I'm noticing a pattern: I get a lot more mileage out of Lower Decks' darker comic impulses (more so than the abundant Easter eggs like the opening visit here to deal with Landru taking over civilization again). In an early scene of "No Small Parts," the brand-new USS Solvang is on a routine exploration mission. Its captain says she wants to keep the new ship pristine for as long as possible, and notes the plastic wrap still on her armchair monitor pad. Moments later the ship is attacked and completely destroyed. Stakes raised: check. Ironically telegraphed sick joke: check. I'm game.
The cat is out of the bag immediately about Mariner being Freeman's daughter, due to Boimler's inadvertent broadcast. This allows some new dynamics and comedy to play out (mostly involving bribes and sycophancy directed at Mariner to curry favor with her mother), which perhaps justifies why Mariner and Freeman kept this secret in the first place. Meanwhile, Tendi has an exocomp shadowing her as a new crew member, but it can't do a lot of things because it doesn't have arms. (I guess things progressed for the exocomps after "The Quality of Life.")
But soon it's down to business when the Cerritos answers the Solvang's distress call and arrives to find the ship destroyed and the attackers to be the … Pakleds? Look, the Pakleds were never one of the great inventions when it came to Star Trek aliens, but I guess there's a certain logic to using them again in a cartoon show, since they were already cartoons on TNG. Their ambush leaves the Cerritos crippled and unable to escape (one of the nacelles is pulled off), forcing the crew to consider more desperate options.
"No Small Parts" is an action-heavy outing that plays more like a traditional Star Trek episode, except much faster paced and with the requisite Lower Decks jokes. As such, it's a fun ride, nothing especially fantastic, but pretty good. Befitting a season finale, the plotting is much bigger: There are callbacks (including the use of Badgey to help save the day in an unlikely scenario); characters who face new career options (Boimler may be getting promoted off the ship); a notable regular character death (the sacrifice of Lt. Shaxs); a major potential change to another character (Rutherford loses his implant and all the memories associated with it, including his friendship with Tendi); and some stunt casting and franchise crossover (Captain Riker and Commander Troi warp in with the USS Titan to save the day; Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis continue to expand their list of guest roles on Trek shows).
In the end, the day is saved, the bad guys are defeated, the Cerritos is repaired, and life goes on. Boimler is promoted to lieutenant J.G. and posted to the Titan, raising the question of how that will work next season. Tendi and Rutherford take solace in starting their friendship all over again. Riker strolls into the room and says, "I'm sorry I'm late. I was watching the first Enterprise on the holodeck. You know, Archer and those guys? What a story. Those guys had a long road, getting from there to here." It's the groan line of all groan lines, referencing two of Enterprise's worst-ever-received things in one breath. But after the last couple episodes Lower Decks closed out with, I'll allow it.
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