“Something Borrowed, Something Green”
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4, Episode 4 – Debuted Thursday, September 21, 2023
Written by Grace Parra Janney
Directed by Bob Suarez
A visit home for Tendi offers up a great opportunity for more lore, laughs, and love.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“This will be a quick pillage.”
Things kick off with a teaser set on an Orion ship, where we meet some lower deckers hoping to rise up the ranks in the syndicate even though their supply ship is only “pirate-adjacent.” An alert takes us to the bridge: The Orions are in pursuit of the mystery ship seen in the first two episodes. Ignorant of the danger, the captain issues some casual threats, so the mystery craft turns and does what it does, disabling all power before obliterating the Orion ship with its bright white beam. Arr, no plunder for ye, me hearties. …Okay, I promise no more talking like a pirate.
“Triple-threat girls trip!”
On the Cerritos, Tendi is excited to finally have some free time, but just as she starts planning some fun, Captain Freeman shows up to tell the new lieutenant she has been granted leave to go home to Orion for her sister’s wedding. After spending so much time away from her family (and all that Orion pirate drama), Tendi is reluctant, but the captain insists she go to help foster good relations with Starfleet. Mariner is ecstatic to join in—with hopes for lots of Tendi backstory—and T’Lyn invites herself along to gather data on Orion rituals for the Vulcan High Council.
On Orion, they land at the spacious Tendi estate with Mariner loving how they are literally getting the royal treatment, sedan chair and all. “I am from a post-scarcity world and this is still impressive.” The power dynamics of this matriarchal society are evident as they are introduced to D’Vana’s mom (Warrior Queen Shona) and her dad (simply, B’Rt). It’s revealed that sister D’Erika has been the victim of a traditional Orion pre-wedding kidnapping, but Mom is concerned because usually “brides are only abducted after save-the-dates and before the invitations.” Tendi turns cynical seeing that she has been called home just to fulfill her duties as “Prime Daughter,” but after some passive-aggressive pressure from Mom, she relents. “Who is ready for a very standard, borderline boring Orion rescue mission?” D’Vana may be jaded, but I concur with Mariner and T’Lyn, this is all “cool as hell.”
“Nothing can stop Brotherford!”
One of the reasons Mariner wanted to go to Orion was to get away from Boimler and Rutherford, who have overly bonded as roomies. Their mutual admiration runs into a snag when they fight over who gets to water their bonsai tree, which they have named “Lil Boney.” They use their holodeck time to take a break, but when they both show up to the old riverboat program as Mark Twain, their fight reignites—albeit with words like “tarnation” and “ignominious.” However, this Samuel Clemens-off becomes a delightful game as they trade home-spun witticisms over drinks and Foghorn Leghorn-level drawls, marveling over how it helped them find common ground to come to a bonsai misting schedule compromise. Their fun is interrupted when they’re called to the bridge to find Captain Freeman dealing with the very scary (deep-cut alien) Captain Coqqor, arguing over who gets to scan a particularly interesting nebula before it phase shifts away. After lamenting she needs a way to find common ground, Brutherford chimes in that they may have the solution. Next thing you know, the fighting captains are on the riverboat, both made up as Twain, with the Chalnoth not loving the “itchy hair hat.” Freeman still gives it a try, drawl and all, but Coqqor isn’t playing along and goes on a roaring rampage that includes tossing Shaxs aside with ease. Carol is not happy with her two new Lt. JGs. “What the hell made you two think this would work?” Good question, captain.
“Look out for the hunks!”
The first stop for the Orion trio is club Slit Throat where the “Mistress of the Winter Constellations” turns hulking bouncers into whimpering toadies. Mariner (and even T’Lyn) marvel at how the locals treat their shipmate. Beckett is also loving the club vibe and shrugs off being hit by a thrown knife as “part of the ambiance.” The thrower (Madame G) has Mean Girls high school history with Tendi and won’t divulge any clues about her sister’s abduction unless D’Vana plays what Mariner calls the “murder bug drinking game.” Tendi masters it, and is rewarded with the clue that her sister’s ex, Nya’al, is still in love with her, so this kidnapping may actually not be all for show. The next stop takes them deep into Orion’s underbelly to what Mariner aptly dubs a “hump dungeon,” an apparently common location where (some) Orion women use their pheromones to enthrall men. They find Nya’al, and Tendi quickly takes him down, demanding answers. “What’s gonna spill first… your mouth or your guts?” Woah. He denies any kidnapping, saying he’s too busy “hopped up on the stink.” Gross. The sex dungeon Mistress arrives (giving off some real Ursula vibes) and confronts the Starfleet gang with another knife throw that also ends up in Mariner’s shoulder. Tendi uses her power of science to fend off some hunky ‘mone slaves with a chemical cocktail that counteracts the hold the Mistress has over them. Threatened with the loss of her thralls, the Mistress orders Nya’al to reveal that he has been doing some light stalking of D’Erika, and saw her last at an old ship graveyard. Man, these Orions are intense.
“We know you are a big nerd and not some hot assassin.”
Searching through the ship graveyard, Tendi reveals it was a childhood playground for her and D’Erika and shows off a favorite old Starfleet ship where she would dream of exploring space and “doing anything other than pirating.” Mariner and T’Lyn are not remotely surprised when D’Vana reveals she was trained from childhood to be a syndicate assassin, which explains her concern about coming home and exposing her “real” self. They assure her the real Tendi is the person she has become, someone who geeks out over science on the Cerritos. D’Erika appears to break up the sweet bonding and admits she kidnapped herself to lure her sister home. The confrontation begins, naturally, with a knife throw, which—of course—ricochets right into that same spot on Mariner’s shoulder. D’Vana is pissed. “Don’t stab my friends!” The sisters square off in an epic sword fight where they work out their family issues, especially Erika’s feeling of abandonment when Tendi left her to take on the mantle as Prime Daughter. D’Vana apologizes for leaving but assures D’Erika that she has grown to be the better Prime. “You absolutely belong on the crime throne.” With the hatchet (actually, the “Moonlit Blade”) buried, they realize they are late for the wedding. Tendi merges her Starfleet and Orion ways to hotwire the old ship and head home. After “all the stabbing,” Tendi is a bit worried about T’Lyn’s report, but the Vulcan surprises her by throwing her PADD out a gaping hole in the ship, prioritizing Tendi’s concerns over the High Council’s interest. They crash-land just in time, and Queen Shona is in tears seeing her daughters working together to steal a ship. “Oh, my special girls. Accomplices.” So sweet, in a piratey way.
“Yes, yes, you are very intimidating”
The Cerritos drama wraps quickly once Chalnoth is both calmed and intrigued by the mention of the bonsai tree, which he finds “beautiful”… before swallowing it in one bite and washing it down with the misting bottle that started the whole saga. With him sated, the Cerritos is allowed to scan the nebula while Brutherford mourn the loss of Lil Boney. When their friends return with tales of adventures (and pictures), Boimler is predictably jealous he missed out on the “awesome pirate wedding on a planet nobody ever gets to see.” The ladies aren’t impressed with how the guys have chosen to resolve their differences on the holodeck instead of just talking honestly, but Brutherford are content. With Freeman banning any more Twain programs, they recall how they worked out their latest dispute as a pair of Mozarts, and they play us off (poorly) tickling the ivories of dueling harpsichords.
This dive into Tendi’s backstory delivers on many levels, with deep character development (and not just for D’Vana), lots and lots of Orion lore, and most importantly, plenty of hilarious moments. Tendi’s complicated past (and struggles with Orion stereotypes) has been a slow burn through the series, and gets moved to the front burner turned all the way up thanks to crisp, detailed writing, taut pacing, and a nuanced performance by Noël Wells. Her story (and the story of Orion) got a big helping hand from guest stars Kimiko Glenn (Orange is the New Black) as Madame G and Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as sister D’Erika. And even if they are recording on their own, the performances and editing shone to give us great chemistry with Tawny Newsome’s Mariner and Gabrielle Ruiz’s T’Lyn (who is becoming the breakout character of the season) as she, too, demonstrates some key character growth to show loyalty, friendship, and an ability to admire a nice eight-pack on an Orion priest, all while staying so very Vulcan. It’s good to see the show mix up the character pairings (or in this case trios) with Mariner stepping in for Boimler to ably handle the physical comedy with the recurring stabbed-in-the-shoulder gag. (BTW, if you listen closely, Mariner revealed there was a fourth shoulder stab during the daddy-daughter dance.)
The other story this week was very much a B-story, escalating from low to high stakes and de-escalating just as quickly in ludicrous (but very funny) fashion. Dueling Mark Twains was not expected, but Jack Quaid and Eugene Cordero nailed it, and Dawnn Lewis gave a surprisingly good show at it, too. Things got a bit meta with the captains fighting over who gets to scan a nebula; the way Starfleet is always scanning things also came up in the Orion storyline, but in both cases, the show defends the Star Trek theme of the embracing science and exploration while having some fun with it along the way. The Boimler/Rutherford (sorry, Brutherford) story also picked up the theme of friendship seen on Orion, although each grouping had their own solutions, with the ladies choosing to honestly reveal their feelings and the guys finding understanding when they become the same person—in this case, a historical character with a funny accent. Together they are all actually saying the same thing, which is you are your best self when you speak and accept your own truth. These heartfelt themes and messages are welcome, especially because they are always woven into the comedy.
The strong core of this episode was the visit to Orion, which the episode noted (multiple times) was a surprising first for the franchise. Like TNG did with the Klingons and DS9 did with Trill and Ferengi, Lower Decks has really fleshed out the Orions. In this episode, there was a lot of fun to be had playing up the pirate tropes, but the show took its time to show how Orion society (and the homeworld) is diverse and nuanced. They even embrace the multiple shades of green used for Orion makeup used by various Trek shows over the decades. Just after this single episode, some of the contradictions or confusions about Orions, such an iconic Star Trek race, make more sense, like the whole thing about pheromones introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise. While Enterprise tried to take on the outdated “slave girl” trope, Lower Decks has done a much better job building the canon around this society led by strong women.
After taking a week off, we also got another bit of the season arc around the mystery ship. It’s fun how so far each visit to this storyline starts with another “wej Duj”-style check-in with some alien lower deckers, in this case Orions slogging it out as plunder sorters dreaming of being big-time pirates. This whole mystery ship storyline is being handled smartly; each entry adds little amounts to the season arc without getting in the way of the episodic focus of the series. This week we got our first connection to the Cerritos, with Captain Freeman mentioning how the Orions had lost a ship, but there was no indication yet of any awareness of the link to the attacks on the Klingons and Romulans or the larger mystery, leaving that for fans to have ponder and theorize, and for the show to explore later in the season.
“Something Borrowed, Something Green” may be the best yet of this fourth season, which continues to deliver on the promise of character growth, exploring new worlds, and having a hell of a lot of fun along the way.
- The Orion ship attacked by the mystery ship had a similar design to the 22nd-century Orion Interceptor from Star Trek: Enterprise.
- The plunder on the ship included a classic TOS phaser, TNG phasers, a Vulcan lirpa and lyre, and a Klingon bat’leth. The century-old TOS phaser was thrown into the trash barrel.
- Mariner references the Enterprise episode “Bound” when describing how “a captain would get taken out by some Orion showgirls.”
- This episode featured multiple examples ofthe Orion written language, first introduced on Enterprise.
- Tendi’s family is “barely” the fifth richest syndicate on Orion.
- One of the gender role reversals in Orion society is how the bride carries the groom across the threshold or carries him as they swing through on a rope.
- The ship Tendi hotwired was a Raven-type class, like the one used by Seven’s parents in Star Trek: Voyager.
More to come
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