Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4, Episode 1 – Debuted Thursday, September 7, 2023
Written by Mike McMahan
Directed by Barry J. Kelly, Jason Zurek
NOTE: Paramount+ released two episodes on the same day, check out our recap/review of episode 402.
The animated comedy roars back and it’s funnier than ever. The eggs, references, and deep cuts fill the episode, but what makes it great is the heart of these characters, including a new welcome addition.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“It’s Voyager, s#!t got freaky.”
Things start out as usual with our lower deckers griping about assignments, Mariner hopes their secret mission to the Portelo system isn’t about annoying Romulan spy stuff and Boimler is stuck cleaning out the holodeck again. New crewmember T’Lyn is not helping, telling the ensign his “odor will be repulsive.” With hands full of unspeakable goo, Boimler gets big news from Ransom: He could be on the list of promotions being handed out later that day. Upon arrival at the mysterious station, Captain Freeman is informed her mission is to escort a ship to Earth—but not any ship, the freakin’ USS Voyager. Cue the theme! Mariner allows herself just a moment of Boimler-like excitement before recovering. Onboard the storied ship, work is being finalized on turning it into a museum, complete with mannequins of the famed crew and their “mission-worn uniforms.” The overbearing curator Beljo Tweekle demands the visiting Cerritos crew not touch anything, but Rutherford can’t help but check out the bio-neural gel packs, talking about the time they got infected with Neelix cheese. T’Lyn isn’t as impressed, declaring the Voyager is “outdated and smells like Borg” as she and Tendi take some exhibits back to the Cerritos. A petal from a familiar-looking orchid gets loose from its bio-warning canister and floats to the transporter room just as Billips and Dr. T’Ana beam out. However, the Cerritos transporter reads only one lifeform beaming in, and it’s both of them, now merged into one. “Captain, we have a problem.” You think?
“I’m sure Janeway had a solution to this.”
After learning the same thing once happened on the Voyager, Captain Freeman is sure she can handle things on her own; she just needs to see Captain Janeway’s log for the original solution. The Cerritos warps off to the rendezvous at Earth and the captain gets a briefing in sickbay on what is now being called “Getting Tuvixed.” The merged person wants to be called T’Illups, thinks they are “cool as f**k,” and loves being alive. Tendi is sympathetic, since T’Illups didn’t ask to be created, but T’Lyn warns against socializing with “the organism.” Freeman is shocked to learn that Janeway “straight-up murdered” the original Tuvix and decides since she isn’t stuck in the Delta Quadrant, she can just take them to Earth and let Starfleet sort it out. Unfortunately, T’Illups also read Janeway’s log and decides not to take any chances. They take Dr. Migleemo hostage, but that’s just a ruse to lure Captain Freeman into their quarters so they can use more orchid petals to Tuvix her and the ornithoid ship’s counselor into “Captain Doctor Migleeman.” And they’re not done, demanding “more scrumptious senior staff.” As T’Lyn and Tendi debate the ethics of Janeway’s Tuvix decision in the bar, a Shaxs/Barnes hybrid barges in to nab Honus the bartender and merge him with Lundy, creating “Lundus.” In the transporter room, T’Illups makes more soldiers for their ”hybrid army,” even though not every combo is perfect: They admit Swhalens (a mix of Steve Stevens and Matt the Whale) was not their best work. Tendi and T’Lyn know they must stop this, T’lyn takes over the system, beaming all the hybrids to the brig. The Vulcan declared Starfleet systems “easy” to circumvent, but her “fix” merges all the hybrids into what Tendi charitably calls a “big Tuvixy meatball.” Gross.
“These are VOY’s deepest cuts.”
Back on Voyager, Boimler seems distracted, uncharacteristically not fanboying out over everything around him. Things get more tense when Mariner accidentally finds one last macrovirus and it gets loose. The curator is elated and demands they capture it as it tries to infect poor Brad. Ransom orders Boimler to keep it on the bridge and is disappointed when it replicates and escapes into a corridor where it activates the holodeck system, randomly initiating holograms of Doctor Chaotica, The Clown, and (surprisingly) Michael Sullivan, with the safety protocols set to “random.” Thanks to emitters now installed throughout the museum ship. the holos start hunting down the Cerritos team—and Mariner has to admit, Sullivan is a charmer. After one of Seven’s old Borg alcoves gets knocked over, it releases a leftover Borg nanite that supersizes and assimilates the macrovirus. The Borgified macrovirus creates multiple copies of the Clown, Chaotica, and Sullivan to restrain the crew. Boimler is now the only one not pinned to the wall with macroslime, but when he tries to free Mariner, she tells him he doesn’t need her. Brad admits he has had an off day because he’s freaked out about the possible promotion and his guilt over not having Mariner’s back when she was sent to Starbase 80 last season. She says it’s all good and reveals she was the one who recommended Ransom promote him. Buoyed by her support, Brad leaves to save the day, but he’d better hurry because Voyager is heading into Borg space under the command of an assimilated robot salamander. Yeah, you read that right.
“It feels like a kooky Voyager solution…”
In astrometrics, Boimler ignores an angry Ransom demanding to be freed, and grabs Rutherford instead, because he needs an engineer to break the ship. Sam has an idea! They sneak onto the bridge, where Brad is attacked by a Chaotica who demands last words, but Brad buys time by channeling his inner ham, declaring himself the son of Captain Proton and adding a cackling laugh. The distraction works, and the holo-baddies phase out thanks to Rutherford’s clever use of Neelix’s neural gel pack-infecting cheese. Even with the big mess, the curator is thankful and happy to add a new display for Voyager’s story featuring Boimler and Rutherford, which we see after it’s cleaned up for display on Earth. Tendi and T’Lyn also used the power of teamwork to solve their Tuvix-meatball problem with an assist from a scanner that (ironically) T’Illups modified, that allowed them to isolate the different personalities within the blob.
With everyone back in their own bodies, Captain Freeman is happy to get to that promotion ceremony where Boimler, Tendi, and T’Lyn are all made lieutenants, junior grade. Mariner is ready to celebrate with her friends until she is shocked to get a new pip too—which Ransom refuses to take back, vowing to be the first commander to not promote and then demote her. As things should, the action ends in the bar. The always affable Rutherford is okay being the only one left out of the promotions and Brad assures Beckett that even as Lt. JGs, they are still lower deckers who have to do “all the grunt work with none of the perks.” That’s enough to get her standing up and leading the chant. Lower Decks! Lower Decks! Together they are all happy to start “new jobs and no mysterious threats to get in the way.” So, um….
“They are serving eyes or hearts or something.”
This episode isn’t over yet! We find ourselves somewhere in Klingon space on the same Bird of Prey from “wej Duj,” with Klingon lower deckers G’reck and Key’lor debating the honor of spear combat and plotting against their former colleague Ma’ah, who they think lucked his way into the captain’s chair. On the bridge, Captain Ma’ah responds to an alert of an unknown ship (a mysterious threat, if you will) not responding to hails. At first it seems inert, so he decides there is no honor in attacking. Then the mystery ship powers up and targets the Klingons, who are incapable of responding as suddenly all of their systems are down. The mystery ship fires a single powerful beam that destroys them, leaving nothing but debris. Pour out some blood wine for the crew of the crew of the IKS Che’Ta’.
“Twovix” is everything you want from a Lower Decks episode. First and foremost, it was hilarious. It was chock full of Star Trek gags and references, in this case almost entirely linked to Voyager. The love for that series was evident throughout the episode with much Delta Quadrant fun to be had, but you need not be a hardcore fan or even fully familiar with that show to enjoy this episode, because the story and the humor also came from the characters that have been so carefully developed over three seasons. The Voyager craziness was really just the fun backdrop to the emotional story of Boimler and Mariner; the season 3 finale wrapped up Mariner’s exit and reentry into Starfleet a bit too neatly in the final minutes and these two still had stuff to work through. Both of their promotions set up each of these characters for new arcs for season 4. The same could be said for Tendi and the welcome addition of T’Lyn, the Vulcan officer from the fan-favorite season 2 episode “wej Duj.” Gabriella Ruiz delivered a subtle, wry performance as she learned what it’s like to be friends with the hurricane of emotions, Tendi. This dynamic promises to be a big fun part of season 4. The solution to their hilarious crisis was also spot-on in reinforcing this key theme. While the pacing on this show is almost always tight, the way things bounced between the two ship’s stories was especially seamless, thanks to meticulous directing and editing. And beyond the gags, the writing was as tight as ever, such as the keys to both stories’ solutions embedded in early jokes (Neelix’s cheese in a display on Deck 7 and T’Illups upgrading a medical scanner).
Regarding that crisis on the Cerritos, “Twovix” went delightfully meta as it took on what is still one of the most debated episodes of the franchise, Voyager’s “Tuvix,” and Captain Janeway’s decision, as noted by Mariner, to straight-up murder Tuvix. But Lower Decks didn’t exactly just weigh in on the Janeway = murderer side of that debate, they turned “Tuvixing” into a verb, and took things to a dark place with the resulting moral dilemma of the bridge officer meatball thing that had even Tendi seeing things a different way. As with the original Voyager episode, the character T’Illups was a unique blend of the two source characters. Paul Scheer’s performance nailed the humor as he went from loving his new life to fearing for it. Unfortunately, as a half-hour show, we didn’t get much time with some of the other Tuvixed hybrids, especially Captain Doctor Migleeman, but it’s clear the Lower Decks creatives want to play along with the eternal Tuvix debate by trying to settle it. Things also got a bit meta with the treatment of the USS Voyager itself with the curator, delightfully played by Andy Richter, as a proxy for obsessive fans as he fussed over keeping the ship pristine but then admitted to making some modifications like the holo-emitters. Collectors and those who like to debate canon are sure to see some echoes here as McMahan and his team are play along with us, but never punch down.
Beyond the main four characters, others had their moments, with Ransom being a standout. He could easily have devolved into a meathead punchline foil to the lower deckers, but instead, he is shown to be an effective commander who sees something special in these young crew members and is willing to help them succeed. Plus, he has learned some Tamarian. After three years, it makes sense to let these characters grow and evolve instead of resetting them (à la The Simpsons), so promotions for season 4 seem right. The key will be to make good on the promise at the end of the episode to keep them within the spirit of lower decks even as they move up the ranks.
Season 4 also has a new serialized storyline; however it is being kept at a distance, essentially playing in the background. It was fun to return to the Klingon ship from “wej Duj,” albeit briefly. While this mystery ship storyline will be important to the season, hopefully it is mostly handled like it was in this episode, giving us fun moments but also not bogging the show down and away from the episodic style that has worked so well.
A promising start to the fourth season with a hilarious episode that sets up new arcs for our characters and a new ongoing story to slow burn in the background.
- Stardate 58724.3. BTW, the season 3 finale ended at 58499.2.
- In honor of this being the fourth season, the whale probe from Star Trek IV was added to the opening credits.
- Billups had a childhood dragon named Fiddlesticks.
- Mariner refers to “that thing with Pike we aren’t supposed to be talking about,” referring to the recent crossover episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
- In the episode “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” Boimler first revealed he referred to Voyager as “Voy” to save time.
- Mariner tells Boimler, “This is why we can’t keep secrets, one of us always ends up covered in slime,” calling back to the series premiere when Boimler got slimed by a space spider.
- The curator’s name Beljo Tweekle is likely a reference to Bjo Trimble, who spearheaded Star Trek’s first fan campaign back in the 1960s.
- The curator said everyone got inoculated “years ago,” implying after the USS Voyager returned, all of Starfleet was inoculated against the Delta Quadrant macroviruses, which explains why no one got sick.
- Ransom spoke Tamarian, saying “Shaka, when the walls fell” (failure), with Kayshon replying “Sokath, his eyes uncovered” (understanding).
- T’Lyn’s bar order: Water, room temperature.
- As a transfer from the Vulcan fleet, T’Lyn is technically a “provisional” lieutenant, junior grade. She has provisional rank insignia similar to those seen on the Maquis crew on the USS Voyager.
Easter egg analysis and more to come
Check back for our full weekly deep dive into the easter eggs and references, with this week obviously having a big focus on all the Voyager nods. And 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.
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks premiere on Thursdays, streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and Europe. It will stream on Paramount+ in S. Korea later in the year. Lower Decks also airs on Thursdays in Canada on CTV Sci-Fi Channel.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.