Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3 overview

A look back at the good, the bad, and the interesting from the just-completed third season of Star Trek: Lower Decks, which gives us some fine character development, some experimental storytelling, and not nearly enough of Kimolu and Matt.

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One of the dichotomies this show has had to face is the desire for a big-ass climax to end the season, which is at odds with its mandate as the show that focuses on the belowdecks personnel. “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption” and “The Stars at Night” contrived to put Boimler, Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford on the bridge because that’s where the action is, and yet it contravenes the whole point of the show to have them regularly having bridge duty. “Grounded” did a much better job of this, having Mariner and the gang doing their thing while the good stuff all happens off-camera.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “The Stars at Night”

It’s the third-season finale of Star Trek: Lower Decks (which actually went live last Thursday, but I forgot to post about it here, derpity derp) as we get resolution on more than one plotline, a couple of old Trek standby cliches, and a gripping feel-good climax. Best of all, no cliffhanger! Check out my review of “The Stars at Night.”

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However, this is the second straight episode (and the third of the last four) of a show called Lower Decks in which the lower-decks characters are really only supporting cast. We saw a lot more of Freeman in these last two episodes than we did our four nominal heroes, and speaking as someone who’s written quite a bit of Trek fiction, it’s a tough needle to thread. The reason why so many Trek stories focus on the captain and the folks in charge is because that’s where the fun stuff is. Yes, there are also stories to be told about the grunts belowdecks, and for the most part LD has been good about telling those stories. But if they also want to do big-ass finales, they wind up giving their main characters short shrift. As it is, they’ve covered it by having Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford on bridge duty for the important bits, but that’s something else we can’t see too much of, lest we lose the lower-decks feel…

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “Trusted Sources”

A reporter is embedded on the Cerritos to document their inaugural mission for “Project: Flyby,” where they revisit planets years later. Yes, it’s the sequel to TNG‘s “Symbiosis” that nobody demanded! Plus, the return of the Breen (which somebody may have demanded….). Here’s my review of the latest Star Trek: Lower Decks episode, “Trusted Sources.”

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The title of the episode is a not-very-veiled reference to a trend that has been often seen (and made fun of) since Discovery debuted in 2017, as people have claimed online (mostly in YouTube videos) that they have “trusted sources” that tell them that Alex Kurtzman is about to get fired for ruining Star Trek. Five years on, with Kurtzman’s job as secure as that of anyone in Hollywood not named Kevin Feige, those videos are less prolific than they used to be, though they still show up every once in a while.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus”

Boimler, Mariner, Tendi, and Rutherford return to the holodeck with what starts as a fun adventure but which turns into therapy for both Boimler and Tendi. We’ve got a wacky time-travel adventure, we’ve got a quest to find the meaning of life, and we’ve got a Captain Sulu appearance! My review of this week’s Star Trek: Lower Decks episode, “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus.”

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My favorite part of this half of the plot is Rutherford, who is totally not taking it seriously—because it’s just a game. He’s eating food, singing the “Chu Chu” song from “Terminal Provocations” (“Such an earworm!”), stealing the mohawk’d punks’ clothes. Tendi gets fed up with him, yelling at him to stop fucking around, which confuses Rutherford. That’s when Tendi admits that she wants to really be a captain some day. Rutherford has to reassure her that she doesn’t need a holodeck movie to prove that she can be a good captain. However, good friend that he is, Rutherford then starts taking the whole simulation more seriously and follows Tendi’s orders. Her solution comes straight out of the end of season two of Picard, amusingly enough: they come back to the present and swap the chronogami that the Romulans steal from the Cerritos with the bomb that they were going to use to blow up the Federation’s founding.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption”

Peanut Hamper is back, and while more Kether Donohue is a good thing, I’m not entirely sure that more Peanut Hamper is. At least not this way. Still, it’s something different, that’s for sure. My review of this week’s Star Trek: Lower Decks episode “A Mathematically Perfect Redemption.”

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On the one hand, the title of the episode is misleading, because this isn’t a redemption story. Peanut Hamper is not remotely redeemed and learns nothing. She was a self-centered twit in “No Small Parts,” and everything she goes through in this episode leads to her remaining a self-centered twit.

On the other hand, her redemption is about as convincing as being mathematically perfect as the name “Peanut Hamper” is.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “Hear All, Trust Nothing”

It’s the first ever Lower Decks/Deep Space Nine crossover as the Cerritos docks at DS9 to negotiate with the Karemma. Nana Visitor and Armin Shimerman are back as the voices of Kira and Quark, respectively, and I’m squeeing a lot. My review of “Heart All, Trust Nothing,” this week’s Star Trek: Lower Decks episode.

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They even manage to come up with a running gag for Kira and Shaxs that works. Kira and Shaxs know each other from their days in the Bajoran Resistance, because of course they do, and the running gag is each of them insisting that they owe the other one for saving their life, with a constant stream of reminding each other of life-saving events while fighting the Cardassians. (“That one didn’t count, we were both locked up!”) It’s still true to both characters, without diminishing their lives as terrorists or what they were fighting for, and still funny as hell.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “Reflections”

Rutherford has an odd confrontation with his younger self, while Mariner and Boimler represent Starfleet at a job fair. And much wackiness ensues, because, well, it’s Lower Decks. My review of this week’s episode, “Reflections.”

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When Tendi realizes that Rutherford isn’t himself, she calls security on him, and Shaxs eventually tracks him down and stuns him. The conflict between Rutherfords combines with the stun blast to cause Rutherford’s body to lapse into a coma. They confront each other in a mindscape where they decide to settle who gets to keep the body (with the other one basically going to oblivion) by each building a ship and then racing it in the Devron system, which involves going through the Romulan Neutral Zone. Young Rutherford builds himself a fancy-ass hot-rod ship called the Sampaguita, which looks like Anakin Skywalker’s pod in The Phantom Menace with Trekkish nacelles. Current Rutherford constructs a duplicate of the Delta Flyer, complete with the dorky racing outfits from “Live Fast and Prosper.” Young Rutherford dismisses the Flyer as a shuttlecraft with a paint job, while Current Rutherford dismisses the Sampaguita as a chair attached to an impulse engine.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “Room for Growth”

The B-plot is a really good story that grows nicely out of the way engineers in general and especially in Star Trek are better at tinkering than relaxing. The A-plot, unfortunately, is a tired first-season throwback that crowbars a 21st-century office plot into Starfleet, and it just doesn’t work. My review of “Room for Growth,” the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks.

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This plot is so much better than the A-plot, because it grows out of the Trek universe—and indeed, out of engineers in particular. Every engineer we’ve seen in the franchise—Scotty, La Forge, O’Brien, Barclay, Torres, Rom, Nog, Tucker, Stamets, Reno, Pog—has been like this, and so is every engineer I’ve ever met. I don’t know if it was a direct influence, but one of the best engineer portrayals in Trek history was how David Gerrold wrote Scotty in “The Trouble with Tribbles” on the original series. First there was Kirk seeing Scotty reading technical journals, and Kirk admonishing him to relax, and Scotty says, “I am relaxin’!” And then when Kirk confines him to quarters (after starting a bar brawl with some Klingons, which he only did because they insulted the Enterprisenot because they insulted Kirk), Scotty is thrilled, because he can catch up on his technical journals!

The B-plot of “Room for Growth” is a wonderful extension of that bit with Scotty. It works beautifully, because it grows out of character and out of the setting. It’s still a silly plotline, but it works in the Trek universe, as we’ve seen so many engineers like this over fifty-six years.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “Mining the Mind’s Mines”

An away mission goes horribly wrong — so what else is new? Plus Tendi starts her bridge officer training and we see ensigns from Cerritos and Carlsbad face their greatest desires — and fears! My review of the very alliteratively titled new episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, “Mining the Mind’s Mines.”

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One of my least favorite tropes of Trek, particularly some of its older tie-in fiction, is the tiresome notion that the Enterprise did all the cool stuff. No other ship had as many talented people on board, nobody else in Starfleet did the weird-ass missions, no other ship had as great a captain as Kirk, as fantastic a science officer as Spock, as talented an engineer as Scotty, as magnificent a pilot as Sulu, etc., etc. TNG didn’t really do anything to change that, just extended it to the twenty-fourth century. The debut of Deep Space Nine and further spinoffs finally succeeded in steering the franchise away from that nonsense, with Station Deep Space 9 as well as the starships DefiantVoyager, Discovery, Cerritos, Protostar, and La Sirena all encountering their share of weird-ass shit, too. So I resist the notion that the Cerritos crew is special. Indeed, the very notion contravenes what makes LD such a fun show in the first place—that this craziness is actually pretty mundane in Starfleet generally.

Star Trek: Lower Decks‘s “The Least Dangerous Game”

Boimler decides to start saying “yes” to things! Tendi has good advice! Ransom starts tormenting Mariner! Rutherford and Billups are nearly sacrificed to a volcano god by a telepathic baby and a sentient computer! More Kimolu and Matt! And J.G. Hertzler is back as Martok — kinda. My review of the latest Star Trek: Lower Decks episode, “The Least Dangerous Game.”

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They arrive in the nick of time, as the Dulanians, as ordered by their co-leaders, a telepathic baby and a sentient computer, are about to sacrifice the engineers to their volcano god. (Mariner’s comment: “Wow, psychic baby, evil computer, and a volcano? You guys never heard of overkill?”) But Ransom saves the day by ripping his shirt off and showing off his washboard abs to the Dulanians—who, as previously established, are wellness-based.

I’m enjoying the hell out of Ransom fulfilling the stereotype of the white-guy leading man action-hero-type, embodying the worst aspects of Kirk, Riker, Paris, and Archer and turning them up to eleven. Him saving the day with his mighty mighty pecs is just perfect.