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‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Season 1 Finale Review: No Small Parts

A frantic season finale delivers an impressively plot-heavy shake-up of status quo.

Ensigns Boimler and Mariner have celebratory drinks.
(Image: © CBS All Access)

Our Verdict

It’s easy to nitpick the small things, but “No Small Parts” is such a frantic ride that it’s hard to care all that much.

For

  • 🖖Frantic pace makes for an exciting ride.
  • 🖖Peanuthamper joins the ranks of the best gag characters.
  • 🖖Satisfying resolution and set-up for next season.

Against

  • 🖖A meaningless character death adds little.

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

The season finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks’ first season might just be the most frantically exciting the show has ever been. It is a dense episode, filled to the brim with moments for every character to shine, callbacks to the rest of the season, action beats, moments of somber mourning, fan service for long time Trek fans, and a new established status quo for Season 2. It’s a lot for under a half-hour of television, perhaps maybe even a bit too much, but the decision to rapid-fire gags without stopping makes the experience so viscerally entertaining it’s hard to nitpick the weaker details.

The cold open finds Boimler (Jack Quaid) confronting Mariner (Tawny Newsome) for being the daughter of Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis). Though Boimler intends this as a light ribbing to finally have a leg up on Mariner, she is viciously angry and distraught that someone knows her secret, which has been inadvertently broadcast to the entire bridge crew over their comms badges. This kicks off a new dynamic where members of the crew treat Mariner with unwanted deference, trying to kiss her ass so as to get in the captain’s good graces, despite the fact that Mariner has no interest in rank or being in her mother’s favor. This predictably narrows in on the main Boimler-Mariner conflict from throughout the season, as Boimler continues to seek promotion on the ship while Mariner decides her newfound nepotism can only serve to get her off the ship so she can start over in irresponsible anonymity.

So far, this is pretty familiar territory for Lower Decks, even going so far as to give Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) and Tendi (Noël Wells) subplots that don’t really seem to relate to the bigger picture. Rutherford’s cybernetic implant is malfunctioning so that his emotions are all over the place, and Tendi is mentoring a new medical robot who has named herself, in accordance with machine logic for the optimal name, Peanuthamper. Peanuthamper really could have been a gag character on the level of Badgey or The Dog, but holy hell, we don’t have time for that because a Pakled ship is attacking the Cerritos!

This is where the episode gets pretty wild, but it somehow balances all the major cast while providing a satisfying comedy-action blowout for these characters to participate in. Captain Freeman embraces the necessity of Mariner’s dangerous, half-baked solutions as a necessity for saving the ship, prompting Mariner to reveal a plethora of weapons stashed as contraband that they use to fend off the invading Pakleds. Boimler confesses that he doesn’t want Mariner to be promoted off-ship because he’s come to value their friendship, much to Mariner's concealed satisfaction. When the captain is wounded, and the crew decides they need to physically upload a virus on the Pakled ship a la Independence Day, Peanuthamper turns down the perfect opportunity to save the day and bails into the vacuum of space because she only joined Starfleet to piss off her dad.

But we can’t slow down yet, because Rutherford needs to reunite with the malicious Badgey (Jack McBrayer) in the Holodeck to develop the necessary virus. Lieutenant Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore) and Rutherford transport the virus to the Pakled ship, only for Badgey to betray his father and set off the self-destruct with Rutherford and Shaxs still on board. Shaxs rips Rutherford’s implant out to save him from Badgey’s interference and pushes him in the shuttle, back toward the Cerritos as the Pakled ship explodes. RIP Shaxs. We barely knew ye.

No, seriously, he was a one note angry-boy character who had run his course and wasn’t terribly endearing. But I bet you weren’t expecting this show to kill off a named character!

Of course, other Pakled ships show up to wipe out the Cerritos, but watch out, because deus ex fan service has arrived in the form of the U.S.S. Titan, commanded by TNG favorites Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). This is a much better use of cameo than what John De Lancie was given in “Veritas,” as Riker and Troi are actually critical to the plot and are revered within the context of their appearance. However, if Lower Decks is your first Trek, you’re probably going to be a little lost as to why you should care.

After this epic space battle, we’re left with a new status quo for next season. Captain Freeman and Mariner come to an understanding about how their different styles for approaching problems should be a team effort that keeps them both in check. Rutherford wakes up from a coma to discover that he has no memory of his life, a prospect that excites Tendi as an opportunity to become best friends all over again. Perhaps most shocking is that Boimler catches Riker’s eye and is promoted to the Titan, completely backing out on his friendship with Mariner to embrace his dream of rank and prestige. There’s a juicy amount of character conflict there to be explored next season, and it’s amazing how seamlessly it’s woven into this already overstuffed episode.

It’s easy to nitpick the small things, like Shaxs’ death not meaning much overall or Peanuthamper being wasted on a quick gag, but “No Small Parts” is such a frantic ride that it’s hard to care all that much. And that’s as good a reflection of Lower Decks’ first season as any. Yes, there are gags and character beats that don’t quite work, and they certainly played the gag of sinister things being actually innocuous a few too many times, but as a comedy that is finding its footing, it’s an enjoyable time with some genuinely likeable characters. It’s a common truism that Trek shows usually don’t find their footing until about their third season, but if this is where they leave us after the first, I’m very excited to see where Lower Decks can go from here.