This season is starting to feel half-hearted in its attempts to produce either laughter or pathos.
- Good occasional one-liners.
- It's good to see Boimler back.
- Some gags have no follow-through.
- Adding new characters only to brush them aside seems strange.
This post contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks. Check out our last review here.
For being an animated sitcom that runs for ten-episode seasons, Star Trek: Lower Decks has certainly taken its sweet time this season re-establishing its status quo and its comedy bona fides. “Kayshon, His Eyes Open” feels like another episode’s worth of coasting that technically still works as a bit of high-concept adventure, but the comedy just isn’t as tight as it needs to be, nor is the character work doing much more than reaffirming what we already knew. For the most part, this second episode seems content to introduce new elements that will play a part later, hopefully to a more hilarious or dramatic effect than we’ve seen here.
Boimler (Jack Quaid) is the subject of this episode’s B-plot, wherein he finds himself embroiled in the action-packed space battles and away missions of Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) USS Titan. The constant imperilment of his life makes him realize that he joined Starfleet for the exploration and the science, not for the high-stakes attitude that his promotion entails, which does serve as a nice reaffirmation of Star Trek’s philosophical underpinnings. Granted, this is undercut by the show’s revelry in its violence and mayhem, but Lower Decks gets a lot more leeway in that regard as a comedy that has thrived on self-reference. The point of this subplot is to get Boimler back to the theoretically less hazardous Cerritos, and it does its job, though one wonders why this wasn’t a plot point prioritized for the season’s first episode.
The A-plot, strangely enough, fares worse, as its central premise is underdeveloped and largely focuses on introducing new characters that don’t get sufficient spotlight to properly arc. The first of these is Ensign Jet (Marcus Henderson), technically previously seen in “Cupid’s Errant Arrow” and a seeming replacement for Boimler who grinds against Mariner’s (Tawny Newsome) de facto leader status. His careful planning is a direct contrast against Mariner’s freewheeling improvisation, which creates problems as their mission to clean out a dead collector’s booby-trapped menagerie goes murderously awry. The mutual realization that deferral to Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and Tendi’s (Noël Wells) expertise would make them both better leaders is a nice bit of growth for both characters, but it’s strange to see Jet sidelined at the end of the episode when Boimler’s reemergence makes him inconvenient. One can only hope that he’s a recurring element throughout the season.
The other major new addition is the new security officer, Kayshon (Carl Tart), a soft-spoken Tamarian who struggles not to speak in his people’s usual metaphorical dialect. He’s something of a one-note character so far, only made so further by his transformation into an inanimate hand puppet halfway through the episode. Bizarrely, this gag doesn’t really end up going anywhere, serving as a non-sequitur to enable Mariner and Jet’s conflict.
In fact, that’s a recurring issue with “Kayshon, His Eyes Open.” Though not without some good one-liners – Captain Freeman’s (Dawnn Lewis) obsession with micromanaging and a throwaway gag about past animation errors are standouts – there just isn’t a lot of laugh-out-loud comedy in this episode. If the show wants to transition toward more straightforward adventures at the expense of its comic roots, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but this season is starting to feel half-hearted in its attempts to produce either laughter or pathos. It’s not unenjoyable. It’s just filler while we wait for the promise of the show’s first season to reemerge, or for the show to grow into a new form. But for now, Lower Decks runs a real risk of becoming stagnant.
Leigh Monson has been a professional film critic and writer for six years, with bylines at Birth.Movies.Death., SlashFilm and Polygon. Attorney by day, cinephile by night and delicious snack by mid-afternoon, Leigh loves queer cinema and deconstructing genre tropes. If you like insights into recent films and love stupid puns, you can follow them on Twitter.
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