The titular character of "Kayshon, His Eyes Open" is the first Tamarian in Starfleet (see TNG's "Darmok"), who has been posted on the Cerritos as the new security chief. He doesn't always speak in metaphors; just sometimes. But Kayshon and the title are red herrings, because they have relatively little to do with the episode, especially after Kayshon is transformed into a stuffed toy as a result of an energy beam aboard the museum-like ship of a dead curator, whose collection the Cerritos is helping catalog. (Talk about your low-priority missions.)
"Kayshon" is a notable step up from the season's premiere episode, but I still found it lacking ... something. This is an action-centric episode that's light on solid jokes and heavy on attacks by armies of flying Roombas. Don't get me wrong; it's perfectly okay and I grinned a number of times — but this is not something that I feel like I should be going out of my way for.
The main plot appears to be a good-natured but shallow jab at nerds who collect a lot of toys. The alien charged with selling off this collection, for whom the Cerritos is helping salvage all this stuff, is rude and ungrateful to the point of being insufferable, such that, yes, we enjoy it when he gets buried under the rubble of his own selfish arrogance.
Meanwhile, Mariner finds herself adjusting to the new guy in the group, Ensign Manhaver (Marcus Henderson), leading to an escalating feud/frenemy competition that finally shows us what a sonic shower actually looks like. This guy is serious about his job. (But so was Boimler, so where's the clever twist?)
Speaking of Boimler, we get to see his intense adventures aboard the Titan. The Titan crew are a bunch of action-craving badasses who consider the Enterprise-D a comfy hotel. The Riker aboard this ship always has a cocky grin on his face. This plays as a satire on the idea of Riker as he has been filtered through the pop-culture lens for decades, more than on the actual Riker himself. This is an example of the sort of franchise self-awareness I can support. Jonathan Frakes is game as always.
The battles pit the Titan against the Pakleds. Are the Pakleds going to be this series' primary villain? That somehow seems appropriate, although I'm not sure what I think of it yet. In a nice absurdist touch, the Pakleds try to break down a door by ramming — not cutting — it with a saw. We are smart, indeed.
Midway through the episode Boimler makes an impassioned and deeply meta speech about an alternative Starfleet way where the crew members exist as down-to-earth human beings rather than kick-ass action heroes. It's a speech in the middle of an episode that largely demonstrates the opposite. This is Irony underlined.
The best comedy idea in the episode is when Boimler gets cloned by a transporter mishap which is a direct callback to "Second Chances." It allows Boimler to keep his Titan promotion and go back to the Cerritos. It's a clever loophole to the expectedly inevitable Reset Button. Sadly, this is a brief comic idea that barely gets the chance to launch before the show ends. For my money, it should've been the whole episode. It seems like Boimler vs. Boimler would have provided more opportunities to mine comic gold than the half-hearted action sequences we get.
It remains to be seen if Lower Decks can achieve the status of a "hangout comedy," where simply hanging out with the characters is the point. There are indications of that here, but the show isn't there yet. The plot is an exercise of not enough and too much: Not enough to care about, but too much to stay out of the way.
Meanwhile, Boimler goes deep on life aboard the Titan: "It was a bunch of complex characters thrown into heavily serialized battles, which always ended in mind-blowing twists that made me question the basic tenets of my reality." There's no shortage of meta-commentary to unpack there, but it begs the question: Where does Lower Decks truly fit into the fray? It seems this show sees itself as the torch bearer for traditional Trek amid the modern iterations. I suppose time will tell.
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