Star Trek: Lower Decks

"Crisis Point"

3.5 stars

Air date: 10/1/2020
Written by Ben Rodgers
Directed by Bob Suarez

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

After Mariner's latest transgression (violating the Prime Directive, no less, but for reasons many Trek fans might argue is a case for violating it), Freeman orders her to attend therapy. Under duress, she does, and hates it. But when she discovers Boimler has an elaborate and realistic holodeck program of the entire Cerritos crew — which uses real personal data that makes the characters behave exactly as their real-life counterparts would — she gets an idea.

Mariner repurposes the program into an interactive holodeck movie called Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta, which comes with a dramatic opening credit sequence and is replete with all the Hollywood blockbuster trappings. She casts herself as the villain, on a collision course with the Cerritos, captained by her mother, upon whom she wants to acquire a grand fantasy revenge.

"Crisis Point" is in the tradition of the best holodeck episodes from Voyager ("Living Witness," "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy," "Author, Author," "Worst Case Scenario") that used the holodeck to analyze the characters in alternate situations, often to great dramatic or comic effect. The key to those episodes, and this one, are the characters under the microscope.

This begins as an exuberant and elevated cinematic take on the Cerritos that's more heroic than this show usually affords this crew. (There's a lengthy, half-parody-half-serious sequence where Freeman boards her new ship, and it plays like a meld of those lengthy cruise ballets in Star Trek: TMP, and Star Trek III, right down to the James Horner-esque score.) Then there's epic, melodramatic villainy in the part of Mariner-as-Vindicta, who hams it up like she's in a B movie. Tendi and Rutherford are having fun too. (Boimler, not so much, because all he wants to use the program for — which he created, by the way — is to understand how Freeman reacts to certain situations so he can be as possibly prepared as he can for his performance evaluation.)

Underneath it all is a simmering and very twisted darkness of rage: Mariner's plan to confront her mother and, as the villain, murder her. As we get closer to that realization, we begin to wonder just how far into the heart of darkness Mariner will go, and how far we will follow. It gets a little uneasy at times, and that's to the episode's credit.

Also here, however, is a holodeck version of Mariner herself, which, crucially, is also based on Mariner's actual logs and personality. So in order to kill Freeman, real-Mariner-as-Vindicta has to go through holo-Mariner first. It's an especially clever twist of the plot, because we get an angry role-playing Mariner going up against a holodeck version that may very well represent her truer self, rather than the one so currently consumed by anger and fantasy. This leads to an epic fight between the two that is as elaborate as any hand-to-hand combat sequence on Trek. It remains compelling because there's a true character psychology at stake (even if it's seriocomic). Who better to tell you the truth than an AI version of yourself? Similarly, there are things that are said between Mariner and the holodeck version of her mother that allow truths to be aired that wouldn't happen in real life.

Back in the pilot, I called the animation "purely functional," but I have to amend that after seeing much of the rest of the season. The animation can actually be pretty dynamic and inventive — and there are so many different shots in these episodes because of their breakneck pace that I must give the animators credit just for pure effort if nothing else, because of the sheer volume they turn out.

This is easily the best episode of the season. While these characters are still cartoons with mostly cartoon depth (by the end, Mariner has the epiphany that "Therapy works!" — it just had to be in a holodeck), "Crisis Point" shows an affection and deeper understanding for Mariner that I hope can serve as a turning point for her (although it may not).

It also ends on a great gag, with the holodeck version of Freeman revealing to Boimler that Mariner is actually her daughter, but in a way that makes it pretty clear to Boimler that this is a secret he can't let slip that he knows back to the captain, especially in light of his upcoming performance evaluation. When Boimler panics and runs out of the room at that evaluation, Freeman notes how he didn't prepare. This is funny because the writers put in the time to set up the joke and perfectly pay it off — always a better strategy than random one-liners.

Previous episode: Veritas
Next episode: No Small Parts

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23 comments on this post

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Yanks
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 9:33am (UTC -5)
"Crisis Point" - S1, E9:

If you didn't thoroughly enjoy this episode I question why you are watching this series. Should this have been season one's last episode? ... with the STVI signature sign-off and all... My favorite episode to date! TMP ship fly-by with tears..., lens flares, ST movie theme music, and a ton of other great Star Trek references were all done really well. But what makes this episode for me is Mariner finally comes to terms with herself. Maybe we can finally get past this mother/daughter feud. Love how all our main characters get to bolden their characters. Great fun, I found myself cracking up on multiple occasions. No chocolate for the Captain!

4 stars from me.
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Cody B
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 11:38am (UTC -5)
WTF?! 20:00 into this latest episode, “Crisis Point”, the doctor is CLEARLY using a slur. I rewatched it six times that is not the four letter f word. My jaw actually dropped.
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Patrick D
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 11:50am (UTC -5)
As far as Lower Decks goes, this is a 4 star episode. The humor is clever and the characters are developing depth!I never thought I'd love a Trek show under the auspices of Alex Kurtzman, but here it is! I'm looking forward the season finale next week!
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HaveGun_WillRiker
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
The glamour shot going on like 40 seconds too long had me absolutely dying. Easily the best of the series so far IMO.

Also @Cody, pretty sure she says "Fucks," If you listen close you can here the "-cks" pretty distinctly.

Anyways, great emotional beats in this one. Great to see Mariner work through her shit.
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Galadriel
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 6:38pm (UTC -5)
#9 (“Crisis Point”) really hits the high notes. Its has the obligatory Easter Eggs and fan com­men­tary (“It's a movie. You can beam what­ever you want” is my fa­vourite), it has a lot of fun, car­toony over-the-top action, cha­rac­ter ana­lysis and even cha­rac­ter de­velop­ment. And most sur­pri­sing­ly, it achie­ves all this in­side the holo­deck (which doesn’t mal­func­tion this time). The epis­ode was out­stan­ding, and I don’t think a 25-min ani­mated show can do much better.

This was highly refreshing after 8 episodes that oscillated between “some­what amus­ing” and “some­what of­fen­sive”. #9 would have made a good fi­na­le, es­pe­cial­ly with all the auto­graphs (did you notice the i dot on ‘Boim­ler’? Well chosen). On the other hand, it also could have come ear­lier, to give all the holo­deck-ana­lysis time to dif­fu­se into the real life.

With only one episode left, I wonder about the timing. The first 8 epis­odes did not show much pro­gres­sion for Ma­ri­ner and her se­ve­re cha­rac­ter pro­blems, and none at all for Boim­ler. Now, pen­ulti­mate the the season, we get a deep ana­lysis for/of/by Ma­ri­ner, which gives rea­son to hope that she will find some heal­ing in the fi­na­le. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, this lea­ves no space to do any­thing with Boim­ler, who more and more seems even more trou­bled a per­so­na­li­ty than she (and he does not even rea­lize it). I see no hope for him, at least in this season.
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90s Rewatcher
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Lower Decks is fantastic. Strongly recommend for anyone who loves 90s Trek. Absolutely a blast.
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Marlboro
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 11:14am (UTC -5)
Star Trek fans will truly watch anything. Pathetic.
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Patrick D
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 2:53pm (UTC -5)
@Marlboro

I'm a massive Star Trek fan. I couldn't finish Star Trek: Enterprise, I despise the JJ Abrams Star Trek movies, and I can't abide Star Trek: Discovery or Star Trek: Picard, but I really dig Star Trek: Lower Decks.

How do I fit into your formulae?
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Flipsider
Sat, Oct 3, 2020, 6:44pm (UTC -5)
How about we just have the opinions that we have, and that's it? Is that alright?
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Pere
Sun, Oct 4, 2020, 5:49am (UTC -5)
The first time I watched, I thought T'ana's line was "Godspeed, ya crazy freaks," unbleeped. Which made more sense.
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PM
Sun, Oct 4, 2020, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
I just dont get those who hate most Star Trek post-1997

Insurrection and 1/3 of Voyager and Enterprise were stinkers and Beyond bored me but the rest has been amazing.

Maybe the common denominator is people who're at least a little flexible like most Trek but those who aren't are the ones stuck in the 90s (and complaining about everything after that period instead of just watching it or not watching)

Latest Lower Decks (Season 1, Ep 9) is absolutely a hoot and worth a watch IF ONLY for the 80s/90s Trek movie send-ups https://www.denofgeek.com/tv/star-trek-lower-decks-episode-9-review-crisis-point/ though in my opinion the episode transcends what it's parodying as an homage and is great on it's own merits.

Ironically - and, perhaps, impressively - this 26 min cartoon episode is the grandest Star Trek has been in some time (between the extended-starship-beauty-shots, and epic finales) and for me, that's saying a lot.

Did anyone else think the ship's counsellor was the actor who played Dr Phlox in Enterprise?
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Booming
Mon, Oct 5, 2020, 1:20am (UTC -5)
@PM (or whatever)
"I just dont get those who hate most Star Trek post-1997"
You do realize that by clicking on your name one can see your other posts, don't you?

What can we find there? Sentences like these:
"CBS' management of the Trek Franchise is like someone secretly cryfarting through a stage production of the entirety of Season 5 of Happy Days. Just hand the series over to someone else if you don't care, guys."

I will now facepalm for an hour.
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Cody B
Mon, Oct 5, 2020, 2:47am (UTC -5)
@Pere

I listened to it over and over. She IS NOT saying the four letter F word. Freaks would not be bleeped. It’s a really bizarre thing in context of the scene. It really should have been changed. I can tell you I was looking at my phone when that line was said and my jaw dropped and I looked up at the screen like did I just hear that? Played it again multiple times. Yeah.
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Tommy D.
Mon, Oct 5, 2020, 3:12am (UTC -5)
I heard "Godspeed you crazy f*cks". Listened with headphones multiple times.

https://twitter.com/MikeMcMahanTM/status/1312826774330380288
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Yanks
Mon, Oct 5, 2020, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
The "F" word is bleeped out. I just went back and watched it.
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M
Wed, Oct 7, 2020, 11:26am (UTC -5)
I agree that the doctor probably said a slur, but we haven’t ever seen her in a good mood. And she was a computer-generated character based upon her “private” logs, so it’s possible that she is secretly homophobic.

I think it’s poking fun at the long tradition of ship doctors being brusque, yet lovable. And, honestly, Bones always gave off a vibe of casual homophobia to me.

I guess the LD season finale is tomorrow. Overall, I would say that the strongest episodes so far are Much Ado About Boimler and Crisis Point.

I think this show is really walking a fine line. Because, in the future, if class distinctions and castes are completely abolished, then what divides the senior officers from the junior officers? Picard Stewart would probably say, “they’re just not as civilized as us.”

It would be really easy for one wrong line in this show to create the impression that lower deck folk are all happy, lazy, carefree. And sometimes Mariner does act like that, but it’s shown in almost every episode that it’s just a facade and she has issues.

Each episode contains something that makes you say, “ok, I can see why they’re not a senior officer,” but it’s generally something that makes sense. For example, Tendi is smart enough to genetically engineer a dog, but she’s also suuuuuuuuuuuuuuper naive. But the strength of the show is that you’re usually not even thinking about junior vs senior differences unless it’s pointed out, you’re just enjoying the adventures of the characters.

Overall I do think it’s a worthy addition to the Trek franchise, and there are things from this show I wish would be in other Trek series.

For example, they never name the species of the alien or associate their species with personality traits. When a Tellarite blows up at them, it’s just, “oh, he’s just an angry fellow,” not, “tellalarites are angry fellows.” They don’t even say the word tellalarite, leaving it up to the fan to fill in the blanks.
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Booming
Wed, Oct 7, 2020, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
"Overall I do think it’s a worthy addition to the Trek franchise, and there are things from this show I wish would be in other Trek series."
No, it is not. The very scene that is discussed is a perfect example, which is not homophobic by the way, the guy who makes the show posted an unbleeped version and it is not fags. It is silly to even point this out but STARFLEET OFFICERS don't talk like that. Goodspeed, you crazy fucks (to a gay couple). I cringe watching it. How can people see this as star trek. And now I lie and wait for the great argument that star trek is anything now, you crazy fucks.
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Virtual Machine
Wed, Oct 7, 2020, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
Is Vindictia's outfit supposed to be a tattered and grimy version of Queen Emeraldas's, or am I giving them too much credit?
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B
Wed, Oct 7, 2020, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
Jesus Christ the comment section is a mess, I don’t blame Jammer for not wanting to engage with this crap lmao
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Booming
Thu, Oct 8, 2020, 2:49am (UTC -5)
Sure, Jammer made the decision to not cover this show before this comment section even existed but apart from that, good point.
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HaveGun_WillRiker
Thu, Oct 8, 2020, 10:45am (UTC -5)
"No, it is not. The very scene that is discussed is a perfect example, which is not homophobic by the way, the guy who makes the show posted an unbleeped version and it is not fags. It is silly to even point this out but STARFLEET OFFICERS don't talk like that. "

You understand that scene was a simulation, right? No one actually said that. Did you watch the episode?
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PM
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 2:30am (UTC -5)
@Booming


RE

"@PM (or whatever)
"I just dont get those who hate most Star Trek post-1997"
You do realize that by clicking on your name one can see your other posts, don't you?

What can we find there? Sentences like these:
"CBS' management of the Trek Franchise is like someone secretly cryfarting through a stage production of the entirety of Season 5 of Happy Days. Just hand the series over to someone else if you don't care, guys."

I will now facepalm for an hour."

You might want to learn how to work the Google on the Internet...Whoever said "CBS' management of the Trek Franchise is like someone secretly cryfarting through a stage production of the entirety of Season 5 of Happy Days. Just hand the series over to someone else if you don't care, guys." was definitely not me.

Best of luck!
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Booming
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 4:36am (UTC -5)
@PM/MidshipmanNorris/an agent! (Matrix reference)
How would using google help? Somebody else used the same nick and apparently had different opinions. Most people here have one nick, I assume. So I thought that would be true for you, too. But if you actually didn't made those other comments then I retract 55min of my facepalm.

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