Star Trek: Lower Decks
Air date: 8/13/2020
Written by Chris Kula
Directed by Kim Arndt
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Boimler is assigned to accompany a Klingon general to a planet-side conference, and Mariner tags along because reasons. Hijinks ensue when the drunken Klingon makes off with their shuttle and leaves the two stranded in the city's Klingon district to get into mischief and bar fights and so forth. Meanwhile, Rutherford decides to leave his engineering post and cycle through a bunch of other jobs aboard the ship in order to ... free himself from a shift so he can hang out with Tendi, I think?
"Envoys" is marginally less madcap than the premiere, but only marginally. The characters are still too exaggerated, too loud, and too generally obnoxious, particularly in the Mariner/Boimler scenes. (Mariner's exuberance over the shuttle's blast shield, which she turns into an annoying song, is especially embarrassing, as is her drunken bro-down with the Klingon; better are the in-jokes that don't insist upon themselves, like Mariner aptly pointing out how all Klingon names have needless apostrophes. Not hilarious, but astute.)
These scenes are too transparent in the way they show Mariner's effortless ability to improvise Adventure Things while following no rules, while the officious Boimler observes all the fine print only to find all his best efforts thwarted. (I understand this is a cartoon, but Boimler's breakdown where he cries buckets of tears and announces his intention to resign over his perceived failures is the type of caricatured excess that does this show no favors.) This show really needs to slow down and stop constantly shouting at us. Volume doesn't equal funny.
The bit with the Ferengi, hired by Mariner to make Boimler feel better about himself, is an okay example of Mariner trying to be a friend in her convoluted way — but the way Boimler then uses it to publicly ridicule Mariner is, again, doing the characters no favors. (Granted, Mariner deserves to take just as she gives, but it might be better if there wasn't so much tomfoolery involving everyone in general.)
Rutherford's subplot fares considerably better because it observes the rules of animated comedy without feeling the need to pummel us with obnoxiously over-the-top behavior in the process. He bounces from engineering to command to medical to security and finds extreme failure in some (command, medical), success in another (security), but mostly just wants to go back to his engineering job where he can crawl through Jeffries tubes.
All of these scenes have setups and payoffs that are constructed logically and adequately, and the plot overall has a throughline for the character, which brings him full circle back to the start where he actually wants to be. Sure, it's an obvious arc that's not especially hilarious, and I don't understand how an ensign can simply cycle from job to job and pick what he wants to do on a ship that presumably would give crew members set assignments — but whatever; it at least exists in a somewhat grounded comic reality that makes some sort of sense. Baby steps.
Previous episode: Second Contact
Next episode: Temporal Edict
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57 comments on this post
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 4:37am (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 7:13am (UTC -5)
1. They slowed the show down considerably. Aside from a few scenes, the episode's pacing does not feel that different from the average Trek episode.
2. There were coherent character arcs in both the A plot and the B plot this week. Not only that, but they both actually shared a common theme - the sacrifices people will make for the sake of their friends.
3. There were notably less attempts to make jokes. I only really laughed at one thing this week - the "Janeway protocol" - but it was way, way funnier than anything in the first episode. Aside from that though the episode was lighthearted but not trying to make us bust a gut. Which was fine, because it had heart in spades.
I'd also say the "memberberries" this time around are more visual than dropped in exposition, which would probably make the show a bit less annoying to people who hate that stuff.
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 9:26am (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 10:39am (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this one more than the last one.
Star Trek funny is better when they aren't trying to be funny.
Is more "organic" the right term?
Well done here.
Onward and upward!!
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 11:57am (UTC -5)
I also like the way the cyborg character (Rutherford?) was supported by all the different department heads. Very Trekkian. Some good stuff with a Ferengi, and hints of a romance, in the last act too.
But the characters all still seem annoying to me, all relentlessly manic, wacky and "wannabe cool". I also agree with Karl, in that the show works best when its not trying to be funny; it's jokes are pretty lame and obvious. In this episode, only the "easy-mode simulation" made me laugh.
The show also seems to be aiming for a very odd demographic.
With "RiCK AND MORTY" or "SOUTH PARK", you never mistake the scripts for "children's TV". The jokes and scripts are adult, and made funnier by the self-consciously childish aesthetic. "LOWER DECKS'", though, gives you plots sited for maybe 7 to 12 year olds, but with little bursts of 14-16 year old humor (shock violence, sex jokes etc) sprinkled about. It's a weird, almost pointless zone the show occupies. Too esoteric for little kids, or non-Trek fans, and not edgy and funny enough for teens and adults.
Apparently there's going to be a new Trek cartoon - "ST: Prodigy" - aimed for 8 year olds and under. Kurtzman seems to be methodically ticking boxes, "Prodigy" for babies, "Lower Decks" for young teens, "Disco" for action junkies and "Picard" for Berman-Trek fans.
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
First I thought you were making a joke about ST: Prodigy.
This is amazing.
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
The fan service was adorable and genuinely funny (I particularly smiled at the Vendian in the Andorian bar). I laughed at most jokes, because they were either in-jokes for fans (err, my weakness) or arose from the characters. Fortunately, most of the slapstick elements in episode one are gone.
However, thy hyperactivity remains; I watched the video at 75% speed and still considered some of the dialogues too fast, while only a few had become unnaturally slow. I wonder what they snort in the production team, or maybe I am a Pakled by heart?
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
I see the *constant* references to Trek lore as a running meta-joke, more so than the desperate attempt to show cred that some interpreted at first. I kind of loved the throwaway line from the captain about needing something "cool" to say when going to warp.
The plot-pace of this second ep was 'slower' in the A story, but then in overdrive for the B. The pace itself is a big part of the joke. Rutherford dresses for, trains in, and then moves on from several new careers in the time of Boimler and Mariner's hours on the planet? And everybody just cheers this ridiculous breakneck self-actualization journey? Come on, that's funny.
I was hoping they would leave Mariner's self-deprecating sacrifice for Boimler as an inference from what we (already!) know of her, and the look as she leaves the bar, but they threw in the explicit reveal. So I guess it's not *that* sly.
Anyway, FWIW, I've been watching Trek long enough to have seen everything from Motion Picture onward in first release, and I legitimately enjoyed this for what it is.
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 5:44pm (UTC -5)
Mariner swallowing her pride to help Boimler grow his confidence a bit is probably the most adult thing she's done so far. I don't mean that negatively, more in that she's tries to come off as such a badass that her actually trying to help out and mentor a colleague instead of blast him when it could serve her really speaks numbers.
Good episode, enjoyed it a lot.
Also, I wonder if Jammer would ever be so inclined to post episode threads, just for discussion's sake. He doesn't need to review it but it does get kind of annoying to scroll down the the bottom of an extremely long page to see what people thought of the new episode.
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
The general idea that Mariner is so bad ass but superior to Boimler in every situation is going to get pretty tiresome. It had already gotten that way during this episode — does everything have to leave no shades of grey like Boimler screwing every thing up despite his diligent training? I don’t think this is good parody.
I will say I chuckled at some of the humour like the teaser where an entity boards the ship and Mariner makes it produce a tricorder etc. The writers screwed up with the “the man wants hot worms” for Klingon gagh — should be “live worms”.
I have massive issues with STLD and am disappointed it is now a part of the Star Trek franchise — or that Star Trek has gone in this direction. But what interests me is what the show will parody and what “name-dropping” it will do. I am curious if it comes up with just an iota of an intelligent narrative about a given race or planet or event. Like I would love to see a parody of Kolrami’s race (Roy Brocksmith was a blast in this role). I just don't see it lasting for multiple seasons with this schtick.
I guess I would prefer "Envoys" over "Second Contact" -- just wasn't as over the top but it's still got a blistering pace, characters talking too fast. I can see how some folks can enjoy it but can't see how it can be considered good TV when looked at critically -- even as a comedy/parody.
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 8:56pm (UTC -5)
Lol what do you mean Marlboro? Didn’t care for episode 2? Me either. Atleast it’s a step in a better direction though. At the very best Lowest Drecks will be passably decent absolute filler to string subscribers through until the next season of CBS All Access’ live action Trek. And they seem to be cooking up plenty. Heard that Section 31 show got cancelled Atleast. Thank God.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 12:35am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 1:24am (UTC -5)
Write a one sentence review for every episode.
Now is the winter of our discontent!
A man can die but once!
If you prick us do we not bleed?!
and so on.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 3:47am (UTC -5)
"You created this site and you need to keep doing its mission."
This isn't the mission Jammer signed up for, though.
He signed to review a franchise he enjoys, with episodes coming out at a sane pace and a nice breather between seasons.
He has zero interest in Lower Decks, and it is clear that "reviewing all Trek" today means committing to doing reviews all year round. Now there's Lower Decks. Discovery Season 3 starts in October. Then ST:Prodigy, Picard S3, The Pike Show, The Section 31 Show...
Saying that Jammer somehow has an "obligation" to commit to such a mammoth project is downright crazy. Doubly so, when he has zero interest in half of this stuff.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 9:20am (UTC -5)
Actually, Jammer took on a fairly daunting task right from the beginning: filing reviews of the hundreds of episodes of Trek already produced while also doing reviews of all the new episodes moving forward. It was a huge job and it took a while, but he did it. So why quit now?
And all he has to is add Lower Decks, and yes the other shows when they come out, to the list of series to click on at the top of the main page. Then, if you are right that he has zero interest in the show (And maybe the future ones), or wants to make some kind of editorial statement about there being too much Trek or something, he can take Booming’s suggestion above and write extremely short reviews, ones that are more overview than opinion (though I think one sentence would be a bit miserly, lol).
This will at least let the readers still have their areas for each individual episode for their own comments.
Hey, once again, my position is actually a compliment: this is a great site for the fans and should remain so. And, to be snarky for a sec, I completely don’t understand that the advent of a period when we’ll be getting all kinds of Trek is in any way a bad thing. And it can be easily manageable to keep covering all that Trek on this great site.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 10:16am (UTC -5)
"So why quit now?"
Because he doesn't want to do it.
That's all the reason he needs. It's not like he owes us anything.
I'm also not quite sure why anybody would want Jammer to grudgingly review a show he doesn't even want to watch, out of some sense of obligation.
"This will at least let the readers still have their areas for each individual episode for their own comments."
You can ask him (there's a contact form) if he is willing to set up such pages for fan discussions. Maybe he'll agree.
Best of all: He doesn't need to either watch or review the show to do that.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 10:42am (UTC -5)
As to Jammer not reviewing it, it's his blog and his life. He kept this thread open as a courtesy, and that's more than he really had to do. He owes us nothing.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 11:27am (UTC -5)
"Now there's Lower Decks. Discovery Season 3 starts in October. Then ST:Prodigy, Picard S3, The Pike Show, The Section 31 Show... "
Picard Season 3? Did we enter a time vortex sometime in the last few months, or a parallel dimension where Season 2 never exists? Or maybe Data removed all instances of the number 2 when I wasn't looking, to stop the loop! Or course!
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 11:58am (UTC -5)
Nah. I think it was a typo.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Wait. Let me get this straight. Windows 9 was never released by Microsoft...because it was somehow WORSE than Windows 10? Yikes.
No, my guess is that CBS will release season 3 first, and then make season 2 to explain any of the story problems from season 3 that were never explained. It'll be Star Trek: Picard's Memento.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 1:14pm (UTC -5)
That would require him to watch the episodes. I don't think he has interest in a kid's show. Most here watching it seem to be doing it as a kind of weird anthropological study.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
This and the fact that no international distribuitor was announced hints at the lack of interest for new Trek, in my layman opinion. Outside our little bubble here, few people even know about these new shows. And if there isn't a consensus even among the fans, then really, are these shows making any money at all? I get that "netflix paid" and "amazon paid", but they might not be so willing to pay more if the viewership numbers aren't good, as the fact that Netflix passed on Picard would suggest.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 3:45pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
They haven't worked out the international distribution plan to show it yet.
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 5:01pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 5:26pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 2:57am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 4:35am (UTC -5)
I'm sure there's plenty of PR and spin to every show on every network, but the idea that our current situation with the pandemic may have altered some of the plans in regards to premier dates and distribution deals is certainly plausible and not necessarily indicative of productivity or success or a lack thereof.
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 5:01am (UTC -5)
Negative bragging rights.
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 10:05am (UTC -5)
Manic, loud, annoying, unrealistic, the character design is ugly. Half these characters should have already been court-martialed out of Starfleet (if they even made it though the Academy).
I think my biggest pet peeve is watching characters routinely break professional protocol and violate Starfleet rules. Ensign Mariner is just the worst ... her racism isn't funny or endearing and her Mary Sue I-know-best attitude is frustrating beyond belief. And why she's serving under her own family member is beyond me.
Also, is there a reason every male is written to be an oaf or ineffectual? Who exactly is the target audience for this?
I could go on and on, but I genuinely tried to have an open mind. Within 2 minutes, I was cringing and massaging my temples.
Yeah, I think I may dislike this more than Picard or STD. On the bright side, Icheb's murder isn't my least favorite Trek moment anymore.... so that's something.
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Wouldn't the current situation make it MORE likely the show should be picked up for distribution? It's not like there's anything currently being filmed and these streaming services need to have new content to keep their subscribers content. It would seem to me that limited competition would make a pickup all the more likely, not less.
CBS wants a streaming service to foot the bill for production of this series and THAT'S why it hasn't been distributed. No service thinks this show is worth the cost.
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
Only June? Sheesh, this pandemic has me in a time warp. "Going by the book, minutes would seem like hours, hours would seem like days..." and Days would seem like months apparently.
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 7:31pm (UTC -5)
June definitely feels like a longer time ago than it actually is.
Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 3:52am (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 10:03am (UTC -5)
I humbly accept the title.
@William B et al.
I have not one but two ex-boyfriends who wouldn't watch Trek with me unless it was Voyager. I would say 80% of this is because of Kate Mulgrew. I might take a deeper dive at another time, but I'd say that the combination of the Berman-era hyper, borderline toxic masculine writing coupled with a cast whose primary characters were two extremely strong women and one flamboyant, opera-lover leant the show and unintended queerness.
DS9 actually has more positive representation in the text, and of course by the Kurzman era, we have actual representation (not something I'm prepared to lavish praise over since there's nothing brave about it in 2020). But Voyager has a decidedly gay aesthetic.
Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
The key difference between Mariner and Rick is that, well, Rick is funny. His humor is based on caustic wit, constantly poking holes in the other characters as well as sentiments, trends and attitudes from modern day. Mariner's humor is based mostly on using modern-day slang in Star Trek. Rather than criticizing, she __exemplifies__ the sentiments, trends and attitudes of the modern day in a play for """relatability""". She's basically Floe from the Progressive ads but more aggro.
Bolmer, the Starfleet ensign who actually tries to act like a member of Starfleet, is Jerry. And just like Rick's stepson, Bolmer is an awkward, bumbling idiot who is not nearly as smart as he thinks and whose motivations are often more selfish than well-meaning. For example, correct me if I'm wrong but Bolmer's big moment in this episode is him gloating about being "right" after projecting racial stereotypes? I understand that this was all part of Mariner's brilliant plan and the Ferengi was playing into said stereotypes so that... Uh .. Bolmer could feel good about himself...? Is there an anti-racism message in there somewhere? Because all I saw was a group of Starfleet crew hooting and laughing over racial stereotypes. And Bolmer is supposed to be the most Starfleet of the cast! Seems to me he's on the same level as the frat guys bro-ing it up on the bridge. I'm not saying "that's not Trek"; I'm saying that is the polar opposite of Trek.
Considering Mike McMahan worked on R&M it's not surprising they share the same art style or even the same general structure. But R&M has wit, imagination and vision; after the first season fans were clamoring for more on Rick's backstory and there was an expectation of grand character arcs and season-spanning conflicts with recurring villains. Instead the show has devoted multiple episodes to taking a huge dump all over those concepts, subverting people's expectations while still maintaining the levels of quality humor, imagination and high-concept sci-fi. It certainly never needed to resort to obnoxious pandering will-they-won't-they gimmicks, but this is Kurtzman Trek and you gotta have that schmaltz.
So far Lower Decks is a Trek show that thinks it's too cool and funny for Trek. Haven't you heard? It's 2020 bro! Starfleet is lame and ethics make you boring. Like, literally.
Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
But yeah, it's hardly Trek in spirit. Though, from the few episodes of R&M I saw I didn't see any major lessons from Rick's manipulations either.
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 1:36am (UTC -5)
And Lower Decks wants to be a comedy, so there will probably be less of an emphasis on themes of morality and ethical dilemmas. And that's fine! But when a major plot point of a Star Trek episode (even a comedy Trek) is one character making another character feel good about themselves by validating their racism... I think that's kinda fucked up.
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 2:00am (UTC -5)
Anyway my point was.. Rick and Morty is kind of shit, even as a comedy (I find Rick even less funny than Mariner) and this is too. No big deal.
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 10:15am (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
TAS works good as a radio play. The "Yesteryear" episode by DC Fontana is pretty good too. The fan series ST: Continues is also worth checking out if you're starved for TOS; it's better than nu-Trek IMO.
SenSors said: "Mariner is essentially Diet Rick. Like the titular mad scientist from that show, Mariner is cynical, manipulative and effortlessly good at everything. "
Yeah, Mariner is blatantly Rick in a starfleet uniform and with the nihilism/sociopathy toned down. But Rick's personality - super genius, mad, 200 steps ahead of you, cynical, burnt-out, rude...a kind of evil Dr Who - just seems incoherent when placed in a young Federation officer like Mariner.
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 5:02pm (UTC -5)
Mmmm I dunno man, that's not what was happening in the scene. Bolmer wasn't identifying and classifying organisms based on biological characteristics, he was ascribing negative behavioral qualities to an individual based on that individual's race. Seems like a pretty cut-and-dried example of racism to me, but YMMV.
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
This show takes a lot of cues from TNG, and I think its poking fun at its problematic portrayal of the Ferengi, and then dismissing that portrayal at the end when Mariner contacts the Ferengi, who is a friend. I just took the bar scene as Boimler having his day, but we as the audience know he still has lot to learn outside of his by the book mentality.
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 7:53pm (UTC -5)
For all my criticisms I find this show to to be somewhat less offensive than STD and STP with all their retconning and awful choices for established characters. I suppose there's still time to bring in Jonathan Frakes to have Riker doing a kegstand on the bridge, but we'll see.
Q would be perfect for this show.
Tue, Aug 18, 2020, 8:14pm (UTC -5)
You know you'd at least chuckle at that.
I think the show has some charm, though the comedy has not really resonated with me for the most part. I think I actually enjoy being back in the look of TNG the most, which I didn't really expect.
And I agree, Q would be perfect. But this feels like a Wesley Crusher cameo coming.
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 8:53am (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 20, 2020, 1:37am (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 9, 2021, 8:27am (UTC -5)
Anyway, I agree that this was a slight improvement over what was probably the worst Trek pilot in history. Can we even compare this show to other Trek shows? But even comparing this show to other sitcoms doesn't put it in a better light (although many great sitcoms, like Seinfeld and Parks & Rec, took a season or two to find their footing).
Boimler and Mariner are still annoying as hell, but Rutherford and Tendi were much more toned down here, which is better. I laughed exactly once (which is once more than during the pilot), when the computer said "Ship destroyed. Casualties 105%."
Sat, Feb 25, 2023, 2:19am (UTC -5)
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