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‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ 2.01 Review: Strange Energies

‘Lower Decks’ returns with one major player out of the picture.

Tendi, Rutherford, and Mariner in 'Star Trek: Lower Decks'.
(Image: © Paramount+)

Our Verdict

While it’s not the show at its best in either hilarity or originality, it’s still a fun time to return to the USS Cerritos.

For

  • 🖖 You're reminded of why you like these characters.
  • 🖖 The animators get to have fun with the godlike powers of Commander Ransom.

Against

  • 🖖 The extended reference to the original series feels a bit worn thin by the episode's end.
  • 🖖 The show feels incomplete without Boimler's nervous energy.

This article contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks.

It’s still amazing how an animated comedy like Lower Decks is the closest approximation we currently have to the feeling of Star Trek at the height of its quality during the TNG era. In some small part it’s because the show heavily relies on nostalgia for some of its comedy value, sometimes to its detriment, but an even larger part is because Lower Decks understands the appeal of individual episodic adventures with high concept premises, and any comic barbs it can push are just bonuses to what it can contribute. The premiere of the show’s second season is a solid exercise of this core appeal, and while it’s not the show at its best in either hilarity or originality, it’s still a fun time to return to the USS Cerritos.

With the revelation that Mariner (Tawny Newsome) is Captain Freeman’s (Dawnn Lewis) daughter, the pair have been working together on side missions, which basically means that Mariner can do whatever she wants during a mission and Freeman simply signs off on it in favor of mending their strained relationship. This dynamic wears on both of them though, as revealed through Freeman’s captain’s log and, more compellingly, through Mariner’s holodeck workout regime wherein she vents to a Cardassian torturer while executing a prison break in an absurd amalgamation of therapy session and leg day. Ultimately, this reintroduction to these two characters is a fun way to acknowledge how the status quo was shaken up by last season’s finale while eventually accepting the necessity that the formula can’t be shaken up too much.

Meanwhile, Tendi (Noël Wells) is suspicious of Rutherford’s (Eugene Cordero) sudden change in opinions after the replacement of his cyborg implant. She rationalizes that his uncharacteristic new love of pears and his desire to reattempt a date with a previously failed prospect must be evidence of a breakdown in his cognition, so she starts literally assaulting him with medical science in hopes of “curing” him. It’s a cute way to reacquaint us with the science bro friendship Tendi might wish were something more romantic, but it’s also a pretty blatant way to sweep the fact of Rutherford’s new implant under the rug, waving away one of the more potentially interesting consequences of last season’s finale. It could come up again in the future, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The main attraction of this episode is the culmination of Mariner’s freewheeling ignorance of authority, as pressure-washing an alien monument reveals an artifact that zaps Commander Ransom (Jerry O’Connell) with “strange energies” imbuing him with powers reminiscent of the original series’ Gary Mitchell in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” The basic joke is that Ransom is so obsessed with his masculine prowess that he uses his powers to make a utopia of doppelgangers and gym equipment, with his Achilles heels being affirmative praise and kicks to the Achilles testicles. It’s nothing especially novel or groundbreaking, but it still meets the show’s baseline for amusingly over-the-top spectacle played with a frenetic energy that the live-action counterparts cannot match.

The most noticeable absence this episode is Boimler (Jack Quaid), who was promoted to Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) ship last season. The last minute of the episode teases that Boimler may not be too happy with getting the promotion he wished for, and next week will surely give us a route to reunite him with the rest of the cast. For now, he feels like a gaping missing piece in the show’s fabric, but maybe with his return, the show can reach its heights again instead of satisfactorily eking it out by reestablishing a status quo.

Star Trek: Lower Decks releases new episodes every Thursday on Paramount+.