While investigating a dead relic generation ship, Mariner offends another Starfleet captain during a briefing by yawning loudly and being generally disrespectful, leading Freeman to go on a renewed effort to get Mariner to either change her behavior or resign from Starfleet. When it becomes clear Mariner has no intention to do either, Freeman ups the ante by first assigning Mariner to the worst lowly grunt work, and, when that doesn't work, promotes her to lieutenant and makes her a member of the senior staff.
"Moist Vessel" is the first episode of Lower Decks that I actually laughed at. Mariner is a jerk, and the way she skates by doing the bare minimum while pissing everyone off is something that couldn't continue to go on unaddressed. Knocking her down a peg and crushing her spirit prove to be both satisfying and intriguing, because we get to see a different, more grounded side of the character. She's beaten down into a sort of silenced submission by being forced to take on real responsibilities, play poker with the senior crew, and attend conferences where they talk about new furniture. Naturally, these are all the things Boimler ever wanted, so he's insanely jealous.
Meanwhile, Tendi tries to connect with a fellow crew member, Lt. O'Connor, who is on a spiritual mission to "ascend" to a new plane of existence. (The Traveler is explicitly mentioned as one example of what O'Connor hopes to achieve.) This also works as comedy with Tendi initially embarrassing herself by inadvertently trampling O'Connor's spiritual enclave. Later, there's a great payoff when it turns out O'Connor actually does reach ascension just when we thought he was all self-aggrandizement and hot air. In a darkly comic twist, we see that ascending to something beyond your mortal coil is considerably less pleasant and enlightening than it might've been cracked up to be — and indeed is probably not much different than being violently killed (provided you believe in an afterlife). The absurdity with the koala is a nice bizarro touch. Finally, this show reveals some creatively weird impulses.
This episode also works better as an adventure when the sci-fi properties of the generation vessel are turned loose on the Cerritos and begin terraforming the ship and endangering the crew. This is the highest-stakes episode of this series so far, with some imaginative animation, and the increased jeopardy actually manages to make things more engaging and seem like it's about something — especially when Mariner and her mother are forced to go trudging through the transformed ship together and deal with each other. This isn't anything groundbreaking, but it works as comedy and sci-fi adventure and is the first episode of this series I can recommend.
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