I dunno. The teaser of this episode has the lower deckers all doing their best to make ship sounds with their mouths like a bunch of insane people (or, alternatively, children). The episode is absolutely committed to the bit. If you find it funny, more power to you, but it's bits like this that feel to me like this show is trying with all its might to "do comedy" but mostly comes off looking like it's "doing an alien impression of bad comedy." It's bewildering and I just don't "get" it. Probably because there's nothing to get.
It's things like that which make it really hard to recommend "Terminal Provocations," which is better than a lot of Lower Decks episodes but still not really what I can call "good." It's … something. It flirts with inspiration at times and it goes all-out at all times. This is perhaps the most frenetic, batshit crazy episode to date (which is saying something), and yet that tone somehow works in the episode's favor (where in a lot of others it doesn't) because there's just enough plot and danger here to sink our teeth into. Also some crazy comedy ideas that work way better than losers making ship noises.
This is an episode that has a piece of the ship's warp core transform into a rampaging monster because Fletcher, the lower deck's most incompetent officer, thought it would be a good idea to try to hook it up to his brain in an effort to make himself smarter. Instead, he inadvertently creates a rogue AI. (The very concept of Fletcher, whose incompetence makes Mariner and Boimler look downright responsible, makes me rethink my position that these two were as bad as I thought. Clearly, there is much worse. That Fletcher ultimately fails upward and is promoted for the convoluted end result of his awfulness is something that sadly rings true, and thus scores some humor points.) The crazy unleashing of the warp core component somehow ends up saving the ship from the unfolding inexplicable confrontation with the Drookmani (whose captain is voiced by the familiar J.G. Hertzler).
This is also an episode that has Badgey, a talking holodeck combadge assistant designed by Rutherford and apparently modeled on Clippy from Microsoft Office. Badgey is voiced by the instantly recognizable Jack McBrayer in a brilliant piece of casting that makes you think, yeah, absolutely no one else should've been the voice of Badgey. Badgey eventually turns into a homicidal maniac bent on chasing Rutherford (his "father") and Tendi through an ever-shifting holodeck program — with, of course, the safeties off — because he wants vengeance on the father he sees as abusive (and not totally without reason). This idea just keeps on building, until Badgey has Rutherford pinned to the ground in the snow, ready to kill him with an icicle. Ultimately Rutherford has to kill his own creation by tearfully snapping Badgey's neck. (But it's okay, because then he's reset and good as new, except maybe with some vague memory of what's happened...) It's a darkly funny end to a darkly funny continuous escalation, and I kind of have to applaud the writers' commitment.
All of this is clearly unhinged, and doesn't add up to much beyond throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall to see what sticks. But more sticks here than with many Lower Decks outings. I'd be curious what a page count of a Lower Decks script is compared to a traditional hour-long Trek episode. These episodes are absolutely packed to the brim with lunacy, delivered at breakneck speed. Sometimes that can be somewhat entertaining, if you can extract the fun from the exhaustion.
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