Review: ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Faces Its Fears In “Mining The Mind’s Mines”

“Mining The Mind’s Mines”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, Episode 3 – Debuted Thursday, September 8, 2022
Written by Brian D. Bradley
Directed by Fill Marc Sagadraca

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

A kooky twist on a classic setup gives Lower Decks a chance to have some fun while exploring more of the character’s season 3 arcs.

Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, and Noel Wells as Ensign Tendi

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“Do we have a reputation?”

The USS Cerritos is at Jengus IV to handle follow-up operations after the USS Hood flies off, having just negotiated a treaty between the indigenous silicate creatures and some Federation scientists—or as Ransom put it, they are there to “clean up the mess” after the science “weirdos” started getting their fantasies made real and turned into statues. He has assigned the ensigns (sans Tendi) to the away team to work with ensigns from another Cali-class on clean-up duty. Ransom’s hype man Stevens is put in charge and sets Mariner, Boimler, and Rutherford to scoop up all the “fantasy rocks” as the USS Carlsbad ensigns (who seem to have some attitude) handle dismantling the science outpost. Mariner tries to break the ice but this group doesn’t thaw, making it clear they have heard about the shenanigans the Cerritos crew get up to and they aren’t here to screw around. Harumph.

Of course, Mariner takes all this as a challenge to her coolness as she sets her group to “kick their asses Cerritos-style” by finishing first. But picking up the pace on gathering all those mind-reading mines starts bringing their fantasies to life, starting with Rutherford’s engine-design vision of famed engineer Leah Brahms, Boimler’s promotion-offering admiral needing help with the Borg, and Mariner’s blush-inducing sexy Jennifer calling her babe and (gasp) “girlfriend.” Stevens is concerned about their haste, but Mariner’s quick manipulative claim that the other ensigns questioned Ransom’s awesomeness has him on Team Hurry Up, so much so that he ends up spilling and breaking all the dangerous orbs. This results in bringing their nightmares to life, and Stevens is quickly attacked by a flying serpent that turns him into a shattered statue. More crazy nightmares follow: a giant Borg snake, Klingon clowns, giant mean sentient raisins, and (long-term relationship obsessed) Werewolf Jennifer… which sends the ensigns from both ships fleeing into a dark cave. What could possibly go wrong?

Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, Paul F. Tompkins as Ensign Young, Carl Tart as Ensign Cor’Dee, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Kari Wahlgren as Ensign Kearns, and Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler

“I am afraid my brain is going to explode with science”

Up on the ship, Tendi finally starts her science bridge officer training, and she is super excited to meet her mentor—until she finds out it’s Dr. Migleemo, who has never done this before but is super-enthusiastic to read Starfleet’s “lovely” mentor manual. Tendi is just bursting to take some tests to prove herself, but Migleemo actually has some good advice that the job isn’t about your scores, it’s about being “the voice of science” to the captain. He throws her right into the lion’s den by assigning her to assist Captain Freeman with the final treaty ceremony to see if the young Orion has “the grapes to stand up to her.” Gulp.

Things don’t start off well: Captain Freeman is getting along with the Carlsbad’s captain just as well as her daughter is getting along with the Carlsbad ensigns. Carol isn’t too keen on just how young this Captain Maier is, and him calling her “old-school” really didn’t help. The meeting gets hung up on the simple offering from the Scrubble (the local silicate life forms), who have presented the captains with a nice little totem. Maier’s comment about his generation not being into collecting doesn’t go over well with Freeman, so Tendi’s mention of an anomalous reading coming from that rock is totally ignored.  She flees the deadlocked proceeding to seek out her old boss Dr. T’Ana in sickbay, who quickly assesses the situation. “BLEEP the bed, huh?” The caustic Caitian has the key advice: Sometimes you need to make a mess of things in real life first, as she demonstrates with how she treats some poor guy’s foot infected with some giant alien slug-thing… with a chainsaw!

Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman and Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi

“You are definitely Cali-class famous”

Holding back literal nightmares with no way to communicate with the ship (of course) is bad enough, and our gang is really not happy to be stuck in a cave with their Carlsbad rivals. But they soon learn these other ensigns were only acting tough because they were nervous about measuring up. The Cerritos gang’s exploits are known far and wide, making them “the coolest,” at least among other California-class lower deckers. Together they soon realize the nightmares are acting a bit weird—the Borg snake is spitting basketballs and the Clownons are playing trombones—which makes them less scary and indicates they’re now tapping into random memories from the ensigns. Soon enough they find a room filled with tech and a literal data mine of all their Starfleet data. The Scrubble and scientists have been working together to hack Starfleet! It’s time to take the fight to the nightmares so they can warn the captains, so the Carlsbad ensigns join in for the “full Cerritos  experience.”

Back in the conference room, a confidence-boosted Tendi breaks the deadlock by breaking that rock, revealing the recording tech she had detected earlier. This totem was just a part of a devious plan to bug a captain, bringing Freeman and Maier into lockstep against the Scrubble/scientist cabal, with both representatives quickly arrested. Everything wraps up nicely in the bar as per usual. Stevens is (mostly) fine somehow. Migleemo beams with pride over his own success mentoring Tendi, who plays along even though her true mentor is Dr. T’Ana. All the ensigns bond over the tales of the Cerritos lower deckers, which are mostly accurate, except the stories of how Boimler is a “hovering cube” robot thing. Oh, Boimler.

Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, Kari Wahlgren as Ensign Kearns, Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner, and Paul F. Tompkins as Ensign Young

ANALYSIS

Mining character comedy

As we get into this third season, Lower Decks is mixing up its structure with a more plot-focused episode, starting with a classic mysterious teaser featuring a Federation scientist who discovers a “mind mine” and gets turned into a statue by a fantasy of his seventh-grade geology teacher. This set-up of fantasies (and nightmares) coming to life is also a classic concept in sci-fi and Star Trek, used here to bring both some comedy and even a bit of character development, like Mariner’s commitment issues with her new “babe” (and former mortal enemy) Jennifer the Andorian. While there were not as many laughs in this one, the story was well paced and well crafted, with good Star Trek themes, including how perceived enemies can actually become friends.

Baron Vaughn as Captain Maier, Jerry O’Connell as Commander Ransom, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman, and Noel Wells as Ensign Tendi

This third episode was also an example of how the show is leaning more into its own lore and relying less on the callbacks and gags, with the various visions being a good example. The return of Leah Brahms as Rutherford’s engineer fantasy was fun, but Mariner and Boimler’s more personal fantasies and nightmares were funnier because they were even more organic to the show and their histories. However, while Stevens’ nightmare was a nice TAS deep cut, there was a missed opportunity for something more tied to his true obsession, Ransom.

Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, and Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford

Final thoughts

While not as strong as the previous two episodes, “Mining The Mind’s Mines” was still a fun, entertaining outing that showed how Lower Decks has matured (a bit) in season 3.

Jerry O’Connell as Commander Jack Ransom

MORE BITS

Random stuff

  • Stardate 58256.2
  • The Excelsior-class USS Hood was first seen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series premiere and appeared or was mentioned a number of times during TNG and DS9.
  • The USS Carlsbad is the tenth named California-class ship, named for Carlsbad, California.
  • Of course the bridge science officer training manual was written by Spock!
  • Previous “shenanigans” discussed with the Carlsbad ensigns include the drunken Klingon from “Envoys,” tussling with Mugato in “Mugato, Gumato,” dealing with Pakleds in various episodes, scaring the crap out of a drill instructor (Shari yn Yem) in “I, Excretus,” the ship getting transformed in “Moist Vessel,” and being put on alien trial (actually “more of a party”) in “Veritas.”
  • Susan Gibney returns to the franchise to voice Leah Brahms, a Federation scientist who first appeared in the TNG episode “Booby Trap.”
  • Security officer Lt. Kayshon appears but has no lines, but Kayshon voice actor Carl Tart does provide the voice for Carlsbad ensign Cor’Dee.
  • Paul F. Tompkins does double duty, voicing Dr. Migleemo and Carlsbad ensign Young.
  • Baron Vaughn (Tom Servo of Mystery Science Theater 3000) voiced Captain Maier in his first Star Trek appearance.

Paul F. Tompkins as Dr. Migleemo and Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi

Laugh lines

  • His standup is more a raw unfiltered take on dating and mating.
  • You have to stop saying we have a sacred bond.
  • Stop looking at my heart rate!
  • There really are a lot of sciences out there. Too many if you ask me.
  • I need a big brain engineer who can help me extrude some plasma and run some tests.
  • Driving is scary. I’m a natural passenger.
  • It probably just makes a real big fantasy, right? Watch out, giant ham sandwich incoming!
  • This guy’s not even crying, and his toes are getting digested.
  • I think I pulled my dominant groin.
  • Please tell them I’m people. Guys, I’m people!

Paul F. Tompkins as Ensign Young, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford, Kari Wahlgren as Ensign Kearns, Jack Quaid as Ensign Brad Boimler, Carl Tart as Ensign Cor’Dee, Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi, and Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner.

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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This is 3 legacy character cameos 3 weeks in a row.

And, interestingly, they were all fake versions of legacy characters.

Technically four legacy characters (or simulacra thereof), counting the nonspeaking appearance of Kukulkan.

Anyone else feel like this season is not quite up to the quality of the first two? Good, yes. At times great, even. But below seasons one and two.

I’m not getting this feeling. I really enjoyed the shows so far…

I think it IS as good, we’ve just gotten used to what the show is. In that sense it may be less surprising (less new) I wouldn’t say less good.

Massively enjoyed the first episode but been quite ‘not arsed’ about the last two.

More a personal life thing than the show I reckon though.

Nope. I’ve enjoyed these last three episodes just as much as the first two seasons.

I have to say haven’t enjoyed episodes 2 and 3 as much as seasons 1 and 2, but thought the premiere was easily the best out of the three. But we’re just starting so expect it to improve as it goes and still good overall!

I’m very excited about Crisis Point part 2 and of course the DS9 crossover episode!

I actually feel that this is the strongest start to a season yet.

Totally enjoyed the last two episodes.

I don’t know; I think I liked this one more than the last one. My only disappointment is that Kukulkan didn’t really return, but having a recreation of Leah Brahms voiced by Susan Gibney made up for that.

No, it feels like you are just trolling again as usual, Dune.

Klingon Borg clowns with bat’leth for arms… what more can you ask for?

Not sure why the show should ‘mature’ tbh. It’s fine the way it was during the first 2 seasons.

Susan Gibney returns to the franchise to voice Leah Brahms, a Federation scientist who first appeared in the TNG episode “Booby Trap.”

Maybe she’ll also show up in Picard season three.

Former Carlsbad resident (and still close neighbor) here. Nice.

My favorite line was when Tendi said it felt as if her brain was going to explode from all the science she’d stuffed into it, and Rutherford said, “That’s the way I want to go.”

Star Trek has always been a safe place for those of us who are nerdy or geeky, and Rutherford’s dream way to die was such a great acknowledgement of and extension of that.

I now know how I want to go. :-)

That’s something I love not just about this particular episode or even this particular show but about Star Trek in general.

Really mediocre episode. I don’t think I smiled once and found myself a little distracted and bored.

Also, just looking at the listed “laugh lines”. Maybe a couple of the are amusing in context, but they aren’t actually particularly funny or clever.

This was my favorite episode so far, as the character moments for our four leads were fun. That said, I think this season so far has been rather underwhelming. The past two seasons, it felt that every other episode was extremely strong, so when it all worked, it worked fantastic. This season just feels kind of “meh” and less daring. Hard to put my finger on why. However, the preview for the next episode holds promise.

I did not like this one so much. Felt quite over the top, with all that squabbling, chainsaws etc. Did not feel there was a cohesive theme to the episode, the episode seemed somewhat all over the place to me. And starting to become self-celebratory did not work that well for Sherlock in later seasons…

After Captain Freeman has proven herself mostly capable in those last episodes, it felt off that they were disrupting the diplomatic process and insulting the gift in what amounted to child-like squabble; I would have liked if this had been written in kind-of more Game-of-Thronish way where they fire off veiled clever insults at each other while simultaneously trying to uphold diplomatic protocol and competing in ridiculously praising the gift :D

I liked the Tendi & mentors storyline. Migleemo actually gave good advice, and though she was initially disappointed in her choice of mentor, now she’s lucky to have two of them!