What to Watch Verdict
I, Excretus certainly doesn’t get points for being novel in its execution, but it does bring enough charm and silly sketch comedy sensibility to stay fresh.
Rapidfire sketch-comedy gags are still this show's strong suit
Boimler has really come into his own as this season's most improved character
The episode runs out of gas halfway through and makes a half-hearted attempt as raising stakes
This post contains spoilers for Star Trek: Lower Decks. Check out our last review here.
Even though the show is only in its second season, it’s actually somewhat surprising that Lower Decks hadn’t done an episode like “I, Excretus” until now. For a series built on the comic potential of seeing how ensigns live during the high concept adventures of a Starfleet expedition, it really only makes sense to do a role-swapping episode between the bridge crew and the ensigns. The comedy practically writes itself as the two teams come to appreciate one another’s contributions and reinforce Star Trek’s trademark camaraderie. “I, Excretus” certainly doesn’t get points for being novel in its execution of the premise, but it does bring enough charm and silly sketch comedy sensibility to keep the idea fresh.
After the bridge crew unwittingly abandons the lower decks ensigns in space for six hours, the entire ship is corralled to do training drills in holopods, wherein ensigns take on the roles of their superiors and vice versa. This first half of the episode is the highlight, as the various simulations quickly go from banal to absurd. Mariner’s (Tawny Newsome) escape from a Mirror Universe ship goes south suspiciously quickly; a trip to an Old West planet results in her being trampled by a horse — despite protestations that horses love her; and an encounter with a ship-wide aphrodisiac scars her psyche with images of all her coworkers completely naked.
Meanwhile, Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) royally flubs the warp core explosion climax from Wrath of Khan, and Tendi (Noël Wells) repeatedly tries to treat a paralyzed Klingon, only to be failed for not giving him an honorable death. The rapidity with which these absurd scenarios play out make for fun diversions that easily distract from the fact that there aren’t necessarily any fully formulated jokes being told here.
Of course, in pure Boimler (Jack Quaid) fashion, he passes his simulation to escape a Borg cube, but his reluctance to have anything less than a perfect score causes him to relive the simulation again and again and again, demonstrating both his ascendant competence while also drawing humor from his persistent perfectionism. It’s only further hilarious that this character flaw is what ultimately saves the ship, preventing the drill instructor from delivering the entire crew's failing grades to Starfleet.
Speaking of the drill instructor, though, it’s hard not to see her dominance of the episode’s second half as something of a drawback. Her scheme to fail the Cerritos in a bid to prove the continued relevance of her job is conceptually funny, but it ultimately feels like the episode ran out of gas halfway through and had to create stakes to justify the total runtime. It mainly serves to reinforce how Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and Mariner are able to establish common ground and recognize the contributions each makes to the ship — especially after the bridge crew finds out just how hard it is to stack hexagonal boxes during a ship emergency — but it’s a dead horse beaten a little too long. If anything, the horse could have stood to beat Mariner for a few more scenes.
Star Trek: Lower Decks is available to stream now on Paramount Plus in the US and on Prime Video in the UK.
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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