m eager to see where they go with “Bold Boimler” it could be a fun ride.

You forgot to mention the Dulainians’ resemblance to the natives of Gamma Trianguli VI from ‘The Apple’. And would swear the “Dulainians” were actually named for Voyager’s Delaney sisters…

Yeah, the Delaney sisters. I had that thought too. Actually I think a lot about the Delaney sisters lately :-)

“The Least Dangerous Game” was “The Least Interesting Episode”
Aside from JG Hertzler returning as Martok this episode just kinda sucked in my opinion. Not as entertaining or engaging as last week’s episode or others for that matter. They missed the mark. It happens. I’ll be back next week for another episode, because it’s not that complete disaster like Discovery.

FYI, Tosk was the prey, The Hunters were the…well hunters. Also, I’m surprised there was no mention of “The Chute” in the review…you know with Tuvok and Neelix repairing that space elevator…I mean lift :p

Well I thought it was another charmer. The hunt scenes had me laughing out loud.

So, Tendi in a towel scene? Why, though?

Anyway, great episode. I love seeing Boimler get beat up and doing dumb things. This is a great show! And I want to play that Klingon D&D game! CBS, make it so!

I thought the perhaps the Delanians name was a reference to Voyager’s often mentioned but never seen Delaney sisters.