Star Trek: Lower Decks

"Wej Duj"

3.5 stars

Air date: 10/7/2021
Written by Kathryn Lyn
Directed by Bob Suarez

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Well, imagine that. Right after I expressed my disappointment with the bulk of this season, Lower Decks went and turned itself around and put itself on a multi-episode roll. Now we have "wej Duj," the best episode of the second season so far, and one that works because it makes the effort to tell a solid story, link multiple threads together, expand the series' scope, and find a good deal of humor without needing to do a lot of "jokes."

This is like the "Lower Decks" of Lower Decks, in that it finds novelty in an off-format presentation, featuring a bunch of characters we've never met before. The episode is seen from the point of view of not just the Cerritos Lower Decks, but also the Lower Decks on a Klingon Bird of Prey and a Vulcan science vessel. That these three strands are on a collision course probably goes without saying, but one of the pleasures of this episode is seeing these vastly different takes on low-ranking officers and seeing how all their stories inevitably converge.

The Klingon ship features TNG-era Klingons doing TNG-era Klingon things. Low-ranking officers like Ma'ah are relegated to ignominious duties like disposing of the bodies of those who challenge Captain Dorg (and fail), and monitoring his targ's bowel movements. Like everyone everywhere, these peons just want to be respected and valued, while dreaming of glories larger than what they currently have. Their dreams and glories just have a Klingon bent.

Similarly, on the Vulcan ship, we have an officer named T'Lyn (named after the episode's writer, I presume?), who is too impulsive and emotional for her peers' and superiors' tastes. She has developed experimental technology she wants to test. She wants to follow the mysterious readings coming from the nearby sector of space. She wants to … not go through the daily motions, and instead express her ambitions. For her "outbursts," the captain orders her to mandatory meditation (or "punitive spiritualism" as T'Lyn wryly calls it). The joke here, of course, is that T'Lyn has absolutely the same calm Vulcan monotone as everyone else; what passes as emotional impulsivity is merely a desire to think outside the box while expressing an opinion. Ah, the insufferable TNG-era Vulcans — always overstated in their Vulcan-ness. Lower Decks manages to tap into this with a full awareness and an absolutely uncompromising deadpan rendition that's funnier with each scene because it exists simultaneously as homage and satire. (By the end of the episode, T'Lyn is banished to Starfleet, and if she doesn't end up on the Cerritos, it will be a crime.)

Meanwhile, Boimler, having no plans while all his friends do, keeps trying to crash everyone's party in an attempt to pair up with a senior officer during the crew's warp-travel downtime. He fails miserably a few times, setting off Shaxs with the slightest idle chat that would dare to imply Shaxs would've had any time for leisure activities back on Bajor while he was busy resisting the Cardassians. Boimler then does his Spock in Star Trek V thing in the holodeck (I never thought I'd be happy to see a reference to the El Capitan Mountain sequence, complete with "Go climb a rock" T-shirt). Later, he walks in on Mariner and Freeman working out their hostilities in the phaser-firing range. (Later, we see Freeman wearing a "RITOS" T-shirt, a hilarious and appropriately goofy nod to the "DISCO" shirts.) Ultimately Boimler happens upon Ransom's "Hawaii club," and keeps lying about being born in Hawaii, just so he can keep hangin' with the gang. This is sitcom fluff, but fun and breezy enough.

The plot thickens when we learn Dorg is actually behind a rogue plot to supply the Pakleds with weapons and has been using them as stooges for months to sow chaos in his first step of a larger plan to undermine the Federation. It's about here where all the plots and ships converge upon the Pakleds, and a battle breaks out. (During the battle, the Pakleds' sirens declare "red alarm" in a Pakled dullardness that's worth a chuckle, and we get a glimpse of the Lower Deckers on the Pakled ship, who play no part in this story except to be shown as existing, which brings the joke all the way around without spending one second more on it than is needed. Nicely done.) When Ma'ah learns of Dorg's plot, he accuses him of dishonorable conduct and challenges him to a battle to the death. This whole thing employs numerous Klingon tropes we've come to love over the years, and it does so with a surprising amount of urgency and legitimacy. (One missed opportunity: a reference that Martok is leading the Klingon Empire at this point in time, and perhaps a window into that perspective post-DS9.)

"Wej Duj" works by leaning heavily into the Star Trek action/drama aspects of its material and playing itself mostly straight, with a plot we can sink our teeth into, but also letting the humor bubble up in the process. And that tag with the Borg cube Lower Decks — what more needs to be said?

Previous episode: I, Excretus
Next episode: First First Contact

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40 comments on this post

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AMA
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 5:37am (UTC -5)
This, now, is my favourite episode of the series.

The episode seemed more in the spirit of Bob's Burgers, rather than Family Guy or Rick and Morty, in that it played with awkward but imaginable in-universe circumstances rather than something more outlandish (and even mean or cruel). The episode may not have engendered great laughs from me, but, like most every Bob's Burgers episode, I found it to be incredibly charming. I particularly enjoyed the time spent on the Vulcan ship, where, true to the constructed universe, minor expressions of emotion could come to be seen as radical and worrisome. Again, I didn't laugh very hard, but I certainly chuckled, and had a smile on my face from start to finish.

Great episode. Possibly even the first deserving of four stars. More of this, please.
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Tim C
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 6:18am (UTC -5)
^^ I agree, AMA. This episode did not lean hard into wackier comedy the way that the show sometimes like to do, and I think the change in gears was quite refreshing. It's a great example of the flexibility of both the animated format and the premise of the show, in showing us the Star Trek universe from different perspectives than that of a traditional bridge crew.

Usually when the episodes run as joke-lite as this one the plot doesn't compensate, and I don't think this one was particularly complex either. But it was interesting to explore Lower Decks from other species' POVs. I have always wondered just what the day-to-day on a Klingon ship actually looks like!

My favourite touches in this episode:

* Shax freaking out when questioned about life on Bajor under the Occupation

* Captain Freeman wearing a Discovery-style "Ritos" PT shirt

* The Pakled red alert just being a dumb voice saying "red alarm"

* The tag of lower decks on a Borg cube
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 7:59am (UTC -5)
Wow, that was great. Almost LDS's take on DS9.

First, I need to say I basically always appreciate when a Trek show is from the frame of reference of guest characters - with of course TNG's Lower Decks being the archetype of this. The use of T'Lyn and M'Acch as characters who were enmeshed in their culture, but still a little "off" was picture perfect. M'Ach came across as kind of a Klingon Boimler - small and scrappy (for a Klingon) and eager to please. And T'Lyn was sort of the Vulcan version of Mariner (a "loose cannon"). Best of all is they both somehow managed to have coherent character arcs over the course of the episode! M'Ach ascended from lower decks to captain, and T'Lyn proved her competence, but also that she had no place on the ship. This may be the first time since It's Only A Paper Moon we've seen an episode of Trek where the two leads are guest characters.

Also, the use of three (well, four including the Pakled) ships allowed for a real "epic" cinematic feel to this episode which has been lacking in the series as of yet. It was also the payoff of an arc which had been bubbling along since the finale of Season 1 involving the Pakled and their mysterious benefactor. Those elements, coupled with the focus on supporting/guest characters noted above, is why I feel this episode has a real DS9 vibe to it.

The tone was different from most of the season (other than Where Pleasant Fountains Lie) in that it was mostly a straight-up drama, with little in the way of jokes. There were a number of references to past Trek, but as with the last several episodes, these were mostly limited to visuals - showing that the writers' room has learned to show, not tell. Honestly the stuff on the Cerritos itself was basically all filler. I guess Boimler got a bit of a plot, but he ended the episode in the same place he began it, so it means little.

Count me as one of the people who believes T'Lyn will end up on the Cerritos, and end up having good chemistry with Boimler. This will infuriate Mariner, who will finally have to examine what her bond with Bradward actually is. Only question is will they set this up for the season finale or wait until next season.

Four stars.
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Jeffery's Tube
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 8:48am (UTC -5)
Classic Star Trek. If you don't like this episode, if you complain about this episode, I don't know what to tell you. I don't know what you want or expect from Star Trek.

Four stars, easy.

Favorite gag/reference: The Klingon blood is sometimes purple, sometimes red. Heh.

Also, this is the first Star Trek episode where the title is in an alien language! Unless it's not . . . but in that case, it's definitely the first Star Trek episode where the title is in an alien language AND written in the script characters of that alien language!
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Galadriel
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 9:08am (UTC -5)
Wow, this is a near-perfect episode: Good balance between plot and come­dy, surprises with two more Lower Deck staffs (and two more for fun), great scenes with Shaxs, T’Ana and Ransom and serious stakes in the final battle. And we got great quotes, from “Julius Caesar” to “The Final Frontier” .

I absolutely adore T’Lyn (a kind of Vulcan Mariner) and I also like M’ach, who is as Boim­lerian as a Klingon can go without cros­sing the biHnuch border. If T’Lyn indeed ends up on the Cer­ritos, this fan­boy’s dreams will come true (I pre­dict that she will find Boimler sal­vage­able, but give up on the rest).

Most funny line: The mock Vulcan salute “Avoid Death, and cower”
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Chrome
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
As with the last season, episode 9 is where things get really good. Finally we get to see the mastermind behind the Pakled raids and somehow its utterly believable.

What I liked most about this one was seeing the Klingon and Vulcan Lower Decks as part of societies that were not merely Planets of Hats, as if often the case in Star Trek. "Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end" was a great callback to Spock in The Undiscovered Country. Similarly, Mach gives off Worf vibes as he values loyalty over power mongering.

I'll join in with the group who wants T'Lyn on the Cerritos. Is that what's happening in the finale? Surely, the Pakled threat will continue into the next episode.

Easily 4 stars from me.
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bebop
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 3:24pm (UTC -5)
So, it's the same as season 1. Couple of final episodes are actually good and all the rest of the season is pretty much crap. That's not enough.
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corstroler
Thu, Oct 7, 2021, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
The episode strikes a perfect balance between being self-referential and being a piece of storytelling. The pacing was perfect, there was an actual plot, actual world-building, and follow-through from previous episodes in the show. If sharpest complaint lodged against it is that it was preceded by bad episodes, I’ll take it. When someone predictably declares what a travesty this episode is, you will actually see the goalposts of what constitutes good Trek move yet again, as if in real time. The sense of TNG optimism felt genuine and organic in this episode, not studied or contrived. I could have sworn that the “So you’re from Hawaii scene would stray into TNG “Lower Decks” earnestness or Lower Decks’ joke-zapping, but no-the scene and its follow up were deftly handled and even gave us a little character development. Even the Star Trek V reference was funny (well, maybe it should have been - after all, there really is much rich humor to be mined from that crown jewel). Even the musical cues were on in this one!
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PM
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 2:51am (UTC -5)
What, no hating?
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Galadriel
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 3:50am (UTC -5)
@PM: This time, hating is impossible. The episode is just too good.
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Ashton Withers
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 4:44am (UTC -5)
Wow just so good. I was expecting Klingon elements considering the the title but my jaw dropped when not only was it partially set on a Klingon ship but a Vulcan one as well. I really enjoyed the Pakled Lower Deck gag and just when I thought it was over they hit us with that Borg one right at the end. Does this mean that the Borg are still active?
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Yanks
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 7:16am (UTC -5)
Ah ha!!! The first 4-star season 2 episode is here!!

What's not to like?

Seeing the lower decks on the Klingon, Pakled and Vulcan ships was awesome.

Much reverence to STVI and DS9 Klingons is shown here. All the way up to and including how the Klingon ship captain was killed. Just like Gowron's death if I remember correctly.

I'm all for an addition to the Cerritos crew. Bring on T'Lyn!

The Vulcan ship was beautiful! She saved the Cerritos much like the "E" saved the Defiant in FC.

"Retos" on Captain Freeman's t-shirt, Tendi climbing a mountain just like Kirk in STV, Boimler wearing a shirt with the words "go climb a rock" like Kirk while wearing the jet boots like Spock... all good stuff. Nice that STV isn't forgotten.

... and we get a progression of the Pakled story.

All in 25 minutes.

I love this series!
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Yanks
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 7:19am (UTC -5)
.... oh, and don't forget the lower decks on the Borg Cube at the end and throughout the credits!!! Not a twitch! HAHA!!

I'm sure "90182" as the designation of the Borg cube means something, but I don't know what it is.
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Latex Zebra
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 7:49am (UTC -5)
Yeah, this was brilliant. I've enjoyed Lower Decks, certainly more than Jammer, but this is the first true stand out classic. So many nice touches, the humour wasn't OTT and I found myself chuckling throughout. This is how it needs to continue.
Genuinely looking forward to watching this one again and I hope we see T’Lyn and M’ach again who in 25 minutes actually became characters that I am interested in.

Easy 4 Stars this. Fantastic episode.
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Bok R'Mor
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 10:03am (UTC -5)
Great episode. Impressive in both concept and execution in expanding upon existing Trek history to show analogues of lower deckers on a Klingon ship, a Vulcan ship, (briefly) a Pakled ship - and of course the very witty portrayal of Borg lower deckers at the end - and using *these* to tell more universal and very Trekkian tales of belonging, while at the same time using this approach to neatly tie up the Pakled plot of the past few episodes.

Some nice action and character work as well, both among the usual cast and on the Klingon and Vulcan ships. Laugh out loud moments were a lot subtler and cleverer this week: the Vulcans matter-of-factly ending communications; the Cerritos crew rushing to battle stations in all their silly holodeck attire; 'reddish pinkish blood'; the hilariously mute Borg.

*This* is how a Trek series plays to its strengths. Really feels like LD has found its feet now.

Oh, and before I read the comments: it's fairly obvious that T'Lynn is going to end up on the Cerritos, isn't it? Hope so. I thought she was a brilliant character. The idea that 'rebelliously illogical' Vulcans are transferred to Starfleet vessels as punishment, where they in turn presumably become (ironically enough) pigeon-holed as stereotypically staid 'logical' Vulcans in comparisons to Starfleet crews, was an absolute masterstroke. Outstanding writing!
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Philadlj
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
Wow…that was a damn fine episode not just of Lower Decks, but of Star Trek, period. Great slice of space life on the Cerritos but loved how the episode expanded to other species. DS9 spent a lot of time on Klingon ships but I don’t think we’ve ever spent much time at all on a contemporary Vulcan vessel. It’s great to see they still swear by their warp ring over Starfleet nacelles. If it ain’t broke! The space battle actually made sense (unlike most DIS battles). The Borg credit sequence was a pitch perfect cherry on top.
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Philadlj
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
@Ashton Withers: “Does this mean that the Borg are still active?”

You think in such three-dimensional terms. How small you’ve become.
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MidshipmanNorris
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 7:41pm (UTC -5)
A toast to Lower Decks' first *actual* Star Trek episode.

There were moments there when I felt like I was actually watching TNG. Very not bad.

More like this, please thanks
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Sxottlan
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 9:10pm (UTC -5)
Quintessential Trek.
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Sxottlan
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
I’m literally refreshing every couple minutes for Jammer’s review.
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Tom
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 9:41pm (UTC -5)
I must be on a different planet from the rest of you. I didn't experience this episode as some massive improvement over what we got on LD before. It was more of "good premise" (this time I could even go for "great premise") which plays out as expected with few surprises and zero insights into, well, anything really.

As I was watching I could almost see the writer's room getting all excited when one of them came up with the idea of showing the lower decks of other Trek species - -"oh, we've got to do Klingons - lots of infighting, some Targs, the one guy who's not honorable enough"....
-"Yes! And a Vulcan ship as well - throw in some logic stuff, they'll love that" ....
-"Great! That wraps up this week. Can we bring them together at the end for some kinda dispute with the Cerritos?"
-"I'll come up with something. Anyone else getting hungry?"

I can't blame fans for getting excited over it after what we've been dished up in the other new series but it's all very run-of-the-mill stuff, dusted with enough layers of sugar-coated nostalgia for most not to notice.
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Sxottlan
Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 11:50pm (UTC -5)
Massive improvement? Nah. A perfect example of this show’s concept, demonstrated several times?

Yes. 🖖
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Dick
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 2:38am (UTC -5)
I agree that this is probably the best episode of LDS thus far. Not coincidentally, it's also the first episode where Mariner barely appears, and the rest of the main cast is sidelined, too. It was refreshing to get away from the insufferable hijinks of the Cerritos crew for (most of) one episode.

What made this episode work in terms of plotting and characterization is the dignity afforded to the lower decks crewmembers on the alien ships. The Klingon and Vulcan crews were exaggerated stereotypes, but they also acted like actual characters with realistic motivations instead of the goofy, amoral imbeciles we have seen every other week on the Cerritos.

Unfortunately, the humor is still a complete dud for me. Yes, I remember "Field of Fire" and Star Trek V. No, having a Klingon commander repeat General Chang's Shakespeare quotes verbatim isn't inherently funny. I realize that humor is subjective and there's no doubt that the writing staff has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Star Trek, but I need actual jokes not member berries.
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Q
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 3:49am (UTC -5)
An absolute series best and for me also the funniest one, it perfectly hit my sense of humour. And the last scene was fenomenal, I laughed the entire time... ROTFL

It even had a great cat joke: "I can't tell if she likes me or if she makes that face at everyone."

Live long and prosper... Sir.
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Q
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 4:01am (UTC -5)
@Bok R'Mor

My thoughts exactly, how by transferring the "emotional" one to Star Fleet the episode beautifully plays with the "race of the hats" trope.
Those Vulcan ships are gorgeous, but must be boring as ... well, as Borg's lower decks :).
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Bok R'Mor
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 4:54am (UTC -5)
@Q

It's really excellent writing. I'm not familiar with Kathryn Lyn or any of her other work, but on the basis of this episode I want to see Lyn do a lot more.

Also, Lyn writes a character named 'T'Lyn'! I don't mind a superficial self-insert in-joke like that when it's so harmless and the episode is so well-written.
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Q
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 7:56am (UTC -5)
@Bok R'Mor
I want to see more of both Kathryn Lyn written episodes and T'Lyn on the show. The later one preferably replacing Mariner on the Cerritos :).
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Philadlj
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 9:14am (UTC -5)
That Vulcan captain who challenged Sisko to a baseball game was clearly still pissed about being transferred to a Starfleet vessel. Heck, his whole ship must’ve been crewed by overly petty, competitive, misfit Vulcans!
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Anonymous
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 10:56am (UTC -5)
@Yanks
>I'm sure "90182" as the designation of the Borg cube means something, but I don't know what it is.

I thought it was a reference to the show Beverly Hills, 90210 even though it has nothing to do with Trek.
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MidshipmanNorris
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Would be neat if M'raah and T'Lyn end up joining Boimler+Mariner's crew when they inevitably get promoted to bridge crew of the Cerritos after her Mom gets promoted to a better ship :D

I mean I can read the brush strokes being used here, Star Trek came out in 1967, and it has consistently drawn up its plots the same way... Not hard to tell where they're going with this. Especially since they've tipped their hand on this being semi-serialized.

... Semi-serialized... semi-sweet... chocolate chips... I want to get some cookies. Gaah, darn you Pavlov and Gregorian Caldendar-Making Guy

...But anyway, I feel like holding LD up to the main series is a mistake on the face of it. It's simply not meant to be art the way the best drama on the first four series played. I do hold Disco up to that level and it fails repeatedly. Ditto with Picard. The problem is that this is the only kind of writing this team is good at.

Maybe you should review LD eps on a 3-star scale, but that would probably just mess up how things work around here, idk, and provoke a nerd screed rebellion or something
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MidshipmanNorris
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
And as we all know, The Nerd Screed Rebellion would make an excellent name for a band
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FunkE1 Kenobi
Sat, Oct 9, 2021, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
90182: Zip code, Los Angeles, CA . . .
HUGELY disappointed that it is not Modesto, CA nor El Cerrito, CA!
C’mon, writers’ room!
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Randall
Sun, Oct 10, 2021, 2:08am (UTC -5)
Normally, I'd give this 4 stars, but the fact that T'lyn doesn't do sarcastic Vulcan salutes on the way out the door at the end means I give it zero stars. What a wasted opportunity.
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Joseph B
Sun, Oct 10, 2021, 8:12am (UTC -5)
All I can tell you is that I applauded at the end … even before the Borg tag!
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Jon1701
Mon, Oct 11, 2021, 2:39am (UTC -5)
Yeah easily the best episode of LDS so far.

“It was an honourable movement”
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Jeffery's Tube
Mon, Oct 11, 2021, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
90182 could be a birth date. September 01, 1982. The writer's?
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Karl Zimmerman
Tue, Oct 12, 2021, 10:54am (UTC -5)
@ Jeffery's Tube

The writer was born in 1984, so I think not.
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Jammer
Thu, Oct 14, 2021, 12:53am (UTC -5)
Review now posted. Sorry for the delay. Been busy with other things this past week.
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FunkE1 Kenobi
Thu, Oct 14, 2021, 3:00pm (UTC -5)
Also—what the frack—NO Klingon Death Scream ritual?
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FunkE1 Kenobi
Thu, Oct 14, 2021, 3:01pm (UTC -5)
Still, solid four stars for me!

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