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‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ 2.03 Review: We’ll Always Have Tom Paris

It’s good to see ‘Lower Decks’ return to form.

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

Our Verdict

As integral as Boimler and Mariner are to the fabric of 'Lower Decks', it’s nice to finally have a window into the dimensions of another main character.

For

  • 🖖🏻 It's great to see Tendi taking part in an A-plot!
  • 🖖🏻 The return of Shax is appropriately and hilariously lampshaded.

Against

  • 🖖🏻 Boimler's plot is solid but its revolution around a Tom Paris cameo is distracting.

This post contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Check out our last 
review here.

It may have taken three episodes, but Lower Decks has finally reclaimed the energy that made the first season feel so special. There’s something to be said here for splitting up the main cast in unique configurations this time, not only because it allows for three concurrent plots instead of the usual two, but because it allows for a compelling balance between gag-driven antics and character development. If this is Lower Decks opting to experiment with its formula, then I’m completely on board to see where the writing takes us.

The first subplot follows Boimler (Jack Quaid) as the ship’s computer fails to recognize him upon his return to the Cerritos. On the one hand, this does still feel like the season is playing catch-up after failing to expediently return Boimler to the sitcom status quo, but it’s a funny gag that ultimately threatens his life when he becomes locked in a Jefferies tube and starts inhaling ship fumes. His motivation of getting his commemorative Voyager plate signed by Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) verges on being a little too fetishistically nostalgic for the show’s own good, but it’s practically a background element by way of cameo, so it’s ultimately forgivable.

A better self-referential gag plays out through Rutherford’s (Eugene Cordero) subplot, where Lieutenant Shax (Fred Tatasciore) is somehow back from the dead and Rutherford needs to know why despite everyone refusing to talk about it. It’s a pretty funny premise to point out how bridge crew in Star Trek shows are often killed and revived without ceremony to the rank and file of the ship, and the resolution of the gag leaving Rutherford existentially scarred is a hilarious exposure of Trek’s unspoken, often unintentional darkness.

The majority of the episode, though, goes to the unlikely pairing of Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Tendi (Noël Wells), as Tendi brings Mariner along on a mission to pick up a family heirloom for Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman). The explicit acknowledgment that the show hasn’t paired these two main characters on an adventure together balloons into an arc where the women recognize that they don’t really know or understand one another at all. This leads to the more action-oriented segments of the episode as the pair attempt to surreptitiously repair the feline doctor’s scratching post sex toy, but the heart of the episode resides in giving us a look into Mariner’s vague past and Tendi’s experiences with discrimination as an Orion.

These are elements that raise more questions about these characters’ backgrounds than answers, but they’re the good kinds of questions, where the answers aren’t necessarily important but every potential answer only makes the characters more interesting. Perhaps most pointedly, it elevates Tendi from being a glorified B-plot machine, and hopefully the show will utilize her (and eventually Rutherford) for more than gags and filler as the season progresses. As integral as Boimler and Mariner are to the fabric of Lower Decks, it’s nice to finally have a window into the dimensions of another main character.

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