“Those Old Scientists”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This episode was released early on Paramount+ as a surprise for fans, see our report from San Diego Comic-Con for more details.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2, Episode 7 – Debuted Saturday, July 22, 2023
Written by Kathryn Lyn & Bill Wolkoff
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, then you will just get back to laughing at this near-perfect crossover episode and love letter to Star Trek.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“The ancient thing is doing a thing.”
We begin in the second dimension of the 24th century and the USS Cerritos (stay with me) arrives at Krometh B, home of a cool ancient portal, originally discovered by Captain Christopher Pike and the USS Enterprise (although Tendi says it was actually discovered by Orion scientists). Even though the portal hasn’t done anything in over a century, the Beta Shift ensigns (except a grumbling Mariner, naturally) are excited to do some scanning, especially after the landing party discovers traces of super-rare Heronium (used on the 22nd century NX-01 Enterprise), only enhancing Boimler’s hero-worship of Starfleet history. Mariner (who is actually leading the mission) suggests he try to “live in the moment,” but he’s too busy posing for a holo image and doing his best Spock impersonation… at least until Rutherford’s holo camera triggers the not-so-dormant portal, which portals him into the third dimension and the inscrutable gazes of Spock, Una, and La’an. “You guys look… very realistic.” Holy crossover, Bradman. The USS Enterprise (the OG one, captained by Pike) happened upon this time traveler on Krometh B on their way to deliver some crucial grain to a Federation colony. After Boimler realizes he hasn’t woken up in a holodeck recreation, he is giddy to find himself in the old Enterprise’s sick bay talking to Pike himself and very relieved to hear the captain already knows he is a time traveler. He’s surprised to find Pike has a sense of humor and appears terrified of Number One.
La’an is put in charge of escorting Boimler, so she seizes the moment to remind him of temporal protocols, adding her personal advice to avoid making attachments. Of course, Brad is having a hard time sticking to the rules, which includes accidentally name-dropping Worf. He can’t even resist jumping on Pike’s “historical saddle” (exclaiming “Riker” and using his iconic maneuver) and has another freak-out when he meets Uhura, who is trying to translate the portal’s ancient language so the Enterprise crew can send him home. He can barely contain his fanboying when sent to assist M’Benga and Spock on the planet, who are doing their own portal scanning. Boimler attributes his journey through time to Rutherford’s holo camera triggering the portal, calling it “dumb luck.” Spock finds this hilarious… which definitely freaks Brad out. The landing party is called back to the ship to deal with the arrival of a suspected Orion ship. After squeeing over the Enterprise bridge, Boimler remembers what Tendi said and convinces Pike they are not facing pirates but a “peaceful” Orion science vessel, which is quickly backed up by the claim of the Orion captain. However, the Orions beam up the portal and warp away. Pike is pissed and for once, Boimler has nothing to say.
“Our problems seem to have doubled.”
Brad retreats to the lounge only to get teased by Erica and Christine but he doesn’t mind as he is still “jealous” of these heroes living in what he calls the golden age of exploration. He also accidentally reveals the upcoming Friday is Captain Pike’s birthday, a future Federation holiday. “Crap!” Spock shows up, and the huge smile on the Vulcan’s face when he sees Christine sends Boimler into a panic. Boims tracks down Nurse Chapel, worried he “broke” Spock by making him laugh on the planet. This Spock doesn’t match all the books he read about the legend, but Christine assures him he hasn’t triggered a butterfly effect, Spock is just “going through a thing.” Boimler’s visible relief that Spock will soon return to his serious self hits Christine hard, who understands the experiment with emotion isn’t going to last, and Boimler is heartbroken to see she was actually the one influencing him and he’s now made her miserable. Brad is starting to agree with Pike: He should probably get off this ship before he does any more damage. On the bridge, Brad suggests that everyone just turn around and not look (really) so he can quickly retool the ship to track the Orions, imploring Pike to find a diplomatic solution because an ancestor of his friend Tendi is on that ship. Pike agrees and works a deal with the Orion captain, trading the grain in the cargo hold for the portal, which is soon returned to Krometh B and powered up by Spock with the last of the Heronium. Pike is polite but implores Boimler “for the sake of the future” to not return; however, Brad’s exit is interrupted by Mariner, who arrives to “save” him just as the portal powers down. Realizing she time-traveled, the excited ensign immediately requests a meeting with Uhura. (“You guys are great, but is she here?”) Read the room, Beckett.
The captain is not happy to find himself stuck with two time travelers, Mariner isn’t helping as she fangirls over Uhura and “hot Spock.” A new plan is formed with Spock set to attempt to synthesize more Heronium (Mariner volunteers Brad to help) and Uhura still working on that translation (Mariner volunteers herself to help). A resigned Pike agrees because “how much more damage can you do at this point?” Brad tries to give Mariner a reality check that maybe it’s not so great to meet your heroes before he scurries away at the sight of Number One. Mariner reveals to Una that Brad keeps a poster of her in his bunk. “A pin-up?” Not helping, Mariner. After putting even more pressure on Uhura with talk of a “super translator space adventurer” destiny, Beckett leans into her own strengths, taking Nyota to the bar. There they meet Ortegas, who vaguely recognizes the portal’s carvings, which helps Uhura identify them as ancient Nausicaan. Mariner was right, drinking helps. For once, Brad is trying to play it temporally safe when Spock starts making suppositions about his own future based on Brad’s conversation with Christine. Thankfully, the Vulcan vows that he won’t let a time traveler change his path, so he will keep on experimenting with emotion and sports a mischievous smile as he asks Brad “Are you feeling lucky?” Their experiment making Heronium goes spectacularly badly, blowing up the lab. Boimler scream!
“Turns out I don’t belong here.”
A dejected Boimler retreats to the comfort of the warp core, meeting Pelia who has some ancient wisdom to impart. Brad grows up a bit, declaring he is “a man,” and he’s now determined to fix what he screwed up, starting with the people starving on that Federation colony because their grain was traded away. Beckett finds Brad clandestinely tinkering with a shuttle, trying to use it to contact the Orions to trade the portal back for the grain as he is “done worrying about the future.” Mariner signs on as accomplice, boasting she never gets caught… right before they get caught by La’an. Pike has had enough and is set on delivering them to Starbase One. He also wants Brad to stop trying to get the crew to throw him a surprise party. Brad tries to hint that Pike may not have many more birthdays but Pike lets them know he’s aware. Turns out Pike has some (dead) daddy issues he plans to resolve on his own on Friday. For the first time, these Starfleet officers separated by time connect as people. They even share some hero-worship for Archer and his Enterprise, because they don’t make them like that anymore… or do they? Boimler has an idea!
After apologizing for all his future fanboying, Boimler briefs the Enterprise on how the NX-01 Enterprise was actually made out of a Heronium alloy (making it “just the right shade of gray,” BTW). And there’s a piece of the old Enterprise built into this successor. Ta-da! Mariner (who reluctantly paid attention during a tour of the Starfleet Museum) even knows where it is, so after some excavating in engineering and a little Spock magic, they have themselves enough McGuffin juice to send the lower deckers home. In the transporter room, Mariner clarifies with Una that Boimler has a Starfleet recruitment poster that inspired Brad, with “Ad Astra Per Aspera” on it. Nice. Spock puts aside his human dabbling to send them off with “Live long and prosper, Mr. Boimler,” leaving Brad stammering. On the planet, the Orion captain blocks the way to the portal. Brad reveals he is a time traveler who knows a descendent of a Tendi on the Orion ship. Things are resolved when Pike agrees to give credit for the portal’s discovery to “Orion scientists.” This time the goodbyes are much more cordial as Brad and Beckett return to their future (and the second dimension), they are greeted by Tendi and Rutherford. Back on the Cerritos, we see Una’s poster, a favorite of Ransom’s. Oh, and it turns out Mariner asked for this assignment to ensure her pal Boimler could have fun scanning one of his favorite portals, aww. Things wrap up back on the USS Enterprise, but not as we know it. They are quite animated… like literally animated. Pike agreed to this little surprise birthday party and they attribute feeling “strange” and “two dimensional” to a genuine bottle of Orion booze. Perfect ending.
More than just crossover comedy
Since it was first announced at Comic-Con 2022, this crossover episode has been highly anticipated, and yet it still lived up to the hype. First and foremost, it was hilarious — arguably it’s the funniest episode of the series so far. Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid certainly helped raise the bar for the humor, but the Strange New Worlds cast themselves followed right behind, with Anson Mount once again showing he has great comic timing. What makes this a great episode is that it also delivers the season’s consistent theme of emotion and connection, with Jack Quaid showing he is much more than a funny guy with purple hair. The episode works as a standalone adventure, complete with a planet of the week, but also cleverly ties in a number of storylines from the Strange New Worlds season 2 so far and dips into season 1 as well. With all the gags and meta references included, this is one of the most rewatchable episodes of the series.
Having the animated Lower Decks era as a wraparound was clever, making this truly a crossover instead of just having guest stars from another series show up. This was certainly one of the big swings of the season, and finding a way to mesh the tone and style of both shows together was tricky, co-writer Kathryn Lyn came to SNW from Lower Decks so she was versed in both languages. You could also sense the influence of Lower Decks showrunner Mike McMahan, who helped make this marriage work. Director Jonathan Frakes was able to take what was crafted and find that middle ground between the shows, creating some fun cartoony moments but still knowing when to slow things down for the drama. The production team made the crossing over from animation feel real, from the Cerritos uniforms (that even included the delta detail on boot bottoms) to Boimler’s hair.
The real trick of this episode was accepting that the gimmick of having Boimler and Mariner cause chaos on the USS Enterprise only takes you so far. The plot about finding a sci-fi solution to get the characters back to their time, while navigating through the threat of the Orions, was engaging. And Boimler’s emotional journey through it all made it compelling as he learned some key lessons about growing up and taking responsibility. This ties in well with the third season of Lower Decks itself, which has similar themes. The way he and Mariner reacted to different members of the Enterprise crew also wove well into SNW’s season 2 stories, especially Spock’s exploration of humanity with Chapel. Once again, Jess Bush delivers a heartbreaking performance, as everyone else gets to have fun around her, when Chapel comes to realize her influence on Spock is fated to be short-lived. The 24th-century characters also gave the rest of the crew nice glimpses into their legacies, including the nice fake-out with Una worried over something tragic only to learn she has become an inspiration, which tied back nicely to her big courtroom episode from earlier in the season. Even with all that going on, the Lower Decks storyline itself also had little mini-arcs, including Mariner showing how much she cares for pal Boimler (getting him the mission) and Tendi getting some respect fighting against Orion stereotypes.
As a crossover with Lower Decks, “The Old Scientists” brought along some of the meta aspects of that series, which allowed them to use all of these character moments as a way to reflect on the show itself. That meta effect went both ways, like when the Enterprise crew noted the overly specific references coming from the Cerritos ensigns. The multitude of references to Star Trek: Enterprise was also welcome, as that show and those characters never get enough love, and was cleverly used to show some common ground between these two eras with their shared hero-worship. This was a way to reach out to the fans as well, showing us how these characters’ observations are all a bit like ours. And there’s one thing we all agree on: Pike has great hair.
What else can be said? This was one of the most entertaining hours of Star Trek ever. Fans will entertain each other quoting lines from it for years. The second half of the season is going from strength to strength and we now know there is an even bigger swing coming. (A musical?) There are three episodes left, but for now this review is complete. Computer, end program.
- The episode title “Those Old Scientists” is a reference to Lower Decks “No Small Parts.”
- The episode was originally scheduled for release on July 27, instead it debuted during the Star Trek Universe panel San Diego Comic-Con on July 22nd followed by a surprise early release on Paramount+.
- The opening credits were redone with Lower Decks-style animation that included the space creature from the LDS credits now latched onto one of the nacelles of the USS Enterprise.
- Episode begins with Boimler’s Ensign’s log stardate on 58460.1. This sets the episode exactly between episodes 5 and 6 of Lower Decks season 3.
- Later Boimler dictates a log as “Stardate, the past.”
- The actual Stardate in the past is 2291.6, which Boimler notes is five digits and a “totally normal date to be living in.”
- Setlik II was first mentioned in the series premiere “Strange New Worlds.”
- The design used for the Orion scout ship was based on the TOS-remastered version of “Journey to Babel.
- Boimler took an elective in material synthesis at Starfleet Academy… for fun.
- When Uhura is researching the ancient language from the portal, she scans through other languages, including Cardassian and Bajoran.
Check back for a follow-up article as we dive deeper into the Easter eggs for the episode.
More to come
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